After Serving on COVID Front Lines, Pharmacy Tech Makes Big Career Change

September 28, 2023

Kastille Cranefield knew she had to make a change after working as a pharmacy technician for 10 years, including working on the front lines of the COVID crisis, which took a toll on her. She was determined to move on and put that difficult experience behind her.


As fate would have it, Kastille had the chance to take an educational tour of a data center where she learned a great deal, including about a new career path. That path quickly led to her landing a job in the data center industry. Read her story in her own words:

Tell us a little about yourself: 
It was very challenging coming out of the end of the pandemic. I had seen all there was to see in my profession, and I knew I needed something new. Luckily, through an educational connection I was able to go on a data center tour at STACK Infrastructure in Sterling, Virginia. (STACK is a global company that develops and operates data centers.) The tour was organized specifically for academic professionals such as teachers and counselors. It was a great opportunity for me to learn something new and explore a different field.

What brought you to NOVA? 
About a week after the tour, I met Professor T.J. Ciccone, who told me about NOVA’s data center operations (DCO) program. It seemed interesting and very different from anything I’d done before. I took his class, Introduction to Data Center Operations, at NOVA in Fall 2022, and it was amazing! 

In Spring 2023, I took ELE-150, AC and DC Circuit Fundamentals with Professor Ronnie Dasgupta. I thought, “I like this new field,” but I was still working full time as a pharmacy technician. I was only taking classes part time. 

What are you studying at NOVA?
I am in NOVA’s one-year DCO program, which leads to the career studies certificate. I am switching into the two-year program for the AAS in data center operations.

Tell us a little bit about your internship experience with AFCOM Potomac Chapter: 
I decided to quit my job as a pharmacy technician and take a paid internship over the summer; it seemed like a unique opportunity, and I came out on the other end with a career at Aligned. I love it!

It was an 11-week internship at two data centers, and I spent half my time at each location. One was at Aligned data center in Ashburn, and the other was at Iron Mountain data center in Manassas.

About halfway through my internship, I received a full-time offer at Aligned. After the internship wrapped up, I transitioned into my new career, which definitely supports the cost of living in this area. It might be the only job in the tech sector, or one of the few, that continues to grow in this economy.  

I’m still in shock over the whole progression of the NOVA program because it’s been so fast. But it’s also been so life changing, and I’m still processing all the details myself. It’s been a very eventful summer!

The internships were set up for us by AFCOM, which works very closely with NOVA, and the organization did a fantastic job. AFCOM interviewed all the interns this year and made sure everybody was ready to go. They provided us all with executive mentors who work in the industry. I was lucky; my mentor works for Google, so I don’t know if you can get much better than that. 

I took a position as a critical facilities maintenance technician with Aligned Data Centers. So, it could take a few years or more before I finish the NOVA DCO program and get my certificate because I am taking only one class per semester at NOVA after landing my full-time job.

What do you say to women since only a small number are in this field?
I suppose “scarce” would be the best word to describe it, but we don’t have to be. We can definitely do the same jobs that men can do, if you will. The women I’ve met are all so tightly connected with each other because there are so few of us. You really get that sense of having a network within your network. 

Everybody’s got your back, and people in this industry are so excited to share their knowledge. They are so excited to bring other people in, and it’s really unlike anything I’ve seen before.

AFCOM is an association for career advancement for IT and data center professionals. The 10-week internship program led by the AFCOM Potomac Chapter, which connects students to industry partners, aims to bolster the data center industry by partnering with NOVA’s IET division and providing paid summer internships to NOVA’s DCO students.

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