What can one person achieve in three months? How about embarking on a future in one of the fastest growing industries in the country?
Codeup is an intense, 11-week web programming bootcamp that accelerates students with often zero development experience into coding powerhouses ready for the open and growing job market. According to U.S. News and World Report, web developers earned a median salary of $62,500 in 2012, a number that is growing each year as supply continued to trail demand. With the exponentially expanding tech market hitting its stride in San Antonio, Codeup students are groomed for immediate placement in the job market.
The very first Codeup class crossed the finish line Tuesday afternoon during “Demo Day” at the Briscoe Western Art Museum. Demo Day is essentially a market-oriented graduation exercise. Instead of standing in a line waiting for diplomas, Codeup classmates present personal and group projects (capstones) they have been working on during their three-month course. With luck, their future bosses are in the audience listening.
Students, mentors, and business recruiters gathered for the people pitches and to congratulate Codeup grads and network with them about job opportunities.
Each capstones project was presented by a three-student group, each one tasked from conceptualization to a fully-functioning web application in a deadline-driven, 10-day period.
One project, Local Care Package (Leslie Tolbert, Ken Priest, and Brandon Beidel) offered a curated box full of “picks from a local” for those that are new in town and want to see what our city has to offer.
Attention getting presentations like M.B. Athletes (Andres Dunn, Orlanda Villasenor, and Dylan Yoowitaya-Peralta) is a scouting tracker for military student athletes stationed in other parts of the world where recruiters often cannot make the trip. M.B. Athletes concept gives the recruiter, coach, student, and family a way to connect through a sophisticated web design with profiles and videos tracking the athlete’s every statistic.
Each project was well-conceived and properly delivered. Serious work was put into each presentation and each group had lots to show. It’s easy to imagine these projects, with more time and work, becoming successful startups one day.
Codeup takes an often overlooked, unconventional approach to education. For starters, students who don’t receive a job offer within six months of finishing Codeup get half of their tuition reimbursed. Tuition was about $8,000 for the inaugural class but will be adjusted to $9,850 for the next batch after Codeup Founder Michael Girdley adjusts for realized course costs. Girdley talked with me about the shift of local education, entrepreneurship and most importantly, the future of his students.
“We believe an educational institution should only profit if and only if it provides results,” he said.
What initially feels like a leap into darkness for 28 daring students, Codeup is confident its teachings will help students become candidates for employment in the space of 11 weeks.
“The conventional education system is leaving people with tons of inescapable debt and usually no future,” Girdley said. “One applicant had a four-year degree and the best job he could find was selling timeshares at the mall. Disgusting.”
Mitch Connell, one of the students enrolled in Codeup’s inagural class, is a 43-year-old former construction worker with 20 years experience. Connell heard about CodeUp through a story on Texas Public Radio..
“Right away, it clicked and I thought, that’s what I want to do,” he said.
Connell described his time at Codeup as “intense, but rewarding. It’s like learning four different languages all at once, and none of them use the English alphabet.
“On a personal level, I wanted to challenge myself and prove that I wasn’t too old to learn something completely new,” he said. “It was a risk, and I definitely had moments where I questioned myself. Now that the program is over, I can look back and feel proud of what I accomplished and learned.”
Mary Valdez of H-E-B was asked about about the value of Codeup hosting an event to connect graduates with potential employers.
“Codeup drives students who have a passion for what they really want to do and gives students the foundation to build on their skill levels when they enter the workplace,” she said.
I also spoke with Brian Aleman from ManTech, an international cyber security company with an office located near the San Antonio International Airport. Until recently, Aleman recruited mainly from California because of a lack of local applicants.
“It’s exciting to see local talent who is interested in coding, learning more, and working on some really cool stuff,” Aleman said. “California used to be the only place jobs like this existed, now it is right here and it’s growing.”
San Antonio District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal arrived to support the class as they emerge into the San Antonio job market. I asked Bernal about the future of technology in our expanding downtown environment:
Scott Ball: With the tech push currently happening in San Antonio with businesses like Google Fiber and Rackspace setting up shop here in San Antonio, how can we lure these companies to locate in the downtown area?
Diego Bernal: This is where they want to be because the employees that they naturally have don’t want to be in suburbia, they want to be where the action is, they want to be where the city is, where the culture and art is, and they want to be around each other. There is something to be said about an ecosystem of companies like the ones you just mentioned. Downtown is a natural place for that and you are finding that happening. I think the folks at Rackspace are probably trying to figure out a way how to migrate down here if we are being honest.
SB: Codeup is thriving after their first successful bootcamp. How do you as a public figure play a role in a new local tech companies success?
DB: Part of my job is to make sure that people here and other places know that it exists. The success of Codeup speaks for itself, this is sort of like the tech industry’s version of the science fair and all of the projects are blue ribbon, and it’s really amazing. We can help with this exposure and let other folks know that endeavors like this are absolutely supported and encouraged, and welcomed by the city. We as a city government want to see more of it and we will do everything we can to help bring them here, but beyond that, since Codeup is here, our number one priority is that we fortify it.
Codeup’s ideal student, Girdley said, is “motivated and committed.”
It is apparent that the entire first class embodies these two identifying qualities. Housed at the startup offices of Geekdom the path the students originally chose to take has changed during their time at Codeup.
“This Codeup class entered with only a handful wanting to be entrepreneurs,” Girdley said. “Over time with us, they’ve seen they now have a power they didn’t see before.”
Codeup teaches code, but it’s evident it also imbues students with a new level of confidence. A supportive staff confident the graduates will find good jobs add to that sense of positive energy, and the co-working Geekdom space incubates like-minded individuals with aspirations to elevate themselves through technology. It’s an impressive start by an impressive startup.
*Featured/top image: Codeup Founder Michael Girdley and Chris Turner pose on the Codeup DeLorean during the Codeup Demo Day April 22, 2014. Photo by Scott Ball.