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A Different Path: Technology Training and Mentorship Gave Me the Skills and Self-Confidence for Professional Success

Demarcus Reaves, Koch analytics developer, shares his experience in his own words of finding the rewarding job he'd imagined.

A Different Path: Technology Training and Mentorship Gave Me the Skills and Self-Confidence for Professional Success

Demarcus Reaves, Koch analytics developer, shares his experience in his own words of finding the rewarding job he'd imagined.

Published 08-02-23

Submitted by Koch Industries

Demarcus Reaves looking out a window smiling

By Demarcus Reaves, Analytics Developer, Koch Global Services

I was struggling my first year of college, unsure what I wanted to do, but confident that it wasn’t sitting in an anthropology class. That’s when I learned about a technology training program called Year Up. To me, it was an opportunity to improve myself and learn in a way better suited to my needs. So, I took the untraditional, scary step to leave college and enroll in the program.

Year Up totally changed my trajectory and reframed how I viewed myself and my potential. Over the next 12 months, I acquired technology skills that are in high demand, invaluable soft skills (like dressing for the part), networking and how to present my work and ideas. Any doubt I had in my ability to contribute at work, to my community and the wider world diminished with each step forward.

The program connected me with a mentor at Georgia-Pacific in Atlanta. He encouraged me to apply for an internship at Georgia-Pacific So, I did. And I got it.

Demarcus Reaves leaning on a desk smiling

Year Up helped me gain confidence in myself and my abilities. At Georgia-Pacific, a Koch company, my personal growth was accelerated by a culture and vision that promotes lifelong learning, identifying your interests and talents and pursuing them, as well as challenging yourself to keep growing.

Georgia-Pacific and other Koch companies create an environment where it’s OK not to know something or even to mess up — as long as you learn from it. After some mistakes and trial and error, I was so proud when I figured out how to automate processes to make a tool more effective in my first role. Now that my skills are more advanced, it’s funny looking back. I see what I did as so basic, and it’s motivating to see how much I’ve learned.

When my first supervisor at Georgia-Pacific offered me a full-time job, she saw my potential and my value. And every time I’m offered a new opportunity, it reinforces the fact that people who come through nontraditional pipelines, with nontraditional backgrounds and credentials, are valuable to the organization. I often tell my colleagues to be confident in themselves and their abilities, and not to waste time worrying about whether they have the “right” credentials.

Demarcus Reaves in a meeting with two others.

To those who are starting careers through a similar path as mine, it’s important you know: You can do the job. You deserve your spot. You are worthy.

My goal is to emulate the examples set by my mentor and my supervisors. I’ve felt encouragement from every one of my supervisors, who have helped me be successful by caring about me as a person, allowing me to explore my interests and having confidence in me to take on challenges, even when I didn’t feel ready. I tell people all the time that support from my mentors and supervisors, combined with having a growth mindset, helped me break down walls and find a fulfilling career.

In February, I began a new role for Koch Global Services, a different Koch company, as an analytics developer, creating tools to make work life easier and more efficient. This is just the type of rewarding position I imagined having one day, and I can’t wait to see where my skills and Koch’s culture will take me.

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Koch Industries

Koch Industries

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Our life’s work is to help people improve their lives by making and innovating products and services our customers value. Our focus is on delivering mutual benefit: Win-win outcomes that make life better for customers and employees alike.

Based in Wichita, Kansas, Koch Industries is one of the largest private companies in America. A diverse set of businesses and industries across the world, we work together to keep improving and exploring new ways to make life even better.

Koch companies are involved in manufacturing, agriculture, pulp and paper, packaging, consumer products, building materials, glass, automotive components, refining, renewable energy, chemicals and polymers, electronics, enterprise software, data analytics, medical products, engineered technology, project services, recycling, supply chain and logistics, global commodities trading, and investments. Since 2003, Koch companies have invested more than $150 billion in growth and improvements. With a presence in about 60 countries, Koch companies employ more than 120,000 people worldwide, with about half of those in the United States.

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Five environmental stewardship priorities.

With more than 300 manufacturing sites across the United States – and about 100 more globally – we’re one of America’s largest manufacturers. Every day, across those sites, we strive to create more value, using fewer resources than the day before. We do it through constant improvement and innovation – both in the products we make and how we make them, and by managing our resources in a way that benefits our customers, employees, partners, community members and society.

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