Who helped you start on the road to success in your career?

EIR introduces Computer Mentors group to the Wave.

Who helped you start you on the road to success in your career? For me, it was an IBM branch manager in Philadelphia giving a very unpolished college kid a 6-month cooperative education job. How unpolished?  I proudly showed up for my first day on the job with my favorite chocolate brown shirt and light paisley tie combination, after which I was hauled down to the local men’s store for a lesson on subdued shirts and sincere ties.

Later in my career, I experienced the process from a different angle.  I joined ConnectWise in 2007 as Chief Operating Officer. Arnie Bellini and his team had already established a pipeline to USF for technical talent. We expanded that to include staffing our services teams primarily with USF graduates. The energy and desire to succeed these young team members brought to the company was key to our success in delivering excellent service. My eyes were opened to the talent that could fuel the Tampa Bay tech sector.

As I prepared to wrap up my full-time career in 2017, I spoke with my good friends Lance Raab and Gerwai Todd about the work being done by the Wave. They encouraged me to explore becoming a mentor. My experience as a mentor and entrepreneur-in-residence have reinforced what I saw at ConnectWise.

I was also presented with the opportunity to join the board at Computer Mentors, which has been delivering technical training to youth in underserved areas for over 20 years. Computer Mentors’ programs include Kids Code for elementary school children, Teen Tech for high schoolers and an annual Teen Business Challenge weekend (similar to Techstars’ Startup Weekends). Ralph Smith, Dr. Saba Baptiste and their team have created a great vehicle to build the next generation of Tampa Bay tech talent.

Computer Mentors “Kids Code” group presents app idea to Wave mentors.

A group of teens from Computer Mentors recently visited the Wave and met with some of our mentors and four of our accelerator companies.  The teens were grateful for the opportunity to learn about the vision and energy needed to be an entrepreneur. Who knows? Maybe a future Wave company founder was in the room that day.

Computer Mentors touring the Wave Venture Center

Computer Mentors has been quietly doing its work for many years.  Our goal is to now expand the organization’s offerings and reach so that we create more opportunities for our youth and a great workforce for our area employers. 

I’m sold on the energy and talent around Tampa Bay’s start-up community.  We’re quickly moving past “we’re going to” to “we are.” I believe Tampa Bay Wave and Computer Mentors will be a large part of what’s next.

Written by Wave EIR Santo Cannone.