Recently, TechHire team members Andrea Villanueva and Penelope Oseguera sat down for an interview with Jaime Falcón, formerly with HoverCam and Adventure Games. Read on for his experience hiring tech talent through TechHire, his outlook on internships and his advice to both employers and job seekers in tech. The following has been edited for brevity and clarity.
How did you first hear about TechHire?
Angel [Business Partnerships Manager at SDWP] reached out to us. I was working at a tech firm in Mira Mesa and we had put out a call for internships. I had been hired in February 2017 and we didn’t really have a marketing department, so I decided to go get as many interns as I could. We had an ad up on internships.com. Angel reached out to us and kind of gave me an overview of what the TechHire program was. I did my own research and I was really impressed by it. I come from an economically disadvantaged background and a program like TechHire would’ve done wonders for me. I got really fortunate to get a couple decent internships, but an internship where it was local and I was getting paid and I was going into a world that I had no experience in…it sounded marvelous, so we went with it.
It’s my understanding that you first heard about us when you were with HoverCam and now you’ve moved on to Adventure Games and you’re still hiring interns with us.
Yes, we currently have an intern at Adventure Games. I’m taking a position with a startup up in Orange County and that intern will probably be offered my old job.
Oh, that’s incredible!
He’s working very hard, he’s showing a lot of expertise, and the CEO at Adventure Games is a huge fan of his, so fingers crossed.
Congratulations on your new role as well. How many interns have you had the opportunity to bring on through TechHire?
At Pathway Innovations or HoverCam, we had somewhere around four or five. We were bringing people in to do tech support, they were rebuilding educational equipment, and they were also answering service calls. In the marketing department, I believe we had two interns: one worked in basically creating videos with us. He was doing editing. He’s a student at SDSU and he’s been fantastic. After I left that position, I went to Adventure Games and I was the sole marketing, IT, web guy and I’d like to think that I have a lot of skills, but I don’t have all the skills. So I needed to go find somebody, so I immediately called Angel, because I wanted to make sure that anyone I brought in as an intern was 1) getting paid and 2) local. I wanted to find someone we could possibly hire, and having hired multiple people through TechHire before, it was important to get hold of you guys. And we were very fortunate to find somebody very quickly, and like I said, he’s doing extremely well.
Do you think you would have had a difficult time filling these positions—especially that position with the extra support you needed at Adventure Games—without us?
Yes, especially because of the type of hiring practices I like to do. I believe that unpaid internships are a scam. Basically, you’re taking free labor from people who can afford to work for free. And that only benefits the advantaged. And therefore, the disadvantaged—those who come from a different economic background or just a different cultural background—don’t get those opportunities. And if we don’t provide opportunities, we don’t see equality. A program like TechHire that is willing to pay for people’s hours and is willing to make inroads for people of color, people of different genders…that’s important to me. That’s why I try to champion it and why you guys are always my first choice, with whichever company I work for.
Do you have any advice for employers who are looking possibly to hire talent through TechHire and for those looking for opportunities?
So there tends to be a lot of conformity when it comes to hiring. People think that you have to have a college degree to succeed, and that’s just not true. We’ve had multiple presidents that were never college educated. We have a U.S. President right now who never served in politics. Training on the job is greatly important because even if you have a college graduate with multiple degrees, once you bring them on you still have to onboard them. And during that onboarding process, I’ve seen people with Stanford degrees who couldn’t cut it. So reach out to your community and find someone who’s willing to work. And most people who come through TechHire—I’ve observed—want to work. They’re thankful for the opportunity and they’ve made great employees.
And if you’re out there and you’re looking for something, you gotta use everything that you can, you know? It’s a hustle. I grew up in the Fifth Ward of Houston. I saw five people die before I was fourteen. I never thought I would have the opportunities to grow into who I am today, and it was only through internships and programs through the City of Houston that I was able to grow. Like I said, I wish TechHire was around when I was a college student.