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Meet Denzel Gentle, ITWorks’ first student-turned-instructor

"I felt like it was a great opportunity for me to get my foot in the door in the tech world," he said.

Instructor Denzel Gentle speaks at ITWorks' spring 2019 graduation. (Photo by Holly Quinn)

This editorial article is a part of Technical.ly's Career Trajectory Month of our editorial calendar.

When ITWorks’ 18 graduates for the Spring Class of 2019 accepted their certifications at the Capital One building in Wilmington on June 21, they became the first class of Tech Impact’s free Information Technology program for young adults where every single student who started the class graduated.

All had landed internships, and, in some cases, jobs, at companies like WSFS, Christiana Care, CAI and the State of Delaware Department of Technology and Information.

This particular class had another first: It was the first ITWorks class with an instructor who graduated from the program himself.

Denzel Gentle was working at a Tech Data warehouse in South Jersey when he first heard about ITWorks from a friend on Facebook.

“I felt like it was a great opportunity for me to get my foot in the door in the tech world,” said Gentle. “I’ve always been interested in technology. It was hard to believe something like this was free.”

Because he couldn’t afford to quit his job while taking his ITWorks classes, it was a challenge — especially when he had to go to class after three hours of sleep.

“My time in the class was not ‘Normal,'” he said. “[At the warehouse] we couldn’t leave until our job was finished, sometimes two or three in the morning.”

The small classes become tight-knit, and classmates supported him.

“[They] would try and keep me focused, make sure that I didn’t miss anything if for some reason I had to leave the classroom for a 10- or 15-minute nap. That was one of the most memorable things — how cohesive we were as a unit.”

In the middle of the program, Gentle quit the warehouse job and got a job at Best Buy.

“They knew about the program, so I was able to get on as a computer salesman,” Gentle said.

He stayed on over the summer of 2016 after graduating from ITWorks, and by the fall he had moved on, with the help of ITWorks’ then-program coordinator Jessica Mitchell to a new job at another warehouse — this time doing router configurations. With that on his resume, he got a helpdesk job with Samuels & Son Seafood; then, with the help of Brandywine Technology, a face-to-face helpdesk position with the City of Newark.

Gentle was there for a year-and a-half, but had the awareness and drive to know when he was growing out of the job.

“It was a stagnant position,” he said. He went back to Brandywine Technology seeking a next-step opportunity.

Five months before he got a call from ITWorks asking him to take over for an instructor who left on day one, he got a job with DTI as a service desk analyst. Deciding to pivot into instructing was not an easy decision.

“I really did like the position,” he said. “Everyone at DTI supported me said they would find something for me if I wanted to come back.”

For now, he plans to continue working as an instructor, a year-round position that has him doing outreach, recruiting, updating lessons plans and doing administrative work in between class sessions. (“That’s the part I have to learn to love,” he said.)

“[ITWorks] was a very different opportunity,” said Gentle. “When they asked me about it, I was nervous. I’d worked with kids at the Boys & Girls Club when I was younger, but I didn’t know if I could handle young adults. Once I got myself together and got a rhythm, I was more comfortable and was able to relax, and everything else just started coming naturally.”

For now, it’s recruitment time for the cohort that starts after Labor Day. Eligible applicants are aged 18-26, with a high school diploma or GED and no 4-year college degree (and, of course, an interest in a career in technology). Click here to apply.

Companies: ITWorks
Series: Career Trajectory Month 2019

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