There is something that makes Tulsa — and Oklahoma — unique in the tech world. Techlahomans are not going anywhere. They are a committed group of programmers who have known each other since college, or even earlier. They look forward to meet ups because it’s a chance to see their friends, not just network. There’s a kind of magic happens when you know you’ll see each other at the same time each month or each week. Just look at people who do Crossfit or go to church. There is power in community and Tulsa has that tech community. They are invested in you, you are invested in them, and in turn you push each other people to be better. They are actively engaged in civic tech. They frequent local brews like Prairie Brew pub (that’s not important, I just think that place is great). The Tulsa tech community has created this unique magic and it’s something that needs to be noticed and fostered.
I left Tulsa because I had exhausted the online resources, such as Team Treehouse and Bloc, and I did not want to pursue another four year degree. Wassim Metallaoui told me that a program in Denver called Turing could take me from a dabbler to a real software developer. It was an exhausting seven month program, but I did it. I found a job in Boulder that I will be starting this week and it’s all roses. But I believe there should have been an option like this for me in Tulsa. Tulsa has a lower cost of living and a much more actively engaged programming community. Right now, the most difficult part of hiring a junior programmer is finding a company with a mentorship program in place. There is a rough 3 month on boarding process, but after that you have a fairly decent programmer. After a year of working they’re considered mid level. The ramp up time is rough but it is brief. Maybe it needs to be subsidized by someone, I don’t know. But it’s not long to turn someone from a dabbler into a developer.
In light of Amazon shopping for a new headquarters, I think Tulsa should start taking a serious look at it’s potential to be a programmer mecca. It’s definitely a “if you build it, they will come” kind of scenario, but I think the turnaround would be fairly quick. There’s no infrastructure you need to build. You’re investing in and building up people. The people at 36 Degrees North and the Tulsa Web Developers believed in and encouraged me to follow my new found dream of being a programmer. It’s because they told me I could that I did it. And this is the magic you are sitting on and need to harness.
Right now bootcamps all over the nation are shutting down because there is a glut of junior developers in the market. But not in Tulsa. Tulsa is a place where people are committed to their community and will do whatever it takes to see it thrive. This is my plea to companies to set up these junior positions and the city to bring in the bootcamps to retrain people. It’s doable. I am doing it. I was not able to pursue this dream in Tulsa because the opportunity was not there, but it can be. I don’t know how to fix the educational or transportation system, but I do know how to bring in more skilled labor. And when you have skilled labor, the companies follow.