CompTIA Community Leader Phases into Retirement

Cathy-3-editWhen you’re on a call with CompTIA Community Leader Cathy Alper, expect an organized presentation with clear visuals and excellent facilitation. If you’re lucky, you’ll also get a look at her latest hike in Yellowstone, an update on the fawns that graze in her backyard, or a casual story about the time she met Nichelle Nichols and talked to the Star Trek star about her passion for getting girls interested in science and technology.

“One of the many things I love about Cathy Alper is that she is genuine,” said Howard Cohen, a senior executive at HMC who has known and worked with Alper for many years on what’s now called the Technology Lifecycle Services Community. “No hidden agenda. No façade. What you see is what you get, and what you get is wonderful.”

Organized and Methodical

Alper made an impact at CompTIA before her first day on the job. She was first hired as a consultant to teach facilitation plans and processes to the leaders at CompTIA. She made enough of an impression to get hired on full time, and today, vice presidents like Annette Taber and Jim Hamilton still use the methods she taught them.

“I now have higher expectations for how to create an agenda, how to prep for a meeting and how to run one,” said Cristina Greysman, vice president, ecosystem expansion, SAP America, who has worked with Alper as vice chair of CompTIA’s Advancing Women in IT Community. “Her facilitation skills are embedded in my way of work and it was just by absorbing them.”

Alper was instrumental in building strong CompTIA community processes, developing facilitation expertise and resources, and launching a robust communities charitable giving program. Her organization, ability to wrangle volunteers and project management skills have enabled CompTIA Giving to make a $170,000 impact every year.

Consensus Builder

From the ground up, Alper launched CompTIA’s AWIT Community, which offers deep dives into current topics, like unconscious bias and how to break tech stereotypes, and helps women advance in their careers. She spearheaded Dream IT, which features career resources and examples of women working in IT, plus resources for people who want to evangelize about women in tech. When Dream IT launched, Alper met her goal to get the resources and positive STEM message out to 10,000 people, and before she steps down she’s on the team launching a searchable database of all the groups helping girls and women get excited about working in technology.

Last year, Alper turned the Technology Lifecycle Services group into a highly productive community as it evolved from IT Services and Support. She’s helped members feel welcome while driving value that went across both communities, and grown membership tremendously in the last two years. On LinkedIn, the CompTIA Technology Lifecycle Services group now has more than 2,500 members.

“Her ability to redirect focus when we are on a tangent and focus on details as simple as live presentation transitions, has created a successful environment,” said Aaron Acker, a vice president at Deployment Pro, and U.S. chair of the Technology Lifecycle Services Community. “Cathy as great at gathering volunteers for projects and had a knack for knowing when to include additional CompTIA resources to keep initiatives from stalling out.”

Thoughtful Coworker

Fellow CompTIA Community leader Lisa Person said she’d never have survived her first year without Alper’s advice on process, staying calm and getting a collective consensus.

“All of those things allowed me to flourish at CompTIA,” said Person. “She’s such a phenomenal facilitator who knows how to build consensus in a group.”

Behind the scenes, Alper is also known to offer root beer barrels, a friendly phone call or tech-themed novelty socks to her coworkers — anything to make sure people had what they needed to have fun and succeed.

“Cathy has a gift for making order out of chaos, and doing it in a way that makes everyone feel good about themselves,” said Lisa Fasold, who worked with Alper through CompTIA’s charitable arm, Creating IT Futures. “She allows members to speak their minds but keeps order in the room and gives members fun activities to help them network and build new programs.”  

‘I’m Grateful for My Career’

Alper said her high school counselor advised her to go work at a factory, not go to college. “I’m glad I didn’t listen,” Alper said. Instead, she started working in technology, first as a contractor for Apple Computer in the mid-’80s, teaching people how to use computers to change education. She moved into human resources and then management development, helping people increase their skills as leaders and managers. Starting in 2000, she offered leadership, facilitation and presentation training as a private consultant.  

She started at CompTIA in 2011, and used the position to do what she loves: flex her presentation and facilitation muscles, teach interpersonal skills to technical people, and design and hold great meetings.

“I am grateful for my career,” Alper said. “I value the ways I’ve been able to work with people and impact change. My deep passion is helping people gain self-awareness and strength on things they find challenging. I value creating a space where people can listen to one another and do deep work.”

She’s proud of the culture she helped foster in AWIT and TLS, and of her facilitation and meeting planning skills have impacted the entire communities program. As she transitions out, she sees a chance to define herself without the pressure of earning money. 

“You can contribute to the world the way you want to contribute. For me that means using my strengths and talents to give back,” Alper said. “I am grateful for the opportunities and career, and want to give back to others so that others may have new strengths and opportunities.”

Michelle Lange is a writer and designer living in Chicago.