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TechVibe Talks to JetStor and Tech Elevator

Interview by Audrey Russo and Jonathan Kersting


TechVibe Radio is back on air at ESPN 970 AM every Saturday at 8:00 a.m. from the Huntington Bank Studio.



Techvibe Radio talks to Gene Leyzarovich of Advanced Computer & Network Corp. (AC&NC) JetStor and Jennifer O'Brien and Justin Driscoll of Tech Elevator.

Gene will detail his upcoming presentation at the Western Digital for a Smarter World Virtual Event set for Jan. 27. The "Czar of Storage" will explore the demands of artificial intelligence on data storage.

Jennifer and Justin will tell us what Stride's recent acquisition of Tech Elevator means for the IT bootcamp in Pittsburgh. It's a super-good thing with more cohorts and impact planned for the future!


We got a great show lined up with us today and we're gonna be kicking it off with Jean Mazar Vich from jet store AC NC he was no stranger to tech vibe radio. And later in the show we're have tech elevator stopping by to talk about their new owners and their plants. What's happening in Pittsburgh with our good friend Justin Driscoll. We've got a lot going on today. I'm just excited to have old friends and family stopping by the radio show today.

And I'm absolutely want to be excited about 2021 I'm trying to get my headset into It's a new year. Okay, you know, we're gonna kick it off, we're gonna do great stuff. And we're gonna get to support some amazing people. And so what if 2020 was not a real year, it was a fake year.

Exactly. It was something in between...So good to kick this off with Gene Leyzarovich of JetStor, you know, a new year having you on the show is one of our first guests in this season. And it's always good to talk to you do have an amazing story of what you've done with your company over the years. And we're really excited to talk about this really cool event that you can be a part of. It's the Western Digital smarter world virtual event happening on January 27,, you can get details and register for it right there. And we'll give that website out a few more times during our interview with you. But yeah, this is a really cool conference. And we're excited to learn more about what you're gonna be doing there. And the topic. But before we jump into that, we always got to reset because any new listeners out there who don't know who gene was or images, who doesn't, but Jetstar is all about, let's give a little rundown on that. And then we'll jump into what's happening with this really cool event on the 27th.

Absolutely. Well, I you know, great to be here with you guys than I was always and yeah. 2021 new start. New Year. And yeah, we don't talk about 2020 anymore. So you know, it, you know, memory, distant memory. Yeah, just erase it, you know, erase everything, and start over. And, you know, I think we're gonna have a great year in 2021. And, you know, I'm glad to be here. You know, the first guests on the show, it's always good guys that, you know, I think this is my third or fourth time and you know, always have fun with you guys. It's great to be.

So your website, if people are listening, sometimes people like me like to have two things going on at the same time. What's the website, it's And it's also just So we have basically, you know, two different URLs, but it's all the same company. So it's advanced computer network Corporation, and we manufacture jet store storage devices. So that's, that's our just stores our trademark. And, you know, we've been around, this is our 27th year.

Every time you say something like you're 27 years in 94 was started and I came here from Moscow in 1991. And never left Pittsburgh, so it's gonna be actually this year. You know, October is gonna be 30 years that I've been in 30 years so and just having fun is as always, so good things are coming to Pittsburgh, and you know, obviously we'll you know, we'll love it. And you guys have done a really good job also on your all your podcasts and all the you know, the life all those things you guys been doing on you know, virtual meetings and all the events you've been doing. Gene, you talked about a conference that's coming up?

Yes, we will, we will have a really big conference. So we partner up with Western Digital, they're a $20 billion company. And it's going to be about artificial intelligence and machine learning, and storage. So there's a lot of it's called Smart Cities, data, data storage for smart cities. And obviously, artificial intelligence has been, you know, a hot topic, you know, for for like, about two, three years, you know, it's kind of it's been everywhere in autonomous vehicles, salesmen, and led GM and factoring, you know, clinical trials. And it requires a lot of data storage, so we will we partner up with, there's gonna be multiple speakers, I'm one of them. And there's gonna be about 20 to 25 speakers, it's a whole day event was Western Digital and get store and there's gonna be a few about eight to 10 companies. And we'll be talking about artificial intelligence and machine learning and data storage. So because obviously, the it's going to require a lot of data storage and artificial intelligence is now generating tons of data 25 times more than in the previous few years. So there's a lot of, you know, like I said, like autonomous vehicles and all kinds of other projects that are going on, and also surveillance. So we've done a lot of projects, actually, last year, with a lot of CDs that are doing, they're putting up a lot of cameras around.

We're seeing a lot of that, right?

