Ashley Snyder

8 minute read

Graduating in the first recession of 2008 taught me some hard lessons. Previous advice from adults was just to “get a degree in something, you’ll figure out your career,” but the shift of entry-level jobs becoming so scarce in 2008 definitely proved that mentality to be outdated. So I carved out my path the hard way as I didn’t have access to developer bootcamps and consultant agencies producing bootcamps for admins. I had the opportunity to land a retail job at Apple due to my passion for their products, but I had to work double-duty to prove myself even in technology retail as only men were promoted to the technical positions at that time. I spent lunch breaks studying CompTIA+, paid for my own certifications out of pocket, and eventually returned back to college for a Master’s degree in Information Technology.

I wish I could say that after getting the certs and showing employers that I was returning back to school for IT that I’d gotten my lucky break, but there was-and still is-bias of what someone in the IT world looks like. Again, I took the hard path of having to get to the top of my skill-sets in service desk and desktop support jobs.

I’m really excited for the opportunities that young professionals have today with the job market having so many unfilled positions in IT, and employers taking the responsibility upon themselves to train the people they need for specific skill-sets. ServiceNow is just one example of a technology that didn’t exist when I was younger, and now we have programs to help younger and older generations make a career in ServiceNow if they wish.

Taking the plunge into ServiceNow

I was working in desktop support when The University of Texas at Austin started their ServiceNow implementation. I had worked with some other “ticketing systems” in the past, so I had a good aptitude for how they should work and what I would like to see out of them in my position. During roadshows, etc. I would ask questions to the Business Analysts and just tried to get involved as much as possible. Eventually there was a Business Analyst position at ServiceNow that opened up and I had the opportunity to join the team, even though at the time I had no idea what a requirement was.

I like to use this as an example that you don’t have to have a degree in technology to have a career in our ecosystem. There are so many jobs out there that require skill-sets outside of coding, and the level of coding needed in ServiceNow is something that anyone can learn. I found in the Business Analyst job that I really enjoyed the technical aspects of the job, so when a developer spot opened up I applied to it. I want to note that starting out as a Business Analyst was an amazing way to learn about what customers actually want, how to understand requirements, and communicate to customers any limitations of the platform, which has made me a stronger developer.

Bridging the gap from business analyst to product manager

I’ve been in the ServiceNow ecosystem for a little over six years and have worn a lot of hats during that time. When I started my journey as a Business Analyst at The University of Texas at Austin, a lot of my time was spent turning requirements into stories. Our team was working with a partner at a time that helped us understand the Agile process and requirements writing, so I was able to learn some best practices very quickly alongside of the technical terminology of the ServiceNow platform when breaking down high-level customer requirements.

During this process I found that I enjoyed the technical and development side of the house. Later on, I had the opportunity to move into a ServiceNow System Administrator position. There is definitely a lot to learn when starting out as a ServiceNow System Administrator, and in 2016 the community didn’t have the resources that it has today. There was only one book available by Martin Wood and the concept of Now Learning had yet to exist. I spent a lot of nights and weekends reading, and studying for certifications, and paying for my CAD and CIS on my own. I’ve found that as a beginner, leveling up your resources and making the extra push to learn more outside of working hours can be very beneficial as you’ll begin to see the benefits of this extra time spent when dealing with questions and issues in your job.

During my ServiceNow development career I was either an admin or developer at five different companies, which meant I got to see five different instances and development processes. I mention this because I’ve found that experience is so important in this field. I don’t mean experience in the “I have 12+ years of experience” way, I mean just experiencing different teams and instances and building a personal library of best practices, ideas, and designs to carry with you throughout your career. My piece of advice on coding would be to know where to find your resources on how to code, don’t shy away from stories that require code or seem complex, as these are the ones that make you learn. Many times in my career, I’ve had to throw away everything I thought I knew, and look at a problem from the ground up as a total beginner in order to figure out the best way of solving the problem.

About a year or so ago, I decided to write a blog on topics that I didn’t have much experience on. I wanted to explore these topics for myself and produce a resource that everyone could use while I was doing it. At the time there wasn’t a lot of content on workspaces and UI Builder and I had an upcoming project that wanted to use both, so I used my blog as a way of bridging that learning gap very quickly while also contributing to the community. It was through this process that I first became a Developer MVP and was afforded the opportunity to work with ServiceNow directly as an Outbound Product Manager for the Next Experience team. I’m excited to be able to turn my side-passion into a full time career and have the opportunity to contribute more to the community.

Reflections on my contributions to the community

I think most recently I’ve been recognized for my blog in the community, which I’m working on refactoring into official content. If I could travel back through time I would’ve started my blog or writing some form of content a lot earlier. As I mentioned previously, I thought I had to achieve some level of competency in order to be recognized as a developer in the ecosystem, but when I started my blog I decided to throw out whatever preconceived notions of what a developer was and what they should write about. I even went as far as to use a WYSIWYG website builder even though I had this echo in the back of my head saying “you’re a developer, spend months building it yourself” because I believed that what I was writing about was more important than feeding the stereotype of what a developer is. In the end, I learned way more quickly than I did in the past, helped a lot of folks in the community, and retrained myself to think that it’s OK to not be the expert in this space, the process of learning is more valuable.

How you can get involved

I encourage anyone in the ServiceNow ecosystem to become involved in some aspect, whether you’re just starting out or not, and whatever form that takes, e.g., blogging, community posts, etc. I especially encourage this if you’re new and just starting because you have a perspective that some of us seasoned folks have lost through time, and approaching topics with a beginner mindset is a great way to learn them. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there when writing articles or answering questions. There isn’t some invisible level of skill or competency you have to achieve to contribute. If you don’t know where to start pick a topic that interests you, or you have no idea about and just start writing. ServiceNow has grown so much in the past five years, there’s way more topics and products to write about and learn now. No one can be the expert in all of them, so we need more community members learning and communicating to their peers about these products.

I’ll finish up with my bullet point advice:

  • Find something in the platform that excites or interests you, even if you don’t do it in your day-to-day position, and begin creating content.
  • Embrace the beginner mindset-whether you’re new to the platform, or you’ve been working in it for years, you can learn new concepts with an open mind.
  • There is no invisible bar. Your voice and experience are important. You don’t have to be an expert or coding guru to begin contributing.
  • Know when to push and know when to stop. There’s going to be times when you need to give extra, but don’t let this become the norm, and know when/how to give back to work/life balance.