Once thought of as something best left to scientists and engineers, technology has seeped into all aspects of our lives. Listen to your iPhone ping, or call out “Alexa” and hear that robotic voice chirping back at you, and you’ll realize how almost all aspects of our day-to-day rely on it. But though we love, utilize and sometimes lament technology, understanding it on a deeper level can still feel a bit mysterious. That’s where Betsy Hauser Idilbi and Tech Talent South come in.
The coding boot camp, founded by Betsy, a Charlotte native, in 2013, offers courses in need-to-know topics like Ruby On Rails (ROR), UX Design for Beginners and Big Data Analytics. The classes make an education in tech accessible, whether you’re trying to level up in your career, start a business or learn a new hobby. Courses are offered in full-time or part-time sessions and are specifically designed to be accessible for both the newbie and the experienced coder looking to dig in deeper.
This kind of education is becoming increasingly important, as working professionals are tasked with much more than just mastering PowerPoint presentations and Microsoft Word if they want to advance.
“From healthcare to finance, environmental, food and beverage, education and social services, all are being overturned by technology. The trajectory of demand for these skills displays an ‘up and to the right’ so sharp that professionals in these fields are re-skilling to stay current and investing in new tech talent to keep their organizations equipped to innovate,” explains Betsy.
Though the name indicates the geographic area of focus in which the boot camp got its start, today Tech Talent South has expanded far beyond the Southeast. You’ll find programs in 11 high-growth technology cities, including Dallas, New Orleans and Phoenix, with plans to expand to two additional locations in the near future.
When asked if she ever imagined that Tech Talent South would be what it is today, Betsy’s reply reflects just how quickly the program has taken off, “Is hell no an appropriate response?” she says, “It’s definitely the most accurate one. Honestly, I couldn’t lie and claim that I knew. I branded the company Tech Talent South for crying out loud! There’s no way I would have done that if I’d known we’d be building a tech ecosystem in Columbus, Ohio.”
Tech Talent South alumni have gone on to land enviable roles with major companies like Home Depot, LendingTree and Bank of America. They’ve also built applications like Budgit, Applyable.io and Activvley. But beyond these impressive achievements, Betsy explains that many graduates also inspire others coming up behind them in the tech space. She says, “They become Meetup organizers, tech education teachers and mentors in their various spheres in their community. We like to think that we inspire or at least encourage that by placing such a value on community and mentorship within the structure of our program.”
Tech Talent South graduate Hanna Blackwell seconds the notion that the camaraderie is a major perk of life within the program. She describes the community as “convivial” and goes on to say, “Everyone in my cohort was pretty excited to be there, and that energy cycled around the group anytime we were together. Even though we weren’t building anything as a group in the first few weeks of the course, being around everyone felt very constructive, like the dream of a modern workplace, but where we’d all get coffee and nerd out over what we’d learned after class.”
The idea for this unique type of community-driven coding school came about after Betsy had a coding boot camp experience of her own in Chicago. She saw the impact this kind of education had and realized its importance for entrepreneurs. It left her wondering why these opportunities didn’t exist in her native Charlotte. From then on, she was focused on bringing tech education back to her stomping grounds in order to fuel innovation in the South.
To date, Tech Talent South has served roughly 3,000 students. Ben Butler is one such alum. He enrolled in a full-time code immersion class, as well as a machine learning course in hopes of advancing his career. At the end of his time as a student, he was offered a position at Barings in Charlotte, working alongside another Tech Talent South grad. He cites his experience as invaluable and says, “Anyone who has the drive to learn programming and web development should consider Tech Talent South. For me, it provided the last piece of the puzzle to change careers and become a web developer.”
Though the business has come a long way from Betsy’s initial vision, her biggest point of pride might seem unexpected. “Though we’ve launched in 11 cities, raised a round of investment and have built some amazing talent, I still go back to the first thing we ever did. Kids Code is a free class that we offer in every city where we have a campus. This is a way for kids to get introduced to the same concepts that our adult students are learning, and it’s totally free! I love seeing kids come up with amazing ideas while learning to code. I love being able to offer education for the entire family, and I love that we’re making these skills accessible for everyone in the cities that we have committed to educating,” she says.
Tech Talent South has grown beyond what Betsy had hoped was possible, but she still has a few items left to check off her bucket list. “When I embarked on the journey to learn to code, I didn’t know I would end up starting a program that would empower so many others, which is awesome. That said, the business side zapped me up quickly, and I unfortunately rarely get the opportunity to tinker in actual code anymore. I’m also dying to audit our Internet of Things and Machine Learning courses. So there you go, I’m jealous of our students!” she explains.
If you’re just starting to dip your toe into the tech-y waters and aren’t sure if a coding boot camp is quite up your alley, Betsy has a few suggestions about tech-focused tasks that everyone, regardless of career or age, should be able to tackle. “View the source code on a website, and please folks, learn how to clear your cookies and cache,” she suggests.
To learn more about Tech Talent South, visit techtalentsouth.com.
Keep up with the very best of the South – subscribe to StyleBlueprint here!