From Starbucks to Certified Technology Professional – A TCP Story

Today on TechBridge Talks we talk to Kharee Smith, Certified Trainer and Technology Career Program graduate. Before working at TechBridge, Kharee worked at Starbucks as a barista for four years.

Kharee is now certified in teaching Microsoft Azure and will be ServiceNow certified in a few months.

We are excited to share this transformation story and proud to have Kharee as a TechBridge team member!

Kharee Smith::

It doesn't matter if I have to wake up early in the morning to go to work and then come and do this at night, because this is what I want to do. Um, my mom kind of told me about this program. She was like, you know, there's this free no-cost program that you can go through. They'll teach you the tech skills and then help you get a job afterwards.

And I was like, yeah, It sounds too good to be true, but sure. I'll try it out. Um, and it was, it was just so incredible. I was like, wow, I did not have to pay for any of this. And you know, it, it taught me all of these texts skills,

Adam Walker::

tech bridges technology career program also called TCP. Third year is a huge component of tech Bridge's work.

And our workforce development pillar TCP is a no-cost part-time program aimed at upskilling and or rescaling adult learners and youth to better prepare them for careers in high demand techniques.

Carrie Smith is a graduate of one of our TCP. Andy is now a certified trainer for the program, teaching things like Microsoft, Azure fundamentals and admin, and we'll be getting into service now very soon. Cari, welcome to the show.

Kharee Smith::

Thank you for having me. It's good to be here,

Adam Walker::

man. And I'm so excited to talk to you because I really want to.

Just sort of your background and your story leading into TCP, but then also, you know what you're doing now. So let's, let's start there. Give us, tell us a bit of your story.

Kharee Smith::

Yeah, so, um, I was born in, uh, Augusta, Georgia. Um, I always had a love for technology. Um, I would play a lot of video games and things around the house, um, and, uh, would often just be on my parents' computer, you know, playing games.

You know, get on the internet just to, you know, work my way around technology. Um, so I've always had a strong interest in technology. Um, I, for a while I worked at Starbucks, um, I worked at Starbucks actually for about seven years before I came to tech bridge. And, um, I, you know, I, I, it was a solid job, you know, got, uh, I was paid pretty well and, um, I was able to, you know, See a lot of people, but, um, I always wanted to come back to technology.

Technology was like the thing that really, really drove me. Um, so, um, I was able to get into TCP and, uh, the rest is history. I, you know, I loved, uh, the whole program and, you know, got through it and now I'm not going to be an instructor. And that's, that's really, really hard.

Adam Walker::

Man. That's fantastic. So, so I want to, let's dive into that career switch for just a minute.

So I know like switching careers is difficult to intimidating. You don't really know what you're getting into. It's a whole different world, really. So, so what made you certain that TCP would be the right path for you? Uh,

Kharee Smith::

really just my, uh, love for technology. Um, just because, uh, you know, while I was at Starbucks, I really wanted to, uh, shift into a more tech focused role.

I was, you know, I would always try to see what they had stuff at, you know, their corporate offices and, you know, just things that I could do that was just more tech focused. And, um, I, I just wasn't, you know, there wasn't really a lot of opportunities that were available. Um, my mom kind of told me about this program.

She was like, you know, there's this free no-cost program that you can go through. They'll teach you the tech skills and then help you get a job afterwards. And I was like, that is sounds too good to be true, but sure. I'll try it out. Um, and it was, it was just so incredible. I was like, wow, I did it not have to pay for any of this.

And you know, it, it taught me all of these tech skills. Um, and I, I, I just, you know, My love for technology and wanting to get into that space and, you know, any means possible. That was really what drove me to swap careers and, and, and put as much work as I could into, uh, graduating TCP.

Adam Walker::

I love that. And I was, so I was looking at your personal website, too.

