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Women in Tech

“Choose your Hard”

By May 5, 2021February 1st, 2022No Comments

WIT Interview with Jill Sarnoff, Information Technology Helpdesk Team Lead at AP Intego

Women in Technology WNY is here to feature women’s stories in our local community and the various technology roles they fill, traditional and non-traditional. TechBuffalo is here to highlight these women to encourage others to explore technology opportunities and take advantage of them.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I entered the tech industry because I was mad…boldly frustrated. I know that sounds crazy, but I was mad at hearing what I could not do for years. I still hear this rhetoric often from family, friends, and others. This drives me to prove people wrong, prove society wrong, prove stereotypes wrong. I was going to transcend the barriers and obstacles that I have grappled within myself and that of a societal structure that is working to forge ahead and breakthrough walls outside the comfortable “norm” however I could.  I started as a student at Bryant & Stratton after making an outright career shift from education and right off the bat felt super intimidated. I was the only woman and minority in my major. Before graduation, the current company that I am working with hired me. I had no previous experience in technology other than the simulations, a brief internship with a local town government, and the bit of hands-on work that we did in the class. They took a risk on me, I laid all my cards on the table. What did I have to lose? Here I am three years later moving up the chain and demonstrating strong growth and development. Currently, the IT Helpdesk Team Lead for our NY office site.  That’s exciting for me as far as like growth comes. I’m currently getting my bachelor’s in Cybersecurity. My long-term goal is to have my own consulting firm but catering strictly to demographics that are not marketed to. My hope is eventually to help bridge the tech gap in communities providing fair products and services.

Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do?
My role when I first started was in the help desk handling tickets, setting up someone’s printer, giving them access to email accounts and different levels. Now as team lead, I still continue to support the end-user. However, I now, in addition, use OKRs to help our team achieve quarterly benchmarks goals ensuring not only our end users have the best experience possible but we really strive to see how we can leverage technology in a way that allows us to provide our clients with the best service and experience possible. When I started, we had about 50 end users. Now I support 160 to 180 reps every day. I also do disaster recovery. There is so much I do it’s hard to summarize everything I have a hand in…I continue to look forward to the challenges and opportunities to rise to the occasion daily.

What are the biggest challenges in your career?
With covid and everything that’s happening in our nation, my company wanted to bring awareness and light to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have been holding beehive meetings pretty much every Friday. This has allowed a platform for voices to be heard and opened doors for a conversation surrounding our day-to-day lives and what it is to see the world through another’s lenses. I was super lucky to come into APintego they have provided me with a solid stepping stone foundation into my IT career path. Working in this industry, however, has not come without its own obstacles. Being a minority, woman, and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s a triple hurdle in this industry. I have to work harder and longer to prove to the people in this industry that I can do my job. I noticed people around me were promoted, so I tried approaching it from another angle. I was going to make sure my voice was heard, and I’m going to make sure others are heard. Change happens in numbers; it happens when other perspectives are heard when we engage in great conversations. And here I am three years later, and change is happening. We were recently acquired by another company and they’re big on DEI, not just in words but in actions. During a meeting recently, the leaders took a pause and brought up what has been happening with the Asian American community. It’s not a focus on specific groups but across the board. Like we care… you’re human, and therefore you matter. That kind of environment is very encouraging. While there is much work to do on this front and the work will never be finished the doors of opportunity for everyone to come to the table and collaborate have been opened.

What advice would you give to a woman considering a career in the tech industry?
Be like Nike and just do it. I would also say hone in on what you’re interested in. If you’re just looking to break into the field, try getting a few certifications under your belt and aim for an entry-level position to get a lot of exposure. Another piece of advice: internships. Do that. I gained so much exposure and confidence in the material I learned from my class experience in the real world.

Being a woman in this field, you’re going to feel intimidated, that’s normal. You can embrace it, or you can run from it. When you embrace it, I promise, the rewards are so worth it. You’ll find new power and energy within yourself you didn’t know existed.

What advice would you give to other people of color interested in tech?
Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t. I can only speak for myself but that self-doubt that was already there tends to get fostered hearing you can’t over and over again. When I first walked in. Three years ago, I was like I am not white enough to work here. I asked myself if I should even go in for my interview. I let self-doubt really get to me, but I still took the chance, and here I am. So, when people tell you you can’t,  challenge it.

You have to try, and you have to try hard. My hard was, I was working and supporting my kids not making ends meet or I could go to school for technology and increase my income year over year. You must choose your hard. What do you want more? Do you want to continue the cycle of dead ends jobs, living in the unknown, regrets or do you want to pursue something that not only opens more doors and opportunities but provides more financial security? This is where it begins for us a community of color, we must rise above the adversity in which society has chosen to brand us over the years. Breakthrough the barriers and define a new you and a new generational cycle.

If just given the tools, access, and chance, imagine how phenomenal the tech industry would be if it were built by and with more people of color and women included.

Thanks, Jill for chatting with us! To learn more about AP Intego visit their website: https://apintego.com/

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