This blog is about to be one of my top most favorite blogs that I have written. Why? Because I have the pleasure of interviewing our very own CEO and Founder of Techky Apparel, whose name is Jack. For those who may not know my name is Kenau and I am the writer of all our Techky Topics blogs. I am also the co-owner, admin, model and so much more for Techky Apparel. We started these blogs so our Techky community can have more insight on topics in tech, have access to resources and tips for success, along with sharing more things about our brand and the journey it took to get us here. This blog is going to be a good one for those who think that it’s not possible to go from grocery bags to Tech swag. Techky Apparel’s CEO literally went from grocery retail to securing the TECH bag (with NO degree by the way) and started a tech clothing brand! Yeah, so let’s get into this interview so we can find out how in the world he accomplished all these things.
Kenau: Hey there! So glad to have the opportunity to sit down and chat with you. The folks are ready and waiting to hear your story so let’s get this party started. This is a loaded question so let’s start by telling us your name, where you’re from, your current job title and industry. You got all that?
Jack: (laughing) I got it. My name is Jack and I’m originally from Florida but currently live in Georgia. I work as a technical analyst for logistics.
Kenau: OK so the word logistics probably flew over our heads because it flew over mine (laughing). So what is logistics? And for cybersecurity reasons we won’t have you disclose the company name you work for.
Jack: (nodding & laughing) yes, um I work for a major well known shipping company.
Kenau: OK good, this company is in the big league and not some hole in the wall. And you didn’t just hop out of high school, go to college, and jump right into tech, right? You came from very humble beginnings. Share a little bit about that.
Jack: Coming from humble beginnings my work career started at Publix as a bagger. I was a bagger for two years and then I did stock clerk for three years.
Kenau: And were you always around technology or had an interest or exposure to it? What was your surroundings and environment at that time?
Jack: I was always around technology but couldn’t afford it. I would create my own little “technology”. I would create a computer out of a box and I recall getting my first desktop computer from my mom’s friend or yard sale. No it was from my mom’s friend.
Kenau: OK so you didn’t grow up around technology or come from like a stem based neighborhood or someplace where it was being taught. You had to create your own version of technology because you genuinely liked it but where did that tech interest come from?
Jack: It is almost like I don’t want to sound cliché but tech chose me. Time by time my parents would have issues with the technology around the house, like television or anything of that sort, and I’ll be the designated tech fixer at the house so therefore I was always fixing whatever needed to be fixed. And that’s when I realized that at such a young age I figured out some way to fix these things and you know had things going at our house even when they were broken.
Kenau: At what age? And what technology was out back then? (laughing)
Jack: Funny thing is, we had the fat back tv’s and we also had bigger desktops, the huge ones, you know the tan desktops. These weren’t the high end desktops. But um, my age, I was 8 years old. I was very young helping fix these things around the house.
Kenau: Wow! Tech really did choose you. OK so we have you’re young & you’re fixing computers, the little technology we had back then, and then fast forward a bit, you’re at Publix and you became a stock clerk, so how did you get to this current role as a Technical Analyst?
Jack: I recall there being a point where, before working, I used to play football and my grades weren’t looking too hot at the time so I did have a coach of mines who broke things down to me in the sense of, you know, yes I understand you think that football is the all and all but what would typically happen if you ever got a career ending injury? That actually sat on me like “wow” and I had to sit there and think what would I be able to do and I thought to myself “wait a minute, I used to fix things so maybe I’m a techie guy”. I really honed in on that and while working at Publix there was a guy who came to fix the registers and I asked him “whoa what department is this?” or you know “what are you doing?”, and he’s like “I’m part of the I.T. department”. I’m like whoa whoa whoa wait a minute, so I found out that technology was all around us. At that point it was almost in every job so then I realized, OK now I can definitely pursue a career like this, and being that I was working at Publix at the time I was thinking I could just transfer into this position whenever I was ready.
Kenau: OK but you eventually had to move on from Publix. Where did you end up and how did you make that transition? because this is interesting and I just love how this story is unfolding.
