She planned to be a nurse. This scholarship changed everything.

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Tremain-Ajena Jones. Photo supplied

Like a lot of young women, Tremain-Ajena Jones assumed she’d follow in the footsteps of other women in her life and become a nurse. Life had other plans for her, though. Thanks to a scholarship from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), she’s now enjoying the rewarding tech career she dreamed of. Keep reading to learn her story and how you or a woman in your life can get started on the path to your own tech career.

1. This is Tremain’s story

Innovate Birmingham's software development cohort
Tremain-Ajena Jones and her Innovate Birmingham cohort. Photo via Tremain-Ajena Jones

Raised in Birmingham from the age of nine, Tremain Ajena-Jones had a little exposure to robotics during her time at Ramsay High School, but didn’t get very far. 

Still, a seed was planted, and after a brief foray into nursing at Berea College, she shifted to the Tech and Applied Design major. That’s where she first heard of NCWIT in a general sense, but didn’t attend any of their events.

After graduating from Berea, Jones did a year-long AmeriCorps job, then came back to Birmingham. While volunteering with the downtown library, she learned about NCWIT’s scholarship to Innovate Birmingham’s software development program. 

NCWIT’s scholarship to Innovate Birmingham’s software development program made all the difference

Habitat for Humanity House project
Tremain and fellow AmeriCorps volunteers working on a Habitat for Humanity House. Photo via Tremain Ajena-Jones

Jones applied for the scholarship and was accepted. What was originally a 14-week software development course ended up lasting from January through May because of the pandemic. This gave her plenty of time to learn a number of coding languages and other essential career skills.

Once she graduated from the program, she found a job with Alabama Department of Transportation’s traffic management center. “It’s code-based civil engineering,” Jones explained. “We monitor construction, crashes, fatalities, injuries, debris, people walking…everything that happens on our roadways.”

“Doing the program opened me up to a community of tech people. It also helped me get a leg up—not necessarily just a job. Even when I wasn’t the right fit for a particular role or position, interviewers were more than willing to talk with me about other opportunities to help me refine my search.”

There’s one thing in particular Jones loves about NCWIT’s efforts in Birmingham

“NCWIT invests in people who tend to be more overlooked. The more diversity you have, the more you can create solutions and products that can help society.”

2. The trainers weigh in

NCWIT's scholarships help women get really good jobs in tech
NCWIT helps pave the way to really good jobs. Photo via Cori Purdue of UAB

To learn more about NCWIT’s efforts in Alabama, we reached out to two people involved on the training side: 

  • Cori Miller Perdue, Director of Professional Development at UAB’s Collat School of Business 
  • Chris Sims, CEO and Chief Product Owner at Sigao

Cori Miller Perdue, UAB

“Our relationship with NCWIT has been phenomenal. They’ve helped connect us with eager people who want to learn but haven’t always had the opportunity to learn a professional skill.

It’s been a wonderful infusion to have more diversity in our classes, and everyone who’s involved is here for a reason, whether they’re learning project management, Agile, PMP (project management certification) or ACP (agile certified practitioner) certification or something else. They’re either wanting a better job or to advance in their job.

The NCWIT scholarship helps open doors, not only for foundational classes, but for test prep, tech classes and exams as well. NCWIT has invested in the whole journey, which helps create a huge pathway to success for these students.”

Chris Sims of Sigao

“NCWIT is providing life-changing access to truly career-transformative training and education. One example is Scrum education, which we provide. It fills a huge growing need that leans into distance and remote work. 

We also partner with really good, big companies that are hiring and looking for diversity in their hiring. So NCWIT is creating career paths, but also providing introductions and networking into great career opportunities.

Also, it’s been a little bit, but I believe our average adult income in the state of Alabama is around $40k per year. Getting into the tech field increases that to $90K per year. These career opportunities up the water level for the entire state. I’m so honored to be a part of it.”

3. NCWIT’s scholarship programs are a big win for Birmingham’s biz community

NCWIT at a TechBirmingham Tech Tuesday event, Delphine Carter of Boulo Solutions
Delphine Carter of Boulo Solutions at a 2019 TechBirmingham’s Tech Tuesday featuring NCWIT

Ben Podbielski, Assistant VP of Emerging Technologies, Protective Life

“I’ve been fortunate to have personally witnessed the impact of NCWIT in the Birmingham region through both Innovate Birmingham and TechBirmingham. The impact that NCWIT has been able to have in our local community has been inspiring.”

Delphine Carter, Founder and CEO, Boulo Solutions

“Boulo works to promote NCWIT scholarship opportunities and training opportunities to Boulo members. NCWIT’s certification opportunities are often perfect for women who are caretakers because they occur in non-traditional ways (remote, evening hours, self-paced, etc.).

NCWIT’s programming is integral to affecting generational change for women in our state by offering them free education in a career space that has endless opportunity. With more than 2M women expected to leave the workforce during COVID, giving our women access to a career that can largely be done remotely, with very competitive salaries, is a game-changer for those who want a more stable career.”

4. Want to get involved? Here’s how.

If you’re a woman who’s hungry for a new career path or to uplevel your skills, hop over here to learn more about the pathways into tech offered by NCWIT and their partners

  • Apply for the course you want and answer a couple of essay questions.
  • NCWIT will review your application to see if you meet the qualifications.
  • If you meet the qualifications, they’ll schedule you for a pre-recorded video interview. You’ll submit that with a letter of recommendation. 
  • After they review it, they’ll determine if you’re accepted or not. According to Haley Blackburn from Sigao, they’re looking for people who will be fully committed to whichever course they’re chosen for, whether it’s a week long program or one that’s 14 weeks. If you don’t make it the first time, you can reapply. 

5. Support NCWIT’s work in Alabama + help put more people on the fast track to career fulfillment

NCWIT is currently supported by thte Cognizant U.S. Foundation
NCWIT at a 2019 TechBirmingham Tech Tuesday event. Photo via Laine White

NCWIT is currently in the third year of a three-year program, and they’d like to keep it going for many more years to come. The program, which was initially funded by the  Cognizant US Foundation, is now seeking local and regional donors to build on the current momentum.

Want to see this fantastic work continue in our area? Contact NCWIT at info@ncwit.org for more information.

Ready to change careers or grow the one you have? Hop over here to apply for a scholarship with NCWIT for one of several skill training programs today

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Sharron Swain
Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference
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