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Mentoring & Volunteering

AVECTRA EXPANDS ITS PARTNERSHIP WITH YEAR UP IN CHICAGO

Already hosting its second intern from the Year Up National Capital Office at their headquarters in McLean Virginia, Avectra has begun working with the Year Up Chicago chapter exclusively on fundraising and recruitment of corporate sponsors.

The Chicago Chapter is just a little more than a year old and is one of the youngest offices helping to bridge the opportunity divide by providing urban youth with a unique combination of technical and professional skills, college credits, an education stipend and corporate internship. Avectra employee John Clese in charge of Product Marketing for Avectra's Not For Profit division was appointed to Year Up's Leadership Council to help raise more than $3 million dollars for the upcoming 2012 program budget. The Chicago chapter is hoping to double the number of students participating in the program for next year.

A breakfast to recruit new corporate sponsors to participate in the Chicago Year Up program was held at the Chicago office of the global business law firm Sidley Austin on October 25, 2011. Alan Anderson, Executive Director Year Up Chicago (bottom row third from left). Clarence Booth, Development Manager, Year Up Chicago (top row, 6th from left) and John Clese, Director of Product Marketing, Not For Profit, Avectra (top row, 7th from left)

AVECTRA SPONSORS SECOND INTERN WITH YEAR UP OF THE NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION

Fernando Garcia,
Avectra's Year Up Intern
Fernando Garcia started his internship with Avectra this past September and will graduate from the Internship program on January 27, 2012. He came to this country three years ago from Honduras and finished high school in those three years by taking summer classes and night school in addition to his daytime high school work. Fernando learned about the Year Up Program through a friend who was also in the program. He heard the internship at Avectra was very hands on with responsibility for supporting Avectra's employees' hardware and software needs and network connectivity. Avectra recently "promoted" Fernando from the help desk to Managed Hosting Services, providing Tier III support to Avectra's customers. Fernando says he "loves the work" and is extremely grateful for the experience provided to him by Avectra.

12/2011 Update: Congratulations to Fernando for receiving a two year scholarship from Northern Virginia Community College!

(Left to Right) Avectra Help Desk Team Leader and Year Up Mentor Chris Morrison
with Year Up Intern Fernando Garcia.

AVECTRA PARTNERS WITH "YEAR UP" TO HELP BRIDGE THE OPPORTUNITY DIVIDE

In February of this year, Avectra joined a growing list of companies helping to train the next generation of leaders through the innovative organization Year Up. Established in 2000 by Gerald Chertavian, Year Up is working valiantly to empower young urban adults ages 18-24 with the skills, education, support and guidance they need to realize their potential. Students are paid a stipend of $150 per week during their classroom training and $250 per week once in an internship. Partners like Avectra help provide the funding for both the classroom time and the internship.

The mission of Year Up is "to close the opportunity divide by providing young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education."

Raymond Butler is 20 years old and our Year Up intern. The first thing you notice about Raymond is his great big smile. He smiles constantly from the time he arrives at our office until the moment he leaves. He smiles when doing such ordinary tasks as replacing the printer cartridge in our high-tech/do-everything/printer-scanner-copier-machine that always seems to be out of service. He even lights up when you ask him about working in a cubicle!

Raymond heard about the Year Up program from a family friend who encouraged him to apply. Raymond had never thought about a career in IT before Year Up but says "he had no choice but to like it because the program was so good" and his mother provided encouragement- telling him that computers were the future so he should know more about them. Because Year Up provides a stipend, Raymond was able to quit one of his jobs once he was accepted into the program and earn college credits in the process.

Raymond is currently serving the internship portion of the year-long program and he's getting his first taste of working in corporate America. Having just completed six months of intensive training at Year Up's National Capital Office in Arlington VA, Raymond has come to Avectra to put his newly found skills to the test working with Avectra's Desktop and Network Support Services. You can often see Raymond buzzing around our offices in Virginia with his Avectra staff mentor Chris Morrison. You'll find him installing software on employee computers, rebuilding laptops and helping new hires with their phone set up - smiling all the while.

It's clear that Raymond and Chris have formed a close relationship. Raymond thinks his mentor looks out for him and is always ready to help. Chris says Raymond reminds him of when he was starting out in his career and how exciting everything was - especially the technology. Chris agrees Raymond has a hard time not smiling about everything, which was a little odd for Chris at first until he realized the smiles were because everything was so new to him. "The technology is exciting to him which is a good thing; you need to possess excitement to do the work or you're not going to get it."

Raymond loved it when Chris went to visit our Chicago office, because it left Raymond with full responsibility to support our headquarters office on his own - "he was the tech man". Chris was gone for two days, but Raymond enjoyed the high level of responsibility and excelled - the running joke in the office was that nobody missed Chris because Raymond did such a good job in his absence.

Chris believes that Raymond's interaction and socialization with the staff has been great, and believes Year Up has done a terrific job teaching Raymond how to be a team player.

