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MCCC Provides Building Blocks for Stacy Harris’ Career with Microsoft

11/20/18


Stacy Harris

Harris celebrated her 2015 graduation from MCCC with her children, both of whom are currently studying at Mercer.

Harris is proud to be among women pursuing careers in technology.

West Windsor, N.J. – Stacy Harris ’15 (A.A.S., Information Technology) is not quite sure if she chose a career in information technology (IT) or if it chose her. “Since I was a child, I loved everything to do with puzzles and problem solving,” she explains, but adds that when she started tinkering with computers, there were no female role models to follow.

Fast forward a few decades and women have made some significant strides in the tech world. Harris is proud to be one of them. Since April, she has been working as a service advisor and computer technician for Microsoft. “I love my job, especially the people side of it, which allows me to help people by fixing their computers and teaching them how to use Microsoft products. I also have a lot of opportunities to give back to the community,” Harris said.

Attending Mercer County Community College (MCCC) from 2013-15, Harris earned an A.A.S. degree in Information Technology and a Certificate in Network Engineering. Even after completing the requirements for her degree, she took two additional courses, Mobile App Development and a course in Java, to add to her skill set.

This was Harris’ third attempt to earn her associate degree and it proved the charm. She had first enrolled at Mercer in her early twenties and then again when her children were babies. “But life situations made it difficult to finish. Later, at the age of 44, I returned to Mercer when my son and daughter were starting high school,” she said. (Both of her children currently attend MCCC.)

Harris says Mercer was the perfect fit for a working adult. “I managed to raise my family as a single mother and juggle classes. Given my tight budget, Mercer’s affordable tuition was a big help,” she said. “And, I could take online and hybrid classes that were more convenient for my work schedule at McCaffrey’s Supermarket and gave me the ability to complete my coursework whenever I had time.”

Harris’ IT path became more and more certain while working in McCaffrey’s Customer Service and bookkeeping departments. She found herself assisting regularly with IT issues –break-fix operations, quick response and implementation of temporary backup procedures during system crashes, and tech support for fellow employees on their personal devices.

Harris says her Mercer professors supported her success every step of the way. “All my professors were great,” she said. Two who made a huge impact were Professor of Information Technology Jeff Weichert, who was both her instructor and her advisor, and Dr. Meimei Gao (Computer Science/Programming). “With their support, my belief in myself grew,” she said. “They also took extra time to help me with my transfer and continue to assist me as an alumna.”

Harris says most of her MCCC credits were accepted by her transfer school, Western Governors University, where she earned her B.S.S. in Information Technology Network Administration in Fall 2017. “Mercer provided me with the tools to hone my skills, learn discipline, and gain the confidence to grow as a person and in my career going forward,” she said.

As she has pursued her studies in the IT field, Harris learned about pioneering women like Anita Borg who were at the forefront of technology. But, Harris observes that there are still people who choose to look down on women in the field. “Although it has gotten better, these attitudes still exist today. This makes me even more driven to grow in my career to stand up for other women.”

Harris is especially gratified to see girls as enthusiastic as boys during free coding classes at the Microsoft Store where she works and to experience the joy when her female co-workers are promoted to positions that have mostly been held by men.

“I am grateful to work for Microsoft,” Harris said. “They are working hard to make opportunities more inclusive for everyone.”

Harris advises young women today to believe in themselves. “If you love tech, believe in your ability to do amazing things. Don't worry about your gender. Be strong and focus on doing what you love,” she said.

Emphasizing that both her children decided on their own to attend Mercer, it may well be that they were inspired by Harris’ example. “I am always praising Mercer and the benefits of starting an education there and then transferring. I believe my children see how much I love my job, how hard I worked to reach this point, and that it started at MCCC,” she said.

She notes that her daughter attended a four-year university away from home and studied abroad in Sweden before realizing she didn’t know what she really wanted to do. “Now she is studying Liberal Arts at Mercer while she figures out some things before adding to her student loan bills. My son is in his third semester studying part-time at Mercer, with engineering as a possible career goal,” Harris said, adding that a number of her children’s friends have decided to attend MCCC after being away at a university.

Harris is a true champion for community colleges. “There is a great education to be had and it saves students from completing school without a huge burden of student loans,” she says, advising students to make the most of their education. “Reach out to your advisors and professors, and build relationships. Never put yourself down or doubt your aspirations. Everyone has their own path.”

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