TTS Graduate Spotlight: Kaitlin Littlejohn

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We often say that we’re ‘demystifying code’ here at Tech Talent South, making the idea of learning to code not quite as intimidating as one might think.  Somewhere through the years, stereotypes about computer programming (that we’re breaking!) developed and became dominated with wizard-like multi-colored letters (Google) and platforms that are as much a part of our lives as, well, breathing (hey Facebook, I’m looking at you). However, once people get past this barrier of programming being thought of as ‘scary’ or ‘complicated’, believe us, BIG things can happen! It’s all on the up-and-up from there.

 

So, this week we’re showcasing TTS graduate, Kaitlin Littlejohn.  Her story of becoming involved in tech and joining Tech Talent South was just about as free-spirited as she is. She has traveled through most of Southeast Asia, China, and South Africa on mission trips and was teaching English for the better part of two years.  Once back in the States all it took was a by-chance attendance of Skookum’s Friday Tech-Talk, and something clicked.  It’s humbling to see Kaitlin now, not just as a woman-in-tech, but as someone who demystified coding for herself.  We got a chance to talk with Kaitlin and hear how becoming involved in tech never crossed her mind- that is until she heard about TTS…



1. Tell us a little bit about what you were up to before TTS?

 

The short story is that I was a bit of a gypsy, living in Africa and Asia for the better part of the last two years prior to Tech Talent South. I was volunteering and doing mission work in South Africa mostly. I traveled to China and most of Southeast Asia teaching English for a few months, as well. I knew it was a short window in my life that I would have the absolute and total freedom to just travel the world, be completely free to roam and wholeheartedly dedicate my time to others. A time like that obviously had a huge impact and I am forever grateful for that blip in my life.

 

2. How did you find out about TTS & what made you feel like it was the right program for you?

 

By a series of favorable events, I ended up sitting in my first Skookum Tech Talk and there stood Betsy (TTS co-founder). She was talking about TTS and giving the scope on how the program worked. At that time, I wasn’t planning on entering the tech sector at all. I was back in the country and just kind of sorting out the basics. However, there was something about the thought of programming that intrigued me. It intrigued me so much that I couldn’t stop thinking about it- so I emailed Betsy, we met for coffee and the rest just unfolded in good time.

 

3. What did you find most appealing about learning to code, now?

 

It’s always a satisfying feeling to create something. That’s what coding is for me. It’s having no limit (relatively) and having the freedom to be as creative as possible.

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4. What was something that really stood out to you as the program moved forward?

 

The greatest thing for me was to see how all the pieces of programming came together. Kind of like learning the basic concept of MVC; it was really eye-opening to see how the different aspects worked together.

 

5. What were a few of your favorite parts about the program after you became a graduate?

 

I’ve loved the community that it’s brought into my life. TTS is a great support system and has been a real blessing to me in this time of new opportunities and experiences!

 

6. So, we want to know: what are you up to now & what’s the future look like ahead of you!


I’m extremely happy to say that a recently started an internship with a great company housed right out of Packard Place called CheckAppointments. CheckAppointments is a scheduling software company and has an amazing product. This month we are launching TimeTap, which is an upgraded and rebranded version of our current site. I work with great people and am surrounded by creativity and hard work. The future is bright and it all started with a little bit of code.

Ready to learn to code and do something BIG? You’re in luck, we’re currently accepting across TTS campuses for our Fall 2014 Code Immersion Program! Apply, here

Ever dreamed of launching your own website? Creating an out-of-the-box portfolio? Or designing a site that highlights your personal brand? We’re launching a new workshop, register today! Website Design + Creation

Graduate Spotlight: Jess Bowling

We are often asked to describe the ‘typical’ Tech Talent South student. Questions include “What are their goals during the program?”, “What were they up to before applying?”, and of course, “What are they doing now?”.  It’s sometimes difficult to explain the fact that there simply is not a standard TTS student. Each and every student has a different story, and we believe there is something to be said for that.  Only the tech industry and world of programming could attract and contain so many people with such diverse backgrounds, ideas, and ambitions. It’s an exciting group of folks looking to do BIG things and, more than anything, we are just glad to be a part of it!

This brings us to this week’s graduate spotlight: TTS grad Jess Bowling. Jess has an interesting background in IT and film from his time working at Emory’s School of Medicine as a Sr. Application Support Developer, and from running his own film company: De Facto Pictures, LLC. Yep, his reasons for learning to code are pretty ‘tailor-fit’. For Jess, it doubles as a way to bring more knowledge and capability to his current position at Emory, while also bringing more innovation into his craft of filmmaking.

Needless to say, graduates of Tech Talent South are one-of-a-kind and the word ‘typical’ just doesn’t apply.  Every person coming into our program has their own goals, ideas, and reasons for learning to code, and we think that rocks! So, we caught up with Jess to talk more about his experience in our program and how he’s currently incorporating his new skill into his (pretty awesome) daily life. I mean, the picture says it all. Don’t you think?

1. So, tell us, what were you up to before joining the TTS community (and perhaps still up to)!

Ya’ know, it’s kinda’ funny… For pretty much the entirety of my professional life, I’ve led two lives, which occasionally get the opportunity to intertwine. By day, I’m a Sr. Applications Support Developer/Analyst with the Emory School of Medicine’s Office of Information Technology Services (SOM-ITS). By night, I’m an experimental documentary filmmaker and the owner of De Facto Pictures, LLC.

I joined the TTS Winter-2014 part-time cohort having just entered my seventh year working in information technology in academic medicine. As a Sr. Developer, my area of specialization is in robotics-based medical simulation. I provide dedicated technical support and consulting for the Emory Center for Experiential Learning (ExCEL), which includes the School of Medicine’s Clinical Skills and Simulation Centers.

