• Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Meet Ayana, 29, laid off from hotel job, now earning $125,000 in tech without bachelor’s degree

Meet Ayana, 29, laid off from hotel job, now earning $125,000 in tech without bachelor’s degree

Against the odds, Ayana Dunlap entered a lucrative tech career without a degree. Following her 2020 layoff from a hotel job due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dunlap boldly transitioned into the tech industry.

Now, at 29, she holds the position of Assistant Vice President of Operations and Information Technology at the Bank Policy Institute, commanding an impressive $125,000 salary.

Like countless others in the hotel and restaurant industry, Dunlap experienced job loss during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Faced with prolonged furloughs and lockdowns, she redirected her career path. While her childhood dream job remained elusive, Dunlap found a fulfilling passion in the field of technology.

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Ayana Dunlap envisioned her dream job before high school graduation – an adult life spent behind a hotel front desk in exotic locations, inspired by polished women she admired on vacations with her mom.

Actualizing this childhood fantasy, she secured her first front desk role at 18 near Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, continuing in hotel positions into her 20s.

“I thought I found my forever career,” she tells CNBC Make It.

In college, Ayana Dunlap pursued an associate’s degree in business administration, aiming for a faster route to becoming a hotel manager.

She graduated from Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, in 2016. Looking back almost a decade later, the 29-year-old laughs at her earlier plans.

Ayana Dunlap playfully notes her early tech support role among older colleagues. Post-college, she spent years in sales at Widewaters Hotel Group & Magna Hospitality Group across DMV area hotels. Before the pandemic, she worked as a senior sales manager at the Hilton Garden Inn Tysons Corner.

“I was the youngest person on my team, and always getting pulled to unfreeze computer screens, edit documents, and refresh WiFi connections,” she says. “But I didn’t mind it, I always thought it was fun.”

Ayana Dunlap only thought about turning her computer skills into a career when she got laid off from her sales job in June 2020.

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Dunlap has been working in tech since 2020. Currently, she’s the assistant vice president of operations and information technology at the Bank Policy Institute, a public policy, research, and advocacy group that represents U.S. banks in Washington, D.C.

A few weeks post job loss, she recalls sitting cross-legged on her bedroom floor, expressing her frustrations to friends on FaceTime, feeling “anxious and unsure” about what to do next.

“I spent years working in the same industry and building up my career, only for the pandemic to put it on an indefinite hold,” she recalls.

Following her friend’s suggestion, Ayana Dunlap enrolled in a 15-week IT support course by Per Scholas, a national tech training non-profit based in New York, offering Google IT support, CompTIA Security+, and CompTIA Network+ certifications. Graduating in November, she secured a hybrid role as a tier 2 technical support engineer at designDATA, headquartered in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Assigned to help organizations prepare for the return to the office, she caught the attention of the Bank Policy Institute during this process. After initially hesitating, Dunlap accepted a full-time role with the Institute, leaving designDATA where she had worked for just under a year.

Recognizing Ayana Dunlap’s talents, the Bank Policy Institute offered her the role of Assistant Vice President of Operations and Information Technology, accompanied by a starting salary of $80,000— “competitively more” than her previous earnings at designDATA.

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Since joining in August 2021, Dunlap received two raises based on job evaluations and increased responsibilities. Her 2022 raise elevated her salary to around $98,000, and a subsequent raise in January further increased her annual compensation to $125,000.