Y2K bugs to motherboards — Brooke Lacey left her big city job to start a business repairing computers
The walls of Tech Savvy are adorned with motherboards and hollowed out computer frames. “This piece looks like a swimming pool — and these are the railroad tracks.” Brooke Lacey converses with small visitors in her shop while their mother searches through her purse in the reception area, showing them parts that make up a computer.
Brooke lists a host of reasons she has been successful in IT and computer repair work — few of which include technology skills. “We are just helping people,” she says. “We are easing their frustrations. Sometimes I’m a counselor. They just want me to hear their story.” This, she says, is what sets Tech Savvy apart from the competition.
“If people don’t know what is wrong with their computer, they don’t know why they should pay money to have it fixed. I have to teach them the value of what we do.” It’s not an exact science, either. The company aims to build relationships with people through honest communication, so if they get home and something still isn’t working right, they know they can trust Tech Savvy to keep trying.
Her counseling skills might help her with the customers, but Brooke’s love of technology got her where she is today.
At 16, Brooke had an after-school job at a car dealership in the suburbs of Chicago. One day they brought in a giant Windows 3.1 computer. “I just thought it was the coolest thing ever,” she says. At the time, Brooke was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder brought on by years of childhood abuse, and something about the logic of a computer helped keep her sane. “It didn’t talk back to me,” she explains, and she welcomed the solitude of the relationship.
After graduating high school, Brooke enrolled at Northern Illinois University, where she signed up for the first class with the word “computer” in the name. She had come close to not even graduating high school, but once she entered computer science classes, she got it. Brooke realized for the first time that she was actually smart. “I found that the logic and elegance of code spoke to me in terms that I could understand.”
After graduating in 1999 with a degree in computer science, Brooke landed a competitive internship with Sears, Roebuck & Co in Chicago. She thought she was set for life.
“I had a corporate apartment, a company car, and I was completely miserable,” she remembers.
“I was working on the Y2K bug, literally scanning code all day changing two numbers. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life until I was doing it,” she says. Something had to change.
Brooke quit her job and started bartending. She spent two years partying and not working in the tech field, but she explains, “I’ve always been the one that friends turn to when their computer breaks.”
During a visit to Boise in 2004, she decided to make it her home. She was never planning on staying and missed the lure of her former city life. However, she also found a balance in her life she had never known living in a big city.
“Once I found my people and felt comfortable being myself in this place, it became so much my home.” Brooke worked for local IT departments and started doing subcontracting as well. She wasn’t completely happy with her jobs, complacent but wanting the checks that came with them.
“Working for someone else was so incredibly stifling and unsatisfying — I would think to myself every day: this is not where I’m supposed to be.”
In 2010, she filed the paperwork for what was then called North End Computers. She continued to work, leaving little time to dedicate to her side company, until October 2012 when she quit her job, changed the name to Tech Savvy, and decided to make her dream work. “It was the scariest, but most liberating decision I’ve ever made.”
Today, Tech Savvy has a shop on Vista they moved into last June. Brooke’s husband Brandon quit his job to join the company full time. He focuses mostly on software, and Brooke, on hardware and the business side of things.
Brooke doesn’t have too many female role models in her industry. “I’m kind of an island,” she jokes, “I surround myself with powerful women in all industries who support me.” She is also determined to be that role model for the next generation, donating her time to hosting workshops at The Discovery Center of Idaho to teach girls how to build computers, she works with Women in Tech Careers through the Micron Foundation and she volunteers at schools for career-day presentations. She likes to focus on girls in grades 4-12, making sure they know that these types of careers are an option. “There are benefits to having women in the technology field.”
Indeed there are — Brooke being one of them. It might not have been easy to build the business from scratch, but Brooke says she knows she is on the right track with Tech Savvy. She will continue to add computer pieces to her walls, inspire girls with a take-charge attitude, and win customers over with her candid charm.
“There is nothing else I would rather do. We are going to make this work.”
Note: Broken computer? Bring it to Brooke… techsavvyboise.com.