SAN ANTONIO — From a large screen in her small home office, Devi Mazumdar each morning scans the computer systems of some two dozen clients — doctors’ offices, churches and small businesses in San Antonio and as far away as the Eagle Ford Shale.
Color-coded alerts tell her when something’s not quite right, letting her know if she needs to make a site visit or dispatch one of her two part-time technicians.
It’s the operations center for one of Austin-based CMIT Solutions’ franchises, a growing information technology enterprise that makes the Indian-born Mazumdar a pioneer two times around.
Entrepreneurship, she said, is a bit beyond the zone of propriety for someone from a solidly professional — read medical, scientific — family from Pondicherry in southern India.
And providing IT services is a break from the norm for a middle-aged mother of two in suburban San Antonio.
“Women in IT is still kind of a novel concept,” she said. “What I see is that the young girls, even my daughter’s age group, are not looking at IT. They’re not looking at technology.”
But three years into it, it’s proved a perfect fit for Mazumdar.
With her children nearly grown, her husband firmly established in his anesthesiology practice, and the luncheon and society circles not holding her interest, 2011 seemed like a good time to get back to her love of computers. But she was decades away from her days spent coding in Kolkata.
“I started looking at ‘OK, I can go back to work, but I am not someone who’s savvy about company politics,’” she said. Her background was in programming. She started her IT career using programs such as C, C++, COBOL and Java for a British publishing company before coming to the United States in 1992 to pursue a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and technology at DePaul University.
She married her husband, who attended the University of Chicago, at about the same time, quelling her family’s fears.
“I think my parents were like ‘Oh, we think it would be better if you got married and then go,’” she said jokingly. “So it worked out.”
Children, family illnesses, relocations and other challenges took her off her planned course, but she kept up with the industry. Studying from home, she had by 2011 earned a master’s degree in education technology leadership from George Washington University. And she was looking for her way back in.
She found CMIT on Google.
It was a fast-growing company that started out as “Computer Moms IT,” the brainchild of Georgia Jones, a woman who had turned helping older people learn computing into a franchise. Jones sold the business in 1996 to Jeff Connally, who switched the concept from house calls to strictly servicing businesses.
By the time Mazumdar found it, it had grown significantly, with proprietary systems accessible to franchise owners and year-round, round-the-clock support for franchisee customers. It also had a central staff that was able to keep up with the latest in IT so franchisees could focus on the business end. When she joined it, Mazumdar also became part of a nationwide network of about 600 IT technicians.
“Between the three of us, we can’t possibly know everything that’s out there, so if we come across an IT problem (we can’t handle ourselves), we are able to shoot an email to the national tech forum,” she said. “And we get many, many responses within minutes. Because they’re all geeks.”
Being married to a physician also gave her insight into a niche. One of her first clients was Dr. Carmelo Otero, a cardiac surgeon who leaves it to her to keep his systems up to date so he can focus on advances in cardiology.
“I’m kind of partial to the smaller startup companies,” he said. “You need someone that is attentive; you need someone who knows what they’re doing. I can’t afford for my network to go down.”
He spoke from an airport, where he was able to use his laptop to access medical records and test results.
Entrepreneurship came with costs. Her husband, Maz, had to delay his plans to ease up on his workload so he could finance her startup costs. But in October, the business turned the corner and started turning a profit.
Her next goal: Staffing the operation center full time so she can be out networking.
“I want to be the entrepreneur who is expanding,” she said.