Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

12 ways Baltimore orgs are creating new paths to a tech job

When it comes to finding and training talent, these organizations are taking a fresh approach.

Attendees of this weekend's Code in the Schools event. (Photo by Juliana Reyes)

As new kinds of careers change the way we work, the paths into those jobs are also changing. That’s true in tech, where the combination of always-changing tools and a big need to fill jobs will necessitate looking outside of traditional institutions and the usual hiring paths.
For proof that attitudes at the top are changing, look no further than IBM, Apple and Google, all of which no longer require a college degree.
Closer to home, Baltimore companies and organizations are digging into the work of offering training and creating opportunities for a tech career. In many cases, these approaches are integrated directly into the company’s work.
Here’s a look at a few that we’ve covered recently:

Jellyfish Academy

Jellyfish, a digital marketing firm that counts Baltimore as its U.S. headquarters, has a unique program for entry-level employees who may not have had previous digital marketing experience. From our article:

Along with client work, the agency also operates an entry-level academy within the Baltimore office, in which the first three months on the job involve digital marketing courses and training for people who don’t have previous experience in the field. Jellyfish assesses a candidate’s aptitude within digital marketing, and upon hiring provides six weeks of 100 percent training, then six weeks that mixes training and client work.

SmartLogic Apprenticeship Program

This summer, Canton dev agency SmartLogic began an apprenticeship program that aims to provide a path to a software development career for those who may be interested in pursing the field of transitioning. Apprentices are involved in client work, and the program provides a course of study toward becoming a full-stack developer and mentorship. The agency hired three people for the three-month program in June, and extended offers to two of them to stay on, said SmartLogic President Yair Flicker.



The Baltimore-based software development company has big clients, and turned lots of heads with a $27 million funding round earlier this year, but the way it uses data to turn people working outside tech into software developers may have the most lasting implications. It starts with a simple ad: “Get paid to become a software developer.” From our article:

Some think it’s a scam at first, but it’s actually an approach to reduce bias in hiring. Instead of looking at resumes, college degrees or referrals, Catalyte looks at data points around behavior, skills and the ability to adapt thinking quickly.
While there are somewhere around 3,000 variables, “We’re looking for people who are able to solve problems under pressure,” said [Catalyte CEO Jacob] Hsu, who worked in Silicon Valley before joining the company in last couple years. The devs become full-time employees, working with Catalyte’s clients.

Baltimore City Department of General Services x Code in the Schools

The tech skills high school students learned were put to use to help a city department use new approaches. In the latter half of last school year, students spent time learning Python at the computer science education nonprofit Code in the Schools, and using those skills to create Twitter bots and other tools with the city’s Department of General Services. One student got a summer job out of it. With an MOU signed, there’s room to create similar programs across the city in the future.

BioTechnical Institute of Maryland 

Tech isn’t just about software, especially in an area where research is resulting in new breakthroughs. This West Baltimore–based nonprofit has been preparing Baltimoreans for careers in biotech for 20 years. From our piece:

Under the BTI BioSTART to Laboratory Associates Program, the nonprofit offers free training to underemployed and unemployed city residents who have a high school degree or GED out of its facility at 1101 W. Pratt St. The six-month program involves course work and a 100-hour internship.
“I went from having nothing to working for one of the most prestigious universities in the world,” said Candace King, a graduate of the program who was seeking more solid employment after a stint in the culinary industry. Always interested in science, she found BTI at a job fair, and went on to work at Johns Hopkins.

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen visits the BioTechnical Institute of Maryland.

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen visits the BioTechnical Institute of Maryland.

Baltimore Corps

The five-year-old organization focused on equity and racial justice started out with a program that matches fellows with jobs at impact-minded orgs and companies, which include education organizations and social impact startups that are recognizable in Baltimore’s innovation community. It’s also expanding a program to recruit and place talent year-round:

The cohorts are about 45 people, but CEO Fagan Harris said that about a year ago, the organization decided it wasn’t enough to do one cohort, so it expanded with a program called Place for Purpose, which is an approach to recruit and place talent year-round. The 20-person staff, based out of Touchpoint in Mondawmin Mall, now includes recruiters who are seeking out talent.

TranZed Alliance 

The organization brought an apprenticeship model it applied in the U.K. when it expanded to the U.S. From our article:

TranZed, which was founded in the United Kingdom, opened its first U.S. operation in Baltimore last year. The organization helps link workers with jobs where they can receive training in digital media, IT and cybersecurity with a mix of on-the-job training and coursework.

Fearless and I Am O’Kah’s link students with NSA

Through a program launched by Fearless President Delali Dzirasa and Aisha DaCosta of I Am O’Kah, Baltimore city students took part in NSA’s work-study program at the nearby headquarters of Fort Meade, complete with security clearances that can help provide a lasting leg up. A major barrier was transportation, so Dzirasa and DaCosta raised money and partnered with HSR Property Group for a shuttle.

NPower Baltimore

Brooklyn-based access org NPower expanded to Baltimore in 2016, and continues West Baltimore–based work:

The organization will seek to provide entry-level IT training to 18-to-25-year-olds who are not currently employed or in school. Along with training in web development and project management, the training program is designed to prepare students for the CompTIA A+ exam. That’s a key for IT workers, said Patrick Cohen, national director of NPower’s Technology Service Corps

Cyber Warrior Diversity Program

Baltimore’s Lance Lucas and Digit All City spearheaded this program to provide onramps for students at historically black colleges and universities:

The Cyber Warrior Diversity Program began in 2017 at Morgan State University and Coppin State University. Baltimore-based tech training company Digit All City worked with the universities as well as Northrop Grumman to establish a program that provided students with certifications that are required for clearances for cybersecurity work by the U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies.
Under a bill passed by the Maryland General Assembly this year, the Cyber Warrior Diversity Program will expand to Baltimore City Community CollegeBowie State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Starting in 2020, the governor must provide $2.5 million in funding the program. The legislation was sponsored by State Sen. Barbara Robinson (D-Baltimore), and signed last month by Gov. Larry Hogan.

Jayrell Cephas talks about his experience with the Cyber Warrior Diversity Program. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Jayrell Cephas talks about his experience with the Cyber Warrior Diversity Program. (Photo by Stephen Babcock)

Venture for America

Baltimore is among the most active cities for this program, which matches recent college grads with fellowships at startups. A fresh class of 25 fellows just entered for the next two-year cycle. The idea is to spur entrepreneurship, and many have stayed:

This year’s class includes 25 fellows, which is up from 21 a year ago. It’s the second-largest local group so far. In all, VFA has placed 108 fellows in Baltimore since 2013, and more than half have stayed in the city. With the network effect playing out, the organization’s leaders frequently highlight the impact locally.

UMBC Training Centers 

This program from the Catonsville college doesn’t require admissions, and it’s actually in Columbia. UMBC Training Centers offers courses in cybersecurity, big data and DevOps, among other tech areas. It has unique programs for veterans transitioning to careers in tech, including the RX5 program providing cybersecurity training, and last year began offering a program offering training in Amazon Web Services for veterans.

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