Adjacent to my IT career, I’ve been directing experimental documentaries and occasional client films for over 10 years. I’ve been very appreciative and humbled by the opportunity to travel abroad to shoot documentaries and see some of my work screened across the US. Most recently, I traveled through several regions in Italy on two separate occasions in the summer of 2010 & 2011 to produce a couple of short documentaries focusing on one of Emory’s study abroad programs.

2. What were the forces behind your interest in journeying into the tech industry & what led you to apply to TTS?

Much like other sectors of the tech industry, medical simulation is a constantly evolving field where innovation, increased efficiency of systems, and fidelity to actual patient encounters is of considerable value. As much as high-fidelity medical simulators increasingly meet those needs, what you discover pretty quickly is that the anima behind the simulators lies in the programming innate to the applications that run them. As intriguing as the simulators tend to be per se, it’s the programming behind the scenes that really breathes life into the robotics.

Having devoted considerable thought to the reciprocal relationship between simulators, their control applications, and student interaction with the technology, I found myself contemplating how programming could play a role in enhancing the medical simulation experience. The more thought I gave it, I realized that both the expansion of existing SIM-related apps as well as the development of ones that don’t exist could unlock a lot of new possibilities for the future of simulation-based education, particularly in the realms of ease-of-use, durability, and the learner’s suspension of disbelief when practicing with a simulator.

The more ideas that came to mind, the hungrier I got to improve some programming skills I had cultivated as a graduate student at the Rhode Island School of Design’s Digital + Media program. When I found out about TTS’ part-time immersion program from a developer buddy of mine, I began the application process the same day.

3. What were your own goals in learning to code & in what ways did you feel like our Code Immersion program was the right fit?

Well, first and foremost, there’s something to be said for geography… I mean what can I say? I’m an Atlanta native who loves his hometown. Though I lived up north for a while attending RISD, I’m a well-traveled southerner who’s always felt a certain affinity for his native city. When I started taking a look at what educational opportunities were available for programming, I found some of the immersion programs in San Francisco and Chicago to be pretty enticing, but a bit distant. As attractive as they were, pursuing them would’ve entailed too much professional and personal sacrifice at this stage of my life.

At the risk of being a little hyperbolic, when I found out about TTS and the part-time program, the only thing that could’ve been more tailor-made to my learning interests and work schedule would’ve been the hiring of a tutor. Ya’ know, the simple truth was TTS was perfect for me. I was able to continue working my normal full-time schedule as a Sr. Developer, take classes in the evening, and code on weekends.

4. As the program kicked off, what were some ways you felt the program helped you along?

Well, given my background as an experimental filmmaker and a third-generation programmer, I was already thinking pretty differently when I arrived at TTS. One of the many things I appreciated about my time learning with my fellow part-timers, was how much TTS embraced creative thinking and innovation. I’ve taken some programming classes in the past that were very focused on a kind of step-by-step, textbook-centered approach to programming. And while that kind of approach is very useful, it struck me that TTS was just as interested in their students’ concepts and ideas that could be given life via programming as they were in their students learning how to program.

Ya’ know, it’s of little doubt that simply possessing a fluency in a framework or programming language is going to enable someone to get a computer to do exactly what they want. But, there’s quite a lot of creativity and imagination that goes into figuring out exactly what that “thing” is and how it’s going to be programmed. I tend to think that in the grand scheme of looking at different pedagogies for programming, the more of an equilibrium there is in honing critical thinking skills, creativity, and imagination alongside traditional approaches to getting students facile with programming languages, the better. Fortunately, I think TTS students are getting exposure and practice with all of these skills, which, in addition to its immersive nature, is part of the value of the program.

5. Overall, if you had to choose, what were a few of your favorite aspects of the program once you became a graduate?

Well, getting the key to the city and riding in the motorcade through the ticker tape parade at the end of class was great… of course, I’m kidding. While there was a lot that I enjoyed about TTS during my period of study (and after), one of the things I was really impressed by and appreciative of was our instructor’s tenacity and attention to his students. I could tell from the beginning of class that our instructor really cared for his students and was committed to ensuring that we understood everything we were exploring in class. He would routinely offer considerable time outside of the classroom to provide students with the individual attention we sometimes needed to wrap our minds around new types of programming we were exploring.

I’ve had the good fortune of teaching a lot of different tech-centered classes over the years to a lot of different audiences and I have a lot of respect and admiration for teachers out there who really care about their students and are invested in their success. I considered myself both lucky and grateful to have had such a terrific instructor while studying with TTS.

6. What’s brewing for you now? We’ve heard you have some awesome opportunities coming your way these days!

Since the Winter-2014 cohort ended, I’ve grown considerably in my position and am enjoying the opportunity to play a more integral role with everything from basic web-based projects to being neck- deep in the trenches of web application development. One of the most exciting experiences since graduation from TTS is the sense of empowerment and possibility I feel both as a Sr. Developer and as a filmmaker. By day, I hope to continue to use my programming skills to advance simulation- based education and, by night, use those same skills to pioneer new approaches to filmmaking.

 

 

Graduate Spotlight: Josh Hollingsworth

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Our Charlotte summer cohort kicked off this month with a bang at one of our favorite places to find awesome, innovative people - Packard Place.  With a new classroom full of fresh students eager to code, we can’t imagine a better start to the summer session. We figured we’d keep the good vibes going and feature a recent Charlotte graduate, Josh Hollingsworth.  Nowadays you can find Josh teaching kids at Tech Talent South’s free Kids Code Tuesdays, interning with Charlotte startup Podanize, and finishing his graduate degree in Conflict Resolution. Pretty impressive, right? Not only is Josh impressive in his work, he is also a funny guy and kept the class laughing during his time with us. Case in point, he said at the end of his TTS session, “I think from the class, I’ve learned enough to be Prime Minister of the Internet.”

