From chefs to jazz musicians, Calgarians are trading in their old tools for new ones as the city’s tech industry booms

InceptionU’s programs are helping to make the career transition smoother

By Krista Sylvester | January 19, 2022 |5:00 am

Before the current COVID restrictions prompted InceptionU to do their program online, the library was packed with learners.

Photo: Submitted

It’s no secret the city is in the midst of a tech and digital economy boom — but we need bodies to fill all of those vacant opportunities. 

That’s a task non-profit educational organization InceptionU has taken on as it helps reskill and retrain Calgarians for the opportunities that this digital and tech boom is providing for the city. 

While the city’s burgeoning tech industry is a positive thing, there are more positions than skilled workers and it’s a concern, says InceptionU CEO and co-founder Margo Purcell. 

“There is a movement to encourage more people to step into tech, even amongst those who wouldn’t traditionally consider themselves technical,” she says. 

“It’s about evolving yourself and transitioning into different careers. You’re not losing what you had before, but you’re adding to and enhancing it and bringing all of that knowledge and experience that you have from a previous field.”

Purcell says the organization’s goal is to equip people to be “future fit.”

“We want people to be future fit so that they can respond to a rapidly changing environment and business community around them.”

InceptionU CEO and co-founder Margo Purcell

Luring people from other industries and sectors 

Former chefs, musicians, engineers, and construction workers have traded in their tools of the trade for new skills in the technology sector — and they haven’t looked back. 

Current InceptionU learner Julie Weir traded in her chef’s apron when she moved from Ontario to Calgary. She was tired of the uncertainty that COVID brought to her industry and wanted to try something new. 

Now, about halfway through the Full Stack Developer program, Weir is excited about the future. She recognized the opportunities Calgary’s tech boom is providing and she wanted to be a part of it.

“From the moment I was in the [InceptionU] open house, I knew this is what I wanted to do,” she says, adding the open house itself opened her eyes to a whole new world of thinking. 

A smooth transition 

Though being a chef is nothing like working in tech, Weir is still able to not only tap into existing skills but also tap into skills she didn’t even realize she has. 

“In this program, we learn about ourselves and what our interests and primary abilities are, and hone in on what we’ve developed over the years,” she says, adding she’s learned to tap into her multitasking and problem-solving skills.

Weir plans to get into coding and programming when she is finished with the program. 

“I’d like to get into the action… because it’s so much fun. It’s like a bunch of moving parts together. And you get to use your creative problem-solving skills.”

Nothing but good things to say about the program 

Once a jazz musician who earned his music degree at the U of C, Ben Isenstein completed the InceptionU program and now works in the tech industry as a full stack developer. 

Despite choosing music as his major, Isenstein was always into math in high school and was curious about the infusion of technology into music and arts. He says the six-month program started a new chapter in his life. 

“It’s transformative. It’s hard to imagine being ready for something like this after six months, but it really kicked me into gear,” he says. 

“By the time the program ended, it just felt like a fresh start, even though the program was ending, it was the end of a new beginning.” 

Both Isenstein and Weir recommend the InceptionU program to others who are thinking about making a career change. 

“We need to understand the problem before we build a solution”  

InceptionU launched in 2018 to help people with both the technical and essential (non-technical) skills that are needed now and in the future. 

It also exists to help those in the industry understand the challenges facing the tech sector while working together to build solutions, Purcell says. 

“If we look at what tech is, just about every company is going to be a tech company to some degree because everything is going digital,” she says. 

“When you have an understanding of a field and you bring that in and add digital skills to it, you can now help solve new problems. You can also help companies transition more digitally than they may have before.”

InceptionU is hosting a virtual event Wednesday, Jan. 19 at 9 a.m. to further discuss the talent challenges facing the city while exploring solutions. Those interested can register here.

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Krista Sylvester

Managing Editor at Calgary Citizen

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