Career Spotlight

Industries that embrace technology as a useful tool and a reliable resource.

Jim Collison, Technology Manager – Gallup

 

Q. What is your role and what does a typical day look like for you?

A. “In my current role for Gallup, I oversee a team of intern software developers in our Omaha Riverfront Office as well as partner with Gallup’s Talent Resources team to recruit and retain world-class system and database administrators and software developers who support Gallup’s clients and the company’s internal systems. I also oversee both the College and High School internship programs year around. I have recently taken on the role of producer and Strengths Community Manager for Gallup’s Called to Coach and Theme Thursday Webcast found at http://coaching.gallup.com. On a typical day, I might be speaking at a recruiting event in the morning, doing a live Webcast for our Strengths Coaching Community at lunch and interviewing and selecting interns for our program. Its very dynamic on a daily basis.”

Q. How did you decide to pursue the career that you are working in today? What was a pivotal moment?

A. “In 1999, I was hired by Commercial Federal Bank to join their IT team. Before that, I had been working retail banking. That first helpdesk job lead to a data warehousing position that lead to a technical project management job that lead to Gallup hiring me as an IT Manager. Even that job has shifted from pure management to the roles I serve in today. I am not sure I could have ever planned for this job. It might have found me.”

Q. What advice would you give to people seeking your particular profession?

A. “Be flexible and ready to do anything. In college I worked two jobs while I went to school. When at Commercial Federal on the retail side I always was curious about technology and what was coming next. When first starting at Gallup, I picked up blogging and podcasting as a side gig. All of those experiences got me ready for the roll I am in today.”

Q. What are some improvements that you believe Nebraska needs in tech?

A. “We need to start students programming even earlier than we do today. Students and start developing as early as 4th and 5th Grade, some even sooner than that. Nebraska is short technology jobs every single year that could be filled with Students. I also wish more companies in would start internships for high school students. We are really missing opportunities to educate our students on the workplace.”

Q. Do you have any ideas, based on your experience, on ways to achieve these improvements?

A. “At Gallup, we are trying to model those improvements by actually doing them. We offer High School and College year-around internships for technology students. We also host a summer entrepreneurial program to encourage student to get involved in the start-up culture.”

 

*The featured “Career Spotlight” will be updated as new stories are submitted. 

 

Past Spotlight Features

 

Lisa Wilson, Human Resource Manager - CNH Industrial, LLC

Lisa Wilson, Human Resource Manager – CNH Industrial, LLC


Q. What is your role and what does a typical day look like for you?

A. “I am currently the Human Resource Manager for a Combine Manufacturing facility in Central Nebraska. In addition to that, I am the Chair Person for the Greater Nebraska Workforce Development Area Board and over see 88 counties within Nebraska. I am responsible for hiring, training, developing of people in addition to overseeing policy and benefits. For the board I am responsible to lead the group to ensure that the State funds are being allocated to provide training programs to youth and adults who are seeking work within the State of Nebraska. My work days will vary dependent on the needs of the organization or the board, but primarily consists of many meetings, leading a team of 3 direct reports and aligning to the business objectives and goals. I decided to pursue a career in Human Resources as it aligned my previous business experience and education with my passion for the legal system and people.”

Q. What are some things you think businesses can do to promote the impact technology has on their company and the economy?

A. “Technology is very important to business today and when analyzing labor resources available to fulfill the needs of businesses, there is a shortage. Some of the things we have done to overcome this in Nebraska is to create partnerships with businesses, educational units and agencies to ensure that we are able to understand what the needs are and what programs are available. From there we are able to identify the gaps within the communities and develop programs to close the gap.

For example, there is a program in Kearney that is IT focus and offers training programs to teach individuals the basic IT functions and then coordinate jobs for them upon completion of the program.”

Q. What are some improvements that you believe Nebraska needs in tech?

A. “Other areas of technology that there are significant shortages are programmers for Robotics equipment. Currently, the Community College is working on programs to provide two-year training programs to help overcome this shortage. In Central Nebraska, where manufacturing is a major portion of employment opportunity this is a high need, high demand area of focus.”

“I feel that Nebraska is taking great strides to overcome the shortages of labor needed to support the technology within the state and for support of the businesses. I am happy that I am in a position to be a part of this transition and drive.”