We caught up with Josh to talk about his time at Tech Talent South and to dive a little deeper into his experience in our code immersion program.  We discussed how he knew the program was right for him, his favorite aspects of what he learned, his plans to continually keep in touch with his fellow alumni, and what he’s up to now! One thing we know for sure,  it is always wonderful to see our graduates so eager and excited to stay a part of the TTS community!

What were you up to before Tech Talent South?

I have been working as an Asst. Principal for almost three years at a small private school here in Charlotte.  Altogether I have been teaching school, helping build the community, and coaching soccer for about 9 years. I am also currently in graduate school working on a degree in Conflict Resolution focused more specifically in Education and Business. My goals are basically to help transform the world from destroying everything and each other, to asking the right, or better, questions that will hopefully bring about more unity, ideas, answers, and solutions.

In my daily life, I watch a good bit of the English Premier League. I am a massive Arsenal Football Club fan. I grew up playing soccer, played in college and also a few years of semi-pro. I have definitely been watching the World Cup this summer!

 

What’s your story on becoming a part of the TTS community and what made you feel like it was the right fit?

I was introduced to Tech Talent South through two good friends, one of which worked at Skookum Digital Works. They both attended a Skookum Tech Talk that Betsy [one the TTS co-founders] was giving. I was already interested in some of the tech world and have been a Google, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk kind of fan. After the tech talk, my friends basically pushed me over the line into Tech Talent’s world with their excitement and tech magic. I loved Tech Talent South’s community right away. I knew it would give me the skills to bring out more of what I wanted to do in my future.

 

How do you feel about your decision of learning to code now that you’ve completed the program?

I am very happy with my decision to learn code now that I have finished the program. I would do it over again and again. It has created a whole new world of interest and excitement that is much bigger than I ever imagined. I hope to stay in touch with the Tech Talent South community for a long time and am excited to dive into the tech community at large.

You were a part of the first Charlotte cohort, you would say it was:

Charlotte is a growing tech giant that will soon enough rise out of the South. I am very proud to be part of the first Charlotte Tech Talent South class and very much enjoy Charlotte’s tech community. I know that I will be on the front end of a growing tech community that has many great people and ideas. The first Tech Talent South program was a lot of fun. We were a bit of a family rather than a class. I feel I made a dozen long term friends.

 

What were a few of your favorite parts of the program?

A big part of the program for me was actually learning how to set-up and build a web application. So much goes into a web application. In this class, you get a strong foundation in coding, and you get immersed into many, many areas of building that stir up your interest to learn more. The thing is, without a good foundation, you can’t do very much and are limited in the short and longterm. Probably my favorite and most vital part of the immersion program is that it gives you good community from the get go. You need collaboration to help you learn, grow, and build. Plus, you never know how these new relationships will carry years down the road.

 

How did you feel the last day of class? (Crying is totally an option, we won’t tell anyone…)

The last day of class, I felt proud to have finished the program. I was surprised at how much I had learned in a short period of time. I was also ready to do more with the skill set I had acquired. I am not much of a person to hang around idle about what I have just learned. I like to apply as much as I can as soon as possible.

 

So we know you have some pretty awesome opportunities this summer, tell us a little more about your plans now, and some long-term plans now that you’re a TTS graduate:

Now, that I have graduated I am working with Podanize at Packard Place on building their new site, I am jumping into connecting with the tech community in Charlotte. I am teaching youth coding because I think there is a lot of talent that will come out of and grow up in this city. In the long term, I will probably continue more schooling and development. I will definitely stay involved with Tech Talent South alumni. I also have a few ideas that I was chewing on during immersion program. I have tweaked those a little bit, and will try to start working on them again now that I have a better handle on things.

Thinking about joining our program? Don’t forget to head over to our Tech Talent South Graduates page and read more about what our Alumni are up to after completing our program! 

Ready to learn to code and do something BIG? Applications are currently open for Atlanta, Raleigh, & Asheville! Apply here.

Graduate Spotlight: Randall Mardus, Founder of Giusto

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When embarking on a new journey, especially when learning is involved, this simple word comes to mind: support.  The way we learn differs from person to person, and it’s no secret that learning to code is a tough undertaking and can at times, be overwhelming.  However, it’s the community of people that embark on the journey with you that really matters, in other words: your support.  If you’re learning to code, you need to check the ‘Me, myself, and I’ way of doing things at the front door.  Being able to connect with others during class and consider alternate perspectives while learning makes the process actually, fun.  Yep, f-u-n.  From the students, instructors, and founders, to the networking opportunities while in the program, it’s all about the support.  (Oh, and the super soft TTS t-shirts you get on the first day, obviously.)

Here at TTS, we totally get it. Coding is a challenge - and a wonderful one at that.  We get to see firsthand how awesome it is when cohorts come together and solve a problem. It’s that first ‘Aha!’ moment when everyone looks around and realizes how powerful it is to learn to code.  This recent Charlotte cohort was no exception. From the first day ‘til the last, the idea of ‘support’ was universally embraced and understood amongst the students.  Everyone came in with different goals, but the support they gave each other while processing new ideas was nothing short of inspiring.  

Cue our first TTS Charlotte cohort interview featuring Randall Mardus.  He’s currently hard at work developing his own web app that outsmarts the trickiness of hosting the most pickiest of eaters.  Yep, and it’s pretty game-changing, check it out: Giusto. What else? He’s also an apprentice for one of Charlotte’s top Ruby on Rails developers! You get where we’re going with this whole ‘support’ ordeal and where it can get you?…

 

So tell us a little about yourself?

After graduating from Davidson, I cooked for Chef Michael White in NYC. In 2009, I helped Chef White open Marea, winner of the 2009 James Beard Award for the Best New Restaurant in the U.S. In 2014, I founded Giusto, an application that allows users to create and share their food profiles. Currently, I am participating in the Queen City Forward ImpactU summer accelerator with Giusto.


How did you hear about Tech Talent South, and why did you feel it was the best decision for you?

I have tried to learn to code a few times before, mainly online. When I heard about coding immersion courses, Tech Talent South’s balanced approach stood out. TTS offered the most sane and manageable class schedule and complemented it with small classes, office hours, and talks with local industry leaders all for a competitive price.

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From the first day of class to the last, what stood out to you the most?

Unlike my experience with online courses where it’s easy to fall behind quickly, TTS offers a tech support group. At first, the teachers support you. With time, the other students support you. By the end, you are supporting others. For me, this separated TTS from the others.

 

What were a few of your favorite parts about the program?

I enjoyed TTS’s small class sizes. We had eleven students and two instructors. We all got to know each other over the course of the class and would jump to help each other out. I also appreciated how TTS complemented class with networking, bringing in speakers who are leaders in their fields. Simply said, TTS takes you from soup to nuts, day one of class to landing a job in the field.

 

And of course, we know you have some exciting things happening your way - what  does your future look like now that you’re a graduate?

Having completed the program, I am now talking to developers on an even level about Giusto. I could not have had the informed conversations with them that I am having now. I would have lost a lot of time and money. I also continue to learn how to code. I am an apprentice to one of the top Ruby on Rails developers in the area and look forward to doing some work for Code for Charlotte to build up my portfolio and experience.

Hey, TTS fans! Randall’s web application is currently in beta, sign up & check it out! 

Have a great idea & ready for what comes next? TTS classes are gearing up right now! Are you ready to learn to code and start making your ideas a reality? Visit http://bit.ly/1lh6BCy  to apply! 

Graduate Spotlight: Corey Harris

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This week we had the pleasure of taking part in our first live Tweetup; it was great having the opportunity to answer questions about our program and really break down what we do here at TTS.  We often hear the same question….who should learn to code and why? Our answer is simple: someone ready to challenge themselves, try something new, work hard, and do something BIG. Everyone who comes into our program has a different background and different goals in mind. Some want to build out and launch their own ideas. Some want to dive head first into the world of web development. Some simply want to challenge themselves to try something new and develop an exciting skill set. In our increasingly tech fueled world, there are endless ways to apply this skill set and really, there’s no “bad” reason to want to learn to code! Our goal at TTS is to empower each of our students individually and as a community and show them they are capable of building something awesome or doing something awesome with code!

This brings us to our next TTS graduate, Corey Harris.  When we saw his application, we knew Corey had clearly been bitten by the entrepreneurship bug; he was working with a few different startups and helping his friend launch his very own apparel brand in NYC (definitely not an easy feat).  However, NYC slowly took its toll and a slower pace of life began to call him down South.  Corey found himself in Durham, NC…and loving every minute of it! The question was: what’s next? He decided it was time for his own venture, time to pursue his own interests and launch his very own tech startup (which is currently in the works).  We couldn’t think of a better example of someone who has been down different professional avenues and clearly saw the value of adding the skill of coding to his lists of expertise!

What were you up to before Tech Talent South?

Before TTS, I was living in NYC and left my job as a Marketing Director and moved to Durham to be closer to my partner, who is now an American Lit professor at UNC-Chapel Hill.  I’ve fallen in love with Durham!  I grew up in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, so the community feel and pace of life here feels much more natural to me.

So, why did you decide it was time for a change - a.k.a what made you catch the ‘coding bug’ and start your journey with us?

Doing my MBA at Stanford and living in Silicon Valley, I was bitten by the entrepreneurship bug.  Since then, I have dabbled in different start-ups.  Last year, I helped a friend launch his men’s apparel brand, Aksel Paris, and opened the boutique in Soho, NYC.  With my move to Durham, I decided that it was time to pursue my own passions and try to start a company.  I have been thinking about ways to make shopping easy for guys and I’m now launching “Swaggr” to help address that pain-point.

Why did you feel learning to code was important to you, now?

While I never envisioned being a developer, I knew that it was an important skill set to have especially if I was starting a tech company.  I didn’t want to be that guy or founder that didn’t understand what was going on with the technology or code behind-the-scenes.

What were some of your favorite parts of the program and how do you feel it has helped you in your future endeavors?

Now having made it through the course, I really liked the learning that happened between the students and how we were able to help each other with the course content but also in our goals beyond the course.  Also, being that I was new to the Raleigh / Durham area, I was able to meet other entrepreneurs and start-ups through the various speakers and events that we did as a class.  Oh, and our instructor in Raleigh – David Baxter – kicked ass!

What was the biggest milestone or ‘Aha!’ moment in the program?

My biggest “aha!” moment came when I finally was able to use our Clucker app (a copy of Twitter) to dynamically save and post messages from new users.  Who knew the basic twitter app would have been buildable by someone like me only 5 weeks into learning how to code?  I showed that app off like I had just invented something big.

Our motto in the TTS community is, “Learn to Code & Do Something Big”, how does this ring true for your TTS experience?

I think learning a bit about the full stack and building so many mini apps from scratch…no scaffolds…no Twitter bootstrap…no APIs really helped me understand the whole stack (front-end and back-end) and how data is passed from the user to the database and back.  This was mind-blowing to me.  Now, I’m applying that knowledge to my own start-up and trying to understand what’s really going on.  That’s been really huge.

Of course we have to know: Now that you’re a graduate (congrats!), what’s next?

Now that I’m done with TTS, I’m heads down building my business.  I’m learning everyday that building a start-up really takes time and perseverance.  So, if you know any coders that want to build something great, guys that want to step-up their wardrobe, or investors looking to invest in a hot new consumer internet company please send them my way!

Summer Code Immersion classes are right around the corner! Learn to code in 8 weeks and get your ideas off the ground, we’re currently accepting applications! Visit http://techtalentsouth.com to apply! 

Graduate Spotlight: David Curtis

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As we near kick off for our summer Code Immersion classes, we wanted to start this week off with our headlights pointed towards the City of Oaks - Raleigh, NC.  So naturally, we caught up with an awesome Tech Talent South graduate, the one and only David Curtis. With an impressive 10-year background in politics and law, David decided a few years ago that it was time for a change, wanting something that allowed a little more life and a little less formality. That desire led David to pursue his interest in the tech industry where he found a job as an IT recruiter and began taking several online classes. Although his interest in tech continued to grow, David found that the steps he was taking were not giving him the full skillset he desired or leading him to exactly where he wanted to go. That’s about the time David heard TTS would be launching our first campus at HQ Raleigh, and as they say, the rest is history!

We caught up with David to hear more about his interest in learning to code, some of his favorite parts of the program, and why Raleigh is such a great place to get started!

Tell us a little about your background and what you were up to before deciding to dive into our program?

In the late 90’s, I studied politics at American University in Washington, DC.  My first “real world” job was working in the Office of Political Affairs at the White House during the Clinton Administration.  For the next ten years, I had several great jobs in politics and law, including time with the U.S. Department of Justice.

A few years ago, burned out by working inside a giant federal bureaucracy (and having my pay frozen by Congress for consecutive years), I decided to pursue my interest in technology.  While I didn’t have the coding chops to work hands-on, I did have some knowledge and a lot of interest in the industry to bring to the table.  As a first step, I found a job working as an IT recruiter with a focus on software and web development.

During the 2.5 years that I worked as a recruiter, my interest in and knowledge of IT continued to grow.  I also got an inside look into the local IT job market here in the Triangle.  Needless to say, IT unemployment hovers around 1%, and compensation continues to climb.  Demand for skilled IT workers is greatly outpacing the supply, and a few months ago, I decided it was time for me to take a leap of faith and pursue a career in development full-time.

I should mention that while I was working as a recruiter, I spent about a year and a half taking online courses through a local community tech school.  For me, the experience just wasn’t meeting my needs - I wasn’t learning the skills I thought I would need to transition into a development job, nor was it fast enough.  Enter Tech Talent South.

How did you decide on attending Tech Talent South?

The timing of TTS’s arrival in the Triangle couldn’t have been better.  Earlier this year, I had made the decision to pursue my dream of being a web developer full-time, so I started researching code immersion programs.  I was considering programs in California and Colorado when I learned that TTS was bringing their program to Raleigh.  Needless to say, my wife and I both were very happy that I didn’t have to leave the state to get the education I was seeking in web development!

In retrospect, what were some of your favorite parts of the program and what stood out to you the most?

I think the program offers students the opportunity to be exposed to the right technologies and languages that they will be expected to know if they want to become web designers and developers.  It’s a good balance of difficulty in material and pace.  I also appreciated that it wasn’t an 8 hour a day program because I enjoyed having a few hours each day after class to review the day’s material, as well as pursue personal projects.  Also, almost every week, one of the co-founders was here asking for feedback and offering their support.  That meant a lot to me, and it speaks a lot about their commitment to their students and this program.

What were your original goals in learning how to code, and have they changed since the beginning of the program?

When I signed up for the TTS program here in Raleigh, my goal coming out of the program was to pursue web development as a full-time career.  What I didn’t expect was meeting all of the great people in and around the program - from our guest speakers to the people with whom we share space at HQ Raleigh.  Everyone in the community has been so supportive of us and giving of their time.  Because of our exposure to the vibrant start-up scene here in the Triangle, I became interested in working with start-ups, and I have already begun doing so.

You meet someone in a coffee shop and you begin talking about learning to code & your time at TTS, you tell them:

The Tech Talent South program is a great, affordable way for someone to gain entry into the booming IT job market.  The co-founders are graduates of a similar code immersion program, which has given them a lot of insight into how programs should be run and structured.  Their focus on Ruby on Rails and web development is incredibly smart, as they offer the lowest barrier to entry and are some of the easiest programming languages to learn.  Plus, demand for those skills is high.  TTS is committed to making sure that every student is successful, even if the student has no programming experience at all, and they try to ensure that each student fulfills his or her goals before the end of the program.

We know you have some exciting opportunities and plans coming your way now that you’re an official graduate of TTS , we want to know all about it!

Even before the program was over, I had several people who were interested in working with me.  The key to success after the program is to begin networking with people on day one, and be passionate about what you are doing.  I think a lot of people picked up on my enthusiasm for web development.  

I am currently working a trial period for a Rails consultancy here in Raleigh.  The project to which I have been assigned is for an awesome tech start-up - I am thrilled to have a chance to work both with the consultancy and for the start-up company.  I have also been approached by other development consultancies about future projects, as well as local start-ups who are interested in my web development skills.  The vast number of messages I receive from recruiters via LinkedIn everyday is further proof that the job market is really strong for people with my new skills, and that I made the right choice to make that leap of faith that I mentioned earlier.

Last but not least, I am excited that TTS will allow me to continue to be involved with them this summer as a Teaching Assistant here in Raleigh!  I enjoyed working with my classmates to solve problems and issues we were having throughout the program, and I look forward to doing so again starting in a couple of weeks.

The best thing that I gained from the program was an incredible sense of empowerment.  Instead of worrying about finding my next job, I have people coming to me with opportunities to work with them.  It’s great knowing that I have a valuable skill set that will allow me to pursue so many different avenues - whether it be with a consultancy, a corporation, working freelance, or even developing my own ideas into a business - the fact that I can pursue my dreams and get paid to do it is incredibly satisfying. As I have said many times before, I am grateful that TTS is giving people like me the opportunity to pursue our passions and hopefully do something big!

Ready to learn to code and get your own ideas off the ground? Our summer Code Immersion classes are right around the corner! To learn more and to apply to our program, visit: http://techtalentsouth.com

Graduate Spotlight: Sean Ankenbruck, “My computer is my canvas and Ruby is my medium.”

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It’s always been important to us to find passionate people who are ready to make a difference in their communities and more importantly are ready to get out there and be the change they want to see.  So it is to no one’s surprise that the growing tech city of Raleigh, NC has plenty of people who are wasting no time turning their ideas into realities - passionate, persistent, and on a journey to do something BIG!  TTS graduate Sean Ankenbruck is just that.  Having an interest in the world of entrepreneurship since his NC State days, Sean even created an app, ‘Parcore’, that taught him a lot about pressing forward when things don’t always work out and the importance of finding your ‘connectors’ (which we’ll say, is a great lesson learned, early on)!  So, when he heard about TTS launching at HQ Raleigh- he knew he wanted to be a part of it.

When we caught up with Sean, we heard more about how TTS has helped shape his current goals, how his instructor inspired him, and even about his new venture with a fellow TTS graduate!  We always knew there was something to be said for our ‘connect, plan, execute, launch’ motto.  It’s true- whatever the idea, there is certainly always a ‘connector’ to help get you to where you want to be!

 

1. Tell us about your background and what led you to journey into the TTS community?

Hey there TTS fans, my name is Sean Ankenbruck.  I am an NC State grad with a particularly strong interest in the startup and small business scene here in Raleigh.  My senior year of college I created and tried to launch Parcore, a company that I hoped would change the way that campuses across the nation managed their parking systems.  Unfortunately, I was not able to get that idea past the prototyping stage and eventually had to move on.  Lesson 1 learned, never give up!  Ever since then I have kept my “Think Tank” handy and often find myself scribbling down ideas whenever they come over me.  Then out of nowhere, I saw a tweet from HQ Raleigh about this new company that was bringing an immersive code class to Raleigh and I knew that I wanted to be a part of it!    

2. What were some reasons you wanted to learn to code & how were those goals met by attending our program?

 I knew that this class was for me because the one thing that I was lacking in my skill set was the ability to actually create things.  You can have all of the planning / brainstorming ability in the world but if you cannot actually pull the trigger and bring your ideas to life then you will never know if they are actually good ideas!  In two months, Tech Talent South provided me with the knowledge and confidence to sit in front of a computer and build something awesome.  My computer is my canvas and Ruby is my medium; now anything is possible.

3. So we know that networking and connecting with the startup community was a big point for you, tell us more about how this shaped your time with us?

In the book The Tipping Point the author talks about “Connectors”.  These are the people in a community who know many people and help fuel change by building connections.  The startup community is so much more than just a bunch of small businesses trying to make a difference in the world.  It is essentially a networking machine where one day you might get an introduction to a developer with the exact set of skills you need for your new app and another day you will meet a future customer who could go on to be an advocate for your brand.  You never know how much of an impact you might have on someone’s life, or how much someone may impact yours, unless you say “Hello”.  

 4. Tell us a little about your experience with your instructor and your classmates:  

 My instructor was Travis Williams, aka Yoda Travis, and I could go on for hours about how great of an instructor he is.  Travis loves Ruby and Ruby on Rails.  It is so inspiring to be taught by someone who is absolutely passionate about what they do and it made it a lot easier for our class to get into the program.  Some nights were hard, sometimes the problems just kept turning up, but Travis was confident in us and that helped us overcome the issues.  The evening class was smaller, and you could tell that each of us had our own goals / strengths in the class. Toward the end of the class, we had each learned so much, and I hope to hear of the great things that my classmates have done one day.  

5. As a whole, tell us how TTS is helping shape your future endeavors:

In our class, we used Ruby Koans to learn about simple object relationships and testing.  In this program, you are constantly trying to gain enlightenment.  I would say that though I have not yet reached enlightenment, Tech Talent South and my instructor Yoda Travis definitely gave me the tools and persistence necessary to get there.  

6. Of course we want to know, what are your plans & some opportunities you’re seeking out now that you’re a graduate of TTS!

Now that I am a TTS graduate I am not wasting any time trying to make one of my ideas a reality.  I have partnered with one of the full-time class members to try and create an app from scratch.  I can’t give away too much but this app combines my passion for the small business and startup scene with my love for the local community.  For me, this will be an incredible opportunity to test everything that I have learned thus far and will also allow me to learn so much more about what it takes to make something big out of nothing!  

Have your own ideas you’re ready to pursue? Learn to code! Summer Code Immersion classes begin in July for Raleigh, Atlanta, and Charlotte! Apply today and begin your TTS journey! : http://bit.ly/1lh6BCy

Graduate Spotlight: Jaime Panaia, Adventurer & UI/UX Developer at TimeOut

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Embracing change and following the road of adventure is definitely something we’ve learned from this week’s graduate spotlight, Jaime Panaia.  She was a DC girl heading into the southern tech hub it-city, Atlanta, for an opportunity to dive into the world of coding!  With a background in front-end design, she was ready to take her skills to another level and begin her journey here at TTS.  

Since completing the program, she’s definitely made a splash in the startup scene, merging her love of front-end design with application development at her new job- TimeOut! It was also great to hear more about her time throughout the program, how she felt while learning Ruby, and what helped her along. Especially the community of students that collectively worked together making the experience even more supportive and immersive! 

Hear more about Jaime’s journey - from her switch from front-end to back-end development, her ‘Aha!’ moments learning Ruby, and some of her favorite networking opportunities, all while enjoying the splendors of discovering this amazing city and all it has to offer! (Hint: we couldn’t name all the talented startups and companies that call Atlanta ‘home’, but yep, it’s something to brag about!)

