By Melissa Hart
Through her work as manager of workforce strategy and innovation at Creating IT Futures, Andrea Rios McMillian works to get more women involved in the IT sector.
She begins by addressing the barriers that can stand in the way.
“A lot of it is due to the myths, the perception of what STEM is and what tech jobs entail. There is not enough awareness and knowledge around the various career options,” McMillian said. “A lot of times people think of tech jobs as just desktop support or coding, and they are not aware of what the industry is like or what kinds of jobs are out there.”
McMillian uses herself as an example. She works in the IT industry, but started out in sales, at Best Buy, where she grew into a district leader in connectivity, especially for tablets and other mobile devices. She credits Best Buy for providing her with mentors and the ability to connect with other women in leadership roles, paving the way for her current role helping other women get started in their own IT careers.
When making a career change, McMillian points to how difficult it can be for busy women, especially young mothers, to take two to four years out of their lives to go college or back to college to earn a degree. That’s where programs like IT-Ready come into play. McMillian oversees expansion of this training program, which has created access for hundreds of women, minorities and other under-represented groups to get started in the IT sector through an intensive eight-week class.
After passing CompTIA’s A+ certification, participants are placed in jobs with local employers.
Working at a grassroots-level with communities and major employers to identify where the gaps are in IT training, the classes are offered in person, with ongoing programs offered at locations across the country. After successful program completion, IT-Ready grads also have the option to pursue additional certifications.
“It’s the foot in the door that many under-employed women need to get started in a career in the IT industry,” she said.
The result: Changing the face of IT, one person at a time.
Melissa Hart is an entrepreneur, writer and technologist living and working in upstate New York.