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Posted on August 31st, 2021 in Featured, Veterans in Tech

As Eleven Fifty Academy’s Sr. VP of Engagement, Chris Hutchinson works collaboratively with all of the departments at Eleven Fifty to identify external partnership opportunities with not only Indiana-based organizations, but with entities from coast-to-coast that benefit the Academy’s mission and growth goals.

If you’ve been following Eleven Fifty Academy for a while, you might have seen an article (or two, or three, or…) from me about how focused I am on helping to grow our relationships with veterans in search of their next career move after service. This has been a fundamental part of my work in building strategic partnerships for the Academy not because I myself am a veteran, but because I truly believe that veterans are underserved by educators and employers alike in the tech space. And I want to fix that.

Here’s the thing, though: I’m also not a woman. I’m not part of a minority population. I don’t live in a rural area or a traditionally economically disadvantaged neighborhood. 

I think it’s important to bring that obvious fact (I mean, just look at my photo above…) to the forefront because if I’ve learned one thing in my tenure as Eleven Fifty’s Sr. VP of Engagement, it’s that I still have a lot to learn when it comes to serving those communities that have far too long been ignored by the tech industry. It’s a core part of our mission to identify groups of people who are in need of access to the kinds of well-paying, rewarding, challenging, and in-demand jobs that fields like coding, cybersecurity, and UX/UI design can offer. 

Why? It’s simple. Our mission is to empower one million people to earn one million dollars from tech jobs in ten years. 

That’s a big goal, and it seems to us like the best way to reach that many people is to open the doors of tech to underserved communities. Not that we aren’t interested in educating anyone of any background who comes to us—I just think my role with Eleven Fifty puts me in a position where I can help increase equity and equality in an industry that’s in real need of diverse talents and perspectives. 

All this to say that it’s those underserved communities I’ve been aggressively pursuing through key partnerships with organizations like Hiring Our Heroes, Indy Women in Tech, InnoPower, and Martin University

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know many veterans as I’ve worked with Hiring Our Heroes to produce regular, veteran-focused presentations and a whole slew of content designed to answer questions and help vets think through tech as an option for a great civilian career. But along the way, I’ve also learned that I can never truly be a member of the veteran community—and that’s important when it comes to building good-faith relationships that can really make an impact. 

Just look at our work with Advancing Tech in 46218, or our targeted outreach to Gary, Indiana. These are two places where the vast majority of the population are Black. As our own COO Dewand Neely so astutely discussed in his article about building trust with these communities, it’s simply not going to work for a guy who looks like me to stroll into town, set up a presentation, and expect people there to just take what I say on faith. Especially when I’m saying that our tech bootcamps aren’t a scam, that the opportunity for well-paying jobs is real, and that we are working to take care of every hurdle in the way of somebody enrolling and learning valuable tech skills. 

That kind of trust takes time, it takes the partnership of leaders inside those communities we’re trying to reach, and it takes a lot of listening on my part. 

The great news is that we truly are listening, and along the way we’re building standardized processes for understanding the needs of these communities and providing them with valuable insights and programming that makes sense for them. 

So, back to veterans: What does this have to do with you? 

More than anything, I just wanted to take the opportunity to look vets and leaders in the vet community in the eye and tell you that we are serious about our commitment to engaging with you, learning from you, and making the transition to civilian life via a tech education as accessible, comfortable, and transparent as possible. 

For now, that means following the lead of the experts at partners like Hiring Our Heroes to provide content that’s relevant. It means listening to those veterans I do encounter and working constantly to iterate on our presentations, our content, and our programming to align with their needs and expectations.

It also means taking steps to add people to my team at Eleven Fifty who themselves are veterans. It means understanding that there’s only so much I even can understand about what it’s like to be a veteran, to serve, and then to come back to civilian life and chart a path forward. More details on that front to come, but know that this is a promise to the veteran community that I will follow through on.

In the meantime, I’m still listening and learning as much as I possibly can. Are you a veteran thinking about a career in tech? A representative of a veteran association or organization? An Eleven Fifty alum with perspective you can share on your experience? I want to hear from you.

No, really—here’s a link to my email address. Send me a message. Tell your story, or set up a phone call so we can get better acquainted. If you’re in Indianapolis, let’s grab coffee or a beer and talk. 

I may not be a vet, but I’m someone who wants nothing more than to see our nation’s heroes succeed and chase their dreams. Let’s knock down the doors to the tech industry for veterans together.

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