Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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March 26, 2015

Building Tech Confidence and Camaraderie In Female Students

By Tom Liszka

Samantha Sianez, a junior at El Dorado High School in El Paso
Spring break is known for relaxation, hanging out with friends and enjoying the beach. However, when you’re a high school student who just passed the CompTIA Security+ exam, you spend that time off inspiring others. Samantha Sianez, a junior at El Dorado High School in El Paso, Texas, is one such student.

Sianez, 16, is not the type of person who likes to just flip through books. She enjoys hands-on work, so when she and David Caldwell, the computer maintenance teacher at El Dorado worked together over the summer of 2014, she knew she wanted to be involved in tech.

“It’s hard to find young ladies who are into IT,” Caldwell said. “I had Samantha in a class when she was a sophomore, but she was kind of lost. When we worked together over the summer setting up labs and such, she started to kick it into gear.”

“I just thought everything was really interesting,” Sianez said. “When we got to see a motherboard in class, and when we started to pull apart a computer and then put it back together, it was cool. It was like learning a whole new language.”

Sianez embraced that new language on her way to passing the first part of the CompTIA A+ exam; 220-801. From there, she wanted to jump to CompTIA Security+. Caldwell concedes he had his doubts about making such a leap.

“I had reservations, so I asked my director for advice. I felt she had the capability and will power to do it. He told me if she was willing to dedicate the time, it was worth the try. He stated I would be raising the bar. I figured what’s the worst that could happen?”

After passing the first part of the A+ exam, Sianez focused her studies on Security+. She had plenty of support along the way, especially from her close-knit “family” known as the Fraternity of Geeks (FOG).

“Everyone in the FOG wants to get into the IT field, so we share that common bond,” Sianez said. “I was inspired by others in class; some who I think are smarter than me. Everyone supports each other. This group will do some great things,” Sianez said.

Once she felt comfortable with the Security+ material, Sianez went back to complete the second part of the A+ exam; 220-802. She passed with flying colors, officially becoming CompTIA A+ certified on March 13, 2015.

One might want a break after passing such an exam, but not Sianez. She took the CompTIA Security+ exam the day after – and passed.

“I wanted the challenge. I had nothing to lose, so I figured I might as well give it a go.”

Other students have started to take notice of Sianez’s accomplishments and interest in the computer maintenance program skyrocketed.

“Samantha set the program on fire,” Caldwell said. “Many students come in not knowing what their capabilities are, but it’s a sales job trying to convince them that this is good a good step. Samantha had no idea she could do this until she did it. I see a rolling ball of confidence with her now and I just need to get out of the way.”

In addition to increased awareness of the program, there has been a rise in female participation in the FOG. The main purpose of the FOG is to raise money for students to take the exams, so the more people who are involved, the more hands on deck in their fundraising efforts.

“Over the last four years, only two people have paid for their exams, and that’s because they wanted to,” Caldwell said. “The rest were paid for through fundraising.”

Many members of the FOG look toward Sianez for assistance, which reinforces what she has learned and has helped her build up self-esteem and pride in what she has accomplished.
“I love helping everyone out, especially since people took the time to help me." Samantha Sianez

“I love helping everyone out, especially since people took the time to help me,” she said. “I really like doing something in return.”

That is just the humble demeanor that Caldwell has come to know.

“Samantha has become a strong influence and other students want to do the same. She wants to keep learning more about IT and hopefully pursue it as a career.”

With her dreams set on working in cyber-security for the federal government, Sianez is looking forward to strengthening her skills through an internship once the school year ends. That type of success is sure to set the bar even higher for Caldwell and the computer maintenance program.

Sianez said, “This class is a great opportunity, and some people think they don’t have the potential, but seeing how far I have gone, if I can do it, so can they.”

Tom Liszka is Manager, Social and Digital Media, at the Creating IT Futures Foundation.