Resilient Coders, a free and equity-focused coding bootcamp, is coming to Pittsburgh.
Grounded by a mission to advance opportunities for people of color in the tech industry, the Boston-based nonprofit trains students for careers in software development to further community and economic justice for those employees of color.
“We need to materially shift tech culture,” founder and Executive Director David Delmar Sentíes told Technical.ly. “That must be led by Black and Latinx folks, and that’s going to require alumni from Resilient Coders and alumni from programs like ours, having the opportunity to meet each other and essentially infiltrate the tech industry and cause the shift themselves.”
Resilient Coders expanded to Philadelphia at the end of last year with a virtual pilot cohort of five students (along with 21 from Boston), who graduated at the end of May. All five of those Philly students reportedly ended the bootcamp with at least one job offer, and an average starting salary of $127,000.
Now, the 20-week program, which trains people of color without college degrees in software development, will launch a pilot cohort of 12 students in Pittsburgh with support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
“Pittsburgh had not really been on my radar until they reached out,” said Delmar. “They essentially afforded us the opportunity to have an exploratory process, and so that meant that we were able to apply a certain degree of resources to just getting to know Pittsburgh, and its people. And, I mean, I was just blown away.”
Delmar and his team not only met with potential hiring partners and tech leaders, but also with organizations like Community Forge, a community center offering business growth resources in Wilkinsburg, and Manchester Bidwell Corporation, an arts and career training center in Manchester. Resilient Coders partnered with similar institutions when they launched in Philadelphia, but Delmar noticed a difference in the smaller neighborhoods of Pittsburgh.
“Something I think that’s unique about Pittsburgh is that everybody’s on board to come together for Pittsburgh,” he said, remarking on the shared motivation he saw to leverage local talent in tech. “What sticks out to me is the fact that Pittsburgh is a city in the midst of self-reinvention — there’s a certain degree of spirit of self-disruption that you’re not necessarily going to find everywhere.”
Unlike many other coding bootcamps, Resilient Coders offers this training at no cost to students, and even pays them a stipend throughout their participation to relieve some of the worry of any lost income during the 20 weeks. Individual, corporate and organizational philanthropy provide funding.
Delmar sees this as a necessity of any bootcamp or career training program, underscoring that learning new skills for career advancement shouldn’t come with heavy debt.
“I don’t believe we can begin a conversation in this country around closing the racial wealth gap around ameliorating the stratification of wealth, until there is an option available to folks in which education is free,” he said.
Similar to the Philadelphia cohort and others that have taken place during the pandemic, Resilient Coders’ Pittsburgh students will complete the bootcamp online. And Delmar plans to keep it that way.
“A year and a half ago, I would have been one of those people shaking their fist at that had the saying that education must be in person,” he said. “And then we proved me wrong.”
The success of the remote cohorts so far in terms of job offers and starting salaries made Delmar realize the bootcamp could likely continue online post-pandemic and still achieve its mission. And, he noted, collaborations with trusted local community groups have made operating on a remote basis easier.
“It’s important to us to work with the folks that are on the ground, who’re already doing the the incredible work necessary to make sure that folks have the stability necessary to have the opportunity to uplift themselves,” he said.
Recruitment events for the upcoming Pittsburgh cohort starting on July 12 have ended, but keep an eye out for future hackathons on Resilient Coders’ website and social media pages.
P.S. Check out Technical.ly’s roundup of eight other coding bootcamps and workshops offering web development training and more.
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.