How we develop Soft Skills at Careers in Code

Hack Upstate
Jan 15 · 4 min read

Careers in Code is a free coding bootcamp for women and minorities to help fight poverty in Central New York and a program of Hack Upstate.

Developing students’ skills outside of their technical abilities was an integral piece of our program. We wanted to find ways to improve our students soft skills throughout the duration of the program.

We were thrilled to provide the following opportunities for our students:

Guest Speakers

We hosted guest speakers and invited them to join us before class as well as at our networking events. They shared their experiences working in the industry and provided insight into how students can be successful. More importantly, they inspired students, provided encouragement, and demonstrated what goes into becoming a successful software developer. For our first cohort we were fortunate to be joined by 17 exceptional guest speakers who you can learn more about here.

Guest speakers such as Indaria Jones, Doug Crescenzi, and Matt Flood spoke to our students throughout the program.

Networking Events and Local Developer Meetups

Throughout the course of the program, we organized several networking events for our students. We would often dedicate Tuesday’s class to attend developer meetups to get involved in the local tech community. Our students interacted with local technologists and helped to improve their communication skills, facilitate connections, and potential employment opportunities.

We think these events helped our students become more confident in their abilities. Additionally, we at Hack Upstate support many local developer meetups you can read about here.

Our students are involved in some of these local meetups and events:

  • OpenHack. A casual meetup based around developer side-projects. OpenHack Syracuse happens on the second Tuesday of every month at Syracuse Coworks
  • Syracuse Javascript Meetup. Each event has a learning and interactive portion. Whether you’re an experienced JavaScript programmer or just getting started, we welcome and encourage all proficiency levels. They meet on the third Tuesday of each month
  • Women in Coding. Monthly workshops that give people a chance to work on a project or work through an online curriculum at their own pace. Each workshop will have at least one mentor to provide support and answer questions. Although this group is geared toward women, anyone is welcome to attend our classes
  • Code for Syracuse. A group of volunteers that builds digital tools with government and non-profit partners to enhance public life and bridge the digital gap. We’re a platform for civic innovation, driven by civic engagement within the Greater Syracuse community.
  • Happy Hour upon completion of the program.
  • Google Developer Group Capital Region Devfest. Students were exposed to Albany’s tech community and learned about machine learning, IoT, Flutter and so on. Our intern, Will Guisbond, also gave a talk on Careers in Code during this event.

Some other initiatives our students are involved in after the program:

  • MLH Local Hack Day. Organized by graduate Dana McMullen and TA Jennifer Tran, MLH’s technology learning day conference is a global conference that allows the community to pick up new skills by experiencing a professional day of learning first-hand. Over the course of the day attendees will participate in a series of workshops where they’ll learn skills such as publishing their first website using AWS, sending their first SMS with Twilio, Blockchain, building their first game in Unity and more.
  • Salt City Code. A podcast was started by graduates Kelly Corey and Karin Thorne. They talk about their experiences as bootcamp students.

We’re excited to find more opportunities to grow student’s soft skills through additional events. We’d also plan to host a career fair day and employer round-table for future cohorts.

Many students attended the kickoff for Code For Syracuse, a group of volunteers that builds digital tools with government and non-profit partners to enhance public life and bridge the digital gap.

Mock Interviews

Raymour and Flanigan contributed several hours from their schedules to conduct mock interviews with all of our students. Matt Checksfield and Ralph Divito joined us on the evening of May 23, 2019 conduct the interviews and gave immensely valuable feedback to our students. Students said “The feedback from the interview and resume was really helpful! It was amazing for Matt and Ralph to take the time to do this and it’s appreciated.” and “It was VERY helpful as a process and I have a lot to think about and a lot of work to do”.

Matt Checksfield at Raymour and Flanigan.

Hack Upstate

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Advancing Upstate New York's tech community through events and education. &&

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