The Path to Management and Hard Resume Lessons with Kelly Schroeder Pt. 1

Welcome to episode 58 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we have part 1 of an interview with Kelly Schroeder about the path to management and some hard-won resume advice.

Original Recording Date: 10-15-2019

Topics – Kelly Schroeder Interview

03:09 – Kelly’s Background

  • Kelly works for a city government as manager of help desk and all things end user related, overseeing a team of 15 people.
    • He came from the small business world where one must wear all the hats.
    • Kelly has experience working in a number of industries including a government contractor, a 2-year college, a web development firm, and has even owned his own business.
  • Nick and John met Kelly through the Spiceworks community.
    • After getting married, Kelly found a job through a friend. He got started installing network wiring.
      • This was interesting (being a part of the technology industry) but not a job he specifically wanted to keep doing.
    • Kelly started at a 2-year college with a very technical focus and later went to a 4-year college, landing on a degree in business.
      • When people ask Kelly about the value of a 4-year degree, he says it depends. The recommendation for most people if they have no career path in their current field is to get a degree in an area they care about or that really interests them.
        • If you don’t know what you want to do, spend some time thinking about it.
      • Most employers just look to see if you have a degree. The place it comes from is not as important.
      • Take some classes in business so you understand it and can communicate ideas well to other business leaders and professionals. Many IT professionals do not understand business.
        • It is challenging for technical people to communicate effectively with executive leaders.
        • John cites Sales training as opening his eyes to how business leaders think about technology.
          • Do people in technical Sales have a better chance at getting what they want accomplished?
          • Maybe the gap in IT is effective communication with upstream management.

14:14 – Paths to Management

  • Does training in business / Sales naturally lead to being a manager?
    • Kelly had no desire to go into management. It just so happens that the technology curriculum at his college was inside the business realm. He later realized the value of having all the business classes (Marketing, Sales, Accounting, etc.) in addition to pure IT curricula before starting in the workforce.
    • Managing people is an entirely different skill than business management.
  • Kelly’s original perception of people in management was tainted. He viewed manager as a dirty word and people in management roles as sell outs.
    • He never wanted to be like popular portrayals of terrible managers (i.e. something you would see in a Dilbert comic strip).
    • Kelly discovered at a previous job how much he loved being a manager.
      • He was hired into a small business IT manager role.
      • The things he loved most were connecting people within the organization with ideas and solutions as well as developing the team (which sounds like Technical Sales).
      • Solving technology problems himself became less interesting to Kelly. He had less tolerance for things being broken and having to find a fix.
      • There was little to no training on how to be a manager when he started.
      • Should there be a John White book on people management?
      • Kelly had experience as a technical lead and implemented a number of technologies in previous roles.
        • As a manager he could hand off an idea for someone else to implement.
        • Kelly was able to see that his enjoyment of technology was not tied to implementation. This sounds similar to A.J. Kuftic’s experience as an enterprise architect Episode 40.
      • Kelly really enjoys developing people through giving them opportunities to do more and improve themselves.
      • He wanted to be able to provide everything he didn’t have from his management in previous roles.
      • What about challenging administrative tasks like hiring, firing, and performance management?
        • The hiring process is exciting! The performance management and review definitely is not.
        • In his manager role at the defense contractor, he could influence and fight for employee pay raises.

26:15 – Burn Out and The Path to Healing

  • Kelly burned out while working for a defense contractor (job right before his current position) from taking on some responsibilities outside his skillset.
    • This involved a pay raise and a security clearance upgrade, but the next two years did not go well. It was an absolute grind.
    • There were some significant personal issues that compounded the situation during this time, and Kelly eventually resigned from the role at the defense contractor.
      • Kelly’s boss had told him he needed to turn things around and removed the responsibilities that Kelly struggled to do.
      • Despite some stress relief with this change, Kelly decided it was time to make a change. He liked the organization but hated his job.
      • John comments on what a 2 year span in a stressful situation can do to a person’s health and mental state and how a change of scenery can help.
  • 28:36 Leaving the defense contractor led to 18 months of unemployment with 16 months of no interviews.
    • At first he focused only on what interested him.
    • Eventually he had to focus on roles that would definitely pay the bills.
    • Living through this was an extreme challenge.

34:00 – A Period of Unemployment

  • What changes did Kelly make to finally get a job after the dry spell?
    • Someone gave Kelly advice on how to get past application tracking systems (ATS), but there were not a lot of the jobs he applied for which had these.
    • A friend outside the technology space suggested Kelly learn how to better sell himself.
      • "Every line on your resume needs to be something that no one else can say."
      • Make it something real, and tell your story through the lens of how it applies to a bottom line.
      • Kelly felt strange about providing estimated savings or other numbers to quantify accomplishments on a resume.
      • Kelly took this advice and re-worked his resume, taking him from 0 hits to a phone interview and 3 in-person interviews in a period of a few weeks.
      • Kelly has shared this methodology with others when reviewing resumes.
      • John reiterates some of our previous advice for writing your resume to support the job description. See the following episodes for guidance:
        • Episode 4 – Company Culture and Resume Writing
        • Episode 53 – Unexpected Career Opportunities, Part 1 on Keeping Your Resume Updated
      • Updating your own resume is challenging. It’s helpful to get feedback from someone else when you do it.
        • Be sure to update your resume regularly. Forgetting to do this may cause you to lose track of experiences had that could justify your value to a prospective employer.
        • Don’t fall into the trap of always thinking you are safe.

43:58 – Questioning Yourself

  • During this time of being unemployed, Kelly began to question his competence.
    • When you apply to many jobs with nothing to show for it, doubt creeps into the picture.
      • "Are all these rejections actually right about me?"
      • We tend to form opinions of ourselves based on the feedback received. In Kelly’s case, the feedback was a lack of call backs until very late in the process.
      • John points out a lack of career guidance for those in smaller companies.
    • Kelly ended up getting a job he really loves that was not something he was specifically aiming for when he began the job search.

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

  • You can find Kelly in the Spiceworks community (Sosipater is his handle).

image sources

  • Ep58: John White

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