Public-Service IT Professional. Mother. Expert Chocolatier.
These are just a few of the hats that Senior Technical Account Manager Jody Tyrus wears on a daily basis.
As a member of the VMware State and Local Education Department, also known as SLED, Jody works with different agencies housed under the city and county of San Francisco. Her customers’ verticals include public safety, emergency management, health, and transportation. She’s motivated by the day-to-day variation her customers provide, as well as the challenge of working with agencies headquartered in the tech capital of the world.
“I think I have one of the best roles really because it’s almost 100% customer facing, I get to help dozens of agencies get the most out of their investment and our VMware products, anything from guidance, support, escalation, coordination with other resources. It’s just such a wide variety, so never dull.”
From retail to revamp
Jody’s pathway into tech certainly wasn’t a dull one.
Her career started in retail, where she built her customer service skills. When she began to consider her next role, she took advantage of another skill she developed in retail — the ability to type at lightning speed — to get a job as a data entry operator.
In fact, she could enter data so quickly that she was left with extra time on the job, so much that her managers instructed her to shadow an in-house IT professional and learn how to perform basic IT operations. “And then I started being able to, instead of having issues that would come up and having to wait for a week for this guy to show up, I’d be able to help people,” she remembered. “My company really looked at that and said we’ll invest in you too.”
Her company sent her to classes that taught network operations, and she spent her free time working toward becoming a network administrator. Once she achieved the title, she went on to specialize in server and desktop management, even working in cybersecurity.
Outside of work, she continued to develop her IT skill repertoire, which she felt was essential to demonstrate her expertise since she hadn’t received a computer science degree. The certifications she’s achieved to date include her CISSP, Microsoft MCSE, PMP, and multiple certifications from Novell. She’s also working toward her VCP at VMware.
“I knew that without a degree, it’d be very hard to get a foot in the door unless I had some of those four-letter, five-letter certifications at the end of my CV. So that was a motivator for me, was I had to be able to prove that I had the knowledge in order to do that.”
Jody eventually landed herself on the TAM team at VMware, where she’s worked with the same Bay Area public-sector customers for five years. “I’ve met some of the most dedicated people in my job with them, and how they’re trying to use technology to drive all these measures that they’re doing is pretty incredible.”
Climbing the ladder
One of Jody’s long-time inspirations in tech is her children’s grandmother, a Black woman who overcame barriers to earn a college education during the Civil Rights Era. She also worked at Lockheed Martin for 25 years coordinating satellite-program projects.
“When you’re young, you kind of see that, you know, she’s wearing suits to work and everything. The older you get, I’m like this with my mom, too, it’s like, wow, you start to realize exactly what that took not only to [pursue her] career, but to raise children and then to help raise grandchildren and just be a good person. So, she kind of set that bar for me.”
While circumstances were different for Jody, she’s no stranger to the hurdles required to enter tech as a woman, especially as a single mother. Now, she hopes she can help eliminate those challenges for aspiring IT professionals. “My goal is to make it easier for people that come up behind me. And so, instead of pulling the ladder up, and I get really upset about this when I see people pulling that ladder up after them instead of reaching down and helping somebody up that ladder. That’s my philosophy now.”
She also expects the tech industry to not only prioritize bringing in new talent, but also growing support and career opportunities for those who’ve already entered the field. “You can still encourage women and underrepresented minorities to come through that pipeline, but you also have to help the ones that are here and develop them,” she emphasized.
These are lessons she’s instilled in her daughter, who works in the similarly male-dominant sports industry: “You can be an agent of change as well,” Jody often tells her.
Times are a-changin
While she raised her children, Jody also made sure to give them frequent exposure to her work, giving them the confidence to pursue tech or any other fields they were passionate about. Now, her oldest son is a computer programmer, and her other son is in the Army.
That same sense of confidence inspired Jody to make a major life change of her own once her kids graduated from college, uprooting her life from Modesto and moving to Downtown Sacramento. It also motivated her to start a chocolate-making business after she developed a passion for the craft, and she now makes delectable chocolate candies in her spare time. When she’s not whipping up a sweet treat, you’ll find her traveling, trying new restaurants, o using her Sacramento Kings season tickets to attend basketball games and concerts.
She encourages women in IT and other STEM fields to adopt a try-everything attitude, too: “Try a lot of different things. See what you might be really good at, something you never imagined. And don’t give up.”
She also hopes women already established in tech will help young professionals climb the ladder.
“Reach out to those sisters in tech, whether it’s to ask for help or whether it’s to be that help. I find there’s a lot of gratification in that. I’ve mentored a lot of college kids in my last job and even now at VMware. I’m part of TAM Lab and we’ve done some stuff with the people coming out of the TAM Academy, and there’s always something you can give back. I think people need to make the effort and find where that aligns with their value system.”