Interviews, North America

Sue Wallace – Vice President Student and Career Services at CompTIA Tech Career Academy

I really think the biggest barrier to getting more women into tech is breaking down the confidence gap. Many women and young girls do not see themselves getting into tech jobs.

Sue helped launch CompTIA Tech Career Academy in 2019 as a nonprofit subsidiary of Creating IT Futures Foundation. She is responsible for overseeing student and career services, including program enhancements, expansion to new markets and ongoing operations nationally.

Sue started her professional career in the IT industry and moved on to spend nearly 14 years in nonprofit workforce development before joining Creating IT Futures. She holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degrees from Ball State University. She is actively involved in her community and enjoys spending time with her husband and three boys.

In a nutshell, tell us a bit about your job, and what role technology plays in it?

I feel privileged to work for an organization that provides on ramps into the tech industry for adults who are unemployed, underemployed and underrepresented in IT. As a nonprofit, we focus on helping women, people of color and veterans gain the skills they need to launch a career. Not only do we train people in the technical skills that they need to obtain an industry-recognized credential (CompTIA A+ certification) but we help connect our certified graduates with entry-level technical support or help desk roles with living wages and career advancement potential.  

Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?

After college, I still wasn’t sure what field that I wanted to get into. To start making some money, I went to work as a temporary receptionist for a managed service provider. That got me a foot in the door. Then I was able to leverage some prior customer service experience to land a full-time job in an inside sales role. Between the training provided by the company and my willingness to learn, I moved up in the company through a variety of roles in training, technical services, and operations.

After Y2K, my company experienced a downturn and I moved into nonprofit workforce development. I spent 14 years there helping individuals build new skills and understand the value of skills that transfer between industries.

In 2012, I discovered Creating IT Futures and their IT-Ready program that helps people specifically to translate their passion with technology into a career. I was elated to find an organization that combined my career experiences and interests, and in 2015, started as the first executive director, Minnesota. Since then, I have seen the organization continue to grow and watched hundreds of people get their start in tech.

What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?

I’ve been around long enough to see amazing advances in technology. However, I think that the greatest transformation that I have seen has been the smart phone. Smart phones are not just telephones that we can walk around with in our pocket; it has had a huge impact on our lives. The smart phone is also an alarm clock, calculator, camera, video camera, GPS, payment system, and so much more. It has been critical in the proliferation of social media and has put a vast amount of information at all of our fingertips. It has completely transformed the way we work and we live.

When you think about ‘women’ and ‘technology’ what comes to your mind first?

Not enough! Women comprise about 50% of the workforce in general, yet only about 25% of the tech workforce. The tech industry has a huge shortage of workers. There are low barriers to entry, jobs pay living wages, and there are career advancement opportunities.

We always hear there are not enough women working in Tech. What needs to happen to change that, which steps should be done to achieve gender equality in tech?

I really think the biggest barrier to getting more women into tech is breaking down the confidence gap. Many women and young girls do not see themselves getting into tech jobs. Though I think that we can do more to help women gain skills and connect into the industry through programs like the IT-Ready Technical Support program, I believe that the biggest impact will be with programs that focus on middle-school aged girls. Programs focused at this age level will help girls understand how technology is in almost every industry. Being in the tech industry doesn’t have to mean sitting alone in a basement in front of a computer screen in jeans and a hoodie. Whether she is interested in healthcare, fashion, sports, or cars, technology plays a big part.

I believe that the biggest impact will be with programs that focus on middle-school aged girls. Programs focused at this age level will help girls understand how technology is in almost every industry. Being in the tech industry doesn’t have to mean sitting alone in a basement in front of a computer screen in jeans and a hoodie.

If you had 1 Million € to invest in women, what would you do?

If I could invest money in women, I would focus my efforts on programs that support them in their journey to become technologist. Programs that focus on young girls helps raise awareness and builds confidence, but their needs to be a continuum of support to keep them engaged. Connecting young women to mentors along the way is also important to keeping them on track as they build technical and foundational business communication skills needed to be successful on the job.

What and who were the influencers of who you are today?

My mother was probably one of my biggest influencers. She was on the leadership team for a construction company for many years. She taught me to work hard and not to be intimidated if I were the only female in the group.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 14-year-old self?

If I could go back, I would tell my 14-year-old self to get into tech right away.

If I could go back, I would tell my 14-year-old self to get into tech right away. In the early 80s, I only had one computer I could play with in my science class on Fridays. However, I didn’t seek out opportunities to get more exposure. I would tell myself to seek out opportunities to learn more about computers and what makes them tick. I got into the industry later than I could have. I can only imagine where I would be now if I had more exposure early on.

Sue Wallace helped launch CompTIA Tech Career Academy in 2019 as a nonprofit subsidiary of Creating IT Futures Foundation. She is responsible for overseeing student and career services, including program enhancements, expansion to new markets and ongoing operations nationally.

Sue started her professional career in the IT industry and moved on to spend nearly 14 years in nonprofit workforce development before joining Creating IT Futures. She holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degrees from Ball State University. She is actively involved in her community and enjoys spending time with her husband and three boys.

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