With a background in Computer Engineering and coding since his time at university, Roberto has a very interesting take on why he joined our program. Learning to code is a huge skill set in gaining more opportunities, but Tech Talent South is not only about learning to code; It’s about joining a community of like-minded people on a mission to change something for the better through technology. With Roberto’s interest in all things startups, he was interested in gaining more hands-on experience in a startup-sprouting city and seeing the business side of learning to code.
Learning and seeing more about how coding can create grassroots movements, businesses, and web applications was especially a driving force in Roberto's decision to join our program. Where is he now? Well, he's launching an app. for Code For America to help citizens in Puerto Rico see where crimes are being committed. It helps his community through better preparing families and making them more aware of their surroundings. Plus, he's about to make the move to Berlin to join a startup, interning as a Ruby on Rails developer! Can we say, awesome!
Check out our full interview with Roberto as he dishes about his love for startups, why he knew TTS was the right fit, and some exciting opportunities that are coming his way!
So, tell us a little bit about yourself and your background:
I’m a passionate Puerto Rican coder that loves startups, innovation and new technologies. My background is in Computer Engineering, I have been coding since the beginning of my university career. I currently live in Puerto Rico where I work as a freelance developer. I volunteer as civic hacker for the Code For America Puerto Rico Brigade. I enjoy participating in Hackatons and Startup Weekends.
What were some reasons you decided TTS was the right fit for you?
Originally I was going to apply to a similar program in San Francisco. However, I then talked to one of my best friends in Atlanta who was also interested in joining a bootcamp, he told me about the new TTS program in Atlanta. I made an instant decision. It costs half of my expected price and I have friends in Atlanta and love the city- I was all in. More than learning to code Ruby on Rails with my background experience already at hand, I was looking to learn more about startups. The community in Atlanta is growing fast, that was an instant attraction for me. My friend, who is a serial entrepreneur, guided me through the Atlanta startup community and taught me to think more on the business side of the lines.
Why do you personally believe coding is so important to learn today & how do you feel it has helped your reach your current goals?
I do code for a living and we are in great demand. Coding stimulates creativity to solve problems. Learning to code today is important because tomorrow more jobs will require you to know how to code. We depend more on technology- the technology that we need to adapt to our needs. We, the coders, can create the software that the future wants. Everybody in the job market already knows how to use MS Word and PowerPoint. What can you do to stand over them? What is your leverage? The answer probably is that you know how to code. You will not only be able to use software (just like everyone), but you will be able to build yours and make it fit to your needs (only coders).
Your favorite startup, guest speaker, or local business connection you made while in the program:
My favorite startup we visited during TTS is TripLingo. I love to travel and they create a very useful tool to help travelers to communicate in a foreign language. Probably will be an essential tool for me very soon!
What was your favorite part of the program?
I can’t say there was a specific favorite part, but the combination of people from different backgrounds with the same purpose- learning to code, and the awesome teaching skills and experience of our instructor made the whole program my favorite part. In addition, I really liked that the program encourages students to participate in activities outside the classroom. I participated in every activity I could get in, like Atlanta Startup Village, Startup Weekend, SW Next, just to say some.
What’s brewing for you now & what are some cool goals you have set with coding for the future? (Because I know you have some exciting things coming up! aka..Germany!)
In the next few weeks I will be joining a startup in Germany as a Rails Developer intern. I’m very excited for this opportunity, it will definitely get me out of the comfort zone (I have to learn German the hard way.) Along with that, pretty soon I will be launching an app under Code For America to help citizens in Puerto Rico visualize where crimes are happening, so they can know what’s going on in their communities and act according to their situations.
Graduate Spotlight: Chris Jones, Graphic Designer & Founder of SeeJones Creative + Passionate Community Problem-Solver
(Leading a group of students from the Atlanta University Center in painting a mural at a local high school; Martin Luther King Day of Service 2014)
A true humanitarian for his community and passionate about merging his talents with the greater good, Chris is currently helping local visionaries and mission-driven organizations bring their ideas to life in a crowded marketplace with his new business, SeeJones Creative. He also works with a local non-profit by-day that helps to build families through adoption options. It’s a no-brainer that Chris strives to be a true community activist in everything he does.
