“Is Praxis only for people who want to go into business or be entrepreneurs?” This is a common question we get from applicants. While Praxis places participants in non-tech roles at tech startups, (sales, marketing, customer service, and operations) the skills you’ll gain through the program can be applied to many careers and interests. Take, for example, this story from Praxis grad Joey Wickham about how he used Praxis to fuel his goals related to long-term missions.
A year-and-a-half ago I was having difficulty deciding what the next step was for me in education. I use education in the broadest possible sense. Since graduating high school I had:
- Taken a gap year to focus and learn more about music and theater
- Moved to a cabin with no electricity in the mountains of North Carolina for a year to learn about remote missions and gain Bible training
- Moved back to Kansas for a year to work and learn construction
I was focusing on the kind of education I was interested in. I never had a strong desire to go to college because I knew I would be forced to “learn” about things that had no relation to what I wanted to pursue.
The first year after high school I thought I might be interested in pursuing music and theater for a career. Instead of spending money and time investing in college to learn about it, I got involved in theater and music and was able to learn in a year’s time that it was not the career path that I wanted to take.
The next year, living in the mountains of North Carolina, I realized what I truly wanted to do. Long-term missions. Or ministry of some sort.
I started carving a path toward what it would take to get there and to learn the skills I would need. Working construction was the first step in learning skills relevant to the field and I knew I needed mechanical experience, but beyond that, I wasn’t sure what I should pursue. I still felt pressure to have some sort of education under my belt.
There was a need I saw especially on the tech side of missions. So many of these missionaries are so far behind the times when it came to tech. What can you expect when someone is in the bush of Kenya for 20 years? Tech is an entirely different animal from what it was 20 years ago.
Tech and business. I needed to gain knowledge in these areas. They seemed vitally important to me in my education journey. But how? Should I go to college to learn them? I hated the idea but didn’t know where to turn.
It was April of 2018 and as I was communicating this dilemma to my sister, she mentioned a program she heard about at a homeschool convention 4 or 5 years before. A program called “Praxis.” A 6-month program that helped young people develop business and tech skills. It seemed oddly perfect for what I was wanting to pursue.
I was greeted by this slogan as I entered their website. I was a fan already. I looked through the website and found at the bottom an option to request more information about the program. I thought “why not?” so I clicked the button to get more information…or so I thought.
I find out a couple of days later that the button I pushed was actually to apply to the program. I have no clue how I missed it, but I did.
I entered what seemed to be a lot of information for just getting more information (you’d think I would have realized it wasn’t a contact request form because of that but no). I submitted it and went on with my evening. Little did I know that this was about to drastically shape the next years of my life.
I got an email within 24 hours welcoming me to stage 2 of the application process and letting me know that for the best chance of success getting into the program I should submit responses within 24 hours and not more than 48 hours. This stage consisting of writing two essays, getting professional references, and a couple other tasks. I was confused but thought once again “why not?” I scrambled to get everything sent in as soon as possible and continued through each stage of the application process.
I didn’t know what to expect. The more I looked into the program, the more I was sold on what they were doing. It seemed right up the alley of where my thoughts were on education and college. Education is so much bigger than college.
Fast forward about two weeks from when I first submitted the application. May 1st 2018. I got an email and a text letting me know that I was officially accepted into the Praxis program. I was excited but also wasn’t positive what my thoughts were yet. I didn’t really think far enough ahead to consider what I would do if I was accepted. Would I do the program?
(Spoiler: I did)
Gearing up to start
It was the beginning of May and I knew for sure that I wouldn’t be able to start the program for a few months. I had been planning an almost month-long road trip to the west coast with three of my friends for over two years and I knew I couldn’t be doing the program while on the trip. That pushed me out on start date until after August.
I was also still figuring out what I would be doing during the bootcamp phase of my time during Praxis. The program consists of a 6-month intensive online bootcamp followed by a 6-month paid apprenticeship. I had no clue what either of them would look like time-wise though, so I didn’t know what I could commit to.
After talking to some Praxis people and getting a better picture of what my first 6-months would look like, I formed my plan. I still wanted to gain mechanical experience. My goal of missions hadn’t faded, this was just a step in my learning process to get there. Since I knew I could work full-time while going through the bootcamp, I wanted to kill two birds with one stone. I made plans to move to Missouri during the bootcamp portion of the program to work mechanics with my brother-in-law.
And just like that, my plans were set.
I planned my start for November of 2018 for Praxis. I took my trip to the west coast, moved to Missouri a week later, and began the pre-program portion of Praxis.
Before June, I didn’t even own a laptop. Diving into a program completely online was a steep learning curve for me. Deliverables we had were things like making a website, creating a LinkedIn, making a personal pitch deck, etc. Tech stuff I had never done before.
