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News & Press: Colorado Technology Industry

No experience required: Breaking into Colorado's high-tech job market

Tuesday, February 21, 2012  
Posted by: Catharine Lurie
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No experience required: Breaking into Colorado's high-tech job market


DENVER - They are some of the highest paying jobs in the private sector, and there are a lot of them waiting to be filled. An Aurora Police officer made it happen, and so did a barista in Boulder. They both say anybody can do it.

Colorado currently ranks third in the nation for the highest concentration of high tech jobs and you can break into this growing business with no prior experience. Colorado's success rate for new businesses is 77 percent.

"This is where all the magic happens," Trish Groom said, opening the door on her second-story boardroom.

It overlooks the Flatirons, and sits just blocks away from where Groom graduated from University of Colorado with a degree in Spanish. Back then, she had plans on seeing the world.

Today, now 31 years old, her world is wrapped up in technology and she never saw it coming.
"I didn't think I'd ever be behind a desk. I never thought I'd be in technology, or on a computer all day," Groom said standing in the doorway of her office.

It's quite an interesting story how she got here. You can say it started while she was backpacking in South America and got a crazy idea.

"I had never drank a cup of coffee so for my 25th birthday I came home and bought a coffee shop," she said.

It was called Sidney's and Groom learned all about being a business owner and a barista on the job. One day, a problem presented itself when Groom started noticing customers at the back of her line weren't willing to wait.

The initial solution was to have customers text message their order. That turned into a mobile app that allows you expedite the ordering and pick-up process using a tablet or smartphone.
Fast forward four years and Groom's application development company, SplickIt, links customers to some 1,000 quick serve restaurants.

"SplickIt came from lickety split, keeping it super fast," Groom said.

Groom eventually sold Sidney's to pursue app development, and if wouldn't have been possible without her customers, who brought the knowledge and capital she needed to start her business.

"The best part is that [co-founder] Rob [Taylor] convinced [CFO] Tom [Plunkett] to not only work for free, but to put money in the company while doing that," former intern and new employee Linds Panther said.

Today, SplickIt's goal is to become a billion dollar company with roughly a dozen employees. Most of them did not major in technology-related fields.

Groom says the key to her success so far is being able to learn what she doesn't know.
"To be honest with you, because I didn't know anything about technology, I've had to learn a massive amount of information, and be open to learning," she said.

It's something Steve Foster also understands.

"Probably the one phrase I hear most in the technology industry is, 'We will figure it out,'" he said.

Foster heads up his own software company, called Business Controls, and is also president of the Colorado Technology Association, a nonprofit focused on growing our state's technology community.

Foster broke into the business in the 90s with no more than a high school diploma and 14 years experience as an Aurora Police officer.

"I came to work and said, 'There's got to be an easier way to earn $47,000 a year,'" Foster said.

Like Groom, Foster found the right people to help him start his business which develops software that allows companies to track employee misconduct. He eventually went to college, and today he works with start-ups like SplickIt to keep Colorado's Technology community moving forward. He and Groom are both proof there are many paths to break into technology today.

According the Colorado Technology Association, Colorado is an attractive place to start a company for a couple of reasons including: a simplified income tax structure, and tax credits given to startups that create jobs.

For individuals looking at the technology sector, but do not have a background in IT or a degree in the field, the Colorado Technology Association says high-tech employers also need account managers, graphic artists, marketing, sales, quality control, business analysis, testers, and project managers.

Some start-ups are also willing to train employees on the job, but you must be opening to learning, and networking is key to get your foot in the door if you don't have prior experience.
Community colleges, DeVry University, Regis University, CU, Colorado State University, and the University of Denver all offer courses in technology and county workforce centers can help those unemployed break into the field with relevant training.

Search the latest high tech job openings through the Colorado Technology Association at http://www.coloradotechnology.org or http://www.coloradotechnology.org/networking/.
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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