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.


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

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

Noah Emmons

Software Engineering Consultant, Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur Noah Emmons appreciates that fear of failure can play an important role in advancing your understanding and knowledge of information technology.
"Success is equal to failing less," said Emmons, a software engineering consultant who discovered the Jacksonville region is a dynamic hub for technology development and employment.

"Technology is complicated, intimidating and daunting, and learning it can be scary," Emmons said. "In time, you have a better understanding and become more comfortable with the unknown. I'm drawn to activities where you have to fail before you can advance."
As a youth growing up in Fernandina Beach, Emmons enjoyed computer games and had an interest in knowing more about the people behind game development. At 12, he didn't hesitate to reach out to more than 40 industry professionals via email. He made a connection with three.
"I formed friendships with people who eventually became mentors," Emmons said. "It's important to surround yourself with likeminded individuals who make you feel comfortable."
A 2017 graduate of Fernandina Beach High School, Emmons discovered his passion for technology and software development in the Nassau County School District's Java Programming and Application Development curriculum at the Lewis "Red" Bean Nassau Technical Career Center.

The Nassau County School District program, led by Director of Career Education Brent Lemond and instructor Kalvin Thompson, provides students with software development training using the latest technologies. The program's advisory board includes local business partners, such as feature [23]. Wells Fargo and CSX, who provide guidance on curriculum and assist with placement and other student opportunities.

As a student, Emmons demonstrated initiative and drive for learning advanced topics and applying them quickly. He also worked hard to expand his skillset beyond
expectations. Those qualities help Emmons secure an internship at Jacksonville-based software developer feature [23], which led to a full-time software engineer position at the company.

As part of the feature [23] software engineering team, Emmons gained experience in a wide range of domains including distribution, logistics, trading, sales and more, and honed his skills with C#, SQL Server, Azure, React, Angular, and other domain-specific technologies.
"I worked on projects I enjoyed," Emmons said. "It didn't feel like I was working."

After spending nearly five years with feature [23], Emmons recently stepped out on his own as a software engineering consultant. He offers a variety of services designed for both start-ups and established businesses including new product development.

"With all of the opportunities that are out there, going out on my own is the right next step for me," Emmons said. "I find myself at my best when I am challenged to learn new domains, whether they are business or technical."

Emmons has risen quickly in his career because he is curious, enthusiastic and has an insatiable desire to learn. He encourages others to find and pursue their passions.
"If you don't have the initiative, work can be a grind," Emmons said. "You owe it to yourself to make sure you're happy and find the things that excite you."

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.”