Friday, September 28, 2012

What do YOU want to be when you grow up?

It was somewhere between not too long ago, and a lifetime ago that I was graduating high school and entering College and pondering that dreaded question, "what do you want to be when you grow up?".  As a child I had loads of ambition and diverse career choices, ranging from circus acrobat to pediatric cardiologist.  I also loved to paint, and was often choosen to do school art murals; someone asked me once if I wanted to be a painter.  I replied as an honest and sassy 12 year old, "no, they only become famous when they're dead".

My mom was a single mom, and although she worked 24 years for the NY Board of Education, I clearly remember her joking around saying, "I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up", in fact it might have been last week.  She has always had a strong will, and curiosity to try new things. She also encouraged me to get a college degree (first in my family) and inspired me that I could be anything I wanted to be when I grow up, sky's the limit.

CEO of Cisco- John Chambers, and I
For those of you know me, my fear of heights limited my acrobatics career, and my passion for technology, and a fortunate opportunity, paired with a "go get em' attitude" (thanks to my Brooklyn NY Mom) has now luckily landed me my 9 year career at Cisco.  I am very happy with my opportunity, and continue each day to learn something new.  I still remember the meeting that changed my life.  I graduated College with a 3.6/4.0 double majoring in Global Business and Marketing, yet I was waitressing and walking around in my bathrobe post graduation.  Mom would greet me and say, "What are you, Hugh Heffner? You graduated with honors, you have more potential than this...".  I knew she was right, I just didn't know where to begin?

Luckily, my alma matter, Manhattan College, had an alumni event.  Due to my high grades and achievements in school and leading many clubs and activities they invited me to attend.  Unfortunately, most of the alumni that attended were more interested in chatting with each other than the students.  I stood in the hallway greeting people, wearing a Scarlet O'Hara inspired Dress and a giant green sash with the letter M {for Manhattan- I pray they still don't make us wear them haha}.  A man approached me, and joked, "Hi M, Where are your friends, N, O, and P?".  Cue humiliation, and a good laugh.  We began chatting for almost an hour.  He would ask me about my history at MC, my goals, and aspirations.  He went on to inquire if I knew anything about Routers or Switches.  I nodded, and sheepishly grinned- "No, but I'm a fast learner".  I have always loved technology, in fact, I would stay late at our school computer labs while my mom worked, and often won the "computer awards"  beginning as far back as Elementary school.   It was not until that very moment that I had even considered I could have a career in something I loved.  Most of my family was first generation from Italy and Poland.  There were six of them- "the Italian Brady Bunch of Brooklyn" people would jest.  They were blue collard, dedicated, hard working, honest, and passionate.  They each inspired their children, that in America, you can do anything you dream of, that each of us are capable of anything we set our minds to.

That man, Lou McElwain, who I later came to realize was a Cisco VP, changed my life and helped filled in the dots where I lacked direction.  He told me about the Cisco ASR program, and I began interviewing.  The first two went smoothly, but the last looked at my resume and laughed, "I don't think this job is for you".  I intercepted, "I think you're wrong...if you can teach me, I can learn".  Turns out I was hired a few weeks later and offered both the Engineering and Sales positions.  The rest was history.

I recently sat in the CompTIA Break Away AMM " Women in IT" Meeting, where I now sit on the executive Board.  We had a group of wonderful volunteers (women and men) from Nellie Scott of Lenovo, Stephanie Young of Xerox, Mary Ellen Grom of Synnex, and John Mehrmann CEO at Zylog Systems- to help answer questions, share their stories, experience, and wisdom to those young and young at heart who listened in closely during our Breakfast Meeting. They touched upon really pressing questions, such as "What advice is critical for women who want to approach management for raise", "Do you find that qualified women enter work force strong and drop off at promotion?".  They also shared their thoughts in regards to a 2011 study concerning challenges of women which states “Middle Mgmt women get promoted on performance --men on potential”. Additionally, they shared personals stories such as what they did to differentiate themselves in their career, and how that helped them; and of course a highlight focus on the ever pervasive question "What can we do to get more young woman interested in a career in IT"?

For those struggling with these questions, their pearls of wisdom proved why "Advancing Women in IT" is one of, if not THE most important and collaborative community CompTIA offers. Learn more about CompTIA's Advancing Women in IT.  You can also join our group on Linked IN: AWIT LinkedIN Group.

CompTia's Advancing Women in IT

Although I was lucky to find mentorship, I wish such a group existed when I was in College or even High-School to help recruit and educate young men and women to a career in IT.  Although, it is never to late to learn something new.  I recently had the fortune to participate in the CompTIA Advancing Women in IT Video. This engaging and entertaining video showcases IT as an exciting, multi-faceted and long-term career choice for women. The video’s target audience is women either:

•       starting out in their career, or
•       considering a career change

The video encourages viewers to learn more about opportunities in the technology industry. The end of the video directs them to an AWIT Mentoring Program Landing Page where interested women can access resources to get them started, including finding a mentor, exploring career roadmaps, earning certifications and more.

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE:  Advancing Women in IT Video

Please help us promote this video inside your personal and professional network video by doing one or more of the following:

1) Posting the video link ( to your status updates on Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn.

2) Forwarding this link to your contacts with:
women’s organizations
your alumni association
your local high school
members of your network involved in the technology industry
your local girl scout troop and/or 4H organization
women’s networking organizations within your company
veteran’s organizations
local news organizations covering the technology industry and/or women’s interests
other relevant education or technology-focused organizations

3)     Share the video link with your children and your friends

I now have two step daughters, aged 13 and 15.  As my beloved mother guided me, I want them to know they can be anything they want when they grow up, and maybe just maybe that is a career in IT.  I am reminded of one of my most inspirational books, by the one and only Dr. Seuss, "The Places You'll Go", and I leave you with these words:

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy {or GAL} who'll decide where to go...

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3 / 4 percent guaranteed.)


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