From IA to IT – Unique Career Paths at Watson

Then and now comparison of Watson employee, Ryan Young, first pictured with a student when he was an aide in 1998 and now as the director of IT in 2023.

If you had asked Ryan Young when he was a high school graduate where his career would take him, he could not have imagined the path he would follow, leading him to where he is now, the Director of Information Services at the Watson Institute.

After a period of study at Penn State University as a Secondary Education History major, Ryan started working as a substitute instructional aide (IA) at the Watson Institute, where his mother and sister were working, while he planned out his next steps.

After just a month as a substitute filling in for a number of classrooms at the Education Center Sewickley, Ryan accepted a full-time position as an instructional aide in a classroom. The students Ryan taught over the years ranged in age from 6 to 12 with a variety of diagnoses including autism and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

Ryan credits the students for making those years so enjoyable, “the students we had were a lot of fun to work with…it was very rewarding…and you knew that you were able to provide a position impact on their lives”.

Exploring Educational Technology

For more than seven years Ryan worked in the classroom, supporting students with special needs. During those years he explored various technologies that enabled his students to learn and grow in new and innovative ways. It was this interest in educational technology that led Ryan to pursue a degree in Information Science and Technology.

Ryan worked full-time, utilizing Watson’s tuition reimbursement program to attend classes in the evenings. In the summer of 2005, he interned under the Information Services Director at the Watson Institute, providing support with inventory, PC maintenance, and various IT tasks and support around the school.

The IS Director took Ryan under his wing, providing mentorship and valuable work experience in the information systems department, further cementing Ryan’s interest in the field.

From 2005 to 2011 Ryan worked as a Network Administrator in the Information Services Department at Watson, providing server management, phone system administration, and help desk support for internal staff. In 2011, Ryan’s mentor and the Manager of IS retired, offering Ryan the opportunity to step into the role of overseeing the department.

Since 2011 Ryan has continued to grow in his leadership at Watson, bringing on interns for the department, overseeing full-time Network Administrators, and facilitating the set-up of technology systems at Watson’s newly opened school facilities and classrooms.

When asked what his favorite part of being the IT Director is, Ryan shared that “[he] can still help make a difference in a small way to the lives of the children we serve”.

As an employee at the Watson Institute, your career can take you down any number of pathways, in the educational setting or in a supporting role in administration and operations.

In Ryan’s case, it took him from IA to IT, but no matter where you begin or where your path takes you, rest assured that you will find the support you need at Watson to take your career to the next level.

Learn more about the exceptional benefits and professional development opportunities provided at the Watson Institute!