1. Your whereabouts before joining the TTS community? 

I spent nearly 2 decades in the Washington, DC area before joining the TTS community. I fell in love with web design in college and have been assembling websites since 2000 when I built my first Geocities site dedicated to my summer travels abroad. I’ve always been a front-end/design person but recently decided to try my hand at application development. That’s where Tech Talent South came in!

I enjoy outdoor sports in all seasons: running, hiking, snowboarding, and softball. I kick into handstands in random places, take lots of silly pictures and will drop anything to play with my tiny dog, Frankie. I also love trying new restaurants, traveling to places near and far, and seeing as much live music  as humanly possible. 

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2. What was the driving point of attending TTS’ program? 

My developer chops were seriously lacking; I wanted to learn more modern programming languages to increase my marketability. I knew I didn’t have the discipline to learn in my free time and being fully immersed in code while surrounded by fellow programmers for a few months sounded awesome. Plus I had heard great things about Atlanta and how it’s becoming a southern tech hub. The program seemed like a great way to get my foot in the door and rub elbows with some tech folks. 

3. You’re now reaching the end of the program- what were a few of your favorite aspects of learning to code?

I had many “Aha!” moments in the past few months weeks. I was familiar with markup languages like HTML and CSS but tying the code into an object oriented language like Ruby allowed the pieces of the web development puzzle to come together. Additionally, I enjoyed working on group projects because I was able to act as both a teacher and a student. Everyone had a great attitude and truly wanted their classmates to succeed.
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4. How do you feel coding is going to help you as you reach your career goals & has your perspective changed on the importance of learning to code at all?

TTS was the perfect next step to advance my career. I knew I wanted to be a developer and work at a small startup where I could make a difference on a daily basis. Fellow students came from a diverse range of backgrounds (architecture, business, design, etc) and it was motivating to see how passionate they became about programming. We attended hackathons and Ruby meet ups together, and it became clear that if you want to work in the technology industry learning to code is a very smart move; it will open many doors. 

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5. As of now, what has been your favorite networking session? (guest speaker, company tour, etc.)
 

All of the speakers and tours were wonderful! My favorite tour was definitely Mail Chimp and my favorite speaker was Tom from Gather.

The people at Mail Chimp have it good. Their office is the coolest, most unique workplace I’ve ever seen. Each room is painted with an original mural by a local or international artist. There aren’t typical conference rooms; just a few rooms with couches, some game areas, and let’s not forget the Octane espresso machine in the kitchen.

Tom was an engaging speaker and a great teacher. He walked us through some angular.js code which was all new to me, but seemed intuitive after being immersed in Ruby on Rails. It was inspiring to hear the story of how many pivots his company, Gather, endured on the journey to where they are today: a large event planning service.

6.  Your (exciting) plans now that you’re officially a TTS graduate? 

I was extremely fortunate to find a job at TimeOut Labs (formerly Hugecity) as a UI/UX developer. It is a perfect continuation from TTS because their backend is built using the language I spent 8 weeks learning, Ruby on Rails. I’m able to merge front-end design with application development and I’m loving every minute of it (even the minutes I’m banging my head on the desk trying to interpret an error message). Also, it doesn’t hurt that I’m working on some very cool products that list events aggregated from Facebook. I’m really excited about the months ahead, and being a part of a company whose work I admire, and whose product I use on a daily basis.


Have your own ideas you’re ready to pursue? Learn to code! We’re currently accepting people ready to build something BIG in all of our exciting TTS campuses, learn more about our program here: http://bit.ly/1lh6BCy

Graduate Spotlight: Annika Schauer, Navy Veteran & Partner at Asheville Tech Startup, Hotwax

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One of our greatest thrills at Tech Talent South is seeing students from all walks of life come to us excited to begin learning a new skill set and going back out into the world ready to build something big!  From starting to collaborate together on their goals in the program to planning their path after graduation, there is a lot of inspiration to be found when students come together from different backgrounds.  Speaking of all walks of life…

When someone says that she was serving as a United States diplomat only a few months prior, you know that person has a pretty big reason why she wants to learn how to code, not to mention the rich background and unique perspective this person would bring to the tech industry.  Of course this isn’t all theoretical, TTS graduate Annika Schauer is our graduate spotlight of the week, and we’re so excited to share her TTS experience with you guys! 

We sat down with Annika to discuss her move back to Asheville (aka ‘Beer City’ as we call it!), why TTS was exactly where she needed to be, & what she’s doing now with coding! Hint: she’s working on launching a really cool startup! Beer, awesome startup, and the gorgeous mountain views? Where can we sign up?! 

So tell us more about your background?

I’m a Navy veteran and was serving until just a few months ago as a diplomat overseas (Sudan, Dubai, India, Tunisia).  I decided to come back to Asheville because of many things.  The two main drivers were that I wanted to hang out more with my immediate family whom I’d seen little of over the last 10 years, and I wanted to start a business that grows tech jobs in America - something that concerned me when I looked first hand at the vast extent of our outsourcing of middle class jobs overseas to places like Bangalore.

Little known fact about me:  Hallmark commercials make me cry!

 What were some reasons you decided you wanted to learn to code and why did you feel it was particularly important?

While I was overseas, I started reading more and more about these super-intense coding schools that develop skills that were previously limited to computer science majors.  I thought this was a huge development and something I definitely wanted to be a part of.  I’m a partner in a tech startup called Hotwax.  Hotwax is a database-driven website generator, and while my concern falls squarely into the operations and finance side, I felt like I needed a lot more credibility if I was going to make my position in this company as effective as I wanted to be.  I got that with TTS.

Why did you decide TTS was the best place for you to learn how to code?

