By day, Josh Horwitz is a junior programmer/developer at Nexient, an information technology company in Ann Arbor. By night, he’s a student at Washtenaw Community College.
How is that possible? Horwitz is part of Intentionally Growing New Information Technology Employees In Michigan (IGNITE), an accelerated program at WCC that provides students with the help and training they need to be able to find work in high-demand technology fields.
“IGNITE is a subset of our IT division to get students quickly educated through an intensive and accelerated program and teach them the work skills needed to get employment in the programming field,” said Barbara Hauswirth, placement and internship coordinator at WCC.
In April, Horwitz was hired by Nexient and not too long ago, he was assigned to work with one of its customers. Although the company asked that its name not be publicly identified, it was a Fortune 50 (not 500) company, an impressive accomplishment considering the fact that Horwitz hasn’t even completed his Java program at WCC yet.
“There is no doubt that the IGNITE program is what really helped me get a job so quickly,” Horwitz said. “Even though I had some knowledge and experience, it’s so hard to get your foot in the door. Being able to put real experience and classes down on [my] résumé really allowed me entry to the interview for my position.”
Before deciding to pursue a career in information technology, Horwitz worked as a manager at Zingerman’s Deli and as a detox counselor at Dawn Farm in Ann Arbor, but knew it was time to switch gears. “I worked a lot with people and loved it and I was good at it, but I always missed the joy of being able to take a problem, figure it out and come up with a correct answer,” he said. “I worked in a lot of different positions that I never really had passion for and I couldn’t do it any longer. I decided I had to pursue my passion, which led me directly to programming.”
It was difficult for him in the beginning since there was a lot to learn in such a short amount of time, but after a couple months, everything started to fall into place.
After completing the Java program at WCC, Horwitz has plans to transfer to Eastern Michigan University, where he will earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He said the plan is taking longer than expected since he’s working full time and that online classes have been his savior in helping him balance the responsibilities of both work and school.
Horwitz’s long-term career goals include being able to combine his background in management and customer service with his programming skills at some point. “I’m very interested in newer and cutting edge technologies and would love to work in startup environments,” he said. “I think Software as a Service (SaaS) is the future and would love to work within that industry [in some way] … I can’t wait to see what my future holds in this field.”
So, how do the classes at WCC compare to actually being on the job? “A very cool moment I had while at work was being on a project that was using the exact same technology that I was learning in school simultaneously,” he said. “It was extremely helpful to learn about it in class and then be able to use and apply it in a real world application the very same day.”
“I can’t recommend [IGNITE] enough, especially if you’re struggling to figure out how you are going to work and go back to school at the same time,” he added. “I was very worried and trying to figure out how I was going to do it, was it worth it, was it even going to pay off and boy, did it ever.”
For more information about the IGNITE program at WCC, visit: wccnet.edu/ignite.