Lucy Hrehowsik Nico

Alumna’s Professional and Personal Paths CONVERGE

By DeVry University

Lucy Hrehowsik Nico grew up in central New Jersey, the youngest of four and the only girl in what she termed a “traditional family culture.” It wasn’t assumed she’d pursue a professional career, especially one related to IT. Fast forward 20 years from her high school graduation and you’ll find Nico right where she wants to be: director of technology at a not-forprofit, a recent fellowship recipient and a mother. Impressive. Especially since Nico’s road to success has been anything but traditional.

“After high school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” said Nico. “But one thing was clear. I wanted to be successful.” Her happy medium was working while attending community college. Still lacking clear career direction, in her early twenties she went to dental hygiene school. “After day one on the job, I realized it wasn’t for me. I also realized I wanted to do something with technology but wondered ‘could I really do this?’ I’d never seriously thought about pursuing engineering or technology.”

Nico answered her own question with a resounding “yes” and knew the right education could help her get there. “My father wanted me to go to Rutgers because it was close to home and a state school,” explained Nico. “But I wanted the best technology education I could get. I wanted DeVry. Since I knew I’d have to pay my own way, I worked a while longer, saved my money and then enrolled at the North Brunswick campus. I was 24 when I earned my associate degree.” Shortly after graduating, in 2006, Nico began working as a help desk technician for a private school. While continuing to pursue her bachelor’s degree at DVU, her career progressed from entry level to technology coordinator. By then she was newly married and had decided to put school on hold and start a family. Said Nico, “It was time to focus on being a mom.”

Professional and Personal Paths Converge
Along came son Scott, now age nine, and then Joseph, now seven. As Joseph approached toddlerhood, Nico’s career and personal life were converging, though she didn’t realize it at the time.

When Joseph was about 14 months old, Nico began to notice he was different... delayed. At the same time, a technology coordinator position became available at The Arc of Union County. “Timing is sometimes everything in life. I’ll forever be grateful that the career opportunity at The Arc came along when it did,” said Nico. “Accepting the job enabled me to embrace my son’s diagnosis of autism and excel at the work I love.”

Not-for-profit The Arc of Union County is New Jersey’s largest provider of on-and offsite education and recreation services designed to enrich the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It also assists families caring for and supporting their loved ones with such disabilities.

Just two years after joining The Arc of Union County, Nico was promoted to director of technology. As such, she oversees all tech aspects of the agency, whose 500+ employees serve more than 1,000 families. Under Nico’s direction, her department manages 27 servers at 26 locations in Union County, addressing the technology needs of staff and offering the assistive technology that helps the individuals they serve thrive.

“I look back and now see how it all came together. This job not only helps me learn what my son is capable of, it also helps me realize what I’m capable of.”

Balancing It All
So, just how much can – and does – Lucy Nico handle?

A lot. With the characteristic perseverance of DeVry University students, Nico is well on her way to completing her bachelor’s degree and was recently awarded a prestigious Technology Navigator Fellowship. All this through the challenges of a demanding career, raising her boys and losing her husband, who passed away in 2014.

The fellowship is a product of The Arc of the United States’ partnership with Comcast NBC/Universal; Nico was one of only 18 Arc employees nationwide to earn the award. The 18-month project on which Nico is working will result in a web-based help desk offering applications and software to assist those with developmental disabilities.

The fact that Nico earned the fellowship doesn’t surprise those who know her. Since entering the IT field, Nico has steadily earned valuable industry-related credentials and now holds several Microsoft and Cisco certifications. How does she continue to balance work, family and education – and excel?

“You might expect a parent to say family is most important, but I see it this way: If I don’t work, I can’t provide for my children. So for me, work, family and enhancing my professional skills through school get equal billing. It’s not easy, but I do my best to make time for everything that’s important to me. It helps that my boys understand that when I say I need an hour for homework, it’s time for them to do their work too.”

Sometimes “making time for everything” requires Nico to draw on a special perspective she credits to son Joseph. “I see all he’s challenged with…tasks accomplished easily by other people. With a lot of support, he feels successful,” said Nico. “He helps me realize that will from within combined with support from others is really how we all get through.”

With her positive attitude and can-do spirit, there’s no telling what more Nico will achieve in the future. Our gut says she’s capable of anything.