After college in Kentucky, Jaime Blankenship put her finger on a map, blindly choosing her next destination and eventual future as an HRIS and payroll systems administrator.
Ready to leave her hometown and start a career elsewhere, recent college grad Jaime Blankenship put her finger on a map to blindly choose her next destination.
Born in Kentucky, Blankenship had split her life between a coal town called Stone and the city of Williamson only nine miles away, just over the border in West Virginia. Just 21, she was all country, through and through, but it also felt like a prime opportunity to get away and savor new experiences.
Her finger could have landed on a coastal town in New England, a mid-sized city in the Midwest or even one of the Hawaiian Islands. Instead, it pointed to Roanoke, Va., a relatively short 4-hour drive from her hometown. It was risky to shape her future by chance but, 19 years later, Blankenship believes she has had nothing but good fortune.
Foremost, she met her husband, Roger, in Roanoke. They now have 6-year-old twins and couldn't be happier. Blankenship has also found professional bliss. She is a payroll systems and HRIS administrator for Commonwealth Care of Roanoke (CCR), a management company for 12 nursing homes and long-term care centers in Virginia. She makes sure CCR has the proper payroll and HR technology in place and that it runs smoothly.
"I enjoy it very much," she says. "I take these massive problems and come up with innovative ways to solve them."
For the first time in a long time, Blankenship is drawing on her accounting background. She earned a bachelor's degree in accounting from Pikeville College in Kentucky, but those skills quickly went by the wayside after graduation because she grew to dislike the field.
"Halfway through college, I thought, 'I am over this,'" she recalls. "But I was already far into it, so I got the degree. It was getting boring."
Life in Kentucky was also getting boring. When Blankenship chose her fate with a map, she was fortunate that her cousin Jenny also wanted to get away. They settled together in Roanoke with no job prospects but plenty of enthusiasm.
After working at a beauty supply company and the business office of a college, Blankenship applied for an IT specialist job at a bureau office of the Virginia Department of Transportation. She had no IT experience. The DOT office wanted someone with no IT experience. The idea was the technician could learn the DOT's way of IT without any preconceived notions. Blankenship got the job.
"At 22, you're not really scared of anything," she says. "They took me under their wing. I learned a little bit of everything, and they liked to hear me talk in my big (southern) accent."
She held the job for seven years, learning about IT just as DOT and almost every organization started exploring cloud technology. Blankenship met Roger on the job; he was a DOT civil engineer. When she left for an IT support position at the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice in 2006, they fell out of touch. But years later, she saw him in downtown Roanoke while grabbing lunch and they started dating.
By 2008, Blankenship knew the ins and outs of technology, and landed an IT systems administrator job at CCR. She was responsible for IT in seven buildings when she started, but CCR quickly grew, acquiring four companies and accelerating hiring. Life also got busy outside of work: Blankenship got married and, in 2012, give birth to Max and Kate. The family lives on a lakeside 45 minutes from Roanoke. They boat and fish there.
As a working mother, it became harder for Blankenship to travel around the state. So, in 2013, she expressed interest in the role of administrator of payroll systems and HRIS at CCR.
"It's an important job," she says. "It is stressful at times, but I also love it. I'm now using my accounting degree more than I ever had."
Blankenship says the HR and payroll systems were not user-friendly when she started the job.
"It was amazing technology, but not for the users," Blankenship says. "I wanted to go from the ground up and turn that around."
Over the past five years, she has implemented technology, including ADP offerings, that "make it easier for employees to have information at their fingertips." She adds, "We've done a lot of reconfiguring and revamping and we're getting to where it needs to be.
"I'm at a company that is amazing from a professional and personal level. They're awesome. They value their employees and it makes you want to do a good job for them," she says.
Blankenship says she loves her job so much that she told her bosses, "Y'all have to kick me out."