The pioneering spirit is alive and well in Colorado’s tech industry, as well as in one of its leaders, Andrea Young. Young became the CEO of the Colorado Tech Association (CTA) in 2016, and has since been working to prepare Colorado’s workforce to fill the lucrative tech jobs already available in its backyard.
The CTA began in 1994 with hopes to shift the hardware-centric tech industry towards understanding software. Infrastructure developments like the Denver Tech Center and tech innovations like the internet vastly altered the CTA’s reach, but Young says software is still at the heart of the organization. “If you think about what is going on today, everything is based on software,” she said. “We saw a huge increase over the last five years in software development jobs [due to] the digital transformation that’s going on in business.”
As CEO, her main task is to make sure the association “advance[s] the tech industry in the state of Colorado.” The CTA makes use of several public-private partnerships to create “a long-term, sustainable pipeline” of talented individuals prepared to take jobs in the burgeoning STEM field. Growing the tech workforce also helps “diversify the economic development footprint in Colorado,” Young said—another way to ensure a dynamic, adaptive, nimble economy that can sustain generations of workers.
There’s one largely untapped source of talent that also brings much-needed diversity into the tech world: women. Young said that attracting more women into STEM positions benefits the entire industry. “When you have diversity you have diversity of ideas. Women represent 85% of the consumer buying that goes on nationally and internationally and so when you include them in the solutions then it leads to better business models,” she said.
The CTA hosts several events to help support women in STEM fields and encourage girl to pursue related jobs. The annual Women in Tech conference is the CTA’s fastest-selling event, and this year will feature an additional one-day event for ninth and tenth grade girls called She Tech.
At She Tech, 50-70 girls from the Denver area will come together and spend the day learning about careers in tech from women who are in tech. The CTA event is a branch of the national She Tech organization, which began in Utah and now services over 1,000 girls each year. “It’s all this movement towards increased awareness for the sake of us being able to have a sustainable workforce,” Andrea Young explained.
Young hopes that such efforts draw women into a field she says is still male-dominated. “Because there’s been some real intention set upon having a diverse workforce and including women and girls in the field, I think there’s been progress made,” she said.
Featured Image Courtesy of: Colorado Tech Association (CTA)