Jack: So what happened was I ended up moving into the hospital setting doing the same work that I did before leaving Publix. I had done stock clerk work so therefore when I moved into the hospital I was working in their food service department as a stock clerk. I did that for over 3 years I believe and while working there I seen a bunch of guys, and you know they have the cargo pants with all the pockets and grey T-shirts, and they had a bunch of mobile computers and I’m like “wait a minute some tech guys” so I went ahead and asked their supervisor at that time “hey, are you guys the IT guys of the hospital” and they’re like “no there’s actually an IT department here”. I was wondering, OK cool who can I talk to in this area for me? because I had already registered for school as a computer science major in Information Technology degree. I spoke to the IT manager, because I found him based on the way they described him, and I actually chased him down in the hallways and was asking him all the questions as far as how can I get into tech and he gave me briefly some information on how to get in but he definitely gave me the information to one of his employees which was a humongous help.
Kenau: So wait a minute, this probably flew over our heads again so I caught all of that but the most important part that I caught was, you had to ask questions and find out who these guys were and then they told you what they do, and then you had to find who the tech manager was, and you went and found out that information too. So networking and researching is key
Jack: That’s correct. Networking is key and not sitting around and waiting for anything to fall in my lap was not what I was going to do. I found it to be very important to me to find out this information for myself so that I knew I was crossing all my t’s and dotting all my i’s, and I was just very hungry to getting into this department because I know for sure it would’ve been life changing for me.
Kenau: Absolutely, so then you tracked down the IT manager. I’m sure you went on some type of employee directory
Jack: I tracked down this IT manager, but I continued working in the food service department for a few more years. During that time frame when working in the food service department & at the hospital for all those years, I started working in the operating room but, I was still hungry to work in tech. I had access as well to the employee directory so I jumped on their computer, looked up all of the IT managers by name, e-mail, and I proceeded to e-mail every single last one of those IT managers with my information and telling them my background and how I wanted to get into tech. I told them I was in school for tech & if they can give me the opportunity to show them that I can definitely be trained and be the person that they would love for me to be for that department.
Kenau: OK that sounds dope, I love it, but that IT manager that you found when you were stocking for food service at the hospital, that same IT manager he knew who you were right? I know you mentioned speaking to him. Did I hear that correctly?
Kenau: And did he have any words of advice for you in the midst of you sending out emails?
Jack: Yes, his words of advice was about obtaining certifications which was the A+ (A plus) certification to start with. From there, there were some other certifications available but currently for his department the CompTia A+ would be the one that I would need to get so I could get into the I.T. department.
Kenau: And did you ever get that A+ certification?
Jack: Yes, I did get the A+ certification. It was tough for me because I’ve always been a nervous test taker so therefore it took me over 7 times before I actually passed the A+ certification test. For some other people it may take them one time to get it, but for me it took me a while so if anybody out there is feeling discouraged just know that you can do it. You can make it through just like I did.
Kenau: Wow 7 times! What did you have to do to calm yourself down during these tests?
Jack: To get through these tests and get past my nervousness, I actually had to meet with my primary care doctor to prescribe me with some pills, I forget the name of the pills, but I was prescribed some pills to slow down my heart rate in order for me not to get nervous. I had to also go through a better regime of waking up early and making sure that I had a breakfast in order for me to remain focus while taking the test.
Kenau: Oh my good grief! So you had to take medication, took the test 7 times, you were networking and sending all those emails. You were really putting in that legwork!
Jack: Yes, for sure. I was not going to quit because I knew how life changing this opportunity would have been for myself and I had just started a family as well at that time. I knew for sure it would have been something very important to be able to make a better impact on my family’s life.
