Until recently, 27-year-old single parent Valente Meza struggled on an $18,000-a-year Applebee’s server income.
But last summer, he joined the Downtown software firm Real Time Solutions as a web designer and developer earning $30,000 annually after graduating from Central New Mexico Community College’s Deep Dive Coding bootcamp. CNM paid his entire $6,500 tab for the 10-week course through financial assistance and scholarships supported by grants from the Kellogg Foundation, Workforce Solutions and others.
“I qualified for assistance as a low-income, single parent from the International District,” Meza said. “I started here six months after graduating, and I’ve gotten two raises since then. I’m looking now at going back to CNM for an associate’s degree in computer science.”
Meza is one of nearly 300 graduates from the CNM bootcamp, which celebrated its fifth-year anniversary Wednesday night. At the event, the latest cohort of graduates presented their “capstone” projects and networked with potential employers as part of the program’s “Demo Day.”
Capstone achievements included new websites and apps that students built, such as one to explore local hiking trails and another to connect local breweries with potential patrons by matching beer preferences.
It’s the 20th cohort to graduate from Deep Dive, which serial entrepreneur John Mierzwa launched in 2013. CNM Ingenuity, a nonprofit that manages all of the college’s commercial activities, acquired it in 2014 for incorporation into CNM’s STEMulous Center Downtown.
To date, more than 90 percent of students have either found jobs or launched their own businesses within six months of graduating.
Graduates’ average starting salary in the Albuquerque area is $47,000, said CNM Ingenuity Executive Director Kyle Lee.
“Deep Dive grads have started 24 new companies,” Lee said. “And the graduating population is extremely diverse in age, gender, race and income status.”
About half of all students get some type of assistance to cover costs, said senior program manager Andrea Cisneros. Facebook recently offered to pay for 32 scholarships.
The program provides an alternative path to high-paying careers for many people who would otherwise struggle to earn a computer science degree, said Mierzwa, who helped launch a for-profit software business with CNM Ingenuity last year that now employs three Deep Dive graduates.
“We’ve proven that there are other ways of learning complex topics like computer science than pursuing a four or five-year degree program, which many people can’t do,” Mierzwa said. “It’s allowing a lot more people to enter the technology space, including low-income and minority populations.”
CNM has also expanded its bootcamps beyond web design and development to include a program for mobile web apps using Microsoft technology, and training in Java, Android and Salesforce programming. In August, it will launch another bootcamp for digital media design and production.