Unconventional Career Paths in Technology

Lessons learned from Dell Technologies team members on the winding, unconventional paths your career in technology can take you.

A career in technology is rarely a straight line. Many of my peers in technology have experienced unconventional paths influenced by the ever-changing digital landscape — as have I. A career in technology can be hard to telegraph, because many of the jobs of tomorrow do not exist today. However, I believe there are common attributes that can bring clarity to your vision: the drive to shape the future, and the willingness to learn, pivot and explore new directions.

Dell Technologies is built on innovation and our people are at the heart of that. They exemplify our ability to adapt, challenge and discover the paths before us. I recently asked a few technical leaders to share their personal career journeys and how they arrived in their roles via untraditional paths. While each had a unique story, there is a common thread: the insight and diverse perspectives gained in a career in tech has made each a stronger leader.

Lessons Learned on the Winding Path

Skills learned in a previous role can distinguish you for future roles. While it may not be apparent in the moment, the knowledge and skills you gain in one position can uniquely qualify you for your next role, even in a new field. This is particularly true for Deepika Bhayana, an engineer turned IP lawyer. Her career with Dell Technologies began in 1997, as an EMC software engineer working her way through several development teams responsible for technology core to some of our storage solutions. When she decided she wanted to become a lawyer, it was her engineering and technical expertise that inspired her to pursue her law .

“My technical expertise shaped my decisions when I made the transition. I think that my time in the storage business unit put me in the right path for my career to explore different technical and career opportunities, and the next one was my decision to go to the law school,” she recalls. “And after that, it informed my decision to join the in-house legal team at EMC, rather than going to a law firm because I was able to apply my technical knowledge of EMC storage products to my role when I transitioned in-house.”

Deepika managed to get her law degree while maintaining her engineering management role at EMC, joining the EMC legal team upon graduating. At Dell Technologies, we focus on skill development and aim to support our team members who take advantage of opportunities to learn new skills and follow their passions. She is now a Senior Legal Director at Dell Technologies, managing a team of Intellectual Property attorneys and paralegals. Her technical expertise gave her a major leg up in her current role where she is widely respected by both her peers and the engineers whose IP she supports.

If you’re passionate, but feeling stuck, you may just need a different vantage point. It’s no secret – people who work at Dell Technologies are passionate about technology. It’s finding where to channel that passion that can lead you down a winding road.

Jaynene Hapanowicz, CTO and Senior Vice President, Technology Transformation, Dell Digital, shared that the greatest lessons she learned were from the pivots she didn’t expect over the course of her 30-year career. “I started out in product development in the early days of cloud. After ten years, I flipped over to IT because I wanted to experience what it was like to be the consumer of products versus the creator of them,” she said. “I used to tour data centers as a kid, so technology was in my blood. I love technology, I just needed to look at it through a new lens to truly find my passion.”

Explore your connected workplace. Abeye Teshome has worn many different hats in his decades at Dell Technologies. Starting out in the factory as a line engineer, he now helps build the platform technology architecture for Dell PCs. After immigrating to America in the early 80s, he was focused on building a career for himself based on his goals and accomplishments. At first, he kept his head down, but soon realized the intrinsic value in keeping an open mind, expanding possibilities, finding the right mentors and connecting with colleagues. “It’s hard to seek out mentors,” shared Abeye, “but it’s necessary and valuable to have the perspectives and guidance of experienced colleagues. I believe the key is having a good relationship and building trust. Challenges are opportunities, and it’s important to keep an open mind.”

It’s often easy to get siloed in your specific teams and departments, but it’s important to take the opportunity to be a connection point – consider bringing others into the discussion who can offer a unique point of view. The more diverse perspectives, the more potential for groundbreaking ideas. Garima Kochhar, Distinguished Engineer at Dell Technologies, echoes this sentiment: “I’ve never been good at seeking out mentors and coaches. However, we work with many different people and teams, and collaboration leads not just to better outcomes but to connections. We also have a responsibility to proactively reach out when we have something to offer that could help others. The support I’ve received from such collaborators-turned-champions at Dell is part of our culture and a major impetus for my growth.” 

Imposter syndrome is real, but you must persevere. Starting a new job can be intimidating, and it can be especially daunting to make a career pivot into an entirely new field. However, it’s important to lean into your experience and the technical principles you’ve learned over the course of your career journey. “It took me seven years before I realized I was the only woman sitting at the table,” shared Jaynene, “[but] I had a right to a seat at the table.” Garima added, “At times it’s very intimidating to be in a group of other experts. You were hired for the job and invited to the discussion because you know what you’re doing and you’re good at it. It took me realizing that I belonged at the table for me to really start speaking up and thriving in my new work environment.”

Recognize when you need to reach out and ask your teams, mentors and friends for help. It’s important to surround yourself with supportive coworkers and communities.

An Industry Constantly Changing

As the industry continues to evolve, so too will the journeys of everyone powering it. The expansive community and network of diverse talent at Dell Technologies reinforces the importance of flexibility and growth in one’s career path. I encourage you to keep an open mind as you explore your own path, wherever that may be. Who knows? Perhaps our paths will cross.

Paul Perez

About the Author: Paul Perez

Paul Perez is the Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at Dell Technologies. In this role, Paul is responsible for coordinating the company’s infrastructure technology innovation strategy aligned with the Dell Technologies over all business vision. His team is focused on the thoughtful evolution of the Infrastructure Solutions portfolio, balancing what is urgent with what will lead to long-term business value. Paul has nearly 40 years of enterprise technology experience, holding strategic roles at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard prior to his time at Dell Technologies. He earned a Bachelor of Science and Master in Engineering from Cornell University and currently lives in Austin, Texas.