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In 2019, Tiara Hatch was at a crossroads. Living in Belgium and working as a cyber systems manager in the U.S. Air Force, she was ready for a new challenge and a fresh chapter. She wasn’t sure what life after the military would look like, but she knew for certain it wouldn’t include a traditional, four-year college degree.
“Coming out of the military,” Tiara explains, “I wanted to feel like I was measuring up to my peers, the people I graduated high school with. But I also knew that the college experience isn’t for everyone—and it definitely wasn’t for me. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money learning about things I would never use. I’d much rather go and learn the specific skills I need to do my job—and do it well.”
After some research, she stumbled across Apprenti, a national nonprofit that uses registered apprenticeship to bridge the tech talent and diversity gaps. Tiara applied—and was hired by JPMorgan Chase as a Software Developer apprentice, an occupation which includes 12–19 weeks of Related Technical Training (RTI), focused on developing key skills like web fundamentals and updating, testing and enhancing software products.
“It wasn’t easy, but the team at Apprenti definitely kept me motivated,” Tiara says with a smile. “They were honest that it was going to be a challenge. But they also told us: ‘We’re here to help you, we’re here to support you.’ And they were.”
And although Tiara’s final weeks of RTI were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic (she and her teammates presented their final project virtually), she was excited to start the next phase of the program—a year of on-the-job training at JPMorgan Chase. There, she learned about life as a junior software engineer—as well as what it’s like to be a Black woman in tech.
“I feel lucky that both the program and the company I was placed in really supported me,” Tiara says. “Where I’m from, I don’t know a lot of people, if any, who are in tech. Let alone women. Let alone Black women. But the team did a great job pointing me toward resources, like women in tech groups and minorities in tech groups, to help me feel like I wasn’t by myself. To let me know not only that I can do this, I can excel at it.”
Looking Towards the Next Chapter
After her apprenticeship wrapped up, JPMorgan Chase offered Tiara a full-time offer as a junior software engineer, which she proudly accepted. At 27, she’s beginning the second act of her career, but Tiara already has her eye on the future—where she hopes she can help other people find their own pathways to success.
“If you come from a community where you don’t get a lot of exposure to new opportunities, it can be a challenge,” she admits. “There are things you never even dream of doing. But I’m telling the people behind me—the younger people, or my friends who are still in the military—y’all can do this. We can do this. It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be challenging, but it’s going to be so, so worth it.”