We sat down with Dawn and David from Sierra Systems, an NTT DATA Company to learn a little more about them and how they got started in the tech sector. One of the most amazing things about our industry is the fusion of people, experiences, and ideas, which fuels innovation and drives our digital economy forward.
What was high school like for you? Were you into tech?
David: I’ve always been interested in technology. I was an early adopter of computers, with my first being a TI-99/4A.
Dawn: Back in high school I loved math and science. In fact, when I started university, I thought I was going to become a doctor, but after taking organic chemistry in second year I decided to move into business. I received my degree in Business and thought, “now what?”. I looked into IT programs and discovered ITI (Information Technology Institute). In 2000, IT was in high demand and ITI offered a really unique model – a hands-on, fully immersed, nine-month IT program where you walked out ready to start your career in tech. I had never coded before in my life and there I was, coding a website from scratch.
Did you always want to be in IT?
Dawn: No! In fact, when I told people I had enrolled in this IT program, they said “what?” – but I knew I could do it. The great lesson there is that you don’t know what you’re going to like until you try it. In fact, to get into ITI – there was a very technical exam and I thought “oh my gosh, I blew it,” and then I received the call that I passed! Tech was not on my radar but here I am, nineteen years later. Everything is IT now. Everything you touch – that’s the interesting thing about this career, it’s always changing – even as we are sitting here.
David: I was going to be a retail store manager, and I was sent off to get experience with the buying group so I could understand operations and be more effective. My transition into IT was based on the fact that there was no business representation in system changes at the time. Engaging in IT projects is more about your ability to learn, and less about the technology.
What are some things you love about your job?
Dawn: It constantly changing – and in tech, you are in a position where you can really hone your skills in a particular area or methodology.
David: For me, it’s solving business problems and adding value, it’s interesting work. You must stay current and learn, and the caliber of the people I work with is impressive.
Why do you work at Sierra Systems?
Dawn: Before I joined Sierra Systems, I checked out their ‘our people’ section on their website and there were photos of colleagues enjoying life outside of work. In fact, the HR person that interviewed me (over the phone) was also featured on the site – she was pictured on a golf course getting ready to play a round. It was great to have a face to the voice!
David: We were founded in 1966, and we’ve been in Halifax since 1997. For me, I was impressed by the people and the length of time they were here – that really says something. The trusted status and the values of the company are important to me too.
How is Sierra Systems unique?
David: Our long-term relationships with clients, trusted advisory role, and our ability to deliver. We are careful to commit to only those engagements that we can complete and deliver.
Dawn: A key industry that I’m interested in using IT is in the delivery of healthcare. It’s a perfect match that Sierra Systems is now an NTT DATA Company because we can build on our strength in the healthcare area and other verticals. We are working on some ground-breaking initiatives. Check out our website and follow us on LinkedIn.
How does technology play a role in your life?
Dawn: Because I work on a computer all day, it’s the last thing I do at home, but it’s the way of the world now. Our mobile phones are attached to us – I use my phone to look up what’s happening in the city, country or the world! If I have a question about anything, all I have to do is say “Ok Google”. On a recent visit to Toronto, I used my phone constantly to check out restaurants, read reviews and make reservations.
David: Working with, building and configuring computers was one of my hobbies in the early days of computers. Now I try and unplug when I’m away from work – but technology a part of our lives. I have to stay current with technology and innovation to be able to sell IT services. Clients are buying solutions, and don’t worry so much about the technology, but how to implement and leverage the solution.
What do you think about the growth of Nova Scotia’s tech sector?
David: There’s a lot of innovation occurring in Nova Scotia, and there are a lot of new companies. It’s exciting to be a part of that sector. We are seeing an influx of people, some people returning home, and lots of positive immigration. There is growth in people – which is a great way forward.
Dawn: Now that we’re Sierra Systems, an NTT Data Company, this could introduce several opportunities in Nova Scotia and beyond.
What do you see trending in tech?
David: One of the biggest things influencing our sector is the move to Cloud systems, and I think that will only increase. Microsoft is definitely an influencer, but there are openings for a large number of niche solutions.
Dawn: If I was just starting out, I would get into developing and playing around with apps – there will always be a need for mobile presence to complement web. As well as AI (Artificial Intelligence) that will be more, and more, in demand. Anyone who has an interest and aptitude in programming or code should look into AI and machine learning. AI is everywhere and technology can be a real problem solver.