National Apprenticeship Featured Hero

National Apprenticeship Week: Leap of Faith

Apprentice Highlight: Brian Foster

Bitwise Industries celebrates one full year as a Registered Apprenticeship Program in partnership with the Department of Labor. Today, we are more dedicated than ever to our mission of changing lives for the better by providing people living in underestimated communities with easier access and better resources to pursue careers in the technology industry. Bitwise Apprentices gain valuable experience working on real-world projects while earning a living-wage and receiving the same benefits as our full-time employees. Our focus bridges the gap between learning and working through providing our apprentices with the foundational skill sets necessary for them to achieve financial stability in an industry where the average starting salary is between $60-80K.
Our Registered Apprenticeships are helping to address the nation’s workforce challenges, alongside many of our valued partners. One of those partners is the Butte County Office of Education (BCOE), which provides a wide range of services to diverse communities across the state of California, including technology services. BCOE is one of 58 county offices of education that work to provide more efficient and economically accessible services to school districts throughout California.

Today we celebrate:

  • Human: Brian Foster
  • Role: QA Specialist
  • Focus: Troubleshooting
  • Apprenticeship: 2019

Brian’s life before his first Bitwise Class

Before joining the Bitwise family as an apprentice in 2019, Brian worked in the uniform delivery service for several years to support himself and his young family before suffering an arm injury that would prevent him from working in any kind of physical labor capacity again. Ironically, Brian’s injury happened at a time when he was needed at home to be a full-time caretaker and father for his special needs son. So with the little time he had to himself during the day, Brian would actively search and apply for jobs that didn’t include any kind of physical labor.

It was during a routine delivery, when Brian recalls listening to a Bitwise Class radio advertisement where he heard the voices of Bitwise Co-Founders Irma Olguin Jr. and Jake Soberal, imploring people to sign-up for classes to get trained up on how to be a software technician.

I had to do something new outside of the physical labor kind of work, and I was looking everywhere. Software development was something totally new and different from anything else I had done before, but I really felt like it was something I could be successful at if I put my mind to it.

The Bitwise Class experience in Brian’s eyes

Before signing up and committing to take his first Bitwise Class, Brian rarely ventured to downtown Fresno, and he had no idea where anything was. The entire experience was so different from anything he had previously experienced before, and everything was brand new. Like the Slack application that Brian had never used before, but was now his main means of communication between himself and his contact at this time. Brian was also able to pool his resources and find a used laptop to take to his first day of class, he remembers never having the need to use a laptop before. He parked his car in the Bitwise South Stadium lot, walked into the building, and was immediately in awe. 

Brian couldn’t help but notice the extension cords hanging from the ceilings in his Websites For Beginners classroom, and immediately felt that the workspace at Bitwise was going to be a really cool place to hang out. His teacher at the time Michael Wallert–who now acts as the Director of DevOps at Bitwise–taught Brian and the class how to make their own HTML website from scratch. From that moment, Brian was hooked.

To create something out of nothing, and to have an actual page; that was all new to me. It was just a lot of fun, but also scary at the same time because I was learning something totally new. But three classes in, the nervousness was gone and I was eager to keep learning and improving my site.

Brian’s greatest takeaway from the apprenticeship?

When Brian learned he was going to be given the opportunity to start a formal  apprenticeship with Bitwise in quality assurance and software testing, he was excited about the fact he would continue to cultivate relationships with all of the amazing people in and around the Bitwise ecosystem, so of course he jumped at the chance.  Familiarizing himself with the philosophy behind quality assurance and software testing, and learning all of the technical aspects associated within the field was the first order of business for Brian before getting valuable work experience in the Tech Services department at Bitwise. 

That’s where he met his current team lead and Director of Quality Assurance at Bitwise, Destiny Cedano, who Brian says taught him everything she knew, and helped him to develop the confidence in which to implement his skill set on real-world websites and applications. Brian attributes Destiny’s extensive experience and expertise as a crucial factor that helped him to develop the foundation necessary to have a successful career in his chosen field. 

About halfway through his apprenticeship, Brian moved over to the Bitwise Hive and began apprenticing at Ordrslip where he continued his journey learning the ins-and-outs of quality assurance. One specific project Brian recalls being very proud to have had a hand in, was helping to create a software template that he and his colleagues could consistently employ in order to identify and fix any bugs on their website and mobile app, instead of having to start from scratch on every specific case.

I would say that I’m most proud of learning how to write test cases, and developing some of the templates and procedures that were later adopted at Ordrslip to identify any bugs. Those projects were a lot of fun to work on.

What changed after the apprenticeship journey for Brian?

Brian has never been afraid to ask questions, because asking questions opens us to learning new lessons and taking in new skills. All of Brian’s past experiences have provided important lessons. Whether it was volunteering for leadership roles at a Junior High School, or at his local Church group; to taking on a customer service role at a popular restaurant in Fresno, these opportunities helped bring Brian out of his shell and become more comfortable with social engagements. He recognizes that all of the small decisions he made during his pre-apprenticeship classes led him to the full-time paid apprenticeship opportunity and ultimately, a full-time salaried position at Bitwise. It all adds up. 

To this day, Brian still lights up when he walks through a Bitwise space, and he feels a humble pride knowing he’s played an integral role in developing the software to help Bitwise companies like Ordrslip implement software to identify and fix bugs in their application.

I go to meetings here and everybody knows who I am and accepts me for who I am, and that’s special. The journey truly has been amazing and a lot of fun.

What does Brian’s future look like?

From the first day of his Website for Beginners Class, Brian knew that he wanted to work at Bitwise. He still feels that way, and maybe a little bit more so now. Brian hopes to retire working at Bitwise, (but not retire anytime soon). 

Currently, Brian’s son Ethan is a WordPress apprentice at Bitwise, and Brian envisions a future where both he and his son continue on their path together at Bitwise.

If I were to write the story, I would really like to be able to retire at Bitwise eventually. From the very beginning I knew that I wanted to work here, and that’s as true today as it was then.

Looking Forward

National Apprenticeship Week celebrates the courageous decisions made by apprentices nationwide to take the first steps towards a new and exciting career. We hope that highlighting individual stories like Brian Fosters’ will inspire someone else to take a leap of faith and work to realize their own dreams. Check back each day and follow along on social media to hear great stories from our apprentices and Bitwise community—including info about the student journey through the first class, apprenticeships, and becoming a full-time tech employee.