You know, before this call in, like your proficiency in technology is pretty impressive. I mean, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Microsoft Azure, Python, bootstrap, no JS and react. Like that's not, that's some serious stuff, man. Like, wow. I'm super impressed. That's that's really fantastic. Uh, so let's talk just a little bit more about TCP and then I wanna, I want to move forward into your career from there.

So, so what's the most impactful thing that participating in the TCP program, the technology career program taught you.

Kharee Smith::

Um, I would say, uh, I, I love the technical instruction. That was really, you know, one of the big pieces that I got out of it was, you know, learning a lot of technical content, but, um, I think that the professional development side of things.

Really really helpful for me because, you know, I learned a lot of stuff about budgeting, about a growth mindset, about grit, about perseverance, about overcoming fear. There's a lot of stuff that I was like, I needed help with some of these things that, you know, it was just things. You know, growth mindset and grit, you know, carries me way beyond just technical instruction and just, it, it carries me just in my day-to-day life.

So, um, I feel like a lot of that really helped reform the kind of person that I wanted to be, the kind of person I wanted to present myself as. Um, that, that part was, was really, really solid for me. Um, I love the professional. Wow.

Adam Walker::

That's great. That's great. So, so last sort of focused TCP question, and then want to talk about your, your current career path.

If someone's listening and they're considering participating in TCP, or maybe they're listening and they know someone that should consider participating in TCP, what would you want to tell them?

Kharee Smith::

Uh, do it, uh, just, you know, there, I had a lot of hesitation, um, just about, you know, getting through the program and, um, you know, if I could complete it because, you know, working at Starbucks was no easy task while doing TCP.

Um, but it was one of those things where I was like, my, why was so strong for getting through the program that it really, really carried me. Um, I was like, you know, It doesn't matter if I have to wake up early in the morning to go to work and then come and do this at night, because this is what I want to do.

Um, and it was one of those things where I'm like, if this is something that you want to do, if you have a very strong, why go for it? Just, just do it. Like if there's nothing that you can lose by going through the program and learning something like that was one of the biggest things I felt like I'd take, I took out of, it was a, a learning.

Uh, perspective of trying to continuously learn and make sure I'm getting more information. So, uh, yeah, definitely. If you're, if you're thinking about it, if, if it's on your radar, do it, do it and do it. Absolutely.

Adam Walker::

Oh man, I love that. That's that's incredibly encouraging. Um, so, so now you're, you've changed career paths.

You are, you know, trained in lots of really important technologies. I mean, where do you see yourself going in the next few years?

Kharee Smith::

Um, so. I was a, uh, supervisor actually at Starbucks for a little bit. Um, so I would definitely love to get back into a more supervisory role or just something where I'm, uh, Rather than teaching a day-to-day, which I love teaching that's one of the, you know, before I, uh, wanted to be, you know, in the tech space, I wanted to be a teacher.

Uh, uh, and I, I went to live with the schools and things like that to do so, um, But it's, you know, it's one of those things where, uh, I, I dunno, I, I would, I would love to continue to teach, but also like, be in a role where I'm supervising other people who are teaching. I have, you know, I know enough knowledge that I could, but I, but I have other people who could do.

So I think that would be really, really awesome. Um, and then like maybe way, way down the line, I would love to be like a CTO at some point. I think that's, uh, that's, that'd be really, really cool. Yeah,

Adam Walker::

man. I love that. I love that. Well, I can already see, I can see the, the leadership oozing from you. So I think you can get there for sure.

You can get there.

Kharee Smith::

So, uh,

Adam Walker::

so you know, the, the technology career program. Like it has graduates working at Accenture and E Y and lots of other like large organizations. What drew you to working at tech bridge as opposed to one of those larger organizations?

Kharee Smith::

Uh, so while I participated in the program, um, as you know, as we were going through, um, I was often tutoring for, uh, some of the other students, I would say, Hey, You know, I know we're all learning this information together, but I do understand this stuff and I can help you guys understand it as well.

