Apprentice Spotlight: January 2021
MEET JUSTICE BAKER
Hometown: Cabot, AR
MY BACK STORY
I grew up with three siblings, two sisters and a brother. We lived in Cabot my whole childhood, but we moved around a lot. We grew up a little poor. Basically, school and computers were the only things that kept my attention away from all that was going on. I learned a lot using computers. I played a lot of computer games growing up, and I just got really interested in technology in general. When I was very young, my grandparents always had computers, so I got used to using them early on. Probably when I was 5 or 6.
I was able to navigate through them pretty easily, and I grew up being the go-to tech person in the house if anyone needed anything set up. If they got a new laptop or a phone, I was always the person they wanted to set that up for them.
MY EDUCATION (Part 1)
I was very academic, I guess. I had all A’s up through high school. I was in the top 20 of my class when I graduated from Cabot High School. That was in 2014.
I knew I wanted to go to college for something IT related, I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. So my first year out of high school I went to Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, in their computer science program. I did my freshman year there, but then I figured out that ASU wasn’t the best fit for me, so I decided to transfer to the University of Central Arkansas, which was back closer to home.
MY EDUCATION (Part 2)
I started at UCA in 2015 and went there for the next four years. I really liked UCA, it’s a really awesome school. I transferred over there still in computer science, but in the fall of 2017—the semester before I was supposed to graduate—I decided to change my major to information systems. I just felt like computer science was too much programming and I really liked information systems. It introduced me to a lot of the business aspects of the world, but I also still got a good amount of programming and different IT classes. It just felt like a much better overall fit for me.
So I graduated from UCA in 2019, and immediately applied at the U of A for their master of education (M.Ed.) in educational technology program. I should be finishing that this May.
MY WORK LIFE (Part 1)
I worked all during school, starting senior year of high school and on through college. Cabot Park and Recreation was actually my first job. Then I waited tables some and worked at a couple of daycares. Finally, I went to a career fair at UCA and handed out my resume to mostly what we would consider IT companies. But there were some banks there too, including Centennial Bank, and they were taking pretty much anyone’s resume. So I gave them mine.
I didn’t expect anything of it, but then they called me like a week or two later and said they had an “overnight computer operations position” open, and it was just two nights a week, Thursday and Friday. But I would have to do it from like 7:00 PM until about 4:00 or 5:00 AM the next morning. Well, it worked because I had classes during the day. The worst part was Friday morning classes—I was just dead. But luckily, there was just that one day a week that I had to deal with it.
Then toward the end when I was about to graduate from UCA, I stopped working there and started looking for work in Fayetteville, because I knew I would be going to graduate school there.
MY WORK LIFE (Part 2)
That’s when I started working for a company called DataScout. They specialize in GIS, which is geographic information systems. They work with a lot of local and county governments, and they basically have data for your personal property, your real estate property, your taxes. They have that information available for you to search its public records, so I did customer support for people who needed help using their web applications. I worked for DataScout from May 2019 to November 2019.
MY TURNAROUND MOMENT
The apprenticeship kind of fell into my lap. When I was at DataScout, I started feeling like I was doing a job that I hadn’t quite gone to school for, and I wanted to do something that aligned a little more with my degree.
So I started looking for other work and came across a posting for a software engineer internship with Metova. I applied for that, and then a recruiter there reached out to me and wanted to talk with me about it. I eventually told her that, unfortunately, while the opportunity was probably much better than what I was doing, I couldn't afford to cut back to part-time work—the internship was going to be only something like 20 hours a week.
I thought that was the end of the conversation. Then a few days later, the recruiter reached back out to me and asked if I had a moment to chat. So we got on a phone call and she told me they were about to open a position for a quality assurance test engineer apprenticeship. I didn’t know anything about apprenticeships, and she told me a little bit about the folks that were behind it, like ACDS, and how the apprenticeship would work, with technical training and on-the-job training. She also told me it was fulltime and paid and everything, and I thought that sounded amazing.
So in December 2019 I started my apprenticeship as a QA test engineer at the Fayetteville office of Metova.
I’ve been through all of the technical training classes—I finished that up last May. As far as I know, I’m still considered an apprentice.
Basically, what I do for Metova is try to break things. That’s what I tell everyone. I test software for both mobile and web. So I test applications on the phone, for IOS for iPhones and for Android. I also test for when you get on your desktop or your laptop and you go to a website. We do this for many different companies, in industries from healthcare to banking.
I just try to make sure everything is working as it should, and I report any bugs or defects. It’s really fulfilling work—I would say it’s the best job and job opportunity I’ve ever been given, for sure. I love it. Though I definitely wouldn’t mind moving up the ranks a bit!