When she was in high school in Virginia some 40 yeas ago, Frances Queen was good in math, and tests showed she had an aptitude for engineering. But, she was told, “women don’t do that” and was encouraged to go into accounting. What she opted for, she says, was an “M.R.S degree.”
But some callings just can’t be denied. In her 30s and a single mother, Queen got her associate degree in computer science from Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC), followed by a B.S. in computer-based business from Queens University at Charlotte. After working in the IT industry for more than two decades, in 2000, she started her own company, Queen & Associates, an IT staffing firm. She survived the technology bust in 2001-2002 by re-inventing her company. Last year, recognizing the firm’s phenomenal growth, the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce presented Queen with one of its prestigious Blue Diamond Awards given to IT firms.
But Queen, 55, has never forgotten those high school days when she was turned aside from her vocation. So she works energetically to introduce today’s young women to the “cool” and “exciting” careers available in science and technology. She was one of the founders of the Chamber’s TechConnect, which pairs IT professionals with local high school computer clubs and still sits on its steering committee. Last year, she helped start the Charlotte chapter of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) and is now its vice chair.
“There are not enough women in IT, science or technology, and I never had a female mentor,” Queens says. “I want to change all that for younger women.”
But it’s not just the small number of young American women entering the technology field that concerns Queen — it’s also the lack of young American men.
“There’s almost a shortage again of American technical talent,” Queen observed. “We’re not graduating as many IT majors as before, yet it’s a wonderful career and vocation. We have to look at what happens in kindergarten to figure out why they don’t understand the importance of math and science. We don’t want all the good jobs going to other nations.”
Because of the lack of available talent here in the U.S., Queen said she has begun working with Indian companies to bring workers here to fill her positions. “They are not taking our jobs — we don’t have enough technology people to fill the need,” she explained.
Queen stared her company to provide IT staffing services for Fortune 500 companies. But today the company’s offerings have expanded, and it has become a business and technology services firm that fills the consulting, project, and permanent placement needs of not only Fortune 500 corporations, but also mid-sized businesses and government agencies in the Charlotte area and eastern U.S. She has also expanded beyond IT into project management. “That’s something that will always be done in the U.S.,” she noted.
The change in focus has enabled Queen’s company not only to survive the cutbacks Fortune 500 companies were making in IT in 2001 and 2002, but also to thrive. Revenues dropped from $650,000 in 2001 to $490,000 in 2002. But they doubled in 2003 to about $1 million and have increased dramatically each year ever since. They reached $3 million last year, and she is anticipating a strong 2006, with revenues approaching $6 million and the number of consultants placed doubling to about 100. Not only are Fortune 500 companies hiring in IT again, but Queen has been placed on Lowe’s prime vendor list.
“I feel better about the company than I ever have,” Queen said. “You have to know your customer and what they are buying. We have stayed close to the market and developed a core expertise providing skill and talent for what the market needs.”
Queen’s accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. The Charlotte chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners named her its Rising Star in 2003, and in 2004, she was named one of 25 Business Women of the Year by The Charlotte Business Journal. Last May, she received CPCC’s Richard Hagemeyer Award presented to an alumnus or current student for using their CPCC degree to achieve significant accomplishments.
More About Women in Science
Dr. Sue Rosser, dean of the Ivan Allen College at Georgia Tech will give the inaugural lecture of the UNC Charlotte Women’s Academy on Wednesday, January 18, at 11 am in the Barnhardt Student Activity Center. Her address is titled, “The Science Glass Ceiling: Academic Women Scientists and their Struggle to Succeed.” The event is open to the public. For more information, contact Dr. Meg Morgan at 704-687-4210 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Changes at the Chamber
New executives often begin their tenures by shaking things up, and Bob Morgan, who became president of the Charlotte Chamber late last year, is no exception. Last week the Chamber announced it was reorganizing its focus on economic development, public policy and member value and eliminating seven jobs, or 12% of its workforce. Dee Means, vice president of the Chamber’s ITC Council said that as part of the change, the council will explore how it can participate in economic development efforts; partner and share information and resources with other chamber councils, such as the BIG Council (serving entrepreneurs) and the Small Enterprise Group; and work more closely with the North Carolina Technology Association on legislative issues. “We want to provide valuable benefits to our members,” she added.
Tobin Advisors, LLC, a Charlotte-based investment bank, advised Nexus Consulting Group, LLC in the sale of the Chicago IT services firm to Project Leadership Associates, Inc.
Carbonhouse Inc., a brand consulting and design firm, and TechStructures, a marketer of application development, network design and help-desk services have announced they will collaborate on web application-development projects. Carbonhouse will provide information architecture and design, and TechStructures will manage application, database development and technical support. Both firms are based in Charlotte.