From Cotton Fiber to Fiber Optics: Vara Chandler’s Story

Vara Chandler

After almost 35 years as a machine operator in the yarn industry, Vara Chandler took a leap of faith to pursue something completely different — a career in the information technology field. Vara had always been interested in computers and IT and had taken some classes “here and there through the years.” Eventually, while still working, she decided to attend college full time and earned an Associate of Applied Science degree with a major in Information Systems Technology from Southside Virginia Community College in 2005.

Vara continued working for Clover Yarns, but in 2015, SVHEC opened the IT Academy, and her love for IT was piqued again.

“When I started seeing ads in the newspaper about the SVHEC IT Academy, I wanted to take the class, but because I worked from 4 p.m. until 12 a.m., I couldn’t.”

In May of 2019, Vara was laid off. She determined that it was time to carve a new career path, transitioning from cotton fiber to fiber optics. She enrolled in the IT Academy@SVHEC in early 2020.

“I tried to enroll in the class for August 2019, but my paperwork wasn’t processed in time, so I had to wait for the January session of the class to begin. When I started the class, I said ‘oh my word, what have I gotten myself into!’ I remember telling my family that it seems as though everyone in the class had some background in the field but me.

“In the beginning it seemed as though every assignment we had to do, I had to do more because something else would happen to my computer that wasn’t part of the assignment, and I had to fix that first. But it never made me want to give up. I realized that I was just getting extra practice. It soon became a challenge that I looked forward to every day.

“The instructors were great. They had patience with us, and we even had some extra study time set up outside of class. To be able to read how to perform a certain task, then to be able to perform the task in class was awesome. I think that was the best part. To actually have the ability to have the hands-on experience helped me the most. It also made the class more exciting.

“I didn’t know it at the time, but it also gave me a good introduction to the new job I would soon be landing. It helped me to get an understanding of servers and their use in the technology world.”

Vara completed the A+/Server+ training program in August 2020. In January 2021 she landed an internship at the Microsoft Datacenter in Boydton, VA. After excelling during her internship, she was offered a full-time job as a data center technician just five months later.

“Because of the IT education I received at the IT Academy, I was able to obtain a job at Microsoft,” said Vara. “It is a totally new working environment for me. I have met a lot of new people. I am learning so many new things. I truly feel God had a plan for me when I took my very first class, but I couldn’t see it. When Clover Yarns closed, a door was shut but at the same time a door was opened for me. Had that not happened I might not have ever achieved my dream job. God is so good.”