Posted By: Devon Roberts
Streaks of sunlight peek through the window blinds upon the stark white desks of the study hall, supplementing the warm overhead track lights in The Tech Academy’s Denver Campus. The study hall is populated by rows of desks, each with their own monitors and laptops waiting for the next student to access the online curriculum. This spacious room is quiet except for the distant sound of music coming from the instructors office just down the hall. As you walk toward the kitchen area to grab a snack you pass by the lunch space and the Live Project study room both of which have a calm warm glow that welcomes you deeper into the space. After a few minutes it becomes apparent that this is a space for productivity but made homely and approachable by the joint work of the students and instructor.
Opened in July of 2018, The Denver Campus was opened to support the vibrant tech industry of the Denver area. Due to countless startups and large companies such as Google, Oracle, and AirDNA, Denver is quickly becoming a destination for tech companies looking for plenty of space and a thriving metropolis to call home.
“The [Denver] tech industry covers the gamut of really everything, if you want to do game design, you want to do application design, you wanna do front end, and web applications. It’s really got it all.” Says Cole Dixon, Dean of the Denver Campus. “you can get your foot in the door, really anywhere.” This opportunity for students is what motivated The Tech Academy’s expansion to Denver.
Though The Tech Academy offers their entire program with remote access around the world and constant access to instructors in various forms, students are quick to tell you that having an instructor next door is extremely beneficial.
So who is the man behind the curtain at the Denver Campus? One of the earliest Tech Academy graduates, Cole Dixon enjoyed a quick climb through the tech industry. Starting as a Junior Developer, it did not take him long to climb past Senior Developer and finding a place as a Development Team Leader. The Tech Academy lured him back by offering Dixon the title of Dean and offering space to share his gifts with their students. Fast forward several months and we find the reason this campus feels so comfortable.
Dixon is known for his open door policy, where students can receive guidance on any problem they encounter whenever they need. Dixon’s experience in the industry acts as a guide for how he tries to run the Denver Campus.
“Spending the last couple years in the development industry, I’m trying to cultivate that exact kind of team dynamic that you are gonna have there.” he remarked, “I keep this place stocked with soda and snacks and we have coffee and water. I try and make it as relaxed and comfortable as possible.” Clearly it works. The Campus manages to feel professional without being stuffy. Its students are friendly and happy to talk but passionate about their goals and eager to complete their studies to enter the blossoming tech industry.
Students at the Denver Campus come from a diverse set of backgrounds; Carly Lokare moved from Phoenix, where she was working as a nurse. During that time she discovered a curiosity about the software they were using. Now Lokare wants to bring her clinical background working as a nurse, and what she has learned at the Tech Academy to improve and develop better technology for nurses and hospitals. Coming from a blue collar background, John Murray said that learning how to code was a big change in his life.
“I’ve had jobs but I’ve never had a career.” he told me. Motivated by reports that people in his generation weren’t adapting to the changes in the industry, he decided to invest in a career in technology which led him to The Tech Academy and while Murray describes the program as being difficult, he says that he’s kept a good attitude and is learning a lot. “Be ready to be challenged. It’s not a lot of memorization, it’s a lot of problem solving” he said.” They are here to help you, not to give you the answer.” and that’s exactly how Dixon likes to teach. “I like to not just give people the answer, I will usually point people in the right direction, and if they come back a couple times and it’s not clicking, then we’ll sit down and I will show them exactly, as I’m coding, I’m going to walk them through every single piece of why I did it and make sure they understand it.”
Dixon spoke to the future of the Denver Campus and what he’d like to see as it continues to grow and develop its identity.
“I'm trying to incorporate some stuff here that speaks more to the denver Metro area. Robotics and A.I and cloud is really big out here. We teach languages that are applicable to it, so i’m gonna start holding events here in relation to that, we hold open houses that are pretty informal.”
Dixon is partnering with Misty Robotics, which creates educational robots that can be programmed to do a variety of complex tasks. The Denver Campus is anticipating the arrival of a few misty robots, a welcome addition that will further demonstrate the countless ways their training can be applied to practical situations. This is an exciting opportunity for Dixon who has been looking for new ways to deepen the experience of his students.
“I’ve really wanted to demonstrate the application of the scope of what we teach here [...] I just want to show everybody that everything we teach has layers and it can be propel you into any part of the industry you want to be in.”
In addition to some educational robots, Dixon is looking to increase the social aspect of the Campus. Giving students the chance to get to know each other and inspire collaboration and connection only strengthens their time at The Tech Academy and can develop good networking skills that are so crucial to the industry. Dixon told me one of his big plans for creating that environment. “I’m slowly building out the campus, I’m still working on getting the TV set up and I’m bringing in an Xbox one with a bunch of games.” He said, excitement radiating off of him.
As the Campus approaches its six month anniversary, the Denver Campus is on a steady track to outpace the other boot camps in the Denver area. Tech Academy students enjoy self-built study schedules on a variety of boot camp tracks allowing students to develop themselves for the industry they want. Students also benefit from their job placement team, helping place graduates in their new careers.
If you are interested in learning more about the Tech Academy and want to schedule a tour today, go to https://learncodinganywhere.com/thetechacademycontact and find your closest campus! For those interested in the industry but find themselves unsure of how to start, Dixon offers this insight. “Start attending meetups; the [development] community is awesome because they really want you to be a part of their community, they want to grow you up and pass that knowledge on, don’t be scared, don’t be shy.”