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CAEL Pathways Blog

XP and the Exponential Power of Channeling Diverse Experiences to Clarify Complex Career Pathways

Parallel perspectives make Terry Bazemore Jr. an ideal evangelist for Exponential Pathways (XP), a six-region pilot program of CAEL's interactive career navigation platform. Bazemore is the COO of Ey3 Technologies, a systems engineering and cybersecurity company based in Prince George's County, Maryland. From his own education and employment experience, he knows just how arduous the career-exploration journey can be, especially for underrepresented workers. On the other hand, as a business owner in the tech space, he is keenly aware of the ethical and economic imperatives of a diverse and thriving talent pipeline.

XP is the result of a CAEL-led partnership among the U.S. Department of Education, which is funding the initiative, Lightcast, Vantage Point, Junior Achievement, The Mentor Method, and the American Council for Education. Prince George's County is one of six regional XP pilot sites, which also include Central Indiana; Rhode Island; Racine, Wisconsin; Maricopa County, Arizona, and southwestern Ohio.

XP incorporates skills and interest assessments and localized features that include virtual mentors, job market data, and skill-building experiences like internships, apprenticeships, bootcamps, volunteer opportunities, and other training programs. These fine-tuned assets help to connect students and jobseekers to rewarding careers in high-demand industries in their communities. It uses diverse, individually customized education and employment pathways to help traditionally underserved learners navigate their way to credential completion and employment.

The Workforce and the Why Behind Ey3
Bazemore and his wife, who is the CEO of Ey3, founded the company in 2020. He calls his community the 'Why' of Ey3. 'My wife and I are both a product of Prince George's County, and we love everything about it. We want to focus on bringing out not only the good things, but also helping to develop the better."

For Bazemore, a big part of that is taking an active role in connecting the next generation to educational and career opportunities they might otherwise have missed. That's why, in addition to tending to its customer base of organizations within the U.S. Department of Defense and intelligence spheres, Ey3 Technologies partners with Employ Prince George's, the workforce board (and CAEL institutional member) leading the region's XP pilot. Through this partnership, the company provides IT training that upskills and reskills students and workers, including youth, returning citizens, and senior citizens, who are seeking new career pathways.

True to the company's community focus, it provides professional development to help workers succeed anywhere, not just at Ey3. The company offers Scrum Master training as a framework for developing essential skills with diverse applications. Although the Scrum methodology is rooted in agile software development, it also develops problem-solving, conflict resolution, and time management skills, helpful along any career path. "We have a lot of people who are transitioning into cybersecurity or other aspects of IT," said Bazemore. "Scrum is really a really great way for people to get into it. We joke around that everybody actually is a scrum master, they just don't know it yet."

Career Paths and Alien Landscapes
Unshadowing opportunities and helping learners visualize and act on their own potential is at the heart of XP, a capacity that resonates with Bazemore's own experience trying to divine the best career path forward. For Bazemore, the journey began with an interest in what he thought was graphic design.

He recalled seeing a documentary on the computerized effects used in the alien invasion film Independence Day. He was moved by the power of the technology behind it. When he shared his interest, he was encouraged to take up graphic design. "I soon found out that wasn't the pathway," recalled Bazemore. "I was a terrible graphic designer, I couldn't draw at all, but an adult had told me graphic design is where you want to go, because that's all they knew."

Bazemore would next pursue a career in finance, which also wasn't the right fit. When he finally discovered IT, he knew he had found a place where he belonged -- although he didn't feel much of a sense of belonging. "Once I got into IT, one thing that I saw was that there were not a lot of people who looked like me in that space," he said.

That only made the task of navigating a complex workplace seem even more foreign. But Bazemore resolved that he would work to ensure others would have access to relatable mentors. "I really wanted people to springboard to find the new issues, not go through the same obstacles that I faced. Let me help cover that part for you, and then you can take on the challenges for the next generation."

That recalls the "Why" of Ey3, and why Bazemore and his wife founded the company not just to take on cybersecurity but to help diverse workers feel more secure about their career navigation. "My wife, being a minority woman in tech, faced very similar issues just navigating that space," he said. "Cybersecurity is such a huge field, and there are so many different aspects where you can get lost, or believe you want to do something when you have no idea what that even really is."

