In Conversation: It's Never Too Late
There can be barriers to pursuing a career in tech. For many people, the journey isn't straightforward. Many of our Akamai employees have diverse backgrounds and have overcome obstacles to pursue their dream career.
Often, the way forward into a tech career isn't apparent, especially for those who already have their qualifications and have decided to enter the field after pursuing other things. However, at Akamai, we don't believe that there's only one way into tech. Some of our employees have Computer Science degrees, and some, like Emily Hurley, Senior Manager, are self-taught.
What unifies all our employees is a shared passion for tech and the innovations we, at Akamai, are working on every day.
So, we wanted to celebrate the wealth of difference within our teams by talking to Emily and finding out more about her journey.
So, Emily, how did you get into the tech field?
My majors in college were Psychology and Communications. I didn't take a single Computer Science course. I've kind of had a winding career path, I would say.
After graduating, I got a job at the Harvard School of Public Health. I found myself working on the 14th floor of a high rise building, in an office by myself, mostly interacting with a team of researchers in Bangladesh. I was bored.
I realized that the research thing wasn't for me. I need to be in the action, around a lot of people who are working together to get things done. So, I applied for a marketing position at a tech start-up.
Because it was a start-up with only 4 people, I did a little bit of everything. So, I taught myself HTML and CSS because somebody needed to update the website regularly. Unfortunately, the company lost funding, so I needed to find another job.
I moved into a Program Management role, and that then led into Akamai. I'd worked for two small companies, so I wanted to try my hand at joining a bigger company where there's more upward mobility.
You know, I'd heard about Akamai. Interestingly, I applied for one position, and they told me that I wouldn't be a good fit, I was probably too senior. So, I looked for another position because after the initial phone screening I really wanted to work for Akamai. It went from a casual interest to... this looks like a great place to work.
So, I found the Senior Program Manager position, which I then got.
How long have you been with Akamai?
How has your role developed since you started?
After starting as Senior Program Manager, I am now a Senior Manager in Web Product Operations.
How do you support others who may have had to overcome obstacles to pursue a career in tech?
My theory, when hiring people, is that a tech background is great. However, at least in program management, it's harder to teach program management skills than it is to teach the tech. So, I look for people who have the raw talent and 9 times out of 10 I'm able to teach them the tech.
The challenges with that are in managing extensive, complex, technical programs, and getting people to trust that you can understand all the details. I've found the best way to approach this is not to be afraid to ask questions, to be able to admit if I don't understand something. I've never encountered anybody who's not wanted to take the time to explain.
How has Akamai supported your career?
My boss has been so supportive every step of the way. I've had a few opportunities for formal training. So, I undertook an executive presentation skills training in which I learned techniques for presenting to an executive audience.
Last year, I participated in Akamai's management training, which was one of the most valuable things I've done in my career. I learned a lot. I expanded my knowledge of not just how to manage people, but how to manage stakeholders. I also learned a lot about myself. I always thought I was a direct communicator, but after the training, I realized I lean more towards the indirect side.
So, I feel very supported and that I have what I need to advance my career here.
Being self-taught, what are you most proud of in your career so far?
I think I'm most proud of where I've been able to go, with the background that I have. You know, I really had no idea coming out of college what I wanted to do. I took the classes I enjoyed, and that's how I ended up with a Psychology and Communications major.
So, I'm proud that I could take what I had to prove to people that, even if I don't have a traditional background for this kind of company, given a chance I am just as capable.
How do you think society can help to encourage more women to pursue a career in tech?
Akamai puts a lot of effort into diversity, and not just gender related diversity, and I appreciate that.
I think that everyone can benefit from some diversity training. So, I think the more that companies can encourage employees to value everyone and their opinions equally, the better off we will be. Also, I believe having similar expectations of both boys and girls, in schools and in childhood, is hugely important.
Thanks for talking with us, Emily. Your experiences have been hugely insightful and encouraging.