My How Things Have Changed | 500 In 5

Jul 6, 2017
John Wark

This is a post in our anniversary series 500 in 5. Check out our other posts in this series.


One of the key “leaps of faith” in the initial business model for NSS was that there were an adequate number of employers in Nashville ready and willing to hire junior developers. This was definitely not self-evident back in late 2011, early 2012 when we were designing our business model (yes, even non-profits have business models, or at least they do if you want to survive). My, how things have changed over the past five years.

Evidence of the change at the national level is indicated in a recent TechRepublic article headlined: 80% of companies have hired a coding bootcamp graduate, all said they would do it again.

80% of US tech hiring managers and recruiters said they have hired a coding bootcamp graduate for a tech role—and 99.8% said they would do so again.

Of the 1,000 people surveyed, 72% said they consider bootcamp graduates to be just as prepared and likely to perform at a high level as computer science grads. And 12% said they think bootcamp grads are more prepared and more likely to succeed.

The article reports on a national survey by Indeed from March of this year. I was actually surprised by the 80% - I don’t really believe that 80% of Nashville area employers hiring software developers have hired bootcamp grads. But even allowing for some bias in the survey, it’s clear that coding bootcamps have gained significant traction over the past five years.

Our own numbers indicate that NSS grads have been hired by at least 150 local employers. Every graduating class has seen multiple new employers hire their first NSS graduate. This is incredibly gratifying for us and, as mentioned above, was not guaranteed when we started back in 2012. Particularly since more than a few of the companies now regularly hiring from us were not even interested in a conversation back in 2012 (or in some cases not even interested in replying to emails). And based on my conversations with other bootcamp founders, I know some of them saw the same reality in other cities in that same time frame.

Part of our research during late 2011 and early 2012 was to analyze six months of job posting data for developer jobs in the Nashville area. We sourced job posting data from the Nashville Technology Council which back in those days was doing quarterly analysis of all tech job postings in the mid-state. We separated out the developer positions and analyzed them to see how many employers were posting jobs for entry-level or junior developer positions. What we found was discouraging - out of several hundred developer job postings analyzed (my recollection is between 600 and 700 job postings in total) very, very few were for developers with 2 years or less in experience. Like, less than a dozen. Yet there were literally hundreds of postings for developers with “3 to 5” years of experience.

Let’s remember, this was a time when there were constant articles bemoaning the shortage of tech talent in Nashville. And yet, at least by one obvious metric, almost nobody in town was interested in recruiting and growing junior developers. Which raises at least one obvious question - if no one is hiring juniors, where will those hundreds of missing developers get their first three years of experience? We’ll look at that issue in another post in our series, but let’s get back on track.

The prospects for a coding bootcamp looked pretty bleak (assuming we cared about our graduates getting jobs) based solely on studying job postings. However, we did have other indications that the real situation might not be quite as bleak based on discussions with local agencies, consulting companies and tech companies, especially those employing open source technologies such as Ruby on Rails, PHP, and Python. It was clear that the hiring by these organizations was invisible in the job posting data. And it was clear from conversations that many of those open source development shops were interested in hiring well-trained juniors. And several of these organizations strongly supported the idea of starting such a program, including providing guidance on curriculum, volunteering to help mentor students, committing to interview graduates, etc.

Obviously things have changed a great deal in the last five years. As indicated by the Indeed survey, bootcamps are clearly contributing valuable junior talent to our local and the national tech talent pool. And bootcamps are clearly helping thousands of motivated individuals find a way to launch a rewarding career. More on all of this in future posts in our series.

Topics: Hiring?, Community, 10 Years | 2000 Journeys