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2024 Technology Career Exhibit coming to Fox Cities PAC

The event aims to enlighten, empower students in Northeast Wisconsin

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February 6, 2024

APPLETON — According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information technology occupations are projected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations from 2022-32 — with about 377,500 openings projected each year.

With this in mind, the Northeast Wisconsin (NEW) Digital Alliance is hosting a 2024 Technology Career Exhibit Feb. 27 at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center (PAC) — which aims to expose students to the dynamic and diverse world of technology careers.

Through the event, high school juniors and seniors from districts throughout Northeast Wisconsin, as well as first and second-semester students from Fox Valley Technical College are invited to explore the different career paths in the tech sector.

Event Organizer Wendy Rosploch — the vice president of digital transformation at Mars Wrigley Snacking and the former division information and digital officer for Kimberly-Clark — said the exhibit is designed to inspire curiosity, ignite passion and provide insights into the various paths available within the technology industry.

From software development and cybersecurity to artificial intelligence and data science, Rosploch said the exhibit will showcase the exciting opportunities that await students in the rapidly evolving tech landscape.

Event origins
Rosploch said the origins of the event were twofold.

The first was sparked by her attendance to the Beyond Van Gogh exhibit.

Rosploch said she realized what a unique experience it was, and the next morning wrote a concept brief about what a career exhibit for young adults could look like.

The idea for the event was also inspired by a staggering statistic from the National Association of Manufacturing and Deloitte, which reported the U.S. will have a shortage of up to 3.5 million STEM workers by 2025.

“I feel like everybody says they know tech, however, they only know and understand it from a consumer experience,” she said. “It’s more than just the ‘logical people’ that come up with ideas for how we can create new experiences or improve business results. It comes from the artistic side, the creative side, the marketing side and even the sales side. We don’t have that representation all over in tech at this time.”

Rosploch, who moved to the Fox Valley five years ago, said though the area does a good job promoting computer science and tech classes in schools, she still finds a shortage of employees, especially women and people of color.

“If we’re going to help, we have to inspire them, and get them while they’re younger,” she said.

Rosploch said she hopes this event inspires youth to get into tech.

Teaching tech
Rosploch said when she used to hire people, she could teach tech and what employees needed to know to do their jobs.

But, what she couldn’t teach was the willingness to be open and ask questions.

“Tech constantly changes,” she said. “I look back on my 30-year career and see that. There are principles around learning agility, mitigating risk, logic and organization that don’t change. However, your ability to take on what’s new does change.”

Rosploch said it is important to remind students, and even parents, that a willingness to be uncomfortable and go on a learning journey is key.

“A lot of times in tech, the first way won’t be the same as the second way,” she said. “There will be something new that comes from the process.”

Where it begins to click, Rosploch said, is how we think of tech as consumers and how we use it, and that stems creativity.

Defining tech in a tech-filled world
Rosploch said you don’t have to be Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Elon Musk — or even move out of Northeast Wisconsin — to be a successful technologist.

“Most people think if they want a good paying career in tech, they need to leave the (Fox) Valley and go to the big cities,” she said. ‘That’s not true.”

In planning for the exhibit, Rosploch said one of the first things she did was reach out to colleagues in the region inquiring about STEM careers they had available in their respective sectors.

Rosploch said she was able to gather 35 jobs to showcase to the students.

The exhibitors, she said, are the people in those jobs, which will allow students to connect to the person who does the job to ask the questions and invite conversation about skills, experience, pathways and more.

“I think giving the students an inside look, and a connection to what the job does, what that looks like and what that might show up as, will help inspire them,” she said.

Wendy Rosploch

Rosploch said she recognizes technology has not done itself a favor in that it is complex — yet there’s so much work within the STEM fields that is unknown.

“It can vary widely within industries, and it’s hard to navigate,” she said.

To help ease understanding for students at the exhibit, Rosploch said it will be set up as different stations that students can wander through and explore.

Rosploch said the point of the exhibit isn’t to see everything but rather to pick a path and see what those different roles are, what the work is like and how those roles connect.

Hopes for the future
Rosploch said she anticipates the event will garner the interest of tech-savvy students but hopes it also intrigues science, math, language arts, social studies and art students.

“We want everyone to come to explore and think about what it might look like for them,” she said. “If we can get them, we can start influencing younger people.”

Rosploch said the exhibit’s goal is to show the younger generations some people look, talk and act like them who are involved in tech.

“Creativity is important in technology,” she said. “Think about the creativity of connecting experiences and the elements you want the person to feel, engage or want them to repeat.”

For example, in the AI, Augmented Reality and other virtual experiences, Rosploch said, it’s more than coding.

“You need to have that creative person who is also able to work with you from a design point of view, utilizing user experience versus user interaction,” she said. “Even perceived simple design decisions, such as button placements, are important.”

Rosploch said they plan to survey students’ interest before and after attending the exhibit to get their opinions.

With Northeast Wisconsin home to many manufacturing and labor-centric industries, Rosploch said it’s important to showcase the role tech has and continues to play in them.

“There’s a ton of technology in manufacturing,” she said. “People who grow up in that field start with electrical engineering and move into the technology aspect, which is a great career path.”

Rosploch said some start in the application side of things and transition into robotics.

“As you think about the types of manufacturing jobs we have, many of them rely heavily on tech as users,” she said. “Now imagine, your associates understanding how to make the line better. You’ll get a chance to drive performance improvements in manufacturing.”

Further details
Rosploch said the Fox Cities PAC was chosen as the location for the event for a couple of reasons — first and foremost it is a multicultural center where the community can engage and connect while having shared experiences.

“When you enter (the exhibit), you can choose different paths and go different ways — so it seemed fitting,” she said. “I had a chance to walk the exhibit path, and I was inspired and excited about the journey the students are going to be able to walk.”

Though the exhibit’s goal is to shine a light on technology, Rosploch said it will be intentionally low-tech for a reason.

There will be no digital screens or QR codes because she said the main intent is to have human-to-human conversations.

And while the hope is for students to come away inspired to pursue a career in some form of technology, Rosploch said businesses involved shouldn’t “come looking for recruitment because that’s not the intention.”

“We’re trying to inspire and get their hearts and minds around what it means to be in science, technology and engineering,” she said.

The word exhibit, Rosploch said, was also used intentionally so it doesn’t get confused as a career expo.

Just as the exhibit will host a diversity of experiences and roles, Rosploch said the planning committee and those involved in the event have varied expertise and knowledge as well — which includes:

Laura Welsh with Kimberly ClarkMike Bertello of Faith Technologies IncorporatedMichelle Schueller of MicrosoftJason Mathwig at NEW Digital AllianceMatthew Kee of Tundra AngelsBryan Jorgensen, Hannah Moder of Tanduo.ioDavid Zey of ZeytechCheryl Peters, who designed the logo, flyers, banners and notebook for the event.
Tech putting Northeast Wisconsin on the map
Rosploch said she believes Appleton, and Northeast Wisconsin as a whole, is an incredible area for technology.

“I think the opportunity and growth is wonderful — from what TitletownTech is doing, to how Microsoft is getting engaged in our community, and in this region specifically,” she said.

Reflecting on her own experience with hybrid work, and flexible work environments, Rosploch said today, access to talent goes both ways.

“Online Collaboration and being face-to-face is still important,” she said. “I think the Appleton area has some of the most amazing companies that are growing. It’s a great place to have a career in technology.”

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