Teachers and faculty advisors are critical mentors for students, but what goals should they be helping them strive for?
For CompTIA AITP student chapters like Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC), tech career-readiness—not just graduation—is the name of the game.
Professors Evelyn Brannock, Ph.D. (pictured top) and Lissa Pollacia, Ph.D. (bottom) founded the GGC CompTIA AITP student chapter in 2010 with a mission of helping students develop skills needed to succeed beyond the classroom—in job interviews, at networking events and in work environments.
“A lot of times students don’t think about this and are focused on graduation and what classes they are going to take next semester,” said Pollacia. “We’re working to get the message out that you need to plan for your career, not just graduation.”
Pollacia and Brannock—who were recently honored as CompTIA AITP Faculty Advisors of the Year—emphasize that soft skills such as communication and the ability to work with a team are imperative to getting off to the right start in a tech career. To help students foster these skills, the GGC chapter hosts events such as Tech Talks, where local IT professionals come to campus to engage with students and speak about tech industry trends.
“It doesn’t matter how talented you are technically if you go into an interview and are not able to communicate with people effectively,” said Brannock. “Often we find it’s not that they can’t do these things—it’s just that they’ve never been exposed to opportunities or there’s a little timidity. If we can be there to give them a little push and offer opportunities to meet local professionals, hand out their resumes, and shake hands, then they build the confidence to step up to the plate.”
Brannock also discussed how combining an IT certification with a college degree can give students a major leg up when entering the workforce.
“We’re trying to help garner for them any advantages they can have going into the workplace, ” said Brannock. “Soft skills and people skills, along with a CompTIA certification to back it up, is a powerful combination.”
Pollacia and Brannock are also determined to increase diversity in the IT industry and expand the universe of those who see a future for themselves in tech.
“Companies want their workforce to look like America,” said Pollacia. “The workforce has to reflect the population and it’s important to have diverse viewpoints.”
Brannock worked in the tech industry prior to becoming a professor at GGC and added that “I loved working in IT, but also saw that we could expand diversity in the industry. I had great mentors and it helped me develop a passion to give that same support to students.”
Pollacia and Brannock say the most rewarding part of their job is seeing confidence grow in students and watching them jumpstart careers after graduating.
“It’s really a kick when they come back to the chapter two or three years later, but this time as speakers, panelists and emerging leaders in the field, ” said Pollacia.
Pollacia and Brannock both encourage students who are considering careers in IT to enroll in a tech-related class or look into IT certifications. “You’ll find out how fun IT can be,” said Brannock. “It’s the most exciting career you can go to, and if you like solving problems, you’ll find a career that’s calling for you.