PITTSBURGH DISTRICT OFFICE
May 20, 2011
Contact: Janet Heyl
(412) 395-6560, ext. 103
Release Number: PGH11-16 Janet.Heyl@sba.gov
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MURRYSVILLE, PA – Growing up with her 12 brothers and sisters in the Pittsburgh suburbs, Barbara VanKirk often found herself acting as a mediator. She would listen to both sides of their problems and offer a practical solution. Today VanKirk still works as a facilitator, but at her own company: IQ, Inc. As president and CEO, she coordinates the dynamics between her staff of 45, and clients requesting consulting, project management and product development services.
VanKirk has grown her firm from its humble beginning at her family home to its own site and has worked with the Port Authority of Allegheny County, PNC, UPMC and Management Science Associates. The IQ, Inc. philosophy of smart choices and smart people has enabled VanKirk to blend her love of technology and people to offer smart solutions for her clients.
The woman who went to night school for seven years to earn her degree in computer science will be honored by the U.S. Small Business Administration as the Western Pennsylvania Woman-Owned Business of the Year. VanKirk and eight other local small business owners and advocates will be lauded at the Western Pennsylvania SBA May 27th Awards Luncheon which will be held at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel Pittsburgh. The luncheon is held in conjunction with the 48th annual celebration of National Small Business Week.
“I was the typical geeky kid in school and particularly loved math because it was like solving a puzzle,” VanKirk explained. “I knew my parents couldn’t afford to send me to college so my school counselor sent me to a job fair where I took a math aptitude test and was hired by Westinghouse in three weeks.”
VanKirk, started her career as an engineering technician and soon transposed her problem-solving skills to writing computer programs. She wrote numerous informational tracking systems programs and applied those skills to her courses at Point Park University. Her degree in computer science led to new responsibilities and duties as a computer engineer and project manager, which allowed VanKirk to travel throughout the country.
“I not only converted old software bases to new hardware platforms, but because I interacted with Westinghouse personnel, I was able to fulfill my customer service needs,” she stated. “In 1988, I left Westinghouse to see what the rest of the world had to offer.” VanKirk said for six years she worked for a consulting company marrying her technical abilities with her people skills to find the right resources for each project. However, two children beckoned VanKirk to open the doors to her business within her family home.
“I was able to get them off to school, work all day, pick them up, cook dinner and then work at night,” she said. “During the day I worked with my clients and at night I recruited; eventually I hired my own recruiter.”
For six years she shared office space in two different homes with up to four employees, then rented space for five years, before constructing her own facility for her growing company.
“We offer flexible work schedules for our employees, because I know how important flexibility is for dual-income families,” she explained.
VanKirk recalled a project for Respiraonics in which her team wrote custom software that interacted with their sleep therapy devices. IQ, Inc. also provided a membership management system to a local chamber. Her firm has even supplied engineers to Union Switch and Signal who were working on a control center for the Port Authority’s light-rail system.
“We get quite involved in our projects and place consultants in the field with our clients,” she said. “We develop the software, implement it and even provide training.”
According to Western Pennsylvania SBA District Director Carl Knoblock, VanKirk illustrates that following a passion and vision can correlate into success. “From her early days as a technician she was always solving problems, so it’s no surprise she was able to combine her technological and people skills with a desire to break that glass ceiling,” he said.
VanKirk said she was surprised to learn she was named the Woman-Owned Business of the Year. “I’m very excited and honored,” she said. “I still can’t grasp the significance of the award, but I will.”
Note: If you would like to speak with Barbara VanKirk or Carl Knoblock, Western Pennsylvania SBA district director, please contact Janet Heyl at 412-395-6560, ext. 103
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