(Photo by Anitra Johnson)
If you read job descriptions today, most tech jobs require a degree and experience before an employer will consider you qualified for a job, even if it will involve on-the-job learning. But in some cases, someone’s talent and drive is so evident, an employer cannot pass up the opportunity to give a chance to someone who doesn’t fit the job description’s prerequisites. That’s what happened to José Roman.
At 15, Roman wanted to learn how to code, so he started reading online tutorials. He soon realized he wanted a career in tech and began applying for jobs. He didn’t get any feedback, he didn’t get any advice, and he wasn’t invited to any interviews, but he didn’t give up. He continued to study online tutorials and practiced what he learned. He ended up building his high school newspaper’s website. His advice to others starting out: find a balance between learning knowledge and getting hands on experience.
“I think it can be really easy to read about something and know about it but sometimes it can be hard to find the time to actually get your hands dirty and try something. And I think that’s the best way to learn, especially with technology,” he said.
While a senior at Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington, Roman had the opportunity to intern at Discover in financial services. It was during his internship that his manager, Discover Senior Associate Laura Dugan-Bogart, noticed his technical skills — and probably his passion. Seeing his potential, she reassigned Roman to work on the technology and data analytics team. That move set the stage for the rest of his career. His advice for employers who may overlook someone with little experience and not degree: “It only takes one person to take a leap of faith and bring somebody in who is smart, passionate about tech, or [wants to] learn something new.”
During his Discover internship, Roman met a software developer who became his mentor. After the internship ended, Roman’s mentor continued to work with him to help him better his skills. Now 20, Roman is a sophomore studying computer science in Delaware Technical Community College’s connected degree program, with plans to attend the University of Delaware. And although he still doesn’t have a degree, José continues to gain experience while working. He interns as a web apps developer at Chatham Financial.
Taking his own advice, Roman also has a a side project: he is developing artificial intelligence software.
Asked about how he feels about how far he’s come in three years since the manager at Discover moved him onto the technology and data analytics team, Roman said, “I’m really glad that she did that because it set my course for the upcoming years. I probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her noticing my skills and what I was passionate about.”