Part six in a series.
An informal collective of programmers and developers, the Suncoast Developers Guild has been a hub for news, mentoring and meet-ups both formal and informal since 2014.
Computer programming and software design are the most prized and profitable skills in today’s American workforce. The Guild was created not long after The Iron Yard, a national startup offering immersive training in code writing, opened at the Station House in St. Petersburg.
The Iron Yard closed all of its locations in 2017, but instructor Jason L. Perry, founder of the Suncoast Developers Guild (and the Tampa Ruby Brigade), knew that Tampa Bay still needed courses in coding to advance in the rapidly-morphing technology universe.
And so Academy at the Suncoast Developers Guild, the first 501©3 non-for-profit coding school in the State of Florida, will open next month. Most of the former Iron Yard employees – all bright and seasoned programmers – are on the faculty. The first immersive, 12-week cohort begins July 23.
“The type of training we’re administrating is to help them be a success when they enter the workforce,” said president Toni Warren, the former campus director at The Iron Yard. “We’re giving them practical skills to make them competitive immediately.
“So although we touch on concepts and theory, we don’t dive into that like traditional education – universities, Masters programs in computer science or MIS. We teach them how to code. We are a trade school.
“We are teaching them the craft of programming, so when they enter the workforce, Week One – if not Day One – they’re implementing code. They’re able to make an impact to that product, to that idea, to that web application, to that website, immediately.”
Warren, CEO Perry and their staff recently moved the Guild into a 4,230-square-foot office building at 2220 Central Ave. The group’s regular meet-ups happen there, and the coding school labs and lecture suites will take up approximately half of the space.
“We’ve learned what Tampa Bay needs – our front-end developers need to at least speak, or understand, or work with a team of back-end developers,” Warren explained. “They can absolutely graduate from our program and still be front-end developers. They might only do HTML and CSS, the front-end side.
“But for them to have a nice rounded education, to where they’ll be successful on a team, they should at least be able to understand, and know and respect, what the back-end developers are doing.”
Tuition for the immersive 12-week, five-day-a-week program is $14,900. “What they do with us in 12 weeks is what they would do on their own in 12-18 months,” said Warren. “We push them past their comfort zone, but just to the point of where we know they’ll be successful. We also teach them how to be engineers. We teach them how to problem-solve.”
Out of the 15 Iron Yard locations across America, Warren said, the St. Pete school had the largest enrollment. According to Warren, the school after-graduation employment rate was profound.
“To put things into perspective,” she added, “at one time, Austin had 14 code schools. San Francisco has over 10. Denver, 14 or 15. Atlanta is another tech hub – there are eight schools there. And they scoop up the graduates.
“But here, it’s still much more of a learning process, of ‘Wait, we’re used to paying someone a decent salary after four years of education. Now we’re paying them a decent salary, plus some, after three months? What?’
“But then they hire them, and they’re contributing so quickly, they get it. And then they hire a lot more.”