In 2020, US military veteran Will Galey, like many, found his career prospects at a crossroads.
After serving in the Army as a 98C signals intelligence analyst in the 1990s, Galey worked several jobs and was ultimately laid off during the pandemic. While unemployed, he discovered NPower, a nonprofit that aims to elevate individuals from poverty through IT skills training, and graduated from the organization’s Tech Fundamentals program in Texas in 2021. Now he works as an IT analyst EO&T apprentice at Citi.
Initially unsure what he wanted to focus on in IT, Galey found direction through NPower. The program’s certifications, resume workshops, and continued support after graduation have prepared Galey for a new career in IT, he says.
But it’s more than just the skills training that sets NPower apart as an organization making a difference in the lives of its participants.
“NPower offers support to their students who need help with everyday things like finding rent relief, or childcare options,” Galey says. “They offer help finding mental health services and other services you may need. Most importantly, they offer job and career placement services and they do it for life. When you join NPower, you’re getting a family that will support you and your goals for the rest of your life. That’s very powerful.”
Launched through a partnership with Microsoft, NPower originally acted as a broker for nonprofits, bringing in volunteers from tech companies to help support those nonprofits’ missions. As the program evolved over the past 20 years, NPower has since transformed into a nonprofit IT training program focused on supporting young adults in underserved and underrepresented communities, as well as military members, military spouses, and veterans.
Trainees in the tuition-free Tech Fundamentals program are new to IT, typically without a college degree, or they may hold a degree in an unrelated field. NPower also offers advanced programs in topics such as cybersecurity and cloud aimed at NPower alumni or those already in the IT industry who want to make a career change.
The focus at NPower is on “competencies, not degrees,” says Robert Vaughn, chief innovation officer at NPower. There’s a strong emphasis on building trainees’ confidence so they are prepared to enter any professional setting. The goal is for everyone who goes through NPower’s programs to have not only the hard skills to be successful in IT but also the sense of self-assurance to demonstrate those competencies.
Building the NPower family
Trainees who have completed the program liken NPower to a family or community. They see NPower being more than a training program — instead, a network of professionals working to uplift one another by learning new skills and bridging opportunity gaps.
Cameron Clarke, an application development associate at Accenture, joined the Tech Fundamentals 2021 program in New Jersey after a brain aneurysm forced him to leave West Point, where he also played football.
“What surprised me most about the program is the tradition. Most programs do not have the ‘family’ feel that NPower does, and when you graduate you are truly a part of the NPower family forever. This has helped me tremendously in many ways inside and outside of the workforce,” says Clarke, who adds that the program ensured his transition to a full-time IT career was “almost flawless.” NPower resume workshops and interview practice helped instill the confidence sell his skills and expertise throughout his job search, putting him “ahead of other applicants,” and ultimately helping him land a job.
Companies that partner with NPower to sponsor, hire, or train participants of the program are also part of that sense of family. For example, Galey says he’s connected with other NPower alumni at Citi, finding support from others who have gone through the same unique experience he has.
“There is a large group of NPower graduates at Citi and they all help each other because they’ve all been in the same spot,” Galey says. “NPower has given us all the foundation and the opportunity to work for this amazing company and the company is giving us the opportunity and training we need to succeed.”
Helping those new to IT hit their stride
Isabella Gravina, a help desk analyst at T. Rowe Price, completed the Maryland Tech Fundamentals program in early 2022. She had previously worked as a data manager at a healthcare provider, but through NPower’s program, she was able make the move into IT.
T. Rowe Price
Gravina says the program was intense, but she was able to fit it into her schedule while working full-time and attending school part-time. She moved to an earlier shift at work, logged into NPower in the afternoon, and worked on her schoolwork in the evenings. While her schedule was busy and it required a lot of discipline, Gravina was able to make it work.
