In the agricultural rich Central Valley, Phillip Lan is ready to grow a new crop. It’s not almonds, peaches or the emerging field of cannabis. Lan is looking to produce a crop of coders and in doing so, grow the potential of the Central Valley to bring in new businesses and lucrative salaries.
Even with the Silicon Valley so close in proximity to the Central Valley, many of the area’s workers have been left out of the tech boom but Lan is hoping to change that through Bay Valley Tech.
Lan grew up in the Central Valley on a farm and after college moved to the Bay Area to start his career in tech. Lan led the digital marketing team at E&J Gallo Winery and held marketing, business development and leadership roles in tech companies such as IBM and Ask Jeeves. When he moved back to the area, he saw many of his old friends struggling to make ends meet and he started thinking of how he could help them and the community at large.
“As a Bay Area tech hiring manager, I knew what it would take to get companies out here and that was a decent pool of talent,” Lan said. “All of these tech companies are already expanding out of state, but we’re the county next door, so if we can create a critical mass of talent, we can say to these tech comapnies, ‘take a look at us too.'”
Out of that idea, Bay Valley Tech was born and established in 2017. It’s an innovative code academy striving to produce software talent with expertise in the modern programming languages and frameworks that employers desire. With classes in Modesto and Stockton, as well as more planned in Turlock, Tracy and Livermore, Bay Valley Tech’s low-barrier program aims to significantly increase the Central Valley’s software talent base and position it as an attractive destination for tech companies looking to expand.
Bay Valley Tech is opening doors for area residents through its innovative free software training program. Code academy students learn new programming skills through flexible online courses, peer-based tutoring and weekly in-person classes, where they have opportunities to network with local software professionals and hiring managers. Bay Valley Tech has also partnered with local companies to provide software professionals as code academy mentors and paid internships for top program graduates.
“We teach a man how to fish, but then we have that man go out and teach other people how to fish,” Lan said of Bay Valley Tech’s philosophy.
Bay Valley Tech also provides a supportive, collaborative and fun environment for new students just getting into tech. The business also supports the local tech community by sponsoring hackathons, software meetups, Women Techmakers, high school tech events and the Valley Agtech Summit.
“The local tech community plays an invaluable role inspiring, supporting, mentoring and lifting each other up toward better-paying careers,” Lan said.
Bay Valley Tech’s has developed partnerships with the Stanislaus County Office of Education and other corporate sponsors to increase funding to significantly accelerate local software development training.
“Our collaboration with Bay Valley Tech will provide Stanislaus County residents with an accelerated, cost-effective training program, giving graduates of the program access to high-tech careers that are in demand,” said Stanislaus County Superintendent of Schools Scott Kuykendall.
There is a high demand for workers with the skills Bay Valley Tech is teaching. Lan said tech companies have around a million unfilled jobs right now, but that the country will only be graduating 63,000 computer science majors this year.
“I tell people that these companies don’t pay people $200,000 or $300,000 because they want to,” Lan said. “They only do that because they have to because they can’t find enough to fill the need.”
Bay Valley Tech is looking to code at least 1,000 new progammers in the next five years. It’s a lofty goal, which is why the academy uses corporate sponsorships to pay for the costs, making it free for students.
In addition to the academy, Bay Valley Tech helps students with resumes, interview practices and introductions to potential employers.
“We’re taking them all the way though to a job,” Lan said.
As president of Bay Valley Tech, Lan oversees both the fast-growing code academy as well as the ValleyWorx co-working space, a Modesto-based tech hub that supports local entrepreneurs.
For more information on Bay Valley Tech and to sign-up for the code academy, visit bayvalleytech.com.