Tech Firms Rethink, Retool, Rise to the Challenge

ORLANDO, Fla. — At 43, Danielle Stiles finally stepped through a door of opportunity.

A bartender and server for more than 20 years, she decided to pursue a life-long dream to learn about computers and go back to school to obtain a job in infomation technology.

“I’m going to learn how to build a computer from the ground up, how to take a computer apart, how to troubleshoot it,” Stiles said. “I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, but I never had the gumption.”

After all, her decades of work in the restaurant business — from sports bars to International Drive-area mainstays — were often fruitful. When things were busy, with a constant flow of customers, business was good, Stiles said. 

Yet, it was wrought with uncertainty — “feast or famine,” she said. And during this pandemic, things slowed down considerably.

“My pocket took a deep hurting. I lost my job as a result of COVID,” she said. “This actually pushed me to follow my dreams, find a career I can retire from.”

But, the Ocoee resident returned to school for reasons greater than herself: Stiles has a 24-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son.

“I’m in here and I’m like, ‘This is easier than I thought.’ I didn’t give myself enough credit,” she exclaimed. “This will be stable. This is what I need for me and my son.”

Some Fields Gaining Jobs Amid Downturn

Between the months of November and December, the U.S. economy lost about 140,000 jobs, many in leisure and hospitality, according to the Orlando Economic Partnership. It marked the first net job loss since June and July.

But, the economy — including in Central Florida — also gained more than 20,000 jobs in fields such as technology.

That’s no surprise to Orlando small business owner Salmagundi “Sal” Rehmetullah, who works in tech and is on the forefront of solutions.

“Our focus was, ‘How do we enable the community to accelerate through a difficult time?,’ ” he said of his company, Fattmerchant.

Started in 2014, Fattmerchant helps small and enterprise businesses in receiving payments, both in person and online. The company experienced expansive growth, but like many others, suffered as a result of the…