Thankfully I was in the program with people from all backgrounds. I was able to see what they submitted and get an idea for myself as to what looked good, what didn’t, what methods to use to accomplish the goal, and, true to what I experienced through the rest of the program, the advisors were always extremely helpful, always ready to give a helping hand to me to accomplish what I needed.
However, they very rarely taught. They would give advice on what to do and would make suggestions, but they always left the work and the decisions up to me. If it was going to be done well, that was up to me to accomplish.
During the pre-program, I experienced some setbacks, one of which being my laptop breaking forcing me to be without it for over two weeks. A device I didn’t have 6 months ago now made a critical impact on my work. I was already writing content but was still working on setting up my website, so with Medium, I started using my phone to post content. Each step through the program was a new challenge but I welcomed it and was appreciative of the growth it forced me to make.
I felt overwhelmed having only two months to complete my pre-program deliverables, but once I started the program, I realized that the two months I had might be the most freedom I would have for the next 20 years.
I hit the bootcamp running. I’m extremely competitive and in Praxis there’s a strong push to ship content at an unearthly speed. You have one week to accomplish that? Why not do it in a day? Put in the daily effort in case that last-minute submittal gets interrupted by unforeseen circumstances.
It was very clear, this isn’t school. This is for your own personal and professional development and what you put into it is exactly what you will get out of it. If you invest little you will undoubtedly return little and probably hate the program. If you invest as much as you can into it, you will see insane amounts of growth you could have only dreamed of.
A list of things I accomplished during the 6-month bootcamp of Praxis:
- Created a LinkedIn
- Made an about me video
- Built a website
- Wrote over 200 blog posts
- Published on two third party sites
- Created a podcast
- Interviewed sales professionals
- Built an email list to over 100 in two weeks
- Went through an entire college lecture series in a week
- Made a video every day for a month
- Consumed over 200 hours of podcasts
- Created value propositions for over 5 different companies
- Offered 3 job opportunities in one week
- Landed a job in tech
- Meanwhile working three different jobs while living on a turkey farm
When I say that Praxis helped me to accomplish things that I never thought possible, it’s not an exaggeration. The 200 blog posts alone are something that if you had told me I would accomplish even a year ago I would have laughed. Coming from a kid who didn’t write more than three essays growing up, I never thought I would write more than I absolutely had to, yet here I am writing my 373rd post on this website.
One year before I moved to Austin, Texas for my apprenticeship I was working construction in rural Kansas. 6 months before I moved to Austin I was working on a turkey farm in the middle of nowhere Missouri. I learned through my time in Praxis that every job or project that you ever do growing up has an impact on your future success. If you choose to look at every experience as an opportunity, even the really crappy experiences can become keys to an incredible professional journey.
My Praxis apprenticeship officially ended last week. I have a job at one of the best companies possible. Full of people who care and support each other and our customers. The job that I got through the help of Praxis is so much more than is even imaginable a year before. I’m working as an account manager for a tech company managing almost 200 customer accounts.
You may not realize the gravity of change this is, but this is coming from a guy who lived on a mountain with no electricity for a year. I was so far out of the tech and business space. I had no concept of what made a healthy business. I barely knew what the word revenue meant.
I couldn’t pitch myself to future employers as a tech genius who knows the ins and outs of business and how to make it thrive. I had my personality and drive to accomplish difficult tasks. Praxis taught me how to use the skills I had to get the job I wanted and learn how to get the rest if I needed them.
My learning and professional development aren’t finished. Each week is a challenge for me in how I can create more value at the company I work at. How can I both get the most for myself while also working to get the most for my company? And most importantly, how am I working toward the goals that I want to accomplish by being where I’m at?
I’m still on a path toward missions and ministry. Austin, TX has connected me with some of the most gospel-driven people I’ve ever met and even now as I’m in the city I move closer and closer to what full-time ministry looks like.
The biggest gain from Praxis
Though my personal and professional development are where they are because of everything Praxis has helped me accomplish, hands down, the best thing about the entire program is the connections and friendships I’ve made. You’d think friendships through a program based purely online would have its limits, but the world is a different place. I’ve met some of my best friends in the last year through Praxis. Some of the smartest people that I’ve ever met I know through Praxis. There are going to be people who start multi-million-dollar companies that I’ll know through Praxis.
A community of people that don’t believe in holding back generosity from others. A community of people that want to help good people solve problems. A community of people who’s foundation is built upon doing what makes them come alive.
The last year being in Praxis has truly changed my life and my entire perspective of the world of business and professionalism. I’m so thankful for my time in the program and I can’t wait to see many others who go through and experience the same growth that I have.
Joey Wickham is a Praxis participant and visionary. He chose Praxis because he “never fully fit into the ‘education’ mold that seemed to be set for every kid growing up.” He currently works as an Account Executive at Vital Interaction, a Praxis business partner. Follow his work on his website, joeywickham.com, or check out his previous guest post on the Praxis blog. This post was originally published on Joey’s personal website here.