The Value of CompTIA AITP: Mentorship and Support

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Born and raised on a farm near Green Bay, Wisconsin, Carrie Drephal began tinkering with websites in high school. Her career took her across the country and back, where she now runs a web development and design business and serves as both the events director for the CompTIA AITP Northeastern Wisconsin (NEW) Chapter and the vice chair of the CompTIA AITP Executive Council. We asked Carrie about her career journey and how CompTIA AITP has helped her get there.

How did you get to where you are today?

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville with a bachelor’s degree in communication technologies management, I spent some time in New York City and in San Diego working in the music industry.  I began to see the trend of marketing becoming digital, so I went back to school and got associate’s degrees in web development and design and database programming. For years, I was told I was crazy to think that IT and marketing would ever have anything to do with each other.

Now, I run JCD Promotions, LLC, my own web development and design business. I started JCD to offer affordable, relevant websites that drive customer engagement. With my background in marketing and IT, I bring more to the table than just a programmer or marketer alone.

How did you get into IT?

Five years ago, I would have said that I wasn’t “IT.” I always considered myself to be more of a marketer. I enjoy learning new technologies and have always been interested in them, which is seen by the amount of time I spend at a computer, but I never really took the IT side of my knowledge as a serious career choice.

As time went on and my job roles changed, I began to see that I perhaps did fit more into the IT spectrum than I had originally thought. Looking back over 20 years of messing around with building websites to the point of now running my own web business, I guess I rather grew into it.

How and when did you get involved with CompTIA AITP?

When I was getting my web degree in 2009, a few classmates encouraged me to join them in the CompTIA AITP student chapter. With some reluctance (because I wasn’t “IT”), I checked out the group and ended up joining. That year, went to the National Collegiate Conference in St. Louis with our chapter. I had no idea what it would be like, but I partnered with two other students to enter the graphic communication competition. We had the advantage of having IT, marketing and graphic design knowledge between the three of us and ended up taking first place, much to my surprise.

The next year I became chapter vice president, and along with our president, made some momentous changes that doubled our membership. We also started an event called Computer 101 to educate the community about computers and online resources. After graduating, I got involved with the  CompTIA AITP NEW Chapter as a professional member and am now finishing my sixth year on the board of directors.

What do you like most about being a CompTIA AITP member?

Speakers of a Tech Hub panel take a selfieThe opportunity to meet some great people whom I may not have otherwise met. Over the past eight years, I have made countless friends and gained a few mentors whom I look up to and respect. They have seen some of my career struggles and helped me along my way, and I am truly grateful for their guidance and support.

I have also had four job offers that came from either a member or an acquaintance of a member, and I still see benefits of referrals from those in the organization who respect my talent.

I serve on the executive council with some insanely talented people. Some of the ideas they have shared have brought new life into our local chapter. And the CompTIA ATIP NEW Chapter has some VERY dedicated individuals who have worked for YEARS to keep the organization thriving. While any organization has rocky times, our chapter always seems to have someone willing to step up and do what needs to be done. This dedication makes you want to strive to be better.

What kinds of events does the CompTIA AITP NEW Chapter put on?

The CompTIA AITP NEW Chapter hosts many events throughout the year. We gather for monthly meetings in the spring and fall, host the Sherry Anklam Memorial Golf Outing each July to raise money for IT education, go to sporting events, host wine tastings and happy hours, and have a CIO speaker series.

I run our annual Technology Hub Conference in Appleton, Wisconsin.  It brings together the IT community of Northeastern Wisconsin (and beyond) to share ideas and insights into today’s evolving technologies to drive innovation and help bring talent to our region. In its second year in 2017, it has already been compared to events in larger markets, such as Chicago and Minneapolis.

Why should someone join CompTIA AITP?

Kara Swisher gives the keynote at 2016 Tech HubTo share their knowledge with others in the IT industry. When professionals are willing to share, the entire group grows. CompTIA AITP is only as great as its members. If you want to learn more about the IT industry and ways to grow in your career, then CompTIA AITP is the place for you. Bring your questions, bring your ideas, no matter how big and outrageous, but come to share and be open to learning. Together we can build a brighter future for IT.

How can new members make the most of their membership?

Number one thing they can do: GET INVOLVED.

My first year with the professional chapter, I joined the golf outing committee. The year after that, I joined the fall conference committee. About that same time, I was elected to the chapter board of directors and began volunteering my time to improve the chapter website, create emails for board members (so they no longer had to use their personal or work accounts for chapter business) and help with updating our bylaws and standard operating procedures. Through this, I really got to know many of the members, and they got to know me.

A membership organization is what you make of it. Rarely in life do things fall into your lap. You need to go out and make waves. CompTIA AITP is a great resource for failing in a safe environment where you can learn and build a successful career. With so many intelligent and successful members, you can only go up from here.