Jevante Smith was following his childhood dream of becoming a chef just as the pandemic began. When the 24-year-old Bushwick resident got laid off in March 2020, he was unsure where he would go next.
"I remember that day, I was cooking brunch on a Sunday morning and my boss just kind of walked up to me and said, 'Today is going to be your last day,'" Smith told BK Reader.
Growing up in Michigan, Smith's life was at "rock bottom" when he decided cooking was his passion. When this realization hit, he packed up and moved to Louisiana, where he attended culinary school.
When the pandemic hit, not only was he laid off, but his culinary school shut down. Smith felt as though he lost everything at once and "didn't know what to do with himself."
For a while, Smith remained unemployed. He eventually secured a job as a barista at a local coffee shop.
Around that same time, Smith discovered NPower, a DUMBO-based nonprofit which offers free tech training to young adults from underserved communities, as well as job placement for military veterans.
NPower felt like the perfect place to redirect his energy, since Smith is a millennial who grew up surrounded by technology. According to Smith, he was the person his family would turn to when they needed to know how to use their phones or set up their Wi-Fi.
After finding NPower through a Tweet, Smith passed the application process. NPower has since given him hardware skills, which involves the physical part of working with technology.
He secured an internship where his job is to make sure that software developers are "doing what they need to do." This means that Smith is constantly learning new aspects of the field, which he says he enjoys.
Since he is working from home, Smith spends his extra time learning programs like Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint. In addition, he assists with risk and compliance issues and attends a lot of meetings. He says he appreciates the fast-paced nature of the tech field, which is constantly changing.
"I do miss [cooking] a little bit, It was kind of my first love," he said. Whenever he watches cooking shows or goes into his kitchen, he reminisces on his love for cooking. But, he adds, "I feel good here; I feel like I'm learning and growing and developing a new set of skills that I'd never have in the culinary field."
Nine months ago, Smith wouldn't have thought he would have a successful technology career. His journey has taught him that where you come from may not always be what you become, and that is okay. He believes what is important is seizing every opportunity you receive to learn and grow, even if it scares you.
"That's how you grow," Smith said. "Make sure people know your face and hear your voice."