Apprentice Spotlight: Heru Peacock
Prior to Joining STS…
Before joining STS Heru was working in corporate sales and business development. Heru studied Political Science & Computer Science at Howard University while competing in the long jump, sprints, and the decathlon.
Upon graduating, Heru worked as a Data Analyst for a local government agency and later went on to a career in sales. Heru attributes his talent in sales to his highly competitive work ethic derived from playing sports his entire life, as well as his performance skills learned as a musician.
Heru had fun initially working in sales due to the goal-oriented similarities to playing sports, but quickly realized the relentless nature of the field with never-ending quotas to constantly hit, and knew he did not intend to be in the field permanently. During this time Heru relentlessly pursued technical certifications in order to prepare to break into the IT sector.
What were the first steps you took to transition into IT?
At first, I was applying for a lot of jobs in the IT field and not making any real progress in terms of the responses. I decided that instead of focusing my time on applying for jobs, I should focus my time on earning certifications that would equip me to have access to better opportunities. Over the next year and a half, I earned about five certifications to help towards my goals. It was still difficult for me to find opportunities but I just kept going.
A lot of my friends told me I needed the Security+ certification to get an IT job in this area so I went and earned that one and began applying for jobs aggressively. I earned the certification right at the beginning of March, so as the pandemic fractured the job market with soaring unemployment rates, I decided my time would be better spent focusing on earning even more certifications and boosting my knowledge rather than just applying for countless jobs.
Over the first five months of the pandemic, I spent my time in quarantine laser-focused and earned at least five new certifications. I figured the best thing to do would be to use the time as productively as possible so that I could try to slingshot forward in life. The pandemic has been difficult for a lot of people, so I don’t want to diminish that aspect of it, but I saw the time we were forced to lock down and stay inside as a tremendous opportunity.
How did the STS Apprenticeship Program help launch your career?
The STS Apprenticeship Program is a wonderful opportunity that provides Apprentices with a genuine opportunity to succeed. I am highly competitive and if given a task I will get it done. Or, if I don’t know how to get it done, I will learn how to get it done.
The hard part was finding the right opportunity to get my foot in the door with little actual IT work experience during a time when employers were laying more people off than hiring. STS presented me with the opportunity to learn the skills I need to learn and grow into the tech professional I had been working towards becoming for years.
After getting to know me and what skills I have to offer, they provided me with an opportunity to move up from an Apprentice to a Data Analytic Engineer working on several really cool projects (which I think speaks volumes about the company and the great people within it).
I appreciate that my input was valued immediately and I was respected enough to be able to contribute right away rather than being put in a separate category as an Apprentice / New Hire.
What is your favorite part about being a Data Analytic Engineer at STS?
I love that my current role in STS fits my different skill sets perfectly. So far, I’ve been doing a few different projects that each build upon my niche skills; I didn’t necessarily anticipate these skills (like writing) would tie into a tech role! I love that my role feels almost custom-built for me and I was able to hit the ground running and contribute to the team on some serious projects right away - instead of being handled with training wheels.
What project are you currently working on?
At the moment I am working on this awesome Machine Learning project for STS' Navy Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant.
We are using a data labeling program to train a machine model to detect corrosion in photographs of U.S. Naval vessels captured by aerial drones. This project is exciting because it is something that has not been done before, and Machine Learning is a rapidly evolving field. This project is interesting because it is a new solution we are building. There isn’t a specific guided approach to follow to make the project work since it is the first time it is being done.
The team is very smart and I love that I am learning a lot from our Daily Stand Up's (DSU), meetings, and conversations with my fellow team members. There is a lot of critical thinking, brainstorming, and trial and error. I also like that although there are people on our team with significantly more experience than me, my input is valued and taken into consideration when making decisions on which approaches to take to solve problems.
Advice for anyone looking to get into the IT/Data Analytic Engineering field?
My overarching advice is to be relentless in your pursuit and never give up. Try to identify opportunities where others see turmoil.
I could have got upset that people were hiring less during the pandemic and could have given up. Instead, I switched my focus to earning more certifications so I would be 'ahead of the game'' when the job market improved.
I recommend dedicating time to identifying solid resources or classes to help you obtain as many certifications as you can handle (the STS Apprenticeship Program is a great resource).
I also recommend networking with good people that will help guide you in the right direction and hold you accountable. I found out about most of the certifications I needed through friends, and I found about STS’ Apprenticeship Program through a close friend and mentor. You can have all of the pieces you need, but it still helps to have someone in your corner who knows how to put them together.