Inspiring Success

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May 19, 2014

Harrison Lovell’s rough start in IT-Ready training turns into solid finish

Harrison Lovell readily admits that when he showed up for his interview at IT-Ready, he didn’t make a great first impression. Arriving late, dressed in jeans and a hoodie, and carrying a skateboard under his arm, Lovell struggled with questions he was asked.

Such as, what IT certification test would he take at the end of the program?

“Um, CompTIA something plus,” he recalls saying.

And, how did he plan to use his newfound IT education and training after graduation?

“I volunteer with my church’s media ministry,” he told interviewers. “So I’d use it for that.”

Lovell recounts how the interviewer looked at him and said in response, “I hate to tell you this, but that has absolutely nothing to do with what you’d be learning here.”

Still, officials at Per Scholas must have seen something that said “potential” about Lovell because they let him come back and interview again for IT-Ready, a full-time training program that leads to the CompTIA A+ certification.

The second time, he was prepared.

“I was a superstar at the next interview,” he said. “That first interview was an important experience for me and one that helped me get my act together.”

Like the Creating IT Futures Foundation, Per Scholas is a national nonprofit organization that provides free, high-quality technical education to the unemployed and people from groups under-represented in the IT industry, including ethnic minorities, women and military veterans.  

Lovell didn’t just get his own act together when he enrolled in Per Scholas. He organized study groups (“I wasn’t the smartest person in the class, but if I could explain it to another person, it showed me I knew the material”) and proactively asked to shadow the Per Scholas admissions team to improve his presentation and interview skills.
 
“While I attended Per Scholas, I was able to improve my technical and time-management skills, speak publicly and build a strong network of motivated colleagues,” he said. “It made me hungry for more.”

After Lovell earned his CompTia A+ certification, “more” was what Per Scholas willingly fed him, first with CompTIA Network+ training and certification, and then in the beta testing of a new course curriculum called Software Testing Education Program (STEP).

“I thought I was a shoe-in for the class, but I found out I would be competing for one spot in 20 against 70 other candidates so once again, the pressure was on,” he said. “Competing against other Per Scholians is a terrifying experience because we are all self driven, insightful and motivated.”

Lovell was admitted into the pilot program, where he learned the concepts of software testing and got hands-on experience with industry experts. He organized study groups, like he did before, and was hired by Per Scholas to work as an intern.

Jerome Dazzell, director of new training initiatives at Per Scholas, said he and other Per Scholas officials enjoyed watching Lovell’s transformation.

“When Harrison first enrolled in our program, he was, in essence, a mute. He didn’t want to speak,” Dazzell said. “But while going through the life-skills training we do, Harrison began to open up and that gave him confidence, which he carried over into software testing. And he became a leader, a great team member who helped fellow classmates, someone who was very inquisitive and asked questions. All of that would have been way outside his previous comfort zone.”

Lovell also was paired with a mentor who practiced the Coyote method of teaching – responding to questions by asking different questions.

“It is a different kind of mentoring. It’s not a ‘Hey, I will stop you before you make a mistake’ approach,” Lovell explained. “I could ask questions but the answers would be very vague. It was very much a ‘go figure it out’ approach. But that’s OK, because I am really good at asking questions.”

Lovell learned so much from his Per Scholas experience through coursework, internships and mentoring that he and his mentor submitted a presentation proposal to CAST 2014, the annual conference of the Association for Software Testing. Their proposal, a case study of a successful Coyote mentor-mentee partnership, was one of 70 presentations selected for this year’s conference from more than 5,000 submitted. The pair will speak in August. 

Thanks to his A+ and Network+ certifications and software testing education and experience, Lovell now is working as an associate engineer in quality assurance at Virtusa.

“I absolutely love my work,” he said. “The environment is great for us millennials. As long as I get my work done, I’m good.”

Asked where his career will go from here, Lovell isn’t quite sure, but he definitely is better prepared to field that particular interview question than he once was. And his answer involves giving back.

“I don’t really know what the future holds,” he said. “I’d like to become a project lead, and I’d like to secure more speaking roles. And I’d like to travel overseas, maybe to pitch business ideas for improving testing. Mostly, I’d like to become a guru like the gurus who inspired me to do testing.”