Our guiding force at Sparq is our mission: to create high-quality technology jobs in Middle America cities where talent is often overlooked. Our Mission in Action showcases Sparq colleagues who represent how this mission impacts individuals and the communities in which we operate.
Tech has always been in Stephen McKinley’s blood. As a long-time high school science teacher and robotics coach, he taught himself programming languages like C++ and Java, so he could bring these new concepts to his students. However, after 18 years in education, he was feeling burned out; he wanted a new opportunity, and thought that his penchant for technology might be the key to his next career. Stephen had his concerns, though. He was completely self-taught with no computer science degree, so he knew it might be tough to find an employer that would work with his lack of experience.
The job search
When he first started applying for jobs, Stephen found that, unfortunately, his concerns were valid. He had an extremely difficult time finding anything for someone with little experience and an informal education. Most job listings that he came across were for more senior roles. Eventually, though, he discovered an opening at Sparq. During his research for the position, he found that Sparq seemed to have a culture of learning. “There wasn’t a sense that we initially needed to be experts or masters. They wanted to help us grow.” His ability to self-teach impressed our Oklahoma City colleagues, and Stephen was offered a role as Associate Java Consultant.
A big change
His first few weeks at Sparq showed Stephen he was in for a change; this former teacher was now a student. “There’s definitely a culture of learning here, so it was neat to be able to prioritize my own education.” That doesn’t mean Stephen completely left his teaching days behind him, though. “On one of my first days, I had a fellow new colleague named Emily come up to me and introduce herself, because she thought I may have been one of her teachers. Turns out I had actually taught her both honors and AP chemistry!” After settling into his role at Sparq (and recently celebrating his second anniversary with the company), Stephen has found a team of colleagues whose camaraderie and collaboration go beyond project work. “Friendship and familiarity is encouraged here.”
What’s next for Stephen? Right now, he’s working towards his OCA/OCP certification for Java. In the future, he’d like to do more work with the Android platform, and would enjoy being involved with the Junior Associate (JA) program. “I’d like to help mentor young associates and show them how fulfilling a career in technology can really be.”
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