Growing market for computer skills
By Angie Landsverk
Barbara Haase planned to work in criminal justice or psychology but found a career in computer science instead.
“It’s never boring,” she said of her work as a senior business analyst and software developer at Waupaca Foundry.
As a student at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Haase had little interest in computers.
She did data entry as she worked her way through college and graduated from UW-Platteville in December 1996.
Haase pursued an entry-level position in psychology and within two years, decided to switch careers.
She did so out of consideration for her future husband and his concerns about her safety in the type of work she was doing.
“I could see his point,” Haase said.
In September 1998, she returned to school and began pursuing an associate’s degree in computer science at Fox Valley Technical College.
She graduated in December 1999 and began working at Computer Systems, in Shawano.
Before she graduated, Haase completed an internship there and was offered a full-time position.
Several months later, a head hunter contacted her about a position at Waupaca Foundry.
Haase interviewed for the position, got it and began working at the foundry in June 2000.
“There’s so many different paths a person can take,” she said of the computer field.
That is information the Waupaca Area Public Library and Fox Valley Technical College want more people to realize.
Chris Jossart, Fox Valley Technical College’s manager of media relations, said Wisconsin TechConnect is a statewide online employment information system used to recruit Wisconsin Technical College System students and graduates for various types of employment.
In 2016, there were 55 full-time job postings per month in the 18-county New North region seeking professionals for careers with skills in Information Technology (IT), he said.
Those IT industries included computer support specialist, help desk support specialist, network specialist, network systems administratiom, software developer and web development and design specialist.
FVTC’s graduating classes in the spring and fall of 2015 included 125 graduates entering the workforce in IT-related fields.
They carried such titles as information security analyst, operations technician, support technician, incident management (security), metwork engineer, network specialist, webmaster, multimedia developer, web programmer and technical support specialist, according to Jossart.
The 2016 FVTC Graduate Employment Research Report showed the average annual salary for software developers who graduated from FVTC in 2015 was $40,000-plus.
The report also showed that for web designers who graduated from FVTC, the average annual salary was $51,300-plus, after they had been in the workforce for five years.
Sue Abrahamson, the Waupaca Area Public Library’s youth services librarian, said that by 2020, there will be more computer jobs than people trained to fill them.
That is why libraries in Wisconsin are part of a coding initiative.
Twenty libraries are hosting free screenings of the documentary “CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap,” as well as accompanying activities and events.
Waupaca’s public library is one of them.
The Waupaca Area Public Library will host “Coding Week” Monday, Jan. 16 through Friday, Jan. 20.
• Monday, Jan. 16: Coding activities on the library’s main floor from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Tuesday, Jan. 17: Free screening of the documentary “CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap” at 6 p.m., in the library’s lower-level meeting rooms.
• Wednesday, Jan. 18: Afterschool activities in the library’s teen room and in the children’s department.
• Thursday, Jan. 19 (early dismissal day in the Waupaca School District): Coding activities in the children’s department program room from 1-5 p.m.
• Friday, Jan. 20 -(no school in the Waupaca School District): Coding activities in all of the library’s departments from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“Kids are sponges. The earlier you expose the kids, the better,” said Haase, who is in her 17th year of working at Waupaca Foundry.
Ezra Kizewski became interested in the field when he was a youngster.
He attributes it to the photography his father did.
Kizewski started playing with Photoshop.
By the time he was a middle school student, he was interested in web design.
The 2014 Waupaca High School graduate took programming and web design classes at WHS and is studying software development at FVTC.
He will graduate in May and has been an intern at Waupaca Foundry since last June.
Kizewski will eventually become a full-time employee at the foundry and wants to continue his education at a four-year university, planning to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science.
The need for people to continue seeking careers in the field is not going away.
“Everything is computerized – cars, health care systems, banking,” Haase said. “It’s such a technology race.”
She sees the different computer career paths as including hardware, software and networks.
“And even each of those is broken into different paths,” Haase said.
Software involves different languages. Hardware includes personal computers and servers, she said.
Software developers may work in gaming or in coming up with the latest applications.
Haase’s work includes software development and analytical work.
It involves developing reports and displays.
“When people want to look up information about a part, we’ve created that background,” she said. “As an analyst, I work with the user and break it down. It’s digging deeper into what the user wants.”
Haase said her work involves logical and critical thinking.
Communication is also important, as there may be discussions with a user before something is even developed, she said.
The foundry has people working in a variety of areas in technology, and she describes it as a “huge spiderweb of communication.”
Haase said exposing students to technology helps those interested in it take off with it and discover their niches.
Other times, as was the case for her, people later find a career in the field.
“It’s very challenging. It’s a thinking job. You can develop so many things,” Haase said. “It’s rewarding to provide the end result.”