See how Innovate Birmingham gives the gift of tech training for local talent in The Magic City

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2 Innovate Birmingham grads share how the program changed their lives
Innovate Birmingham helps meet the demand for tech in The Magic City. Photo via Nathan Watson for Bham Now

Each year, Innovate Birmingham helps meet the demand for tech talent in the region by offering tech bootcamps, professional development training and other necessary tools to underserved residents in Central Alabama. We turned to two graduates of Innovate Birmingham to learn how the program helped transform their lives.

This Holiday season, you can give the gift of new tech talent in The Magic City by investing in Innovate Birmingham. Click here to learn more about donating.

What is Innovate Birmingham?

Innovate Birmingham
Karma Tolliver, a Data Analytics alum from Innovate Birmingham. Photo via Nathan Watson for Bham Now

Founded in 2016, Innovate Birmingham is a local nonprofit that was designed to train the next generation of aspiring tech professionals in the Central Alabama region. With over 15 community partners and more than 30 employer partners, Innovate Birmingham aims to rise to two challenges:

  1. Meet the fast-growing demand for tech talent in the region.
  2. Harness the potential of under- and unemployed residents in Central Alabama.

By offering two “boot-camp” style programs—Full-Stack Web Development and Data Analytics—Innovate Birmingham helps prepare the next generation of tech superstars right here in The Magic City. Within each program, Innovate Birmingham aims to:

  • Equip students with technical skills.
  • Foster personal and professional development.
  • Connect students with potential employers.

Meet Two Innovate Birmingham Grads

1. Kendall Jackson

Innovate Birmingham
Kendall Jackson, a graduate of Innovate Birmingham. Photo via Kendall Jackson

First, we spoke with Kendall Jackson, a recent graduate of Innovate Birmingham. Born and raised in Birmingham, Kendall graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a degree in Materials Engineering, but decided he wanted to look for a job that offered more flexibility. After participating in the Innovate Birmingham program, Kendall landed a job as a Data Analyst at Motion and began his transition to the tech world.

In addition to Data Analytics, Kendall practices photography in his free time and runs a photography business in Birmingham.

How did you first hear about Innovate Birmingham, and how did you know it was the right step for you?

Kendall: “I first heard about Innovate Birmingham while I was in school, studying engineering. At the time, I was in so far that I felt I couldn’t change my career path. However, when I graduated during the pandemic, that put things into perspective. I reached out to some people I knew at Innovate Birmingham and decided to check it out—then I submitted my application the day before it was due!”

What was the program like? Did you feel out of place at all, or was everyone on a similar “tech” playing field?

Kendall: “Personally, I can grasp new concepts pretty quickly, and the courses at Innovate Birmingham helped reassure me that this was the right choice. Plus, our two Teaching Assistants—Jessie McGarity and Taylor Abney—were excellent instructors. We worked with them every day, and I can’t stress enough how big of a help they were.”

Once you graduated, did you feel prepared to seek out a career in tech? How easy was it to find a job?

Kendall: “Any time you’re looking for a job can be stressful! I started applying about a month before graduation, and I wanted to at least have done some interviews by the time I graduated. Innovate Birmingham helped me get my resume in order, and I felt very prepared for all of my interviews. Innovate Birmingham turned me into a true data professional, and I was able to carry myself as such in the interviews.”

What would you say to others considering Innovate Birmingham? 

Kendall: “If you want to pursue a great career for you and your family, Innovate Birmingham is a great place to start. It’s a wonderful environment with a welcoming community of students, teachers and alumni, which are an invaluable resource to have. Plus, there are students of all ages, so you don’t feel out of place. Innovate Birmingham is very plugged in with Birmingham, and with the tech scene growing rapidly along with the cost of living, it feels like a no-brainer to pursue a career in tech. You can always count on having a job.”

2. Wade Kwon

Innovate Birmingham
Wade Kwon, a graduate of Innovate Birmingham. Photo via Wade Kwon

Meet Wade Kwon, a self-described data guru and Birmingham native. For over a decade, Wade worked as a journalist and editor at magazines such as the Birmingham Post-Herald and Southern Living before deciding to make a change in his career path. Then, he heard about Innovate Birmingham and knew it was the right choice.

How did you first hear about Innovate Birmingham, and how did you know it was the right step for you?

Wade: “I found Innovate Birmingham online. I had been trying to land a corporate job in marketing and wasn’t having much luck. When I saw that IB offered training in data analysis, I knew the time was right for a career change.”

What was the program like? Did you feel out of place at all, or was everyone on a similar “tech” playing field?

Wade: “The program was an intense 14-week immersive class. I was working at night while attending class in person during the day. I felt a little out of sorts, being among the oldest students in class. That was also a blessing, since IB had previously limited admittance to a younger age range.”

Once you graduated, did you feel prepared to seek out a career in tech? How easy was it to find a job?

Wade: “After graduation, I was ready to get to work. It took a lot of searching and a lot of applications, but I finally landed a full-time job with RxBenefits after 6 months, thanks to a recruiter from Birmingham-based ITAC Solutions.”

What would you say to others considering Innovate Birmingham?

Wade: “If job seekers are looking for work in IT, it’s worth the time to check out Innovate Birmingham and applying for a slot. It will change your life.”

Give the Gift of Tech Talent this Holiday Season with Innovate Birmingham

Innovate Birmingham
Thanks to your gift, Innovate Birmingham can continue to change lives in Birmingham. Photo via Nathan Watson for Bham Now

Thanks to the support of people just like you in Central Alabama, Innovate Birmingham is able to offer these life-changing programs for free to aspiring tech professionals who might not otherwise have the opportunity.

This Holiday season, give the gift of new tech talent in Birmingham with a donation to Innovate Birmingham. Click here to learn more about how your investment with Innovate Birmingham changes lives.

Innovate Birmingham
You can donate to Innovate Birmingham through Venmo at @innovatebirmingham

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Nathan Watson
Originally from Leiper's Fork, Tennessee. Birmingham-Southern '19.
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