CLEVELAND, Ohio – With a degree in communications and a career path that included truck driving and massage therapy, Lori Somerville never thought she would find a passion in computer coding. But after a 14-week program at Tech Elevator, she’s now entertaining two offers for coding jobs in downtown Cleveland.
Tuesday night, Somerville was among more than 120 women at Tech Elevator’s first Women, Wine & Web Design event, aimed at exposing women to fundamentals of front-end web development. While all of the participants were there to get a glimpse at what it takes to learn a new language of coding, Somerville was just happy to see so many women in one room interested in this fast-growing field.
“I really love technology,” she said. “I love learning new things. And what I’ve learned about software is that you can’t ever be bored.”
With so many women at the event held at JumpStart, and another 70 on a waiting list, Tech Elevator employees were encouraged. Anthony Hughes, co-founder and CEO of the coding school, said they hosted the event because of disappointing national statistics.
Women in computer science dropped from 37 percent in the 1980’s to less than 18 percent today – despite the fact that women comprise more than 50 percent of today’s workforce. And, while 1.4 million new computing jobs will be created by 2020, only 29 percent of college graduates are expected to fill them – and less than 3 percent of them will be women.
“We want to shine a light down the path for women to see an opportunity – and see themselves- in technology careers,” Hughes said.
Tech Elevator reached out to partners in the community and more than 60 companies touted the free event to employees. Participants came from companies as large as Eaton, the Cleveland Clinic, Sherwin-Williams, Vitamix and Hyland down to smaller firms like Aztek and even small-businesses owners and independents. Participants included marketers, recruiters, project managers, digital marketers, attorneys and local college students.
“Events that highlight, promote and motivate women to get involved in the tech industry are central to OEC’s community-focused efforts,” Geo Money, OEConnection manager of branding and culture, told event participants before it started. “Tech Elevator and OEC share this objective so it’s a natural partnership that benefits all parties.”
Money is planning to host a free product management and product development camp in October.
“If you decide that coding is not for you, there are other ways to get involved in technology,” he told participants at the beginning of the three-hour event.
Hughes said while there are so many opportunities in the growing tech field, people who come to Tech Elevator first pass an aptitude test. It helps determine if they can handle the work, but they also find that the students tend to be introverts. It’s the reason, they help them with job-seeking skills the entire time they’re learning to code.
Somerville said she’s an extrovert, and while the coding camp was intense, seeking a job was a lot less fun. Still, the December graduate is excited that two companies are already interested in applying her newly-learned skills.
“Technology is constantly changing. And if learning is what fulfills you then software is the place to be,” Somerville said.