Women are rare in the field of information technology and web development. In fact, women make up only 26 percent of the computing workforce, according to the national Center for Women and Information Technology, with less than 10 percent of them women of color.
That is part of the reason Dorlita Blakely, manager of web services at IU South Bend, is a trailblazer.
Blakely's fascination with computers began in 1995, four years after graduating from West Side High School in Gary, Indiana. A friend let her use her sister's computer, and that was it. "I'd never had any real computer experience," Blakely said. "I saw what it could do, and I was fascinated."
She saved enough money to purchase her own computer and taught herself how to use it. "I wanted to know how the web worked," she said.
It wasn't long before she created her first website: a portal that was a guide to shopping online. She was able to get affiliate accounts with Walmart and Target, and she also earned commissions from the Google ads she created.
"I decided if I was able to do all that on my own, imagine what I could do if I went to school," Blakely said.
With the help of a friend, the mother of three children enrolled at IU Northwest in 2012 to pursue a bachelor's degree in computer information systems. During the day, Blakeley attended as many daytime classes as possible, picking up children after school, preparing them dinner and then attending evening classes while her oldest child or friends watched the younger siblings.
She also began working part time on campus as a web technician. Her ability to quickly learn the complexities of web development and information technology earned her a Gerald L. Bepko Internship in 2013. That year she created IU Northwest's first interactive campus map.
Clearly a gifted student, a year before she graduated she was hired as the IT operations manager for the city of Gary, managing a three-person office. During her one-year tenure, she developed an intranet for city employees and worked with AT&T to switch the city's phone systems to a Voice Over Internet Protocol. Some of her favorite responsibilities took her out of the office and into the community: fixing the computers in police squad cars and installing internet at the air traffic control tower at Gary/Chicago International Airport.
Even though she enjoyed her work with the city of Gary, Blakely said her heart was with Indiana University. When the manager of web services position became available at IU South Bend, she jumped at the chance. She is now a member of the University Information Technology Services group at IU South Bend.
"I am very happy to be back at IU," she said.
Since arriving on campus in 2016, she has completed the migration of IU South Bend's website to a responsive design framework and centralized the maintenance of the website. She is responsible for all aspects of web services.
When she is not working, Blakely enjoys fashion design. She has does some modeling on the side and, alongside her husband, opened a Christian clothing, jewelry and bookstore, PHIA Collections & Maxi Fashions in South Bend.
Also a licensed minister, Blakely is founder of the nonprofit organization Hidden in God Inc., where she writes devotionals and designed a podcast for the app she created for the organization.
As she reflects on her career advancement in a high-tech field, she's humble about her journey. "I love my job," she said. "I get to do what I love every day."