Haley Blackburn is an Alabama gal. Greenville, a town of about 8,000 people, was her birthplace, as well as where she spent most of her childhood. She also graduated in 2013 from the University of Alabama with a degree in hospitality management with a concentration in event planning.
In the last few years, she’s also become part of Alabama that has been steadily growing: the tech community. How did she make this happen? A coding bootcamp in Birmingham.
“I started my career planning weddings and special events, but soon found that wedding planning was not what I saw myself doing long term,” says Blackburn. As she began her new career search, she first landed a job at Moxy, a Birmingham-based talent and creative agency.
It was at Moxy when she thought to check out a coding bootcamp at the nearby Innovation Depot. “I had taken an HTML/CSS course in college and enjoyed it, but had never considered it as a career. I decided to take a look at the pre-coursework and ended up loving it!”
Blackburn became part of the very first cohort of Depot/U, a ten-week coding bootcamp at Innovation Depot that was developed in partnership with Platypi, a digital marketing agency with a development focus. “I was a little nervous about making a career change, but the tuition was affordable, and I thought I may never get this opportunity again,” recalls Blackburn. “So it was time to go all in.”
After completing the bootcamp, an internship with several of her classmates at BBVA Compass followed. Then came the job offer as a front-end developer at Platypi. And she is now the program director for the very program that helped her enter the tech industry, albeit with a new twist.
Since the 2015 launch of the coding bootcamp at Innovation Depot, the program has 62 graduates and boasts a 90% employment within six months of graduation. And this 10-week bootcamp model, along with a one-week front-end fundamentals course, has now been rebranded to go beyond the Innovation Depot as Covalence. The name is inspired by the covalent bonds, and just as unstable atoms share electrons to achieve balance, Covalence plans to share its coding expertise with other states in order to balance the demand for skilled employees with a highly trained workforce on a regional and national scale.
And Blackburn is enthusiastic to lead Covalence, especially because she understands the journey herself. “Learning to code has bettered my career in so many aspects. Taking this course was a huge risk for me, but I knew it was something I must do in order to make the change that I wanted for my career. I would not have the opportunities that I have today without Covalence.”
For anyone who is thinking about attending Covalence or any other coding program, Blackburn leaves a few words of advice: “If you are ready to make this career change, make sure you are ready to go all in. You will get out what you put in. Meet as many people in the industry as possible. Meetups, workshops and events are important, but the most important part is not only what you’ll learn but it’s the people you get the opportunity to meet and network with. The tech community is so awesome.”