JOBS | Tech "bootcamp" helps create diversity in IT industry

March 2, 2016: Imagine landing a $50,000 a year job in a brand new field, with only three months of training.We Can Code IT, a technology 'bootcamp' based out of the Terminal Tower, claims you can do just that.

CLEVELAND -- Imagine landing a $50,000 a year job in a brand new field, with only three months of training.

We Can Code IT, a technology *bootcamp* based out of the Terminal Tower, claims you can do just that.

"We completely understand how it is to try to change careers, says CEO Melanie McGee. "You just don’t have the time." 

The seed was planted over 20 years ago, when McGee's career hit a dead end. She thought her only option for advancement was to go back to college.

"I went and did graduate studies in computer science," says McGee. "It was an awful decision, because I couldn't go full time. I had to work to support myself...It was dragged out over years."

It would lead to a successful 20-year career as a computer programmer, but it would also lead to an unexpected side job.

"I would give presentations on technology and I would have women especially come up to me and say, 'Hey can you teach me how to code?' And it became apparent very quickly that they felt intimidated asking my male peers," says McGee.

She began holding workshops until demand became so great McGee chose to formulize a curriculum and become an educator full time. She remembered her own experiences and wanted to design a learning program that was faster and less costly than college.

So she created the intense, "bootcamp"-style coding program called We Can Code IT.

Full-time students take three months of courses during weekdays, or part-time students can take six months of courses in the evenings. At the end, students are certified software engineers.

Seeing the lack of diversity in the field, it was important to McGee to have an "inclusivity" focus. While the classes are open to everyone, scholarships are offered for women, minorities and anyone whose household income is less that $47,500.

"One of the problems for women and minorities is that we don't feel invited to the party. And that's huge! I want people to feel invited to this.This is for everyone," says McGee.

"We Can Code IT" teaches computer coding, but it also focuses on resume development, mock interviews, networking with possible future employers and job placement.

"Everyone can come out of this with a great well-paying career at the end," says McGee

If you can browse the web and use Microsoft Word, Mc Gee says you're ready for this class.

"You don't need to know how to program. We take people from the beginning in a really collaborative and friendly way. And teach them what they need to know."

One of their most recent success stories is Tori Brenneison, who found herself stuck in a retail job she didn't like after graduating from college.

"If you're looking to make a career change, and if you're in a boat where you're looking to do that as quickly as possible, a coding boot camp makes sense," says Brenneison.

This past December, she earned her certificate from We Can Code IT. In less than two months, she has landed a job as a junior developer at Hyland, Creator of On Base.

"Really the barrier to entry is mostly in your mind," says Brenneison. "I'm a single mom. I'm really excited, because honestly this is the best thing I could do for him as well as me."

Hyland, Creator of On Base, frequently featured on Fortune Magazine's 100 Best Companies to Work For, has partnered with We Can Code IT by offering scholarships and input.

"We will make recommendations to We Can Code IT, so that they can focus their studies on skills that employers are seeking," says Lindsay Latessa, recruiting team leader for Hyland, Creator of On Base.

It's a partnership designed to help fast track that career change and foster more diverse perspectives in the tech world.

"To help people. To help women, to help minorities find a great way to quickly get into a high-paying career without much effort," says McGee, "It's just a no-brainer."

The next full-time coding boot camp starts Feb. 29.

For more information on how to enroll in We Can Code IT, visit bootcamp.wecancodeit.org.


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