Hate Your Job? Become a Computer Programmer – Seriously!

  Coding, coding... coding. (iStockphoto.com/undrey)

Coding, coding... coding. (iStockphoto.com/undrey)

Fewer than a third of workers in the United States actually like their job.

According to a 2015 poll by Gallup, only 32% of workers felt "engaged." This small percentage felt enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace. The others? Not so much. And this wasn't a one-year thing. This percentage of people happy to go to work went up only 3% over a four year period.

This low level of job satisfaction can't be attributed exclusively to lousy workplaces, although employers who don't treat their employees well end up with a disengaged staff.

In 2014, the University of Phoenix conducted a poll which indicated that "nearly half of working adults (45 percent) are still searching for the right career and more than one-third (37 percent) plan to change careers in the next two years."

If it's so clear that so many people hate where they work, as well as what they do, why do so they stay in their jobs. While everybody's circumstance is individual, the reason often boils down to two individual but related factors – time and money.

In other words, making a career change can require building new job skills, which frequently translates to going to back to school. A person quitting their job to go back to college ends up paying for it twice - in pricey tuition, as well as the opportunity cost of lost paychecks when not working full-time. And considering that completing a bachelor's degree can take 3 to 4 years full time, or quite a bit longer part time, you're talking about a pretty serious investment that can take a long time to pay off.

What if I told you that you could retrain to become a computer programmer, at no cost to you – even if you've never programmed a single line of code? And that you could complete your training within just four months on evenings and weekends, or even more quickly full-time?

If you've ever thought about making the transition to becoming a programmer, you may wish to investigate LaunchCode, a nonprofit organization which does exactly that at no cost to students. I had the opportunity in October 2016 to participate in a round table discussion at Miami's Knight Foundation featuring Jim McKelvey, Co-Founder and Director of Square, Inc., along with several Miami-area business and talent management leaders. Square, in case you haven't heard of it, is a technology company offering merchants point-of-sale solutions and other services, and is probably best known for its iconic wireless handset credit card reader. Faced with a shortage of qualified technical talent, McKelvey co-founded the LaunchCode program in St. Louis, Missouri, to build a pipeline of talent for their programming organization. The program caught the eye of other employers facing shortages of programmers, and is now live in six U.S. cities and growing.

Are you thinking about making a career change, and is becoming a computer programmer through LaunchCode right for you? I conducted a Q&A with McKelvey, to discuss the program. Please note that while the thrust of our conversation concerned the South Florida (Miami) market, LaunchCode also offers training programs in St. Louis, Missouri; Kansas City, Missouri; Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Rhode Island; and Seattle, Washington.

 Jim McKelvey (Courtesy: LaunchCode)

Jim McKelvey (Courtesy: LaunchCode)

Q. Why did you start LaunchCode?
McKelvey: I started LaunchCode because, these days, every company is a tech company – yet there aren’t nearly enough tech workers. By 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts there will be one million unfilled programming jobs. There are 500,000 of these jobs open today. However, even skilled job seekers face barriers to these jobs. Traditional HR practices screen out applicants with resume gaps or non-traditional coding backgrounds. At LaunchCode, we eliminate these barriers by offering an accessible path for job seekers to get the skills they need and get their foot in the door with employers.

Q: How does the program work?
McKelvey: LaunchCode partners with more than 100 companies in South Florida to open high-potential jobs to aspiring developers. Job seekers with strong coding skills can apply for our apprenticeship program. Job seekers seeking coding skills can apply to our education program offered at Miami Dade College.

Q: Can people who have never taken a single computer programming class in their life take the course?
McKelvey: Interested candidates should have access to a computer and have a handle on basic math and logic skills.

Q: What happens after somebody graduates from the program (i.e., job placement)?
McKelvey: Job seekers who graduate our education programs have an opportunity to apply for a job apprenticeship program or, if eligible, become directly hired. It’s a short, easy process where we assess their readiness and place them with a job that matches their skills.

Q: What is the success rate of people graduating and getting placed into opportunities?
McKelvey: More than four out of five apprentices convert to full-time employment.

Q: What would be the benefit for a job seeker to take this program rather than go back to school for a degree in computer science?
McKelvey: There are many ways to pursue a career in tech. If a job seeker is looking for an accessible, quicker pathway toward a tech job then our program offered in partnership with Miami Dade College would be a good fit.

Q: What are the traits of the successful graduate of the program? Any particular work backgrounds?
McKelvey: LaunchCode placements have come from every walk of life you can think of. What they share is a common drive and commitment to be successful. They have a willingness and openness to learn.

Q: What does it cost the job seeker to take the program?
McKelvey: Nothing. LaunchCode offers free, world-class education to job seekers interested in the tech field.

Q: How can somebody learn more?
McKelvey: If you have skills, apply to our apprenticeship program. If you want to start computer programming, apply to one of our education programs in South Florida. Visit www.launchcode.org for more information.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.