As I celebrated the one-year anniversary of the start of my new career last Tuesday, I took some time to reflect on the transformative experiences that brought me to where I am now. Since August of 2016, I have been an IT Support Specialist at the Council of State Governments Justice Center, a non-profit organization with offices and offsite workers all throughout the country. Every working day is spent supporting the nearly 120 employees of the Justice Center, completing special projects to augment the technological infrastructure of the organization, and acting as a liaison between the IT department of our parent organization’s headquarters in Lexington, KY, and the main office in New York. None of what I do today would have been possible without a fateful decision to take a chance on a Friday afternoon in October of 2015. Nor would it be possible without the life-changing experience I had at Tech Jobs Academy.

On that Friday afternoon nearly two years ago, I was stagnating. Working multiple part-time jobs and taking evening courses to complete my bachelor’s degree made me feel like I was treading water instead of swimming towards land. I was determined to change my situation. My older sister told me about a new program she had seen advertised on the CUNY City Tech homepage called Tech Jobs Academy. The deadline was at midnight that day; I filled out the application to attend and submitted it within hours of being told about it. The next week I was taking the first entrance test, and soon afterward I was studying for the second: a full-fledged Microsoft certification exam on networking. After passing both entrance exams and the group interview, I completed the rigorous gauntlet of the admissions process and was accepted.

Then the hard part began. Tech Jobs Academy was a sixteen-week program that trained me in advanced networking, systems administration, and building private clouds. We built our own labs, networking all the servers and switches together, and when we moved on to a new subject, we took them apart and built them again. My classmates and I worked in teams to complete projects, working in and outside the labs on nights and weekends to meet our objectives. Certification exams were taken, failed, then passed on second attempts. Though learning some of the most advanced and complex technologies around proved to be difficult, the process was eased along by the supportive staff and my wonderful fellow cohort members. Tech Jobs Academy offered me something that I would never be able to experience in an online learning environment or even a traditional classroom: a deeply dedicated staff and two dozen peers, all striving towards a common goal. They gave me the strength I needed to power through the most challenging moments, and the courage to transform myself into a disciplined IT professional.

It was a remarkable experience, and within a few months, I had been hired by the Justice Center. I no longer feel stagnant; I can work to complete my degree with the support of a stable foundation that keeps my head well above water. Tech Jobs Academy gave me concrete skills and the ability to improve them even further. One year later, I can look back on this transformative experience with pride, and hope.   

Tzvi Abel Chajet is a graduate of Tech Jobs Academy’s first cohort, a Microsoft Certified Professional, and a student at Hunter College studying philosophy and computer science. He is currently working at the Council of State Governments Justice Center as an IT Support Specialist.

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