WorkShift, a future of work blog by Stadium

From Customer Service to HR: The Great Shift

The Great Switch is a series featuring those who have transitioned careers during the pandemic. We hope their stories can serve as inspiration for those who are considering a career switch. Now, more than ever, companies are focusing on employee engagement, shifting to remote or hybrid work models, and employees are prioritizing their careers and health. This is the future of work.

Meet Sonali Kumar, who pivoted from the customer service industry to the HR analytics space during the pandemic.

  1. What were you doing before the pandemic? What are you pursuing now?

    I was working in customer service and was hired as an HR Reporting Coordinator right when the pandemic started. Currently, I work in the HR Analytics space, focusing on Talent Acquisition Analytics and Reporting. I am looking to grow my career in People Analytics, while also growing my LLC called Data in Motion.

Data in Motion is a community-centric learning platform helping professionals grow or kick start their data career.

2. What made this the right time to switch for you/did you have any doubts?

  • I was not concerned about the “right” time, I was more focused on the “right” career to commit to. I never felt comfortable making a long-term career commitment, until I decided to pursue HR Analytics. This sounds more spiritual than logical – there was a sense of peace behind this commitment. For the 1st time in my career, I felt like I was on a path that I am meant to be on – in terms of my career. It did not happen overnight, it took me a while (a lot of jobs and informational interviews) to figure out what I enjoyed and what I did not like in my career and I am thankful for those experiences.
  • While I was working as a HR Reporting Coordinator, I was actively having career development discussions with my manager and she always encouraged me to reach out to people across the organization for information interviews. I did a lot of reflection to figure out what I enjoy and HR Analytics has been a good fit for me. As I mentioned before, there was a sense of peace behind this decision and that is how I knew it was the right path for me.
  • Once I made the career commitment, I started doing more research on technical and non-technical skills I needed to attain to grow in this career. Making that intentional decision to pursue a career in HR Analytics was the turning point for me. I have met some great professionals in the data and people analytics space, made new friends, grew my career to next level, grew financially, started Data in Motion LLC with my Co-founder, whom I met within the data space, and so much more!

3. What was the turning point for you in which you decided to pivot?

No specific turning point I can think of, but I do believe everything led up to the moment when I finally made my decision. I would say I am grateful to have a supportive family and friends who have always encouraged me and saw my potential before I could.

One of my friends from college (SUNY Oswego) consistently tried to recruit me into tech. I kept pushing that idea away, because I was stuck in a mindset that I am not built for a technical role or cannot learn coding or have to go back to college for a Computer Science degree. None of those beliefs were true, they were just fear of the unknown and thinking I am not smart enough for it.

I think it was probably after one of my conversations with him that I did some research into different tech roles and Data Analytics was one of them. I read more about the field and realized it was very similar to what I was doing in my role as a HR Reporting Coordinator, also very similar to what I did in my research project back in grad school. Slowly, all those pieces started to come together and I saw a career path for myself that I would be content with. I think I needed that push from my friend to even start exploring tech roles, thanks JP!

4. What lessons have you learned during this process? What tips would you give someone who wanted to pivot?

You can do hard things and most times it’s your mindset that limits you, not your abilities. You are capable of much more than you give yourself credit for. Your life, including your career, is not meant to be linear, and nor is it meant to be confined in a box. It is okay to explore different avenues and it is okay to change your mind about things — just be strategic about it!

In terms of more practical advice for any job seeker, learn how to build relationships with people. When you find a field that you are interested in, considering you did your initial research, reach out to people who are in that field. Ask them about their role, their day-to-day, their career path. Every time I explored a different career path, I cold DM’ed A LOT of people – some replied and some did not. Every step got me closer to where I am today.

Keep your LinkedIn up to date – tailor it more towards the job you want, not the one you have – just like your resume (don’t lie)!

Find a community related to the field you want to grow in. For data professionals, we started a community called Data in Motion, which is a great place for resources, free practice questions for your technical skills, networking, and so much! There are so many more communities you can find on Discord, LinkedIn, Twitter, or even locally as well!

5. Have you dealt with imposter syndrome since switching? If so, how did you overcome it?

Imposter syndrome is like back pain that keeps coming back no matter what you do (joking)!

I think what helped me the most was surrounding myself with people who always encouraged me, saw my strengths and made sure to highlight my strengths to me whenever I doubted myself.

Another tip I have received is to keep a log of your achievements, we all have accomplishments to look back at, but tend to forget or overlook those. Keeping a journal or a log is a great way to remind yourself that you have grown and will continue to grow as long as you keep moving.

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