Denney: Pursue your passions at CareerTech

Denney: Pursue your passions at CareerTech

Lee Denney

A love of computers runs in Joseph Gordon’s family.

His father works in information technology, and Gordon took his first programming class in middle school. He was intrigued by how computers worked, but he wasn’t really enthralled with programming. A few years later, he toured Moore Norman Technology Center and was intrigued by the network and cloud administration course.

The 16-year-old high school junior enrolled at Moore Norman Tech and was already certified A+ early in his first semester. When school let out for the summer, he accepted an unpaid internship at Norman Public Schools repairing MacBooks. He continued the internship after school returned, working early mornings for NPS, driving to the Technology Center for class, working his after-school job at Schlotzsky’s, then going home to study.

While studying at NPS, he completed his CompTia Net+ certification. He learned a lot as an unpaid intern, but he told his instructor, Todd Hendrickson, “I’d like to make money.”

Hendrickson agreed. He helped Gordon get a job at the Addison Group, running cable and providing an Ethernet network for T-Mobile during his senior year of high school. Gordon started at $15 an hour, but after updating his resume to include his latest certification, his salary was increased to $17 an hour.

In March 2022, two months before Gordon’s high school graduation, Dell approached him about a VxRail network support team they were putting together. VxRail is an appliance that provides networking, computing, and management capabilities. Hendrickson helped Gordon prepare for an interview, and the high school senior was offered one of the 14 open positions. Gordon worked from home and earned a starting salary of $69,000 a year.

“The young man is ecstatic, and his future is set,” Hendrickson said.

As a technical support engineer, Gordon will solve customer problems with Dell’s VxRail, but he will also use his skills for personal projects, including wiring his home.

“I’m in the process of setting up a personal website to document my journey,” he said, “so that anyone going through the same journey has a potential guide.”

Gordon’s story is just one example of what Oklahoma CareerTech is doing for students across the state.

Through a network of school districts, technology centers, skills centers and adult education and family literacy providers, Oklahoma CareerTech provides nearly half a million students each year with an opportunity to explore their career interests and find a rewarding career.

CareerTech’s mission is to empower students like Gordon to make informed career choices and create a pool of skilled workers for Oklahoma employers to choose from. We strive every day to provide students with skills required by the Oklahoma job market.

Several Oklahoma industries – broadband, aerospace, health care, automotive and construction – are struggling amid a shortage of skilled workers.

Our goal is to integrate academic skills into a real-world context by providing career-oriented courses, internships, apprenticeships and school programs that promote work readiness.

The skills acquired in these programs equip students with immediately applicable skills and valuable knowledge to build upon as they enter the workforce. If you want to learn more, visit our website at

Lee Denney is the Interim State Director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. Denney served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 2004 to 2016. During her last two years in office, she served as speaker pro tempore.

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