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Focus on diversity

Hispanics land top jobs in IT

Despite outsourcing, opportunities are increasing

Grassroots coalition aims to recruit and advance Hispanics in computer science

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Sally Perez interned at Boeing and is now employed full time in the company's information protection area.

Sally Perez interned at Boeing and is now employed full time in the company's information protection area.

Software engineer Ronny Pena is involved in product development, new technologies and prototyping at IBM.

Software engineer Ronny Pena is involved in product development, new technologies and prototyping at IBM.

A lack of applicants for IT jobs has prompted the formation of the Computing Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions, a coalition of Hispanic-serving universities that, come this June, will launch a grassroots effort to recruit, retain and advance Hispanics in the computing field. This effort will have member schools involving students in undergraduate research, conducting workshops featuring computer science leaders, and exposing liberal arts majors and pre-engineering students to the creative and innovative side of computer science.

Alliance members, who are working with such industry giants as IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Northrop Grumman, include the University of Texas at El Paso, Cal State University-Dominguez Hills, Florida International University, New Mexico State University, Texas A&M-Corpus; Christi, the University of Houston-Downtown, the University of Puerto Rico-Mayag´┐Żez and the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras.

Opportunities ahead
Dr Ann Gates

Dr Ann Gates

Dr Ann Gates, head of the computer science program at the University of Texas at El Paso, says many college students think that outsourcing has diminished the number of IT jobs. On the contrary, opportunities are there, she says. She points to a study released by Fortune magazine in March 2005 that showed that by 2012 network systems and datacom analyst jobs are likely to increase by 41.9 percent, database administrator opportunities by 33.1 percent, and software engineering positions by 27.8 percent.

The result of the misconception is that companies are now seeing a shortage of new-grad applicants. "Companies are getting concerned. The jobs are there, but they're worried they won't have enough people to fill them," Gates says.

She notes that population projections indicate a continued high growth rate for Hispanics. At 14 percent of the total U.S. population, Hispanics are already the largest minority group in the U.S., but the number of Hispanic students who choose computing is still low. "Companies are very aware that diversity in their organizations is important. So they're attracted to Hispanics, as well as African Americans and other underrepresented student groups," she says. "Our students are highly recruited. One of my seniors just got offered close to $75,000 to go to Microsoft. General Dynamics and IBM are also big employers of our students."

Hispanic job candidates: needed and welcome
Dr Antonio Flores is president of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) in San Antonio, TX. He says "The IT field is short of new college hires across the board, but when it comes to Hispanics, it's much worse. A lot of IT-oriented companies are looking for Latinos to come and work for them, but we just don't have the numbers."

Joyce Del Carmen Rainey, a native of Panama, is a product manager at Sprint-Nextel (Overland Park, KS) and has been with the company since she was an intern in 2000. She observes that Hispanics are attractive job candidates, because they are "known for their passion and enthusiasm for work and life.

"At Sprint we're so hungry for people coming out of college. They help us remember what's fresh and give us different perspectives."

Sally Perez guards Boeing information
Sally Perez

Sally Perez

Sally Perez found her niche in information protection and security through a two-year rotational program at Boeing (Seattle, WA). "When I graduated I didn't know what I wanted to do. I enjoyed coding a lot, but I wanted more interaction with people. The program was a good opportunity to try out a variety of things and talk to different managers," she says.

Perez graduated in May 2003 from Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ) with a BS in computer science. She started at Boeing right away in the IS Career Foundation program, rotating through different jobs every four months.

She started full time in the information protection area in July 2005. Her job is to ensure that all Boeing employees follow security guidelines to safeguard Boeing information.

"I do mostly long-term projects, but then you can also get an unexpected call from someone who is concerned about an urgent security issue," Perez says.

Perez, whose family is Mexican American, grew up in Phoenix, AZ, and was one of the first in her family to have a computer. An Intel engineer who spoke to one of her high-school classes sparked her interest in the field.

All three of her college internships focused on software engineering. In the summer of 1999 she worked at Hewlett-Packard in Boise, ID, coding in Perl and Java. The next summer she worked at Motorola, programming in Java for the iRadio program, an initiative to bring the Internet to car radios. And in the summer of 2002 she interned at Boeing, which offered her a job at graduation.

Through Boeing's rotational program, she has had a variety of mentors and managers, all of whom have been supportive. "Right now I'm really excited about security in general and trying to learn as much as I can. I feel like I'm doing something important and have a real impact on what's going on."

