In 2007, Liudmila Vakulenko arrived in Appleton as a 20-year-old student from Russia wanting to continue her education, learn more about American culture, and then return home. Today, she has an exciting new career and a new life in America, with no plans to leave.
Vakulenko graduated in 2012 from Fox Valley Technical College with two associate degrees: Computer Support Specialist and Network Specialist. Both of these Information Technology degrees helped Vakulenko earn the position of computer support technician for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans in Appleton, a Fortune 500 financial services organization with nearly 2.5 million members.
What first brought you to Fox Valley Technical College?
In Russia, I had studied English and could read and write fairly well, but had trouble speaking. While considering options to study abroad, a friend recommended Fox Valley Technical College’s English Language Institute. It turns out that my friend’s referral was a great decision for me. The Institute’s instructors are wonderful, and they helped me a great deal in both my comprehension and fluency.
Why did you then choose to study Information Technology?
I like the fact that IT is always changing and exciting. There’s always something new to learn. I also knew that IT was one field in which I could find a job after completing my studies.
How does FVTC compare to Russian schools?
What first impressed me about Fox Valley Tech’s programs was the variety of classes. In Russia, I had no choice in which classes to take. I had to take exactly what was planned. At FVTC, I had some options to take what I wanted. The hands-on classes and my internship as an IT assistant at the Boys & Girls Club in Appleton gave me practical, real-world experience.
Fox Valley Tech also allowed me to get involved in a variety of activities. In 2009, I participated in a National AITP (Association for Information Technology Professionals) competition in Oklahoma City. My team took first place in graphic communications for our print and web advertising campaign.
What are your job responsibilities at Thrivent Financial for Lutherans?
Thrivent Financial is a faith-based not-for-profit membership organization that provides a broad range of financial products and services. At its technology service center, I provide IT support to the company’s representatives throughout the country. I help solve all sorts of hardware and software problems. Every day there’s a new challenge. My work covers everything from improperly loaded software to Internet connectivity issues.
What happened to your original goal of going home?
I was planning to get an education here to use back at home in Russia. I met my husband during a friend’s birthday party in the Fox Valley area, and that is why I am staying here!
The Go-To Place for IT Training
Annually, about 95-100 students graduate from Fox Valley Technical College’s IT programs, and many of them finish with multiple IT degrees. The college’s IT students have earned national first-place finishes in three of the past four years in the annual Association for Information Technology Professionals (AITP) competitions.