One of the unique aspects of the Bakersfield community is how involved the community is in bettering the lives of others – and this is certainly true of Bitwise Industries.
I recently reached out to Amy Thelen, SVP of City Expansion, to explain more about what Bitwise is about and how they help provide educational and professional opportunities to those who might not otherwise receive them.
Thank you, Amy!
Tell us about Bitwise Industries.
To me, Bitwise is far more than a company, rather, it's an entire movement happening within the technology industry.
At our core, Bitwise up-skills disenfranchised humans by removing any and all barriers that have previously kept them out of technology. That means that we provide transportation, childcare, scholarships and other wrap around services that they may need to be successful. To sum it up, we look to screen people into our programs, never out of them. By doing this, we help them empower their own lives, which ignites and transforms the economies of each city that Bitwise serves.
This is possible because of the ecosystem that Bitwise has created. This ecosystem consists of three major pillars that focus on connecting people from marginalized communities and stories of systemic poverty to skills and resources necessary to access opportunities in the tech industry. First (and paramount) to everything we do is our Workforce Training line of business. Within Workforce Training, we've up-skilled thousands of students through our accelerated training programs. To date, over 4,000 people have developed apps, started companies and created technology to solve worldwide problems.
Second is our Tech Consulting line of business. It's here where we create custom software with many hired straight out of our Workforce Development programs. By doing this, we've proved that it's possible to build top notch technology in unexpected places, using the most diverse tech team out there.
Lastly, we house all of this amazing work that needs to be done in what we call our "castles for underdogs." We take blighted buildings in the urban core of our cities, revitalize them, and invite the people from our communities into these spaces. We lease our space to other companies, host events and ensure it's a space where people feel like they belong. Lastly, we do this all in cities that are considered non-traditional tech towns, proving that the talent in these cities are simply untapped - but not for long.
What made you want to get involved?
All of the above. I've spent the last 15 years working in technology and when I learned that Bitwise was coming to Bakersfield, I reached out to our CEO to find out how I could get involved. We immediately hit it off and the rest is history.
I've never experienced anything like Bitwise. We have a couple sayings, "no one belongs here more than you," and "Bitwise is about humans." Both are on the outside of our Bakersfield Buildings but these aren't just things we say, we live it day in and day out.
The people in our company go above and beyond for each other in countless ways, it's truly unique and inspiring to watch. The level of caring that we all show to one another isn't something you typically find in a company, which is another reason I wanted to be a part of it.
What have been some actionable things that Bitwise has done to help others in the community?
Bitwise cares so deeply about humans that the actionable things they do in their communities are ongoing and built into the fabric of who we are. Meaning, those things I talked about above, like providing free childcare, picking students up to ensure they make it to class are just a couple ways in which we constantly show up for our community.
One story that comes to mind, happened right as our world shut down due to COVID. It was March 2020 and we were all told we would be sheltering in place for 'two weeks' and the people at Bitwise wondered how the elderly and others without means would get food. They immediately stepped up and created our "Take Care" program. To date, they've now delivered over one million groceries to people in the Central Valley and also created a software platform that food banks could use to better serve our communities. Outside of that, our Directors and VPs are constantly creating partnerships with other similar mission driven people and companies to ensure our reach is as far as possible.
Do you have a favorite success story?
So many of them stick out to me so I don't want to highlight one over another but what I will say is that so many lives have been completely transformed by simply showing people that someone believes in them. The power of believing in yourself as well as having others believe in you is unparalleled.
Bitwise has several initiatives. Do you have a favorite?
They're all important in their own right but will say that I love the sense of place that we create. The energy in our buildings (specifically pre-COVID) is undeniable. When you walk into a room, in any of our buildings, there is a sense of belonging. The spaces are fun, exciting and something that every City and Community deserves.