By Veronica Penney

The Turing School of Software and Design is taking a fresh approach to training Denver’s next developers. With an eye toward diversity and promoting social justice, the nonprofit school offers a full-time, immersive seven-month program that prepares students for a career in code, but also encourages them to consider how they can improve the tech industry.

“Our mission is to unlock human potential by training a diverse, inclusive student body to succeed in high-fulfillment technical careers,” explains Erin Williams, Admission and Enrollment Manager at Turing.

The program is an appealing alternative to a traditional undergraduate degree. Hour-for-hour, graduates come out of the program with the same amount of hands-on coding experience as a four-year computer science degree, but in a quarter of the time and at a fraction of the cost. Tuition costs $20,000, but the goal is for students to earn enough that they can pay off their debt within two to three years at most.  

“We’ve had employers tell us that our junior-level devs are closer to mid-level right away, because they’ve had so much practice and so much hands-on training,” says Williams.

Turing trains capable developers, but that isn’t the program’s only focus.

“We’re trying to help kind of build the whole person, in some ways, and help us all become better people for being here,” explains Williams. On Fridays, Turing’s “Gear Up” sessions offer students and staff a chance to talk about the tech world and how they can make it better. Discussions include topics like the gender gap in management and tech and harassment faced by women in the industry.

“The conversation becomes, how, as women, do we empower ourselves? Then for the men in the room, what does it mean to be an ally?” asks Williams.

Similarly, discussions around automatization, advances in AI, and the growth of robots performing “simple tasks” in the work force leads to questions about how this affects the workforce and the people who perform those jobs.

Are we creating more inequity, or are we thinking about that? How are we mindful of who those jobs are replacing and how to continue to build a just world?” asks Williams.

That vision of a just world ties back to Turing’s emphasis on encouraging diversity, which is why the school offers two diversity scholarships in each module. Scholarships are offered to groups historically underrepresented in tech, including women, people of color, members of the LGBT community, those with disabilities, and veterans. The school fosters diverse perspectives by participating in international festivals, Denver Pride, the Five Points Jazz Festival. Code workshops hosted by the Denver Public Library and DSST Public Schools offer support and guidance to encourage more interest in coding.

“One of the phrases we use is that we want to build a world where the people who make tech reflect those who use it,” explains Williams. “That hasn’t been the case, so we’re trying to get closer to that world.”