Over the past 14 years, Sheila Harris has worked on exciting projects that touch the lives of many Manitobans, including improving the province’s drivers licensing system, implementing a new patient care system at St-Boniface Hospital, and installing MTS’s new 4G cellular network.
It might sound like she’s had multiple career changes, but all of this has been part of Harris’s role as an Information Technology (IT) Business and Systems Analyst.
“One thing that attracted me to the IT field is you can do so many different things. I’ve worked in five or six different industries now, which is great because I like variety, I like challenges and I like to learn,” says Harris, a Senior IT Consultant with SmartPlanIT. “It’s not just one job description, which is interesting to me.”
Because local organizations planning large-scale, complex software implementations often don’t have the resources to do the work, SmartPlanIT provides the people – and the brain power – to get the job done.
Harris might be sent to work as a Systems Analyst, a Solutions Architect, or a Business Analyst, the title she holds in her current role: working on replacing a Laboratory Information Management System for the City of Winnipeg’s Water and Waste Department, which will result in improvements to how Winnipeg’s water is tested and safeguarded, she explains.
“I feel really lucky that I’ve been given opportunities to work on some very meaningful projects in Winnipeg and the province,” Harris says. “I am so fortunate to live here, and it’s really rewarding to know the work I do impacts the community I live and work in, in a positive way.”
Harris credits her adaptability to the multiple programs she has completed at Red River College. She has an Information Systems Programmer/Analyst certificate (previously called Computer Analyst/Programmer), plus three Continuing Education certificates from the Health Services Leadership and Management, Business Analyst and Project Management programs.
“My path has been all about continuing education, and thank goodness for Red River College. Whenever I needed something they always had what I needed,” she says. “The fact I’ve been able to take all of this training has really helped my career. The skills that I learned at Red River, I literally use them every day.”
And recently, she’s started doing more than just using those skills: she’s now sharing them with others, teaching the Business Systems Design course as part of the Business Analyst program. She is also a member of the program’s advisory board.
“It’s funny, I started teaching because I thought it would be good for me and good for my resume. But what I didn’t expect is how much I would love it! It’s so gratifying to be able to give back to the business community and help people that are just like me, trying to better their careers and do more.”
As for Harris’s own career, entering the IT industry wasn’t always in the plans. After a few years in the hospitality industry, she came to the realization she was ready for a new challenge.
“I wanted to do something that was more sustainable long term,” Harris recalls. “I started off as a developer working on custom applications, then an analyst, then I eventually became a Business Intelligence Analyst. I spent a lot of time taking raw data and turning it into meaningful information that sound decisions can be based on.”
Now a mom to a 10-year-old daughter, Harris acknowledges that being a female in the still largely male-dominated IT world can occasionally be a challenge when it comes to being taken seriously. But her outgoing personality, plus the people skills she picked up while serving and bartending, help a lot. And she says the fact that SmartPlanIT is committed to making sure the right people are sent to work with each client also makes a difference.
“They work hard to find a good fit for the client and the associates. I really like the due diligence they do in terms of matching up the required skills and experience to the associate, and making sure everybody is comfortable with the arrangement and everything is working out well,” she explains.
“The people I get to work with every day are smart, capable, engaged and involved. They care, and they work hard. Probably my favourite thing about my job is I am consistently and constantly working with amazing people.”