Hannah Witt, Software Development Engineer in Test, Xpanxion

Hannah Witt, Software Development Engineer in Test, Xpanxion

Q. What is your role and what does a typical day look like for you?

A. “Here at Xpanxion I am a software tester. I thoroughly test software for Xpanxion clients and have been trained to do that both manually and automatically. With manual testing, I go through an application or web page like a typical user might – making sure that fields, buttons, and other functions all respond and act as they should. With automatic testing, I write coded tests using a programming language (Java, C#, etc.) that, when they are run, automatically test the application or website. Writing automated tests takes longer upfront than testing manually, but it allows for test to be run more often and more quickly than a manual tester would be able to. When you are going to need to run a test one hundred times or more, automation is generally a good idea. My day is typically spent not only on this sort of testing, but on collaborating with my teammates, writing new test cases, brainstorming the best ways to test a particular application, reporting, and communicating with the client on their needs and wants for their product.”

Q. What types of skill sets are necessary for your job?

A. “While some people avoid programming because the first thing they think of with computers is that they will have to be extremely good at math, I would say that (while arithmetic is very helpful), the more important skill sets are problem solving skills and a willingness (preferably eagerness) to keep on learning. When it comes to software testing and development, you are always solving problems. If you need a program to display the weather, the greater problem you are solving is, “How do I get the weather information and display it?” and that is broken down into several more detailed problems to work through and solve. As for learning, that is key in the tech world. There is always new technology coming out, and there is always more to learn about how best to use a language, tool, or program. Fortunately, here at Xpanxion such learning is always encouraged and we have a lot of resources to help us learn new languages, techniques, and tools. Being willing and happy to always learn more sets you up for success in this field. Whether you learn new languages and tools or just dig in and learn more about how to problem solve better and create more efficient code in a language you already know, learning is critical.”

Q. How did you decide to pursue the career that you are working in today? What was a pivotal moment?

A. “Before I decided to go into software testing and development, I actually earned degrees in English and History – both of which I absolutely love. However, as I was completing my Masters in History I started to think about whether completing a Doctorate was really what I wanted to do. I thought back to how much I had always enjoyed technology, computers, gaming, and how interesting I found the fast-developing world of computers. As a little girl I didn’t decide to pursue a career in technology – for some reason I just never thought that it would be the right path for me.

However, as I was wrapping up my Masters degree, my older brother had started working in technology – and for Xpanxion. He talked to me frequently about the work he did, let me look at some of his code, and taught me a few things. I decided to start taking online classes and I found that I absolutely love working with software and in code. I love to learn and to problem solve and while History will never stop being a passion of mine, I have found an industry that feeds my need to learn and improve myself while at the same time providing an avenue to get right into a career.

A pivotal point for me was not just my brother introducing me to the possibility of really pursuing a career in the software development and testing field, but when Xpanxion contacted me and offered me the chance to participate in their XHire program. I had already learned a fair amount of coding through my online classes, but the XHire program taught me a lot more than code: it taught me how to use code to problem solve, how to apply my knowledge to the real world, how to test, and how to collaborate on a team.”

Q. What advice would you give to people seeking your particular profession?

A. “If anyone is interested in pursuing a career in software development and testing, my biggest point of advice would be – as is probably obvious from everything else I’ve written – to just start learning. If you can’t take classes, then get some free or low-cost materials and start using all the resources available to you. There are several free online resources that will help you learn more about the industry and the technical skills you’ll need. Even if you’re interested in manual QA testing more than coding, there are a lot of resources on software testing methods out there. Check out ISTQB and ASTQB – the international and American testing foundations – which, even if you can’t afford to take the tests right now – can provide you with free study materials so you can get a grasp of the major concepts. And, if there’s someone out there who is potentially interested in a career in this field, but isn’t sure if it’s right for them, I very much encourage you to try out some coding yourself. Just give it a try – you might be surprised to find how much you enjoy what you’re doing.”

Q. What are some improvements that you believe Nebraska needs in tech?

A. “I think that here in Nebraska we need to give more support and opportunities to those who might be interested in a tech career – whether they are students, young adults, and adults who already have careers but might be looking for something different. Encouraging students of all ages, income levels, genders, races, etc. to consider careers in the tech industry possibilities for them can only help Nebraska and help students to find an interesting career that can offer them stability and great opportunities. We have a lot of very creative, curious, and hard working people here in Nebraska and students that could be great for this industry. Having talks delivered by those in the industry, holding tech fairs, and giving additional funds to our schools as well as other training sources can all help to make Nebraska a more technologically thriving state. Encouraging more tech industry growth in Nebraska is also important so that those students have the opportunity to stay in Nebraska and work in the field they have trained for if that’s what they would like to do.”