Roberto Pasquier supports users at Procter & Gamble
Roberto Pasquier

Roberto Pasquier

Roberto Pasquier works in Global Business Services, an organization that manages enterprise software like SAP for Procter & Gamble (Cincinnati, OH). He works independently in New Orleans, LA, and travels every six weeks to Cincinnati for staff meetings.

He's the application owner of the solution that tracks marketing dollars within SAP. "I ´┐Żown' third-level support and deal with any issues that occur with the users, like problems with report generation or accounting," he explains.

He also works on the entire life cycle of various projects. "I develop programs that move from design through implementation and production," he says.

The company recently acquired Gillette, so Pasquier is also involved with smaller projects associated with integration. He notes that his knowledge of Spanish helps to meet users' needs in various countries, like Costa Rica where the company has an accounting office.

Pasquier was born in Nicaragua. His family moved to Miami when he was seven, and he adapted well to the language and culture.

He received his BS in computer science and a BA in philosophy from Tulane University (New Orleans, LA) in 2002. During college he worked in a computer lab as a network manager. In 2001, prior to his senior year, he had his first internship with Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati. He was a database administrator managing Siebel software, an enterprise application.

"It was a customer management tool, and I was on the technical back-end side," Pasquier says.

He received a job offer at the end of the internship and worked in Cincinnati for two-and-a-half years. The company allowed him to move back to New Orleans so that he could be with his mother.

"It has been a supportive place to work, both in understanding family needs and in encouraging diversity," Pasquier says.

He was introduced to a Hispanic employee network at the company as well as to its multicultural, multinational IT community network as soon as he was on board. "It's heavily promoted, whether you're actively participating or not," he says.

Software engineer Ronny Pena develops new technologies for IBM
Ronny Pena

Ronny Pena

Ronny Pena, a software engineer for IBM (Armonk, NY), uses prototyping to make new products better. Since January 2005 he has been working in Workplace Forms, a development group based in Massachusetts.

"I am the development go-to guy for some product components," he says. "I also coach newly hired team members."

Pena's biggest challenge is managing multiple tasks, which include frequent presentations to management and the executive team. Another challenge is having to be innovative in the work he does.

Born in the Dominican Republic, Pena came to the United States when he was seven and grew up in Manhattan. When he was eleven his parents bought him an IBM PC. "I tried to create little programs here and there to see what I could do," he says.

During high school, in 1996, he launched a one-man business fixing people's hardware and software and continued with the venture until 1997. He then segued into technical support and networking for a small business and worked there until 1999.

In February 2001, while at Lehman College (New York, NY), he did an internship with the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, handling tech support and networking. Eventually he got into software development. In June 2002 he took another internship, this time with Xerox in Rochester, NY, where he had the opportunity to do three Java-based applications. He then went back to the Transportation Council in September 2002 and worked there for another year.

In May 2003 IBM gave him an internship under its Extreme Blue program, in which teams of students work with cutting-edge technology to develop new products or services. From September 2003 through June 2004 he was an intern with the company's advanced Internet technology group. "For that group I did a lot of Java-based applications using WebSphere Portal Server, DB2, WebSphere Application Server and Linux," he says.

He graduated from Lehman in 2004 with a BS in computer science and went to IBM full time. He worked on prototyping and presenting new technologies, and did performance testing and tuning. He started his current job in January 2005.

He advises new grads to develop good presentation skills. "That means going out and presenting to your team members at school. Look for any reason to give a presentation. It's a very valuable skill at IBM," he says.

Pena adds that it pays off to experiment with different technologies. "Before you try to get an internship, at least create a small program with relevant technology so that people can see you have an interest and can adapt to new technologies."

Johnson Controls' Liana Domena tests management software
Liana Domena

Liana Domena

As a software test engineer at Johnson Controls, Inc (Milwaukee, WI), Liana Domena tests the Metasys product, a building automation and facilities management system. Johnson Controls is a major player in automotive systems and facility management and control.

Domena explains that four teams, headed by engineering managers, develop and test the Metasys system. A tester is on each team. Her group is called commissioning and system test, and her role is to test the entire system under controlled conditions and evaluate the results.

"The system is complex with a lot of different features," she says. "Depending on the testing stage, I might focus on testing a particular feature, or I might do system testing, making sure all the components work together.

