I’ve been teaching T-SQL to groups of students since 2014 at the non-profit LaunchCode in St. Louis. LaunchCode provides free tech training, paid apprenticeships, and career support to hundreds of people who have the ability and interest but not always the opportunity to land tech careers. For example, not having a college degree can eliminate an otherwise qualified applicant and keep them from ever getting an interview. Even with a degree, applicants can be ruled out due to a lack of experience.
The LaunchCode organization was founded in 2013 by tech entrepreneur Jim McKelvey. McKelvey and his friend Jack Dorsey (yes, that Jack Dorsey) started the financial company Square in St. Louis. Still, they could not find enough developers and had to move the company to San Fransico. Because of this, McKelvey decided to find a way to solve the tech gap in St. Louis, believing that the talent was there but just not discovered. This led him to start LaunchCode in St. Louis to provide training and opportunities especially to underserved populations. It’s now available in Kansas City, Northwestern Arkansas, and Philadelphia as well. Students completing the training and apprenticeships are typically hired at double their previous income. LaunchCode is working on two problems at once: filling the technology pipeline and lifting people out of poverty.
Teaching at LaunchCode is by far the most important thing I’ve ever done. I’ve written books, presented at dozens of conferences, and coached new speakers, but these activities will never make the same impact in the world. I’ve seen my students go on to become developers, database administrators, and scrum masters or gain skills to get promotions in their current careers such as insurance or human resources. Some of my former students now teach at LaunchCode, which makes me so proud!
Many of the students at LaunchCode are single parents who work multiple jobs. It’s not easy to find time to study and complete assignments. It takes a ton of dedication, but moving into high-paying careers with great futures is worth it. I’m thrilled that I am making a difference in the lives of so many others.