Most of our company partners team up with us to tap into the diverse hiring pool of LaunchCoders that come from our programs. However, not all of our friends partner with us for strictly hiring purposes. 1904labs, a human-centered software design and development company in St. Louis, supports the LaunchCode mission for myriad other reasons in myriad ways.
We sat down to talk about the unique relationship between 1904labs and LaunchCode with Julie, 1904labs’ manager of marketing and operations, and Rebecca and Andrew (aka Doc), two LaunchCoders who now work at 1904labs.
A lot of the volunteers and mentors from 1904labs are able to work with LaunchCode because of the company’s implementation of set “Innovation Time” within the work week.
Tell us about Innovation Time.
We have Innovation Time Mondays and Thursdays from 3 – 5 p.m., during which we give our team the option to come off client work and use it to further their education, work on personal projects or give back to the community. We want people to be able to grow their skill sets and talents. That’s why we have Innovation Time, so that it’s not just all heads-down client work, client work, client work.
We want people to be able to grow their skill sets and talents.
Before Innovation Time, we have a company-wide stand up where people share how they’re going to spend their time so others can hear about it.
When I first started, I was using a lot of my Innovation Time to learn React and Redux, since these were new tools to me. I really appreciated having time that I could do this within normal working hours. I mean, I’m not above learning things on my own, but I really appreciate a company that acknowledges that and gives us the time to learn new things.
I’ve also used my Innovation Time for programming for LaunchCode. Whether it be prepping for class, writing content or even teaching. It happened to be that our innovation days corresponded with the days I was teaching. I’ve used it a lot more for building my own personal knowledge, as well as helping with LaunchCode.
It’s not unusual for someone to stand up and say, “I just heard about this, I’m trying to learn more about it, does anyone have any experience?” People will share what they’ve learned or what they know or where they can find out more. You do have a lot of collaboration during that time.
During innovation time this fall, we started a coders program with Lift for Life Academy. It was a 10 week program where we taught coding and app development to ten 6th grade students. Every Thursday, we would spend time teaching the kids how to write their own app. They did a whack-a-mole app!
It’s really fulfilling and exciting to have opportunities like this. I’ve never worked for a company that’s allowed that… and not only allows it, but mandates it! Like Doc said, it’s not that he’s against doing stuff on his personal time but who wants to go home and work on something after they’ve worked all day?
I’ve never worked for a company that’s allowed that… and not only allows it, but mandates it!
Why do you think it’s important to support LaunchCode and other means of accessibility in tech communities?
You guys are offering this opportunity that is so unlike any other opportunity anywhere around here. To go to LaunchCode and get a free education… it’s a great opportunity, unlike anything else around here. It’s people of all ages, too. It’s not all right out of college people. It is also older people that are wanting to make that career change. It’s just about investing in the tech world. What LaunchCode is doing is so profound… of course we want to be involved in that!
To go to LaunchCode and get a free education… it’s a great opportunity, unlike anything else around here
Many LaunchCoders have flocked to 1904labs. Rebecca, how did you hear about LaunchCode?
I came back from living overseas, was doing some web design through sites like Wix and Weebly and decided I wanted to learn how things worked under the hood. So, I Googled coding bootcamps.
I’m originally from St. Louis, so I had heard of LaunchCode. I started going to CoderGirl when it was an informal meetup… it just was a really attractive sounding space that seemed open and welcoming. It was free – which was a huge perk, so I went and felt right at home. I started going every week to CoderGirl in the WebDev track and that was individually paced curriculum. It was super supportive; I loved the mentors there. Then in Summer 2016, I started Summer of Code (the first pilot of LC101). So, CoderGirl got me in the door at LaunchCode, and I just didn’t want to leave.
I started going to CoderGirl when it was an informal meetup… it just was a really attractive sounding space that seemed open and welcoming.
Tell us about getting to your Apprenticeship after completing the course.
I did! Well, sort of. I got through half of my project, finished the course work, started the project and LaunchCode helped me polish my resume. I started a part time job for a software development company in St. Charles. I wanted to get my feet wet, and LaunchCode works with a lot of people, so I hopped on with them. That was really great! Summer of Code ended December 2016, and then in January, I started the first User Experience cohort in CoderGirl.
It was a nice blend of the skills that I had and was using in my other career and, you know, still learning development a little on the side, but this was a really good fit for me. One of my mentors at CoderGirl introduced me to Carol at 1904labs and I started talking to LaunchCode about getting an apprenticeship, so I just finished this week actually!
CoderGirl is a great program. I think it’s really important to provide a space – until there’s real gender equity in the tech world – for solidarity and support. I’m a huge supporter of LaunchCode and CoderGirl especially.I think it’s really important to provide a space - until there’s real gender equity in the tech world - for solidarity and support. Click To Tweet
What about you, Doc? Also, actually first and foremost, why do you go by Doc?
I worked for an Australian company for a bit, and Australians apparently love nicknames – nobody gets called their real name. There was already an Andrew, so we settled on Doc, and it stuck! I like to think people call me Doc because I know how to fix things. I’m not a doctor by any means, but I’d say the mentality is there.
How did you get involved with LaunchCode?
I was looking for a job for about nine months, went on a handful of interviews and it was the same story over and over again: we want somebody with experience.
Then I heard about LaunchCode. I went in and interviewed, and realized that I had been speaking with Jim McKelvey for 20 minutes and didn’t even know it. But, it went really well! It was the first time anyone really asked me, “what do you want to do?” What kind of programming and development do you want to do? What kind of company do you want to work for? And that’s when I knew right away that there was something fundamentally different about how LaunchCode operated compared to traditional placement situations.
It was the first time anyone really asked me, “what do you want to do?” What kind of programming and development do you want to do?”
Within a month, they got me situated with a company out in Chesterfield. I was doing some software development work for their client. I spent about a year there learning some of my skills with Java. I ended up moving on to some other jobs for a little while before coming to 1904labs in January 2016.
I’ve taught the java track of LC101, and that was a lot of fun. I’ve been heavily involved in the LaunchCode mentor meetups that have been happening on Tuesdays for the last six months or so, and now with the new Liftoff program that’s starting up, I’ve been mentoring there as well as writing some new content for the course curriculum.
Did you have any expectations going into the placement process?
At that point, it was brand new and nobody knew what was going on. I don’t know if anybody knew what to expect! So I was probably in good company there. I was the 100 and something-th candidate they placed. They seemed very receptive and interested in what I wanted to do, so that gave me a really positive feeling walking out of my LaunchCode interview. I had not really experienced that before.
They seemed very receptive and interested in what I wanted to do, so that gave me a really positive feeling walking out of my LaunchCode interview.
Why do you continue to help out with LaunchCode?
Part of it is that feeling that I want to give back to the organization that got me to where I am today. I did not get anywhere on my own; it was through the help of others. I really love the message that LaunchCode has as far as inclusivity and taking people from all different educational backgrounds. Another part of it is I just really like talking about what I do. One of the big things I like about the mentoring and teaching is that I get to impart my experiences and chat with the students. They’re asking all the same questions I had in my mind three years ago, and now I feel like it’s weird to know the answer to some of those.