SAN RAMON -- Graduates of a free career-training program focused on Black and Latino communities facing high unemployment say the transition to software sales has been life changing for their professional growth and the stability of their families.
In an uncertain job market which saw several tech companies announce layoffs in 2022, Re:Work Training Bay Area highlights a sector with plenty of opportunity.
"I knew I didn't want to do what I was previously doing and I really wanted to try something new," said John Costa, a lead development representative for Five9 Inc. and a graduate of Re:Work. "If you're willing to learn and you're willing to change then, absolutely, (you) really can make it into this field."
Costa graduated with a degree in political science from San Francisco State University in 2020 with a child on the way. So he took the first job he could find as a delivery truck driver.
A friend told him about Re:Work in 2022 and he signed up for the eight-week program. Each Saturday he'd take lessons and then, every other Sunday, students in the course would role-play scenarios to help them work in the tech sales industry.
"I didn't really see any other way out," he said of his life and career before starting the program. "It affects your mood after work, before work, on your days off and then that's going to affect the ones around you, the ones that you love most."
Re:Work is a new program from the nonprofit All Stars Helping Kids and has already placed 35 of its candidates in tech jobs. Candidates do not need a college degree but must be at least 18 years old. Many graduates see their salary increase by more than 100 percent. Some have had their income more than triple, according to Re:Work.
"It would have been hard to be able to financially take care of my daughter and also be the father that I needed to be there for her because I wasn't there mentally as well," Costa said. "It gives me the opportunity to be able to take care of my family but also, like, I've met -- I've made -- some great friends, lifelong friends."
After completing the program, he and his girlfriend moved farther from the city and found a home to raise their young daughter. He has the flexibility to work from home certain days when he's not at the Five9 campus in San Ramon. Costa's manager says he has fit in well with the company and can see the benefits of Re:Work.
"He checked all those boxes and it's apparent every day that he shows up to work and he wants to get better at the job, which we all can do at any time," said Taylor Brewster, sales development manager at Five9 and Costa's supervisor. "I think it shows in that work ethic, in the eagerness to learn more and prove, 'hey, I belong here.'"
Brewster says the program's lessons align with what Five9 and other companies are looking for when hiring new employees. He also wants to encourage others to attempt a similar transition like Costa and he did into a tech career when they are ready.
"The job market can be scary, I've been there, on the job hunt, and the job search, it's never something that's easy or straightforward," Brewster said. "You do have to put yourself out there, put your best foot forward and really go for something that you want."
Months into the new job, Costa has seen an improvement in his mental health and gets plenty of time with his daughter. When she was born, he only received four days paternity leave before returning to work. The additional time he can spend with her is a major incentive but the increased income also means he can buy her gifts for her birthday that he could not afford before. Gifts he didn't enjoy himself as a child.
"It's been life changing, one hundred percent life changing and I'm blessed," Costa said.
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