Mary Ellen Foye, right, is congratulated on her graduation from the Per Scholas Women in Tech program from instructor Maureen Monaghan.
Earning the CompTIA A+ certification is an accomplishment in itself. But Mary Ellen Foye went above and beyond that goal, earning perfect scores on both tests. This puts her in the top 2% of CompTIA A+ certified professionals.
For the former nurse, this perfect score was a perfect surprise. "I had used computers as a healthcare professional," said Mary Ellen. "But I never dreamed I'd be taking a computer apart, making repairs, troubleshooting and networking them." She went on, "In training I was constantly learning new things. It was very exciting and very challenging at the same time."
Mary Ellen trained at Per Scholas, a non-profit IT workforce development center in the Bronx, New York, as part of an all-female class in the "Women in Tech" program.
Jessicah White, corporate engagement manager at Per Scholas, isn't surprised at Mary Ellen's achievement. "Mary Ellen received a certificate for perfect attendance at graduation. She was always here two hours before class, always studying. She worked hard to earn those scores."
But Mary Ellen is quick to pay tribute to the Per Scholas program, its instructors and her fellow classmates. "It's important that I acknowledge my IT instructor, Ms. Maureen Monaghan. She gave our class so much guidance and support. She kept us focused by administering frequent exams and practice tests. The hands-on exercises were extremely helpful."
Monaghan, Per Scholas's dedicated IT instructor for the Women in Tech program, said that lab exercises are a crucial part of the Women in Tech training program.
"Women learn differently than men," she said. "Typically, women are less comfortable with taking apart the technology; they're more worried about making a mistake. The additional hands-on training gives our women students more confidence in their skills."
The Women in Tech training program, a 15-week course, was developed by Per Scholas to help close the gender gap in technology careers and recruit more women into the IT field. To do this, it was important that they tailored the coursework to reflect the learning style of women.
"It's more collaborative and more supportive than the co-ed classes. The students often work together in groups to figure out the problem," said Jessicah.
She added, "We've been told by employers that women, more often than men, tend to have the communication and project management skills that are required of today's IT professionals. Therefore, we've designed our program to build on these natural strengths while bolstering their technical confidence."
The results of Per Scholas's Women in Tech training program have proven to be on-target. In Mary Ellen's graduating class, all 18 of the women passed their CompTIA A+ exams and earned certification; a first and important milestone in the program's history.
"IT certifications open up a world of career opportunities which are not available to non-certified IT professionals," said Mary Ellen. "We all knew that it was important to pass the exam because certification is what it takes to become a viable candidate for a solid, well-paying job in IT."
In addition to the intensive technical training, Per Scholas also offers career development training. "We spend one day with the students on proper etiquette, interviewing skills and presentation skills," said Jessicah.
The interview preparation was an asset for Mary Ellen, who landed an internship in Radiology IT at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. "I'm very excited about commencing an internship in the coming weeks. My career in healthcare IT is just beginning."
Jessicah added, "It's the perfect opportunity for Mary Ellen because of her healthcare background. We were able to give her a new 21st century skillset to apply to her previous experience."
Along with her new IT skills and CompTIA A+ certified status, Mary Ellen is currently preparing for her CompTIA Healthcare IT Technician exam. It doesn't bother her that as a woman, she is a minority in her field. She encourages other women to consider the profession. "Take ownership of your career, remain focused and have a great time!"