IT & Innovation
IT & Innovation Consists of: Data Centers, Software, Defense Technologies, Fintech / Financial Security Software, Healthcare IT, Smart Infrastructure, Autonomous Vehicles, Energy, and Solar & Water Technologies.
Learn more about the IT & Innovation industry and jobs in Northeast Florida.
Spotlight on Success
IT & Innovation continues expanding its presence in the region. Areas of excellence include corporate IT operations, telecommunications infrastructure, and software development. A crosspollination of IT jobs are represented in all high growth, high-demand as well as support sectors.
Associate Software Engineer, Forcura
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 match) 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."
Noah Emmons' Creativity, Talent and Expertise Reflects IT & Innovation Workforce
Software Engineering Consultant
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 . 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 , which led to a full-time software engineer position at the company.
As part of the feature  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 , 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."
The Exclusive Program Delivery Partner in Northeast Florida
As the exclusive Program Delivery Partner in Northeast Florida, the mission of Renaissance Jax (RJAX) is to build and retain talented, creative young people in Northeast Florida through opportunities involving FIRST Robotics, STEM education, and mentor-driven experiences. Providing the FIRST progression of programs allows RJAX to instill and invest in students as young as six years old, fostering interest in STEM and building holistic skills as they transition from LEGO to building 18-inch robots, learn Java programming, and more.
RJAX's corporate partners bolster the FIRST curriculucm and provide the opportunity to mentor top talent and bring a variety of career options to students' attention. RJAX previously partneresd with JEA to host a summer camp for participating Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) high school students. They received hands-on experience by learning to design, build and program a robot. They delved into the process of entrepreneurship with JAXChamber and toured JEA locations to hear from employees about various career pathways. Every student expressed interest in a career at JEA at the conclusion of their five-week experience.
Renaissance Jax regularly tasks students with a hard problem that needs solving. The COVID-19 pandemic caused teams' meeting capabilities to drastically change, resulting in major questions regarding how to share robotics supplies to produce robots. Students learned that if they could not produce a physical robot, they could build a virtual one. Alyssa Olsen and Ishika Doma from J. Allen Axson Elementary School not only taught themselves how to use two digital programs, but they also presented to coaches and fellow students across 28 counties in Northeast and Central Florida. "I learned how useful both LEGO Digital Designer and BrickLink can be for teams to collaborate online to create a digital robot," Ishika said of the experience. Alyssa learned about architecture with LEGO, saying it was "the opportunity of a lifetime to teach a real class in front of real people at the age of ten." Both Alyssa and Ishika then began exploring programs such as Fusion360, participating in challenges alongside high school robotocs students.
While FIRST teams all around the world helped produce 3D printed face shields to address the PPE shortage early in the pandemic, RJAX students also assisted in the effort to solve UF Health's PPE shortage. Ultimately, RJAX included students in their community effort to provide face shields that were safe to reuse and easily reproduce.
Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, RJAX continues to serve nearly 3,000 students across Northeast and Central Florida. New partnerships with JTA and Amazon through DCPS and the Jacksonville Icemen are just some exciting developments as they strive to engage and invest in the future workforce.
JAXUSA CIO Council Impact & Insight
JAXUSA Chief Information Officer
The JAXUSA CIO (Chief Information Officer) Council coordinates, promotes and delivers business resources to education and workforce development organizations to increase the number of students and IT professionals pursuing IT careers in the Northeast Florida area. They spearhead and support activities building the talent pipeline, as well as provide $2,500 scholarship opportunities for students.
Caroline Adams (pictured right), a University of North Florida student, was a recent scholarship winner and several members of the CIO Council presented her with an award commemorating her success at a ceremony in September 2020.
The Tech Coast Conference Illustrates Jacksonville is a Tech Hub
Tech Coast Conference sponsored by the JAX Chamber
The Tech Coast Conference is sponsored by the JAX Chamber, the JAX Chamber IT Council, and the JAX Chamber CIO Council. This event, according to their website (techcoastconference.com) “provides a forum for local businesses, IT decision makers, technology innovators from around the world and the skilled local talent pool to present, discuss and share advances, opportunities and solutions.”
Various keynote, panel and breakout speakers provide tremendous insight into the culture and creativity of IT businesses. Topics covering global trends such as blockchain, cybersecurity, automation, data governance, and chatbots are covered in this unique event, which also affords an excellent networking opportunity for Jacksonville IT professionals.
Proceeds from the conference are used toward a JAXChamber IT/CIO Council scholarship program. The 2020 winner, a University of North Florida student, received a $2,500 scholarship. The Tech Coast Conference is truly bolstering the knowledge base of the existing IT talent in Northeast Florida, but is also paving the way for new talent to assume important roles in this sector.
Seeing a Need: STEM2 Hub Offers Impactful Computer Science Training and Exposure
Kathleen Schofield, Executive Director of the Northeast Florida Regional STEM2 Hub
Kathleen Schofield, Executive Director of the Northeast Florida Regional STEM2 Hub saw the need for additional STEM and Computer Science programming in the region’s K-12 system to meet workforce demands. Through data and stakeholder feedback which generated local and regional partnerships, school districts were able to plug into resources to train teachers in additional computer science coursework and share new STEM and computer science experiences with students. Growth and scaling has occurred rapidly.
