Frankly Speaking - Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships
Episode 02 – The Turning Table
Episode 02 – The Turning Table
Oscar H., a former youth worker for a detention center in Buffalo, New York, describes how his IBM Z Apprenticeship at M&T Bank changed his life.
“My apprenticeship was literally the turning table for my life and never in a million years would I have thought that I would be here,” Oscar says.
Oscar has nearly completed his apprenticeship, and in this episode, he reflects on his journey over the past year, and what comes next.
In 2020, M&T Bank launched its ZDP tech apprenticeship program in collaboration with IBM, Franklin Apprenticeships, and The Urban Institute to expand access to tech careers for people with little to no technology experience. With a special focus on recruiting candidates from traditionally underrepresented communities in technology, M&T has recently welcomed its third cohort of IBM Z apprentices.
Frankly Speaking – Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships was produced by Franklin Apprenticeships, a woman-owned tech apprenticeship company on a mission to unlock the potential of the American workforce. Franklin offers apprenticeships for a range of tech roles, such as cybersecurity, help desk, IBM Z, network engineering and software engineering.
Help us spread the word about tech apprenticeships by leaving a review and telling a friend about our show. And don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of new episodes.
Oscar: On day one, I walked in, and of course, I’m a kid in the candy store.
Voiceover: Welcome to Frankly Speaking, the podcast that explores how tech apprenticeships will really work.
As a Franklin Apprenticeship Professional Success Coach, our host Cable Rose gives us an insider’s view from the real people and businesses who are using tech apprenticeship programs to develop the technical skills that the American economy so desperately needs.
Cable Rose: Welcome to this episode of Frankly Speaking. On this episode, we’ve got Oscar. He is joining us from M&T Bank in Buffalo, New York. Oscar is an almost finished apprentice in his IBM Z apprenticeship. His pathway there is an IBM Mainframe System Administrator. Oscar, welcome to the show. This is it, man. This is welcome to your apprenticeship episode. Tell us how’d you get here, man? You just told me in the pre-show– Just a minute ago, you said you just got notified. You’ve been with your company for a year?
Oscar: Yes, a year. I’ve been with M&T Bank for a year now.
Cable: Man, that’s awesome.
Oscar: Time is flying.
Cable: How so? What’s going on? Why is it flying?
Oscar: I think just staying busy, being consistent. [chuckles] A lot of meetings we call M&T meet and talk because we do a lot of meetings and a lot of talking.
Cable: A meet and talk. I like that. M&T stands for Meet and Talk. I love it, man. Then tell me, how did you get from point A to point B? Where were you 15 months ago or 16, 17 months ago? Where were you?
Oscar: I was actually working for a non-profit organization. It’s a youth detention center. I have been there for six years and I had got to my sixth year and was like, “Okay, you know what? It is time for a change.” [chuckles] I’m in the work office and I’m on Indeed. [laughs] I’m taking away, trying to see what I can find and I came across the apprenticeship program. I applied for it. I waited a bit and ended up receiving an e-mail. That’s pretty much how it all began. That was the beginning of my story.
Cable: It’s real, you literally click a button, you get an e-mail notification, and then all of a sudden,-
Cable: -guess what? You’re on your journey. Tell me something. What was your desire or passion? Why IT? Why are you in this space that you’re in? What was it about it?
Oscar: I knew that IT, it wasn’t going anywhere. With something that’ll be around forever, for me that was stability. Me upgrading my life as in getting engaged and getting married and then the kids come along and house and everything. I’m really big on focusing on the things that I really need. For me, that was where it all began. I just looked on Indeed. When I found the apprenticeship program, I just felt like it would be a good opportunity for a better and new beginning.
Cable: I love it, man. New beginning, new opportunities. What was that journey like? You get this e-mail and then what? All of a sudden you just get a job or what, what’d you have to do?
