Edited By Akiko Bremar, Talent Acquisition and HR Programs Specialist at Alkami
Alkami builds and delivers the nation’s most innovative digital online and mobile banking solutions for credit unions and banks with over 10M contracted users on its platform. An element of their growth and success—including multiple consecutive years of being listed as one of the Fastest Growing Tech Companies in the U.S. by Inc. 5000, Best Place to Work in Fintech, and Best Place to Work for Workplace Culture—is attributed to their partnerships with community organizations with particular focus on breaking down educational barriers to technical careers. These partnerships for Alkami include Bold Idea and Per Scholas.
With Resilience being the theme for this issue of Dallas Innovates, Alkami shares how its resilience has helped Alkamists and the company thrive during these remarkable and unprecedented times. Concurrently, Alkami highlights their partnership with Per Scholas, an organization that serves as a catalyst for individual resiliency. Per Scholas offers tuition-free education to students who traditionally would not have access to technical education. Alkami donates time, resources, and money to Per Scholas; but most importantly, they hire Per Scholas graduates.
Mas Kono, VP of Quality Assurance at Alkami; Chanel Tyes, HR Generalist at Alkami; and Stephanie Valadaz, Managing Director of Per Scholas in Dallas share more about Alkami’s partnership with Per Scholas, how their partnership helps one another grow, and how both organizations are discovering what resilience means, and what it especially meant in 2020.
What sets Alkami apart from other tech companies in Dallas?
Mas: Simply put, our culture sets Alkami apart from other companies. Specifically, our ability to demonstrate “Caring-Collaboration” and “Optimistic-Perseverance.” Our culture has been fundamental to how we respond and adapt to marketplace conditions and technical demands, and has allowed us to maintain our fast-paced working environment despite challenges that come. To sustain such a pace, we encourage continuous learning and growth. We invest in an infrastructure that reinforces continuous learning with a commitment of 24 hours of professional development for each Alkamist annually. Through Alkami University, professional learning communities that share knowledge and expertise, and leadership development programs, Alkamists are afforded opportunities to continuously learn, grow, and improve.
How has Alkami managed to remain resilient during Covid-19?
Mas: Working from home was never difficult at Alkami as we have long provided flexibility to do this when needed. However, this is the first time that we’ve all had to do it at once. Working remotely means we are dispersed with many individuals confronted by new challenges. Over 40% of Alkamists have school-aged children at home; many are caring for vulnerable family members; some are finding themselves taking on the financial burdens for extended family; and others are finding themselves home alone and isolated. Taking all of that into consideration has required managers and leaders to learn how to engage, motivate and connect with our teams in new ways. Our HR team has been pivotal in helping us rethink and reimagine our ways of work through education and learning programs, sponsoring cross-organization events/activities, and sharing of best practices. This has helped us all transition smoothly, making this time considerably less difficult than many may have anticipated.
How has Alkami continued to foster a sense of community and culture while working remote?
Mas: We rely a lot on tools and technology, such as Slack and Google Hangouts, to stay connected at work, but we do more than work meetings. “Caring-Collaboration” and “Real-Fun” are core to our culture, so we do a lot to create the human connection. With Slack channels dedicated to varying areas of interest, we encourage cross-organizational connection. For example, one channel is dedicated to foodies where recipes, tips, and photos of recent creations are shared. Alkami has hosted several celebrity chefs to lead virtual cooking classes, which our CEO and his family have joined in on, too. Additionally, every morning, people join Slack Channels saying, “good morning,” just like they would if they were in the office; and every evening, they sign off saying “good night.” It’s the little things that make remote work more human.
What is Per Scholas?
