April Craig was 33 years old and working as an ESL teacher at Garinger High School when she started learning to code.
Coding bootcamps were expensive, as was taking out another student loan.
“There were many days where I was sitting at my dining room table on YouTube, watching the video, but also (thinking)” Okay, yes, I’m learning, but how am I do it ? she said. “How am I going to get someone to take a chance on me and… get that first job?”
Then she stumbled across the app for the Carolina Fintech Hub’s Workforce Investment Network, a 24-week Charlotte-based program that would pay her to learn to code. It is one of the flagship programs of the hub, a non-profit organization that works to develop the FinTech sector in the Carolinas.
The initiative provides adults in underserved communities with technical training, professional development opportunities and, upon completion of the program, employment with local employers like Lowe’s, Barings and Wells Fargo.
“I applied, I walked in and here I am,” said Craig, who now works as a software developer for US Bank in Charlotte. “… I never thought of technology as something open to me, open to a woman, open to a black woman. It just was never in my sights.
Fight against inequalities
Pasha Maher, Managing Director of Carolina Fintech Hub, launched WIN in 2019. He wanted to address what he saw as a lack of a level playing field in the tech industry and create more upward mobility opportunities in Charlotte. .
Getting the right qualifications to land a high-paying tech job often comes with a lot of privileges, Maher said, like going to high school with computer lessons. “Our assumption is that these people have the potential, but lack the resources,” he said.
Participants spend 12 weeks honing their technical skills and 12 weeks completing on-the-job training. Members learn Java, soft skills in the workplace, and have access to resources such as housing, career coaching, and childcare.
The program was ambitious, Maher said. Now he’s getting ready for his fourth class and has placed 113 participants in tech jobs around Charlotte.
“I don’t see us as a non-profit organization,” he said. “I see this as a really highly skilled recruiting and placement company. “
‘Too good to be true’
Fah Pariyavuth was in WIN’s First Class in 2019. Prior to joining the program, she worked 10 to 12 hours a day in a food manufacturer.
After becoming interested in her husband’s work as a programmer, Pariyavuth looked for an opportunity to change careers. But every job posting she saw required a computer science degree and had thousands of applicants.
“It was almost impossible for me,” said Pariyavuth, a North Carolina state graduate with a degree in food science and biology.
When she heard about the WIN program, she thought that a program that would pay her to learn to code “was too good to be true.” She only half believed it, she said, until she sat down for an interview with Maher.
After graduating from the program, Pariyavuth accepted a position as a software engineer at Wells Fargo. One of the original sponsors of WIN, the bank employs 17 graduates of the WIN program.
Whether it’s being able to work fewer hours during the week or being able to get promoted down the line, the job “has opened up a lot more opportunities in my life,” Pariyavuth said. .
After a fully virtual third cohort class, Maher hopes to be in person again for the fourth iteration of the program, which is expected to start early next year. The deadline to apply is December 31st.
Maher said he hopes the program will become more self-sustaining in the years to come. The program has continued to grow, with seven other corporate sponsors who have signed up since WIN’s inception.
“I hope no one will ever say the words, ‘It’s too good to be true.’ He said. “
Ultimately, he wants to build on the fundamental premise that anyone can work in tech.
“I think so many people have convinced themselves that they can’t do it,” he said. “If you are smart, curious, creative and hardworking, there is a career in technology for you. “
This story was originally published December 28, 2021 6:10 am.