Oscar: [laughs] Exactly. That was the perfect way to put it because for me it was, I get this e-mail. It’s like, “Now what?” I get this e-mail and they’re like, “Okay, go on. Go to this link, click this link, and download this.” For me, I’m like, “Okay, wait.” Now flags are up. I’m like, “Is this real?” I still begin with of course positive hopes of it being real. Of course, I download the link, I download everything that they ask me to download. I log into the Khan Academy. It’s like, “Okay, begin this work and get this work done.”
Now you’re in this process of getting this work done and the process of that, you’re like, “Okay, what’s next?” Right? Then, of course, you get this other e-mail. Now this is IBM. Register for IBM and do that. I did that. After a while, it just really began to set in like, “Wow, this is real.” This is actually a thing. This is actually happening.
Cable: Do me a favor, at the time that you came through, did we have a Slack community? Were you a part of a conversation on the side where Slack and you had other pre-apprentices going through that? What was that like?
Oscar: For the Slack, it was pretty cool. It was different because at first, I didn’t really know what I was listening to because there were some things that were being talked about that of course I had no idea. I would always be attentive and it was cool to be on with– It was a lot of people on the Slack channel. I remember it being a lot of people on there and just being able to– It make you feel important like you’re a part of something not everybody can actually be a part of. I thought was pretty cool.
Cable: You did all the work, you got through all of the badges and all of the trainings. You went to Khan and IBM and probably a taste of Master the Mainframe or something, I don’t know. You did all of that. Then all of a sudden, what’s next?
Oscar: You do all of this. Then all of a sudden you get a phone call and it’s just like, “Hey, I’m such and such from Franklin Apprenticeship.” I’m just like, “Oh, hey.” That’s the first direct phone call that I actually received. I was just like, “Okay, hey how are you?” I get the talking.
Cable: Me and you both. Hey, that’s what we’re here for, right? That’s why we’re here. [laughs]
Oscar: Exactly. We were doing a lot of chatting up and then she just was like, “Okay, now that you have everything complete, there’s a couple job openings in Buffalo.” She said once when she figures everything out, I’ll receive another call. I ended up receiving another call. I can’t remember who it was from. I got a phone call and they were just like, “Hey, M&T Bank has job openings.” My heart is beating fast. I’m like, “Wait, wait. I don’t know if I did that well on a pre-apprenticeship. I don’t know if I know this stuff. [laughs]
Before you know it maybe about two weeks later, I was getting a call from M&T Bank to set up interviews and I was receiving e-mails and contracts to sign. I’m just like, “Wow.”
Cable: This is real. It happened. You clicked that button
Oscar: This is real.
Cable: You did Indeed.
Cable: Did your pre-app, you got your contacts. You got set in front of an employer, you did the interview. Obviously, you must have nailed the interview because they brought you on board. Tell me, Oscar, you came out of six years of Juvenile Detention center. You came in engagement, you’ve got a family now. You’ve got this desire to want to go a different path. You’re pivoting your career, you’re going into a– Tell me about walking in the door on day one.
Oscar: On day one I walked in and of course I’m like a kid in the candy store [laughter] I’m like someone that’s touring New York City and I’m taking pictures of everything. [laughter] First of all, the biggest thing I noticed was that we had a game room. I was just like, “Wow. I’m here to play games. [laughter] This is cool. I just remember Mario Kart playing as I was walking down the stairs. [laughter] Instead of the [onomatopoeia], you hear [onomatopoeia]. I’m just like, “Wow. This is great.” From there I just knew– I’m just like, “Wow, this is it for me.”
Walking in the door, they make you feel so at home. Everybody was so welcoming and they all reached their arms out per se and just made me feel comfortable. I just got right to work. It felt so good.
Cable: Now one, what a great story to talk about the pivot in your focus and then to go from click to click to training to wholy to, “Oh, hey, there’s a community. I’m part of something.” Then walk in on that first day. I love it, a kid at Christmas [uinintelligible00:08:22] or a kid at a candy store. That’s what you said. You’re absolutely right. I’ve heard of clients like this. I’ve heard of the Google buildings or the big sexy buildings with all the fun stuff to do. You walked in and you’re like, “Damn, this is for real. This is legit. I’m actually here.”