When we caught up with him to talk about his experience in our program, we were thrilled to see that Tech Talent South was a big inspiration point for Chris starting his own business. Not to mention, getting to hear how he has applied learning to code with helping his clients’ visions come to life with his knowledge and knack for illustration. If there is one thing we have learned from Chris it’s that passion, ever-evolving knowledge, and helping people through your career path is something that will continue to inspire other artists, entrepreneurs, and new thinkers, alike.
Check out our interview with Chris and learn how coding is helping his business’ goals and mission, plus hear more about his thoughts on being a part of the TTS community!
Tell us a bit about: your background, your exciting new business, and how Atlanta ended up being your home, sweet, home?
I grew up in a small town in west Tennessee. There wasn’t a whole lot to do there, so I kept myself occupied by doing things like drawing, writing, and teaching myself basic HTML. I had an art teacher that took notice of my drawing abilities and started entering me into competitions (and I won a few!) Later, I learned about graphic design and decided to pursue it as a career. I earned a BFA from the University of Tennessee and worked in corporate communications for several years before coming to Atlanta about a year and a half ago for a job opportunity. By day, I work for a national non-profit that helps build families. By night, I work on my business and try to take in the city. I love that there’s so much opportunity here and enjoy taking advantage of all that Atlanta has to offer.
It’s been my dream to own and operate my own graphic design firm for a long time. I just didn’t know when the time was right. I went back to school and got an MBA in Marketing, and then finally got to a point where I told myself to ‘just start.’ This past Christmas I gave myself the gift of business ownership and registered SeeJones Creative, LLC with the state and got my business license. SeeJones Creative’s goals are to design, inspire, and empower impactful visual communications for visionaries. I’m passionate about helping people seeking to make a positive impact in the world realize those dreams and reach their target audiences on paper and online. We create marketing materials for mission-driven organizations and visionary leaders.
After moving to Atlanta- what was the ‘flashpoint’ in deciding you wanted to learn to code with TTS?
I wanted to update my skills. One sure thing about technology is that it’s constantly changing. My career after college revolved more around illustration and print design, so while I had learned basic HTML and some CSS years ago, web design has changed so much since I was in undergrad. The word “app” wasn’t a household term the way that it is now. I knew how to make a cool looking interface, but it’s helpful to be able to actually know what’s going on in the backend, and to be able to make the app work.
A web project came up at my job and I wanted to be able to add value to my role through being able to code. Then, I found out about Tech Talent South and the rest is history.
What is something you learned during your time in the program that you feel you use almost daily in your current business endeavors?
During my time in the program, we hand-coded and built a blog and an e-commerce application through Ruby on Rails. Part of the content-marketing strategy for my company will entail a bit of blogging, and it’s helpful to have the knowledge of how comments, posts, tags, and all the different components of a site are generated so I can customize things as I see fit. Learning how to use Github to push code to the web has already come in handy, when collaborating on a project with developers, and learning frameworks like Bootstrap is helping me get my own business website up and running.
How has learning to code helped the mission and goals of SeeJones Creative?
Learning to code helps the mission and goals of my business by enabling me to make my clients’ vision come to life. I’m in the business of creative problem solving, so if a client solution entails a web app that, for instance, needs to help them locate customers in a particular area, I now have the knowledge to either offer that service or to effectively communicate with an experienced developer in their own language in order to collaborate or bring them in on the project.
What was your favorite aspect of joining the TTS community in retrospect?
I really love the mantra of Tech Talent South, which is ‘Learn to Code, and Do Something Big.’ It’s part of what’s motivated me to step out and build my own company. One of my favorite aspects was the exposure to the Atlanta tech and startup scene. Not only did we learn to code, but we also learned about places and opportunities where we could do that, whether looking for a new career or setting out on our own. There are a lot of really exciting things going on in the city of Atlanta and TTS opened my eyes to all of that.
About a month ago, I participated in my first Hackathon and it was an awesome experience. I probably never would have done that without being exposed to the concept and benefits of TTS. I also appreciate access to the Tech Talent South alumni network and that I still keep in contact with the founders and my instructor even though I completed the class months ago. There’s so much to learn, so it’s nice to know that I can go back and ask questions, brush up on a certain area, and connect with future students and speakers.