Stephanie: Per Scholas is a 25-year-old national non-profit that drives positive and proven social change in communities across the country. Specifically, Per Scholas Dallas provides motivated individuals in the DFW area with tuition-free IT instruction, leading to industry-recognized credentials and support services that launch tech careers. Career coaching, individualized student support, direct connections to employers, and career advancement support are some of the additional services offered. Since launching in Dallas in 2015, we have been a diverse and capable talent pipeline to more than 100 businesses in DFW and helped more than 700 individuals launch careers in tech. Our students come with diverse perspectives and varying backgrounds; yet, they all have one thing that is consistent to their success: an ability to adjust to adversity with focused commitment on changing the course of their professional futures.
What makes Alkami’s partnership with Per Scholas unique?
Mas: Our partnership isn’t unique as much as Per Scholas itself is. They’re a non-profit, but they’re selective with whom they enroll; the candidates must have a drive to succeed in spite of challenges and obstacles that life may bring to them. The three Per Scholas graduates on my team—Rashmi, Ivell, and Gabby—have a “No problem; I can do it!” kind of energy that not many people have and it’s inspiring. They are the true examples of resiliency—adapting, learning and translating their experiences into changing the course of their lives through a technology profession.
Stephanie: Alkami has become a destination of choice for Per Scholas graduates; the commitment to growth and investment in employees is evident. When Adrianne Court, Alkami’s Chief HR Officer, called me at the beginning of this summer, my heart initially sank thinking it was another company telling us they are reducing their commitment to the students due to the impact of COVID-19. Instead, she told us that they were making an additional financial donation; and even better, Alkami planned to implement a purpose-built paid internship program for Per Scholas students to gain real working experience. It is their intent to help give the students a competitive advantage during these uncertain times. Allkami kicked off their internship program, GROW, in August with six interns. A few of those six will now continue on to full-time employment with Alkami once their internships end. While there are many companies that “talk” about doing something, Alkami just does it. Even in these uncertain times, they are the true definition of a resilient partner.
How else does Alkami give back to the community?
Chanel: Beyond Per Scholas, Alkami ACT (Alkami Cares Together) partners with many organizations in the DFW area with a focus on eliminating education barriers and tackling poverty. To highlight another organization that we work with, Bold Idea helps young people learn about technology. Our Alkamists give their time to mentor children about computer coding with the purpose of opening their minds to future possibilities and STEM careers. Because of how quickly our volunteers adapted during COVID-19 by converting the program from an in-person classroom to an engaging virtual learning experience within a few days, Alkami was the only company that was able to maintain its commitments to the children this past spring semester. We also sponsor organizations like Women Who Code (WWC), offering resources and support to foster learning, educational opportunities, and networking. Furthermore, ACT partners with TangoTab’s Feed the City to help prepare meals for those in need in our communities. The most incredible thing about our Alkamists and Alkami is that during times like these, when many people might naturally begin to look inward and focus on themselves, Alkami’s commitment to community remains strong.
To learn more about Alkami, please visit: Alkami.com
To learn more about Per Scholas, please visit: PerScholas.org
Meet the Per Scholas Graduates at Alkami
Hymie Herrera, NOC Analyst
- Prior to Per Scholas, I was a: Warehouse Supervisor at UPS
- Why IT? I have always had a passion for technology, but I never actively pursued it. Eventually, I wanted to make it more than a hobby and learn to do it for a career.
- Why Per Scholas? I liked their mission statement, “Opening doors to technology careers for individuals from often overlooked communities.” Their commitment to upskilling the underemployed seemed, and is, genuine.
- Most Memorable Experience at Per Scholas: Getting a 20-minute nap before class. It sounds silly to say now, but I was working nights full-time at a hotel while attending class full-time, and traffic made my commute home last over an hour. I was lucky to get 3 hours of sleep during my time in the program.
- Favorite Part About Working at Alkami: The company culture is as genuine as it portrays itself to be. Everyone is welcoming and willing to help each other. It is a truly positive environment.
- Advice for others looking to break into IT: It’s not enough to simply want it. You have to put forth the effort to make it happen. There is no rush; take it one day at a time.
Rashmi Uv, Associate QA Engineer
- Prior to Per Scholas, I was a: Homemaker
- Why IT? I love troubleshooting and investigating the root cause. I also wanted to do something related to Engineering.
