Chris Wolfe – Engineering a Greater Tomorrow
At SCANA, my role is an Engineer in the Corporate Planning Department, focused on Data Analytics and Energy Generation Portfolio Planning. Technically, I have never worked in IT. I work closely with IT in order to perform data analytics for the company. I have been in engineering/operations and analytics for over 10 years.
Chosen By IT
I feel like IT chose me. I have tried to focus my career on making a difference in a field that I care about, energy. That involves solving current and future problems. In order to do that, you need the most sophisticated tools and skills to solve these complex and significant issues. IT became an integral part of achieving that mission.
My education was fundamental and my IT emphasis started in high school. It probably started when I learned how to create a website in my HTML class. In college, my engineering curriculum required me to take C++ and Java. That helped me with the fundamentals for computing languages that I use today in SAS and SQL. Engineers rely heavily on technology and IT for solving problems, so I’ve always been required to have a level of IT knowledge and skill sets.
The Impact of a Strong Mom
My mom is my hero and mentor. My mom was a Computer Science Major (magna cum laude) in an era where there were practically zero women graduating with computer degrees. She had a wonderful career at IBM while being a mom. She always made sure I had a computer around and encouraged me to get into computer programming. I have found myself being thankful and grateful for the encouragement she provided to learn coding because “you can always find a job if you have technical skills”. I’m able to pass on what my mom has taught me through organizations like Million Women Mentors South Carolina, part of a national movement for mentoring girls and women in STEM in our state.
She has impacted my career through the emphasis on developing a technical foundation early, something that has given me the versatility to span across many different types of projects. This foundation also has given me opportunities for job positions that I might not have been able to attain without a coding foundation.
Current Trends in IT
I will try not to confuse “trends” with “buzz words”, but I see a trend in companies putting more emphasis and value on data analytics and wanting to have more predictive analytics capabilities. I also see a trend in a desire to move toward agnostic software. Users like choice and for everything to be able to connect across different platforms. The cloud, or data lake, is also opening a whole new complexity and era for IT, including machine learning and storage.
I also think Internet of Things (IoT) is a trend that is trying to find it’s place in the market and where IT has an immediate role for connecting the public to smart devices, appliances and electronics. Drones have entered the market in a fierce way and are becoming as common as having an Amazon Alexa (which my children refer to as Alexa Wolfe).
To Succeed in IT, You Need These Skills
Coding and being able to work on a team. Most problems are solved by a team and I see more and more IT folks wanting to work by themselves or in silos. The best solutions never come from one person. Coding is fundamental for all the different aspects of IT between infrastructure, storage, analytics, network maintenance and software. Make sure to take classes early in your career!
Tech Advancements in the Next Couple of Decades
I think we will see smart homes become the norm, artificial intelligence will be utilized for advancements in industry, life will become more automated and programmed. I also think robots will become more household and Rosie from the Jetsons may show up in around year 20 (as a working mom I wish it were closer to this decade).
Advice For Someone Considering IT as a Career
Keep learning new tools. IT is always changing. The second you learn one software, there’s a new version coming out or a “newer and better” model. A flexible attitude will keep you moving forward and open to the new possibilities that are waiting in the future.
Chris Wolfe is an engineer at SCANA in Columbia, SC. She is an IT-oLogy Tech Hero!