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Take a Look at a Former Hospitality Sector Employee's Transition to Tech After Losing her Job

Ayana Dunlap's journey from hotel employment to a thriving tech career showcases the transformative power of adaptability and reskilling amid challenging times.
Ayana Dunlap's Inspiring Career Leap Amidst Pandemic Turbulence | Unsplash | Photo by Christin Hume
Ayana Dunlap's Inspiring Career Leap Amidst Pandemic Turbulence | Unsplash | Photo by Christin Hume

As the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the hospitality industry, millions of workers found themselves unemployed, and Ayana Dunlap was one of them. At a crossroads after years in the industry, Dunlap embraced change and turned her setback into a remarkable success story.

linkedin | ayana dunlap
linkedin | ayana dunlap

From a young age, Dunlap envisioned a career behind the front desk of an exotic hotel, assisting guests in a designer suit. Her journey began at 18, landing her first front desk job near Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, right before graduating high school. Despite facing the challenges of the pandemic, Dunlap's early career seemed to align with her childhood aspirations.

Opting for a practical approach, she pursued an associate’s degree in business administration, aiming to expedite her path to becoming a hotel manager. Her belief in a long-lasting hotel career, however, took an unexpected turn.

But as the pandemic led to mass layoffs in the hotel and restaurant sector, it reshaped Dunlap's trajectory. Despite the sudden setback, Dunlap discovered a newfound passion in the world of technology. Today, at 29, she holds the position of Assistant Vice President of Operations and Information Technology at the Bank Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., and earns a salary of $125,000.

Dunlap's transition into the tech sector didn't happen overnight, as she was used to helping her colleagues out with computer-related issues, sparking a realization that she possessed a natural aptitude for technology. Faced with uncertainty after losing her desk job at a hotel, she was introduced to a free online IT support course from Per Scholas, a tech training non-profit.

woman coding on computer Pexels | Photo by ThisIsEngineering
woman coding on computer Pexels | Photo by ThisIsEngineering

During a 15-week program, Dunlap acquired three certifications for Google IT support, CompTIA Security+, and CompTIA Network+. This comprehensive training laid the foundation for her first tech job as a tier 2 technical support engineer at designDATA. Here, she honed her skills, assisting organizations in their transition back to the office by configuring desktops, routers, and printers.

Dunlap's exceptional skills did not go unnoticed. After supporting the Bank Policy Institute's return-to-office preparations, she was offered a full-time position as Assistant Vice President. The organization recognized the value she brought, offering a competitive starting salary of $80,000. Dunlap's dedication and growing responsibilities resulted in subsequent raises, elevating her annual compensation to $125,000.

The success of Dunlap's career pivot emphasizes the importance of transferable skills. Beyond technical expertise gained from her Per Scholas training, her background in hotels equipped her with invaluable soft skills, notably communication and customer service. Dunlap emphasizes the transformative role of customer service in the tech industry, underscoring its significance in addressing stressful computer issues.

Her advice to those aspiring to lucrative roles without a bachelor’s degree is clear recognize and leverage your transferable skills. Dunlap challenges societal norms that associate success with a four-year degree, advocating for alternative paths to self-education through books, online boot camps, and skill improvement. She urges individuals to embrace their strengths, emphasizing that a lack of a traditional degree should not be a deterrent to career growth.