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From agriculture to analytics: How Caitlin Carpenter is growing a tech career with Pluralsight

Caitlin Carpenter teaches construction by day and learns data analytics by night. Hear how she's using Pluralsight to change careers and support her family.

Oct 18, 2023 • 7 Minute Read

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  • sql
  • Data
  • Professional Development
  • Learning & Development

For Caitlin Carpenter, the roles of teacher and student aren’t mutually exclusive. During the day, she’s a high school agricultural construction instructor. At night (or whenever she finds a few free minutes), she’s a student learning SQL, Tableau, and data analytics to develop the skills she needs to change careers and better support her family.

Now a data analyst, agricultural instructor, and Pluralsight Best in Tech Awards winner, she’s been posting her tech journey on LinkedIn to nearly 2,000 followers to reinforce her learning and inspire others to make a difference. 

Here’s how she did it and the advice she has for other people who want to change their careers and their lives.

Table of contents

The catalyst for her career change

Caitlin knew she wanted to be a teacher as early as high school. After studying agricultural education at California State University, Fresno, she achieved her goal and became a high school agricultural construction teacher. For the past several years, she’s been busy teaching her students, crafting lesson plans, grading papers, and building projects inside and outside the classroom. 

While her passion for teaching hasn’t changed, her circumstances have. “On top of being a normal classroom teacher, I’m also building two tiny houses with my students,” she explains. “You’ve got ordering materials, planning the lessons, giving instructions to students, and supervising them through the build, the completion, and the selling of the houses.”

All this, plus her hour-long commute, means she hasn’t been able to spend as much time with her family as she’d like. “My current needs have led me to want to transition into something that would prioritize more of a technical skill and allow me to be more available for my family. I want to make sure that I can provide the best future for my kids . . . and be there to watch them grow.”

Beginning her tech learning journey with Pluralsight Skills

Once Caitlin decided on her path forward, she dove into learning with Pluralsight Skills. She began by taking the top SQL courses on the platform but soon found herself wanting a more defined journey. 

Caitlin leveraged Skill IQ assessments to identify the skills and learning paths she needed to achieve her goals. After completing the recommended courses and hands-on labs, she took the Skill IQ again to reinforce her learning and track her skill acquisition. “At the end, it kind of gave me that score of, ‘Hey, you know what you're doing. You're doing okay.’”

That additional validation helped Caitlin manage some of the challenges that accompanied her shift to tech. She started her learning journey with curiosity and excitement, but once she started applying to jobs, imposter syndrome began to set in. 

She asked herself, “‘What if I'm not good enough? What if I didn't learn the right things? What if I don't know all the skills yet?’ Of course, I never will. There's always more to learn. There’s that anxiety, but I’m also excited and curious for what’s next.”

Connecting agriculture to data analytics: Applying her transferable skills

When tech skills encompass everything from cloud computing to engineering and AI, how did Caitlin land on data analytics? She took stock of her transferable skills.

“I feel like the transition from teacher to data analyst is pretty seamless in a way,” she shares. “We use data almost daily in our career when it comes to analyzing student grades. You know the students are failing. Why are they failing? What questions do they get wrong? How can we then use those scores to improve our teaching abilities or change what we're doing?

“I got drawn into the fact that data analytics is something I can relate to. And I've just been a kind of puzzle seeker. And to me, data is like a puzzle.”

Building her brand: Sharing her learning journey on LinkedIn

“To be a good teacher, I think you have to be a good learner,” says Caitlin. While she isn’t planning to continue her formal education job in the future, she’s still using her teaching chops to share her story and teach and inspire others along the way.

She initially joined LinkedIn to build connections and gain exposure. She never expected to amass the 1,600+ followers she has today. Now Caitlin posts on LinkedIn frequently, sharing the highs and lows of her learning journey to reinforce her skills and encourage others. 

After participating in the #66DaysOfData challenge, when she posted about her learning journey consistently for 66 days, she wanted to keep her momentum going. “The data analyst in me was just curious. I turned on the Creator mode on LinkedIn because it gives you more data. I slowly started building a small following. And I was just blown away.”

