Rigoberto Velazquez nearly deleted — without even reading it — the email that changed his life.
In Velazquez’s defense, the man was busy. He was taking courses at City Colleges of Chicago-Wilbur Wright in pursuit of his associate’s degree in computer information systems and he worked full time as a case manager for a home-health agency.
But because his college sent the email, Velazquez felt obliged to read what it had to say. Which was, essentially, this:
Accenture, the leading global professional services company, was collaborating with City Colleges, and would pay graduates to complete rotational internships within its internal technology team.
Besides providing graduates with a living wage plus benefits, the internships would give them real-life experience in learning and shaping IT solutions within a corporate work environment. And depending upon how well the graduates performed, a permanent, full-time position could follow.
As Valezquez read the email, he realized the opportunity would allow him to perform the very IT work he wanted to do while getting paid to do it.
“The email had already been sitting there for a couple of days so it was obvious to me I needed to jump on it,” he said.
Jump on it he did, submitting an application to Accenture’s program. Valezquez secured one of five positions in Accenture’s first cohort of City Colleges graduates.
From there, Valezquez hit the ground running.
“I was put in charge of a project right out of the box,” he said. “Given how eager I was, though, I don’t think there was much they could have thrown at me where I would have responded, ‘Oh no, I can’t do this.’”
Valezquez works on a project management team facilitating a three-year software development effort involving 300-plus people. He’s responsible for tracking risks and issues — anything that might change the project’s scope, timeline or expenses.
“No matter what program you are on or what you produce, deliverables can be tracked in a tool that I created,” he said.
After Valezquez completed his year-long internship, Accenture offered him a permanent, full-time position that he accepted.
“To tell you the truth, I had a lot of responsibility before I became a full-time employee, so in that sense, my role didn’t change a whole lot,” he said. “But the internship was important because when I was trying to get into IT, I wasn’t sure what to learn. Hardware? Software? Web design? At Accenture, I learned that ‘everything’ is the right answer to those questions. Together, those skills will get you hired.”
Valezquez said he loves his work at Accenture; he finds it intellectually stimulating, professionally and personally satisfying, and financially rewarding. He says he will be forever grateful for both the internship opportunity and the email that made him aware of it.
“One thing about my career that is clear to me is that if I want to be at Accenture, I can be,” he said. “This company is on the cutting edge and there are plenty of places in which to grow and go. The only limit to my career here is me.”
Accenture recently announced that it would expand its Chicago internship program to 25 apprenticeships per year.
Gretchen Koch, executive director of workforce development strategies for Creating IT Futures, said the partnership between Accenture and City Colleges serves as a model other companies could emulate. By recruiting graduates from a highly respected community-college system, companies draw from a local pool of highly motivated, knowledgeable and skilled candidates. These candidates also bring much-needed racial and gender diversity into the IT industry.
“For years, many tech companies have recruited primarily from Tier I colleges,” Koch said. “We want to encourage employers to expand their recruiting and hiring practices to include non-bachelor-degreed students from other colleges. We believe this represents a key factor in addressing the skills gap issue and, at the same time, helps address diversity and equity issues in the IT sector.”