Leia Stretz dedicated 11 years of her life to the US Army. Specifically, she worked in Army Intelligence as a Senior Intelligence Analyst. She always knew that she wanted to pursue a career in tech and all by happenstance the opportunity was staring her right in the face.
As her time in the Army was nearing an end, she received a packet of educational materials from JBLM (Joint Base Lewis-McChord), a U.S. military base south of Tacoma, Washington, that their Army Transition Assistance Program had provided. One of her kids had drawn a picture on the TLG IT Careers flyer and showed it to her. Behind the ever adorable drawing, Leia saw the program offerings with TLG It Careers and thought this could be her next move!
Of course Leia had her doubts and hesitated as she worried about being able to balance family time, working, and ensuring that she dedicated time to the program, but nevertheless she persisted. Upon joining the program and even after, it wasn’t all smooth sailing before landing a dream offer from Oracle.
We asked Leia for her insights, advice, and about the challenges she faced before reaching success.
What led you to join the program?
I’d always wanted to pursue a career in tech, and frankly always assumed it would have something to do with my time in the Army as a 35P or 35G (cryptolinguist and imagery analyst). While I was okay with that, I definitely wanted to pursue something less defense oriented. After reading about what TLG could offer, I thought having the certificates and the training would help get me a leg up on any competition or help me get my foot in the door with an actual tech job. Luckily I was right!
Did you know which route/direction you wanted to go in before starting?
I didn’t have a preference. I wanted either software or networking. The simple truth is that the networking program started the same day I was out of the Army, while the software course wasn’t due to start for some time.
Did you have any hesitations about joining? If so, what were they?
My biggest hesitation was worrying that I might not be able to devote the time to the program. I still needed a job, and I’ve got a wife and two kids to worry about too. However, the scheduling and pacing of the program was excellent, and really allowed me to take care of what I needed to while still getting the most out of the program.
What was the biggest challenge for you during the program?
The biggest challenge for me was the transition to working from home! Part of our class was done in person, but as students got COVID, and as the pandemic worsened again the decision was made to move to working from home. I ended up in our storage closet, and had constant (but cute!) interruptions from my kids, but it ended up working out.
What did you enjoy the most during the program?
I enjoyed how hands-on the program was. The labs and equipment we got helped a lot with learning the material. Additionally our teachers were very knowledgeable and approachable. They clearly loved the job and enjoyed teaching, which helped our motivation tremendously.
What would you say to someone that’s considering joining the NDE IT Pre-Apprenticeship?
Be ready to study. Unless you have a background in networking, the CompTIA Net+ portion is incredibly difficult. Lots of rote memorization and a wide variety of topics to learn. I wish I’d spent more time prepping prior to the program.
If you had one piece of advice for someone considering this program, what would it be?
Networking with people is just as important. Use LinkedIn, reach out to friends and colleagues and classmates, make use of Karise and other recruiters.
Is there anything that you would have done differently on your path to tech?
More prep work prior to the program. I thought my passing knowledge of tech was enough to get started, but more would have been a big help. There’s a lot of terminology, jargon, and networking standards that are very important to know.
Did you face any challenges with finding a position in tech after the program? If so, what happened?
Yes, I did. I received a lot of interview opportunities, and was always told I knocked the phone interviews out of the park, but I was never able to land a position. Whether that was due to my gender identity, recruiters not being honest, or something else, I don’t know. Still, after almost giving up, I managed to find the perfect place for me at Oracle.
Why did you decide to work with Oracle?
The job itself! I have always loved linux and python, and the position allows me to really utilize those skills in fun ways every day. They also provide a lot of growth opportunities and chances for professional development. I’m very happy to be working at Oracle!
How has shifting to a career in tech changed your life?
It’s changed my life dramatically. I dealt with a lot of depression in the military, but now I work somewhere I feel appreciated and accepted, and I am far happier than I have ever been. The job is exciting and challenging and different every day, and the incentives are nice too! Before TLG I was really worried about providing for my family, but since completing the program and getting hired, things are better than they ever have been before.
Is there anything surprising to you about working in tech that you didn’t expect? If so, what?
I assumed my job would be pretty focused on one or two things, but I need to know a little about a lot of things to do my job. The networking is just a small portion of it. I am constantly learning new tools and programs!
What’s in your future? Future goals, etc?
I have no clue! The only thing I want out of the future is to be as happy as I am now, but with more knowledge and capabilities to be a better version of myself. As long as that’s true I don’t want to make plans!
Congratulations, Leia! We are so excited to see your career continue to flourish in tech.
To learn more about your options with TLG IT Careers, visit our site or schedule a meeting with one of our Educational Consultant to discuss your unique needs and to determine if an IT apprenticeship or IT pre-apprenticeship is right for you!