Introducing Donella Smith
Donella obtained her 1st degree in Accounting before converting to I.T. where she has remained for the past 20years. Holding various positions between 2 companies over her 20 year career shows dedication and is commendable. Today she works as Project Manager. In her own words: “I was the first grandchild in my family to attend college”
I am the oldest of four children. We grew up in a double family home. My family lived downstairs while my aunt and cousins lived above us. We grew up poor but I don’t think that I realized it until I was in college. I grew up around a lot of teen pregnancy and watched young girls struggle as mothers. No fathers around. Some on drugs. Switching from one abusive relationship to another, although some did very well as young single mothers. I remember riding the bus to the doctor’s office with a very young mother of twin boys. It was cold and snowy. We had to push the strollers through the snow, fold them up to ride the bus and hold on to them with the baby. That’s when I realized I wanted more. I was not having a child until I graduated from college, got a job and bought a car. Funny, l don’t remember thinking about a husband. I guess my goal was to stay off the bus with a stroller and baby. I also witnessed someone arguing on the phone about their public assistance check. I knew right then that I never wanted to be in that position.
These events really set me on the path towards college. Neither one of my parents graduated from High School. I did not only witness teen pregnancy; I’m a product of a teen pregnancy and high school dropout. Very few of my aunts and uncles graduated from High School. I am the oldest grandchild on both sides of my family, so I was the first to attend college. I really did not know where to start and was encouraged to stay close to home, therefore I went to Cleveland State University and graduated with a degree in Accounting.
I became a CPA and went on to work in various Accounting/Auditing positions. My last position was an Auditor for a investigative unit at the Chicago Board of Education. The job was challenging but not very busy. I would have two weeks to complete an assignment that took about 2 hours. I was able to assist in prosecuting some criminals. My sister told me about a program at DePaul University. It was a very intense 8 month program for college graduates who wanted to switch to IT in preparations for the Y2K work. Since I was not very busy at work, I decided to sign up for the program. They were right it was very intense and fast paced but I made it through with an extremely high average. So, I really didn’t choose Technology. I kind of just fell into it.
I’ve been in I.T. for 20 years and I have not regretted the decision. I’ve only worked at two companies during that time. The first was with a large Telecommunications company as a programmer and QA analyst for three years. The last 17 years I worked for the same company serving in many roles ranging from a QA Analyst, Project Manager, Program Manager and Implementation Manager. The biggest challenge I’ve faced since being in the Technology field has been navigating and moving up the corporate ladder. I think I’ve often fell into the she’s so good at what she does, let’s keep her there situations more often than not. Managers love my attention to detail, while a positive trait to have this seems to have held me back professionally because familiarity. I made a name for myself as the go to person for the difficult tasks that need a lot of focus.
Today, I work as a Project Manager contractor/consultant. I am undecided as to what I want my next step professionally to be. I like the idea of contracting but also know that my age may become a factor in finding future employment. I am a wife and mom outside of work. Now that the kids are all grown, I’m focusing on what I like and learning to rediscover me. My husband and I are learning to adjust to our new roles as empty nesters. I want to travel more. I love going to the beach. I really enjoy visiting wineries and plan to take more trips outside of the Southeast. Right now, I am in a discovery mode for fun and exciting activities.