ITWorks Las Vegas Student Spotlight - Cynara Gillenwater

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Our Las Vegas class is kicking off their Fall session today! Students will embark on an intensive 16-week training program, gaining two IT certifications and real-life IT job experience in an internship at the tail end of the session. We sat down with new student Cynara, who loves working with computers and is excited to learn more and launch a career in information technology.

ITWorks: What have you been doing prior to starting ITWorks in regards to work and/or school?
Cynara: After I graduated from high school, I took a couple of semesters at CSN. I decided to take some time off to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was originally a journalism major, but I didn’t really like it as a career and I knew I wanted to get into computers. Thanks to my grandmother, computers have always been a big part of my life. I learned how to spell my name on a keyboard before I even did on paper. So I started taking classes at UNLV for a computer science degree.

ITW: How did you hear about the ITWorks program? What made you decide to apply?
C: My grandfather read an article about it in the Review Journal, and he knew that I liked computers so he passed it along. It sounded like a really great opportunity! I have never really learned the hardware side of computers, and I thought this would be a great way to get hands-on experience, an internship, and certifications in a short period of time.

ITW: What are you most looking forward to about the 11-week classroom portion of the program? Anything you are nervous about?
C: I’m mostly just excited! I have been waiting in anticipation for quite some time, so I’m eager to dive right in and learn as much as I can. And it’s going to be really cool to be around other people who are interested in the same things that I am – a classroom full of nerds sounds like fun. I’m just excited for all of it to be honest!

ITW: What are you excited about during the internship? Is there a specific experience you are hoping to walk away with?
C: Ideally, it would be great to find employment wherever I am able to complete my internship, but getting any hands-on experience is what I’m hoping to gain. It’s the portion of the program that I’m most nervous about since I have limited work experience, but I think with the support of my family and the program that I’ll be able to do the best that I can!

ITW: What do you think graduation will be like? Any anxiety about looking for a job? How do you think ITWorks can support you during the job search process?
C: I think it will be one of the greatest accomplishments so far in my life! I know my family is already really proud of me for being accepted in the program, but having them there to see me graduate that day is going to feel amazing. I’m also hoping to make some close friends with my classmates, so it will be great to celebrate our success together! After graduation, I plan to continue my Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science and find some part-time work in the IT field. I think with my experience and certifications, I should be able to find something to complement my coursework.

ITW: What is your ultimate career goal(s)? Where do you want to be in the next year or two? 10-15 years?
C: In the first few years, I would be happy with any entry-level position whether it be on help desk or in the networking field. I have become really interested in cyber security recently, and would love to join the FBI – not only for the ability to be part of such an esteemed organization but the paycheck is quite appealing as well. Video games have always been close to my heart and I would like to work on making my own as an indie developer. There’s a lot of options out there so I’m just taking things a step at a time.

ITW: What has been/will be the impact of ITWorks in your life?
C: It will give a great jumpstart and will move everything forward that I’ve been hoping for and working towards. I think it will open up new avenues to pursue and new connections to people that I wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to meet. And it will give me the confidence to pursue the dreams that I already have.

ITW: What are your hopes for the future of ITWorks in Las Vegas?
C: I really hope it succeeds! I know that Las Vegas in particular is hurting for young people in the IT field. This is an amazing opportunity for people like me to get into the field and find employment. There’s all these great places with open IT positions and it’s so much better to have them filled locally than to have them outsourced. I’m so happy ITWorks is here in the Valley.

ITW: Why do you think programs like ITWorks are important? What benefits do they bring?
C: It offers a great opportunity to people who might otherwise pursue this field. We are getting the chance to be certified and gain unique hands-on experience and it’s all for free – which blows my mind! It’s an amazing opportunity for anyone who has any interest in IT.

ITW: After you complete the program, what is the one thing you are most excited about?
C: I’m really excited to start applying for jobs that I’m actually qualified for! And the confidence I’ll gain knowing that I can do the things that I’ve always wanted to.

ITW: Do you have any non-tech-related hobbies?  
C: I am really interested in creative writing – just not professionally as I found out. I spend most of my free time drawing or playing video games. I also sometimes bake, sew, play piano and go hiking, although I’m not too proficient in any given hobby since I hop in between interests too much.  My current quest is to cobble together recipes of puff pastries so that I can create the perfect replica of a Poké Puff from the Pokémon games.

ITW: Anything else we should know?
C: I am really grateful for this opportunity and I look forward to this semester with my instructors and fellow classmates! I’d also like to take this chance to plug in my website www.cynara.us which has absolutely nothing on it! Keep it saved on a bookmark and perhaps forbidden and fantastic secrets of the universe (such as the recipe of the aforementioned Poké Puff) will be revealed in the future.

ITWorks is off to a great start with a promising class of students this Fall, but we could still use some volunteers! Sign up to volunteer with ITWorks Las Vegas today:

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