So, you know, I would do Austin does tutoring sessions on like weekends or after class? Just things where I'm like, if I have free time share, I don't, I don't mind tutoring people. Um, and afterwards I just really realized that, you know, Wanting to be a part of this. I wanted to be part of like making this difference.

Like, you know, I I've, as much as TCP is like changed my life for the better and like brought me, you know, got me out of Starbucks and got me to a, a much more secure position in life. Yeah. You know, I really want to do that for other people. I really want to, like, I talked to so many people about tech bridge and I'm like, Hey, look, if you're trying to figure out what to do, you're trying to figure out, you know, the next step, do this, just try this out and see you, what this brings you, because it's like, you know, I, I see so many people who are struggling and who wants to get somewhere else and want to do something else.

And, um, You know, there's, there's stuff that's out here to do it just, and you just gotta go out and really get at it. Um, so I really want to change as many people's lives as tech bridges has changed mine,

Adam Walker::

man. That's fantastic. And you touched on something interesting too. Like to me, I look at TC. And I see it unlocks two things for people, right.

It unlocks potential through education and an unlocks opportunity through, you know, opportunities for job placement. Right. And so, so this, it it's this relatively, I mean, I'm sure it did not feel short at the time, do you? But it's a relatively short program. It's 16 weeks long. But once you're completed it, once you, once you've got the certifications, there's so many opportunities available,

Kharee Smith::


Oh yeah, absolutely. That's like one of the big things that I, you know, after getting out of the program, I was, I networked with a lot of people and, you know, I was able to just have people that I could contact and say, you know, it like, like we, when one of our programs, you know, we got to meet the CIO of, of, uh, Airbnb.

You know, who, how many people get to have that kind of experience and get to network with somebody like that. And you know, that that's an opportunity that is created in the future. So that was like one of those things where like this whole program, even, you know, with the technical content and the PD and, you know, The opportunity is so, so great once you're done with it.

I love it, man. That's great.

Adam Walker::

So last question. What does tech Bridge's mission to break the cycle of generational poverty through technology mean to you?

Kharee Smith::

I look at how big tech or technology is becoming, um, you know, we're increasingly becoming a tech focus. Um, just, I, I, I always feel like, you know, down the line, like people are going to need to know some basic former programming.

Like, I feel like, you know, that, that cybersecurity and just, there are very, uh, various tech topics that I just feel like, um, everyone is going to need to know at some point, just because of how, you know, tech focus our world is becoming. Um, and I, I see a program like this that is like, You know, we're trying to break generational poverty, really trying to tackle poverty at its, you know, at its earliest level where we can make sure, you know, it's, it's here, it's, it's done here and then no one in this family has to worry about that anymore.

Um, that that's a really, really powerful thing to me. Um, and I, I want to make sure you know, that we are, we're teaching as much tech as we can. We're tackling, you know, as, as early as possible. I want, I really want to, you know, Get as many people into technology as possible, to be honest, maybe I, I, as much as I love it and I, and I'm so immersed in, and I want other people to, to have this same kind of love for it.

Hmm. Me

Adam Walker::

too. Me too. That's that's part of why we do what we do so well, Carrie, this is great, man. You're inspiring. Uh, I just, I love what you stand for, what you're about. And honestly, I love the fact that you. Work in a full-time job in the mornings going to class in the evenings and tutoring people on top of that, man.

That's so cool. Great. Yeah. Well, Hey listen, thank you for joining me on the show today and just thanks for all the great work that you're doing.

Kharee Smith::

Thank you for having me on. Love talking about tech bridge in any capacity. It's, it's been such an amazing program and I, I can't say enough. Good things.

Adam Walker::

Thank you for listening to tech bridge talks a podcast about breaking the cycle of generational poverty through the innovative use of technology.

This podcast is produced by tech Ridge to find out more about our work and how you can be a part. Visit tech that's tech Also make sure to follow us on social media. Thanks again for listening. And tune in next week for more great content.