Spring Valley Resident Makes Big Impact with DC Tech Nonprofit, Byte Back
Shared with permission from May 2018 feature in Spring Valley Life magazine
What would poverty look like in DC if everyone had tech skills? In the 1990s, tech skills were one path out of poverty. Twenty years later, they are rapidly becoming the only path.
Byte Back is a Washington, DC-based nonprofit providing free tech training and career preparation to adults left behind by advancing technology. Over the past 20 years, the organization has helped adults transform their lives with its innovative training pathway.
While Washington’s shelters, food banks, and other workforce training programs are doing amazing work, tech training has the unique power to permanently change life for adults facing a lack of economic opportunity. That’s one reason William Fastow, a Spring Valley resident and lifelong Washingtonian, decided to volunteer on Byte Back’s board of directors. He’s seeing the impact and joy of giving back. This year, 60 Byte Back students launched life-changing careers. As the organization begins its third decade, hundreds more will gain the digital skills they need for their careers. But more still needs to be done.
As Byte Back was expanding several years ago, William saw a great opportunity to give back. His expertise in real estate, as head of the Appleton Properties Group at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, made him the perfect addition to chair the board’s facilities committee. Over the past couple years, William spearheaded the sale of Byte Back’s headquarters in Brookland and the subsequent build-out and relocation to a state-of-the-art facility on North Capitol Street near Union Station.
“As a lifelong Washingtonian, I felt it was important to support the advancement of all of our city’s residents,” William said. Eva* is one of the DC residents who has benefited from Byte Back and volunteers like William. She came to the USA in her early 20s from western Africa and found herself in an abusive marriage, unemployed, and dependent on her husband. Then, she got pregnant. Only a “good job” – the kind you have to apply for online, the kind where you need to use Excel formulas – could help her earn enough support her son alone. After six months of free Byte Back classes, she was computer-savvy, certified, and ready. She got hired for an office job and escaped her abusive husband. Tech brought Eva independence and security.
Hardworking people who didn’t grow up with technology and haven’t had the time or money to learn later are, at best, in low-tech jobs that pay less than half of high-digital positions. At worst, they are struggling with unemployment. Cities like Washington, DC also face a massive challenge of inclusion. “Washington is a city and community with many inequities,” William said, “and Byte Back provides invaluable IT career training for some of our most vulnerable citizens. Many in our community are benefiting from high-tech industries, but thousands are left out with little hope of ever moving up. We can’t leave them behind,” says William.
William recognizes that we no longer have the luxury of saying that you can change your life with tech skills. If people want to change their lives, they must have tech skills. “It is critically important to make sure that our neighbors have the skills and knowledge necessary to benefit,” he said.
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.
Your Turn: Get Involved and Give Back
Help Byte Back celebrate 20 years of impact in DC and put tech within reach by giving back today.
Sponsor a Byte Back student:
$50 provides one month of transportation vouchers for a Byte Back student to attend classes.
$100 purchases an assisted technology keyboard for students with disabilities.
$1,000 covers an eight-week paid internship for a Byte Back student.
Have a special skill to donate? Byte Back is looking for board members. Apply here: byteback.org/board