Apprenticeship Spotlight: February 2020

A headshot of a man with red hair and a beard wearing glasses and a black polo standing in a corner with a red wall and a window with blinds behind him.


Chris McNames

Age: 39

Hometown: Bentonville

Apprenticeship: WhyteSpyder



I was born in Wyoming and raised out west, until I was 15. The part of Wyoming we lived in looked like Mars. We moved to Arkansas in 1996 because my father wanted to get into contract work building houses. We settled in Bentonville.


When I was younger, I was somewhat irresponsible. I went to Bentonville High School, and I was able to do fairly well in school when I wanted to. Most of the time I didn’t want to. I didn’t actually graduate high school. I waited and got my GED. I got married. We started having children.


I didn’t really have a lot of set plans at the time. I worked for Pizza Hut for a couple years as a delivery driver. When I was in my early 20s, I started working for Walmart in the jewelry distribution warehouse. My mother had worked in that warehouse, and there was an opening to start learning how to size jewelry. And I liked art—I like the arts. I decided to go learn how to become a goldsmith. I worked for Walmart for 15 years as a jewelry repairman and goldsmith. In the early days, especially, I screwed up a few rings. It takes a while to really learn how to work gold. I loved the craft of working with my hands and creating beautiful things.


My wife and I have four children now. Around the time that we had the fourth one, which was in 2012, goldsmithing had become sort of famine and feast. We were working reduced hours, and I knew I needed to go back to school. Eventually I settled on computer science as a major. I felt that it had a lot of utility. With the sort of scattered background I had, I figured I could use that toolbox in almost any industry.


I spent about a year taking classes at NWAC. Then I enrolled in the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and started my studies in computer science. I was a full-time student, going to school in the day and working the second shift at night. Four years after I began, I received my computer science degree—in May 2019.


One of the difficulties you have in this field is that finding jobs tends to revolve around things like social connections and low-paid internships and hackathons and stuff like that. But when you have four kids—well, I just didn’t have the time to participate in the social part of it, and I couldn’t afford to take the internships.

So when I saw this opportunity to come into a learning role that was also a paid role, it seemed like a very good fit. I saw an ACDS posting on the Internet, and I was very excited to find it. We’re doing our apprenticeship classes now, and when we’re not in class I’m working at WhyteSpyder, which is a marketing group. We work on a lot of stuff for Walmart. And while my role thus far is pretty limited, I’m learning how WhyteSpyder’s software and website work. I’m doing things ranging from automated testing to actually getting in there and working on the webpage itself. My wife and I are both happy that I’m now progressing in a career that definitely has the potential to provide well for our family.