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Student success Story: Toni Benn

by | Aug 20, 2021

How one Pathstream student transitioned from a teaching career to an Agile Project Manager role in less than 3 months.

After graduating from Howard University with a Bachelor of Arts in advertising, Toni Benn decided to travel the world teaching English in Spain and South Korea. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, she knew her traveling days would have to come to an end. She started researching opportunities to start a new career within the tech field. Ideally she wanted to find an option that wouldn’t require years of additional school or a technical background.

That’s when she stumbled upon the field of project management. She read about how project management roles were growing steadily year over year and began looking into ways to get into the field. She considered a master’s program but then started looking into more time-efficient certificate programs. The NYU Asana Project Management Certificate program matched what she was searching for — it was affordable, she could complete it in under five months, and it provided job-focused learning that would give her the confidence to pursue project manager roles.

Toni enrolled in the program when she was still in South Korea. Initially, she thought this might prove challenging because of the differences in time zones. However, because the program was entirely online and there were no required times to log in, she found she could work through the materials at her own pace and reach out to her instructors for help when she needed it.

“The whole platform and process was seamless,” she explains, “I liked the user interface of the Pathstream platform. The verbiage used in the courses was also easy to understand. The lessons took the content from the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) and Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) textbooks and put it in simpler terms so that I could actually absorb and understand it. The experiential assignments were also really helpful because, before taking this program, I did not have any prior experience with project management but I quickly was able to complete the types of tasks an employer would expect me to do on the job.”

As Toni progressed through the coursework, she also started applying to project management jobs. She didn’t expect immediate results because she had been applying to jobs for about a year while she was living in South Korea and experienced many rejections. However, once she added the NYU certificate to her resume, she had different results. Within three months of starting the program she was offered a role as an Agile Project Manager for OmbuLabs, a remote startup with headquarters in Philadelphia. The company is a lean software boutique that helps companies upgrade their servers and systems.

“I found this job through Indeed and had an awesome interview process,” Toni says, “OmbuLabs is a really small team. The person I interviewed with had just completed a coding boot camp herself and was transitioning careers as well. Hearing her story gave me hope that they would grant me that same grace and opportunity to learn and grow.”

Toni was offered the job and got to spend the last few months applying everything she learned about in the NYU project management program. “I’m monitoring projects, managing the budget, looking at schedules, communicating with clients, and keeping track of everything that’s going on,” she explains.

Reflecting on her experience switching careers and finding a new job, Toni says: “The pandemic showed me that life is changing. I want to make sure I’m moving in the right direction for myself — professionally, academically, financially.” The Asana Project Management Certificate allowed her to take the first step towards these new goals.

“At the beginning of last year, I was pretty miserable,” she acknowledges, “I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere fast. There was just no end in sight in terms of job rejections. I kept getting told that I didn’t have enough experience. But now that I’ve completed this program and started this job, I finally feel that I can start building my own path. People just have to be willing to give you a chance to do that. That’s why I’m looking to do some side work with a few black-owned tech companies that are really pushing initiatives to have more inclusivity within the tech field. Now that I’ve landed in this role I’m ready to contribute in any way I can to making more opportunities for folks like myself.”

Her advice to other people who are looking to start a new career or build their own path? “Keep going and don’t give up. There’s no one way to do anything. Explore new things and try new areas because you just never know where it could lead you. I’m lucky to be at a company where I’m constantly learning new things. I’m still studying and I’m still moving forward because things could change tomorrow. You’re never really finished learning.”

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