Your favorite startup, guest speaker, or local business connection you made while in the program:
Even though the majority of the program focuses on the back-end side of web development, I really appreciated that one of our classmates, Sarah Hudson, provided a dedicated session on front-end design and CSS. Being a very visual person myself, learning more about CSS coding, how to implement the Bootstrap framework, and use Google Fonts really made me want to hit the ground running in applying what I learned to building websites more quickly.
So, of course we want to know!: What are some long-term goals you foresee with SeeJones Creative & how do you see coding aligning with your future business endeavors?
Right now, I’m a one-man show, so of course, I want the company to grow and I’m looking forward to building my creative team and one day opening a dedicated office space in Atlanta. It’s really important for me that SeeJones Creative will play an active role in the communities that it works with, so as my business grows, I would like to give back- whether it’s serving as a mentor for a student that wants to learn about art, design, or coding; creating a scholarship for a young person that wants to pursue a similar career path; or producing a book or eBook. Coming from where I’m from, I did not see many professionals in these fields outside of TV or magazines, so I want to help inspire the next generation of artists who own their own businesses and know how to code.
Want to work with Chris? Learn more about Chris and his work over at SeeJones Creative, below!
About Chris: http://about.me/seejoneswork
Design work: www.seejoneswork.com
requina asked: My son hates his online school .... He reads code.. Plays extremely well And streams! Are there schools that can help him with his amazing talent?
That’s awesome- so nice to hear from you! Absolutely- there is! We actually offer a Youth Code Program where we teach kids’ code, animation, learning more about technology in the ‘real world’, among other topics. We also are about to launch ‘Kids’ Code Thursdays’ in our Atlanta and Charlotte campuses, where kids’ can come to a free class with a different topic each week so they can build on what they are learning!
Where are you located? Our campuses are in Atlanta & Athens Georgia, as well as Charlotte, Raleigh, and Asheville, NC. If you are not located in these areas- we are a startup that likes to drive innovation- so we may even begin offering these programs through Webinars!
Let us know, and I’ll include the link to our Youth Code Camps, below!
This week is all about connecting with our students and catching their creativity in full motion. From launching new ventures to finding new ways to grow business, there is a certain optimism in the air and we’re digging it. It’s great to see Tech Talent South alumni out there building awesome things with technology.
For our latest TTS alumni interview, we caught up with Adia Dightman. Adia managed to create a knockout newly-launched new media website called Creative Nuova (all while finishing her degree in Journalism!). Its aim: To put the most creative and innovative artists, entrepreneurs and designers in the Atlanta limelight via peer-driven creative storytelling.
- Check out Creative Nuova’s ‘Beneath The Veil’ interview & documentary series for a look at some inspiring Atlanta locals!
Tell us a little about yourself and your background before deciding to embark on your journey at Tech Talent South.
I am currently completing my last year in college at Clark Atlanta University studying Journalism. I am originally from Houston, Texas.
What initially appealed to you when looking at the Code Immersion Program? What made you want the skill set?
I love social media and I wanted to learn about technology and the programs that allow me to share and connect on sites such as Twitter and Facebook. When I was introduced to the program, I never thought I would want to code professionally- I still do not believe I could be a real code professional. However, I am grateful for the experience and the knowledge!
Now that you’re officially an Alumni, how do feel about the value of learning to code in today’s job market now that you can see the full spectrum of possibilities?
Learning how to code is a skill set that’s ever-evolving. I believe having the knowledge of Tech Talent South’s code program is a plus for personal and professional growth. The world is changing and being a part of this tech boom is extremely important to the next generation.
What was something you felt particularly excited about when you started?
Every time we did a new project in class I was super excited. The best part of the class was learning how to create a landing page. I was so excited about the page that I remember I instantly shared it on Twitter!
Overall, how do you feel about your decision to take on coding and joining the TTS community?
The decision to join TTS was something I needed to prove to myself and my community that African-Americans and women can hold up to a new challenge. Especially towards a field that does not have a lot of both.
So, you are officially a woman in tech, and that’s awesome. How do you feel learning to code has empowered you personally?
