Is pursuing a typical technical education – first high school STEM, next college computer science, then off to the workforce – the best way to fill hundreds of thousands of technology positions available in today’s job market?
Not if you want to enable people – from aspiring students to eager career changers – to launch their careers quickly, says Nancy Hammervik, CEO of Creating IT Futures’ nonprofit subsidiary CompTIA Tech Career Academy, during a recent episode of the award-winning Technologist Talk podcast.
Hammervik, who also has led CompTIA’s membership organization for the last 10 years as executive vice president of industry relations, didn’t build her technology career on a traditional technical education. Instead, she came to the industry through information services, working for CMP Media, former publisher of Information Week and other well-known tech business magazines.
Hammervik’s time at CMP, where she followed an unconventional path to the executive ranks, trained her as the disruptor she is today, as she told CompTIA Tech’s Lisa Fasold during the podcast interview.
Here's an edited transcript of their conversation:
Nancy Hammervik: I spent 25 years [at CMP]. I had many, many different roles. I started out as an assistant, a marketing assistant. And when I left, I was a senior vice president.
The last few years of my career [there] I found myself doing lots of initiatives in the community. We would invite [conference] attendees to fly in early and do a Habitat for Humanity [project]. Or we did a lot of technology make-overs at local schools.
And my boss at the time actually reminded me, he said: ''You do know that you work for a for-profit company, right?'' Which made me think, "Hmm, you know, maybe that's really where I need to be."
I was always a little bit different, not as motivated by the money or the profit, or the margins, but the impact that our work was having on the people in businesses that worked with us. So, I'm really excited that CompTIA Tech is giving opportunity to at-risk and underserved communities and helping to build a more diverse workforce.
Lisa Fasold: CompTIA already is fostering a culture of greater diversity, equity, inclusion. And now, how will you foster that greater diversity, equity and inclusion within CompTIA Tech?
Nancy: We need diversity in our businesses. First of all, we have 700,000 open [technology] jobs. And if we are not leveraging all demographics of the population, we're never going to fill all the jobs.
We also need diversity in our industry. Diversity brings innovation, creativity. Our customers are all diverse. So, we have to make sure when we're producing products, that we understand who the buyer is, and what their motivating factors are and what their needs might be.
Diversity is so important to our industry to fill the jobs and build the right product. So, we are targeting that 60% of our students at CompTIA Tech will come from diverse backgrounds. We're also working on the accreditation [so that] there'll be no financial obstacles. [Students] can apply for loans and grants that can cover the cost of tuition.
We say that truly anybody can obtain a career in tech. Anybody can learn tech like a language. It's not so much of a skills gap. It's a confidence gap. And what we mean by that is a lot of folks, especially from diverse backgrounds, don't see people like them in the [tech] business. So, they just don't aspire to join tech.
They just don't know enough about it. It feels very foreign, and very far away to them. And when we start pulling them in, then the rest of that demographic has people that they can look to, and they have role models, and folks in their communities that can educate them more about the opportunities and the careers in tech.
Lisa: Why is education critical to the tech industry at this moment and to the US economy overall? And how can we as CompTIA and CompTIA Tech be the disruptors of the traditional education system to get more students into tech?
Nancy: Technology is really the lifeblood of any business right now. Any industry, any business is made more efficient, more effective, more competitive through technology. In order for any market sector to grow and to advance, they need technologists driving them.
When I started my career in tech, the US was top of the list in the number of innovative technology companies… just being very forward-thinking and proactive, and innovative, and progressive with tech. And we dropped way down on that list, mostly because we don't have the human resources to fill [open tech] positions.
[Education] also is important to the economy from a cybersecurity perspective. If every business now, from large down to small, is leveraging technology, cybersecurity is really important. We don't have enough people that are safeguarding and minimizing risk in the technology infrastructure. So, that can be crippling. We're seeing all the ransomware attacks, and all the breaches, and what that means for companies and local economies. We have governments being breached and hacked.
For the sake of protecting our businesses, it’s really important that we have the right technologists. And for the sake of continuing to be an innovative nation and growing our technology industry, we need the human capital to do it. So, in 2021, we will be offering CompTIA Tech [courses] in more than 35 states [where we are licensed].
So, in 8 weeks full time, or 16 weeks where you go for a half-day same course content, you're working towards your A+ certification. We're also teaching you some of the soft skills and the business acumen you need to be successful in your first job or role in tech.
Mostly, these students will be ready for a help desk job, which is just a wonderful way to start out in an organization. And once you're in that job and working in the IT department, you can continue to learn and grow your career.
There’s more to this conversation. Hear the rest here: Episode 45 – Talking CompTIA Tech: How IT-Ready Fills Tech Jo… (blubrry.com)
Technologist Talk is an award-winning podcast produced by Creating IT Futures, CompTIA’s tech workforce charity, where we talk to business leaders, workforce professionals and talent developers about shaping the careers of today’s and tomorrow’s technology workers.