A New Way to Acquire Coding Talent

Originally published at David Strom’s Web Informant.

I am now working as a consultant for a non-profit that, if successful, will change the way programmers and other tech types will get hired in our industry. It is an exciting time and I wanted to share with you who they are, what they are doing, and how you can help the effort.

The organization is called LaunchCode, and I have written about them here. The idea is to improve the way job candidates get screened for open positions, and to improve the supply chain of candidates, at the same time lowering the risk of a new hire for an organization.

Finding coders is hard, especially in those parts of the country outside the traditional tech hubs. It is hard to recruit them because hiring managers are busy, or they delegate the task to recruiters who don’t understand who is needed or the skills that are required.

Some of the best programmers are people from non-traditional backgrounds, making them hard to evaluate. Many positions often go unfilled for months.

Enter LaunchCode

Last year they got started here in St. Louis by finding opportunities for people who had programming skills but hadn’t been hired because of a lack of typical credentials. They later expanded their reach by helping people take the introductory Harvard computer science class, CS50.

In the year or so that they have been around, they have managed to get more than 160 people hired in dozens of companies in town, ranging from the largest IT shops to brand new startups. It is an impressive track record.

But that isn’t enough and they aren’t satisfied. They are trying to do several things at once to expand their reach:

  • First, create a large ecosystem of educational providers that offer coding instruction, to help people who need to brush up on their skills get better. While they started with Harvard and have a great partnership there, they have since expanded into more than 20 different providers that are teaching coding classes.
  • Second, develop a better way to vet people who are ready to enter the workforce by testing practice coding knowledge and how well a candidate will work in a team. That is their real secret sauce: if you can have something akin to an SAT but to predict coding prowess rather than just college performance, hiring managers are going to take notice. Years ago I remember a friend of mine had his own coding test that worked well for him when he was looking for programmers. LaunchCode is trying to do this on a broader scale.
  • Finally, expand to other cities that have programming jobs aplenty but have had trouble hiring coders. So far they have opened an office in Miami and one is planned for Kansas City and a few other places.

That last point is where I come in. LaunchCode wants to go nationwide, and to do so they need to first find the companies that are willing to support their effort and receive coding applicants for their open positions. I am helping them with this expansion drive, and trying to enlist as many companies as I can, based on my contacts in our industry.

Here is where you help. If your company is in a position to hire coders, or if you know of someone in your circle that is in this position, email or call me and let’s chat.  I think we can help them succeed and really change the way tech hiring is done.