BE Modern Man: Meet 'The Tech Veteran' Jerome Hardaway
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

Name: Jerome Hardaway

Age: 31

Profession: Software Engineer | Executive Director (Head Geek) of Vets Who Code

Social Media: Twitter: @JeromeHardaway  | Instagram: @JeromeHardaway

One word that describes you:Tenacious

 

What is your Extraordinary Impact?

I teach veterans how to code and help them get jobs using those skills. We have a few newly minted JavaScript developers, so if you need one reach out to me.

What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you?

It’s an honor, it’s super cool and it’s totally out of left field for me. I honestly didn’t know that BE was watching the space I work in as minority veterans are so underrepresented in the veteran space.

What are you doing as a BEMM to help support black male achievement now or in the future?

The best way I support other black men is listening to their ideas and giving them the support from the technical side they need, specifically in communities that do not have the tech communities that are moving toward diversity and inclusion.

What are some ways that you have turned struggle into success?

A struggle that has lead to success happened rather recently. Starting in the beginning of the year, I announced we would be focusing on being more selective with a higher focus on underrepresented people in tech such as minorities, people who are older and have established families, and a deeper focus on the curriculum instead of scaling. Many people thought this would be a mistake as it would be easier to sell single white male veterans in the 18–29 age demo to companies rather than the type we chose to focus on and that scaling would be the best idea because, “Everyone is doing it.”

Ironically, that was one of the main selling points of one of our competitors whose primary objective is to help code schools gain access to the GI Bill. The election had taught me to look past the data into the behavioral and psychological patterns of our end client, the hiring manager /CTO / director of development and to ignore popular thinking in regards to scaling and partnering with code schools. Recently my steadfastness has paid off, as their agenda has taken a huge blow due to 21% of code schools in the country announcing they were going to shut down, while our focus on higher quality and creating our own curriculum and content has been paying off. It’s actually a tactic I learned from the watching the music industry, Chance the Rapper in particular.

What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?

The main connection point I look for in relationships is skills. Although I served in the Air Force, I was raised in a primarily Army family as well as a big boxing family. Something that stuck with me even to this day is the writing on the gym wall that stated “Skills Pay The Bills” and I realized early on that skilled people attract other skilled people and make each other better. By doing this I avoid creating a “silo” or “bubble” and I grow as a technologist as well.

What are some immediate projects that you are working on?

Outside of helping the recent cohort with their job search, on-boarding new mentors, interviewing new perspective students, and coding (obviously), I am launching a new podcast on my birthday as a present to myself. I leaned that what really helped me on my job hunt in programming is that I had so much media where the employer could get a feel of how it is to work with me, my thought process, and how I solved problems, so the majority of our guests will be our troops as well as a few special cases I have found through this journey, like really talented veterans who are stuck in tech deserts and looking for remote opportunities. I actually have a really talented React developer who served in the Army but is now in Helsinki, Finland, that I am hoping to help get hired by the end of the year.

What is the best advice you ever received?

Best advice is still the age-old “We have to work twice as hard for half the reward” that I received from my grandmother. While it seems foreboding, it helps me to accept the world as it is while improving it, versus complaining about what it should be. It also helps me differentiate between popularity and value. While teaching other veterans how to code I am paid above average to work as a React developer. I get the opportunity to have valuable in-depth conversations with some of the best JavaScript programmers in the industry, and share that with the troops we teach. No amount of Twitter followers can compare to asking questions about React and Babel to the guy who was working on it before it had a name.

What is some advice that you have for other men who want to make a difference?

Just do it. You won’t be ready, even if you think you are, so you might as well just accept the fear of failure and do it anyway.

How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?

I’m nerdy so I am a little different. Every time I prep for a big meeting or event, I wear the same outfit, which my wife calls my “superhero outfit.” It’s a Vets Who Code tee, jeans, and my star spangled banner Chucks. I finish this look off with my limited edition Captain America shield-shaped backpack and in it I usually have a pencil, notebook, my Hover Camera drone, my MacBook Pro, and whatever batteries or chargers I might need. This way I am prepared for whatever is thrown my way.

As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation?

I don’t usually unwind, as I like working a lot, but my wife makes me take time to rest and it’s usually pretty fun. Last year as a Christmas gift to her we went to see the Raiders play the Colts. Not being a football fan it was super boring but seeing my wife cheering, booing, and heckling people was awesome and allowed me see how crazy things will get if I mess up. Another great trip that comes to mind is when she made me take a break to go to New Orleans for Comic Con. The mingling of New Orleans culture with Comic Con’s was pretty amazing. Seeing cosplay on Bourbon Street was a definite sight to see.

If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I would like to live in Zimbabwe or Nigeria, as their tech industries are growing at a rate faster than most American cities. Plus, its Africa.

Anything else you’d like to say?

If you are in the market for some talented developers, contact me at jerome@vetswhocode.io.

 

It’s our normal to be extraordinary. Follow @BEModernMan and join the conversation using #BEModernMan.

Come celebrate the BE Modern Man 100 Men of Distinction at the first-ever Black Men XCEL Summit, Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Join the Conversation


MORE ON BlackEnterprise.com