Heather Osterloh, President/Managing Director, IT Academy
Our special guest today is Heather
Osterloh, President and Managing Director of IT
Academy, a permanent training facility specializing in
Cisco and Microsoft accelerated training.
Prior to IT Academy, Heather managed a NetWare network
at The Vallejo Company. In the early 1990s, she started
her own consulting and training firm, Contract Training.
In 1998 Contract Training evolved into IT Academy. Heather
developed courseware and training videos for Cisco and
Microsoft certification training as well as developing
the first accelerated CCNP course in the world.
Heather is the author of "CCNA 2.0 Prep Kit 640-507 Routing
and Switching," published by Que/Macmillan and has collected
Moderator: Hi Heather! Thanks for chatting with
Heather: Thanks for
the great into! I'm happy to inspire women in this industry.
Moderator: Heather, would you
start off by telling us about what you do at IT Academy?
Heather: As Solana
said I've achieved many certifications in the past 15
years, due to hard work and dedication. I started working
in this industry in 1985 as a Sys. Admin on a NetWare
Network. After that I pursued my MCSE. As many of you
have, I'm sure, I'm always looking for the next notch
in my belt to distinguish myself within the community.
I became a Network General Sniffer Certified Instructor
delivering protocol analysis training all over the world.
I've been pursuing the highly coveted CCIE certification,
writing books and producing videos. Being a woman in this
industry hasn't been easy, but I think it can definitely
be an asset.
guest-Sophie says: What's the
best way for women to make their way in an industry that
is predominantly male?
Heather: For me it
has made me try harder to excel. We definitely have to
do our homework in order to stand up to the men. The women
in this industry I know are generally very driven and
detail-oriented. Lets face it. It's a men's club, but
we have a great deal to offer the community. I find that
knowing your subject matter and standing up for what you
believe in is the best way to gain respect.
guest-Michael says: What is
the toughest experience you ever had in your career life?
How did you make it through and what did you learn from
Heather: Wow, there
are many. I remember one instance in particular, where
I was sent out on a service call, I met a gentlemen that
stated "Oh, you are a woman." I said, "Yes, last time
I checked." He was skeptical as to my qualifications,
but grunted and pointed at his router, which was not functioning.
I found the problem and explained to him that I trained
all the engineers who normally serviced his needs. He
didn't really know what to say to me, but that's ok. I
love what I do. I love the technology and let's face it
this is a thankless job no matter what your gender is.
Half the time I can't even believe I get paid for what
guest-Dawn asks: Can you describe
your average day at IT Academy?
Chaos. I have an incredible staff and we work as a team
to solve issues as they arise. I don't have a normal day.
Everyday there are new issues to deal with. My job description
is "whatever it takes!" I spend time developing new curriculum,
talk to students, develop sales plans, deal with human
resource issues, accounting and make coffee.
guest-Danielle says: Have you
ever been intimidated by technology and if so, what did
you do to change it?
Heather: Of course.
Technology changes so quickly it is hard to keep up with
it. My approach is to just dive right in. You see, what
we fear, we stay away from so I tend to just close my
eyes and go for it. I find that once I just do it, the
fear goes away. I learned early on that my best defense
is to arm myself with knowledge.
guest-terhi asks: What would
you suggest to women if they have little tech experience
and are looking for a job?
Heather: Apart from
getting the training, I would suggest finding a company
that will take a chance on you. When I first started in
this industry I didn't have much experience and felt insecure,
but I was willing to try my hardest. I found a company
that took a chance on me and was able to really prove
to myself and them that I meant business. Anyone can do
this stuff. It's not rocket science. Just go for it and
commit yourself. You might try being a lab assistant at
a training organization in exchange for training or interning
at a company.
guest-japalon says: What do
I need at home to take online courses?
Heather: You would
of course need a PC with Internet access. Depending on
the specific online course you are interested in, you
would need to download software to access information
and take full advantage of such a program.
guest-Rachel asks: Did you
have any role models or mentors when you were starting
out? And do you have mentors now?
Heather: When I started
in this industry I thought I was the only woman. I hadn't
seen any other women. I really thought there was something
wrong with me and that this may be a phase I would out
grow. At that time there were no networking certifications.
Most of us were flying blind, reading manuals and virtually
no formal training. The first woman I met was Laura Chappell.
She was my instructor for a Novell Administration class.
She and I immediately bonded. She recommended I pursue
becoming a Novell CNI (Certified NetWare Instructor).
After meeting her I thought if she could do it so can
I! I've watched her career over the years and she continues
to be a friend and an inspiration to me.
guest-Eva says: Did you always
know you were headed in this direction?
Heather: No, I still
don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I've never
treated what I do as a career although I guess after 15
years that is exactly what it is. I've always told myself
that whenever I stopped having fun doing what I'm doing
that I would do something else, but that has never happened.
guest-terhi asks: What is
your advice to women who want to become entrepreneurs?
Heather: Go with your
gut. Listen to your instincts, they're usually right.
Don't be afraid to take chances and fail. Making mistakes
is natural and expected. Sometimes you just have to close
your eyes and jump off that cliff. My philosophy has been
"Make it so". If I want to achieve a goal in my personal
or business life this is my mantra. It is extremely powerful
and allows me to keep focused. Don't let obstacles get
in your way. Be creative and find a way around them, that
is the trick!
Moderator: Heather, you are a true inspiration!
guest-japalon says: How
has the slowing economy affected your company?
Heather: That's a
good question. It really hasn't because we have extremely
valuable and unique training products. I wasn't sure at
first how things would pan out, but this year even through
a cyclically slow time we are operating a maximum capacity
in our courses, which is great. The type of training we
offer is not mainstream and is only offered by a few companies
in the world so we'll see.
Moderator: Heather, what types
of services do you offer your students, other than the
Heather: We offer
video based training and mentoring. We have an in house
library of videos that students can check out and take
home or to their hotel, which allows them to review modules
they may have missed in class or didn't understand. We
also provide on site training and custom training. We
can customize our curriculum to our customers needs.
guest-Karla asks: What are
your plans for the future?
for the future...
Like everyone else, I don't like to box myself in -- I
like to keep my options open. I listen to my clients,
to my students, for what the next move is. I shape my
career based on what I find interesting. I'm a strong
believer in doing what I like to do... that keeps me going.
It shapes my career as I go along. It's very self motivational!
Moderator: Heather, we're
almost out of time here. But before we go, do you have
any advice for aspiring GirlGeeks out there?
yourself every day to be the best that you can be, and
support other women in this industry.
Moderator: Thank you so much for your inspirational
Moderator: A special Thank You Heather for chatting