During the summer of 2013 three local entrepreneurs took a big risk by doing something that had never been done in Utah before — open a developer coding school.
They felt their curriculum was the best in state, and that 21st century jobs were calling for the skills that they could teach. When 60 applicants applied for their first cohort, however, it became immediately clear that Utah was ripe for educational alternatives now.
18 months later DevMountain is the Beehive State's leading coding school/programmer bootcamp, and the largest of its kind.
The rapid growth of Utah's technical community and the immediate success of the skill-based classes have led some to re-evaluate the cost and time associated with obtaining a traditional four-year degree.
One need look no further than Google's chairman and head of hiring, Laszlo Bock, who recently shared with the New York Times some thoughts on how he analyzes and sorts through the mountain of bright applicants that come across his desk.
Google values the skills and experiences that candidates obtain from a transitional four-year degree, but a degree doesn't tell them much of anything about a candidate's skills or hustle.
"When you look at people who don't go to school and make their way in the world, those were exceptional human beings. And we should do everything we can to find those people," Bock Said.
Bock continued, "Many businesses require a college degree; at Google, the word college isn't even in its official guide to hiring. With the rise of self-paced college courses and vocational learning, plenty of driven people can teach themselves all the necessary skills to work at a company."
Offering a rigorous and stimulating 12 week course in web development and IOS development, along with part time classes in the same subjects, the bootcamp industry fills in the gaps at a fraction of the time and cost of a four-year, or masters degree — all the while bolstering an impressive graduation / placement rates for students.
A casual perusal of available job listings shows a high demand for coding, IT and web development experience. In the Utah market alone there aren't enough trained developers to fill every job listing.
Salaries for entry and junior level positions vary across the country, but in Utah the average starting salary is between $40,000 and $70,000 a year, and that increases with more niche specialties like mobile development experience or mastery of newer coding languages.
Tyler Richards, co-founder of DevMountain says, "What employers are looking for is someone who fits in their company culture and has the skills needed for the job. What students are looking for are passionate, and knowledgeable instructors that teach at an institution that is plugged into the tech community. They are looking for a school that has the means to get them amazing jobs."
The relationship between tech employers and coding bootcamps is one of collaboration. Employers share feedback on what skills are needed most for newcomers and bootcamps in turn send talented students to fill open positions. In some cases coding bootcamps invite tech employers to visit the classrooms to meet with and recruit students directly.
Richards said his program graduates more than 80 students every 12 weeks. "We can take a dedicated student from ground zero, to a world-class beginner developer in 12 short weeks." said Richards. Graduates go on to work across the country for coastal tech companies like Reddit and Zendesk and with local tech leaders like Domo and MX.
All it takes is an obsessive desire to learn, a commitment to the program and a laptop.
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