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How I Got Here: From 8 years in the Army National Guard to continuous improvement manager at Vertex

After transitioning into the tech industry, Annie Bartolomeo has trained in a new but growing role called a continuous improvement manager or "process manager."

Annie Bartolomeo. (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.

Like a lot of people in their mid-20s, Annie Bartolomeo had a bit of a quarter life crisis when it came to her career path.

She had graduated with a sociology degree from Kutztown University, and was working in customer service at a bank when a friend started telling her about their experience in the Army National Guard. Bartolomeo had grown up in a military family, but hadn’t really considered the path for herself until then, she said.

“I thought it was incredibly interesting because it challenged you not only physically, but mentally to do something such as the Army or any military branch,” she said. “So I ended up doing a lot of things that I never particularly thought I would end up doing. Military, technology, I kind of fall into them, but it’s a great way to kind of expand my mindset a little bit.”

Army National Guard members work a regular job throughout the year, but dedicate one weekend a month and two straight weeks a year to the service. After basic training, Bartolomeo thought she’d go the officer route, but instead looked for a role with very specific skills. She landed a role as a multichannel transmission systems operator maintainer, which dealt with technology she called both antiquated and cutting edge.

“We did a lot of radio transmission, and working with radios. But then we did a lot of data technologies where, you know, we had to encrypt data, utilize satellites and ensure that the data was safely transferred over to where it needed to be. And make sure nobody from an enemy was able to, you know, break this encryption, and also gather up data,” she said.

Annie Bartolomeo. (Courtesy photo)

While enrolled, Bartolomeo worked in a customer service role at Iron Mountain, an enterprise information management company. She worked her way up over the years to a managerial role, until a former employee reached out to her from King of Prussia-based tax software company Vertex.

“I had to do some decision making because I just recently made manager at the company that I was with, but the movement into a brand new industry of a strictly technological industry and software development and tax was completely new to me,” she said. “But it’s the future of tech. Technology is the future of pretty much everything that we do, and it was a real opportunity for me to get my foot in the door here.”

Bartolomeo, who lives in Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania, has been with the company since 2021 and in her current role of continuous improvement manager since last year. She went from working in a very team-based environment to being more of an individual contributor, she said. She also had a slight bout of culture shock coming from banking to the tech industry, as she said people are fast-paced and straight to the point.

“I think that if something needs to be done, it does need to be done now, but we also need to make sure that it’s done well, which is part of the reason that the role that I’m currently in as a process,” Bartolomeo said.

As a continuous improvement manager, Bartolomeo’s job is all about processes. She’s assessing the company’s goals and operations to find the most efficient way to do them, making it simple for the company’s internal teams and their customers, she said. It’s a fairly new type of role, though it does have similar objectives as a project manager. It’s more of a “process manager,” she said.

And because her background isn’t in the traditional kind of technology building like some of her coworkers, Bartolomeo said, she’s taken as many online courses as the company offers. Though she’s building up those hard tech skills now, she said the biggest assets she’s brought with her from her time in the Army National Guard have been soft skills. She cited camaraderie and working with others as her biggest strengths she’s brought in this current role as well as “not being the loudest person in the room.”

Bartolomeo offered up advice for others who were in her shoes a decade ago, or looking to make a career change, saying “you’re never as unqualified as you think you are.”

“You have a lot of experiences and making sure that you understand those experiences — even if they’re very minuscule — they can still be impactful to your drive and your future career,” she said.

Companies: Vertex Inc
Series: How to Get a Tech Job Month 2023 / How I Got Here

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