published on July 22, 2016 - 7:12 AM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

As the tech industry evolves, so must its workforce.
Every day new apps are developed that do everything from streamlining business operations to altering iPhone and Android photos. The demand for high-tech gadgets and entertaining games, some now featuring virtual and augmented reality, is also booming. It’s no wonder software technicians are also in high demand; the issue is there aren’t enough of them.

Geekwise Academy, an accelerated training program for current and aspiring technologists offered under the Bitwise Industries umbrella, is bridging this gap by offering a range of coding courses to high school students and business professionals alike.
Bitwise CEO Jake Soberal said Geekwise Academy is unlike any other educational program offered in the area.
“Geekwise Academy is a coding academy that teaches people how to become computer programmers,” Soberal said. “Where we are different from traditional education is that we try to stick to three things: fast, relevant and accessible. Fast: we want to teach you something with no fluff, so we get straight to it so you get through the course fast. Relevant: we want to teach you things that the industry is demanding today. And accessible: we try to make the courses inexpensive so that folks in our community can have access to them regardless of whether they are a high school student of somebody wanting to change careers.”
Beginners can immerse themselves in coding for the first time by taking a summer course in robotics or video game design, while those already proficient in HTML and JavaScript can take the plunge into the augmented reality phenomenon or even take a new course that teaches students how to develop for Amazon’s artificial intelligence program, Alexa. Standard courses in website building (HTML and CSS), JavaScript, .NET, and online marketing for small business owners are also offered throughout the year. Each course last six weeks and is taught by an industry expert.
Miles Sebesta, a Bitwise developer fellow, is one of the Geekwise instructors. To stay up on his skills, he spends six months working on real world projects for Bitwise, six months teaching high school students and then six months teaching a cohort — a team of adult professionals who have gone through Geekwise Academy and are receiving advanced instruction while working on real world projects. This rotation, Sebesta said, keeps him fresh and up-to-date on new technology.
“The whole idea is to cram a year or two of development experience into a six-month rotation,” Sebesta said.
Jordan Penner, a business development manager for Shift 3 Technologies and a geek recruiter for Geekwise Academy, said the goal is to recruit teachers in the thick of it.
“All of the teachers who teach at Geekwise either work in the building or work in the tech industry. Tech changes so often that we don’t want to have professors who haven’t worked in a while. We want to ensure the skills students learn are current and marketable when they leave.”
Penner said the best thing about Geekwise Academy is that many who go through the coursework are able to find employment immediately, and some are even hired by Bitwise or one of the many companies housed at Bitwise South Stadium.
“A lot of developers who work here went through Geekwise so they are homegrown talent and many who have been part of a cohort are now full-time employees with Bitwise,” Penner said. “If they don’t find a job elsewhere, they usually find one here.”
Ian Garoian, who works in customer service for Drip, an email marketing automation software company recently acquired by Leadpages, was a member of the second Geekwise cohort. He found Geekwise through a Google search and is thankful he was able to get his technical education quickly and at an affordable price — $250 a course. Before Geekwise, Garoian said he mostly worked in retail sales. Now, he’s excited about working for a growing software company.
“I’ve been with Drip five months and we were just acquired by another company, but the great thing is we get to keep our office here and we will basically be a partner with them,” Garoian said.
Two other Drip employees, including Head of Customer Service Anna Jacobsen, also took Geekwise Academy courses.
“We’re a dream team thanks to Geekwise,” Jacobsen said.
Since June 2013, Geekwise Academy has educated more than 4,000 students. Bethany Mily, the executive director of Geekwise Academy said many of these students have found success in the industry.
“Many of them have decided to go into the industry and they are able to use the skills that they’ve learned at Geekwise,” Mily said. “Others may have decided that programming wasn’t for them but were able to gain a lot from the collaborative atmosphere. This is a place for them to find their tribe; that is how we like to think of Geekwise.”  
For more information on Geekwise Academy courses, visit GeekwiseAcademy.com.

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