Travis Hollman: President, Hollman Media, LLC

Travis Hollman – President, Hollman Media, LLC


Q: What is your role and what does a typical day look like for you?

A. I am the President / CEO of Hollman Media, LLC in Kearney NE. Our company builds websites and applications, and it also helps organizations improve their marketing efforts. A typical day for me could be anything from writing out paychecks, to speaking at conferences, to helping get a server/website back online, to trying to sell a web application or marketing service to any number of businesses. There is really no “typical” day for me.

Q: What types of skill sets are necessary for your job?

A. Because we started small (just two people) and have remained fairly small, (fewer than a dozen employees, but growing) we get to—and have to—utilize diverse skill sets. I started the company as an entrepreneur who handled sales, marketing, coding, designing, bookkeeping, and just about every other aspect of the company. That allowed me to learn how to grow a company from the trenches. Today, I am much more involved in management and human resources, but I still have an active rule in sales, marketing, and even cleaning the bathrooms.

To work for my company, you have to know how to work as a team to meet deadlines and give customers what they want in a way that is beneficial to both the customers and to the company. That sounds vague, but it is important and it is hard to teach. If I were to ask people to be good at only three skills, it would probably be:

1) Learn to work with people
2) Learn to work hard
3) Learn to code well (or design well, or whatever it is I hired you to do).

Q: How did you decide to pursue the career that you are working in today? What was a pivotal moment?

A. I wanted to be an entrepreneur since the minute I was born. As a kid, I was always trying to find ways to offer products or services that someone would want to buy and that would give me the freedom to live or die by my own merits. In high school, I decided I wanted to start and run an advertising agency or a marketing firm some day. While in college in 1999, I picked up a couple web design and multimedia classes. I was good at it and I recognized that people wanted something I could offer them. I made the decision to start a web development business with my wife (then my girlfriend). We opened our doors in Kearney in 2000 while finishing college. I’m still doing it, but my wife never really left college. She still teaches “tech”, though, as an assistant professor at UNK.

Q: What is the one thing you wish you know more about before going into this career?

A. I wish I had access to a list of things that I still don’t know anything about. In other words, I don’t know what I don’t know and that drives me nuts. I feel there are so many things that would make me better, but I don’t know where to start. I have learned so many things the hard way and my journey would have been so much easier had I only known there were easier paths that would have let me work smarter rather than harder. Still, lessons sometimes stick better when they are learned the hard way.

Q: What are some things you think businesses can do to promote the impact technology has on their company and the economy?

A. Technology is so ubiquitous and people already talk so much about it. That needs to continue, but people need to put it into some kind of context that is understandable and focused. Otherwise it is overwhelming or just plain vague. For instance, I can tell you that technology makes my life and my job better. Nobody cares. But if I talk about a particular website that solves a specific problem and why I am passionate about it, then people will listen.

Q: What advice would you give to people seeking your particular profession?

A. I consider my profession to be “entrepreneur in the IT field.” If you think it will be easy or that you can just “settle into” a cushy job, you can’t. It’s competitive. It’s dynamic. It’s fast and exciting. It can also be intimidating and heartbreaking. And you will likely experience all these emotions over the course of one day. The key to making it is to just focus on not quitting today. Just worry about finding a way through today when you are down on your luck and your spirit is crushed. Things can change in a heartbeat.

Q: What are some improvements that you believe Nebraska needs in tech?

A. It has to start in the schools. So may kids and adults today believe that tech, and IT in particular, is about sitting in front of a computer and coding. That’s just a small part of IT. We have to do a better job letting kids know that they can totally hate coding and still love a career in IT or tech in general. Love building things and playing with technology, but hate coding? You sound like a network engineer to me. The problem is, we need to find a better way to educate people about all these other opportunities and stop pushing coding like it’s the only option.

Q: Do you have any ideas, from your career perspective, on ways to make these improvements?

A. Again, it starts by educating people and getting them excited about the vast career opportunities in tech. We must break this stereotype that we all have the same jobs and the same skill sets (I can barely even fix my own computer). Those of us with a voice can get into the schools and help educate the kids and teachers about this. We could help create new curriculum, but unless it is going to meet some sort of existing requirement, then there is little incentive for the teachers to adopt an extra-curricular activity in their already-loaded day. I think this is a problem that can be solved if some of us in education and industry were to come together and figure it out together.