Yep. A lot of cameras. And also what have now is temperature scanning. So there's going to be a lot of temperature scanning devices. And also, there's a special software with mask, because now people wearing masks and now is there's the software used to be face recognition software. And now it's very challenging to actually recognize somebody's face, because everybody wearing masks. So now, you know, we have you know, we have to do a special software modifications to, you know, kind of work around the mass eyebrow recognition now, right?

Yeah, it's very difficult. And we have to take temperatures and scanning Body Body Heat. And we have to record all that and we have to store it right? maps, and we have to store it. So there's more data coming. So we love it.

Your storage systems do because every year, the capacity that you guys are able to store is just blows my mind. I mean, like petabytes of data are like no problem for you guys anymore.

Yeah, this is actually the 2021 is zettabyte year by year Oh my god. There's no more petabytesit is now zettabytes, zettabytes. Yeah, we're looking at zettabytes. So every project that we're doing, on average is, like, multiple petabytes in scale. So, like, average, CT will generate up to 50 to 100 petabytes, that's what I'm going to talk about, at the conference. Okay. You know, there's, there's a lot of data because, you know, there's, you know, all kinds of parks and, and malls and, you know, parking lots and police stations, and, you know, and it's all data coming through, and we have to analyze it and, you know, there's there's going to be a lot of data that's going to be generated. So everage project is now like, you know, basically anywhere from 10 to 50 petabytes and Western Digital, we're able to offer expansion capabilities. Now they released 18 terabyte drives, which is the largest drives and then this year, there'll be the recent 20 terabyte drives. When I started 94 we were doing four and 10 gigabyte.

Like little flash drives, right?

So it's pretty incredible, you know, how much storage has been generated with all these AI projects.

So who should attend this conference?

So we we targeting it to basically like city managers also IT managers that are doing, you know, managing data for like municipalities. So we've done a lot of we did like us, cities in Ohio, did cities in Pennsylvania, we did schools, libraries, a lot of police work, we just did a sheriff departments in Ohio as well. And they also can use storing data from body cameras. So like all the body cameras that they were on and stored somewhere. So when they come to the station, they actually offloaded to jet stores, you know highest so we did a massive project was one of many spells you know, high and now we're doing three more in January in Ohio as well. So a lot of police stations A lot of you know, yeah, like a lot of correctional facilities, malls, airports, we didn't grow we did projects was airports. So in a lot of also retirement communities, there's some large retirement communities we did in Arizona, in Florida. So there's cameras everywhere now everywhere, big airports, you know, so it's kind of and also many factoring facilities have cameras, now they have to watch, you know, for, you know, all the shrinkage.

Yeah, so it's pretty much anybody that's doing data that's doing AI. And, you know, like I said, even medical, like clinical trials, and people, you know, using data for even we did some, we actually just got an order from FDA today. Federal Drug Administration, yes, Food and Drug Administration. Today, we're also getting projects with UVA medical, for medical imaging for PACs. So for scanning and all the X rays and all the medical data, so this As you know, there was a lot of work done in, you know, August, there's a lot of data generated for quality studies and COVID research as well. And it's still going on, there's a lot of COVID research, because now they're working on clinical more of a treatment, you know, not just vaccine, but also treatments, because they know it's not going to be here for like another, you know, when I was nine months, I mean, it's gonna take time to get vaccinated.

So essentially, anyone who is a massive data and needs to figure out a storage strategy.

Exactly, exactly, yeah, everybody that's generating data. And also, you know, you have to have your data kind of near where you are. So a lot of times that, you know, we set it up, like private clouds, like in a colocation. So, you know, we'd set up, you know, basic, multi petabyte, you know, setups for cloud providers, and then they'll basically be doing data analysis and so forth.

So we're talking with Gene founder, Jeff store, Gene, when you started this company, did you think that this is where you would be today?

Yeah, no, I didn't think we were gonna be in business for like, 18 months. I mean, seriously, I know, that's what I, you know, when I when people interview me, like any startup, any, you know, company, when you start, you don't think you're going to make it, you know, so the first year and 27 years later, I'm looking back and I'm like, how did we do it? How do we, you know, able to survive even through last year, and you know, and we actually grew, we grew 15%. There to 2019. And we expanded, we now have offices in LA, in California. So, you know, not only, you know, we actually grew and we acquired two companies during 2020. Wow. Oh, it's pretty, it's pretty. I think we've done pretty well and so on Pittsburgh, you know, it's very affordable. It's a great family town. So it's great. We are thrilled to see you again. Very proud of you. Yeah, Hope to see you in person this year. I think I got a lot of hugs to get out.

Right. That's right. We're definitely looking forward to seeing everybody in person. I hope you know maybe in the summer maybe late to talk to you, James. Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Just to remind everybody, it's the Western Digital for smarter world virtual event happening on January 27. If you go to ac there's details there under register and hear Jean speak about all things storage because he's the storage King. Simple as that. You are the best.