Across the region, over 1,100 teachers received training in Computer Science Fundamentals through the Code.org Regional Partnership, bringing exposure to students through Hour of Code. According to Code.org, the activity “increases diversity in computer science by reaching students of all backgrounds where they are — at their skill-level, in their schools, and in ways that inspire them to keep learning.”
Of the total enrollment in the 67 Florida School districts, 78,734 students who are enrolled in the K-5 Introduction to Computer Science course go to school in the Northeast Florida STEM2 Hub Region. These students are part of the emerging talent pipeline. With continued focus and support, pathways are available leading all learners to be aware of and prepared for high-wage, high-demand careers. Further, St. Johns County School District is offering Introduction to Computer Science 2 with nearly 1,000 students enrolled. Expansion efforts are underway to replicate and scale the STEM2 Hub work across the region.
Opportunities such as One Hour of Code offer exposure to STEM and Computer Science concepts. This exposure can assist students as they pursue any pathway, as all occupations are touched by Information Technology. Engagement at this level will encourage students throughout the duration of their scholastic career and position them well for jobs in Northeast Florida.
Business Success Story—Emtec, Inc.
Emtec, Inc., An IT Strategy and Consulting, Digital Transformation Company
Emtec, Inc., an IT Strategy and Consulting, Digital Transformation company recently relocated its global headquarters to Jacksonville from Pennsylvania. The company has worked in the Jacksonville market for 18 years; they are interested in continuing that work as well as expansion in cybersecurity. To keep up with demand for talent, Emtec has taken a proactive approach, particularly regarding their internship program with Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) students.
In conjunction with Emtec, DCPS sponsored 105 student interns in summer 2019 who were selected from 10 schools to work on 75,000 computers to perform a preventative maintenance cleaning and reimaging prior to the new school year. Students receive a week of training which equips them to travel to various schools and refresh student and teacher laptops as part of imaging and cleaning teams. The program has blossomed from its inception 5 years ago in which fewer than 10 students were involved. While students have a great deal of responsibility for costly equipment, they have “risen to the challenge and gained important soft skills,” according to Doug Goodall, Managing Director of Emtec Infrastructure Services. Students work 32 hours a week at $10 per hour.
The internship is truly a workforce development strategy. As a result of the summer internship, 10 to 15 students are extended an additional 5 or 6 months with Emtec to complete the yearly PC refresh project. Any students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in IT will graduate with six years of progressive IT experience. According to Mike Marino, Operations Manager, Emtec employees rally around the interns, providing support and expertise. The program has become an important aspect of the company culture.
From Career Academy to Career Ladder
Lex Walton - Production and Application Support Specialist at VyStar Credit
“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 a bilities. 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.
Advice from an IT Professional
Jansen Holmes - Cisco Network Engineer Bank of America
In 2014, Jansen Holmes began pursuing education at St Johns River State College (SJR State). After working outside the United State for several years, he returned to Northeast Florida and obtained his Associates Degree in Computer Network Engineering. He has also completed the Cisco Networking Academy and is currently a Network Engineer at Bank of America through Select Group.
Jansen was always interested in dissembling and assembling computers. While working overseas, he spoke to many in the IT field and was intrigued. Upon returning to the States, enrolled at SJR State. After observing the other students, Jansen felt like he needed to take additional classes to supplement his knowledge. Professor Bell encouraged him to stick with it and just ask questions. Jansen found he put in many late nights to persist, but he was motivated to succeed and determined to feel comfortable in IT. He flourished in the hands-on classroom environment fixing equipment and learned to manage his expectations about the industry from hands-on, real-world examples. He said, “I didn’t realize how far I had come in a year until I was able to help other people. You have to have a passion for it.”
Jansen shares helpful advice with young professionals entering the IT field, saying, “You get your foundation in school but it’s a totally different world at work. You will be nervous at the beginning, but people will help you. Be sure to run things past people, but try to solve the problem first.” Jansen finds he’s constantly learning and communicating best practices with his team.
“If you like fixing it, it’s fun. There will be long nights when something goes wrong. There will be pressure to perform, but the satisfaction in fixing a problem is great.” He advises that IT professionals hone the skills of paying attention to detail, becoming calm to think under pressure, multi-task, make decisions and think for yourself. Jansen also sees merit in taking advantage of internship opportunities and avoid discouragement when looking for an entry-level job.
“Don’t be motivated by fear that you’ll be left behind if you don’t learn to code. You’re a maker if you code.”
Director of Technology & Software Architect, SS&C
"This is one of the most democratic industries you can work in. People who are self-taught work next to others who have formal education from the best universities in the country."
Vice President of Operations, Forcura
“I never thought about going into the financial sector, but that was the start of my IT career.”
Production and Application Support Specialist, VyStar Credit Union
“It’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove.”
Senior Cyber Security Solutions Consultant, Emtec, Inc.
“Have an insatiable curiosity to adapt to changing winds of your environment because nothing stays the same.”
Director of Technology & Software Architect, SS&C
"My internship provided insightful learning and understanding of what it means to be a member of the workforce."
Associate Software Engineer, Forcura
“If you like fixing, it’s fun. There will be pressure to perform, but the satisfaction in fixing a problem is great.”