Before Byte Back‘s Joe Paul even began his new job as CEO earlier this month, he was so excited that he wrote out nine pages of ideas for the digital literacy nonprofit.
“I love those challenges, I love figuring things out, I love solving problems,” Paul told Technical.ly. “I love walking into spaces where I can add value and help scale. That’s just how my brain works.”
It’s a theme that’s shown up in many of Paul’s previous roles: he was the founder of Campus 2 Careers Solutions, which teaches soft skills to college students; COO of social impact org The Stafford Foundation and had a stint with human resources in DC government. He also held a management gig at Management Leadership for Tomorrow, which offers career coaching. Paul comes to Byte Back from the position of executive director of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
Paul, who is succeeding previous executive director Elizabeth Lindsey, was selected from over 200 candidates for the gig (which, btw, he did have to write out a resume, cover letter and attend multiple interview sessions for, just like the rest of us). Although he’s less than two weeks into the position, he’s already got big ideas for the nonprofit. On the agenda: scaling the organization both locally and nationally, and adding even more resources to help with digital literacy.
“I’m so excited about those lives that we’re going to change,” Paul said. “We’re going to help so many people who don’t even know that we exist.”
Nationally, he wants to expand Byte Back’s programming across the country — in West Virginia, Milwaukee and California, to name a few — through adding both virtual programming options that’s available across laptops and smartphones, as well as partnerships with local organizations. This program expansion is particularly important, he said, as the country approaches 2025. That’s the deadline by which the US is expected to lose 85 million jobs to AI and automation, creating a need for new job training.
“[Byte Back] is needed all over the country and one of the ways that we’re going to do that is by incorporating digital tools like [smartphones],” Paul said. “We can actually train and we can reach more people if we open it this way.”
At the moment, the organization isn’t quite sure which markets it will be expanding into first, but Paul said it plans to decide using data to evaluate areas where there is the greatest need.
Locally, the nonprofit will also be piloting a few programs. One, Paul said, will be a program to assist first-generation college students (a nod to Paul’s own past) and their families at the area’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities. It will be primarily focused on providing technical training and certifications for digital jobs. Plus, he’d like to pursue professional development and tech career services at Byte Back, on top of its existing offerings.
But all in all, he said, as the new CEO, he plans to make sure that everyone interested in a career in tech is able to have one.
“At the end of the day, the goal is to make sure that the people who need it have the necessary tools and resources to gain access to this beautiful world of tech,” Paul said. “It’s incredible here and the pie is so huge that even if we gorge there’s still so much left. There’s so much good to do.”
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