My Bond with Pursuit

by Jose Vila, Pursuit 3.0 Graduate

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Before joining Pursuit, I was barely making above minimum wage. I was living with five roommates and was thousands of dollars in debt. My salary wasn’t on par with my experience or where I wanted to be in my career.

I wanted something more — a job that would engage my love of STEM and offer the financial stability I always wanted.

I started searching for programs where I could learn how to become a software developer. When I found out about Pursuit and its goal of creating opportunity in New York City, I thought, “This is exactly what I’m looking for.”

The program was hard. But that hard work paid off: in just 10 months, my life changed forever. I landed a job as a mobile SDK engineer at Moat, one of the best ad-tech startups in the country.

In just 10 months, I went from being in the working class to the upper middle class. And I was able to accomplish this goal without paying anything up front or taking out any loans. All I needed was grit, perseverance, and the desire to succeed.

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My training was made possible with Pursuit Bond. Through this innovative funding model, Pursuit receives impact investments to fund its training program; program graduates then contribute a portion of their salary to pay back that investment if, and only if, they get a job making more than $60,000.

Pursuit is taking on a big risk because if their programs don’t work — if their graduates don’t get jobs — they’re on the line for paying back that investment. In other words, it’s their job to make sure we get jobs.

In helping me to get my position at Moat, Pursuit fulfilled a promise to help me transform my life and career. And so now, I’m fulfilling my promise to them by contributing to paying back the Bond. I submit my Pursuit Bond payment every month so Pursuit can provide Fellows with the same opportunity I had: to apply the grit, ingenuity, and hard-work needed to turn their hopes and dreams into something real and life-changing.

I’m also giving back to Pursuit by making a better life for people in my community. After working during the day as a mobile SDK engineer, I go to Pursuit at night to teach Android development to the organization’s newest cohort. Pursuit has had such a big impact on me and now, I want to help the organization by training future generations of developers.

My time at Pursuit was invaluable: I've made lifelong friends, learned programming languages and frameworks, and strengthened the job skills I needed to succeed at one of the most innovative companies in the tech world.

Recap: Pursuit Bash 2018

Pursuit 2.0 Graduate Charlyn Buchanan and Pursuit Leadership Award Recipient Paola Mata

Pursuit 2.0 Graduate Charlyn Buchanan and Pursuit Leadership Award Recipient Paola Mata

When Paola Mata joined Pursuit as a Fellow in the organization’s inaugural cohort five years ago, she never could have imagined that it would completely transform her career.

At the time, Paola had a job as an administrative assistant. She worked with researchers, data scientists, and programmers — “people who were doing such great things… I, on the other hand, was bored, unchallenged, and lacking a creative outlet to express myself. I wanted more out of my career.”

Captivated by the work of her engineer coworkers and looking to advance professionally, she enrolled in and completed Pursuit’s Fellowship program, where she learned technical mastery, professional skills, and industry fluency. After graduation, she landed a job at Buzzfeed as their first female mobile software engineer.

But it wasn’t enough for Paola to make a better life for herself: she devoted her time to supporting and guiding new programmers. She helped two Pursuit grads, Charlyn Buchanan and Sufei Zhao, also get jobs at Buzzfeed.

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Together, Paola, Sufei, and Charlyn comprise Buzzfeed NYC mobile’s all-female, all Pursuit graduate team of software developers.

Paola was one of the many Pursuit graduates and Fellows who shared their amazing journeys at Pursuit Bash. The theme of this year’s gala was “Journey to Success.”

Hundreds of tech industry and community leaders, donors, and Pursuit community members packed Highline Stages for the sixth annual gala, the annual fundraiser for the social impact organization and its first-ever Bash as Pursuit (the organization recently rebranded from Coalition for Queens, or C4Q).

An important celebration and annual milestone for the organization, Bash was an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the Pursuit community, honor leaders in tech, philanthropy, and public service, and show gratitude to the organization’s many supporters: donors, employers, and members of its Board of Directors and Operating Board.

Sponsors for the evening were Anna Carolina and Soo Kim, Kimberly and Stuart Spodek, Paul Walker, Manuela Zoninsein and Andy Dunn, BlackRock, BNY Mellon, The Inherent Group, and TFCornerstone.

Guests sipped cocktails, enjoyed delicious food, posed for gifs at a photo booth, danced, and networked as Pursuit’s dynamic ‘Transformation Wall’ displayed inspiring stories of Pursuit Fellows and grads.

Pursuit honored:

  • Paola Mata with the Pursuit Leadership award

  • Paul Walker, a New York City technologist and philanthropist, former co-head of technology at Goldman Sachs, and longtime Pursuit supporter and Core 3.0 commencement speaker, with the Pursuit Pioneer award.

  • Jonah Goodhart, co-founder and CEO of Moat, with the Pursuit Pathfinder award.

  • James Patchett, President and CEO of New York City Economic Development Corporation and a co-partner of Pursuit’s Long Island City development project, with the Pursuit Community award.

The honorees were introduced by Pursuit graduates, who shared their journeys of grit and perseverance:

  • Charlyn Buchanan (Paola), a 3.0 graduate and former human resources professional who combined her love of helping people with her love of technology to forge a career as a software developer at Buzzfeed.

  • Sky Davis (James Patchett), a 1.0 graduate who was raised by her grandmother in Harlem along with five siblings; she later became a product developer at Philosphie.

  • Wesnie Marclin (Paul Walker), a 3.0 graduate who was struggling with the high cost of living in New York City and a dead-end job search before becoming a software developer at JP Morgan Chase.

  • Jose Vila (Jonah Goodhart), a 3.0 graduate who spent his career working minimum wage jobs before landing a position as a SDK engineer at Moat and an instructor at Pursuit.

Jukay Hsu, Pursuit co-founder and CEO, speaking about the organization’s impact

Jukay Hsu, Pursuit co-founder and CEO, speaking about the organization’s impact

Jukay Hsu, co-founder and CEO of Pursuit, kicked off the dinner with remarks about the mission of Pursuit and its impact.

“Our mission is simple: We create transformation where it’s needed most to enable equality of opportunity and a more prosperous society for everyone,” he said. “We do this by training people with the highest need and the highest potential to become software engineers. We do this by helping people achieve their dreams of having a well-paid job and a meaningful family-sustaining career.”

Jukay noted that Pursuit defines transformation in a number of ways: by the way it empowers Fellows to increase their salaries from an average of $18,000 to $85,000 a year and grow their careers through Pursuit Advance; by the way it connects talent with opportunity to make the tech industry more inclusive; and by way it’s revolutionizing how nonprofits fund job training so that they can scale their services to more people in need.

Observing that there simply isn’t enough philanthropic funding to serve the millions of working class Americans who want to better themselves and their families, Jukay declared that Pursuit has a solution that is “performance-based, market-driven, and scalable.”

It’s an innovative funding model that builds new sources of financing by leveraging impact investing and partners with employers to rethink talent within their own workforce. This is a model that can enable us to train workers across the country. This is a model that can fundamentally change how all job training works.

Jukay Hsu, Pursuit Co-Founder & CEO

That model includes Pursuit Bond, an initiative which funds Pursuit’s services by aligning students’ job outcomes with investor returns; and Pursuit LevelUp, an initiative in which Pursuit partners forward-thinking employers such as Blue Apron and Managed by Q to train their employees to become and get hired as software engineers at their companies.

Pursuit presented a short video featuring the inspiring story of Tasi Twinamaani, a 4.0 graduate, single mother, and former Blue Apron kitchen associate who was trained and rehired by the company as a software engineer.

Tasi’s journey from packing boxes to writing code at Blue Apron