If luck is the intersection of hard work and opportunity, then Winter Peach is indeed fortunate. Her journey through the Merit America program demonstrates how determination and the right resources can reshape a career.

Taking the First Step

Winter’s path through the unpredictable mortgage industry was filled with stress and uncertainty. Realizing she needed a change, she aspired to a career in tech. Initially considering a four-year degree in cybersecurity, Winter was limited by time and cost, a barrier all too familiar to many people seeking better opportunities. She shares, “I knew I wanted a career in tech, but I didn’t know what it would look like or how to get there. Merit America gave me the path.”

Winter came across the Data Analytics Career Track on TikTok and thought, “This is too good to be true.” After weighing the pros and cons, she realized Merit America wasn’t just another tech bootcamp or online training program; it was something unique.

“This is, to my knowledge, the only program of its type and the only one that would have been accessible to me in the situation I was in.”

Merit America’s mission in workforce development deeply resonated with Winter. It created a lifeline for those who couldn’t afford a four-year degree or sacrifice their working hours, serving people like:

  • Those with dozens of jobs
  • Those with just one job
  • Parents and non-parents alike
  • Part-time and full-time workers
  • Individuals without college degrees
  • Those burdened with student loans
  • People with zero tech experience
  • Those who’ve tried free tutorials without success
  • And those like Winter, seeking the first step toward a brighter future.

Motivated by the chance to receive tech training, a certificate, a career coach, job placement support, and the Merit America Job Guarantee, she applied. Shortly after being unexpectedly caught in a mass layoff, Merit America reached out just two days later, offering her a spot in an earlier cohort. She eagerly accepted, ready to transform her future.

Going Through The Program

Merit America allowed me to turn what could have been a scary and perilous time in my life into one of transformation and growth. I now find myself in the career I always dreamed of, and I owe it to Merit America for giving me the opportunity to make this happen.

Winter embraced everything Merit America had to offer. In the Data Analytics Career Track, she received over 220+ hours of technical training and 80+ hours of professional skill-building and coaching from Career Coaches and Technical Advisors. She knew she’d gain:

  • A capstone project to showcase on her resume
  • Mastery of essential data analysis tools like Excel, SQL, Tableau, and R
  • Skills to transform, visualize, and model data to answer business questions

However, what Winter found most invaluable was learning to translate her coursework and non-tech experience into a compelling resume. She realized every bit of her experience was valuable. Despite her non-tech background, she showcased the sought-after skills she developed in the service industry, such as:

  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Motivation and ability to meet deadlines
  • Interpersonal and written communication skills
  • Creative, critical thinking
  • Complex problem-solving

These transferable skills, combined with her technical training, helped Winter successfully break into tech.

Becoming a Data Analyst

Opportunities unlocked for Winter Peach when she finished the Merit America program. She shared, “When you enter the job market and start exploring, there are countless job descriptions to get interested in. Having a data background opens so many doors: analyst, administrator, architect, business analyst, customer data manager, project manager, data security analyst.”

Thanks to support from her Job Success and Career Coach, Winter used her newly gained resume, cover letter, and mock interview skills to gain a role as a data analyst at United Way.

Winter announces her new position as a Data Analyst and her success in passing the CompTIA A+ Core 1, Data+, and Cloud Essentials+ exams.

A Typical Day As A Data Analyst

Despite having the skills, Winter’s initial weeks were challenging, plagued by imposter syndrome. “I kept thinking, am I just fooling myself? Am I really capable of this?” Over time, however, Winter’s confidence grew. “In tech, companies don’t expect you to know everything. Software and technology evolve quickly, and there’s a lot to keep up with,” she says. “They just need you to figure things out quickly.”

As a data analyst, Winter found that her role involved taking data that might be confusing to non-tech-savvy individuals and presenting it in a comprehensible way to help them do their jobs. “Data analysis can lead to many exciting directions,” she notes.

Winter emphasizes that communication and people skills are critical in any data analytics role. “Data roles focus on business and people improvements. If you’ve worked in customer service, restaurants, or retail, you already have firsthand experience that is applicable. You just need to translate those skills to your first tech job.”

Winter’s tasks involve:

  • Gathering data
  • Cleaning data
  • Processing data
  • Producing reports
  • Spotting patterns
  • Collaborating with others and setting up infrastructure

“The branch where I started had never had a data analyst before, so they relied on me to organize their data, improve processes, and upgrade their data handling. I mainly worked with Excel and a customer relationship database called e-C Impact. I would enter data, extract it using SQL, then clean it up in Excel and deliver it to departments or generate reports for marketing or finance.”

While her technical skills and teamwork were crucial, Winter’s resilience, adaptability, and relentless pursuit of knowledge enabled her to earn her Google Data Analytics certificate and use career coaching to launch a promising career that has only just begun.

Advice On How To Prepare For A Career Change

While Merit America teaches you everything you need to know to get your first job in tech—even if you don’t have any previous experience—Winter shares her own experience on changing careers:

  • If you have a nontraditional work or education background, it may seem harder to achieve what you want, but in reality, you have everything you need already inside of you. Merit America supplies you with the certification and professional skills to help you get that initial foot in the door.
  • Don’t discount the benefits of Merit’s professional development, including elevator pitch, interviewing skills, and cover letter writing. You might be more attracted to the technical, but get those soft skills too.
  • Watch your work/life balance. If you hold multiple jobs at one time, go to school while working, or are moving from one region to another, you’re looking at a lot of stress. Sticking to a strict schedule that allows for personal time can help.

Above all, Winter says, “Believe in yourself. Trust the process. You might not get there on your first try, but it will happen. Sometimes in our team meetings, we get shoutouts from learners who have really succeeded and reach back. Sometimes it’s just breathtaking what they’ve achieved.”

Post-Merit America, Winter continues to pursue new credentials, utilizing Merit America’s alumni benefits such as lifetime access to Coursera. She enrolled in WGU, gaining acceptance partly due to completing Merit America’s program. Best of all, her employer supported her, encouraging her to stay current and reach her full potential. “There are endless opportunities for growth,” she says. “You just have to seek them out because a tech career requires constant improvement.”

Grow Data Analytics Skills at Merit America

What can we learn from Winter’s story? The takeaway is this: Career paths are not linear. And while your career may not follow a straight line, there’s planning involved that Merit America helps with.

In our fully online and flexible Data Analytics Career Track, we offer learners the opportunity to gain their Google Data Analytics Certificate in as little as 19 weeks, receive support from a Career Coach, Technical Advisor, Job Success Coach, and network of peers and partners to help you with job placement.

If you are on the fence about investing in tech skills and want to know whether you’re covered before making the commitment, the good news is: yes, you are.

Learn more about the costs of our program and the Merit America Guarantee.

Not quite ready? Check out our other blogs to learn more: