A Letter From The Founder
As we rapidly approach year-end 2020, and as we reach out to the community for the first time in an organized way to ask for your donations and financial support, we thought it only appropriate that we report to the community on the impact that Nashville Software School has had and is having. We decided to reach back all the way to the founding of NSS, to our first cohort, and summarize our impact up to the present time, or as close to the present as possible.
We can’t tell the full story of 2020 yet - that can’t be done until we can follow our 2020 students through to their graduation and job search and, hopefully, securing their first tech job. So think of this as a report on the cumulative impact of NSS through to the spring 2020 tornado and the start of the pandemic and as well as a still incomplete look through to year-end 2020.
I was surprised by some of what we learned as we examined the statistics. When you spend each day embedded in the details of individual students' and graduates' struggles and triumphs, it’s hard to keep track of the bigger picture.
Of course, our most important impact is at the level of individual students, each with their own unique story. But it makes sense at times to step back from the individual student and look at the cumulative impact that our students’ stories have in aggregate.
These statistics tell a lot of different stories. Some of those stories are obvious from the statistics. But some are more subtle or hidden. We'll explore a few of the stories below.
These statistics also hint at the behind-the-scenes story of the commitment of the NSS team to the future of our students and community. I get to work with these amazing people every day and I’m endlessly grateful for their passion for our mission and their commitment to our students. I’m so fortunate to have such great teammates and NSS is blessed by their presence.
I hope you find this summary of the impact of our work as enlightening and inspiring as I have. 2020 has been a year that threw many obstacles in all of our paths. It’s a year that could be aggravating, frustrating, depressing and more, all at the same time. But those obstacles and frustrations have also driven us to be creative, to find new ways to serve our mission and support our students’ learning, and to rethink what’s important and what is only habit.
As we close out the year, I remain as inspired by our students and our mission as I ever have been. And I’m aware of how much that I have to be grateful for: our team, our employer partners, our community. Reflecting on our impact to date has me energized and looking forward to 2021 and beyond. I look forward to continuing to work together with all of you to give a hand-up to adults who want and deserve the opportunity for a better, more rewarding career.
Our first web development cohort was launched in 2012 through collaboration with the community and local employers. 12 of the 14 students in that class were hired into tech jobs using their new skills. Since then, we’ve continued to collaborate with the community and local employers to launch new programs and keep our curriculum current. It’s kind of cool that here in little ol' Nashville we had one of the country’s innovators in an entirely new form of tech workforce development - not what was expected from Nashville back in 2012. An innovator not only in terms of the learning approach but also to leveraging nonprofit status as a social enterprise.
Our focus on Nashville and Middle Tennessee is baked into our mission. By training to meet the needs of local employers, 90% of our graduates stay in Middle Tennessee after graduation and have been hired by 300+ local employers. And while we’ve focused our recruiting efforts on talent from Middle Tennessee, over the years we’ve increasingly had students come to NSS from all over the country - to the point that even with graduates that do leave town we are a net attractor of talent to the Nashville area.
The career opportunities that exist for someone that has learned tech skills like software development or data analysis are almost unlimited. We are in the business of creating opportunities for our students to launch themselves down those career paths. One part of creating opportunity is opening doors to adults with the aptitude and motivation to pursue a tech career, irrespective of their economic circumstances. We’re already helping slightly over half of our students through Opportunity Tuition or other scholarships. One of our goals is to increase the number of students we are able to help to ⅔ of each class.
We have made a lot of progress in pursuit of our goal to open a career pathway for individuals from groups that are historically under-represented in tech careers such as women, veterans, Black people, etc. We have reached the point that slightly more than half of our students have been from at least one under-represented group. NSS increases the diversity of our tech community literally with every graduating class.
Our graduates come from a myriad of backgrounds. They were musicians, bakers, marketers, warehouse workers, postdocs, stay-at-home parents, baristas, artists...and on and on. It takes courage to step away from what you know to chase a dream of a more rewarding and satisfying career. Watching our students conquer a challenging learning experience and land their first tech job is a constant source of inspiration. It’s a real privilege for us to share that experience. And when we see them grow their careers and even come back to NSS to interview and hire new NSS grads - that’s just gravy.
The placement rate of our graduates is another success story. NSS works. Students that come to NSS committed to working hard to launch a new career have a very high probability of success. Less obviously, it speaks to continued growth of the local tech economy. It speaks to the trust that employers have developed in our programs. And it speaks to the breadth of the support that NSS and our students get from the community in the form of mentors, volunteers for mock interviews and leadership panels, and in so many other ways. It speaks to how lucky we are to be serving Nashville and Nashvillians.
With an average starting salary of $60,000 (2019), our graduates' first year income is equivalent to Nashville's median household income during the same time period. For the majority of our students this is a significant increase over what they were earning prior to NSS. It's always exciting when a graduate gets their first job in tech, but the smile on their face when they share they've doubled the salary of their prior job or have never earned this much before is priceless. And that’s for their first year in a tech job - their earning potential only goes up from there. Even if you assume that the average 2020 salary of all of our working grads is at that same $60K level, our grads are injecting over $60 million dollars into the local economy this year - since we know that our grads from prior years have on average been seeing meaningful increases in compensation over the years, the true number is much higher.