Bringing the Byte Back to Boca

By Jill D. Kaplan

Anyone who believes that those who cannot do teach never met Dr. Todd Albert. He began coding when he was a youngster, and it has been one of his many passions for more than three decades. While he was encouraged to enter the field of software engineering during his school years he opted to study climate science instead. He went on to obtain his Ph.D. and he entered academia where he remained for two decades. Dr. Albert has taught coding, and other courses, at Bowling Green University, the University of Tennessee at Martin, and the University of Miami. He loved teaching, but as most people are aware, the salaries in that field are modest. As his family grew, and their needs changed, he switched careers and officially became a software engineer. In that role he has worked with PBS, Ally Bank, and numerous Fortune 500 companies to plan, develop, and lead teams writing complex software applications. One of his proudest roles, next to being a husband and father, involved his time as a Research Fellow at NASA. There he wrote a snowmelt model for the Greenland Ice Sheet and he wrote code for handling data collected from weather stations they had installed on the ice. His work at NASA culminated in him being

recognized as one of the world’s leading climate scientists. His success in the engineering field led to his creating his own agency. At that time, the coding talent pool was based largely in New York and California. Dr. Albert, like others, found himself having to look outside of his local area for qualified individuals to work on his projects. This reality sparked an idea to open an immersive coding school. Simultaneously, he started to notice a shift in the digital sector which culminated with the advent of COVID-19. The industry realized that they did not need to remain in California and New York to succeed. With the lure of lower costs of living, tax benefits, and more desirable climates IT professionals began their migration to Texas, Colorado, and South Florida. This development encouraged Todd and his excitement about the school’s potential grew. He explains “I began to do a deeper analysis and the results were illuminating. In April of 2020, CompTIA-the world’s largest professional Information Technology association issued a press release encompassing the entire state of Florida. They announced that tech employment in Florida grew by nearly 18,000 net new jobs since 2019. Thus, capping a decade in which the state’s tech

the related workforce expanded by more than 120,000 jobs. These numbers represent a staggering 25.9% increase in tech jobs over the course of ten years.” Dr. Albert continues, “My discussions with leadership at local large employers like Modernizing Medicine, Office Depot, City Furniture, and SilverLogic supported the state findings. They echoed the sentiment that there is a robust demand for coders but there was also a lack of sufficiently trained professionals to fill the positions. Anecdotally, I was hearing job discrepancy ratios as high as 6:1. In addition, The Kaufman Index which indicates entrepreneurial trends ranked South Florida #1 in 2020. That reporting presented yet another employment source that would skew heavily towards creating jobs in tech and boosting the digital economy. Lastly, Boca Raton has a strong historical reputation within the IT sector because IBM developed the PC here. When I put everything together, I knew that the time was right for my dream to become my reality in Boca Raton.” Confident that he could spur local economic growth and balance the talent supply and demand levels Dr. Albert began to develop Boca Code. He secured a space in the Pointe West Center on Beracasa Way and began to assemble an all-star faculty. The school’s lead Developers and Instructors include Michelle Bakels, Jonathan Sanchez, and Mariela Pascual. Bakels was formerly with NextEra Energy and is the current Vice-Chair of Code Palm Beach. Sanchez has extensive mobile app and frontend developer experience. Pascual is well respected for her work in UX and CSS. UX guru Emily Clearly rounds out the academic staff. The staff developed a comprehensive curriculum comprising two primary career courses.

The first path is their signature ten-week course for individuals looking to enter the field. It specifically prepares a person for a career in software engineering at an entry-level position. This offering is expected to be immensely popular as the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that the average salary for a South Florida software engineer is $108,000. The second path is a mixed selection of ten shorter courses designed to allow the student to focus on a specific coding modality. These are offered at both beginner and advanced levels. These modules are excellent options for those looking to progress in their careers. All core programs include the opportunity to work on real projects. Boca Code also provides students with access to a network of professionals who assist with resume and mock interview prep along with LinkedIn profile creation. The semester closes with a career fair where students interview for positions with human resource managers. Instructor Bakels states “What I love so much about building Boca Code is that as the tech industry in our area grows we will be able to train members of our local community to fill high demand jobs. Not only do we focus on providing our students with a high-quality education, but we also make sure that they are always supported through their careers by creating a community of inclusion, trust, and continuous learning.” stb

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