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Heather's full bioAnita Borg

1 What are your responsibilities at IT Academy?

2 How do women get into an industry that is predominately male?

3 What is the toughest thing you've experienced in your career and how did you get through it?

4 What's an average day like at IT Academy?

5 Has technology ever intimidated you?

6 Any suggestions for women with limited experience who are looking for a job?

7 What equipment do I need to take online courses?

8 Do you have any role models or mentors?

9 Have you always been headed in this direction?

10 Do you have any advice for women who want to be entrepreneurs?

11 How has the slowing economy affected your company?

12 What types of services do you offer?

13 What are your plans for the future?

14 Do you have any advice for aspiring GirlGeeks?
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 numerous certifications.

Moderator: Hi Heather! Thanks for chatting with us today!

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 it?

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 I do!

guest-Dawn asks: Can you describe your average day at IT Academy?

Heather: Controlled 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 training?

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?

Heather: Challenges 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?

Heather: Challenge 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 advice!

Moderator: A special Thank You Heather for chatting with us!


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