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Published: September 29, 2014

UT Tech Club Bridges Academia with Industry

Sarah Zaki ’15 said she was the kid in her family who was good with computers; the one people went to for help. She’s always been a fan of technology but never considered a career with it.

“I feel like nobody plans to start out in technology. I wanted to be a veterinarian for less than half a semester,” said Zaki, who stumbled into management information systems (MIS) through a Career Services event and quickly changed majors. “Everything is structured. I’m a very organized and detail-oriented person. The core of MIS is business analyses. It’s tedious, but it’s logical to me.”

Zaki describes MIS as a mixture of business principles and computer science where graduates have a business level knowledge of technology.

“You act as a bridge between techy folks and management,” said Zaki, now the president of the Technology Club at UT and unofficial champion of the MIS degree. She has made it her mission to educate her peers on the industry and its opportunities

Zaki spent this summer interning with Tribridge, a Tampa technology services firm, whose human resources director was in attendance at a UT Career Services event. Zaki introduced herself, and several interviews later, had landed the internship working in the customer relationship management department.

She has also turned an internship earned through one of Career Services internship fairs last year into a part-time job. She works for Websults from home mostly, with weekly meetings across the street at Oxford Exchange. She provides search engine optimization, website design and client customer service.

Last year, Career Services and the MIS department hosted a panel discussion with technology leaders outlining the variety of opportunities available in the field. Organizers initially anticipated an audience of 40 students but instead hosted more than 220, many of them freshmen and sophomores still deciding on their majors or accompanying minors.

Zaki’s technology club has partnered with the Tampa Bay Technology Forum (TBTF) in providing a vast and robust list of networking opportunities, business tours and conference workshops for students to attend. Just last week Zaki organized a group of students in attending the forum’s Tech Trends event on information security, hearing from speakers like the chief of cyber security at U.S. CENTCOM and information security leaders at The Home Depot, Bright House Networks and Raymond James Financial. Last year, the club attended the forum’s Tech Trek, visiting technology companies on a bus tour around town.

“People don’t know about opportunities, and I don’t blame them,” said Zaki, of Temple Terrace, FL. “I didn’t know about them, and I grew up here.”

Zaki is working with the forum in bringing Chris Cate, the chief information officer of Cox Target Media (provider of Valpak and Savings.com) to campus on Oct. 2 for a Career Services and technology club co-hosted event in the series, Lessons in Leadership. The event runs from 4:30-6:30 p.m. in Riverside 102.

“The series is designed to bring in local business leaders to share with our students about their lessons learned, their journey as leaders and tips and strategies for being successful,” said Katie Meyer-Griffith, associate director of Graduate Career Services and Strategic Initiatives.

It’s just one of the ways the University is helping equip students not just for technology jobs, but for keeping our top talent here in town. Tampa mirrors the national trend of having a gap between the tech jobs available and the talent to fill them.

“Organizations, including the TBTF, are attempting to develop programs to assist with both the awareness of positions and training of potential applicants to meet the demand of the workforce today,” said Mark Colvenbach, director of UT’s Office of Career Services. “The partnership with Sarah and the student chapter is critical to raising awareness and further connecting students and The University of Tampa to companies and the working world.”

When Zaki came to college, she was followed by ominous warnings about the lack of jobs for graduates. But the gap of MIS jobs and those with technology skills is wide, and she wants to let students know about it.

“You don’t have to be a techy nerd to work in this field,” Zaki said. “I just want to show students what is out there. We love technology, you can make good money and you’re in demand. I’m lucky because I fell into MIS. I want to expose that to others.”

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