NSS 5th Anniversary | 500 in 5

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

Celebrating Nashville’s Home-Grown Tech Talent

Five years ago this week our little experiment in non-profit vocational education launched in Nashville. Cohort 1 of the full-time Web Development Bootcamp started their first class on June 18, 2012. Fifteen students joined us that first Monday to see if we could help them learn to build websites and launch careers as software developers. So we’re celebrating Cohort 1 and our fifth anniversary today at NSS with some cake before everyone goes back to slinging code.

We will continue our anniversary celebration over the next six months through November. It was the end of November 2012 when Cohort 1 graduated and we believe the graduation of that first cohort is an even more significant event than when they started. It certainly was for those graduates (12 of 14 of them became full-time software developers), for NSS, and for the broader tech community in Nashville. Today we’re quietly celebrating the start of the first cohort with our active students, over the next six months we will celebrate more publicly with a couple of events for our alumni and our supporters. And, before the six months is over, we’ll announce a gift from the NSS community to the Nashville community as a whole.

During our six month celebration we will be posting regularly to this blog about our 5 year startup journey. We will blog about the people who were involved along the way because more than anything else these last five years have been about people: students, graduates, instructors, mentors, friends, hiring managers, and the entire Nashville tech community. We will blog about lessons learned along the way. We will blog about the work that must yet be done in Nashville to more fully close our talent gap by taking full advantage of talent that wants to start tech careers. And we’ll blog about our plans to sustain NSS and the work we started in 2012.

How far have we come in these five years? Well, there are a few ways to measure that. One key way is by the number of junior software developers we have graduated. As of today, NSS has 430 graduates. Of those 430 graduates, 236 came through NSS under our Apprentice Tuition Plan. That’s the plan where we bear the financial risk of the student’s training and only get paid back if they go to work in a new tech career. That’s 236 software developers that likely would not have found a tech career and 236 fewer developers available to help close Nashville’s tech talent gap.

By the end of the day this Friday, we plan to have 45 more grads based on graduating full-time cohort 19 and part-time cohort E4. That gets the total to 475. And sometime during our six month anniversary celebration we will graduate our 500th junior developer.

500 graduates in 5 years sounds like a pretty awesome milestone, particularly when it all started out in a place that looked like this…

Classroom: Cohort1

Yeah, not very impressive. But, cheap. Cheap is important when you are bootstrapping a non-profit startup on $35,000 in donations and the founder’s checkbook. And no, we didn’t run the photo through a sepia-tone filter - that really was the color of the light in that room.

A good number of our first cohort grads are shown in this photo. I can recognize Morley Bankston, Marcus Fulbright, Max Beizer, Marilyn Franklin, Hassan Shamim, Ryan Moret, Ben Bridges, Sam Walton, Drew Butler, Matt Campbell, and Vered Bauer. There’s one top of head I don’t recognize and a couple of other students out of the picture to the left. Of the names I just listed, 10 of 11 got full time developer jobs - 12 out of 14 total graduates in the class likewise.

Our first location might have been a bit improvised, but it was good enough to let us prove out the concept of NSS in 2012 and 2013. And, it gives our cohort 1, 2, and 3 grads some fond memories to reminisce about. Like the two HVAC units hung from the ceiling that sounded like an F-15 taking off on full throttle if they both kicked in at the same time. Or the noise (and shaking) from the trains going by several times a day about 50 feet away on the CSX mainline. OK, so maybe not all that fond of memories, but it does give the students from the first 3 cohorts bragging rights when grads from more recent years get together because nobody can beat the early stories of how the first three cohorts had to learn to code while walking uphill both ways through the snow. I mean, back in those days we didn’t even have Javascript frameworks - when we wanted models and views they had to code them by hand.

Mentors: Cohort1

One thing we validated was that the tech community in Nashville would support a non-profit school and our students. This second picture from our first classroom shows a row of mentors sitting in the back of our classroom at the NBIC. These folks came to just hang out and work in the back of our classroom and be available to our students. I include this picture to acknowledge how important the support of the community has been to NSS over the arc of our five year journey. This photo shows a few of those who supported us - from front to back Brandon Valentine, Jason Orendorff, William Limratana, and Ben Stucki. Not shown but also in the room doing a guest lecture is Jeremy Holland. Thanks to support from these five individuals, and dozens more like them, NSS was launched and was able to help 430 junior developers (so far) learn to be developers.

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