049: Jeff Mazur (LaunchCode)

Jeff Mazur on Innovation City

“This false notion has developed over the years that there are certain people who are born to code… we approach it as a skill that can be learned and taught, like many other job-focused skills.” — Jeff Mazur

Welcome to Innovation City—powered by Venture Cafe—where Tyler Kelley and Michael Johnson, Co-Founders of SLAM! Agency, interview innovators, creators, and disruptors to discover how business is changing in the modern world.

Created and produced by SLAM! Agency in cooperation with Venture Cafe St. Louis and Venture Cafe Miami, Innovation City gives you an inside look at how rapidly business and culture are changing thanks to increasing diversity and inclusion, heightened creativity, and a stronger and better-connected business community. Venture Cafe is the largest combined gathering of entrepreneurs and innovators anywhere in the world. Events are held every Thursday in St. Louis, Miami, and other leading innovation cities around the globe.

Today’s guest is Jeff Mazur, Executive Director at LaunchCode. LaunchCode is a growing national nonprofit that is building the tech workforce by providing free, high-quality training and job placement to driven individuals who lack typical tech credentials. Jeff previously served as Senior Advisor to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and as Executive Director of the Missouri-Kansas affiliate of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. Jeff joins Innovation City to talk about LaunchCode’s goal of bridging the high-skill tech workforce gap in cities across the U.S., the value of being nimble, and the joy he finds in his job.

They discuss:

  • Jim McKelvey founded LaunchCode to solve the problem of having a relatively small high-skilled tech workforce in St. Louis
  • Square moved to San Francisco to find enough skilled tech workers, but McKelvey founded LaunchCode to break down the barriers to entry to working in tech
  • LaunchCode operates in St. Louis, Miami, Tampa, and Kansas City
  • How to change attitudes in the tech industry about who would be a good hire
  • Who has the aptitude? Who has the skill? Not, ‘Where did you go to school?’
  • By 2020 there will be 1,000,000 unfilled tech jobs in the U.S.
  • LaunchCode is the most prolific source of new developer talent in the St. Louis region, putting around 230 new developers into the workforce each year
  • The importance of having a drive to succeed
  • LC 101: Building junior developer capacity over the course of a 20 week program
  • Learn quickly and hit the ground running
  • The value of being a nimble organization
  • How quick, effective retraining programs can help people resettle after their existing jobs get automated
  • Working with the Knight Foundation to build LaunchCode’s second training facility in Miami
  • The LaunchCode Index: How LaunchCode decides where to open a new training center by determining which markets are short on tech workers
  • The top 8-9 markets are flush with tech workers, but many areas in the U.S. are already very short on the amount of tech workers they need right now
  • Fighting the existing High-Barrier-to-Entry/High-Cost-of-Failure path to a tech career
  • LaunchCode has a 65% completion rate
  • How to build your tech worker pool: fail quickly, in true startup fashion
  • Correcting the false notion of people who are born to code
  • Finding ways to help people empower themselves
  • Changing the world by giving people the opportunity to express themselves