When Kim Lefler graduated from UNL’s business college in 1994, the internet was barely in its infancy, and “IT” meant nothing outside of a few academic circles. Since summer 2017, though, Kim Lefler Whittaker has been president of First National Technology Solutions, supervising about 90 employees who customize information technology solutions for FNTS’s customers. Although at graduation she couldn’t have imagined that she would be one of the first women to lead an IT company, Whittaker said it’s a good fit.
At Lincoln East High School and at Nebraska, she was involved in team sports and said she enjoyed being part of a team. She believes what she learned then has helped her coach and develop people throughout her career.
A company that outsources its information technology for things like data analytics and cloud computing puts a lot of trust in its service provider, Whittaker said. “We see ourselves as an extension of our customers’ own IT departments.”
She also played on the women’s golf team and was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority. She remembers traveling the country with the team and meeting good people everywhere.
That kind of experience “helps form you into who you are,” she said.
Whittaker said she got a great education at Nebraska and was well prepared for a job in business. After graduation, she went to Principal Financial Group in Des Moines, then to First National Bank of Omaha where she started as a management trainee. She took a job with the finance side of FNTS in 1996 when it was a start-up.
“It was intriguing to be part of a new company,” she said. She could see that technology was rapidly changing how people did business. “I like to be challenged,” she said, “and technology always gave me an opportunity to learn about the next big thing.”
She and her husband, Albert, and two children live in Elkhorn, just outside Omaha. In 2003, while working full time, she completed a master’s in business administration at UNO that included an emphasis in management information systems and a series of computer science courses.
“I really wanted to get a better understanding of the technical components of what engineers do day in and day out for clients,” she said.
That kind of understanding plus her experience with FNTS as head of sales led to her appointment as the firm’s president. She reports to Mike Summers, executive vice president for buildings and finance and chief financial officer of First National Nebraska. Summers said Whittaker had demonstrated her success with FNTS and had earned the right to lead it.
“She’s a humble optimist about everything,” Summers said. “And she’s very good at what she does.”
Whittaker encourages more women to consider jobs in IT. “There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity for women,” she said, “not only on the technical side but also in related roles like finance, sales and management. It’s an exciting industry to work in.”