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Shirley testing electronics Women in IT Career Associations

Women's Success Stories

Abigail works on a computer server


Age 31, Chinese
Information Systems Administrator I
Employed by City College of San Francisco (CCSF)

“I believe a lot of women can work in Computer Networking. Do whatever you need to do to grab that opportunity. That opportunity is not going to go after you.”

Career Quick Look
Salary: $48K - $65K Education:
Years in Field: Six years Laney College and the College of Alameda, 2.5 years B.A. in Business Administration, San Francisco State University, with a concentration in Computer Information Systems
City/State: Oakland, CA  

"I believe a lot of women can work in Computer Networking. Do whatever you need to do to grab that opportunity. That opportunity is not going to go after you."

Getting Started: Shirley Ho developed an interest in computers thanks to her younger brother, who taught her how to fix a computer, set up a simple network, and set up a computer lab. Her specific interest in computer networking emerged when she took a course taught by an inspiring professor. After she graduated, Shirley started out as a Computer Specialist for the Oakland Public Library for six months. Then she landed her current position as an Information Systems Analyst I at City College of San Francisco, working in the Information Technology Services department. Soon, she was assigned as the primary technical support person for students and faculty in the Computer Networking Information Systems and Computer Sciences departments. Shirley also supports the wireless network on campus.

Education: After graduating from Oakland Technical High School, Shirley went to Laney College and the College of Alameda for 2-1/2 years, before she transferred to San Francisco State, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, with a concentration in Computer Information Systems. The variety of courses she took gave her lots of great experience and basic knowledge that helps her in her job today. She especially appreciated a hands-on course involving the set up of an e-commerce site.

Greatest Professional Achievement: Shirley sees her most significant contribution as managing the wireless help desk at City College of San Francisco. She supervises student workers there, and is also working on a new website for the help desk, a new online sign-up process, and an educational video describing the wireless configuration process. She has earned the trust of her management, and soon hopes to redesign the whole model of the wireless network.

Barriers: Shirley finds that she sometimes has to ask for help with lifting and carrying very heavy computer equipment, but she has always been able to get the help she needs from co-workers.

Working with Men: In Shirley’s current work group, there are just 8 or 10 women out of a total staff of 35, but she doesn’t see this as a drawback. “Men will respect you in this industry, I don’t find a problem with it. As long as your knowledge is as good as theirs, then you can talk to them in many, many ways.” she says. “Just make yourself very competitive like them.”

Advice for Women: Shirley advises women who want to explore the computer networking field to do research online or take classes in the field to see if they enjoy it. She recommends that this education continue once employed. “In the computer industry, technology changes a lot, so we just have to keep reading more books, taking more classes to prepare ourselves with the newer technology or to advance,” she says. Shirley also recommends that women interested in advancing in their careers in this field get certified by CISCO or Microsoft; certification is a stepping stone which can lead to positions with better pay and more responsibilities.

Typical Workday/Environment: Shirley is the lab manager for the computer labs used by students in her departments, so she prepares all the computers before each semester begins with software and protection from viruses, and then makes sure they’re running smoothly each day. She also manages a server for the Computer Networking Information Technology department which is primarily used to supply Microsoft software for students to download. She provides technical support to staff and faculty in her departments as well. In her role as the manager of the wireless help desk, she signs up students and sets up accounts for students for the wireless network. Her job involves working at a great number of computers throughout each day, communicating with many people, and trouble-shooting computer problems. She performs her work in an office environment, and the dress code is quite casual (she can wear jeans to work).

Career Ladder: Shirley believes that this career offers much potential, and her annual salary has increased by $14,000 after six years in the same position. In the future, she plans to move into more sophisticated work including routers, switches and firewalls. “If I want to do different stuff, I can take more classes and read more books,” says Shirley. She also sometimes volunteers in a role she wants to learn about. She says “You have to go after any opportunity you want yourself.”

Professional Associations: Shirley is a member of her local union, SEIU Local 1021.

Hobbies: When she’s not studying to keep up in her field, Shirley enjoys shopping, surfing the web, watching TV, and working out at the gym.


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