Dublin’s T-Cetra on Pandemic Transitions, Praise for State TechCred Program
Updated 10/5 at 4:00 p.m.: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated COVID-19 related donations were sourced to the staff of Ohio’s Lieutenant Governor, not Ohio Attorney General David Yost.
Over 12 years ago, a startup called T-Cetra set out to disrupt the wireless industry, after witnessing wireless retailers struggle with automating carrier payments.
Gus Hashem, Co-founder and Chief Information Officer of T-Cetra, helped develop a proprietary IT solution called VidaPay, which allows T-Cetra’s network of authorized — often independent — payment locations to accept cash payments from the “underbanked community.”
The “underbanked community” refers to people that use cash-only due to a lack of credit or bank account. Those individuals, instead of paying for service through a contract or payments, will simply top up their balance to continue wireless service.
VidaPay processes activations and payments, and manages wireless accounts in addition to calculating sales and commissions and paying back wireless carriers.
“We have a creative CEO and we have a very dedicated team that was looking at the industry…overall,” said Hashem. “How can we make it a better experience for the retailer? How are we going to automate a lot of this stuff that was being done manually?”
The automated, all-in-one solution T-Cetra provides allows retailers to have a control over the financial side of the business that was previously unheard of.
Those independent retailers are a part of the communities they’re in, said Kristine Gross, director of strategic partnerships at T-Cetra. Many are in immigrant communities and are able to speak the native language of their customers, which is particularly impactful for the underbanked community.
“We’re helping the communities that frankly, during COVID right now, are really hurting,” she said. “We work with them real closely to make sure that we’re providing a solution.”
Now T-Cetra handles prepayment processing for the transportation and e-commerce industry as well.
Retailers from coast to coast depend on T-Cetra’s services to run their businesses. So when COVID-19 hit the U.S., there needed to be a balance between continuing to provide their services and products as well as keeping employees safe.
“We literally had to go get laptops, build VPN tunnels, redo our windows image and redeploy about 50% of our workforce back with new laptops that they can go and take it home with the full setup,” said Hashem.
The company put new policies in place to ensure desktop security as well as opportunities for employees to stay connected.
“I mean, just the other day, we had a ‘Shark Tank’ exercise where five employees from different departments got together and they really problem-solved against some of the key initiatives that our company wants to solve for,” said Gross.
T-Cetra has made use of the State of Ohio’s TechCred program, which helps employers build their workforces by providing training in the necessary technology skills for their respective industries.
“I like to think that we optimize what Dublin is going for, in terms of being an IT magnet, we have a very diverse employee base,” said Gross. “They’re very agile, very skilled, and we’re using these tech credits really to make sure that we can recruit and retain employees.”
T-Cetra is actively hiring in at least 15 positions, and has, in the past, recruited at local colleges and universities in addition to technology bootcamps. The company fairly recently joined the TechCred program, which Hashem praises for continuing despite the pandemic.
“Even with the high unemployment, you want to bring the skillset that we look for and then help them be effective once we bring them in, too,” said Hashem. “So we’re hiring, yes, for sure. But we also want to make sure that we tool them to be effective into the role that they’re in.”
How TechCred works is, after an employer identifies their skill needs and which employees will apply, they partner with a credential provider. T-Cetra found exactly that when Gross connected with leadership at The Computer Workshop at a Dublin Reality Check event.
“The whole point of this is really workforce enhancement. And for Dublin, I think it just doubles down in terms of two of their star kind of companies…working together to take advantage of an Ohio program,” said Gross. “To attract and recruit really high level technological talent from not just [the] Central Ohio area, I’m talking about all across the United States.”
“They’re aware of our ecosystem at this point at T-Cetra and [in] Ohio, that we’re bringing in talent, that we’re helping sharpen the tool in their skill set when you come in, we’re investing into our employees,” said Hashem.
Gross herself moved to Dublin from Chicago. One of the most attractive things about Dublin for her was the cost of living versus Chicago.
“I love it here. It’s beautiful. Great greenspace, excellent schools. So I think that’s another plus,” she said. “I mean, COVID turned out to be a terrible situation for so many people, but you have to look at the silver linings. I think we’re going to be able to attract a lot more people from the coast because it is so much less expensive and it’s a great place to work.”
T-Cetra as a company is a proud and dedicated member of the Central Ohio community and the state at-large. Early on in the pandemic, the company donated masks to some of its independent retail partners and sourced laptops and phones for the staff of Ohio Attorney General David Yost so his employees and staff members could work from home safely.
“I remember Gus and our CEO drove out [at] 11 o’clock at night, to drop them off at their offices before they shut down. So this is just the level of dedication,” said Gross.
From network connectivity and partnering on recruitment opportunities at local colleges to attracting talent to the city, T-Cetra’s experience with Dublin has also been a positive one.
“The city really gave us an opportunity to spread our wings a little bit more and then have an open mind into what can be done outside the box of just saying, ‘Okay, we’re hiring people. We cannot find people,'” said Hashem. “It’s really a success story for Dublin. A I hope the rest of the cities in Ohio can follow suit as well.”
For more information on T-Cetra, visit www.tcetra.co.
Our technology series is presented by our partners in the City of Dublin.
Dublin is a city of more than 47,000 residents located just northwest of Columbus, Ohio. The City of Dublin Economic Development team has a vision to make Dublin a Midwest IT Magnet through business leadership and sustainable workforce development. This commitment goes beyond short-term skills training to include long-term strategic and cultural support for the entire Dublin business community. Dublin is one of America’s Top 20 Creative Class Cities and is home to more than 20 corporate headquarters, an entrepreneurial center, 3,000+ businesses, world-class events and the urban, walkable Bridge Street District.