Success Story: Shelton Kelley, Prudential

Growing up in Kansas City, Missouri, 28-year-old Shelton Kelley had the odds stacked against him. He came from a single-parent home where his mother worked tirelessly to keep him and his two other brothers on the right track amidst living in a crime-ridden, impoverished neighborhood that was plagued by drugs, violence, and gang activity. “I didn’t want to get drawn into that type of environment because that’s what everyone else was doing. I had to overcome gangs, not falling into selling drugs or using them, and things of that nature. There was a high crime rate and there was a high dropout rate,” said Kelley. “I had family members in these types of lifestyles.”

Kelley saw the struggles around him, and from a young age knew he had dreams that spanned beyond his environment and circumstances. As a child he kept his head in encyclopedia books and imagined becoming a rocket scientist. When he got older he made the decision to escape his neighborhood, not only to better himself but to show others that there was a world of opportunity outside of Kansas City. “That environment has so much of a pull on you that it’s kind of hard to shake it unless you literally uproot yourself from it,” he said. After graduating high school, Kelley decided to enlist in the military and served in the Army for three and a half years as a cook. He credits his experience in the military for teaching him the importance of discipline and showing him how to be mentally tough. Kelley also says serving helped him to improvise, adapt, and overcome obstacles.

After leaving the military in 2011, Kelley struggled with carving out a career path. He wasn’t sure how his skills as a cook could transfer over to the corporate world. He held a few contractor jobs in roads and parks maintenance and testing military equipment while trying to figure out which direction to take. Finally, he decided that he would focus on pursuing a career in information technology. While perusing his e-mail one day, he came across a message from Workforce Opportunity Services that highlighted how the organization helps veterans find jobs within the realm of IT. He decided to take a chance and apply.

Kelley was completely green, he didn’t have any experience in tech, but he didn’t let that deter him from making it through the training program.“I had no IT experience. All I knew prior to coming here was how to turn on a computer and look up a website. I was completely oblivious to a lot of things in the world of tech, like a lot of the terminology,” said Kelley. “But my instructors made me feel comfortable in regards to speaking up and asking questions. They didn't expect me to come in here being a tech guru.”

He credits WOS Client Service Manager Mike Poaletti for serving as a mentor throughout his transitional journey. He says Poaletti envisioned where he could be in five years and pushed him to reach his goals. “Shelton Kelley was a model consultant.  He learned his role as a Release Manager very quickly, and was soon in charge of daily and weekend releases while all along receiving praise from his Prudential management team in El Paso,” said Poaletti. “Shelton always maintains a very positive attitude and he is a talented employee.”

After training, Kelley started working as a WOS Consultant at Prudential El Paso, Texas in February 2016. Throughout his consultancy period, Kelley showed the value he could bring as an employee, and was hired by Prudential in December 2016. He now serves as a Release Manager where he oversees code from the development to the production stage. He’s excelling so much in his role that he has been asked to mentor other WOS Consultants who are following in his footsteps.

Kelley applauds the work that WOS has done to help veterans along their post-military career journeys. “The vision that WOS has to tap into an untapped market of veterans is amazing. As a veteran, prior to getting involved in WOS, I thought the only jobs that I was capable of doing were contract jobs and little hit and miss jobs,” he said. “I’m thankful that WOS was able to open my mind and align me with an amazing opportunity.”

Kelley hopes to advance his career at Prudential. He wants to expand his knowledge surrounding DevOps. Although it’s taken some time for him to find a career that he loves, he says it was all worth it. “Things always taste better when it’s cooked in an oven,” said the Army cook-turned-IT-professional. “Meaning, don’t always look for the microwave blessing, essentially the quick way out. Sometimes the slow cooked meal from the oven is a whole lot better.”

Shelton’s story was so compelling that it caught the eye of filmmakers from the nationally renowned TriBeCa Film Festival. They included his story in a powerful film titled "The El Paso Story: Journey from military career to civilian career," which is centered on veterans in the workplace.