What you said next is what caught my ear. You said, “I got to work.” Tell me about it. What’s it like to go from– I appreciate your– You were candid with me. You said, “Hey, I don’t know if I’ve done enough in this realm. I don’t know if I should be going to a M&T bank with a large client. I don’t know what that looks like.” What does get to work look like? What’s an apprenticeship look like when you walk in? Day one’s great, don’t get me wrong, Mario Kart and a nice kitchen is always a good thing. You said it I got to work. What was that like, man?
What to work look like in an apprenticeship?
Oscar: For me, it was at that point figuring out what was needed from me from the company and from Franklin side. What did I have to do in order to achieve 100% with Franklin and what can I do to continue to progress at M&T Bank? I ended up getting a daily task from M&T Bank. Then we had the– I call it a syllabus. We had the syllabus for Franklin. Now with that being said, that was always my forefront was just like, “Okay, this is my objective. This is what needs to be completed.” Then from there what’s next?
Now I’m in the phase of now what’s next because I’m 100% complete with my Franklin work. For me, so that I don’t get overwhelmed, I only pretty much focus on what needs to be focused on until further notice. I can say that right now I’m at my further notice.
Cable: I got you. Well, let’s talk about it. You got your syllabus, your framework and all the tasks that both IBM, the Department of Labor, Franklin, and M&T all agreed upon, “These are the tasks that we’re going to focus on for your learning,” and you went right into that and got into it. You also got something onsite. You got probably and I’m guessing a mentor or maybe a manager, that was both part of your learning locally, right?
Cable: I understand M&T does it up, they’ve got a pretty good built-in system of both that we call it battle buddies, or your wingman, somebody who rides along and gives you those steps. Do me another favor, you got one more piece of the puzzle. Tell me about what your success coach does for you for the year that you’re apprenticing.
Oscar: I really appreciate my mentor because he was always very consistent, always very open and honest as to what he needed from me, and he pretty much just made me feel comfortable. Whenever I had questions, I was able to go to him about them. His response was very precise. He pretty much just stuck his neck out for me just to make sure I was comfortable in understanding what I was learning because you figured– like you said I came from a detentions– working in detention area.
I had no idea whatsoever what I was getting myself into, and he was the person who was really there for me to make me feel like okay, you’re doing an amazing job, just keep doing what you’re doing, and if anything comes up then I’ll let you know.
Cable: M&T does really good job with their mentors in this program when they bring on, because again, you guys are in your 3rd, 4th, 5th cohort whatever it is. They’re bringing on groups so they’ve identified that. Also, tell me about that success coach. Tell me about what that looks like from Franklin because now you got a Franklin success coach.
Oscar: Yes Erin. Erin she was amazing. Erin was really thorough in a good way. She pretty much forced us to push ourself a little bit more, to learn a little bit more to just gain that the extra evidence that you need in order to get a section approved. That was I think that she did an amazing job, she also sets up weekly meetings. I had a weekly check-in with Erin which was pretty good because we were able to go over everything as far as how long I was for the apprenticeship or even as long as like just a checkup.
Like how are you doing? How are you feeling? It’s not all peaches and cream, There is also, it gets tough completing some of those topics because you’re learning and you’re gathering information at the same time. Everybody learn differently and I’m just grateful for Erin for sure.
Cable: Well, if you don’t know this Erin came on the same day I did, her and I started with Franklin on the exact same day. Erin teaches the coaches how to get evidence. That’s how awesome Erin is. Erin took on a couple of different roles here at Franklin. One, she is an amazing success coach but I like the word you use because I always give her a hard time. She’s thorough. That is very true about Erin. There is never going to be a gap with Erin. When we need something here at Franklin, we go to Erin. “Hey Erin, what are your thoughts?” because she’ll give us not too much.
