Color Coded Labs helping Black and brown talent transition to technology jobs
Doug McCollough has made a concerning observation.
There are employers eager to find diverse talent to fill technology jobs. And there are capable people looking for ways to change careers and increase their income.
But their paths aren’t crossing.
“We're sitting in a community with thousands upon thousands of available people,” says McCollough, 54, of Reynoldsburg, who is the chief information officer for the city of Dublin. “How do we get these companies and corporations and unicorns and startups to cross the street and talk to these service providers and help desk or call center employees, and create a viable path for them?”
McCollough and his partners channeled that concern into Color Coded Labs, a culturally focused tech bootcamp focused on preparing Black and brown workers for technology careers. Launched earlier this year in the historically Black King-Lincoln-Bronzeville neighborhood, the company will eventually offer multiple courses of varying lengths.
McCollough serves as CEO. His co-founders are venture capitalist Mark Kvamme, as well as tech professionals and entrepreneurs Branden Jones, Bruce Jones and Kevin Lloyd. Kvamme, along with with Rev1 Ventures and JumpStart, are investors. The company has received additional support from Columbus City Council and other businesses and organizations.
The cost of tuition is $13,500, which includes a laptop. Color Coded Labs offers an income-sharing option, which allows students to pay the fee back in installments once they’ve secured a job. The company also helps students secure scholarships.
Classes are in the evening, Monday through Saturday. They have been virtual amid the pandemic, but Color Coded labs is set up for in-person instruction in Venture Suite, a membership-based coworking space on Mount Vernon Avenue. The building serves as the headquarters for a “Black and brown Ecosystem” of businesses, including entrepreneur support organization BLK Hack and Venture Combine, a startup/small business development program.
And it’s a collaborative atmosphere, according to Branden Jones, who also is the co-founder of BLK Hack.
“We would like someone to come in with an idea for a company,” says Jones, 36, of Bexley. “We help them with some wraparound services and tools and knowledge to help them get it off the ground. Then, they're able to hire the people in our bootcamps and our members, and offer those services back. So, it's like this non-stop cycle.”
Color Coded Labs accepts adults 18 and older with a high school education.
“The ideal person is someone who's doing something else right now,” says McCollough. “They're talented and capable, but they're not making as much money or using that talent and creativity in whatever job they may be in. We're also targeting people who may have been displaced by COVID.”
And they are especially interested in training women.
“A lot of women dropped out of the workforce during COVID,” McCollough says. “A lot of women are paid less than men. Technology is the best part of the employment market. People are highly paid, highly mobile. We know when women in the community are stable economically, families are stable. Communities are stable.”
In addition to the technical curriculum, students are instructed on topics like professionalism, building a LinkedIn profile, writing a resume and networking. Representatives from companies like Nationwide, JPMorgan Chase, Root Insurance and software company WillowTree have agreed to mentor students. Before graduation, the company will begin assisting students with job placement.
“We really encourage people to just follow the process,” says McCollough. “If you get admitted to this program and you decide you don't want to do it, you don't have to, but get admitted and find everything out about this resource.”
Color Coded Labs student Daniel Henderson remodels buildings for a living, and hopes to apply his training in his field, and explore new opportunities.
“I've acquired all sorts of knowledge as far as the actual inner workings of some tech companies,” says Henderson, 36, of the South Side. “What they're doing is groundbreaking. I'm the target person because I absolutely have nothing to do with tech on a day-to-day basis. It just goes to show that if you set your mind to it and decide that you want to learn, it is possible. This the opportunity of a lifetime.”