The Silicon Review
“I believe the best things in life are free, and if I am going to help change the face of technology, I can’t put a price on what I am doing.”
ITech is a nonprofit, specializing in job placement, career development, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education. The company’s mission is to help fuel the next generation of techies, such as children (8-17), fresh college graduates, and mid-career professionals. Currently, ITech operates in California and its long-term plan is to open a STEM center in every city worldwide.
ITech was founded in 2019 and is based in San Francisco, California.
The Silicon Review contacted Darrick “DJ” Johnson, CEO of ITech, who spoke about how the company is making a difference in this segment and plans to stay at the forefront. Below is an excerpt.
Head to Head with Darrick “DJ” Johnson, CEO of ITech
Q. How would you describe your career journey so far? And tell us what motivated you to establish ITech.
My career journey has been phenomenal and I have been blessed to be part of the technology trend. I started selling IT certification for the University of Phoenix online technology program. Then I worked in the cybersecurity space from 2013 to 19. And now, to transition into big data and cloud vertical, I have been lucky, most would say.
However, my time in Silicon Valley hasn’t always been easy as I am the only black person on my team and department most of the time. I know this is the norm for most ‘people of color’ in the tech space, but I never take my mission for granted. My journey to date can be described in one word: Surprising; to go from South Central Los Angeles and now working for Microsoft, one of the largest tech firms in the world. It’s a testament to God and faith that anything you want you can truly have.
To put things in perspective, there are five major tech firms in Silicon Valley: Microsoft, Apple, AWS, Meta, and Google. Landing at one of these companies is more challenging than getting into Yale or Harvard, so I am blessed and fortunate to be in the position that I am currently in. I wouldn’t be here without my mentors, such as Jason Carter, Joe Parrino, and Rodney Anderson.
Furthermore, I started ITech because I had a hard time finding good free resources and finding relevant people willing to jump in and help. ITech is a place where we can help you find your place in technology, no matter your background. ‘This is why we Tech.’ — is our mission and slogan, but more than that, it’s our ‘why’ for why we do what we do.
Q. Who do you look up to and why?
Most people who know me would think Nipsey Hussle, but honestly, I have three people who I look up to: my father, my mother, and Jason Carter (not the actor, the politician, or the writer, but a Silicon Valley-based cybersecurity expert.).
My mother has the biggest heart I have ever seen. I have never heard her say no once in my life. It’s always: “We will figure it out or let me see what I can do.” My mother worked two jobs for over 25 years and never complained once. Seeing someone work that hard and never once asks for help gives me a different type of drive. She is the main reason I started ITech.
My second role model is my father. He is a risk-taker. I saw him launch and run several successful businesses. He started these businesses investing his own capital. Starting a company is not a hard part, but to run it well and put your own money on the line takes guts. The ITech business encompasses my parents’ personality if you haven’t noticed already. From helping young people gain exposure to STEM resources to funding app ideas and creating an incubator for our ITech mentees to thrive and start the next big tech idea, I have out-and-out followed in my parents’ footsteps.
The third person is Jason Carter. I look up to Jason for many reasons, but the main reason is his big heart; he never shies away from giving people what they want. He serves as the VP of one of the top cybersecurity firms in the valley. In addition to guiding me, he gave at least a dozen other people (of color) chances to break into the technology space. I have had the honor of seeing Jason transform a company’s culture all by giving people opportunities. I hope ITech can do the same for the next generation.
Q. What can you tell us about the ITech STEM programs? And how does the company help fuel the next generation of techies?
ITech STEM program layout is unique; I have spent three years working with teachers, parents, and students to help find the perfect learning environment for young children (8-17). In my research and working in the community, kids want to learn more about technology but only the cool stuff — gaming, robotics, and e-sports.
Therefore, I have created a platform in which kids can download and access all of the top code languages to build the things they are interested in. Besides, I was approached by recent college graduates and early career professionals on how to get a job in tech and what skills they needed to obtain the high-paying jobs within the tech space. This is where our partnerships with Microsoft and Google are so important. I was able to team up with both the cloud providers to give away over $200,000 worth of free resources for anyone interested in breaking into technology. By providing all these resources at every level, including elementary, high school, college, and early and mid-career professionals, along with our mentorship program, we are guiding and fueling the next generation of techies for years to come.
Q. What’s ITech’s point of differentiation?
ITech was built on passion and generosity. Our key differentiator is everything on our platform is 100 percent free (almost). I see so many tech-job placement companies across the valley, and they are charging $500 to $800 per month for their services. That’s not us. I believe the best things in life are free, and if I am going to help change the face of technology, I can’t put a price on what I am doing. That said, I love when I receive a text or email telling me how helpful our platform is, and they couldn’t have obtained a job without us. It drives me to do more, and it keeps me on my mission.
Q. How skilled is the ITech team of experts? And how do they bring value to the company?
ITech is blessed to have over 200 years of experience on our team. We have access to C-level executives and professional experts on the front line and working on real industry uses cases. The most beautiful thing about ITech is that we accept everyone’s input. Whether you’ve been in technology for 20 years or two months, there is value in all perspectives. Needless to say, ITech has made an impact because we take something from everyone. If I only worked with C-level executives, ITech would not be the machine it is today.
Q. Is there anything else you want us to highlight that we might have missed?
If people are still unclear on our mission and don’t understand the value of tech certification or coding skills, we would like to say that we plan to provide over one billion computers worldwide to help next-generation of techies realize their goals. Even though the lowest cost for an excellent functional computer is 250 dollars, we won’t stop chasing our goal.
Furthermore, we consider donating to help pay for a student’s room and board for the summer. Simply put, ITech is here to help address and solve the D&I challenge in Silicon Valley. ‘This is why we Tech.’
Darrick “DJ” Johnson | CEO of ITech
Darrick “DJ” Johnson is born in Compton, California. He graduated from McPherson College and Georgetown University. He has over 11 years of progressive expertise in enterprise and high technology, having worked for Apple, Dell, and serval other tech companies in Silicon Valley.
He has a passion for technology (cloud, AI, AR, VR, etc.) and STEM education. He believes that these technologies will change how we live and do business in the future.
Mr. Johnson is a Nipsey Hussle (born Ermias Asghedom) fan. Nipsey Hussle who said: “The highest human act is to inspire.”