Software Engineer overcomes homelessness and unemployment with help from local training grant

THE POWER OF POSSIBLE

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Possible is a familiar word for software engineer Alex L. Jones III. Alex works for Mindtree, a global information technology consulting firm boasting the tagline “Welcome to possible.” Alex’s journey to software engineer for one of the fastest growing technology companies was filled with seemingly impossible hurdles as he wrestled with unemployment and homelessness for nearly six years.

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AlexJones
Alex Jones

In 2008, Alex lost his job as an IT technician at a nonprofit healthcare agency. It wasn’t until 2013 that Alex would first learn of the program that would change his life: CareerSource North Central Florida’s Healthcare, Biomanufacturing, Occupational & Technology Training (HBOTT) program.

“Gainesville has lots of opportunities for people looking to start or advance a career,” he says. Alex discovered one of those opportunities by proactively researching CareerSource NCFL when he decided to move from Tampa back to his hometown of Gainesville.

HBOTT is designed to assist long-term unemployed workers in healthcare, bioscience, advanced manufacturing and information technology occupations often filled by foreign workers. Funded through an H1-B Technical Skills Training grant provided by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, HBOTT allows employers to hire, train and retain eligible employees in permanent positions by providing reimbursement for on-the-job training (OJT) costs.

Although highly educated with a professional background and a Master’s degree in Information Systems Management, Alex spent more than five years searching for stable employment.

“I couldn’t even get a job at McDonald’s,” he sighs. Alex stayed motivated throughout his journey, attributing his perseverance to pursue all possibilities to his faith in God.

He picked up odd jobs like yard work while searching for employment and a permanent home. Instead Alex found himself immersed in a pattern of bad luck and bad influence.

“There were a lot of obstacles to overcome,” says Alex. “I was homeless, no transportation and fighting low self-esteem. Fear was the worst emotion. I would tell myself, ‘I will never get a job. It won’t happen for me. Just give up.’

“Fighting low self-esteem was the hardest because when you build yourself up, you have others ready to bring you down because they don’t want to see you make it out,” he recalls.

When Alex returned to Gainesville he called CareerSource NCFL and the rest is history, he says. During the following months, Alex worked with HBOTT Career Developer Kim Brown and took advantage of other regional workforce assistance, like resume writing and entrepreneurship training. Having access to computers and printers during his job search was key, Alex says. He continued to apply for jobs and attend local recruitment events.

“Alex is the perfect example of what is possible through the HBOTT program in combination with hard work and dedication,” says Kim. “He never gave up and was willing to start at the bottom and prove himself worthy of the opportunity of advancement. I appreciate his ethics and diligence regardless of his circumstances.”

In addition to referral through the HBOTT program, Alex was recruited directly by Mindtree due to his extensive IT background. The HBOTT program helps long-term unemployed and underemployed professionals with post-secondary education credentials and work experience with gaining necessary job skills in demand by employers in high-tech industries.

“Alex had high energy and enthusiasm and exhibited that he is willing to invest his time into Mindtree,” explains Mindtree Human Resources Manager Samantha Rist on why the team hired Alex. “He was looking for a long-term career in an organization where he could grow.”

Since his first interview, Alex felt at ease learning new skills and programs. “Mindtree allows me to learn and stay on top of technology. At Mindtree you are not put in a small box and left alone. If you want to do something different, Mindtree will make sure you have the skillset,” Alex boasts. “My dream is coming true.”

And Mindtree couldn’t be happier.

“Alex is a high-energy, productive, and collaborative Mindtree Mind,” Samantha says. “He has an amazing sense of humor, is flexible and is dedicated to learning as much as he can about any and all topics.”

Less than six months after being hired and completing OJT, Alex was promoted from help desk engineer to software engineer. He is currently testing for advanced certification in Java Development through Mindtree. Alex is receiving additional training for certifications in CSS, HTML and Microsoft Certified Solutions Development through CareerSource North Central Florida.

Alex recently moved into the first place he can call ‘home’ after more than five years of uncertainty. Now with a promising career and an apartment, Alex looks forward to advancing his professional career and moving forward in his personal life. He plans to marry his fiancé in 2015.

Ultimately, Alex wants to help others in similar situations. He offers advice, “Reach out for help. Keep your skills updated, and stay far from trouble. It will haunt you.” Alex hopes to reinvest in rural, crime-stricken communities by providing opportunities to learn business management and software programming through remedial skills training.

It’s this type of dedication to continuous improvement – along with his faith – that kept Alex motivated during one of the lowest points of his life and will undoubtedly propel him forward through his next journey.

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