Thank you so much.

For taking a quick quick break and we're coming back with more tech vibe radio, we've got Justin Driscoll and Jennifer O'Brien from Tech elevator stopping by next, Audrey. It's good to connect with them again, hang tight. This is Jonathan Kersting.

And this is Audrey Russo

We're from the Pittsburgh Technology Council learn more about us at PGH

It's great to be here. Great to get an update from Tech Elevator. So I think we should just jump in and people. What's the website in case people want to multitask?

Yeah, thanks, Audrey. You can head over to tech

Excellent. Pretty easy. Always remember it. And so we have JenniferO'Brien and Justin Driscoll. So Jennifer Introduce yourself. Yeah. Hi, everyone. I'm Jennifer O'Brien. I'm campus director here for Tech Elevator in Pittsburgh, spent some time over the past 15 or so years working in higher education, and spending some time elevating the Pittsburgh community on my own. And then came in contact with Justin Driscoll over here with who was the former campus director for tech elevator. And now we're, you know, jointly elevating people, company and communities here. So, so tell everyone a little bit about tech elevator, and then we'll jump in and introduce Justin.

Yeah, of course. So tech elevator is an intensive educational provider. So we help individuals and companies acquire those in demand technology skills that are needed now in the modern workforce. So it's through our 14 week, full time in person or virtual coding boot camp. We teach students a variety of that from a variety of backgrounds to become software developers, while really helping them build necessary career readiness skills, and also some Career Connections or a pathway program to really land a meaningful job as a software developer developer once they graduate.

Have you been in Pittsburgh? For now? It's been like, what, three years now? Four years now?

Almost three years, almost three years.

Wait, Tech Elevator has been almost three years in Pittsburgh?

Yeah. Just in Pittsburgh. Yep. And we hit our five year mark as a company starting out a Cleveland, Ohio this past year.

Okay, so let's just whip over to Justin Driscoll who Jonathan and I know really well, because he it seems like he left the tech council like 20 years ago. That's why I was asking, how many years ago was it? So Justin, tell everyone a little bit about yourself, and what your new role is, and everything that's changed with the company, since obviously, it's all amazing stuff.

Yeah. Audrey and Jonathan, always good to see you. love being on tech vibe. It does feel like I love the Tech Council in eternity ago now. But I left in February of 2018. And we launched in Pittsburgh in May of 2018. And so since then, tech elevator has been growing, we've been adding campuses, we now have five physical locations, and some tech elevator communities around the country. And we're looking for continued growth and expansion here in 2021. One of the exciting things that happened at the end of 2020 was that we were acquired by galvanize, which is a boot camp, really pioneer. And they are backed by stride Inc, which used to be k 12. So for five years, we have been pushing hard as Jennifer said to you know, help people change lives and help companies find great talent and grow their workforce and striding galvanize recognize that and acquire tech elevator at the end of 2020. So that's really going to give us an extra boost and we're looking forward to work with them to not only do what we do in our existing markets, but grow really across the country as well with them.

Super exciting. These gentlemen were like really pumped you guys and we heard about that, like we know that means good things.

Thank you Your new role now since now you have a bigger broader role now a tech elevator. What's up with that?

Yeah, so I am now overseeing all five of our physical locations. We have Cleveland, of course, where we started and then Columbus, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh. I'll get to work with Jennifer here continue to work with Jennifer in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. And so our physical locations will remain unchanged in the sense because of the acquisition that galvanized and loves what what we do and loves, where our campuses are located. And we have a great brand in all the markets that we're in. And it's going to allow us to continue to help more students really hear as we build bigger partnerships with companies and, you know, really expand our footprint in the in the existing markets we have, and then of course, growth in other markets around the country.

That's awesome. So let's get back to Jennifer. So Jennifer, it's 2021, hard to believe, what do you have planned for this year here in Pittsburgh?

Oh, we have a lot of great plans, Audrey, you know, we've had to, to adjust how we operate in in these times right now. So, you know, we call it a 24 hour pivot, we had to adjust to our in person learning and really, you know, deliver in an online learning in a live remote format. So continuing to be able to, you know, deliver upon those, you know, to, to our current students and our community, we believe that this year in the next five years are going to really be critical in our industry. And as online learning really explodes and millions of people returned to work, you know, as digital transformation accelerates across across the globe, you know, not really, as we strive to find more equitable ways for all Americans to participate in the workforce, there really isn't a better time than right now to rise to that moment. And so, you know, we've really committed to continuing to grow, you know, and provide opportunities to those that may not have opportunities to get into, you know, the tech industry.

