August 12, 2023

Jean Armstrong's Success Story: Re-entering the Workforce After a 24-year Gap

Think it's too late to pivot? Think again. This blog goes into the incredible journey of Jean Armstrong, who was able to re-enter the workforce after leaving it or over two decades.

Many of you have had the pleasure of meeting Jean Armstrong, either in person or virtually. She’s a warm and welcoming presence in the CITI community. Always willing to support others and contribute, Jean is an inspiration and a positive role model.

From Career Gap to Pivot Success

Jean worked as a Mechanical Engineer for a pulp mill over 20 years ago before taking time off to raise her kids. A fun fact related to this is that she travelled the world for a year with her family when her kids were in Grades 1 and 6. 

After her kids were older, Jean was looking for something to do. There were two directions she initially considered: teaching and software development. She started with the first, volunteering with Roots 2 STEM, an organization that offers youth education in science, technology, engineering, and math. 

When COVID-19 arrived, Jean decided that because of her health issues, it would be safer for her to pursue her interest in software development. Her husband worked with Song Ha, who told her about the CITI community. Connecting with people from CITI made her think it was possible to get a job in tech. 

The Impact of Community

“There was no path forward until I met CITI,” says Jean. When she joined, she needed to create a LinkedIn profile. Zac encouraged her to grow her LinkedIn network, and the initial goal was for 50 new connections. Zac wrote a post, introducing Jean and encouraging others to connect with her. She started showing up for meetings, learning more about applying for jobs, the available roles in tech, groups, and networking.

She was noticeably quiet and didn’t say anything at first. Jean says the random coffees took the pressure off, and she started meeting more people. It was an enjoyable way to reach out to people and start networking. During the second half of the Wednesday meetings, she found it easier to get to know people in the smaller breakout rooms and started making friends.

Project Leads to Internship

In the discussions surrounding transferable skills, Jean says she felt lacking and would sit on the outside of those conversations. As far as computer skills and programming were concerned, though, she had more confidence in her abilities. When she took a development program with LaunchPad by Vog, she said she had an easier time because of her existing knowledge base.

Jean is passionate about projects. Her project for the program was a playground finder app, and having it as part of her portfolio was one of the reasons she was successful in landing a six-month internship with LaunchPad by Vog. Her contract was then extended for another six months. Recently, she was given a 24-hour take-home challenge. The challenge was stressful, but Jean did well and is now a full-time Junior Developer for Vog App Developers!

The CITI Job Tracker App

When the idea for Project Studio was introduced, Jean was interested in supporting it and collaborating with other CITIzens. Referencing James Hiu’s post on the pillars of Education, Networking, and Projects, she knew her knowledge and ability to teach others would be valuable. 

At their first meeting, the Project Studio group had a list of ten ideas, and they voted to decide on which one they would collaborate. Jean’s suggestion for a job tracker app was the winning project idea. 

Jean and Tracey Crape are the Product Managers/Owners for the project. They organize the activities of the Developers, UI/UX Designers, and DevOps team. The idea is to bring people in and out of the project as it progresses, passing learnings on to others in future projects.

Key Insights and Learning Moments

Her advice to others who are pivoting is to look for support when you hit the lows. Jean describes CITI as an “awesome community” and commented on Zac’s support and willingness to help others.

Jean describes herself as being “not great at self-discovery.” She prefers to dive into things and says her experiences define who she is. She brings more maturity and life experience and hopes she can inspire others by showing that it’s possible to get back into the workforce after a 20-year gap. As she says, “Anything you set your mind to do, you can do.”

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