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Tech Foundry interns at Way Finders earn high praise—especially for their communication skills
If staff at Way Finders sent a request for IT help in January 2024, it just may have gone to interns Terrance Blalock and Haroon Rahmani, graduates of Tech Foundry’s fall 2023 cohort. Over four weeks, they brought their passion for IT—and their penchant for communication—to Way Finders, a proud employee partner of Tech Foundry.
A nonprofit workforce development organization based in Springfield, Tech Foundry is helping to meet the Pioneer Valley’s need for entry-level IT workers by supporting under-represented talent. Their free 18-week Information Technology (IT) Support training program combines a focus on academics, by teaching in-demand technical skills, with career readiness, through coaching, networking, and an internship. Graduates are prepared to land well-paying jobs and forge careers in IT.
“What I like about the Tech Foundry space, about the decor there, is they have the signature of each participant per cohort. And they hang down on the walls, like a scroll, it’s very nice,” said Rahmani, a refugee from Afghanistan who worked as an interpreter with American and Italian armed forces before moving to western Massachusetts in 2022. “You can see who’s been there, and how the classes have grown. We’re the largest so far, we had fifty students up from the original twenty-five.”
Yes, Rahmani and Blalock concur, they are part of the growing and influential Tech Foundry movement. The organization’s mission is a win for both individuals and the economy—and dovetails squarely with Way Finders’ mission to promote the housing stability and economic mobility of families and individuals, in pursuit of a more equitable and thriving region for all.
“A few months ago, Tech Foundry reached out to us, and I said, ‘Yes, let’s take a look at hiring interns.’ We usually have a need for such support, with various upgrades and patches and whatnot,” said Senior Vice President of Information Technology Kevin Brassard.
“It felt really good to get my feet wet again, and literally do hands-on work. To put into practice the things we learned at the Tech Foundry, where we used Coursera, the Google support program,” said Blalock, a longtime pastor currently with the United House of Prayer for All People in Hartford, Connecticut, who is returning to an IT career. “One thing I was warned that I might get, but I didn’t get here, was irate customers. Everybody’s been very pleasant and patient, nobody’s been angry.”
“Everything at Way Finders is organized and very cool and calm.” said Rahmani, who also works as a community health worker for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
“A hundred percent of the credit goes to Senior IT Support Specialist Matt St. Louis for coordinating the interns’ activities,” said Brassard. “He’s done a wonderful job mentoring Terrance and Haroon on things that give exposure to corporate systems. Tech Foundry has a good program in place with the subject matter they cover. But nothing beats real-world experience. With the good and the bad of communicating with people and working on their computers.”
Much of the work that Rahmani and Blalock pursued during their internship was completed autonomously.
“I’d give them a list of users, to do a few things. I’d show them how to do it once, explain it, and they kind of just ran with it. If there were any issues, they’d report back to me,” said St. Louis. “I thank them both for their time and efforts, for all their help.”
When an unexpected issue popped up the other week—the need to reinstall a piece of software on some laptops for the Property and Asset Management team—St. Louis was impressed by his interns.
“I said, ‘Hey, guys, here are the users, here are some instructions I created last year.’ They took care of it with little to no involvement from me,” said St. Louis. “Communication is probably the most important thing with IT support, so people aren’t wondering what’s going on or feeling like IT isn’t listening. They have done a great job at communicating with people about where they are in the process. I look forward to hearing great things from both of you, wherever your IT journeys may take you.”
Rahmani first heard of Tech Foundry through a friend at the Jewish Family Service Agency, which supported him when he arrived as a refugee. He recently moved from West Springfield to Holyoke when his rent spiked, and is glad to be closer now to Holyoke Community College, where he studies computer science and English.
“The Tech Foundry program, it was amazing. I loved it. And right now, at Way Finders, I’m learning a lot of new things. And I want to improve more and more,” said Rahmani, who enjoys going to the gym since—unfortunately—he can’t find a local place to pursue his love of snooker (a bigger version of billiards that is popular in Europe). “I’m grateful that I got an opportunity to move from my country to here, after working with the coalition forces. I love it here, I am happy.”
Blalock of Springfield, who noted with pride that he has been married for 35 years, connected with Tech Foundry by way of the MassHire Springfield Career Center, where he was taking classes.
“A recruiter asked what I was interested in, and I said I wanted to return to IT. I’d been in the field before, but that was ten years ago,” said Blalock, who had pivoted careers while living in Washington, DC, to work at call centers for law and marketing firms. “She gave me a flyer about Tech Foundry and the rest, as they say, is a fairytale. Tech Foundry was very good for me. Their program helps everyone, whether you’re starting from the beginning or if you’re reentering, like myself.”
Way Finders is grateful to Terrance Blalock and Haroon Rahmani—and to Tech Foundry—for supporting our work.