Tech-NOIR-logy: Finding His Way and Building An Ecosystem of Diverse Tech Talent

by Sarad Davenport | Photos contributed by Broadus Palmer

Just outside of Charlottesville is Fluvanna County and nestled inside of it is the rural area of Palmyra. This is where Level Up In Tech founder, Broadus Palmer is from.  “Believe it or not, Fluvanna has some of the same issues that Charlottesville has—it’s just in a more rural location,” said Broadus. He spoke of the issues of substance addiction that runs rampant and sometimes unnoticed in the rural areas and how getting caught up in the criminal justice system was something he was determined to escape. “I always had a vision for making it out,” he said. 

Broadus is a recognized voice in the world of cloud engineering. This is so much the case that LinkedIn recognized him as a top voice for job searches and careers in tech. But there are so many questions. How did this unassuming young man from Palmyra Virginia become an influencer in the world of cloud-based technology? And what’s more, what the f*#k is cloud-based technology?

B. Palmer
To make the conversation light and to look for an entry point, I asked Broadus if he played any sports growing up or did any extracurricular activities. He replied with a resounding, ‘No!’ Broadus, moving us beyond the awkward silence then said, “What people know me for is music. They know me for rapping and doing R&B.”  As many of us can attest, the most viral technology for anyone born in the 1970s and 80s was Hip-Hop and it’s no surprise that Broadus and many people of our era wanted to take a serious chance at the business of it.

Broadus then, going under the moniker B. Palmer, and his music associates actually made some real inroads in the music industry—picking up some press in both the Source and XXL magazines. They were doing lots of shows and traveling, but what he found quickly was that supporting a career in music required financing—a lot of financing. “I tried my hand in the streets during this time to fund my dreams in music,” he remembered. But at some point B. Palmer felt like the risks of mixing the streets and music weren’t worth it and decided to close the curtain on his music career—permanently. “I just didn’t want to do music anymore, and I thought I would try my hand at something else.”

Prosper and the Sneaker Game
After exiting the stage of his music career, Broadus partnered up with a friend to start a clothing company called Prosper. One of the things he learned while in the music business was that artists make a lot of their money off of merchandise and live shows and not necessarily off of the music—at least early on. So instead of doing the music, he and a partner decided to put their energy into merch. Prosper had a good run but ran into an issue when creative differences arose between Broadus and his partner. In retrospect, he chalks up the problems in the short-lived partnership to his own immaturity and unwillingness to listen. “[My partner] was the older and wiser one.” Inevitably they decided to part ways.

(By this time, I’m asking myself (as are you) what is the through-line? How do we get from these things to Level Up In Tech? Hang tight. It’s coming.) 

So when he departed from the merch game, Broadus then moved into the sneaker game. One thing for certain is that brother Palmer is always trying to secure the bag—and there is definitely a bag in the sneaker game. In a July 2020 report, investment firm Cowen estimated the global sneaker resale market to be worth about $6 billion in 2019, while total sneaker sales were more like $100 billion.

Brodus started a sneaker resale company called the ‘Daily Flexx Club’ and had clients such as Boosie, Safaree, and Demetrius Shipp, Jr. to name a few. The sneaker game was very lucrative but what shifted Broadus into the tech space was something with something he learned while in the sneaker game.

Above the Cloud
The key to winning in the sneaker game is being able to be the first to access limited inventory. To catch these sales online before everyone else is nearly impossible unless of course you use robots better known as bots. During this era of Broadus’ trek towards tech, he partnered with a company that used cloud servers to deploy bots to make purchases of shoes much faster than humans could. For those who are wondering, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and intelligence—over the Internet (“the cloud”) to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. Think of your iPhone and your ability to save and run applications from your cloud. 

Broadus and his partners were able to deploy robots as applications in the cloud to be the first to purchase the most valuable sneaker inventory when it was released before individual purchasers could ever have a chance. 

At this point, it wasn’t the sneakers that were capturing Broadus’ attention, it was the cloud. He was hustling shoes. Working at the bank. But he heard through one of his colleagues that cloud engineers could make $140,000.00 per year or more. “How do I do it? I thought,” said Broadus. “Is this even for me?” he questioned. “I asked myself, ‘Is this something I am going to stick with?” But this was intriguing because as Broadus put it, “You mean to tell me I can make triple my income without a college degree?”

Broadus buckled down and knocked out 3 certifications: AWS Solutions Architect, Certified Developer, and SysOps Associate.  Even though Broadus had the certifications, he admits that he had no real-world experience and had ‘no skills’. “I needed to build myself up.“  So, he entered a Linux training academy and upon finishing the academy applied for a job at the training academy.

Broadus got rejected for the position, but his value proposition was that if he was good enough for the academy, he should be good enough to work there. Inevitably, they heard his proposition and created a position for him. He was in. Zero to 60 just like that. He multiplied his salary in a matter of months and not a matter of years and without a massive load of debt.

Leveling Up
This is where the launch of Level Up In Tech begins. Broadus wondered, “How could I share my journey with others?” He was deeply interested in helping people who came from places where he came from — places that were filled with substance addiction, lack of resources, and hopelessness. Level Up In Tech was the answer, and what he saw as his purpose to help other people escape.  “The amount of money we can make in tech can change our lives forever.” He used to think, “There’s no way I can do that. I’m from Bremo Bluff, but I made it in tech and I’m going to be there to help others.”

Level Up in Tech is a guided curriculum with instructors and mentors that help people without any technical abilities become Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud Engineers in 6 months or less. “It started out with just two people, but now we have over 20 people per cohort.”  He went on to note that during COVID, students enrolling in Level Up In Tech increased by 500%. They have had people who want a more stable career with a more stable income join the ranks. “We’ve had former police officers, waitresses, and people from other less stable careers.”  Broadus says that Level Up In Tech is creating a ‘Pipeline or Ecosystem of Tech talent.’ 

The 6-month course prepares students for a possible six-figure annual salary for just a $5,500.00 investment. When we think of the hundreds of thousands of dollars people spend on college, not to say that anything is wrong with going to college, but this expands the options that are on the table—for young people and career changers alike. 

So I asked Broadus, through this journey to tech, what is the common thread in the music, the merch, and the sneakers. He simply said, “It is understanding the needs of people and creating solutions to problems. That’s what technology is. That’s who I am.” 

Level Up in Tech is hosting a virtual open house on July 22, 2021. For more information on how to participate go to https://www.levelupintech.com/

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