- Why Per Scholas? Per Scholas trained people like me who were on a career break and wanted a career transition with potential, but did not know where to start.
- Most memorable learning experience at Per Scholas: The entire experience was nostalgic and sent me back to college days, which I cherish. There were 36 students from different backgrounds who all had so much passion to learn.
- Favorite part about working at Alkami: People!!! I found amazing mentors here at Alkami. Everyone knew where I came from and they never judged me for not knowing everything in the first few months.
- Advice for others looking to break into IT: Just be honest and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Reach out to people when you don’t know the concepts. Keep learning everyday and just don’t give up.
Gabby Ibarra, Associate Quality Engineer
- Prior to Per Scholas, I was a: Self-employed Hairstylist and Entrepreneur for 4+ years
- Why IT? I was ready to try something new and challenging. I love challenges!
- Why Per Scholas? When I first heard about Per Scholas, I thought that it was too good to be true. As I learned that Per Scholas’s mission is to help adults transition to IT careers, I knew in my heart that this was the school for me. I love helping others grow and I could see that Per Scholas shared the same passion.
- Most memorable learning experience at Per Scholas: I will never forget how patient and caring the instructors are. I knew almost nothing about programming, yet in 3.5 months, the instructors took this creative Hairstylist Entrepreneur and taught her how to incorporate her past skills to creatively build a full stack application.
- Favorite part about working at Alkami: Being surrounded by people who follow Alkami’s culture compounds. The culture Alkami has set has made it a dream to be able to collaborate and communicate with others, while having fun.
- Advice for others looking to break into IT: Believe in yourself and do not be afraid to fail. There will always be someone who is willing to help you get back up and support you to keep going. You are not alone.
Samaria Taylor, IT Support Technician
- Prior to Per Scholas, I was a: Full-time Mommy!
- Why IT? I have always dabbled in different aspects of technology and felt that I would really flourish in the IT field.
- Why Per Scholas? The in-class learning was really appealing to me because I was not someone who thrives in online classroom environments.
- Most memorable learning experience at Per Scholas: I remember feeling such a warm welcome from everyone. I felt so at-home during the entire span of my course and have truly made some lifelong friends because of Per Scholas.
- Favorite part about working at Alkami: The culture of Alkami will always be my favorite part of working here. The overall friendliness that exists is refreshing.
- Advice for others looking to break into IT: Find something that you think you will like and start! The IT industry and field is so diverse that you never have to be stuck in any one part.
Ivell Romas IV, Associate QA Engineer
- Prior to Per Scholas, I was a: Manager at Texadelphia, a small cheesesteak chain.
- Why IT? I’ve always been fascinated by technology. I’ve taught myself a couple of programming languages and even made a garage door opener out of a Raspberry Pi.
- Why Per Scholas? Like most alumni of the program will tell you, I thought it was too good to be true. It seemed unlikely that a non-profit would dedicate themselves to helping people transition into tech for free, but when I walked through the door and got a chance to speak with Jackie, Tom and Charley, I knew that I was going to thrive.
- Most memorable learning experience at Per Scholas: I’ll always remember the practice interview I did with Tom at Per Scholas for this position at Alkami. I was nervous. I didn’t know if Alkami would even take me as a candidate because I didn’t have a degree. Tom reminded me that I already obtained the knowledge I needed, and that I should focus on what I wanted out of the interview as well. After that, I felt confident enough to interview with the VP of QA and not even know it at the time.
- Favorite part about working at Alkami: My coworkers are the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Every time I walk through the doors in the morning, I smile because I don’t meet the same resistance to progress at Alkami that I did in past jobs.
- Advice for others looking to break into IT: Having the skills is one thing, but engaging with people in the field or even going to meetups/other industry-related events can be extremely beneficial.
A version of this Thought Leaders article was first published in Dallas Innovates 2021: The Resilience Issue.
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