In living color

Video series spotlights diversity of IT career options, people who inhabit those roles

Posted on Oct 25, 2018 :: Standing Feature
Jessica Thiel
Posted by , Insight on Technology Staff Writer

When many people think of someone working in IT, they conjure images of a young, white, sweatshirt-clad male guzzling Mountain Dew, eating Doritos and toiling for hours in front of a computer screen in a darkened room. It’s a persistent stereotype that doesn’t begin to convey the depth and breadth of opportunities an IT career can offer, says Kim Iversen, director of the NEW IT Alliance. She knows this firsthand from her volunteer work with nonprofit Women in Technology Wisconsin Inc. (WIT), where she works with girls who often ask her incredulously, “You work in IT?”

A new video series from the IT Alliance lays waste to misconceptions about what an IT career is —and who works in those roles. The short, one-and-half- to three-minute vignettes are designed to educate and inspire people to take a deeper dive into IT. The series — entitled “Why IT” — spotlights the diversity both in roles and the people who occupy those jobs.

“By providing that diversity in the video series, we’re providing role models as well so that people of different backgrounds can say, ‘Hey, they look like me. Maybe this is something I can do,’” Iversen says.

The first video released, called “We are the NEW IT,” puts women front and center and highlights the fun and exciting applications of IT careers, such as the opportunity to play with new technology, provide robust cybersecurity and help people stay healthy. “I saw the world changing, and instead of getting scared, I wanted to help change it into something better,” one participant says.

The video further emphasizes that people with a wide range of interests, from math to art to health care to creative pursuits, can find a home in an IT career. When people think of IT careers, they often picture coders or help desk support roles, but the video features vibrant young women working as system administrators, project managers, business analysts and information security specialists.

For Adrienne Hartman, president of WIT and director of e-commerce and campaign sales for J. J. Keller & Associates, it was important to convey that there’s a place for women in IT. From her high school and college days and into the present, she’s been told she doesn’t look like she works in IT. It’s something that can erode young women’s confidence, she says, and she wants to see that change.

“Those videos are also about showing the energy and the opportunities here in the Fox Valley,” says Hartman, who helped storyboard the series.

The videos, which are available on the IT Alliance website and its YouTube channel, also demonstrate the variety of career options available and the opportunities they can offer. One spotlights a person who works at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh overseeing the College of Nursing Simulation Training Center. The role includes developing training scenarios and programming robots.

Another showcases a woman who graduated from college with an interactive web management degree. She got her start at Oshkosh Corp. in a cybersecurity role and now handles communications for the company’s entire IT department

A third features Jes Borland, who grew up wanting to become a high school teacher. She now works as a premier field engineer for Microsoft, and her role includes teaching people to use technology.

“While she’s not teaching high school English, she’s still a teacher, and she’s still living that passion, but now she’s living it with technology and has really found her true passion that way,” Iversen says.

The IT Alliance, which worked with Stellar Blue Technologies to produce the series, plans to release one video per month, focusing on eight or nine IT career areas. They’ll cover roles including programming, networking, project management and business analysis as well as hybrid roles.

Iversen says video provides an ideal medium for connecting with the IT Alliance’s target audience of middle, high school and post-secondary students as well as career changers. Videos feel engaging, she says, and people increasingly prefer to learn by watching.

“(Video) allows people to see a person and hear their story and more easily connect with them than just written text does, and it is a way today that so many of our younger people get information,” Iversen says.

The IT Alliance will work with schools and teachers to get the videos incorporated into academic and career planning curriculum. Iversen says she hopes people will take away that IT is a diverse and exciting field that requires all skill sets and that “there’s a hole for you.”

For those who do see themselves filling one of those holes, Iversen recommends exploring the resources within the IT Alliance’s website. The organization also will help connect students to higher education institutions to navigate next steps, and high school students on up can attend the IT Alliance’s annual Connect IT Career/Job Fair to be held Nov. 14 at Lambeau Field.