Celebrating Tech Jobs Academy

Tech Jobs Academy

This week, 23 incredible New Yorkers and their families gathered at Civic Hall to celebrate an accomplishment that would have been impossible just months ago. But, like most overnight successes, this one was actually years in the making.  

Here is how it came about.

In 2014, I joined Microsoft to launch our Technology & Civic Innovation team in New York City, working with the community to identify and address opportunities to use technology for public good.  Later that year, our team began brainstorming with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Tech Talent Pipeline on how the company might best work to spread tech skills and opportunity more broadly.  Ideas started to take shape, particularly the importance of being responsive to the hiring demands of companies in the tech ecosystem and working backwards to bring precisely those skills to people in need.

In 2015, President Obama announced the TechHire Initiative to create pathways to quality, well-paying tech jobs nationwide.  In the associated White House announcement, the Tech Jobs Academy concept was identified as a model.  Later that year, 282 New Yorkers applied to participate in the first-ever cohort of Tech Jobs Academy.  

Finally, in 2016, Microsoft, the Mayor’s Tech Talent Pipeline, and the New York City College of Technology (commonly known as City Tech) delivered the intensive 16 week pilot program, empowering people with in-demand, life-changing tech skills.  Over the past handful of months, participants – none of whom had 4-year college degrees, but all of whom had ability – studied cloud and server administration and supplemented those technical skills with career development and interpersonal training.  The technical learning model for Tech Jobs Academy was adapted from one developed by Microsoft to help transitioning service members and veterans compete for jobs in the technology sector. The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy operates on three military bases and is projected to expand to nine regions servicing 14 bases across the U.S. in the coming year.  In addition, Microsoft has worked with the State of Washington and the U.S. Department of Labor to develop a workforce development apprenticeship model that can be replicated other states.  The latter program, the Registered Apprenticeship Program, aims to build a larger homegrown talent pool by training those currently underrepresented in the tech sector.  It seemed clear to us that Tech Jobs Academy fit in perfectly with Microsoft’s expressed interest in developing innovative upskilling models to spread tech skills more broadly.

After nearly two years of work behind the scenes, dozens of people directly involved, and having identified, trained, and supported the nearly two dozen graduates, last night was a celebration of success.  We were especially honored to have three keynote speakers, each representing one of the partners behind Tech Jobs Academy.  

From Microsoft, Corporate Vice President Dan’l Lewin described the history of the microprocessor and the dawn of the computing age, putting the current day’s changes in the context of prior revolutions in how work gets done.

From the City of New York, Chief Technology Officer Minerva Tantoco provided an overview of praiseworthy work happening in New York City to empower New Yorkers with tech skills.  She wrapped her remarks by reminding the graduates that each now had a “superpower” as well as a duty to use it.

From City Tech, President Russell Hotzler described the important work that City Tech does in educating thousands of New Yorkers every year.  He also noted the sense of community and the role that families played in making such accomplishments possible.

Following the keynotes and providing perhaps the most emotional moments of the evening were three speakers from the cohort itself – John Spruill, Carl Boisson, and Makini Osson – who delivered remarks that were thoughtful, heartfelt, and inspiring.  To cap off the celebration the graduates filed onstage to receive, one-by-one, their certificates of completion.

One of the most striking aspects of the program was that those involved – from the graduates to the organizations to the staff – felt such strong bonds with one another and collaborated so effectively.  In just a few months, these strangers came together to individually and collectively accomplish what most would have thought improbable if not impossible: becoming Microsoft-certified IT professionals with clear job prospects and the potential to provide themselves and their families with substantially better lives.

An undertaking like Tech Jobs Academy is no easy feat to carry off.  It took great teamwork from people within Microsoft as well as across the Mayor’s Tech Talent Pipeline and City Tech.  It took dedicated, passionate people eager to gain new skills…with families and friends supporting them along the way.

And like nearly every overnight success, it was years in the making.

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