Do you ever wonder how leaders got their start in tech? Whether new job opportunities or lateral shifts into another department, executives can get creative about what’s next. 

This CIO DIVE article was first published on June 14th in The Water Cooler, a recurring column for technology executives to digest, discuss and debate. 

The Water Cooler: How 10 execs got their start in tech

Careers don’t follow a linear path. One opportunity, connection or chance can shift the trajectory of a career, especially as companies grow and technologies change. 

Responsibilities, too, can change over time. Leaders take on stretch roles that showcase abilities long before there is a title (or salary) to match. Whether new job opportunities or lateral shifts into another department, executives can get creative about what’s next. And sometimes, mentors are required to highlight what’s possible.

Jobs also have a way of evolving and surprising people. An individual who began as a systems administrator may have the bones of a chief information officer. The technical know-how is there — all someone needs is a sprinkle of leadership training and experience. 

CIO Dive spoke with ten technologists about how they got their start in tech, Answers range from internships to space centers to consulting, but the common denominator? Everyone starts somewhere.

Molly Brown, VP of engineering at Qumulo

“I was in 7th grade, and it was still the age of the floppy disk. It was a small company that did software training, and I had to do data entry and make copies of the digital and printed class materials.”

how execs got their start in techI count my first tech job as my first job that used computers. I was in 7th grade, and it was still the age of the floppy disk. It was a small company that did software training, and I had to do data entry and make copies of the digital and printed class materials. 

I later pursued a computer science degree and ended up going back as an intern for that same company to build custom business applications. It gave me the bug to build, and I went on to work for Microsoft as part of the base OS team for Windows. I was an engineer at Microsoft for more than 14 years, but I missed working at a startup, which brought me to Qumulo in 2014.

That first gig in middle school was my foray into the world of software engineering. It jump-started my passion for giving people the technology tools they need to navigate a software-based world, and helping them adapt to whatever new tools are coming next.

Discover how the other 9 execs got their starts in tech at The Water Cooler on CIO DIVE.

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