I went out frightened about this new ability. I was not sure if my brain could handle such a complicated language, but I pulled through and I completed the program. The journey with TTS was the greatest decision of my life. I survived. That is all that matters.
What are you up to now! And, what’s the future brewing for you? Any new plans?
I just launched my company Creative Nuova, which is a new media website. I want to take CN to new heights especially in the South. I am also trying to complete college.
Check out more about Adia and her awesome newly launched media website, Creative Nuova!
Meet Tech Talent South alumni Megan Rhinehart. She’s the co-founder of Zuit, an online boutique offering classic & stylish suits for professional women. Megan is an amazing example of the opportunities learning to code can offer and we couldn’t be more excited she is a part of the TTS community!
Find out her takeaways from the course, and how she plans to use code to get into social justice and expand her business:
Tell us a bit about yourself and what initially sparked your interest in the tech scene.
I am the Co-Founder of Zuit, custom tailored business suits for women online. I wanted to learn to code for my own professional development as well as to better lead our team as we grow in the future. I had a great group of Tech Talent South students on my team for Startup Weekend where we won 2nd Place Overall, as well as 1st Place in Peer & Best Design.
What was most appealing to you when looking at our program, and what did you feel your overall goal was when learning to code?
The most appealing parts about TTS are that it’s affordable and they offer a part-time program. While it was an investment and it took time away from immediate business needs, I see the long-term return as invaluable.
What was something you felt particularly excited about when you started?
It was so exciting to build my first app and deploy it on Heroku. It was very simple but it was a great feeling to get to say, “I built that!”
As a Tech Talent South alumni, how do feel about the value of learning to code in today’s job market now that you can see the full spectrum of possibilities?
The job market follows consumer behavior, which continues to move digital. While it is extremely difficult to get these jobs with little experience, there is unlimited access to learn what you need to achieve your goals.
Now that you’ve graduated, how would you review your decision to join the Tech Talent South program?
I am happy I did it. I could have eventually taught myself but I needed to learn fast and I didn’t want to do it alone. My classmates and teacher were awesome. We continue to support each other and think of the program as the beginning of our tech endeavors, which I hear can be the hardest part.
What was something specific you learned that you feel you are using often in your new endeavors?
I learned how to generate Rails apps, understand the structure of an app and how to search for answers as I debug, which is often! I learned how to collaborate on projects in Github (which I hope to add to one day) and find gems that are relevant to my project.
What was your favorite startup or tech company that you connected with/learned from during your time with Tech Talent South?
I was lucky enough to have the President of Kanga, a fast-growing startup in Atlanta, as my mentor. I got to pick his brain, meet his team, and he offered to connect me to his networks. TTS asked what my goals were before matching me with a mentor which was so helpful.
So, you are officially a woman in tech, and that’s awesome. How do you feel learning to code has empowered you personally?
I feel like I am now on the inside of the tech community. I can speak the language, I am growing my skills and I know what my business needs. Beyond Zuit, there are open source projects I can’t wait to collaborate on, especially related to social justice. I have a Masters in Social Work and with new code skills and community networks, I feel like I can do more. I have an idea I am thinking of pitching at Atlanta’s next GovAthon.
What are you up to right now, and what’s in store for the future?
I am working on Zuit and continuing to connect with the Atlanta Tech community through ATDC, Rails Girls and my TTS classmates. I am preparing an email campaign (sign up at www.zuit.co to see!) and working on our website so customers can enter in personalized measurements.
Abby, our very own CLT Community Organizer, is a bit like super woman. She’s dabbled in a little bit of everything that’s awesome in the Queen City. From being on the front lines at Packard Place and an amazing non-profit, to startups and Homeland, she’s managed to come out with an infectious positive spirit and love for her community, not to mention a serious soft spot for startups and entrepreneurship. She’s also a Common-Market connoisseur (her heart & house lies in Plaza-Midwood), a chocolate lover, & a practicing ballerina for 22 years. (Pretty awesome, right?)
We knew one of our newest campuses was in good hands with someone who understood & genuinely loves this awesome city as much as we do! Abby’s dedicated to making sure our Charlotte campus rocks and is constantly striving to make our goals & initiatives benefit the community around us! Our Code Immersion Program kicks off April 21st at Industry Charlotte!
