IT & Innovation

IT & Innovation is a growth sector that impacts all other regional target & support industries.

The Information Technology Sector continues steady growth in Northeast Florida. A crosspollination of IT jobs are represented in all high growth, high-demand as well as ancillary sectors. Subsets of the industry include Data Centers, Software, Defense Technologies, Fintech/Financial Security Software, Healthcare IT, Smart Infrastructure, Autonomous Vehicles, as well as Energy, and Solar & Water Technologies.

Resources

IT & Innovation
Career Pathway Report

Industry Deep Dive

IT & Innovation Companies in the Region

I find myself at my best when I am challenged to learn new domains, whether they are business or technical.

Noah EmmonsSoftware Engineering Consultant, Entreprenuer

I never thought about going into the financial sector but that was the start of my IT career.

Lex WaltonProduction & Application Support Specialist, VyStar

You can impact every corner of life through data analytics.

Bianca DavisManager of Data Operations and Strategy, Crowley Maritime Corporation

My internship provided insightful learning and understanding of what it means to be a member of the workforce.

Carolyn O'NealAssociate Software Engineer, Forcura

There will be pressure to perform, but the satisfaction of fixing a problem is great.

Jansen HolmesCisco Network Engineer, Bank of America

Bianca Davis

Manager of Data Operations and Strategy, Crowley Maritime Corporation

Bianca Davis is the Manager of Data Operations and Strategy at Crowley Maritime Corporation. Headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, Crowley is a vessel management, owner and supply chain logistics services company, providing services globally.
Bianca was born in England and has lived in various overseas and U.S. locations. A speaker of German and Icelandic, Bianca relocated to Jacksonville to be closer to her parents.

Her interest in technology was piqued when conducting social science research. When evaluating surveys, Bianca concluded that there was no wholistic solution in the data gathering process. As someone who always enjoyed investigative science, she was drawn into data, saying, “You can impact every corner of life through data analytics.”

Bianca looks to maximize opportunity and has studied people, business and data. She achieved an MBA and MS in Data Analytics at University of Maryland University College. While in college, Bianca worked at Ralph Lauren to fund her education, where her efforts to juggle school and work were acknowledged.

A people person, Bianca changes the narrative that data people lean toward introversion and code all day. In her role at Crowley, Bianca leverages her various strengths to bring together and facilitate cross-functional work between business and tech teams. She focuses on the program level to ensure that data impacts strategy and helps the organization move forward toward ever-evolving data maturity. For example, the legal department may want to digitize processes, so she brings Crowley’s experts together to formulate and implement a solution.

Bianca also works with external partners to ensure support of best practices. Customer experience is also very important, so she looks at technology’s impact on delivery models. Thus, the power of data and systems to make maximum impact on internal teams and external customers is actualized.

A rewarding part of her job is “the lightbulb moment and seeing other people feel good about what they’re doing.” Seeing relationships form, confidence built, and the power of owning the solution is key. She also enjoys being involved in the organizations DEI—supporting diversity, equity and inclusion.

An unexpected aspect of being an IT professional is that “people think you always know the answer. It’s more about finding the answer together, looking past the immediate need and focusing on the long-term solution.” This can involve adjusting expectations while still focusing on the mission to achieve results.

Bianca offers the following advice to those entering IT: “Every company is an IT company. IT is an asset. It’s an enabler that requires us to still innovate.” In addition to seeking out internships in high school and college, focus on a niche technical skill set but be mindful of entering an industry that fulfills your purpose and allows you to drive impact. Think about the context of where you want to work within the tech industry. Consider starting out as a contracted employee to explore various IT roles in different industries and work at companies large and small.

Once employed and looking to begin career laddering, Bianca encourages people to “look for executive leadership and facilitation training. You must be able to navigate the culture of your company and build partnerships. Your career path isn’t linear so be good to yourself and others.”

Lex Walton

Production & Application Support Specialist, VyStar

They said it paid $10, so I was interested,” says Lex Walton, Production and Application Support Specialist at VyStar Credit Union, of his opportunity as a student intern and student manager at Wolfson High School’s VyStar Academy. “I never thought about going into the financial sector, but that was the start of my IT career.”

