Amber Gunst served as Austin Technology Council's CEO for 5 years and now leading the FundLyst as CRO and founder. She shared how she got to the CEO position in ATC to the founder of her own startup and her views on why the community college is the key feeder of tech talent.
Austin Technology Council is the leading unifying voice of technology in Central Texas.
Parminder: Hi Amber, at one point in your life you attended Muskegon Community College in Muskegon Michigan?
Amber : I did, I was the first person in my family to go to college. My parents both did not go to college. My dad worked in a factory and my mom was a secretary so they were able to provide us with a pretty good existence growing up, nice home and a good community.
But being able to look at that college experience was incredibly important and that was all we could afford at the time, that was to go to the community college so I was very proud to be able to go and be the first person in my immediate family to attend college.
Parminder: It's cool that you started a tradition of community college going in your family?
Amber: My brother followed me, and then my older sister. She was delayed by many years. She started a family at a young age so she started her community college journey in her 30s and is actually now an assistant principal for an elementary school in Michigan.
Amber: Part of what we do at Austin Technology Council is that we focus on promoting and supporting the growth of technology in the Austin market and that does not just mean that we're helping companies find funding or we're trying to recruit companies into the area.
We try to help our members solve their problems and one of the biggest problems that our members have is talent pool and there's a global talent shortage especially in the technology sector.
Looking at our local community in Austin and identifying that there are a lot of people who are underemployed and have the ability with a little bit of training, a little bit of knowledge to be able to get jobs in tech they don't realize are attainable to them.
There is this myth that you need a CS degree in order to get a job in tech and a lot of times what you need is an Associates that has a technical lean towards it or you need a certification program.
Thinking back on my time at a community college, that's what they offer, there you know that that's what they specialize in are the certification programs.
So for the folks in Austin who have low income or are living at or below the poverty level, Community College is an attainable option to help lift them into a higher income bracket and it also solves a problem for our members so that's really in a nutshell what we do on a regular basis. We help to solve problems that our members have and the big one is talent.
Parminder: So Amber, what's a day in the life of Amber Gunst look like?
Amber: It's never the same every day even through the pandemic it's always been something different every day, something unique.
Some days it's doing team building with my team other days it's meeting with board members and talking about strategic plans and focusing on where we're going to take the organization, some days it's sitting down being a bartender priest to our members and helping them solve problems that they have and other times it's trying to plan big fun new events or opportunities.
So it's really kind of the best of the world for me because every day I can do something a little bit different and be able to have an impact on our tech community here in Austin.
Parminder: What is One piece of advice you offer for learners about community colleges and their future?
Amber: Austin Community college is one of the top schools in Texas and has top technology programs in Central Texas which learners can take even in their summer breaks or apply for UT certifications to help them graduate. Community colleges are an opportunity for companies so they can invest in their employees.
At a luncheon at ACC(Austin Community College), it was surprising to know that they have remarkable intern programs and most community colleges do have internship programs but they get overlooked because most people think of intern programs coming out of four-year universities.
So my word of advice is for everyone is that “ Don't ever underestimate the value of a community college.” Don't ever underestimate the value of taking even one class from a community college.
If you want to level yourself up in your career or trying to figure out a way to have more stable employment or you’re just thinking to become a more well-rounded person within your ability to grow in your career. Community College is a key to it. They are affordable and far more flexible than traditional universities. They have evening courses, they have online aspects or people can even have weekend classes.