A crowd of technologists, big-business folks, government reps and entrepreneurs amassed inside Theatre N at Nemours in Wilmington Monday night. They were escaping the pouring rain, but mostly, they were there to celebrate and welcome Zip Code Wilmington, the new local coding school set to launch in September.
Zip Code Wilmington cofounder Jim Stewart welcomed the audience with a bit of the history behind the coding school — how he and fellow cofounders Porter Schutt and Ben duPont want to fill corporate IT gigs with local talent, how they approached Gov. Jack Markell (who went out to the Bay Area himself to attempt to draw an existing school to Wilmington), how they met Patrick Callihan and Tech Impact, how they decided to launch a school themselves and how local corporate heads and state government officials were quick to jump onboard.
"There's probably never been a better time to be somebody with the right skills. But there's probably never been a worse time to be somebody without the right skills."
“I would say those of us involved don’t have the most current technical skills, so we were a little hesitant,” Stewart said to a crowd that included state CIO James Collins, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and a handful of members of the Delaware House of Representatives.
Stewart went on to introduce two core members of the Zip Code Wilmington team — Tech Impact’s Anthony Pisapia will be the head of the school, Tariq Hook will be the director of Java education. The school’s advisory board will consist of Jim Kelly of Capital One, former DuPont CIO Bob Ridout, Rod Ward of Corporation Services Company and Mike Zbranak of JPMorgan Chase.
According to Zip Code Wilmington cofounder Porter Schutt, state government’s role in the founding of the school was critical.
“Jack immediately jumped into action when we came to him with this idea,” he said of the governor. “He actually got on a plane and flew out to San Francisco, sat down with these coding companies, got a better understanding of what we were looking for and was instrumental in helping drive the initiative.”
Markell said the cofounders were being too humble.
“I thought Ruby was something my wife might wear if she had a more generous husband,” he joked. “These guys stepped up. You all know government cannot do it alone. In this case, government just could not have done this.”
Markell said filling these corporate jobs with local talent is crucial. “There’s probably never been a better time to be somebody with the right skills,” he said. “But there’s probably never been a worse time to be somebody without the right skills.”
He also lauded Callihan, whom he called “extraordinary.”
“Patrick takes all this theory, takes people coming through the door, and 12 weeks later they’re changed people,” he said, adding that he thinks West Coast coding schools refusing to franchise in Delaware turned out to be a blessing. Why?
“Because this thing is homegrown by the guy who gets this better than anybody I have ever met,” he said, referring to Callihan.
The school will take 20 applicants for its first class, and has already received about ten applications.