Kenau: Wow, so tell us about how you got the job in the tech IT department, tell us a little bit about that
Jack: A valuable part of me getting the job during that time frame of me emailing all of these different IT managers, was actually a doctor that I worked with in the operating room who somehow had connections within the IT department. He was willing, because I was so good of a person working in the operating room, to use my name or give my name to the IT manager to help me get hired into the department. That was very much so an important part because like they say you have to network with people & you have to always be technically good to people as well because you just don’t know who can help you get to where you need to be.
Kenau: For those who are reading this, that is a very important part of the equation. Being a good worker in the department that you’re in and people putting in recommendations for you, which also ties into networking. Networking is very, very, very important and I think a lot of people sleep on that. So yeah, you studied these books & took the certification, so that means you don’t have a degree in IT
Jack: No, I do not. I do not have a degree in IT. I was able to obtain my job without the degree and just by networking. That’s when I kind of realized that you can actually get into a field like I.T. and get paid without a degree and it actually blew me away because I always assumed that in order for you to work in a certain career you had to have a degree. I thought it was gonna take some time because I was already a bad test taker so I was kind of discouraged about it, but once I realized that all I needed was a certification it really changed everything for me.
Kenau: So let’s just throw numbers out there. You were working as an OR tech, what was your salary? Just a ballpark number.
Jack: My salary at that time was probably $22,000 (per year)
Kenau: And then what did your salary become, just ballpark it, when you got into the IT department doing Technical Analyst?
Jack: When I first got into the IT department as a technical analyst, it went to $45,000 but after realizing that they had on call at the hospital because it’s open 24/7, that ended up bumping me to $55,000 so I was making an additional $5,000 a year by just working on call.
Kenau: Wow! What year was this? Because I’m sure that’s important to note also. You were making 45 to 55,000 back in, what year was that?
Jack: That was back in 2014
Kenau: So this is back in 2014, and we’re not even going to say how much money you are making now in 2022. Anybody that gets into I.T. right now they’ll be making from as low as help desk and let’s not call it low but from beginning stages such as working help desk, you can make $45,000 and some people may think that’s not enough money but let me ask you something, how old were you when you first got into tech?
Jack: I was 24 years’ old
Kenau: You were 24 making as much as a nurse…
Jack: A nurse or police officer…
Kenau: Right, making $45 to $55,000
Jack: And their jobs require a little bit more of them than what I did in Tech, so just imagine that
Kenau: Right, and this is important folks out there who came across this interview, it’s important to note that he was 24 years old making a starting salary of a nurse or a police officer back in 2014. Now let’s fast forward to how the heck did you wind up in GA (Georgia) and how are you working for a well-known logistics shipping company? How did THAT happen? (laughing)
Jack: To be honest I was actually applying to jobs on LinkedIn, and LinkedIn also has the capabilities of just showing your resumes to people. I’m assuming even if you do not apply, they will show your resume to different recruiters. So honestly when I got the call about this position, I did not recall even applying for it (laughing). I was also in the process of wanting to purchase a home in FL but couldn’t find anything after looking for over 5 years. Then my sister who was in Georgia suggested looking for homes in GA so the job offer came and yeah, I went through the process of a two round interview with the manager and also management from a different state. They wanted me off top and we just went through the process and that’s how I ended up in Georgia.
Kenau: OK wow! Listen folks, this is good stuff and we are going to have to do a part 2, because this has got so much value and so much information on how he got to where he got to, and like you said, the key take away is networking, researching, being a good worker, and getting your name put out there so I love it. I wanna stop right here because we’re gonna have a Part 2, and I want all of you to stick around for Part 2 because after moving his family to Georgia, because he wanted to purchase a home, and he’s still working in I.T., but this man went ahead and created a STREETWEAR clothing brand for techs, now if that don’t sound like stranger things to you then I don’t know what it is. So on part 2 of his interview he’s gonna get into how in the world do you put together a STREETWEAR brand (Jack laughs) for techs and tech lovers, and the whole ordeal with that. Ya’ll make sure to stick around and stay tuned on my social media page on IG, @kenau_v, for updates on Part 2 of this interview with Jack the CEO of Techky Apparel baby!
Jack: Yes yes, for sure
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