When you’re on the outside looking in, people working in tech might have you thinking your skill set doesn’t have a place in the industry. Tamara Springle’s career journey proves that’s just not true.
Springle is the global head of customer enablement at Qualtrics. Her team is responsible for creating customer education strategies and delivering solutions that teach customers how to use Qualtrics to build experience management programs.
Her advice for people looking to get into tech but aren’t sure how they can fit in? “Focus on your transferable skills and just take the leap.” She can say that because she did it.
Becoming a global lead at Qualtrics was not part of the plan when she was in college — or part of her family’s plan for her since childhood. “Growing up, my family told me I would be a doctor,” she says. “My only choice was what type of doctor I would be. I’m sure many first-generation college students can understand the pressure that comes with those types of expectations.”
Springle’s parents enrolled her in health career-focused middle and high schools, and she decided to pursue psychiatry because she enjoyed learning about human behavior and health. However, in college, she realized she just wasn’t interested in taking all the science classes needed for medical school just to please her family.
“After crying about letting my family down for a year, I had to figure out what I wanted for myself. I loved all of my psychology classes and I loved teaching. I chose to pursue a Ph.D. rather than a medical degree because it felt like a win-win situation. My family would get their doctor, and I would get to explore my passion for both education and human behavior.”
Then in graduate school, as she was still learning how to carve out her own path, Springle’s interests shifted again. This time, her focus pointed toward media and tech. And she was able to get some help. “I was blessed to have mentors and a small social network that supported me unconditionally in making these shifts and helping me live my truth.”
A graduate advisor helped Springle create a second major in media studies and find non-academic career opportunities that combined her interests. Their work, and her advisor’s connections, led Springle to a consulting career in leadership development. But after working in the field for nearly six years, she was laid off. Instead of wallowing, she used the opportunity to really figure out where to shoot her shot.
“I had just moved to Utah and knew I wanted to stay a while, so I applied to nearly every tech company in the state. While I knew I had many transferable skills, I was very worried about finding a role that would really leverage my degree and still sit within my passion place as a psychologist and an educator.”
Springle found that opportunity with Qualtrics, and she talked to AfroTech about how her current role aligns perfectly with her education, history and interests.
AfroTech: Has your education in psychology played a role in your current career?
Tamara Springle: Absolutely. Part of the reason I chose Qualtrics is because they value and actively recruit Ph.Ds. My degree is in community psychology, which promotes a unique approach to solving social justice issues [and] addressing those issues at multiple levels simultaneously — the individual, the family, the community and the broader social and governmental systems. I use the skills I’ve developed as an ecological researcher and data analytics professional in every challenge I take on and every decision I make at Qualtrics.
AfroTech: How did your professional journey lead to working in experience management?
Tamara: I wish I had some profound answer, but the truth is I was a Qualtrics fangirl in grad school. I was one of the first students to adopt the software when my department acquired a license, and I spent a lot of time teaching others to use it. As I mentioned, my interest trended toward tech while I was in grad school. Unfortunately, I wasn’t brave enough to pursue it then. It still felt too different from my degree and like the pivot would represent eight years of wasted effort. However, when I was laid off from my consulting job, I knew this was my chance to figure it all out. That’s how I landed at Qualtrics.
The role I have is not the role I applied for. I remember asking a friend in the company for advice about the interview process and, of course, I received the typical “Just be yourself.” I’d always hated that advice because I didn’t know what to do with it. However, something clicked during this interview process. I had the opportunity to really highlight the things I was most passionate about. It was scary because I knew it didn’t always align directly to the role I had applied for. However, I am so glad I didn’t hold back because the team interviewing me used that information to find the role that best fit both me and the company. It was such a refreshing experience.
AfroTech: Are there any projects that stand out to you since joining the Qualtrics team?
Tamara: My favorite project so far has been the revamp of our product certification program and XM Basecamp. When I joined the company, our product certification program, on-demand education programs and live training all lived in separate systems. This created an undesirable experience for our customers and made it difficult for them to leverage all of the great educational services available and derive value from the Qualtrics platform. We brought everything together under XM Basecamp, creating a single destination for customers to learn experience management and Qualtrics. We also made the certification education free to all. This improvement in access has leveled the playing field for practitioners in the industry.
We even won an award for it.
Obviously, Springle encourages people interested in working in tech who don’t have a traditional background in the industry to go for it. “There are so many non-STEM roles in the tech industry. Your voice, your experience, your wisdom are not only valued but necessary for us to continue to evolve as an industry. Tech touches everyone in the world [and] the people of the world deserve representation. There is a place for you here.”
Learn about the career opportunities at Qualtrics.
This editorial is brought to you in partnership with Qualtrics.