By Kevin Cummings, NTX Inno Staff Writer (Dallas Business Journal)
Started in 2013, San Antonio-based Codeup has been making a name for itself and helping bolster Texas’ tech and startup scene by training the next group of software developers. Now, after honing its curriculum and strengthening its ties across the state, Codeup is ready to open its second campus in Dallas.
Near the end of November, with the greenlight from the Texas Workforce Commission, the company began accepting applications for its first North Texas cohort that will begin in downtown Dallas in early 2020. It plans to have about 3 cohorts go through its 20-week program, graduating between 50 to 75 people next year.
“It seems to make good sense that we should be here; the number of jobs is more than the number of people that can do them and that’s what makes it such a great opportunity right now,” Jason Straughan, CEO and co-founder of Codeup, told NTX Inno. “We want to make sure that we are getting the people that come through our classes jobs, we want our Dallas cohorts to have the same or better employment rates than they do in San Antonio.”
What started in the corner of a coworking space in San Antonio, with people walking in and out of the space while trying to teach the class, has quickly become a well-recognized organizations for helping people transition into coding and data careers. It started with a problem Straughan and his fellow co-founders noticed in the industry. Applicants would come in for interviews at their respective companies with a wealth of knowledge about theory, but when it came to practicality and implementation, they seemed to be lacking.
“We were talking about how college is teaching people to be computer scientists like you would teach an astronomer how a telescope works,” Straughan said.
So Codeup was launched with a simple premise – teach software development like you would teach a skilled trade, with immersive learning. Over the course of the company’s 20-week program, students start coding on day one. The classes go from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by the end of it, students log about 630 classroom hours of direct experience.
“It’s day one you start writing code,” Straughan said. “How do you learn German? You speak it. How do you learn to code? It’s fingers on keyboards, and so that’s what we do.”
Codeup distinguishes itself from the numerous other similar programs out there in that it is outcome-driven, rather than profit-motivated. The co-founders of the organization are all involved in the tech industry outside of Codeup, allowing them to focus more on the curriculum than a business plan. Straughan said that in the beginning, instead of thinking about what students want to learn, Codeup went directly to the companies that would be hiring graduates and asked what skills were needed.
This has given Codeup a high job placement rate for its graduates, with more than 98 percent of alumni finding jobs in the industry. Codeup stands by its program, offering graduates a complete refund if they are unable to find a software-related job within six months.
“Now that we are growing, we’re trying to do it slow to make sure that we maintain that kind of quality on the output, because we think that’s the long-term goal,” Straughan said. “We think it’s actually the most responsible way to deliver and education product.”
Straughan credits Codeup’s 28-member team with the success of the company. The connections made from previous graduates has, in part, driven Codeup’s expansion to Dallas. In the past year, the organization has placed 17 graduates in the North Texas area with large companies like USAA and Cognizant. In addition, he said that the growth of the tech industry in the region has made it attractive not only for its relatively high tech salaries, but also because of the number of job openings.
When it opens next year in Dallas, Codeup will also focus on helping drive diversity and inclusion in the local tech workforce. The company strives to have cohorts that represent the larger demographics of the region. It also offers scholarships for disadvantaged and minority residents looking to apply. Straughan said that it is something the tech industry should be talking about more, because the software that is being developed is used by all types of people, and those people should be represented at the development of the software as well.
“I think one of the other things we really enjoy about Codeup is when I entered software development, almost everybody in that career looked like me – they were all white dudes that liked to play with computers… the industry is changing and it is becoming more diverse, and I think we have an opportunity to help kickstart that and speed up that process,” he said. “I realized that the impact we are making is really a cool experience, it’s moving to me, it really is a purpose.”