“If humanity is really good at one thing, it’s that we’re adaptable,” says Alexa Sarkuni, IT operations manager at Crossbeam. “I think people are capable of much more than they appear to be, and I think it’s very easy to convince ourselves that we can’t, or we are stuck.”
In a year where many of us have felt stuck, Sarkuni’s done what she always has — seek out growth opportunities.
A little over a year ago, she was immersed in the finances of the nonprofit world as the finance manager for a Philadelphia-based arts org. Coming from a background in bookkeeping and numbers, it seemed the role was a perfect fit for Sarkuni. And it was, for a time.
“I realized that, while I’m really good at it, I don’t really like finance,” she said. The realization that she was good at what she did but didn’t love it spurred her to think about the long-term trajectory of her career.
Ready for a change, Sarkuni went back to the drawing board and thought about what she wanted in a career and employer, not just the skills she brought to the table.
“I wanted an opportunity to learn, to grow. I was just craving more growth and development out of myself,” she said. “We live in a society that demands 40 hours of work a week, and you want to spend that time doing something as enjoyable as possible. Something that doesn’t feel like a drag when you wake up in the morning.”
And that’s where technology came in. Despite coming from nonprofits and small businesses, Sarkuni felt the pull toward the high-growth world of startups.
Little did she know her next opportunity was just next door. Literally.
Crossbeam links businesses to create a rich ecosystem of partnerships with shared data, databases, and mapping. Think of it like a LinkedIn, but for partnerships, not people. The data-driven and fast-growing team was certainly a change of pace from the nonprofit world.
While it’s a remote-first company, Crossbeam’s Philadelphia office in The Philadelphia Building was located just down the hall from Sarkuni’s office. When she applied to an analyst role, it felt like a sign. (“That’s like both exactly how I hope and expect my life to go. Also, maybe slightly proof that the universe is a simulation,” she joked.)
Though the pandemic prohibited any in-person meetings, Sarkuni had a chance to interview across departments, getting a feeling for the multi-dimensional team she’d work with. It was also clear to Sarkuni from day one that the team at Crossbeam valued authenticity, and the invitation to bring your whole self to the office.
“I haven’t felt ‘other’ or different working at Crossbeam at all. I feel really seen as a trans woman, as a queer woman, as a lesbian, and I think that the most powerful thing that I could have said was that it just feels like I’m a person.”
Sarkuni credits Crossbeam’s culture, in part, to the efforts of its “thriving” DEI council: “They do a lot of good work to pay attention to how folks are being represented in the culture of the organization.”
That culture also encourages asking questions and trying new things.
“Crossbeam is very permissive towards self-growth and openness,” said Sarkuni. “During my tenure here, I’ve seen people move into positions that are adjacent to, or totally on the opposite side of what they’ve been doing. It’s really encouraging. I feel encouraged to seek out the thing that I want to do and that there’s space for that.”
Since joining the team at Crossbeam, Sarkuni herself has made a change, moving from the analyst role into an IT operations manager role.
“I like learning a lot, l like problem-solving, and I like how systems work. I saw an opportunity to make a pivot in my career and more into an industry that is more nourishing for me and my career. One where there isn’t a lot of representation for people like me,” said Sarkuni.
For some, the move from nonprofit finance to IT might seem impossible. After years in a single industry or role, it can be easy to feel pigeonholed into a single career path. To those who feel stuck in an industry or role that doesn’t suit them, Sarkuni advises:
“If you were out there and you’re struggling, or you feel despondent about who you are and where you are, don’t let those things dissuade you from getting where you want to be. Don’t lose hope or drive.”
Who knows? Your next opportunity might be right next door.-30-