Seattle firm plans Detroit location to train Web developers

Sherri Welch | Crain’s Detroit Business

Seattle-based Code Fellows LLC has set its sights on opening a Detroit location by next summer to help meet local demand for Web and mobile developers.

The company’s CEO, Kristin Smith, a Troy native, was in town during the recent Crain’s-led Detroit Homecoming event to pave the way.

She met with organizations offering incubator and co-meeting space and with the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. and its vice president of business development, Olga Stella, whom Smith said she knew in high school.

Smith, 39, is contacting area employers as a first step in developing the local training Code Fellows will offer in the Detroit market.

Detroit has “a great growth trajectory and a lot of openness to new ideas that will help the company grow … and be part of this next evolution of what Detroit is going to be,” Smith said.

It also doesn’t hurt, she said, that since she is from metro Detroit, she has relationships with people here who can run a satellite location.

“It’s a matter of when we open in Detroit, not if we open there,” Smith said. “We’re hoping to have a presence in Detroit by next summer.”

Code Fellows, which launched a year and a half ago, teaches people to write code through three levels of courses that add up to four months of training that costs $12,000.

They range from a technology overview to an eight-week intensive focus on one of five technology tracks it offers to train would-be developers: Ruby on Rails and Full-stack Java Script for creating Web apps; iOS Development for cellphones and iPads; Front-End UX used in website design/marketing; and Python, which is used to make websites and in other data-intensive applications such as research and medical labs.

The company guarantees that within nine months of graduating, its graduates will get a job offer for at least $60,000 per year or Code Fellows will reimburse tuition.

Smith projects the company, which has graduated more than 250 people since its March 2013 launch, will reach $5 million in sales this year. More than 80 percent find jobs within three months of graduation as Web and mobile developers, and all but a few find employment as software developers within six months, Smith said.

Last week, Code Fellows announced plans to open its second location, in Portland, Ore., with the November launch of its four-week Foundations I course to teach the basics of computer science and Web development.

Demand for Web and mobile developers in Detroit is only a fraction of that in Seattle, Smith said.

Last week, Code Fellows pulled the number of jobs on in several major cities for positions in one of the five code areas it teaches. There were 3,352 openings in metro Detroit versus 5,981 in Portland, 15,766 in Seattle, and 26,334 in San Francisco.

“While Detroit isn’t as large as Seattle or San Francisco, there are still a ton of open positions that represent talent that companies have not yet found,” she said.

“We hope to make a bigger pipeline of talent so that they don’t operate without this talent for long and to help people improve their lives and careers.”

And there are lots of opportunities for growth in Detroit, she said.

Software is broadly used in the automotive industry inside vehicles, in manufacturing processes and in managing supply chain logistics, and it’s taking off in health care with the advent of electronic medical record systems and online portal communication between doctors and patients, Smith said.

Technology is also playing a big role in the operations of other traditional businesses, she said.

“In Seattle, we’ve been surprised at the breadth of industries that have this talent need,” Smith said. “It’s really going in and finding where there’s this need for talent and crafting the right curriculum” to meet it.

Since its launch in Detroit early last year, Grand Circus LLC has provided similar types of technology training to more than 500 people through workshops and boot camps held over several weeks, said Grand Circus CEO and co-founder Damien Rocchi.

He couldn’t say how many of the total are working now in jobs tied to that training, since not all were seeking new jobs, but he points to stories of former pizza delivery drivers and personal trainers now working in Web development and quality assurance testing of code.

Rocchi also said that of 42 people who took place in a July-August boot camp for .NET developers and quality assurance testers, 70 percent are in jobs already. And 100 percent of the 12 people trained as junior iOS developers in a separate, apprenticeship program with Detroit Labs have been hired.

“There’s a chronic shortage in some of these new skills, and we think Detroit is a great place to build a business,” Rocchi said. “We feel strongly about building a business by doing good and creating jobs for Detroit.”

If Code Fellows is able to help out with that mission, “we think it’s a great thing,” he said.

Sherri Welch: (313) 446-1694, Twitter: @sherriwelch



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