Demystifying the Field of Information Technology

Demystifying the Field of Information Technology

What do General Mills, Veritas Technologies<, classrooms/students in the metro area, and the Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence have in common?   They have Tech IT Out! MN — which matches Information Technology (I.T.) professionals from General Mills and Veritas Technologies with middle and high school classrooms in the metro area.  In many cases, the one hour interactive presentations with secondary age students is the first opportunity for young people to discover what I.T. is, who works in I.T., where I.T. happens, and why is I.T. essential to business success.


Tech it Out! MN — Demystifying the Field of Information Technology

Technology teacher Norma Hall and some of her students from East View High School in Apple Valley, show their appreciation of General Mill’s presenter, Richard Gustafson.


The engaging presenters  share their journey into their respective roles as well as introduce students to a diverse spectrum of technology careers and opportunities.  Presenters are intentional with their messages, addressing common misconceptions about I.T. workers, while shedding light on the diversity and excitement of I.T. careers.  Demystifying I.T.  is often the first step to opening a student’s mind to technology education and career options.  Post presentation survey results from nearly 3,000 youth consistently reveals positively changed perceptions, and significantly improved interest in what the field has to offer.


Tech it Out! MN — Demystifying the Field of Information Technology

During Fall Semester 2017, over 400 students from 16 different metro area high schools discovered what a day in the life of an I.T. professional is like at a major food company and a data management company — and, they learned how information technology significantly  impacts nearly every thriving business and organization in Minnesota, across the nation, and throughout the world. Locally, Minneapolis South High School students experienced a Tech IT Out! MN presentation by Veritas Technologies employees, Annette Tousley, Eric Swenson, and Marigelle Malapria.  Math and Computer Science teacher Karl Griffin invited the Veritas presenters into two classes to help bring student’s learning about Veritas Technologies…… to life.


According to survey results from presenters, teachers and students, the Tech IT Out! experience is clearly hitting the mark.  Students were asked to describe their perception of technology work and career opportunities, BEFORE and then AFTER the presentation.  As indicated by fall semester students, their knowledge and interest in I.T. changed as follows:



I know very little about IT roles and careers 41% 9% +32%
Is fun and interesting 36% 61% +25%
Is not too difficult for me 17% 34.5% +17.5%
Is collaborative/team-oriented 17% 48.5% +31.5%
Is personally rewarding 18% 42% +24%
It’s about solving problems 38.5% 57.5% +19%
A career I’m interested in 31.5% 42.5% +11%


Company representatives also report great value in the experience.  When asked, Deb Wilmot, NetBackup Support, Backline at VeritasTechnologies, had this to say following her multiple presentations to students from Spectrum High School in Elk River, “I have presented Tech IT Out presentations several times now at two different high schools and I thoroughly enjoyed every session.   I love seeing the excitement in student’s faces when I talk to them about the career possibilities within I.T.  Many of them have the perception that I.T. equates to only program and development.  They don’t realize that there are dozens of different roles within the umbrella of I.T. which require many different skill sets, talents and aptitudes.  The students I talk to are our future, I hope that my time with them have inspired them to pursue their dreams.  It always makes my day when I get to interact with the students.”


Tech it Out! MN — Demystifying the Field of Information Technology

Veritas Technologies presenter Deb Wilmot poses with technology teacher Amanda Mackareth and some of her Spectrum High School students following a recent interaction.


Rich Gustafson, Application Analyst at General Mills, reveals  this about his interaction with students at Eastview High School in Apple Valley.  “Sharing my knowledge with the students is one of the most important and rewarding things I do all year. I tailor my talk to how I arrived at my present position, and what a typical day is like at General Mills. I talk about the benefits of a career in I.T., such as excellent compensation, job security, and a flexible work-life balance, which at times can be a crucial aspect of my job. I think it also resonates with them when I say that I.T. is not just sitting in front of a computer all day; it’s also collaboration around the room and around the world to build and support an excellent product.  I also like to emphasize what they can do now to prepare for a career in I.T.  Not just the technical side, but also the interpersonal communication, debate and public speaking skills, and confidence to disagree respectfully and compromise. We can teach employees JavaScript, but it’s much more difficult to teach them how to be valued members of a team.”



Employers: The Minnesota State – IT Center of Excellence is considering adding more employers to provide future presentations.  Materials and support are provided, making it simple and easy for presenters to become engaged.