The Career Tech Academy celebrated Women’s History Month with a special event focused on women in technology. CTA-IT instructor Christie Hart coordinated an interactive evening with program information and tours, and a panel featuring accomplished women with careers in Information Technology. Hart also announced she’s launching a new “Women in Technology” club this fall.

Panelists included Holly Elliott (Microsoft), Kelly Shotwell (SVHEC), Diamon Barksdale (Microsoft), Marissa James (Microsoft), Takeita Hepburn (Microsoft), and Ashley Pedro (SVHEC & student). The panelists discussed their journeys into tech careers, the challenges they’ve faced and lessons learned.

“Being a female in a male dominated role can be intimidating but don’t let that stop you. If this is something that you want go for it,” James shared. She continued, “Coming from a small town like this and having the job that I do now it kind of blows my mind sometimes and I’m like ‘Wow, I did that!’ Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.”

Takeita Hepburn shared some initial challenges she had as a new IT tech and spoke on the importance of giving herself grace. “I had to learn to give myself grace and say ‘It’s ok. You’re going to get it.’ And now I’m in such a better space than I was to begin with and it’s a blessing and I’m completely overwhelmed with so much joy that I can be a representation for girls who look up to us.”

Ashley Pedro who completed the CTA-IT program in 2023 and is currently working part-time at SVHEC while continuing her education encouraged others to “Take that first step. Just do it…try it out. I did that and I’m loving it.”

Holly Elliott shared that she took a longer route to finding a career in tech. “It took me quite a few years–I went to nursing school, I got an Associate’s in business…I did so many things figuring out what I wanted to do.” She encouraged others to use their time in high school to enroll in programs like the Career Tech Academy where they can explore if they might like a tech career.

She also encouraged attendees to consider the local opportunities to continue their education. “You don’t have to go to that big school when you graduate high school to make it. You have opportunities right here in this County…just try it.” After trying many different paths, Elliott eventually started working at the datacenter in Clarksville. She enrolled in the IT Academy’s very first course and attended class four nights a week after working all day. Her time in the IT Academy allowed her to clarify her career goals while providing her with useful skills to advance her career. “My career has grown significantly. There are so many opportunities and they’re right in front of you. There are so many places in technology that you can learn.”

To take the next step towards your tech career complete the Enroll Today form.

For more information on the Women in Technology (W.I.T) club email .