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am originally from Connecticut. I landed in North Carolina by way of East Carolina University. Everyone asks how I got to ECU from Connecticut- truthfully, I just wanted something different than what I was used to and ECU was it. I majored in Sports Science, but clearly found my niche in local startups and more community-driven positions.
After graduation, I did end up moving back home, but quickly realized that I needed to get back to North Carolina. Charlotte was actually a semi-random decision. A lot of my college friends had moved to Raleigh and again, I wanted something different. So, I roped my 2 friends into moving with me and it was awesome! It was honestly, the best decision. I got the job as Office Manager at Packard Place soon after I moved and that was really my first introduction to Charlotte’s tech scene- I was totally hooked. There were only 2 of us on staff at Packard so it was super cool to be apart of something from the beginning. I learned all about the different companies and personalities in the startup scene. Got to plan and attend all kinds of events. I was totally in love with the energy that startups emitted and I knew that I had the entrepreneur spirit in me.
While I was at Packard, we participated in the DNC and hosted organizations (Politico, The PPL, Charlotte Creates, etc.) and events out of the building for the whole week. It was the most amazing circus I have ever been a part of. It was totally exhausting, but so worth it. I left Packard a couple weeks after the Convention, and ended up switching focus and opted to work for a local non-profit, Florence Crittenton Services of NC, handling their PR and events. That job completely fed my soul and I hope to be connected to that agency forever. During this time, I also dabbled in Charlotte’s production scene. I worked on a Hallmark movie, Homeland, and various commercials as a Production Assistant. Now that was so fun! The 16 hour work day wasn’t ideal, but talk about getting a job out of your comfort zone! I learned a whole lot about getting things done quickly, and I will forever be grateful for that!
I was having fun, but I missed the tech scene so I accepted a job at a local dev shop. The project I was hired for had run its course and it was at the moment that I ran into Betsy. After hearing about the goals of TTS and our mission, it felt like the right mix of all the things I love to do (startups, operations, community involved, meeting cool people!) and it has been so awesome since.
And, of course, some fun facts: I love food and I’m completely addicted to chocolate (like seriously addicted.) I have been a ballerina for 22 years. That past 5 years I have not been as diligent about going to adult ballet- but I swear I will get back into it! I also love real estate. I’m in love with my hood’, Plaza Midwood. I’m a Common Market fanatic and do not leave the neighborhood if I don’t have to!
How do you foresee Tech Talent South fitting into the local Charlotte community?
I have only been in Charlotte for about 3 years, but I have seen a huge push for grassroot companies and ideas. Charlotte has a long history and I believe it has had some pain points trying to move into the national tech scene. The nice thing about Charlotte is that it is a melting pot of people. As you know, it is rare to find a native Charlottean! With people coming in from the outside, it keeps the ideas in Charlotte fresh. The struggle now is keeping the talent and movement in the city instead of letting it fly off to NY or San Fran!
What do you think are some of the most exciting aspects that Tech Talent South has to offer Charlotte?
I think the most exciting aspect is that we are training talent in Charlotte and encouraging them to stay in Charlotte. As I mentioned above, Charlotte seems to have talent stay in town for a split second before they get lured to other parts of the country. I see TTS grads forming companies in Charlotte and growing the startup scene because more local-focused businesses seem to be sprouting up everywhere lately! We need more forward movement to really launch Charlotte into the spotlight and I think a solid tech talent pool is essential in getting us there!
As a young professional, why do you think the Code Immersion Program is so appealing to the millennial generation & how do you see it helping young people become entrepreneurs/bringing new opportunities to the Charlotte community?
I think coding is so appealing to the millennials because our generation is all about doing it ourselves. I think we are a unique generation because we were born into a time without the internet and basically grew up watching the tech scene explode. We are hooked on building things ourselves because never has there ever been a time where you can so easily start a business at any age. A code immersion program gives our generation the skills that we are craving. And not only for our generation, but for older generations, too. This age is all about reinvention and innovation. Learning to code is one of the fastest ways to bring your idea to life- and in the tech world, speed is key.
Tell us something you’re especially thrilled about for the firs Charlotte cohort on April 21st.
