IT Readiness Enables Lawyer to Switch Careers, Find Joy in Creating Software

Stephen Robideaux is content to start his new career as a junior software developer at RevUnit in Bentonville.
Photo by Kay Murphy

Stephen Robideaux is content to start his new career as a junior software developer at RevUnit in Bentonville.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – For the first time in many years, Stephen Robideaux looks forward to going to work every day.

Robideaux had grown weary as a contract lawyer, spending his workdays defending or dismantling legal documents, he said. He wanted to build something creative that would help others, and this desire drove him to his new career.

Robideaux is now a junior developer at RevUnit, thanks in part to the skills gained and connections made while enrolled in the IT Readiness Certificate Program offered by the U of A Global Campus in Rogers.

The IT Readiness program helped him turn his technology hobby into a new career. Robideaux was one of the first 20 people to earn certificates from the program, which launched in Fall 2016.

“I expected more than a night class, and this certainly delivered a lot more,” Robideaux said. “It’s not just challenging; it’s transformative. If you are analytical and have the time to put into it … you will be job-ready.”

RevUnit in Bentonville develops innovative digital products for mobile, web and social platforms. Robideaux and his teammates create enterprise-grade software applications that help others work smarter.

The IT Readiness program, funded by a state grant, offers classes at night and on weekends to teach entry-level coding skills that are in demand by employers in Northwest Arkansas. The six-month program teaches back-end, front-end, Java and mobile development. Seating is limited to 14 people per path.

RevUnit is one of more than a dozen industry and educational partners working with the Global Campus to identify industry technology needs, establish course curriculum to meet those needs, and help supply skilled professionals to teach classes.

“We participate in a number of educational activities,” said Michael Paladino, co-founder and chief technology officer at RevUnit. “We see the workforce gap in technology.”

Brenna Blackwell and Blake Johnson, RevUnit software developers, taught Robideaux’s classes in the IT Readiness program.

“We noticed [Robideaux] was very motivated and determined,” Blackwell said. “We recommended him for an interview.”

Then it was up to Robideaux to prove to others during the interview process that he was competent and shared the same workplace culture and values. Just before Robideaux completed the IT Readiness program, RevUnit hired him.

“He’s doing a great job,” Paladino said. “He was just about as prepared as anyone. As an employer, I’ve been really pleased to have an employee step into the company and be immediately impactful.”

New students are now enrolled in the Fall 2017 session of the IT Readiness program. Those who want to enroll for Spring 2018 can apply online.

“From what I have seen from the IT Readiness Program, it has been highly responsive to the industry,” Paladino said. “I know the curriculum. I know the type of learning [students] are getting. I know the quality of the instructors. These are all professionals in the industry.”

The in-state cost – $799 per Arkansas participant – is subsidized through an $851,062 Regional Implementation Grant from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. Out-of-state participants pay $1,299.

“It was really an investment I felt comfortable in making,” Robideaux said. “I made a great decision.”

IT Readiness partners include Acxiom, Bentonville Public Schools, CaseStack, Collective Bias, Field Agent, J.B. Hunt, Metova Inc., NorthWest Arkansas Community College, Northwest Arkansas Council, Northwest Technical Institute, RevUnit, Rockfish Digital, Saatchi & Saatchi X, Springdale Public Schools, Startup Junkie Consulting, Tata Consultancy Services and Walmart Stores Inc.

This program is one of many professional and workforce development programs offered by the Global Campus in Rogers to provide people in the region with the workforce skills and certifications needed to enter the workforce or to change or advance their careers.

About the Global Campus: The Global Campus supports U of A colleges and schools in the development and delivery of online, distance and workforce education programs and courses. It provides instructional design services, technology services and assistance with marketing, recruiting and strategic academic development.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


Tara Dryer, director of training, Corporate Development and Academic Outreach
Global Campus

Mark Berkowick, assistant director of Workforce Readiness
Global Campus

Kay Murphy, director of communications
Global Campus


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