As Tech Booms, Workers Turn to Coding for Career Change

Rahulan Raj

6 Mar 2012
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After Paul Minton graduated from college, he worked as a waiter but always felt he should do more.
So Minton, a 26-year-old math major, took a three-month course in computer programming and data analysis. As a waiter, he made $20,000 (roughly Rs. 12.6 lakhs) a year. His starting salary last year as a data scientist at a Web startup here was more than $100,000 (roughly Rs. 63 lakhs).

"Six figures, right off the bat," Minton said. "To me, it was astonishing."

Stories like his are increasingly familiar these days as people across a spectrum of jobs - poker players, bookkeepers, baristas - are shedding their past for a future in the booming tech industry. The money sloshing around in technology is cascading beyond investors and entrepreneurs into the broader digital workforce, especially to those who can write modern code, the language of the digital world.

Internet giants like Google and Facebook have long fought over the top software engineers in the country, and that continues. But now, companies in most every industry, either by necessity or to follow the pack, are pursuing some sort of digital game plan - creating lucrative opportunities for computing-minded newcomers who, like Minton, want to reboot their lives.

"These are skilled and ambitious people who are seeking an on-ramp to the tech industry," said Jim Deters, chief executive of Galvanize, the school Minton attended.

Whether the on-ramp proves to be a lasting pathway to high pay and stimulating work remains to be seen. The boom-to-bust cycles in the tech business can be wrenching, like the last downturn in the early 2000s after the dot-com bubble burst. Nearly everyone in the industry was hit. Yet software development and engineering jobs held up better than ones in finance, marketing, sales and administration.

For now, at least, it is a seller's market for those who can master new technology tools for lowering a business's costs, reaching its customers and automating decision-making - notably, cloud computing, mobile apps and data analytics.

Companies cannot hire fast enough. Glassdoor, an employment site, lists more than 7,300 openings for software engineers, ahead of job openings for nurses, who are chronically in short supply. For the smaller category of data scientists, there are more than 1,200 job openings. Demand is highest in San Francisco. Nationally, the average base salary for software engineers is $100,000, and $112,000 (roughly Rs. 70 lakhs) for data scientists.

In March, the White House announced an initiative, TechHire, to coordinate the efforts of the federal government, cities, corporations and schools to train workers for the thousands of current job openings in the tech sector. The Obama administration points to coding schools like Galvanize, Flatiron and Hack Reactor, which offer accelerated training in digital skills as a way to "rapidly train workers for a well-paying job."

The graduating classes of these coding schools support the trend. They will graduate about 16,000 students this year, more than double the 6,740 graduates last year, according to a survey published by Course Report in June. The 2015 total would be about one-third of the estimated number of computer science graduates from US universities. The largest concentration of the schools, often called boot camps, is in San Francisco, which has 12, followed by New York, with nine, and Seattle, eight.

As Tech Booms, Workers Turn to Coding for Career Change | NDTV Gadgets
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