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Alumni Engagement

Life hacks for success in IT include essential skills learned at RRC for Computer Analyst/Programmer grad

May 25, 2021

Almost immediately after graduating from Red River College’s Computer Analyst/Programmer diploma program in 1998, Gillian Bresch-Giesbrecht accepted a job as a programmer with Richardson International.

Now, more than 20 years later, she’s still there.

It’s not a common career trajectory by today’s standards (only 30 per cent of people stay in any one job for over four years, according to a Workopolis report) but it is an impressive one. Today, Bresch-Giesbrecht works as a Senior Project Manager, where she is part of a fast-growing department of approximately 80 other IT professionals within the company.

And when it comes to the experience of working, growing, and succeeding with the same company throughout her entire career, she only has one thing to say: opportunity is aplenty.

“I have been from Vancouver, all the way to Sorel-Tracy. I’ve been almost all across Canada, and had an opportunity to visit many people across the country. It is a great industry to be in: there is demand, room to grow, and you can make some decent money compared to other industries,” she says.

“You’re able to choose the type of career path you want. It might be quite technical, with lots of coding or building, or maybe you’re somebody who doesn’t necessarily want to hang out at your desk. You can go out and talk to people and help them find solutions to improve their systems.”

When Bresch-Giesbrecht began studying at Red River College in 1996, the Internet was still a relatively new concept for most. She was halfway through her first year of an arts degree at the University of Manitoba when she says she decided to switch over to a more technical program with plenty of career prospects.

Her father, Geoff Bresch, was an instructor in the Computer Analyst/Programmer (CAP) diploma program in the 1980s at Red River College, and later in his career became an instructor in the Business Information Technology program. He suggested she apply to CAP at RRC.

“The first term was tough because I wasn’t a much of a computer person—back in the mid-90s, there weren’t a lot of personal computers. I quickly learned how to use Microsoft products and completed my first programming course. By the end of the term, things had just clicked. That’s when I decided this was for me and I haven’t looked back,” she says.

Technical skills aside, Bresch-Giesbrecht is most grateful for the business and communications courses the program offered students.

“Not only did the program teach me how to code and how to think logically, it also gave me a business background. Learning accounting, how to draft a resumé, write a letter—essentially how to be and act like a professional—has been really important in terms of my career.”

“As someone who was only 19 or 20 years old, I had no idea how to do any of that. Learning those skills was really important for me.”

Fast-forward to 2021 and Bresch-Giesbrecht has a number of career accomplishments behind her. She was part of a project team that helped to rewrite an in-house terminal based C++ system to a cutting-edge, newly developed web-based Java application for the company. She also helped develop and facilitate part of a training program with key business partners in the company, where hundreds of employees were taught how to use the company’s in-house systems.

Most recently, as a systems expert on the company’s crop inputs business, she lead an 18-month project connecting Richardson’s internal booking system to fertilizer blenders.

Throughout her career, Bresch-Giesbrecht has also worked with many fellow Red River College grads. As part of her department’s recruiting team, she looks for candidates with drive, team players with the ability to work independently and the skillset to communicate easily with clients.

“We have a wide variety of clients within our company, so analysts have to be able to talk to people. We’ll be talking to someone from rural Saskatchewan in the morning and then our head office and accounting in the afternoon,” she says.

And after finding her own success in the industry, Bresch-Giesbrecht offers advice for future students considering Red River College’s Business Information Technology and Business Technology Management programs.

“If you’re interested in a fast-paced, ever-changing industry, it is a really great place to be. If you want to be the best developer, you can find your niche there. Database Administrator? There’s opportunity for that. If you want to do something like me—managing projects or talking to people—the sky’s the limit. IT folks have even become VPs within our company.”

Profile by Riley Chervinski (Creative Communications, 2016)

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