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How I Got Here: Arwen Eger went from a career in real estate to a relationship-oriented job in tech

Now as an associate product owner at Hitachi Rail, Eger said that loving technology is in her blood, even though it took a few decades to embrace that in her professional life. 

Arwen Eger. (Courtesy photo)

This is How I Got Here, a series where we chart the career journeys of technologists. Want to tell your story? Get in touch.

Arwen Eger recalled being the first person in her friend group to regularly use the internet. This was in the 1990s, before being a nerd was cool.

Despite spending hours of free time in her high school’s computer lab — much to her friends’ confusion — she balked at the idea of a career in technology initially. Why? Her father was a professor of information systems in Australia where she grew up, and at that point in her life she didn’t want to follow in his footsteps.

“I have always loved technology, the love of technology is in my blood, whether I like it or not,” Eger told “But I really shied away from it, because it sort of felt like I needed to forge my own path.”

Eger went on to get her real estate license and worked in the field while pursuing a teaching degree at Duquesne University. Both professions were areas she felt her interpersonal skills would be put to good use, Eger said. Additionally, working in real estate meshed well with the demands of having young children. But eventually, her kids were in school and Eger found herself craving a new challenge and decided to pursue full-time opportunities.

“The impetus for that was [that] I’d been looking for something that would tap into a combination of my various interests and abilities,” Eger said. “My analytical side, yet making relationships … I was able to hone those things in real estate and also in education because I’m a teacher and learner at heart.”

When she was trying to figure out her next chapter, tech still didn’t immediately come to mind. That is until someone described it to her as learning to speak a new language — as a lover of words Eger was intrigued. The more she learned about coding, the more she realized that programming could encompass all the things she was looking for in a new career. Her inquiries led her to Tech Elevator, a Cleveland-based coding bootcamp with a Pittsburgh presence, and she enrolled in the spring of 2021 after receiving a scholarship.

“This is a field that checks all the boxes,” Eger said. “There’s always going to be a good balance of stability and novelty. There’s always going to be new information and new solutions.”

In addition to not wanting to go into what she considered her father’s field, Eger admitted that something else that made her wary of a tech career was that she associated the industry with being antisocial. Now, in her position as an associate product owner at Hitachi Rail, she’s happy to report that hasn’t been the case. At the rail systems company, Eger said, most of her work revolves around building relationships with people and facilitating conversations.

“The Hitachi core values are harmony, sincerity and pioneering spirit, and I get to see and live those every single day,” Eger said. “They really spoke to me and who I am and the integrity that I choose to live my life by every day.”

Eger added that she enjoys feeling that she’s always learning and brings skills like time management from her past professions with her. At this point in her journey, Eger advises anyone considering a career change to embrace not knowing everything and not being afraid to ask questions. Not only that, but if you choose to participate in a coding boot camp, she says not to be afraid to lean on the people around you.

“You don’t have to go it alone,” Eger said. “Throw yourself into the process, lean into the wealth of experience with the instructors, the pathway program, and the relationships that you have with your cohort members because they’re really meaningful, and every single person there that you’re interacting with is an advocate for you.”

Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Series: How I Got Here

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