As a young woman of color living in an economically challenged neighborhood, finding a pathway to a successful career in technology is commonly out of reach. Kasey Wilson and Ruwayda Jama both faced hardships growing up in Columbus, Ohio. Kasey is the daughter of a widowed veteran who taught himself how to repair computers by borrowing books from the library. Kasey’s father wanted her to follow in his footsteps and enlist in the military. Ruwayda is the daughter of Somalian immigrants and her hope after high school graduation was to work in a warehouse or fast-food restaurant.
“If you don’t have people in your life who have graduated from college or work in professional fields, then good-paying and meaningful careers seem out of reach,” Kasey said. “I learned at an early age the only way out was through education.”
Both young women found their way to TECH CORPS. Through a good family friend, Kasey was enrolled in Columbus’ lottery education drawing and secured a spot at Centennial High School in Northwest Columbus. There, she was exposed to students from different economic backgrounds and races as well as new opportunities. While working with a high school guidance counselor, Kasey was accepted into TECH CORPS’ 2013 summer learn and earn program, Student WEB CORPS.
Ruwayda’s life changed its trajectory after she saw a flyer posted on a Westland High School bulletin board inviting her to participate in the 2017 TECHCORPSHack — a one-day event and competition to educate high school students about coding and computer science. Although Ruwayda’s mother received no formal education, she encouraged Ruwayda to discover her potential through TECH CORPS’ programs.
Both Kasey and Ruwayda used their TECH CORPS experiences to launch careers in technology. “Before I was connected to TECH CORPS, I existed inside my own shell with my own thoughts,” Kasey shared. “I did what I needed to get through, however, once I had people who cared about me and believed in me, I discovered hope for a future.”
After high school graduation, Kasey attended Ohio Dominican University where she double majored in Software Engineering and Computer Information Systems. She was a paid instructor for Student WEB CORPS while she was in college. Kasey made history in 2018 by becoming Ohio Dominican University’s first African American and woman to graduate from the school’s Software Engineering Program. She also participated in JPMorgan Chase’s Software Engineering internship program where she acquired new skills and developed a global network of support to advance her career. She currently works as a software engineer with JPMorgan Chase.
Ruwayda also discovered the value of mentors. She said, “Not only did I receive skills and training in technology from TECH CORPS, but there were instructors and volunteers from professional fields who believed in me.”
Ruwayda continued her technology journey and enrolled in TECH CORPS’ 2018 Computing Career Corps program funded by the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services. Before ending her TECH CORPS journey, she participated in one more program, Student TECH CORPS, where Ruwayda earned her CompTIA IT Fundamentals certification. After high school graduation, she transitioned to Per Scholas, a technology training program, where she went on to earn her A+ and Network+ certifications.
Ruwayda never did apply for a warehouse or fast-food job. Instead, she obtained an entry-level position in technology gaining the experience she needed to receive and accept an offer from JPMorgan Chase to be a service technician.
Through the support of caring individuals and organizations like TECH CORPS, both Kasey and Ruwayda found pathways to successful careers in technology. To learn more about how TECH CORPS educates, excites and empowers students with technology, visit techcorps.org.