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Information Technology is Not Just a Man’s World Anymore

June 2021
  • Women are becoming more prevalent in the IT field.
    Women are becoming more prevalent in the IT field.

A “meet and greet” event last month gave prospective female students a window into the Information Technology field. QCC’s Dean of School of Business, Engineering, and Technology, Betty Lauer, hosted the event that featured female employees of the IT community. Today 26 million workers are part of the STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics) industry, with 71% holding computer related jobs, according to Dean Lauer.

“The average STEM pay is $61,000, about two times as much as non-STEM pay,” Dean Lauer said.

 While men average 27% more per hour in pay than women that percentage shrinks to 16% when women work in STEM. STEM careers are closing the gender gap and female students are becoming more prevalent as more women recognize the value in an IT career.

Monica McMullan, IT Service Desk Supervisor at QCC didn’t know she wanted to work in the information field initially, going to school for hotel management. Finding out Hotel Management was not for her; she returned home after one semester and obtained a job at a server networking company. She became clerk of the quality control department working closely with the manufacturing team. Over the next few years she would hold various positions and jobs before eventually coming to work in QCC’s IT department as a part-time Help Desk Attendant. She also began taking a few IT courses at the college.

“Some of the courses like programming and C++ and SQL directly impacted my ability to work with our ticketing. I also learned many things in the help desk content concepts course that I applied to helping our customers, students, staff and faculty,” she said. 

In December 2018, she earned a Software Applications Specialist Certificate from QCC and last year was promoted Service Desk Supervisor, which has increased her level of responsibility.

According to Ms. McMullan, a career in IT has given her the ability to have a good work-life balance and be there for her family while doing something she loves.

Other female QCC students and former students are also taking part in QCC’s robust IT programs.

QCC student Jennifer Polesnak-Custance has been in the IT field for over 20 years. Currently she is a Systems Administrator and over the years has held many different positions in the IT field from technology service center, desktop services to data center operations.

She said that 20 years ago years ago, the IT field was just starting to really pick up and she ended up going to a local university and took a couple Microsoft Certified Professional courses that her company paid for it. She said she enjoyed the challenge of the IT field; however, over the years found that most jobs she was interested in required a degree.

“I recall teammates getting hired and they were making at least $15,000 more than I was because they had a degree, and I knew a lot more,” she said.

Ms. Polesnak-Custance said she initially attended a four-year institution for a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity, but found it lacking and came to QCC for its Cyber Security program.

“Hands on is what you need. I was having lunch with a group of co-workers and one of the gentlemen who had just started had gone to QCC and recommended it, as I was complaining that where I was going was not technical enough to be useful,” she said. "I choose QCC because of the technical programs that are offered. My experience at QCC has been wonderful. I wish I had started here first. All the professors have been great and very knowledgeable.”

QCC Alumna Stevie Dickerson is a Navy veteran who is the Manager of Software Development for Storm Petrel after being an intern there thanks to QCC. Coming from an engineering background, IT has always interested her.

“There is more opportunity for creativity in the IT field, specifically software development, while previously, in the nuclear power field that I worked in, I wasn’t a ‘creator’ but rather, a ‘fixer’ and ‘maintainer.’ I’m still those things, but I can create too,” she said.

She found QCC after driving by the College and then doing some research on what it had to offer when she decided to use her GI Bill and go back to school.

“This school hit all the key areas I was looking for, it has a degree specifically for Web Dev/Programming, which is the career I wanted to switch to and it has smaller class sizes than a larger school, allowing teachers to focus on more students individually. QCC also partners with many other schools in the region if I wanted to pursue my bachelor's degree afterward,” she said, adding that in fact she recently obtained a BS at Granite State College.

Ms. Dickerson said that she has always been drawn to “predominately male” fields such as IT.

“... not because I like a challenge (though, I do), but just because that's what I'm good at, and interested in. I was a nuclear Machinists’ Mate in the Navy, which at the time I served was less than 4% female,” she said.

After the Navy, she went into the engineering field before entering the software development.

“I’m happy to say that the discrimination in the IT field is not as bad as I experienced in the Navy or in the nuclear power field. It’s a different culture. I feel empowered and I have gotten to work with smart, strong women and we help each other,” Ms. Dickerson continued.

Both Ms. Dickerson and Ms. Polesnak-Custance said they’ve seen positive changes in women entering the IT world in recent years.

“I have seen the female technical work force nearly double around me and I think it’s wonderful,” Ms. Polesnak-Custance said, offering sage words of advice to women looking to enter the industry. “It is tough to break into the field but know what you are doing and what you are talking about and continue to train on everything new that is happening in the tech world. Knowledge is power.”

Ms. Dickson also offered words of encouragement.

“Do it! There is no time like the present. I completely changed career fields after over a decade in a completely different field and never looked back once. Attend conferences and make connections! Find women in leadership positions and ask pertinent questions. Show willingness to learn and you’ll find yourself with people that want to mentor you,” she said. “My experience was a good one and I look fondly back on my experience at QCC. I was a little nervous about going back to college as an adult. I had an odd idea that I would be surrounded by just out of high school students and was happy to find that there's no particular demographic that attends QCC, the diversity of the students' age and backgrounds leads to a lot of experiences and knowledge coming together. The staff was great. I learned so much from Professors Bob Desilets and Charu Trivedi, they were great mentors and teachers.”