Companies in Utah County and Throughout State Answering Need for Coders
From garages and basements, to glass-walled office buildings popping up all over Utah County, technology companies are everywhere. But finding the talent to sustain them as they grow has been more of a slow burn.
Attend any tech-related conference or summit in Utah and over and over again, you will hear corporations and startups begging for coders. In addition to recent initiatives by the state and the STEM Action Center, other enterprising business leaders have been making it their job to train the future’s coders.
“The tech scene in Utah County is booming. With multiple multi-billion dollar software companies, and many new tech startups popping up, there is a big demand for technical talent,” said DevMountain founder Cahlan Sharp. “Traditional educational institutions are not very well equipped to keep up with the growing demand to get someone trained (or ‘re-trained’ as the case may be) in a rapidly changing, fast-paced field in a short amount of time.”
Sharp’s DevMountain in Provo is one of the local options to get those coders trained and ready to work in a short time. DevMountain provides three different bootcamp type tracks for people wanting to become software engineers: Web Development, iOS Development and UI/UX Web Design. Within those tracks, students can choose a full-time or part-time experience.
“Credentials (a big reason why traditional education is so important for so many) don't matter that much when it comes to software development,” Sharp said. “There aren't many modern employers who care about what degree you have or where you got it. They are most interested in what you can do, not where you learned to do it. I'm a great example — I'm a software developer with a bachelor's degree in Portuguese. I was mostly self-taught. Once you get some demonstrable skills and a little experience, employers don't care at all where you got your coding abilities.”
“The demand for developers spans almost every language and technology. What’s most interesting to me is how many non-developer roles now require a meaningful amount of programming understanding in order to be effective. Today you can be a designer, marketer, or even a sales person and be left behind if you don’t have enough technical understanding,” said Michael Zaro, Coding Campus CEO. “Almost every industry is being affected by technology, and a strong understanding of technology will absolutely help you succeed in any role.”
Utah County native Nate McNeil opted for his own career change and tackled the bootcamp experience early on at Coding Campus, and now works for a workflow management company in San Francisco. He also moonlights as a software consultant.
“I chose Coding Campus, because of the people. I was looking for something close to home and didn't require moving to another state for several weeks,” McNeil said.
Morgan VanYperen is another local opting for a career change. The Provo resident is a former Brigham Young University student, who was majoring in mathematics education, but he became a bit disillusioned.
“I was getting frustrated with the structure of universities in general. I felt like, with the Math Ed. major, the teachers were teaching you how to teach math, but the ones who actually taught math weren’t following those principles. It was frustrating,” he said.
So VanYperen took a break, with plans to return, but then he saw aTechCrunch article about Learn Verified that made him change his mind. He signed up with Learn Verified in November and hopes to finish his education by June.
Learn Verified is a bit different than local bootcamp offerings, but is aiming for the same goal. It is a completely online Full Stack Web Development program launched last October by the Flatiron School of New York City, and available anywhere potential coders have computer access.
“We wanted to take this special thing we have in New York — learning to create something from nothing — something our students have such pride in, and create and online learning environment that truly felt like a live and vibrant campus,” said Eric Caballero, VP of marketing at Flatiron School.
In that respect, the developers wanted to avoid making their program just a “digital textbook.” Cabellero said what sets Learn Verified apart is that online students form realtime study groups, have live chat support roughly 18 hours of the day, and have live online instruction. All students are connected and can work with each other as they learn.
“I took a C++ course at BYU, and I liked it. But it was very much, read the book, then write your code and turn it in,” VanYperen said. “With Learn Verified I’m constantly talking with people, working with them on code. I’m way more connected with people I’ve never met, than I was in the classroom.”
Flatiron School's Learn Verified curriculum is offered open-source, so that it may be consistently updated by the industry. In addition, Flatiron focuses on “real world relevant curriculum,” according to Caballero, where students feel like they are actually working as software engineers as they study -- students are require to employ test-driven development as well as GitHub publishing and version control for every piece of code they write. Developers of the program felt this was essential to keep their students updated and current in the coding world, as these two skills are prevalent within professional engineering teams.
While coding is literally filled with complicated numbers, symbols, and the like, Sharp, Zaro, Caballero and almost anyone involved in teaching students to code can actually wax poetic when talking shop. Often, though they are talking about syntax and numbers, they sound like artists or musicians.
“So much of what you read about is about making educational choice between utility and utopia … or getting value versus your own values. Software is one of those rare skills that is an immensely valuable skill, but you can also build off your own values. It allows you to do both,” Caballero said. “If you’re trained on it in enough depth, you find you can make your dreams a reality.”
“Coding languages evolve and change. More important than memorizing syntax is learning how to think creatively to solve problems, using code as the medium,” said Sharp.
Local universities are only graduating 600 computer science students each year, far below the estimated 15,000 open developer positions, according to Tessa Curry at SiliconSlopes.com. But these local businesses have already stepped up to answer that need. Hopefully, with all the avenues out there for hands-on real training, more students will become artists of code.