Raising the bar for women


David Colburn

ANGORA – Few sectors of the U.S. economy are more segregated by gender than tech, where women make up barely a quarter of the workforce and a similar proportion of management.
But there’s a thriving, tech-savvy marketing firm tucked away in a small corner of the forest west of Angora that turns those numbers upside down and proves that tech is not tomorrow’s job but a career today. hui for women with the motivation and the ability to succeed.
Tom and Pat Chapman founded Art Unlimited in 1982 as a print-focused marketing company, but today their daughters, Managing Director Anna Anderson and CFO Elizabeth Chapman, run a high-tech digital marketing operation. with nearly 40 team members, two of which a third are women. Within the development team, the group responsible for creating the components of coding, design, search engine optimization and more for their customers’ internet footprint, the mix is ​​around 50-50 .
When Tom determined the company needed to go digital in the 1990s, Anderson eagerly dove into the coding business, essentially learning by doing it.
“There really was no coding class at the time,” she says.
But there were coders who would teach and coach, including Rick Pearson of Eagle One Productions.
“I asked this local guy to teach me coding,” Anderson said. “Dad would drive us to Lake Vermilion and go to his ‘man cave’ in the basement and teach me a few tips and tricks. So the passion started then. We knew that was where the growth was, and when you’re an entrepreneur you always look for places that thrive. “
Elizabeth Chapman started at Art Unlimited handling paperwork and finances, but she also jumped into the tech side of the operation, pursuing a degree from the University of Minnesota.
“I think I was one of the first totally distance learners to graduate from U of M because I was in one of their pilot program classes so I was able to do it all. by working and continuing to grow the business, ”Chapman says.
Ground floor
Anderson and Chapman, along with COO Mike Laulunen, are overseeing the big picture for Art Unlimited these days, but most women and men are starting their tech careers the way Anderson did, working in the arena. development practice. The Timberjay spoke to three women from the Art Unlimited development team whose experiences show that the pathways to technology for women are diverse and numerous.
Denisa Lalikova worked for Art Unlimited for a year, coding websites while working from her home in Duluth. This is not the career she originally envisioned at all.
“I grew up in Slovakia and pretty much my whole life I just played hockey,” Lalikova said. “Then I had the chance to leave my country and come to the United States. I went to high school for three years, always played hockey, and then I came to (College of St.) Scholastica. My main goal was to get a degree in exercise physiology and then become a physiotherapist.
However, she was also interested in technology and added computer science as a second major in her final year. The extra major meant extra time in college, and Lalikova used some of that time to do research.
“It opened the doors to technology for me,” she said, “and I guess I fell in love with it. It’s like when you are working on something and you lose track of time. It’s the same feeling I had playing hockey, so I said OK, that’s the thing. It allowed me to learn more on my own, as I only did the CIS major for three semesters.
A few weeks before graduating in 2020, Lalikova landed a virtual internship with Art Unlimited, and the mentorship she received there led her to stay.
“It was really cool to start at the bottom and work my way to being totally independent and doing websites and all the tasks on my own.”
As a child of the Iron Range growing up in Virginia, Amanda Jacquart also had sights other than technology for a career.
“My first initial thought was to be a paleontologist,” she says. “When I looked at it I said no, it’s too much physical work that I can’t do. My other passion was just playing with the computer. “
Jacquart started learning CSS and creating “my own little websites” at the age of 14 and latched onto the virtual world of cyber animals.
“It was a huge community back then,” she said. Creating virtual web environments for these digital creatures convinced Jacquart that technology was what she wanted to do. But she didn’t seriously explore it until she enrolled in Mesabi Range College’s graphic design program after taking a few years off after high school.
“I found a really good balance between the design aspect and the coding aspect,” she says.
As it turns out, Anderson represented Art Unlimted on the graphic design program’s advisory board, and that, Chapman said, led to a chance meeting.
“It was on an open house for the advisors to come and see the work that Anna met Amanda, and she came back and said, ‘Can you hire this person for me? Chapman said.
Jacquart lives and works at Babbitt, and during her seven years with Art Unlimited, she has progressed through multiple levels of changing engagement with technology.
“I like the randomness of my work,” she says. “Someday I’ll be doing my (user experience) review and all of a sudden there’s a weird issue that arises and I’m on another path to fix it. Then it leads down another crazy path.
There is another reason why technology has been a good choice for Jacquart: the family.
“When I started this field, I was a single mom,” she says. “Being able to have the opportunity to work from home while still doing my job at 100% full capacity was an important aspect in that regard. There are no limits, really, when you’re in tech. You are free to do all the different aspects of technology while still being able to work just about anywhere. “
Jana Carlson’s journey to a tech job at Art Unlimited is the less orthodox of the three. A wife and mother of seven children, three of whom still live at home, she spent about 20 years schooling at her children’s home. Her tech background was as a user, not as a coder or designer, but that didn’t deter her from embarking on a career in tech.
“A big part of wanting to homeschool was just to be a learner myself,” Carlson said. “I’m constantly learning, and that’s one of the things that attracts me to this business and to technology in general, because things are always changing. There is always something new to learn and do to help people. “
Carlson was lucky. As a company that embraces the core values ​​of family, vision, empowerment and excellence, Art Unlimited is designed to welcome applicants with its experience and qualities.
“By running all of this filter you are not focusing on the differences in terms of gender, their socioeconomic background or education, you are focusing first on how they match core values,” he said. Anderson said. “Because we have trained ourselves in things and we know what is possible, those who have an innate desire to learn and want to do it and match core values, they can do as well as someone with a master’s degree or a doctorate. “
So that’s on-the-job training for Carlson over his year and a half with the company, and variety of learning HTML, CSS, JavaScript and more, as well as entry into the field of search engine optimization. was exactly what she hoped it would be.
“It was a really fun experience,” she said. “Always something new. I am delighted that many of our clients are starting to gain traction and see their search engine rankings increase. It’s always exciting to find new ways to do this, or if something doesn’t work, to try something different.
The three women agreed that the technology is ideal for women who want diverse careers, opportunities for lifelong learning and professional growth, and a host of different options for the future.
“I’ve had the experience of being laid off from a job so I know what it’s like to be in an industry that isn’t necessarily going to provide a good position in the future,” Carlson said. . “But I know in technology there will always be opportunities. It is something that grows and expands and does not retract. “


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