From waxing floors to writing code, how Albany’s software bootcamp is building a talent pipeline

Nov 2, 2017 | press

Nov 2, 2017, 7:53am EDT

By Chelsea Diana, Reporter, Albany Business Review

A software boot camp program meant to train people who are underemployed, unemployed and changing careers is starting another class after the first year of the program saw some success stories.

The program, Albany Can Code, was started last year by Annmarie Lanesey, president of the custom software development firm Greane Tree Technology, and Janet Carmosky, who brings with her decades of experience working in China – a place with powerful workforce development programs.

Carmosky and Lanesey worked with Schenectady County Community College on a semester long class to train students.

The class has doubled in size for the fall 2017 semester, with 22 students enrolled — eight in the backend class and 13 in the frontend class.

About 23 people have completed the program since last October, Carmosky said. Most of the students who have gone through the program had full-time jobs in graphic design, as dental hygienists or at Wal-Mart, and were taking the classes at night after work.

Two of the students have been hired for frontend developer jobs: one as a frontend developer for Equal Vision Records and the other as an apprentice at A&MS. The students previously worked for a limo company, and at Price Chopper, respectively. Other students who were underemployed have found jobs at a semiconductor supplier company, a digital mapping business and other companies, using their software skills to boost their resumes.

“We expected to have a few more stories, but the cultural fit for getting hired into a local software job is more of a challenge than the technology fit,” Carmosky said. “All of our other employment outcomes are people who used their experience learning to code, not to trade on those particular skills, but to demonstrate to HR that they can learn a computer language.”

Most of the people in the classes for the fall semester are already employed, by GlobalFoundries, the Times Union, the Capital District Transportation Authority and other companies. The Department of Motor Vehicles is paying to send two of their employees to the program.

“We never went into business to be a school teaching one thing to a certain group of people,” Carmosky said. “We came into this with a vision of having a talent fueled pipeline. Each of the three cohorts has been demographically different.”

In the next few months, Carmosky is focused on getting more employers engaged in the program. While individuals from software companies in the area help out by volunteering as mentors, it’s not on a companywide scale.

Carmosky said she wants companies to let them know what technology stacks, or software languages, companies use. She also wants them to consider her students for internships.

“It’s not typical for someone to go from waxing floors at Price Chopper to being a data analyst,” Carmosky said. “Someone has to give you your first job. It can give them some cultural experience without employers having to commit to full-time hire.”

Tuition for the front end web development class in partnership with SCCC Schenectady is $1,500; $1,650 for the backend development class.

Albany Can Code is financed by grants, sponsorships and money earned from developing a coding curriculum and program for K-12 schools.

The program is modeled after the nationwide trend of boot camps, where three months of intensive programming training can take someone’s salary from $20,000 to $80,000.