But when you really think about what happened in 2020, like, you know, you can't sum it up into one sentence. But when it comes to the digital transformation that people had had on their own architectural maps, inside companies, they would say, well, we'll do this in two years, we'll do this in three years, we'll do this in 18 months. And then all of a sudden, in 2020. They they get it accomplished, and of course, six weeks or a weekend, and now.

Yeah, there is no, and there's no turning back now, in terms of what the expectations are, what are some of the new skills that you've seen, are needed or or companies are interested in as a result of that sort of rapid transformation?

Yeah, I think one of the things that what's interesting is, I would say it's, it's similar skills that have always been necessary. You think about communication skills, how important communication skills are in tech, as companies embrace agile development, and, you know, and working remotely, you have to be able to communicate, like, you know, like, we're taping this today over zoom, right, you have to be able to present Well, you have to be able to articulate, you have to be able to get your point across, even though we're not face to face, right. So communication skills in tech are incredibly important, which is why, you know, we put such an emphasis on our career development skills, which through our pathway program, you know, and that, that that is one of the reasons why our hiring partners continue to come back because they're hiring someone who's not just someone who can sit, sit in a corner with their headphones on and crank out code, they can do that. But they can also articulate they can participate in a team meeting, they can participate in, you know, virtual communication, and you know, through slack and Asana and Microsoft Teams, and, you know, on on, on, you know, these communication skills are now, even more important, but important in a different and new way than before. That's the real differentiator for tech elevator is the pathway program that you have about the soft skills that are just so important. And it's more than just hammering code, but being able to get along with others be productive in a team environment, all the stuff that we taught Justin to do at the tech Council.

So so our pathway program is you know, it is a lot of the difference maker for some of those students, it really helps, you know, formulate the skills needed to really get a get their foot in the door and start their career in tech. So you know, doing things like polishing your resume and creating and LinkedIn profile and learning how to network with one another. All is done through the pathway program. We also will do you know, several different panels will host professionals throughout the cohort that tells their story. So, you know, sure we can we can tell you how to do things and practice it with you, but for students to really hear from the people that are doing and currently working in the industries is really impactful. So having those senior level software managers or having you know, masters are or individuals that are working across all different areas of tech come in share their experience, how they got there, you know, what their trials and tribulations have been over their time in tech has really been impactful. So students will go through about 30, or even a little over 30 pathway sessions throughout the 14 week cohort. And that complements, you know, the technical track as well. So they'll learn their their technical skills, but will be complemented by the the pathway program throughout the entire 14 weeks, then everything really comes together over our two week hiring events that we call matchmaking, towards the very end of the cohort. And that's where our some of our hiring partners in the Pittsburgh area that are very interested in in hiring software developers will come in and conduct interviews over a couple of days. And these are propositions are hiring for right now in the market.

And very high success rate in terms of placement. Right. I mean, what do you guys shoot for? What do you report on?

I know, there are so Oh, sure. So we actually have a 95% graduation rate, a 92% placement rate, in the average starting salary or across, you know, our entry level developer positions that we're finding across all of tech elevators is around $60,000. annually.

Okay, great. That's great. And are you tracking these students now? Justin, since the onset of tech elevator as as tech elevators approaching our fifth year?

Yeah, I mean, in Pittsburgh, we have a really great alumni network, we have I think, I think we said we just crusted over 300 alumni in Pittsburgh now. So 300 students, and almost all of them have jobs, or a few of them did not get jobs out of that. So it's a, it's a really great success rate. I mean, we the the differentiator is that we're we're beginning with the end in mind, and the end is the job right? And so we aren't successful, and they're not successful unless they get a job at the end of it. And so that's what drives you know, Jennifer and I and others on the team to make sure that we have a great hiring network of companies. Many of them are members of the tech Council, you know, who are looking for non traditional entry level software developer talent, and you know, that, that really, you know, puts the pressure on us and motivates us to make sure that every day we come in, we have companies that are ready and geared up ready to you know, look at this talent, consider them.

Mm hmm. Cool thing might be cool is since you have 300 people that are alumni, what might be great is for us to follow up on a couple of them. Jonathan,

I love that idea. Now, exactly.

I think it would be that'd be great love to connect you with some of them.

Tech, you can learn about when the next cohorts are coming together and get all the criteria what it means to be part of this. They obviously are making a huge impact here in Pittsburgh, Justin and Jennifer, British, so happy to see that and just to see new the acquisition and what that's gonna mean for even more presence here in Pittsburgh. We think it's just completely awesome. Great stuff all the way around, guys. Thanks.

Thank you both for having us.

Oh, pleasure to have you guys on the show.

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