"This is my first full-time position, and trying to learn everything that impacts the system and how all the different parts fit together is the biggest challenge," she says. "It's a continuous learning process."

When Domena graduated in 2002 from the University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee, WI) with a BS in computer science, "The job market wasn't booming." Her father's family is in Mexico, so she went there for a few months to be with them and take a break before starting work. When she returned she took a job as an administrative assistant/engineer at Gossen Corp (Milwaukee, WI), a manufacturer of plastic and wood products. Her duties involved some IT work, but it was limited.

She came to Johnson Controls in August 2004. "I saw the opening posted online. I also had a few friends who worked here then," she says.

During college Domena did three internships, the first as a software tester at Rockwell Software (Milwaukee, WI) from January 1999 to May 2000. "I was ghosting machines as well as installing the software to be tested and then setting up the test," she says. Ghosting, she explains, is a technique to ensure that a computer's hard drive, including its configuration settings and applications, can be converted back to a base image, particularly important in software testing. She worked there twenty hours a week and attended school full time.

After circulating her resume at a national SHPE conference, she was contacted by Xerox (Rochester, NY) and interned there in the summer of 2000, testing high-volume printer systems. She did a third internship at Pitney Bowes (Shelton, CT) in the summer of 2001, testing embedded weighing systems.

Domena recommends that college students join a group like SHPE to make connections for future jobs. "In my case, SHPE was a great resource and tool. It was helpful to be part of an organization of people with similar backgrounds," she says.

She adds that it's important to stick with your dreams, even if the job market is tight or you're daunted by college classes. "If you feel like giving up because you think this is too hard a field, just keep working at it. In the end, it pays off. I love my job!"

Joyce Del Carmen Rainey: product manager at Sprint Nextel
Joyce Del Carmen Rainey has taken on many roles at Sprint Nextel (Overland Park, KS) since starting at the company as an intern in the summer of 2000.

She'd just arrived in the United States from Panama City, Panama, and was studying for her MBA with an MIS emphasis at Northwest Missouri State University (Maryville, MS). Sprint was recruiting on campus for interns and selected her. "That's how it started. Throughout my internship I was exposed to different activities and assignments," Rainey says.

"It was great, because I was able to finish my masters and practice what I was learning in school. I was living the textbook. It was a win-win situation," she adds.

When the internship was over in August, the company offered her a full-time job.

Rainey received her BS in computer engineering from Santa Maria La Antigua University (Panama City, Panama) in 1999. She came to the Missouri/Kansas area because she had family there. While in school she married and became a U.S. citizen.

During her internship she was in charge of managing small projects in IT involving infrastructure, such as changes to the voice network or data environment. She was made a program manager I in August 2000.

"My portfolio increased from small to medium projects, managing installations for internal customers," she says.

In September 2003 she moved up to program manager III, developing and managing even larger projects and leading a team of five that was responsible for about 1,700 users. "The projects were more corporate-wide or business-driven versus infrastructure-driven," Rainey says. "We were called operations support and reported directly to a senior manager who reported to the vice president of the organization," she says.

From 2004 to 2005 Rainey was program manager/process manager, creating, modifying and challenging models for Sprint's day-to-day operations. She introduced a new process to streamline and reduce the cycle time for deliverables, and received the Sprint Annual Excellence Award for her work on the project.

Because of the merger with Nextel in 2005, her duties were restructured and she joined the life cycle management strategy and governance team. "This team is responsible for leading cross-functional processes across IT to make sure that Sprint delivers products to the marketplace in a timely fashion. It also supports day-to-day operations," explains Rainey. As a member of the team, she did a lot of research and development and introduction of new tools.

Rainey recently accepted a promotion to product manager. As of January 2006 she's responsible for several new products. Although the position is in the business marketing department, it has a focus on IT activities, specifically development, testing and production.

"It was the next step for me to take, and I'm looking forward to the new challenges. I will be working closely with IT groups throughout the delivery of products," she says.

Sprint also gave her the opportunity to pursue a second masters degree, this one in project management. "Sprint is very intent on developing its people. It really invests in us and makes sure we have training and exposure," Rainey says. "It has definitely given me the chance to take advantage of every resource."

These young Hispanic IT pros are finding plenty of opportunity as they build their careers in a variety of industries. As the need for skilled IT pros grows, new grads in this exciting field should have equally bright futures.

D/C

Heidi Russell Rafferty is a freelance writer in Augusta, GA.

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