Choose your language:
July 25, 2016
By Lisa Dare
Diane Pugh doesn’t fancy herself an adventurer, but she does like a good challenge.It’s partly what has driven her desire to work as an IT consultant for an astonishing 20 years—despite the many employers who have tried to nab her.
As a college student, Diane knew exactly what she wanted to do after graduating—and it wasn’t IT. Wanting a career in healthcare, Diane got a degree in medical technology and began working in a lab. After a few years of working in hospitals, Diane started to organize blood drives for the American Red Cross (ARC), a job she loved, and eventually became a QA manager for the organization.
Setting her mind to new challenges
But Diane’s career path changed when the ARC asked her to help integrate its field offices’ computer systems. At the time, there were 23 offices with 23 different computer systems and sets of conventions. ARC asked Diane to serve as a subject matter expert, helping implement and perform quality assurance checks in each office. There was only one problem: Diane didn’t think she’d like the work. But, as Diane is fond of saying, “When I have a new challenge, I set my mind to it.” After six months of working on the project, Diane realized that not only had she accomplished her goal, she truly enjoyed the work.
“So I moved to IT, and it opened up a whole new world to me,” says Diane. She has worked as a project manager, business analyst and in various other IT roles for various healthcare and banking institutions, and currently works at the Educational Testing Service. “When I moved from healthcare to finance, I wasn’t sure it was going to work out.” But the determined consultant set her mind to it and thrived. Diane worked for the Federal Reserve, traveling to offices across the country to implement videoconferencing systems, and also oversaw insurance provider Cigna’s Y2K compliance activities.
Transitioning to consulting
Ironically, it was receiving a bonus for exceptional work that pushed Diane into consulting. Diane met with her manager, who had recommended her for the bonus, and asked what goals she could set to earn it again. His answer—that the company believed no one could perform exceptionally more than once every three or four years—left her dissatisfied.
Diane decided in that moment to try consulting for the higher pay. “But the real question is: Why am I still consulting almost 20 years later? Consulting has allowed me to work with the biggest national and international companies and be involved in projects that really have an impact. I’m constantly challenging myself, gaining new skills and working with great teams.” She adds, “I did it for the money and freedom, but I continue to do it because it has treated me well, giving me great opportunities for success and satisfaction.”
Diane started with another recruiting firm but has been with TEKsystems almost exclusively for 16 years because of the opportunities for growth. “My recruiter has never pigeonholed me into one role,” Diane says. “My recruiter really listens to what’s important to me as far as skills, challenges, culture, and tries to find opportunities that match what I’m looking for.”
Diane has occasionally worked with other agencies but says, “I don’t feel that same connection. They think, ‘You’ve got a QA tester, stick them in that hole.’” Diane also appreciates her recruiters’ intimate knowledge of clients. “If [my recruiters] Alen or Gina tell me the client and culture will be a certain way, 95 percent of that time it’ll play out that way.”
Diane’s recruiter, Gina Burzynski, says, “Throughout Diane’s tenure with TEKsystems, she has displayed an innate ability to pick up new industries, systems and processes quickly. She possesses strong management skills and business acumen, and also the ability to drive a project through to completion. It’s been great for me to make a difference in Diane’s career choices, helping her preserve financial stability through continuous employment, and she has also become a personal friend. She’s a true asset to our team.”
Whitewater rafting and other challenges
Although Diane claims not to be a risk-taker, she pushes herself to take on new challenges in work and life. In her spare time, the “unadventurous” consultant is a whitewater rafting guide on Pennsylvania’s Lehigh River. She partly credits consulting for her ability to do that, saying, “Most people are very surprised at all the things I do. Being a consultant allows me the freedom, but it’s also given me the confidence. With every successful assignment, my confidence in myself has increased, which has allowed to me take more chances in my personal life.”
As a rafting guide and IT consultant, Diane enjoys defying gender expectations. She says, “I feel strongly that it’s important for young girls and women to see successful women in IT. I think I’m setting an example that people can be very successful in nontraditional roles. Twenty years ago it was kind of unusual to see women in IT, and in extreme sports like river guiding. But you don’t have to be stuck in conventional roles.”
Right now, Diane is enjoying interesting IT consulting opportunities but looks forward to retiring in a few years—sort of. After a long career in IT, she wants to try something totally new: opening a consulting agency to help people find eldercare services. “After going through this myself a couple of times, I know how hard it is not having someone to help [in this process], so I want to help others.” We can bet the determined—and if I may disagree with her self-assessment, thoroughly adventurous—Diane will achieve her dream.
Lisa Dare is a content strategist for TEKsystems who loves learning about IT from some of the smartest people in the industry. She frequently blogs about IT careers, talent management and tech culture. Follow her on Twitter to keep up with TEKsavvy blog content.