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Salary: $69,760* Education:
Years in Field: 4 A.A. in Computer Science from CCRI (Micro Computing Systems & Networking Technology); working towards Cisco Certified Network Associate Certificate
City/State: Cranston, RI View Mary T. Dugan's Resume

"You can't take no for an answer. You must make the extra effort to achieve your goals, you can't expect things to be given to you."

"This industry looks promising for women. Your minority status helps because you will be hired more quickly."


Getting Started: Seven years ago, Mary Dugan found herself facing enormous obstacles. Suddenly left alone to support four children with no educational background, piles of unpaid bills, a broken-down car and an eviction notice, Mary needed some help. She received some assistance through the Family Self-Sufficiency Program to get her back on her feet and pursue a job or an education. Desiring a more secure future, Mary chose education and was introduced to the Sphere Program (now an EOC Program), which provided job training and education for low income families.

Education:

Feeling restricted and struggling with low self esteem due to her circumstances, Mary found a mentor at the Sphere Program who introduced her to the Adult Learning Center, to freshen up Mary's remedial skills and prepare her to pass her skills test and pursue an education. Mary scored high marks in human resources and humanities in her assessment test, but was more interested in a technology career because she wanted to make enough money to support herself and her four children. Despite being discouraged from it, Mary decided to go against the odds and pursue a technology program at CCRI even though she had a limited educational background and no knowledge of computers. She persevered by telling herself, "if I put my mind to it, I can do anything." Mary started at CCRI in 1997, but decided to take things slow and only enrolled in 3 classes. She did well in these, which boosted her confidence, and continued as a full time student the following semester. Mary had to start from the beginning at CCRI with introductory math and computer classes, but was determined to continue and did so despite the difficulty. And once introduced to them, Mary discovered that she loved working with computers! She started the computer science and networking program when it was introduced to CCRI in 1999 and hasn't looked back since.

Greatest Professional Achievement: Mary considers just having made it this far to be her greatest accomplishment yet. She overcame her lack of education and faced her fears about entering into a world of technology that was completely foreign to her. She now boosts a 3.8 GPA and a bright future ahead. Other accomplishments include earning a $1000 scholarship in an essay writing competition through the Family Self-Sufficiency Program. From this, she received a letter from the mayor congratulating her success.

Barriers: Mary first had to overcome her educational limitations and dyslexia, but she was determined to succeed and so started from the very beginning with basic math, reading and computer classes. This required a lot of hard work and long hours of studying on Mary's part, but "I was always willing to do what it took to accomplish my goal," she states. Mary's education was also delayed a semester due to health problems and her program requirements had changed when she returned to school, further delaying her graduation. But Mary considers this a benefit after all because she is receiving extra education, which will only make her more confident and more qualified for a job when she graduates.

Working with Men: Mary is one of only a handful of women in the Computer Science program and attends classes filled mostly with young men. But Mary is not intimidated and works as hard as necessary to prove herself. She studies the material for her own knowledge and confidence and always asks plenty of questions about what she doesn't know. But Mary also overcomes her minority status by working to encourage a communal learning environment in her classrooms. If she doesn't understand something, she sets aside her pride and just asks her classmates for help, which focuses attention more on the material, rather that the differences among the students.

Advice for Women: A degree from the Computer Science program opens many doors of opportunity, but Mary advises to research the industry and find out exactly what it is you want to do to ensure your happiness and success in that field. She also advises doing an internship to get exposure to your chosen field and to build your resume. She feels that women should take their education into their own hands and shouldn't be afraid to ask questions and talk to department heads to ask for advice as to which classes should be taken first and what skills are necessary. But her main piece of advice is this, "Don't take no for an answer. You must make the extra effort to achieve your goals; you can't expect things to be given to you. Don't ever let go of what is most important to you."

Typical Workday/Environment: Mary describes the Computer Science degree as multi-functional, preparing the individual for all aspects of computer networking. The job itself is multi-faceted involving hands-on work, such as running cables and fiber optics, and highly technical computer work, such as configuring switches, and working with routers or binary networks. Troubleshooting is the most essential job skill for a computer network technician. You must be self-sufficient and able to figure out problems on your own, starting with the step-by-step basics. A computer network technician must also develop the social skills necessary to be able to work with different kinds of people running different kinds of companies.

Career Ladder: Depending on where you live and who you work for, starting annual salary for an entry-level computer network technician can range from $38,000-$50,000 per year. Getting your foot in the door is the most important step, but raises and promotions can be achieved quickly if you work hard. Computer network technicians are often required to work long or odd hours and must sometimes be on-call to solve potential problems. The top salary for this industry is essentially limitless depending on your experience and work ability, and can easily exceed $100,000 per year.

Professional Associations:None.

Hobbies:Mary loves her kids before all else and enjoys spending her free time with them swimming and camping. One of the main assets of Mary's education is that it has enabled her to help her children with their homework. Mary has turned education into a kind of hobby at home. She and her children enjoy studying together and participating in reading and educational programs at the local library.

*Annual salary number is not the role model's actual salary. Salary for Computer Networking based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition

 


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