TECH VETS Non-Profit Hires & Trains U.S. Vets

   CEO Dorothy Nicholson of Secaucus helps Vets Build IT Careers

By Sally Deering 

U.S. Veteran, Bright Star staff member Danielle Salifu of Jersey City
U.S. Veteran, Bright Star
staff member Danielle Salifu of Jersey City

U.S. Army veteran Danielle Salifu returned from her tour of duty and became a childcare provider until she discovered Bright Star Technology in Newark, a non-profit that helps U.S Veterans build careers in computer technology. After two years, Salifu went from document specialist to production supervisor.

 

“After being a child-care provider for ten years this was a big change,” Salifu says. “We are family at Bright Star. We all have something in common.”

Bright Star helps Veterans Bright Star provides IT infrastructure modernization; process improvement; and hybrid and cloud-based case management services and solutions to federal, state, county and municipal government offices as well as private companies. To fulfill its mission, Bright Star hires and trains American veterans in IT processes and solutions so they can transition from the military to high-tech careers within Bright Star and beyond.

ONE CEO’S DREAM

Dorthy Nicholson of Bright Star
Bright Star CEO
Dorothy Nicholson

Bright Star Founder and CEO Dorothy Nicholson of Secaucus started the company in 2008 after working for companies like Dun & Bradstreet, Computron and RADVision. Feeling unfulfilled in her work, Nicholson took a risk and started Bright Star with 60 homeless veterans.

 

 

“My grandfather was a World War I veteran; both my uncles are vets, and my husband was a veteran,” Nicholson says. “It’s in the family.”

Nicholson knew there was a great need for a company like Bright Star; because there were very few, if any, transitional programs for veterans that offered career-training.

“The so-called transitional assistance programs that were available were putting vets in janitorial jobs,” Nicholson says. “Veterans are natural process experts that have been immersed in and live by a culture focused on teamwork, integrity, and reliability.  This foundation is key to their commitment to excellence and their unsurpassed work ethic.”

Nicholson decided Bright Star would provide the transitional assistance and the occupational growth and technology learning that would get veterans into high tech careers, she says.

“Most vets have technology experience, because it’s unavoidable in the Armed Services,” Nicholson says. “So it may not be the technology we’re using, but there’s a cognizant paradigm that makes it easier for vets to learn other technology.”

THE HUMANISTIC APPROACH

Since it started seven years ago, Bright Star has trained 80 veterans who hail from Jersey City, Secaucus, Newark and Orange. What does Nicholson look for in a veteran who wants to work and train at Bright Star? The only criteria a veteran needs to meet is that they are a U.S. veteran with a high school diploma.

“I look for a desire to make their life better,” Nicholson says. “That’s the only thing I look for; everything else I can teach them.”

There are two sides to Bright Star, Nicholson says. One side is the IT work they do with federal, state and county government offices to modernize their technology; and the other is the humanistic side.

“It’s the side that transitions veterans to programs based on proven methodology,” Nicholson says. “When they join our company, we do intake and evaluation. Then we find them a buddy, someone that helps them through the first six months. They become friends, work with each other. This process is critical.”

After the first 90 days, the veteran and their buddy are asked to evaluate the vet’s progress. The process is repeated and the vet is then assigned a mentor who helps plan their career with Bright Star. The next phase is job sampling, where the vet tries out different types of IT work to see if something sparks an interest.

SAY YES TO VETS

In order to a prospective client’s needs, Bright Star staff will do a technology assessment of the prospective client like what type of computers do they have? What kind of network do they use? How does their paper process translate to a digital process?

Bright Star currently works with Essex County and Bergen County. The Mayor of Englewood, Frank Huttle III is a Bright Star client.

“The integration of the Bright Star system into one of the most important functions of [our] City government streamlines service delivery and brings the City’s systems rapidly into the 21st century,” Huttle says, “greatly reducing costs and enhancing responsiveness.”

“Working with Bright Star was easy,” Tim Dacey, Englewood’s City Manager and a U.S. Veteran says. “They helped us define our vision and make it a reality.  For us Bright Star and their team became our tech partner . . . helping us leverage what we had in conjunction with new technologies to save us a lot of money in our daily operations.  They brought us closer to our citizenry and have become an important partner who supports our country’s veterans.”

Mary Beth Stull, Shared Services Coordinator and Grants Administrator for the Hudson County Clerk’s Office in Jersey City has visited Bright Star on several occasions for meetings with Nicholson.

“I know Dorothy from when she worked for Hudson Community Enterprises,” Stull says. “She’s really impressive and. I think the work she does is important. When veterans are transitioning from being in the service and going back to the work force, Bright Star is the perfect opportunity. It’s all structured. They get a tremendous amount of emotional support, and all the skills they learn in technology are not going to be obsolete. They can build upon them.”

Bright Star employee Bobby Jackson, a homeless veteran who struggled for years to hold a job, was hired by Bright Star in 2010 at 53 and has since turned his life around and found career success.

“In my life there are very few places I’ve been that impress me and Bright Star has impressed me with the good that they do for veterans and the community,” Jackson says.  “They don’t just talk the talk, they do it.”

Nicholson says she hopes other municipalities and corporate CEOs will mirror Bright Star’s mission to hire and train American veterans.

“Bright Star’s success is veterans’ success and as we gain more business, more veterans get hired,” Nicholson says.  “My hope, other than being able to hire more veterans myself, is that other CEOs and companies will recognize the value of veterans and provide a place for them to shine.”

For more info

Bright Star

A Technology Company Powered by Veterans

550 Broad St.

Newark, NJ 07102

(973) 242-0986

Dnicholson@brightstaruniverse.com

www.brightstaruniverse.com

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