Fort Mill Times

New program gives them a choice: Coding or sales?

The latest group of participants in the Road2Hire program developed by Ric Elias of Red Ventures.
The latest group of participants in the Road2Hire program developed by Ric Elias of Red Ventures.

Sitting just south of the state line, not visible from U.S. 521, but commanding with its aura of large buildings accented in red, one might think they have landed in Silicon Valley.

Not your typical sight in the panhandle of Lancaster County – but this is not your typical company.

It’s Red Ventures – the billion-dollar brainchild of tech entrepreneur Ric Elias and a corporation that has in its 16 years put itself on the map with its cutting-edge approach to both business and company culture.

Just beyond the sizable glass windows of opportunity lies a group of young adults hand-picked for an endeavor that has the potential to change the trajectory of their life.

They are participants in Elias’ newly launched non-profit, Road2Hire.

This past May, a pair of Harvard economists released a study ranking nearby Mecklenburg County in North Carolina second worst in the nation for economic mobility.

In other words, “Someone born poor in Mecklenburg County, they don’t get out of poverty,” said Road2Hire Director Chandler Martin.

The forces behind Road2Hire want to help change that.

“It all boils back to one basic notion: Ric (Elias) believes very strongly that nobody who invests in themselves and is motivated should ever be denied opportunity,” Martin said.

“This is really not a political thing. Unfortunately, there are people who are really motivated, but the opportunities are a little harder to come by.”

Elias is investing $5 million into the non-profit to help provide those opportunities.

Over the course of a three to four-month period, candidates learn job skills in a supportive setting to give them a competitive edge in the workforce. They choose one of two tracks – coding or sales – on a full-time basis and are paid a stipend while in the program. The program is geared toward high school graduates for whom college may not be an option, due to finances and other factors.

And, as Road2Hire Director Chandler Martin points out, college is not a necessity for everyone.

“College is a little bit like medicine,” Martin explained. “There’s some people who really need it. There’s a lot of people who can’t afford it and there’s certain people for whom it’s over-prescribed.”

Those who complete the program will have an inside track to various job opportunities at Red Ventures.

A lot of what is done at Red Ventures, a technology – based sales and marketing firm, does not require a college education, Martin said. A native of Puerto Rico, Elias is passionate about creating equal education and employment opportunities for motivated young adults. He began investing in that mission in 2012 when he created Golden Door Scholars, which has awarded 45 undocumented, high-performing youth college scholarships.

But Elias noticed there were far more high-achieving young adults then there were scholarships available. From there, the Code2Hire program, an online program that taught participants how to code, was born. Thirteen Code2Hire program graduates now work at Red Ventures. Road2Hire has taken the building blocks laid by Code2Hire and expanded them into a hands-on, face-to-face coaching program.

Elias is also passionate about redefining corporate responsibility, which Martin explains as, “instead of just cutting a check how can (employees) participate in making the community stronger by doing what they already do well?”

Many Red Ventures employees have done just that by taking a vested interest in Road2Hire, Martin said, adding that he received 100 email replies when he sent out a message to gauge interest in helping out with the non-profit.

Because of employees’ enthusiasm, each Road2Hire candidate will be paired with a Red Ventures mentor. Employees have also donated their time by building the non-profit’s website and managing social media channels.

“It’s been an amazing, amazing collection of passion from the Red Ventures side of the house that’s really helped us build this thing,” Martin said.

Road2Hire participant and Charlotte resident Nancy Hinojosa, a 21-year-old graduate of the Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology in Charlotte, found out about the non-profit from some friends who participated in Code2Hire.

“They were just really excited and they were talking to me about what a big opportunity it was,” she said.

Hinojosa said she is impressed with Red Ventures because of the corporation’s “unique, un-structuralized” culture and “genuine care” for employees.

“A lot of places, (employees) have a job for what it gets them, but here they’re very tight-knit and they all believe in what they’re working for,” Hinojosa said. “Everyone has a role to contribute to (company) culture.”

Road2Hire candidate Damarco Williams, 18, of Charlotte, said landing a job at Red Ventures would be a great and challenging opportunity. He is attracted to the company’s culture, which he describes as “working hard and having fun while you’re working and really enjoying the work.”

Williams senses that Red Ventures employees are “all a part of something and working towards a similar goal.”

Martin, the Road2Hire director and a former Red Ventures employee, said the partnership between the corporation and the non-profit can only be of mutual benefit for everyone involved.

“(Red Ventures) is such an amazing place to create a positive impression for work,” he said. “Day over day we’re seeing this diverse set of young adults turn into a team and it’s nothing short of amazing.”

Kelly Lessard: kellyrlessard@gmail.com, @KellyLessardFMT

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