Partner Profile: Q&A with Operation Spark | United Way of Southeast Louisiana

Sign me up for updates. Sign up now

You are here

Partner Profile: Q&A with Operation Spark

Operation Spark is opening a new door to prosperity for low-opportunity individuals by presenting the fastest route to a career in software development.  

The rigorous adult workforce program run by this United Way Community Partner is producing impressive results – a 100% job placement rate and average starting salary of over $60,000 for graduates. 

Hear more from Operation Spark’s John Graboni (CEO), Zuri Gracin (Admissions and Outreach Manager), and Harvey Sanders (Director of Adult Programs) on this episode of LIVE UNITED Radio, and catch excerpts from the conversation below. 



After relocating to New Orleans, you saw an opening to match local talent with opportunities in the tech industry. How did Operation Spark come out of that? 

“I was looking around when I got here and saw that sometimes the traditional model of postsecondary education wasn’t the best route for young adults in certain situations. Looking at the statistics and seeing what was going on in the city, high schools were improving, but kids were still getting to university and dropping out… If you don’t make it through university, things get challenging really fast…” 

“I felt that on one side we had a lot of people looking for opportunity, on the other side I know the software industry…there’s a lot of opportunity in New Orleans, and there’s certainly an immense amount of opportunity globally.”

“I figured, how can we put together a training program that is more like a trade school, an apprenticeship, that is heavy on the mentoring and heavy on helping people get to a place where they are unafraid of acquiring skills on the fly, they’re unafraid of learning. And that’s the spirit of how that started.” – John


How does the time frame of Operation Spark’s Immersion program compare to a traditional university? 

“The hours are probably about the same, you’re working 11+ hours a day, six days a week for 13 weeks. At traditional school, you’d be going there for four years or so, and most of that time you wouldn’t be doing the computer science…The thing that we focus on more, is less about the theory and more about what you’ll actually be doing in the job…They’re getting a lot of hands-on opportunity to learn how to be software engineers on a real job. And that’s what employers really love about our grads – as soon as they get placed into a position, they hit the ground running.” – Harvey


Who is accessing Operation Spark? 

“We have a wide range of students coming through Operation Spark. The most successful students are those that are engaged, who like creative thinking, problem solving, and diving in to learn. We have a model at Operation Spark, nothing is hard, only new…We are also a workforce development program, so we’re teaching them time management, we’re teaching them how to have a positive attitude, how work in a team. So our students are students who are able and ready to work on all those things, in addition to coding.” - Graci