Recently, Chris and his boss Mark Zigadlo challenged Raymond on his time management and negotiation skills by giving him more work than he could possibly complete in one day. They weren't setting him up for failure; they wanted him to learn how to manage his schedule and seek guidance on prioritizing and negotiating for more time. Raymond didn't know they were testing him but apparently he passed the test with flying colors, explaining to Chris what he completed, why he wasn't able to get to certain jobs and then setting forth a plan to complete the remaining tasks. This is a terrific example of why Raymond is doing well at not just any company - Avectra has high expectations of its employees, and Raymond's terrific work ethic and conscientious approach to customer service are living up to those expectations.

Raymond is bringing more to Avectra than just the technical skills he's learned at Year Up. He's also putting into practice his professional training in time management, teamwork, and workplace behavior such as dressing like a professional and being on time.

At Year Up you can lose points every time there is an infraction, and the rules are quite stringent - points can be lose for transgressions ranging from being late to not wearing work socks, having a cell phone out, or bringing food into the tech room. Losing points can mean a reduction in your stipend by as much as $25 for a single infraction - a powerful incentive for all participants.

This really resonated with Avectra CEO Richard Davis, who half-jokingly thought docking pay for not representing corporate values and image might not be a bad idea for everyone in the corporate world (yikes)! He thinks companies can find themselves with an employee "relaxation level" which may be fine for some environments but perhaps not all, "especially when you have clients, vendors and investors coming into the office". As an example, upon Richard's arrival at Avectra in February of 2010, he eliminated the company's too-casual Fridays. As a software company, Avectra already permits casual dress, and Richard didn't feel it appropriate to take the dress code down a level further.

Richard feels there are many things we can learn from Year Up and has made a note to speak with HR about new employee orientation. He wants to make sure we do a "better job of outlining our expectations like they do at Year Up". He appreciates the fact that Year Up imparts to students the discipline of understanding that if one doesn't deliver on a set of criteria or conditions, penalties of some kind will follow. He feels that message is not just for the young but for everyone working in business. "Our customers expect us to meet and exceed their expectations and we should expect the same from our employees." Like Year Up, he believes most everyone has the skills and potential when they are hired to do the job but feels it's crucial to support employees so they can do their best work. In the end, "It's up to each individual at our company to excel ... just like Raymond does."

Something that really impressed Richard about Raymond was the dedication he shows in getting to work, (Raymond takes a train and two buses to get to Avectra) even before his scheduled start time. At Year Up, if you arrive one second after your expected time - you're considered late. "Knowing the effort it takes Raymond to get to our McLean office and that he makes it to work early is really quite remarkable."

Richard pulled himself up through the corporate world with little in the way of secondary education and can relate to the opportunity divide that Year Up is trying to bridge. "Growing up in the UK, I was much more interested in soccer than I was in going to school and I didn't pass the aptitude test at the age of 11 that determined whether or not I could go to University, so I went to work at the age of 15."

Like Raymond, Richard started working for a company called Fairchild as a clerk, similar to what Raymond is doing now but without a personal computer on every desk. Richard had ambition and drive and was singled out by the CEO to move into sales. "For many of us, you just need that one break in life to put you in the right direction." He likes the philosophy of Year Up, and thinks for many of the interns the help desk in a corporate office is a great place to start since you need to deal with customer requests and learning the software and hardware it takes to run a business. More importantly, "you understand what it means to be a customer in a business environment and that is very powerful indeed.

Richard recognizes that many Avectra employees have the luxury of family support and education. He feels it's important for us as a company to give others the same opportunity so many of us takes for granted. "These young kids are the leaders of tomorrow; they could become a CEO or the President one day." He's looking forward to expanding the program to Avectra's Chicago office where Year Up also operates.

In April, all Avectra employees at the McLean headquarters participated in a series of lunches with staff from Year Up's National Capital Office. The Year Up staff led us through some of the same interactive techniques used with their students to foster openness and knowledge of one another. Employees were asked to remember the first time they felt like they had become an adult and to share their experience with the group. We were also broken into several groups and given less than five minutes to explain to our colleagues how to do something. Avectra staff revealed some real hidden talents like making beer, whistling and how to say hello in five different languages.

Raymond feels that his experience at Avectra has "been vital and very beneficial.... teaching me a lot in a short period of time". From the Avectra side, Raymond is both beloved and respected, and has earned the fact that people view him not as an intern any more, but simply as a valuable member of the family.

When Raymond graduates from the program in June, Avectra staff will be there to cheer him on. In the meantime, he is going to create a portfolio of everything he has learned at Avectra and present it to a panel of volunteers at the Year Up office. He's looking forward to finishing the program with an entirely new set of skills that will allow him to be helpful to just about any company, anywhere.

Outside the office, Raymond plays on the Avectra softball team and, as our Marketing department very much appreciates, he's even enthusiastic about wearing Avectra's unmistakable purple company polo shirts. In these as in so many other ways, Raymond Butler is a terrific team player!

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