Breaking the Bias – Deema Atra pivots to find joy
As a part of our Women’s History Month celebration, we are elevating the voices of women at Qualtrics who have Broken the Bias by seeking nontraditional career paths. We sat down with Deema and other women at Qualtrics to hear their stories and we'll be sharing them throughout the month. You can check out the rest of the series here.
I never thought I would end up working as a Solution Engineer and it’s wild to think about how I got here. After graduating college in 2015, my plan was to take a gap year before medical or PA school. During my time at school, I loved biology and research. The week after graduating, I started working at Merck, a pharmaceutical company, where I was manufacturing the MMR vaccine until I got laid off 3 months later. At the time, it felt like the world was ending. My fight or flight kicked in, so I reached out to my college professor and he was able to refer me for a full-time role at an Ophthalmology clinic, where I was not getting paid well but my mental health started to suffer. At the time, I was so focused on putting in patient contact hours, a requirement for PA school programs, I kept pushing through at the clinic until I just couldn’t marinate in the toxicity anymore.
Every day, I would reflect on how I wanted to live my life. Stability and more work-life balance were a must, and I also had to work for a company that I aligned with philosophically. I began interviewing at biotechnology and SaaS companies, and ended up accepting an offer for a role as a Sales Development Representative (SDR) at an eCommerce-based tech company.
I was drawn to the culture, benefits, and career mobility at the company. As I started to ramp up as an SDR, I began to network within the company and learn the basics: corporate lingo, what the different departments do, different roles, career paths, and salaries. I literally had to start at level 0 because growing up, I was pretty much given two life options: get married after high school or go to medical or law school. Nothing in between.
As I approached my 1-year mark as an SDR, I realized that the financial stability and my idea of a career had changed significantly; and if I was being real with myself, I also knew that I didn’t want to go back to the school grind and I wanted to use my time to enjoy life more. I shifted my focus and began researching a technical role to move into, and began interviewing for open positions within the same company.
I decided to join the Implementation team, where I learned the software and was able to sharpen my soft skills. But most importantly, I was able to solve issues and collaborate with other teams. I just knew that whatever I ended up doing long-term, it had to be in the realm of helping people and working on a team with a diverse group of people. After three years, I knew it was time to explore my next career move. My LinkedIn inbox was waiting for me, so I started reaching back out to recruiters. The recruiter at Qualtrics was super personable and helpful - and I began to get excited about the possibility of working in a new space and in a product category that was changing the way brands connect with the human experience.
Then out of nowhere, COVID-19 shut things down and the hiring process went on hold. Over the course of 6 months, I learned more about Qualtrics and I was keeping up with the hiring status. In August of 2020, I picked back up with interviews and accepted an offer to be on the Solution Engineering team.
Fast forward a year and 5 months, and I’m certain this is what I want to do for a very long time. The Solution Engineering team is composed of superhumans, and I learn new things and grow as a person every day through the work that I do. Because of all of this, I am also able to encourage other people to do something that brings them this kind of joy, even if it goes against a cultural norm or what someone else thinks is the best way to make a living.
|Deema Atra is an alumna of Meredith College and works as a Senior Solution Engineer. She is an active member of Women's Leadership Development, a Q Group (employee resource group) with the charter of elevating and supporting all women at Qualtrics so they achieve personal & professional wellness and impact.
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