Cynthia Pepper is proof that it’s never too late to become a techie. Although she had no background in tech, she decided she would pursue a career in the tech industry when she went back to school after her kids graduated high school. After almost five successful years in Technical Customer Service at OWC, she is living proof that there is a place for anybody who is determined to make it in the industry. It’s appropriate OWC’s WIT Blog series would feature Pepper during Women’s History Month. She is a shining example of a successful woman who has made it in a traditionally male dominated industry.
What made you decide to get into tech?
My kids were grown up and gone, and I went back to school to take some business classes. While taking computer classes, I dabbled in graphics and got hooked. While I was living the dream, I realized I could not stand going into a store and having people tell me what I needed for a computer. I wanted to know what I needed for a computer. I wanted to install my own upgrades. I wasn’t going to give someone $50 to install memory in my laptop. So when I had electives, I took computer classes. By the time I graduated, with high honors I might add, I was only three classes away from a Technical Support degree. So I took the classes, and I loved that, too!
Have there been any challenges you’ve faced as a woman in tech? If so, please describe. If not, why do you think it might be challenging for others?
Well, of course you are going to run up against a good ol’ boy once in a while that is going to be irritated taking advice from a woman and ask to talk to a guy, but you just have to be firm, stand your ground and don’t give them a choice. Without fail, they end up loving you. They will call back and ask for you every time.
Why do you think the tech sector has traditionally had trouble recruiting women?
That I couldn’t tell you. I have always done what I wanted to do. I figured if the guys could do it, so could I. I never gave it a second thought. When I was a kid, we only had a few career options: nurse, teacher, secretary, or wife as far as my father was concerned.
What is your favorite part of your job?
There are so many things I love about my job. I love figuring out what is wrong with something and fixing it. I love finding a solution for workflow. Or maybe it is the customers. I love the customers. Or maybe because I loved shopping here before I ever worked here, it’s my employee discount I love so much! Or maybe it’s working for [OWC founder and CEO] Larry. His energy and creativity is contagious! I love the teamwork. We are a real team here. We help each other. We work together. We welcome new people and make them part of the family. It sounds corny, but it’s true. I love my job!
What do you do to keep up with changes in your field?
I share, I ask questions, I talk to customers, and I read A LOT. I’m not afraid to butt in when I overhear something I want to learn about. I talk, research, pull things apart, put things together, use it, find it, be challenged by it…Whatever it takes to stay current. It’s all about effort and a desire to always improve.
What advice would you give a young woman fresh out of college who is interested in working in the tech field?
Do what you love.
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The ever-evolving technology industry has been traditionally populated by males. And while women comprise 51 percent of the workforce, they only make up 26 percent of tech professionals. This lack of diversity limits the potential for innovation in this exciting and important field. OWC’s Women in Tech articles featured on the OWC Blog aim to examine what can be done to attract more women to the industry by highlighting prominent tech professionals, current events, and other relevant stories from within the tech sector. To gain new insight, it is imperative that we tap into the female working population. This progress can be made not only spreading the word and promoting the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (or STEM) fields from an early age to encourage interest and pursuit, but also by demonstrating that tech companies require alternative skill sets such as marketing, design and writing as well. We hope that you will share this series and help us advocate the complete utilization of this important resource.