Meet Jerome Hardaway, an Opportunity Fund recipient and Veteran who worked in marketing and design before enrolling in GA’s Web Design Immersive course in New York City. Now, Jerome is using his web development skills to build his own startup, FRAGO, which helps Veterans transition more smoothly into civilian life.
You were an Opportunity Fund recipient. How did you hear about the program, and what inspired you to apply?
I saw a post about Opportunity Fund on Facebook, and thought it would be a chance for me to hone my skills as a web developer and earnestly pursue a career in tech, so I went ahead and applied.
We hear you’re busy working full-time as a developer and starting your own company. What makes you so passionate about web development?
My passion comes from a desire to transition into a more creative career, unlike my previous role in the military. I also want to break stereotypes. As an African American and a combat veteran, there are a lot of stigmas to break, both in tech and in the general population. I honestly love the look of surprise that people get when I explain my old job in the military compared to what I do now as a programmer. I am happy to be paving the way for other veterans to pursue a career in tech post-military.
Tell us about your startup, FRAGO. What is it, and what inspired you to get started?
FRAGO is a nonprofit dedicated to filling the chasm between technical expertise needed and jobs available with America’s best. Our vision is to close the digital talent gap and ease career transition for military veterans, through technical design and crossfunctional business training. We believe that those who serve in uniform can be the digital economy’s most productive and innovative assets.
FRAGO is an acronym that stands for “fragmentary order,” which is the secondary plan to achieve success in a mission. It speaks perfectly for us because we are focused on helping Veterans transition back into civilian life after their time in the military is over.
I was inspired to build FRAGO after a fellow Veteran and friend lost his life during his transition back into the civilian world. After this experience, I got together with a few other Veterans, and we decided that there had to be a better way to help our generation of military Vets. FRAGO is our way of giving back and helping our community.
What’s the biggest challenge Veterans transitioning back into civilian life and the workforce? How does FRAGO help?
Post 9/11 veterans are considered a “vulnerable population.” This is due to the fact that the majority of Veteran Services aren’t designed for us, but for Vets from the Vietnam Era. Employment, education, and what we call “ ground zero issues” are all vastly different from those who came before us.
Despite the difference in our generations, the same protocols and policies are being used—and worse than that—they are being used reactively. Our goal is to create a suite of digital applications and services that will empower veterans and guide them through a successful integration back into civilian life.
Who was your favorite teacher and why?
My favorite mentors are both retired Master Sergeants from the U.S. Air Force. MSgt (ret.) Cliff Kinchen who taught me many lessons as I was growing up as a 19-year-old kid in the military. He taught me about family, friendships, combat, career, and life in general. MSgt ( ret.) Ryan Dufrain taught me to embrace life’s hardships and to focus on what you can do, not what you can’t, which is very important as a business owner.