Are you one of those who has heard enviously about all the exciting career opportunities in technology—but thought, “That’s not for me. I don’t plan to pursue a degree in engineering or computer science.”
If so, I have good news for you. There is another door into the technology industry: business school.
I know that may sound counterintuitive, at first. Many people assume a stereotypical role of business executives in an organization: that they’re the people in suits who don’t really understand technology, but somehow have to manage and oversee the “techies” and brainiacs who run the IT operation.
Actually, countless college students across the country are now preparing for lucrative careers in technology by earning their undergraduate business degrees. They’re doing it through studies in a discipline commonly called Information Systems (IS).
This is important news for everyone preparing to launch or change careers to consider. It is especially of interest to minorities, who have historically been underrepresented in the technology sector, because it offers another doorway into the field.
What is Information Systems?
Information Systems is the business discipline that marries business in a technology that differs from traditional fields like computer science, engineering and programming.
The IS course of study is:
■ Broader than computer programming
■ The study of the communication and information systems that organizations use.
■ Taking the programs that computer scientists and engineers develop, and using them to run a business.
When you think about it, this makes complete sense. In the old days, technology in a business was a department— the people who ran the computer systems that everyone else used daily.
Today, technology is everywhere. It is no longer a part of the organization; it is the organization in many ways. Technology is fully embedded into the heart of how businesses and organizations function. As a result, technology is no longer the sole province of the engineers and the “geeks”—it’s part of everything we do.
Opportunities for Minorities
Information Systems professors who are participants in the program that KPMG Foundation created, The PhD Project, have been active in encouraging minority undergraduates to consider this career path. They recognize that many underrepresented minorities are the first in their families to attend college, and may not have been exposed to role models in the technology fields. So these professors are stepping into that role. Several of them are even reaching into high schools and elementary schools to start planting the seeds: There are good jobs waiting in the technology fields for African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans even if they don’t think a degree in engineering or computer science is what they want.
“Many people think programming is 90 percent of the pie,” says PhD Project Professor Dr. Alisha Malloy of North Carolina Central University. “But it’s just a small piece of the pie.”
“Anywhere employers are using (technology) systems, our students can go,” adds Dr. John Warren, a PhD Project professor and assistant dean of recruiting at the University of Texas—San Antonio.
Dr. Warren, Dr. Malloy and other PhD Project colleagues have seen IS students land jobs at Apple, Google, KPMG, ExxonMobil, GE, Johnson & Johnson, Shell Oil, IBM and many others. They work in such fields as cybersecurity, networking, database management, systems analysis and more.
PhD Project faculty are at universities all over the nation. As minorities themselves, they are eager and passionate about reaching out to minority students about the opportunities in their field. They understand exactly why they have to step forward as role models.
“When students think, ‘What am I going to major in?’ they really want to see someone in the field who looks like them,” says PhD Project professor Dr. Adrianne Randolph of Kennesaw State University. “They think, ‘I’m going somewhere I will feel welcome and find somebody who understands me and can mentor me.’ Too often in the technology field, they just see white males.”
The IS professors quoted in this article are working to change that. They are letting you in on one of the best-kept secrets in the technology sector: you can prepare for a tech career, and land a great job, with a degree in…business.