Jessica Barry wants to help people understand that being a technology professional isn’t just programming or knowing very technical things. It’s a field for anyone, regardless of background, to problem solve and take risks.
Barry is the software integration and testing manager at Conagra Brands in downtown Omaha. She has been running the IT department’s internship program for the past four years, which recruits locally and nationwide.
“What’s most important to me and why I got involved in this [internship program] is that I didn’t start in technology,” Barry said. “My background was in marketing and management.”
Her undergraduate education focused on entrepreneurial management, not necessarily to own her own business, but to have an entrepreneurial mind while working for a large corporation.
“My background helped me move into a technical role because I could apply my problem-solving skills to technical problems while keeping in mind how I was serving the business,” Barry said.
However, in her more technical role, she soon felt out of her element. This led her to return to the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) to pursue a dual master’s degree program: The joint Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Management of Information Systems (MBA/MIS) program through UNO’s College of Business Administration and College of Information Science & Technology.
“The program that I chose allowed me to keep that business lens while still feeling like I was getting a really solid technology foundation,” Barry said.
Now she’s helping others find their own place in tech; particularly those who may not come from a tech background. In addition to leading the internship program in the Conagra Brands IT department, she serves on the Nebraska Tech Collaborative on the P-12 Committee which aims to attract and retain technology jobs and talent in Nebraska.
Attending technology panels allowed her to talk to women and girls about why it’s so important to be in technology. She’d talk about critical issues in the field of technology such as what it feels like to be in an industry where not very many of your peers look like you.
“Diversity isn’t just race. It isn’t just gender. It’s diversity of background,” she said. “It was really important to me, as I started taking on leadership roles within my own company, to be able to take that influence and recruit people who were right for technology but may not come from a traditional background.”
She also lends a hand in shaping education needs for the state’s future workforce. Barry leads the Conagra Educator Internship Program which recruits educators from area schools and upskills them so they can take their newfound tech and business skills back to the K-12 classroom. She is also part of a team that meets with the Nebraska Board of Education and leadership at K-12 schools to discuss what changes to the curriculum could help better meet workforce needs in community and the state in the future.
“The Maverick Spirit has allowed me to not only cultivate a passion for technology but a passion for Omaha as a community,” she said. “A lot of what I do is because I want to make Omaha a better place. I want to make it a place where people can settle down and feel like there is a thriving technology community here that will support them.”
About 'I Am the ROI'
'I Am the ROI' introduces you to alumni whose return on their investment in a UNO education goes far beyond career opportunities. UNO brought out the best in these leaders, change makers and innovators who are making a difference in our communities and enriching our quality of life.
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.