I am really excited to meet new people!! I have been in the startup world ever since I’ve been in Charlotte and since Charlotte’s tech scene is relatively small, I feel like I have met everyone. People in all kinds of industries are reaching out to TTS and it is in those new connections that I am most excited for. I am also excited for our company tours. We have a lot of cool local companies on deck and I can’t wait to learn more about them and how they are contributing to the Charlotte business ecosystem.
Q: What would you say is your own personal goal as our very own, awesome, Charlotte Community Organizer (we know you have wonderful things planned!):
My goal is two-fold: #1, I want to see this program grow into a Charlotte tech industry standard. #2, My other aspiration is to strengthen the female presence in the tech scene. I am so passionate about women in business and I think knowing how to code is a killer skill for women to have in their back pocket!
*Attention UNCC & Davidson College Students: Davidson students involved in the Entrepreneurship Program & UNCC students involved in the 49erFoundry will get a 50% discount on our first two Charlotte cohorts! Want to learn more? Contact Abby: Abby@techtalentsouth.com
For our new startup series, we’re excited to be interviewing some seriously talented people and learning more about the amazing startups that are bringing good things to the Southeast.
MyClassicGarage is a web application and software startup based out of Mooresville, NC that’s essentially changing the scene for classic car lovers everywhere. Its cloud-based technology gives power to car collectors who need better ways to track and visualize their vehicle investments. Beyond being a valuable resource, MyClassicGarage is also a fun and engaged community for users to share and connect over classic cars.
We recently interviewed the VP of Product Development & Operations at MyClassicGarage, Tanner Fritz.
*Want to learn more about MyClassicGarage and be in the running to win a new car? Don’t forget to check out the bottom of our interview with Tanner!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a proud alum and former point guard of FGCU (aka “Dunk City’) and I ended up in Charlotte seven years ago to complete a MBA from UNCC.
Life in Charlotte is fantastic, I couldn’t ask for a better city. I’ve been fortunate to work alongside some very smart people in Charlotte who are now founders / advisors / investors to a handful of tech companies / startups based in Charlotte which led to me take a role within Tykoon in 2012 (then based in Charlotte). Ever since, I’ve been thrilled to watch the startup scene continue to grow.
What’s the background story of your interest in classic cars, and how did that hobby end up intertwining with MyClassicGarage?
My grandfather was an antique car salesman, which gave me an initial appreciation for cars. However, my love for technology and building a business far outweighs my affection for cars. I was connected to the founders at MyClassicGarage through some mutual tech friends.
So you’ve basically been able to infuse some of your favorite pastimes into your career- what’s the best part of being the VP of Product Development & Operations?
By far the best part about my role at MyClassicGarage is being able to contribute to all aspects of the business- from development to leadership to customer service.
Why do you think MyClassicGarage is such a gem and game-changer for classic car enthusiasts?
It’s the online comprehensive solution for tracking and managing your car or collection of cars.
The site for MyClassicGarage absolutely rocks. What gave you guys the idea to go beyond a mere ‘website’ and instead create a true online experience for car enthusiasts everywhere?
We started MyClassicGarage because there was a large technology void in the industry. Our goal is to deliver free resources and tools to car enthusiasts so they can maintain their assets more effectively. We hope our platform becomes an industry standard, thus improving the overall market by reducing fraud and giving consumers a tool to increase their car’s value.
How has Charlotte helped shape the success of MyClassicGarage?
The Charlotte region is home to some of the top automotive dealers, events, and brands. Those elements have allowed us to figure out how to propel MyClassicGarage in our early stages.
What do you think played the biggest role as far as being able to do what you love for a career?
Mentors. I’ve been able to see some of my family, friends and colleagues work as entrepreneurs. Their experience and guidance has helped me tremendously.
What does the future look like for MyClassicGarage as far as continuing innovation and technology for the site?
We plan to continue to focus on delivering the best in class online resources to the classic car market. We also see an opportunity to extend our technology platforms into other related markets in the future.
Hey you! Want to learn more about MyClassicGarage + be a part of their Project FastBack where you could win a 67’ Mustang? Yea, we thought so. Then head on over and start customizing your own design to win this baby, simply visit their site!