Inspiring Success

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November 18, 2014

From tropics to tundra, Malaysia native Vivian Teo finds opportunity in Minnesota thanks to IT-Ready

Vivian-webAfter growing up in the tropics of Malaysia, Vivian Teo wanted to experience a completely different type of climate — which is how she settled on Bemidji State University in Minnesota as the place she would attend college.

“I couldn’t choose where I was born, but I would like to choose where I spend my life,” she explained.

At the university, she studied computer information systems and business administration. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2000 and planned to pursue a career in information technology. And that’s where Teo’s well-laid plans hit a speed bump.

The job market was difficult in 2000, and what few prospects were available to a newly minted college graduate quickly evaporated when potential employers learned that Teo needed a work visa because she was not an American citizen.

“The working visa and green card processes are very complicated,” Teo said. “Any company that hired me would need to apply on my behalf. That costs money and lots of hassle to go through, especially if a company has never done it before. A green card and working visa isn’t necessarily a barrier for a person to get into IT. But it was for me.”

Right before Teo’s student visa expired — she had already decided to return to Malaysia for good — she found a sales position with a company willing to sponsor her working visa. Under different circumstances, it would not be a job to attract her interest.

“I wasn’t — I still am not — the type of person who likes to ask people to buy things. And I hate to negotiate,” she said. “Being a sales person, though, those are the requirements. So I had to train myself to be someone else doing something I didn’t enjoy. However, I learned a lot and, surprisingly enough, I turned out to be a good sales person, too.”

Her love of information technology never waned. But by the time Teo was awarded the green card that offered her permanent U.S. residency, some 10 years had elapsed. And the computer skills she honed in college were no longer applicable in today’s job market.

“No company was even willing to offer me an interview,” she said. “I had no working experience in IT.” That’s about the time Teo stumbled across an ad for IT-Ready on Craigslist. Although quite skeptical at first, she applied and was accepted into the program. And despite not having taken a class in more than a decade, she found her IT-Ready classroom experience inspiring.

“I looked forward to going to class every day,” she said. “The eight weeks flew by quickly. I still miss those days, when I think about it now.”

Teo said she received tremendous support from her IT-Ready instructor, Bob Weiss, and her site manager, Kathy Brennan.

“They were just so generous and nice to a stranger like me; they came out of nowhere and helped me out without asking for anything in return,” she said.

After completing IT-Ready and earning her CompTIA A+ certification, Teo landed an apprenticeship with HealthPartners in Bloomington, MN — which recognized Teo as its Desktop Professional of the Month for October.

To say that she is content in her current employment is an understatement, Teo said.

“Even though I am an intern, everyone treats me like part of the team,” she said. “Everyone is always willing to teach me everything, and I am learning so much. It is a really nice company to work for, and I have never been happier to get up every morning to go to work.

“I worked in sales for many different industries for years, but none of those jobs offered me what I was longing for,” she said. “IT-Ready helped me out and got me into the IT field and there are no words to express how thankful I am.”