Erin’s going to watch this and listen to this. She’ll be like, “What’s Cable talking about?” Erin doesn’t give us too much but she gives us so much that we have 100% everything covered, and then we can streamline it to be a deliverable or streamline it to be the correct measures in which we got to go. We really enjoy Erin, and so now that you’ve got Erin as a one-on-one that’s fantastic, man. Now I’m going to tell you this, I’m going to ask this question of you and you don’t have to answer this, but I do a lot of listening when I communicate with people and I like communications.
There’s four areas of communications. There’s analytics, there’s feelers, there’s structure, and there’s chaos. I don’t know this, I’m going to guess that you’re a structure kind of person.
Oscar: Yes, for sure.
Cable: You talked in our pre and you talked here in this episode and the first thing you said all episodes that people are consistent, M&T is consistent. You liked that. You know what to expect. You knew what that syllabus framework was. It was a warm fuzzy for you to get that syllabus, wasn’t it? Then when Erin sat down and said, “Yes, this is how we’re going to do it, and here’s how we’re going to go over it. Here’s what’s to expect, and here’s how we’re going to gather your evidence. Here’s what a green check mark looks like,” then you were like, “I got this.”
It sounds like that was a good for you. Not for everybody, because I’m chaos. Just so you know I’m chaos, I don’t do structure. Erin is very good for us because she keeps all of us in that realm. Man, as a one-on-one coach with Erin, I bet you had had a great year with Erin. I know that for sure. Excellent. To my audience, you can’t see this Oscar just clapped and said yes, that Erin is fantastic so thank you, Oscar. Man, it’s cool to see somebody’s journey. See where they pivot, see what their passions are, see what their drive is, and see how they get to having an interview on a podcast about apprenticeships in North America.
What does that look like tech apprenticeships? If I may I’m going to guess you hit one year just now at M&T right?
Oscar: Yes. As of today.
Oscar: Yes, today is my year.
Cable: Dude, congrats.
Oscar: Thank you.
Cable: Oh man, that’s a huge– Well, well first off go downstairs, go get Mario Kart. Go get you– I think you’re working remote today, am I guessing that?
Cable: All right. [crosstalk]
Oscar: I’ll take that.
Cable: That’s a good one too man. Let’s talk about this though. Have you already graduated or are you about to graduate?
Oscar: No, so I am about to graduate. I’ll graduate January, February-ish is what they’re thinking. Getting real close.
Cable: I saw that on the calendar. We were talking internally here. We’ve got some travels coming up. I’m going to be in Dallas next week. I’m going to go into graduation in Dallas, and then the first week of December I’m in Virginia for an event. Then the same week of December I fly to California for a graduation for another client. In my planning, this is just off-topic, but in my planning for my three or four six weeks coming up the conversation of M&T because I don’t have any clients at M&T, I don’t have any apprentices.
Oscar: Oh wow.
Cable: You are my first contact with an M&T here in the podcast realm, but I knew that was coming because it’s already being talked about here. The celebration that’s coming up for you guys for y’all’s graduation. Man, I’m excited, I’m stoked, I’m ready for you to get up there and see what it looks like to finish that apprenticeship. Take that title off of your e-mail address. I don’t know if you have it on your e-mail.
Oscar: Yes, I do.
Cable: Do you? When it becomes assistance level I or it becomes analyst, whatever they put on there for your client man, I can’t wait for that moment for you, Oscar. It’s going to be fantastic.
Oscar: Thank you. I appreciate it. I know for me,– I don’t know if I can say this but it’s a blessing. It’s a blessing because never in a million years would I have thought that I would be here. Just to go from even to take it personally, even having to work where I was working previously and trying to figure out okay, how am I going to get this paid, and I have this paid and I’m getting behind. Then you have a program who you don’t even know believe in you as much as they do, and they bring you on with a compatible rate.
Even when I signed my contract I was like, “Wow, did I really just sign for that much?” Even then it was just like, “Wow, this is really happening.” It was eye-opening, it really was. It was really eye-opening.
