by Penny Grogan Tennessee Market Director | Zayo Group/TN HIMSS VP of Sponsorships

Not every technology career begins with a person interested in technology.  Not every technology career is linked to a technology degree.

Growing up in a rural/farm community, technology or a technology career was never a subject of conversation. Dad was a blue collar working for what was then the CE&I railroad which eventually became the CSX Railroad. Mom was a homemaker.

One of my very first jobs was as a farm laborer “cutting” corn out of beans. If you are not familiar with that term, farmers rotate their crops each year between their corn crop and their bean crop to help sustain the nutrients in the soil. The laborers were also tasked with cutting the weeds out of the field as well.  Prior to machinery/technology and the advancement of herbicides, laborers had to physically cut the left over “corn” and weeds from the bean field.  That job helped support the family and provide a little spending money for myself.

I held many jobs through my teen years including babysitting, waitressing, and dishwashing.  As a junior and senior in high school, my mom insisted I take, typing, accounting, and short hand in order to become a secretary.  There was technology involved in the typing and accounting but quite limited to the electronic type writer and an adding machine.

During my senior year, I was able to be part of the work program which meant I went to school in the mornings and work in the afternoons.  I was quite honored to be chosen to work at the IL Dept of Transportation (IDOT) as the second secretary in the Department of Planning for 22 men.  During that year, the Lanier word processor came out.  That was my first real experience into the world of computers.

After HS graduation, I was able to go to work full time for IDOT. This time in the department of administration and worked with the word processor as well as a Dictaphone, processing insurance and worker’s compensation claims. With college not seeming to be an option due to finances,   I had long ago decided I would leave my small part of the world moving to Houston, TX in 1982.  I spent nine years there developing additional skills and making my way to what would become my technology career.

The winter of 1991, I found myself in Nashville, working for a small woman owned company that provided technical products to businesses – selling into their Data Centers. Along the way I had married, had a child, and continued to expand my knowledge on technical products and Data Centers.

My career progressed and in 2008 was employed by a data center and cloud provider. Wearing multiple hats with that organization until 2014, I learned about data center infrastructure, cloud infrastructure and network connectivity along with enhancing my business management, marketing, and sales skills as well as completing my undergraduate in business. Today, I can proudly say I have earned my BS in Business and work for an innovative global communications infrastructure services provider, The Zayo Group. Leading firms leverage its fiber network and carrier-neutral colocation facilities at over 24,000 locations across North America and Europe.

On this journey, here are the lessons I’ve learned:

  1. Hard work does pay off
  2. Be responsible and accountable for your actions
  3. Listen, really listen
  4. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone
  5. Look to help others achieve their objectives