Kimberly Wamble was beginning to believe she would never advance in her career or earn a salary substantial enough to pay off her student loan debt and help her children advance their own educations.
Kim, who earned a bachelor’s of science degree in management in 2013, spent two decades working in administrative roles in financial services and other sectors. Because of her years of hands-on experience and adeptness at multitasking, Kim always seemed to end up performing management-level tasks, yet she continued to find herself stuck in administrative assistant roles, which kept her salary and her spirits low.
She did eventually leave the corporate world for a more fulfilling and better-paying position with a faith-based non-profit organization. She enjoyed her work and stayed in that role for eight years, but ultimately left to care for her terminally ill father. When he passed away in 2014, Kim returned to working a series of unfulfilling jobs.
A job opening announcement at Rhodes College for an assistant to the dean of admission peaked her interest and she submitted an application. The college contacted her later that same day to set up an interview. And in fall of 2015, Kim joined the admissions office, where her work included scheduling, making travel arrangements, managing expenses and handling correspondence.
“When I got there, it just felt like the right place to be,” she said. “If I had to stay in administrative work, that was the place to be.”
Kim first heard about Tech901 when representatives met with her staff at Rhodes College to discuss possible opportunities. When she learned Tech901 offered Memphians affordable training for a variety of information technology jobs, Kim immediately thought of her 18-year-old son.
“He’s a smart guy — tech-savvy and likes video games, and I thought a program like this might interest him,” she said.
But when Kim began researching Tech901, she realized the program could be the breakthrough she needed.
“I had an interest in technology, the classes were flexible and affordable, and I knew this could help me make the career change that I was looking for,” she said.
Kim attended an information session at Tech901 headquarters in Crosstown Concourse, where she was encouraged by the diversity of the students, many who were older or had limited computer skills.
Over the years, Kim had built several basic websites, including ones for her mother, who’s an event planner, her husband, who works as a real estate agent, as well as for a church that had approached her for help. And her administrative jobs often required her to keep company websites updated.
“I didn’t really think about the fact that I’d been involved in website development at work all those years,” she said. “Keeping websites up to date was always part of the job description.”
Kim understood design, but coding presented an entirely new challenge.
“I had to learn a whole new language, because that’s what coding is,” said Kim, who at first found it so difficult, she considered quitting the course.
But Tech 901 staff, teachers and community volunteers were tremendously patient, helpful and supportive, which encouraged her not to give up. She also connected with classmates, who supported each other and met up outside of classes for study sessions. In addition, Kim spent a lot of time studying alone — at home on nights and weekends and on her lunch breaks at work.
“So, I stuck with it and it was challenging, but one day it just clicked,” she said.
In December of 2017, Kim graduated from the Tech901 Code 1.0 course. A significant portion of the course is based on Harvard’s CS50 curriculum, so in addition to a Tech901 certificate, students who successfully complete an individual project within a year are eligible for a Harvard EdX certificate. Kim is currently working on an app to earn hers.
Through the program, Kim and her peers were introduced to several local employers looking to hire people with hard technology skills, and while there were great opportunities available, none of them felt right for Kim.
Although she enjoyed working for Rhodes College, Kim anticipated having to leave in order to find the type of job suited to the new skills she’d acquired through Tech901.
“I expected I’d end up somewhere that had a huge IT department,” she said. “I didn’t want to leave Rhodes. My daughter goes to school nearby, it’s convenient, and I love the people there. Rhodes has a great IT department but it’s small, and people don’t quit. You start working at Rhodes, then you retire from Rhodes. So, I just didn’t think there would be an opportunity there.”
But Kim was in luck: a position for a data services and business systems analyst at Rhodes unexpectedly opened up, and because of the training she’d received at Tech901, Kim was offered the position, which she began in August of 2018. She was able to stay in the campus environment she loved while also receiving a $15,000 pay increase.
“I cannot stress how valuable my Tech901 experience has been,” Kim said. “I’m still paying off student loans for a degree I’ve never used, which I’m glad I received, but it hasn’t advanced my career. However, I gained knowledge, confidence and a wonderful network through Tech901, and with no additional debt. I hope this opportunity will be available for so many other Memphians in the future.”
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