Cable: Man, I wish they could see it, I got chill bumps just from hearing that journey from focus to reality of coming on board to this new career, this new program, and this new journey that you’re on. Not only an apprenticeship journey but being able to start your– you used the word I’m going to use your word career. I love the fact that people come into this and they realize, “Wait a minute, I’ve got 40 years I can do this. I can do this for 40 years starting today,” as they walk in that first door. It may not hit them that first day.
I had an apprentice she jumped on and six, seven months in and I didn’t even get one word in. She just jumped on, she goes, “Cable, I can do anything.” I was like, “What?” She goes, “I can do anything.” She just saw this now, she just saw a vector where it just got bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and the opportunities are there to grow. You’re going to spend your time. I heard you say it you’re consistent, you’re learning your job. If you don’t know it you’re going to ask those questions, but guess what, this is the start of an amazing career. Oscar, I’m so stoked for you man.
Oscar: Thank you. I really appreciate it, I really do. Franklin will always be close to my heart. It was the turning table. It was literally the turning table for my life. Like said I never would’ve expected it. I have a degree in business administration, and I went to school to be a dental assistant. To think that I went for that, and then like I said now I’m at M&T and I am in technology it’s just like who knew? Who knew? Who knew?
Cable: I don’t even want to ask anything else because that is such a profound share that you just gave us is that it was that pivot point. It was that starting point. Like you said, man, you’re blessed. Who knew that one day you’re picking plaque off somebody’s teeth as an assistant and six years later after a detention stint now you’re sitting in an IT job looking how to write the future of everything? Man, that’s awesome. Hey, Oscar, this has been one amazing episode. I love the fact that we’re bringing your story to the world.
Validates not only what apprenticeships are here in America because not a lot of people know, but validate the fact that it doesn’t matter where you are in your life, your job, your career, your journey. If you have a desire to get into IT this is one of the paths that are available for you. If you got the grit, that is a word I want to start using now on these calls is grit and you showed grit from the second you clicked on it. You were like, “I don’t know if I should click this. What the hell, I’m going to click it.” Then you’re like, “I don’t know.”
You know what? Next thing you knew you were two months into an apprenticeship and done and getting ready to put in front of an employer man. That is huge.
Oscar: Exactly. Thank you.
Cable: To everybody on the planet this was Oscar Heard III, he’s coming to us from the east coast from Buffalo, New York. By the way Go Buffs I heard-
Oscar: Go Bills.
Cable: Go Bills. Is the Bills Mafia. Ain’t that [unintelligible 00:21:48] you guys crazy [unintelligible 00:21:48]
Cable: You guys got some crazy fans up there. I love me some Bills Mafia.
Oscar: Bills Mafia.
Cable: Yes, that’s it. Man, that’s it.
Oscar: We jump through tables and everything. Set stuff on fire.
Cable: I will tell you watching some, is it Stefon Diggs?
Cable: Watching Stefon Diggs and Josh Allen and that whole team really come together the last two years has been great. I can only imagine– I’ve never been to an NFL game, but imagine you get to go to NFL game. I bet it’s a great crowd up there.
Oscar: Yes and the best part is the tailgate.
Cable: The tailgate. Oscar knows. He knows what’s up.
Cable: Listen, I’m going to wrap this up before we get in trouble, Oscar. Hey, I’m going to tell the planet, everybody, out there listening, thanks for listening to another episode of Frankly Speaking. I just wanted to thank you, Oscar, for your participation today, coming on to the show, sharing your story, sharing your adventures. We really appreciate you coming on to us and to all the listeners out there who get to hear your story, hear your adventures, and then share that with the world. Oscar, we appreciate you for being on Frankly Speaking, the early adventures in tech apprenticeships. Thanks for being here.
Voiceover: Thank you for listening to Frankly Speaking – Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships. This podcast was produced by Franklin Apprenticeships, a woman-owned tech apprenticeship company on a mission to unlock the potential of the American workforce. Franklin offers apprenticeships for a range of tech roles such as cybersecurity, helpdesk IBMC, network engineering, and software engineering. Help us spread the word about tech apprenticeships by leaving a review and telling a friend about our show. Don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of new episodes.
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