Nevertheless She Persisted

How Technology Became the Perfect Career that I Never Knew I Wanted

by Jill Delaney-Shal

Check out the post that inspired Delaney to participate in Anita’s Quilt:
This is Really, Really Hard Work…

Throughout school, I had always been scientifically inclined. Advanced classes in physics, chemistry, and calculus came easily and were not difficult in high school. Even so, when it came time to select a college major, I did not see myself as an engineer. In the 1980s, I viewed engineering as a field for nerdy guys who built computers in their basements. My weekends were spent in a much less cerebral fashion.  However, being extremely practical, it made sense to take the scholarship to study Industrial & Systems Engineering while I figured out what I really wanted to do. At that time, the U.S. job market was tight, but engineering jobs were plentiful and well paying. After taking my first ever programming course, I focused all electives on computer programming. It was love at first byte. Heading into graduation with several job opportunities, I selected a software engineering role at Mead Data Central (MDC). At that time, the concept of searching legal material online was revolutionary, and I wanted to innovate to change the world. It was a start-up mentality organization – crazy hours, quirky personalities, and wicked smart technologists building Big Data Tools before anyone knew what they were.

In the early 1990s, MDC was acquired by a large global company and a new adventure began. This was a time of rapid internet growth and I was able to participate in both acquisitions and divestitures. At the same time my family grew, and I worked part time to support family responsibilities. Many of my friends were not able to continue working as the financial burden of childcare was too high. I appreciated the ability to economically provide for my family and continue the career I loved.

As the children got older, I went back to work full-time and moved into management. The opportunity to lead through industry technology changes and optimizing the organization at a global level brought new challenges. Moving into senior director roles provided the opportunity to lead software development across the U.S., Asia, Europe, and Australia. I treasured the opportunities to work with new colleagues and travel around the globe.

Unexpected change arrived as cost cutting and company relocation resulted in the elimination of my role. Leaving a company after 27 years was tough. In addition to the bruised ego issue, I had never performed a job search after college graduation. New opportunities had always found me, and I moved into them without much thought. Luckily, I had a very supportive family, and my husband’s career was in a good place. It could have been much worse. And so, I got to work – networking to build connections and assessing options to determine the right next role. It was also a time to explore. I went on a mission trip to Guatemala, visited with out-of-state family, and even took an improv class which cumulated in an on-stage show.

Moving to the aerospace and defense industry was a logical choice as I have deep mission appreciation and my skills were readily transferable. In my new role, I own Solutions Delivery for the entire company, which provides a good mix of executive strategy, direction setting, and execution responsibility. I have been with my new company for almost a year now and am absolutely confident that I am exactly where I should be. It has not been an easy year, but an extremely satisfying one as new skills have been honed and new challenges overcome. I am extremely grateful for my engineering training which enabled me to build a technology career that has been perfect for me.


Read more posts from the thread “Nevertheless She Persisted,” or check out all of our Anita’s Quilt stories.