“The transition to my job placement felt surreal. I could not believe that after a few months of studying technical concepts and earning a couple certifications landed me a position at such a great company, doing work I enjoy,” she says. “NPower prepared me incredibly in aspects such as technical knowledge and professional development. Without the professional development lessons from my instructors, I would not have been able to practice interviewing and get a leg-up against other interviewees.
Sarah Lamptey, an e-discovery project manager at Apprentice, who graduated from the Maryland Tech Fundamentals program this spring, agrees with Gravina about NPower’s impact.
“During the program, I had no fears about what to expect when I secure a job,” she says. “The program was so well put together. Besides the technical skills we were acquiring, emphasis was placed on professional development — financial literacy, time management, goal setting, mock interviews, among others. It is one thing to land a job and another to maintain the job and NPower equipped me to succeed at my workplace.”
NPower ultimately helped Lamptey realize she has more to contribute than she previously thought. She discovered that, prior to her training at NPower, she was often holding back in professional settings.
“I realized the importance of making yourself memorable. No matter how intelligent a person may be, keeping to yourself and not stepping out of your comfort zone will only keep you at the bottom. As a result of this, I find myself being more vocal at my workplace whenever I need to and this is helping my work relationships tremendously,” she says.
Supporting careers for the long haul
NPower’s Vaughn says the program’s goal isn’t just to get people into IT careers at the entry-level; the organization seeks to support alumni all the way through the C-suite. That’s why NPower has introduced advanced programs in cybersecurity and cloud. It is also working on a pilot program aimed at getting more women of color into tech, with a focus on software development and data analytics careers.
“Not only do we want our people to successfully launch a digital career, but we also want to make sure that they continue to move up financially,” Vaughn says. “We also want [them] to make the six figures, to move up to the C-suite, and to be able to open doors for more of our alums.”
NPower is now certified through the Department of Defense and plans to launch a pilot program in the fall that trains those transitioning in their last six months of active duty. The nonprofit has also increased outreach to high school students, training seniors on digital literacy and office productivity tech skills. NPower is also piloting a 20-week version of its Tech Fundamentals program, which currently runs for 16 weeks. The 20-week version includes topics such as network infrastructures, basic PC support, desktop support, and certifications such as the CompTIA A+ and Google IT support certifications.
“What we recognize is that this is an end-to-end solution. We want to touch people earlier, whether it be military or in the school systems, and expose them to tech so we create a pipeline of interested talent, whether they go to college or programs like ours,” says Vaughn.
NPower works hard to keep alumni engaged, offering engagement specialists who connect with alumni to keep them involved, update them with new job listings, and alert them to new program offerings.
Yinette Fernandez, a senior control management specialist at Wells Fargo, graduated from NPower’s New York Tech Fundamentals program in 2011 and later completed the cybersecurity and cloud computing programs in 2020 and 2021, respectively. She also works as an assistant technical instructor for NPower’s AWS cloud computing program.
In the more advanced programs, such as those for cybersecurity and cloud computing, students are typically already working full time. But NPower helps these individuals “navigate lateral moves” or “apply to new positions,” says Fernandez, who points out that alumni can always come back to NPower to attend new programs to grow specific skill sets or to shift their tech careers into new directions.
Alumni also get access to guest speakers and lectures, as well as networking events, to keep connected with NPower and other program participants. They can also get involved in mentor-mentee programs. Fernandez, for example, has remained in touch with her mentor for nearly a decade.
This sentiment of support is a common theme NPower trainees and alumni bring up when discussing the program. There’s a consensus that, no matter your situation, NPower is dedicated to helping you launch, maintain, and grow a successful career in tech.
“Everyone at NPower brings a passion to their job each day,” Galey says. “My placement director made it her mission to find me a career and she has succeeded. That’s something for which I will be eternally grateful. But I don’t think I was special in that regard. I noticed that same drive to help everyone succeed from all the staff at NPower. Everyone at every step of the way has made it a mission to help veterans and young adults change their lives for the better. I’m someone who’s life is much better off than before joining NPower, but I’m just one of thousands of such people.”