Susan Courtney didn’t go into tech right away. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Minnesota, she joined the navy for six years and worked as a naval flight officer. She took some classes to brush up on her programming skills, found a job in technology, and has grown into a major leader in the local tech community. For the past fourteen years, she has worked for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, where she is now the Executive Vice President of Operations, Business Process and Shared Services.
In 2012, Courtney received the AIM Institute’s prestigious Tech Leader award for her work at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska and her leadership in the wider community. She has also been a Women in IT Initiative task force member for UNO’s College of Information Science & Technology. Recently, the Women’s Center for Advancement honored her at the 2019 Tribute to Women luncheon.
Courtney encourages young people to drop their preconceptions about what a career in technology entails. It’s not necessarily as solitary as you might envision.
“There’s a big misnomer about what technology fields are available to people,” Courtney said. “They kind of think old-school, ‘I’m just gonna be fingers on a keyboard all day, every day.’ It’s really not like that.”
When asked whether, as a woman, she faced any challenges or obstacles entering the historically male-dominated field of technology, Courtney said: “I don’t know if I’d classify it as obstacles. It was pretty lonely. A lot of the time, pretty much maybe every time, I was the only woman in my computer science class.”
She said that didn’t necessarily bother her, as she wouldn’t have joined the navy if it did.
“I have been pretty fortunate to work for companies that see the value of the diversity of having women in technology,” Courtney continued. “In fact, most of the companies, certainly Blue Cross, would really like to see more women in technology, so they do what they can to push that forward.”
At Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, Courtney is currently spearheading work on data and analytics to help improve customer experiences. She is also helping the organization transfer to a new core system to keep pace with the ever-evolving healthcare industry. She is not sitting at a keyboard all day.
Courtney’s experience is important for young women to keep in mind as they consider career options.
“What I would advise women to do is to go explore. See if you can get some shadowing time or informational interviews with people in the field, because I think it’s going to be different than what a lot of people expect,” she said.