Pandemic, Layoffs, and Riots forcing a much needed career change...and why it's not too late to start...

Pandemic, Layoffs, and Riots forcing a much needed career change...and why it's not too late to start...
Photo by James Yarema / Unsplash

I still remember the day I went to work, I had just gotten off the Chicago Blue line and there was an eerie feeling in the air, and it had been the first time ever, I had seen a few people on the train wearing some N95 masks.

To be honest, I hadn't thought much about it and just continued on my way up to my office floor. I immediately knew something was wrong once I saw people leaving the building with boxes of equipment. Although I didn't recognize them and I could tell they were from a different company / floor of the building.

Once I went upstairs, we were pulled into an emergency meeting out in the open rotunda area, and we were told of upcoming concerns with COVID 19 and that people would immediately be able to take the equipment they need to take home to be able to work remotely. At the time, there was an unofficial expectation, that this would blow over in about two weeks. As the IT Manager at the time, I had huddled my team to start assisting people to take cart to help move people's stuff to their cars / ubers.

Maybe nobody else knew it at the time, but I knew all our lives had changed forever. Fast forward months later and, with the upcoming news of riots hitting downtown chicago, it only solidified our remote status even longer. But you thing that would be the worst of it, it wasn't...I had started to hear rumbling of possible layoff's amongst other industries and I knew then and there, I had to make immediate changes for myself. Although I was in senior management at the time, deep down in my heart, something told me I needed to update my skillset to make myself as indespensible as I could, should the worst happen (if I got laid off or fired), and I needed to find another role right away.

For the most part, my intuition was right, as the weeks rolled by, tons of layoff's ensued from companies all over the nation, including middle management. I feel fortunate that I wasn't laid off at the time, and I had spent the entire time during the pandemic studying and re-honing my skills in cloud engineering. I was at odds for myself, since I had worked so hard to get into and grow in management, but I knew the remote roller coaster wasn't going to last forever either, and felt my days were numbered.

My technical skills at the time, mostly preceded in working physical, infrastructure data centers. In my opinion, another skill that was slowly getting out of date and pretty soon wouldn't be as in demand as it used to be.

Sure enough, tons of people in similar roles as myself had been laid off, I felt extremely sympathetic and I can't say that I was able to land a new role right away. I had been applying to several similar management roles as a backup but I almost had zero replies, and for the few I did interview to keep warm on the table, I had been told the position had been put on hold.

It took about 9 months to reskill myself cloud engineering and got certified in AWS. But that alone won't get you a job, I had to get out of comfort zone, joined a consulting company and started getting side work to gain experience, and about a year after that, I had finally applied and gained my first cloud job. Three months after I had left my role during the pandemic, that company had finally announced layoffs, I never found out if my old role would have been eliminated but I felt a blessing in disguise as if a higher power had kept his eye out for me and I left just in time for something better before it impacted my family and my lively hood.

I'm sure many of us are in similar positions, and now is the time to act. Obviously, nobody is fully protected from layoffs but the only key essential piece of advice I can give is to try your best to identify in demand skills you can transition yourself too, and do whatever you can to transition into that position.

For many of you, it might be a slight career change within your same industry, and for there others, the change might be more aggressive. But the most important thing is to stay consistent, and set aside, even just 30 minutes a day to help make that transition. Till next time - Tech Crew