Lex learned tremendous lessons while involved in the VyStar Academy in high school in 2012 and 2013. He assisted in teaching fiscal responsibility to other students. He assisted with branch efficiency and modified processing systems. Lex also learned computer repair, which included hardware and software, sparking an interest in Information Technology (IT). Lex learned about the multitude of career opportunities available at VyStar while a high school student. He reviewed active job postings and saw the education needed to obtain IT positions, as well as the average wages he could earn with specific IT skills.

Lex continued working for VyStar post-graduation as a Teller Specialist 1 and Teller Specialist II. These positions allowed him to craft listening and empathy skills, as well as master cash handling and balancing abilities. Lex knew early on that he wanted to pursue a career outside of direct customer service.

However, his transferrable experience as a teller consistently proves valuable as he grows his IT career. His career ladder has allowed him to interface with customers, the end-users of the apps he works so diligently to support. “I’ve worked with our customers and I know how they’re going to react if technology isn’t working. It gives me a sense of urgency to make sure everything’s right.”

While working as a Teller, Lex continued his education in IT. While at Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ), Lex was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Lex received his Associate of Science degree in Computer/Information Technology Administration and Management and continued on at FSCJ for his Bachelors Degree in Computer Systems Networking and Telecommunications. Lex took advantage of scholarship opportunities via Career Source Northeast Florida to assist with tuition. VyStar also provides an outstanding tuition assistance program.

As Lex continued to complete educational milestones, he continued taking new steps in his professional career. Averaging a job change at least every 1-3 years, Lex continues to progress. He has been with VyStar for over 8 years now and only continues to progress.
In his current role in Production and Application Support, he troubleshoots application software issues and ensures successful resolution. Lex is an example of how motivation, strategic planning, and resiliency has tremendous impact. He has successfully leveraged opportunities available to him in high school and college. Lex has taken advantage of the high caliber of education and the high-growth IT occupations in Northeast Florida to craft an enviable career with limitless possibilities.

Carolyn O'Neal

Forcura Associate Software Engineer

Internships are becoming an increasingly essential tool for finding full-time employment. In addition to learning on-the-job skills, Carolyn O’Neal, MSHI, maximized the internship experience to establish herself as a valuable team player at Forcura, a leading healthcare technology company headquartered in Jacksonville.

“There’s a big learning curve in the transition from bachelor’s degree to master’s degree to professional employment,” O’Neal said. “My internship provided insightful learning and understanding of what it means to be a member of the workforce.”

O’Neal, an Associate Software Engineer at Forcura, earned a master’s degree in Health Informatics and a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science with a minor in Cyber Security from Jacksonville University. Attending as a student-athlete on a softball scholarship, the Tampa-area native used her studies at JU to feed her passion for computers and technology before advancing into full-time employment at Forcura.

“What we do at Forcura is extremely rewarding,” O’Neal said. “It helps providers and patients going through care with software that saves time and money.”

Forcura improves continuity of care via technology, analytics and a deep commitment to enabling better patient care. The Forcura suite of tools facilitates safer patient care transitions and more effective coordination among post-acute health care organizations, physicians, electronic health records (EHRs) and other supporting technology vendors.

O’Neal’s internship at Forcura was the perfect fit to complete her master’s degree in Health Informatics, a relatively new, interdisciplinary field in the healthcare industry that uses information technology to organize and analyze health records to improve healthcare outcomes. She learned about the opportunity from a friend, who is a Forcura employee, and discovered the internship aligned with her interests in healthcare and technology.

“We are empowering patient care with the best technology and information available,” O’Neal said. “It has a real and powerful impact on people’s lives.”

Colleagues recognized O’Neal’s professionalism, dedication and positive contributions during the internship, and the company extended an offer to become a full-time employee. At Forcura, attracting and retaining top talent through innovation and company culture is a high priority. The company has a successful internship program and has converted 70% of its interns to full-time employees since 2018.

O’Neal’s focus is data flow, ensuring that Forcura’s components connect and the information can get where it is needed to improve healthcare delivery and outcomes. Her interest in computers and technology emerged as a student in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program at Buchanan Middle School in Tampa. Engineering was her favorite class and it inspired her interest in pursuing a technology career. O’Neal is proud to be a young female leader in the STEM field and hopes to help equalize the gender gap. She aspires to return to the classroom as a mentor or teacher, empowering young children to recognize the opportunities in some of the fastest-growing and highest-paid jobs of the future.

“Don’t be intimidated by the technology,” O’Neal said. “Anyone who works hard and likes a challenge can enjoy a career in computer science or software engineering.”