The secrets to her success: Caitlin’s advice for others

“If I could help just one person learn a skill, and if it helps reinforce my skills as well, then I think it's a win-win,” Caitlin says. Here are some of her top tips for learning new tech skills and making a career change.

Make time to learn on the go

Between her full-time jobs of teaching and parenting, making time to learn has been one of Caitin’s biggest roadblocks. “The biggest asset that I’ve had through Pluralsight Skills is the ability to learn on the go. The mobile app has been fantastic. I think I do 90% of my learning on the go because I don't have the time to sit at my computer.”

Whether she’s listening to a video on soft skills during her commute, or an SQL review in line at the grocery store, Caitlin values the little minutes of learning she can squeeze in throughout the day. “I can watch a little module on my phone and then go home and practice those skills when I have that computer time. That flexibility for my schedule has been a game changer.”

Don’t be afraid of learning tech skills

Transitioning to a new role or learning new skills can be daunting, especially for people who don’t think of themselves as technologists. Caitlin’s advice? Try learning new skills anyway. 

“You don’t realize how many skills you’re already doing in your current role. Take the time to understand what you enjoy about your job. Do you enjoy looking over the scores and finding the problems? Do you enjoy organizing tasks?”

Then look for technical roles and skills that match what you enjoy. “Go try it before you say, ‘I can't do it,’” she advises. “That’s something I hear from students. I hear it from adults. They dismiss their skills before they even try to explore.”

Network and cultivate soft skills

As an agricultural teacher, Caitlin didn’t need to use LinkedIn before starting her tech journey. “Being an agricultural teacher, everyone just knows everybody,” she explains. “I wish I had started networking and connecting meaningfully with people sooner.”

To get started, she recommends just making your first post. “Be vulnerable. Be true and honest to what you're doing, and I know there's someone else that can relate to it somewhere. Share what you're learning, share the projects you're doing, share anything that could give you the exposure that tells recruiters and hiring managers that you’re serious about this.”

While you can—and should—network with fellow jobseekers, it’s also important to seek out people who are currently working in the role you’re interested in.

“Find people in the field who are currently employed,” Caitlin advises. “Reach out and ask them, ‘Hey, how’d you make this transition, or how'd you get into this?’ And if you can set up one-on-one talks with them, that definitely goes a long way with building those relationships as well.”

Remember everyone’s learning journey is different

While LinkedIn has been an excellent resource for Caitlin’s learning journey, she acknowledges the pressure that can accompany social media.

“It’s really easy to compare yourself to others, but everyone's journey is different,” she says. “Remember that what I'm doing may not work for what someone else is doing, and what they did may not work for me, because we've got too many variables in our lives that could be different. So just remember that your journey is your own journey and don't give up because someone else did it faster.”

Uncovering endless opportunities with Pluralsight Skills

“One thing I teach my students is that there’s a tool for every job, and you have to use the right tool to accomplish that task,” says Caitlin. “Pluralsight has been the tool to accomplish my goal.”

And she’s only just getting started. After logging 184 hours of learning and completing 68 courses (and counting!), she’s excited for her tech journey to really get under way. 

“I would love a data analyst job,” she says. “But I'm not necessarily limiting myself to that role. If something were to come along where I can use data in another type of role, that would be fantastic as well. I'm starting from scratch, so I can only grow from here and branch out to whatever direction I choose to go in. There's going to be endless opportunities.”

Caitlin uses Pluralsight Skills to learn the tech skills she needs to switch careers and spend more time with her family. Whether you share a similar goal, or an entirely different one, Pluralsight can help. 

You can start a free 10-day trial and access our library of over 7,000 beginner, intermediate, and advanced courses and labs for technical skills.

Do you have a story to share, too? Are you ready to inspire others? Fill out our brief survey to tell us a little about yourself.

Pluralsight Content Team

Pluralsight C.

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