I love profiling professionals who are successful and love what they do! Ericka Hardy has enjoyed an amazing career in the world of Information Technology.  She’s currently a Data Architect at Humana where she works from home!  Ericka has 20 years of experience in Information Technology and holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems from Eastern Kentucky University and a  MBA – University of Phoenix and 3 Oracle Certifications.

Congratulations on your recent promotion! Tell me about your new role as Data Architect at Humana:

Thank you! I design systems for our data warehouse analytics department. You can compare what I do to the process of building a house.  There’s an architect who draws up the plans for the house and those plans are delivered to the team that will build the house.  I am the architect.  So, basically, I design the systems and deliver those designs to the team that builds the systems that I design.

Would you consider your job to be the perfect fit?

Absolutely! Growing up with a father who builds homes, it was natural for me to go into a field that was both creative and analytical.  Watching my father design and create on a daily basis inspired me. He often challenged me to figure out how to make something work or he would sit with me and discuss how he solved a problem. On a daily basis, I am designing to solve a problem and for many years I was building out solutions just as my father did. We just use different mediums.

What do you love about your career?

I love the fact that it requires me to be creative. In IT, you’re trying to find solutions that fit your client.  I love the creative piece.  It’s challenging.  The sheer amount of data that I deal with requires me to be analytical and to think about how people are going to access the system so that they can perform their jobs quickly and efficiently. Plus, I work with multiple teams across the organization so I’m constantly learning. I love that I get to work with both the business clients and the technical staff.

What made you select your career?

I fell into my career. During my first year of college at Chicago State University, I was an Elementary Education major.  I got the chicken pox and missed 3 weeks of classes.  My professors allowed me to take makeup exams and I aced my calculus exam.  My professor said to me, “I’ve had students who have been here every day and could not pass those exams.”  He challenged me to consider something that was more scientific. He challenged me to take a computer class. He said, “If you like it, consider changing your major because you can always get a teaching certification, but this will allow you more opportunities in life.”  Next semester, I took a basic programming class and fell in love.  I changed my major and never looked back.

Your role allows you to work from home 100%. What does it take to successfully work from home? 

You have to be self-motivated because you are allowed freedom and it’s easy to get distracted. You also have to be able to prioritize your life correctly. It’s easy to work from home and work all day (and night). I always tell people that sometimes I end up putting in more hours than most people because I can get a bright idea at 2am and just walk right in my office and start working on it. You need to know when to cut that off because your personal life can suffer.

However, the beauty of working from home is that I live in Atlanta, but you will often find me working in different states. I call them working vacations.  I have family on the west coast and I’ll spend a month out there. I have family in Chicago and I’ve spent extensive time there as well.   I just bring my laptop, forward my phone and hold my same working hours.  I get the luxury of being in different places. So, I plan my year around where I want to go.  You may find me at the beach.  I can be at a wonderful location and I’m still working.  I’m just enjoying life!

What’s the greatest challenge that you’ve overcome?

I started in my field at a very young age and excelled very quickly. The field, when I started, was very male dominated. It was not the area of IT that the younger generation was going into.  When I came out of college, it was the boom of the internet. But, everyone coming out of college wanted to do front end design.  And, here it is, I’m in my 20s going into the back end of IT, which was known as the very unsexy part of IT. It’s where you type everything on a black screen, but it makes everything work. That field was dominated by older men. I had to come in and prove my expertise.  I had to show that even though I was young, I was on my game. I had to fight my way to the top of this field.

So, now that you’re at the top of your game, what do you do in your spare time?

I became a gym rat. In that journey, I lost 100 pounds. I love spending time with family and I love traveling. I love being creative in the kitchen which has inspired me to start my own company – Sugar Blossoms Gourmet Desserts.  I’m in the beginning stages, but I’m enjoying the start-up process.

Congratulations on all of your personal and professional success!! Is there anything else that you’d like to share with our High Powered Professional network?

This is a field that is constantly changing, so there are always opportunities to grow or reinvent yourself. Also, there is a lot of opportunity in data warehousing, many of which command six figures.  My career has allowed me to do wonderful things for my family like sending my parents on vacations.

However, in deciding anything in life, you want to make sure that it’s something that you’re passionate about. If it’s not something that you enjoy doing, it doesn’t matter how much money you make – you’re going to miserable.  I love my job and the company that I work for!  It’s very rare that you find someone in IT that has been with the same firm as long as I’ve been with Humana.  That’s because I wake up every day and I’m happy going to work.  So, my advice is to never chase money.  It will find you if you’re doing something that you’re passionate about.