I looked at a bunch of schools; Hack Reactor and Hackbright were the main ones starting out.  I had no idea there was a bootcamp closer to me. As it turned out, while I was researching some things happening at Mojo Coworking in AVL, I stumbled upon the TTS program.  It was exactly the right location and timeline for me, the curriculum looked good, and it was affordable (relatively speaking), compared to some of the other programs available.  What really sealed it for me was speaking personally to Richard and Betsy.  They pointed out the importance of having a local alumni network and making connections with local businesses, something that wouldn’t be available to me at a further flung program.  This turned out to be the biggest selling point—and the biggest benefit I’ve enjoyed from the program I attended in Asheville.

What was your favorite part of the program? 

In addition to learning how Ruby on Rails works (which, I’m told, is a huge thing to have on my resume these days in Asheville), it was really wonderful to meet members of the local business community.  In particular, TTS introduced me into a very positive working relationship with Josh Dorfmann from Venture Asheville and the Asheville Chamber of Commerce.  Through this relationship, we ended up presenting for Hotwax at the local Ignite conference right after the TTS session ended, and we got some excellent press and introductions.  Oh, and the instructor, Nathan Batson, was a wonderful presenter—equal parts patient and engaging.  

What were some goals you had coming into the program and how have they progressed as your knowledge of coding has grown? 

I had 2 goals going into TTS: 1) get enough basic knowledge of the software development process to speak credibly about my business to my employees, and 2) make lasting connections in the local business community—this being especially important as I’m a new transplant to Asheville.  I feel that I’ve accomplished both of these goals through TTS, and my money was well spent on the program.

As a new TTS graduate
what would you say is your main focus with your new skill set? 

My main concern right now is launching Hotwax Websites out of beta into general circulation.  It’s a huge project, and it’s great to see it starting to get some traction.  Right now we’re just a few 16-20-hour days away from launch, and it’s been a long haul for all involved! 
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Want to learn more about what they’re doing over at Hotwax? Check them out!: http://hotwaxwebsites.com


Interested in making your own ideas a reality? We’re currently accepting passionate people who are ready to build something big! Begin your journey in the TTS community and 
apply here: http://techtalentsouth.com

Graduate Spotlight: Amy Beaver, Founder of My Chef’s Table

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There is always a loud ‘Awesome!!!’ in the office merged with some imaginary multi-colored confetti from the TTS team when we see one of our graduates seriously rocking what they’ve set out to accomplish.  After all, we want to teach each and every student that they’re capable of learning something new and using it to build something they’re passionate about! Our program can allow for that to happen- so why not go for it!

So naturally, we were excited when we caught up with TTS graduate, Amy Beaver. She’s the founder of the impressive newly launched, My Chef’s Table. A chef marketplace application that fuses Amy’s interest for connecting diners (or hosts) to top chefs around town for a unique at-home dining experience, with the ease of technology.  Amy is also a business developer with the local startup, Gather.  Needless to say, she’s a great example of what you can achieve as a woman in tech, with some amazing entrepreneurial spirit- you go girl!

Tell us a little about yourself and your background!

 I have been in sales my whole career (6+ years),  and am very passionate about health & wellness, and have an entrepreneurial bug!

What were some reasons you wanted to learn to code & why did you feel TTS was the right fit for you?

I wanted to learn to code because I constantly have entrepreneurial ideas and the toughest person to find is a technical ‘co-founder.’  So, I took it into my own hands.  I thought that, at the least, it would give me a better understanding of what goes into the development process which allows me to communicate my ideas better with the given knowledge.

As a TTS graduate, what was your favorite part of the program?

The people.  We had a lot of great people participating.  It was neat to see the various backgrounds of the students.

Nowadays, you’re working for a startup known as Gather, which helps to connect people to their perfect venue for private and large group events. Tell us a little about your position and how learning to code has tied in!

I have actually gone back to my sales roots and currently handle business development for Gather.  I think understanding the development process allows me to better communicate with our CTO.

You attended ATL Startup Weekend with some pretty big plans- and placed 2nd! What were some ways you feel TTS helped to prepare you to go out there and rock!

Startup Weekend is a very fast-paced weekend where, as the team lead, you have to be the glue that holds the team together to make sure the business plan, design, and development all come together in time for the presentation on Sunday.  Learning to code helps tremendously in communication with the development team and understanding what goes into building your application.  At one point on Saturday, one of my teammates drew out the table values he was going to build into the database and had me review them to make sure nothing was missing.  It is neat to actually understand what is going on.  Luckily, I had such an awesome dev. team that they took that portion onto their shoulders.

At Startup Weekend this past weekend we placed 2nd, which I was thrilled about. I had such an amazing team (Grant Stevens, Mike Lorey, Matt Farmer, Mike Rivera, Matt Ronemous, Char-Lynn Griffiths, Riaz Virani, and Raj Parikh) who all contributed in different ways and made my idea and vision come to life.  Very thankful for them!

My Chef’s Table (www.mychefstable.com) connects diners (or hosts) with the top chefs in Atlanta to create unique, intimate dining experiences in their own home.  Imagine hosting a dinner party with friends and being able to pick the chef from your favorite restaurant!  That is what we plan to accomplish with My Chef’s Table.

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You have some pretty exciting things happening your way (congrats!) What are some goals within this context that you’re working on right now & how has learning to code helped you to reach them? 

Right now I am working full-time with Gather - the number of restaurants we work with has almost tripled since I started working with them in business development in January.  We have expanded from Atlanta & Charleston into over 15 cities!  So it is very exciting times in Gatherland (oh, and we’re hiring)!

I am also evaluating possibilities with My Chef’s Table at the moment.  It has been so well received by chefs and hosts alike and I have been invited to pitch at the Atlanta Startup Village event at Atlanta Tech Village on May 19th. 

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                (My Chef’s Table pitching at Atlanta Startup Weekend!)

For anyone who wants to keep up with our progress, you can signup on our website www.mychefstable.com and find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @mychefstable!