Alumni of Innovate Birmingham share how the program completely changed their lives. Learn how you could too.

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Panelists at Pathway to Careers in Tech. Photo via BhamNow

On Tuesday, November 12, Innovate Birmingham hosted their Pathways to Careers in Tech panel. The panel featured several successful alums of Innovate Birmingham programs. Thanks to organizations like Innovate Birmingham, The Magic City is rapidly turning into a new tech hot spot. Maybe even the next Silicon Valley? Read on to learn more.

Innovate Birmingham – Boot Camp for Tech

tech students innovate
Students hard at work. Photo via Innovate Birmingham

Innovate Birmingham began when a problem in the Birmingham tech industry was noticed. Although there were a multitude of tech jobs available, Birmingham did not have enough people trained to take those jobs. However, Innovate Birmingham took this as an opportunity.

In order to foster growth in the tech community, they offer two “boot-camp” style programs: Software Development and Data Analytics. Oh, and these programs are FREE.

In order to get their students ready for the tech field, Innovate Birmingham helps their students with three concepts:

  1. Equips their students with technical skills
  2. Fosters personal and professional development
  3. Connects students with potential employers

“From the employer perspective, Innovate Birmingham places a large emphasis on professional development, which, in turn, pays off in dividends.”

Ben Podbielski, Protective Life

Meet 4 Alumni of Innovate Birmingham at Pathways to Careers in Tech

Moderator–Ben Podbielski, Protective Life

Ben Podbielski. Photo via Innovate Birmingham

The panel was moderated by Ben Podbielski, a member of the Digital and Innovation team at Protective Life. Although he initially went to college to pursue a degree in history, he quickly realized his true passion in technology. In addition to his Master’s in IT, Businesses Administration and Project Management, Ben has the following honors:

“At Protective, we pride ourselves in our community-driven culture and employees being able to make valued contributions, which is why supporting organizations like Innovate Birmingham aligns well with our values.”

Ben Podbielski, Protective Life

1. Matt Haikala, Sigao Studios

Innovate Birmingham
Mat Haikala. Photo via Innovate Birmingham

Although Matt Haikala had taken classes at Auburn, they didn’t seem to work out. So when he moved back to Birmingham, he applied to the Software Development program at Innovate Birmingham.

Now, Matt is focused on learning new software languages in order to tackle large projects. Since his graduation from Innovate Birmingham, Matt is excited to establish himself as a competent developer, asset to his company and be in a position to help new developers get on their feet.

“Innovate Birmingham prepared me well for learning, and doing so quickly.”

Matt Haikala

2. Seth Mikell, Shipt

Innovate Birmingham
Seth Mikell. Photo via Innovate Birmingham

Seth Mikell was working as a Logistics Specialist when he became interested in data analysis. So he took the leap and applied for the Data Analytics program at Innovate Birmingham.

During the program, Seth was exposed to programs like Power Bi and Tableau. These tools helped Seth understand the big concepts of data analysis. In addition, Innovate Birmingham let Seth experiment in a supportive environment.

“[The Data Analytics bootcamp] provided me the opportunity to challenge myself in my work and in life.”

Seth Mikell

3. Lavell Wynn, RxBenefits

Innovate Birmingham
Photo via Innovate Birmingham

Prior to Innovate Birmingham, Lavell Wynn worked full-time at DoorDash. During his time in the Data Analytics bootcamp, Lavell learned skills that he could transfer to his current job, such as:

  • Organization
  • Time management
  • Microsoft Excel

Since the tech industry is always about learning new skills, Lavell plans to expand his skill set with the experience he gained through Innovate Birmingham.

4. Cameron Smith, BBVA

Innovate Birmingham
Photo via Innovate Birmingham

Before he applied to Innovate Birmingham, Cameron Smith was working as a mechanic at Hertz. However, the idea of waiting 2–4 years in school to get a decent job down the line wasn’t appealing. Then he was accepted to the Software Development program. During his time in the program, Cameron made huge strides in learning the tools to become a developer.

“[Innovate Birmingham] totally changed my career. Now I’m a User Interface developer at BBVA designing web pages. This program is probably one of the best things to happen to me.”

Cameron Smith

Considering Innovate Birmingham?

Innovate Birmingham
Tenants at Innovation Depot, where Innovate Birmingham operates. Photo via Innovation Depot, Inc 

If you’re interested in starting a career in the tech field, there is no better place to start than Innovate Birmingham.

  • The fast-track bootcamps at Innovate Birmingham add early value towards a tech career.
  • In addition to a diverse candidates, each candidate is prepared for a diverse range of jobs.
  • Innovate Birmingham is more than tech training. They also prepare each candidate for the professional world.

Learn more about their courses and scholarship opportunities.

“Last year, in the Birmingham area, companies were only able to fill about half of nearly 1,000 IT-related job openings. We see fast track programs, like Innovate Birmingham, fitting in to accommodate this need.”

Ben Podbielski, Protective Life

Are you excited to see Birmingham grow as a tech hub in the South? Tag @bhamnow and let us know your thoughts!

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Author: Nathan Watson

Tennessee native who fell in love with Birmingham during college. Graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2019. Passionate about Birmingham and its continued growth.