The 'KEYS' to Inclusive Employee-Employer Partnerships
When Bazemore heard about Employ Prince George's KEYS (Knowledge Equals Youth Success) program, he was impressed with how it was able to target young people facing barriers to employment. "They introduced me to the opportunity to mentor, do career coaching, all the things that we wanted to do anyway and were doing on our own time," said Bazemore.

The KEYS program also introduced him to a valuable source of talent. "They said, 'Look, you have a business? We would love to provide you with interns,'" recalled Bazemore. When he told them he didn't have a salary budget for interns, he was pleasantly surprised to learn that covering that cost was part of the KEYS program.

"I thought that was such an amazing opportunity for them not only to help a small business trying to grow, but then also to support our commitment to help the community,' he said. 'We were able to provide interns an opportunity to learn cybersecurity, office etiquette, and all the things necessary to springboard off of for the rest of their career. It was a win-win all around."

The Power of Personalized Pathways
It was through his work with the KEYS program that Bazemore heard about the XP pilot and was invited to take part in it. "Terry is an exemplary employee partner not just of XP, but of the broader workforce board function," said Rob Garcia, who, as director of initiatives at CAEL, spearheaded the XP pilot launches. "I've worked with a lot of workforce boards, and what I spend most of my time talking about is the role that employers need to play in the workforce system for it to perform well. Terry exemplifies the positive impact an employer partner can make within a workforce system."

Bazemore was immediately impressed with XP's ability to house the critical waypoints that define education-employment pathways under one roof. But it is XP's virtual mentors and their ability to show, rather than dictate, career pathway choices, that stood out most for him.

Perhaps that's because Bazemore himself had turned to a kind of virtual mentor when he was growing up, although admittedly not as attuned to personal circumstances as those available via XP. "Because of the lack of mentors that I had, a lot of them were people I'd never met; they were on a bookshelf and on YouTube," he said.

And while he was able to learn from it, canned content only goes so far. "It was information that was more for everybody, not something tailored toward me and my direct path," said Bazemore. In contrast, he praised XP's virtual mentors, who can illuminate a career path within a context that users can not only understand but see themselves advancing along.

For Bazemore, XP users and virtual mentors hailing from the same community make for an "amazing pairing" that can inspire career explorers with personalized pathways bolstered by the incremental interventions of learning experiences building skills and momentum along the way. It doesn't matter if they follow in the same footsteps or simply watch mentor stories to get new perspectives about a different path. Either way, he says, XP users have a source of motivation much closer to their own experiences than what is typically possible with career exploration platforms.

Empowering Individuals to Navigate Education-Employment Pathways
The ultimate success factor of the XP approach is empowering users to make the decisions that best support their own interests. Pointing to his own foray into graphic design, Bazemore said that XP can channel the momentum sparked by an initial impulse and redirect it to the structured intention of a tailored trajectory. "It will take you down a pathway to where you actually want to be, exposing you to even more areas and more aspects of things you didn't even know about."

That, he said, can even benefit the "real life" mentors who have good intentions but perhaps face the same lack of clarity. "A lot of times people don't really know how or where to steer a mentee or a young person coming up," said Bazemore. "But this tool allows for individuals to take a quiz on their passions and what they want to do, take that information, and then sculpt that into what their natural bent toward things may be. By showing what you actually care most about based on an assessment of yourself, it helps prevent false starts and false directions that can happen in somebody's career."

Again, Bazemore was speaking from experience. He recalled a somewhat ironic slogan he heard when enrolled in a leadership development program as a young employee during a previous role: "Take hold of your career." The program warned people about being passive in their career pathways, urging them to be purposeful in the direction they chose. But it's hard to steer a course over hidden terrain. "XP puts that information right in your hands so you can truly take hold of your career," said Bazemore.

As the Prince George's County XP pilot prepares to serve the first cohort of high school students, via the KEYS program, Bazemore is optimistic about XP's potential to boost equity in his field. "I'm so proud to see so many young minorities coming into the field and learning, growing, getting a piece of the funding that is pouring into this industry, and having the opportunity to make great careers for themselves," he said.

Bazemore has succeeded as an entrepreneur in spite of the obstacles strewn along his career path. That, he says, has helped him view XP "as the 18-year-old me." It's a perspective that makes him confident that XP can support the "Why" that is behind Ey3 -- and in the future that is ahead of XP.

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