October 24, 2023

Interview With Pearson’s Tanya Ivey: We Must Learn To Adapt, But First We Must Be In The Game

Pearson is hiring on pocitjobs.com

Tanya Ivey joined Pearson fresh out of college 24 years ago, and she could never have foreseen the twists and turns her career would take. Over the years, she’s witnessed the tech industry transform, pivot, and evolve, while she learned to do the same.

Now a senior systems analyst, Ivey is an integral part of Pearson’s Digital and Technology group for global science.

She spoke with POCIT about her remarkable career journey as a woman of color in tech. She shares her tips for forging a career in the ever-changing tech industry and ensuring your voice is heard—without having to shout.

Tell me about your career trajectory and your journey to Pearson.

I’ve been at Pearson for 24 years; I started working straight out of college. At the time, the name of the company I joined was Prentice Hall, which Pearson acquired in 1998. I started off in their Salesforce Automation Support team. During my tenure at Pearson, the journey of the team has changed, the journey of the work has changed, and the journey of technology has changed.

Five years ago, I was a part of an onboarding initiative into a new CRM (customer relationship management) tool, which gave me the exciting opportunity to work with both a team and software that were new to me. It was a place within Pearson I immediately knew I wanted to be, and because things were changing, as I was reporting to a new manager, I expressed to them that I wanted to make a change myself. I said, “I know that this team does this work—is there any possibility that I can become a part of that?”

“I’m not a shouter, so I had to figure out my own way of making sure my voice was heard, my presence was seen, and my ideas weren’t being overlooked.”

My new manager at the time helped me get involved and provided me with the necessary support and tools I needed. Since then, I’ve grown and learned so much about how our business intersects with technology.

What’s your experience in being a person of color in tech and at Pearson?

When I started a few years ago, the technology group was not as large, and it was already quite diverse. Although I work from home now, I’m technically based out of the Canadian office, which is where I started. As a woman of color, I actually found the struggle to be more of a woman’s struggle, not so much the color struggle. It was difficult to just have your voice heard as a woman in the man-dominated field of tech.

I think that was one of the things that surprised me more when I first started: that, as a woman, you have to shout to not be ignored. I’m not a shouter, so I had to figure out my own way of making sure my voice was heard, my presence was seen, and my ideas weren’t being overlooked. I’ve since learned that you don’t necessarily have to shout—literally or figuratively—in every situation; there are other ways to communicate.

Over the years, things have changed amazingly for women in technology. It’s cool to see so many leaders in the technology space that are women, and that are women of color, both at Pearson and across the industry. I’m really proud of that.

What kind of support did you find valuable in advancing your career?

I was the daughter of a single mom. Watching my mother—that was where my strength came from. She wasn’t Superwoman, but she was super spectacular at trying to find the best out of everything. She would say, “It may not be the way that you were expecting something to happen, but how can you make it happen from the way it is right now?” She really instilled a lot of that approach and mindset in me.

I have a wonderful home life. My mom remains really supportive, as are my husband and daughter. I feel like my daughter takes after me; she’s always looking for the next challenge.   

Having a support system at work is truly such an honor. Over the last five years alone, I’ve met a group of amazing Pearson colleagues who are spectacular at sharing their knowledge and uplifting and advocating for one another. It’s been an amazing space to be in, to have people who you can go to and say, “So, I have this idea…” The collaborative environment helps make me feel like I’m not done growing yet, even 24 years in.

What are your tips for POC getting into the tech industry?

Just start. It may not be the starting point you expected, but start. If it’s not working, adjust and change. But start. Keep applying for the jobs. The tech sector is always changing. Once you get your foothold in there, you will find that potentially it’s not even the place that you thought you wanted to be in terms of role. Find something new, better, something different, something more. But start. Apply. Don’t get discouraged. Just keep trying.

“We have to learn to pivot, but the only way we can do that is if we’re present and in the game, if we’re playing.”

When I came out of college, I applied for every job I saw. I graduated with a degree in computer programming, but the job I took was not a programming job. The way I looked at it, I took the job because once I was going through the interview process, they had programming in the company, and I thought, “If I get in here, I can become a programmer.” Then the landscape changed, and programming wasn’t happening locally as much anymore, so I had to adjust, change, evolve. Now, we’re discovering what AI is capable of for Pearson and the industry as a whole.

We have to learn to pivot, but the only way we can do that is if we’re present and in the game, if we’re playing. So, get in the game and try your best, even if it’s difficult at first. If technology is the space you love, apply for jobs in and around this space. You have to start somewhere. 

Outside of work, do you have any hobbies you enjoy?

In my downtime, it’s crafts. I’m really into crocheting and sewing. I don’t consider myself super creative outside of technology, but with technology comes the ability to follow instructions. The creative spaces I enjoy are ones where I don’t necessarily need to think about how I’m going to do the things, because I trust that if I follow the instructions, I can accomplish the project from start to finish, and it’s something beautiful and, in the end, creative. I also love watching my daughter grow and going to her dance classes.

Anything else you would like to add?

One of the things that I have been really proud of Pearson for doing is making time to instill changes around diversity and inclusion in almost everything we do in our practices. When we speak about diversity at Pearson, we speak about employment processes and making sure that people are represented visually, but I think embedding diversity and inclusion into our day-to-day is so important. Asking, “Is this fair and equitable for everyone?”

I’m so proud of the fact that Pearson places that value as a built-in foundational step in the way we work. I look forward to seeing more people of color become part of this technology space as time goes on, but for now, I’m very happy that those DEI practices are being embedded in everything we do at Pearson.

Pearson is hiring on pocitjobs.com
Ruvimbo Gumbochuma

Ruvimbo is a British-Zimbabwean writer and artist. Her work was longlisted for The Netflix Screenwriters' Fellowship 2021 and has featured on the BBC, Complex UK, GUAP, and TRENCH. Her literary work has also been commissioned by Apples & Snakes, Arts Council England, The Poetry Society, and Beatfreaks and primarily explores themes of culture, identity, religion, love, and loss.