Aisha Davie got her master’s degree in school counseling from Harvard but she never made it to a Philadelphia public school.
“When I found out they were laying off counselors and closing schools, I knew I had to figure something else out,” she said.
Davie, 26, of Northern Liberties, now works in human resources for the City of Philadelphia. But the Spelman College grad is eyeing a career in tech. She’s one of 21 students participating in PhillyDevCamp, a free developer bootcamp taught and hosted by Center City dev firms Zivtech and Neomind Labs.*
Davie and her classmates, all with varying levels of tech backgrounds, are recent college grads, restaurant workers, digital resource specialists. One-third are unemployed, according to a PhillyDevCamp survey.
Backed by a $24,000 city StartupPHL grant, the instructors — Zivtech and Neomind staffers — cram a lot into five weeks. There’s one day for Node.js, one day for responsive design, one week for Drupal. It’s focused more on breadth than depth, exposing students to many topics and giving them the means to choose what they want to focus on. The students will finish off the course by breaking into groups and building web projects for nonprofits.
PhillyDevCamp, meanwhile, tackles two problems at the same time: tech firms’ hiring woes and Philadelphia brain drain. When the camp ends, organizers are hosting a “Meet & Greet” where more than 20 local tech firms, including Monetate, DuckDuckGo and Solve Media, will meet the graduates. (The event is at capacity and no longer accepting any more RSVPs, said Zivtech spokesman David Hamme.)
When Technical.ly Philly visited PDC earlier this month, the 21 students were sitting at long rows of tables in Zivtech’s back room, learning about Angular.js from Zivtech VP of Engineering Howard Tyson. Tyson seemed at ease in front of the classroom — that’s because Zivtech trains staffers at large companies like TIME and Verizon Wireless, Zivtech cofounder Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg said.
Students and instructors chatted on communication tool Slack about getting deals on domain names and gabbed about YouTube videos mentioned during class. Urevick-Acklesberg offered to meet with any student who wanted career advice.
The participants were also notably diverse, with women and people of color accounting for half of the class.
You can follow along with the PhillyDevCamp blog. This is the program’s final week.
*Davie decided not to complete the program, she told us today.
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