Haley Blackburn graduated from the University of Alabama in 2013 in the field of Hospitality Management with dreams of coordinating beautiful weddings that would influence her clients for a lifetime. As time marched forward, she desired more fulfillment in her professional endeavors. Blackburn knew it was time to experience a career in which she was truly passionate.
“I started my career planning weddings for friends but soon found that wedding planning was not what I saw myself doing long term,” said Blackburn, a graduate of the first class of Covalence and current Covalence Program Director. “After landing a job at Moxy and doing some creative work for them, I knew my passion was in coding and web development design.”
There are many people in the Birmingham metro area and across the nation that aspire to branch into a different career, specifically in the growing technology and innovation sector. Covalence, formerly known as Depot U, enables students to accomplish that.
Covalence is a cohort program geared toward underemployed and unemployed individuals that wish to dive into a career in software development or would like to add these skills to their current professional experience. The program developers only ask that prospective students have a genuine passion and desire to learn the rewarding skills of software development and possess the ability to learn independently with a strong sense of self-motivation. The program has held five 10-week cohorts since its inception and has given approximately 65 people the ability to change their careers.
Covalence is also a partner of McKinsey & Company’s Generation Initiative in Birmingham and will offer up to four Generation IT courses and three Covalence Extended courses per year to Birmingham's underserved and underemployed population. The Generation program is one of the initiatives of the Innovate Birmingham Regional Workforce Partnership, the broad coalition of public, community, business and education leaders – including the Birmingham Business Alliance – that recently received a $6 million America’s Promise Grant to provide industry-specific skills for 925 Birmingham citizens to obtain high-paying jobs.
What draws students to Covalence? “I was working in the tech industry at local Birmingham company, Moxy, and they encouraged me to look into the course,” said Blackburn. “I had taken an HTML/CSS course in college and enjoyed it, but had never considered it as a career. I was a little nervous about making a career change, but the tuition was affordable and it seemed like a great opportunity to further my passion.”
Graduates of Covalence have transitioned into professional positions with several notable companies in the Birmingham area including Luckie & Co., Shipt, Zeekee, Cooking Light, BBVA Compass, Platypi and Bank of America.
Blackburn completed the program and eventually transitioned into a role with Covalence. “I had to opportunity to do an internship with several of my classmates at BBVA Compass after completing the courses,” said Blackburn. “After the internship was over, I landed a job with Platypi/Covalence doing web development. Soon after, my CEO, Matt Landers, met with me and asked me to take over the role of Program Director. I was really excited for this opportunity because I would get to use my new coding knowledge to educate others on our program.”
To gain admittance into the Covalence program, interested individuals must complete the free online application and go through a two-round interview process in addition to completing pre-coursework before being accepted. Blackburn offered advice to those who may be seeking a new career in software development and are interested in joining Covalence. “If you are ready to make this career change, make sure you are ready to go all in. You will get out what efforts you put in.”
Covalence recently changed its brand name from Depot U. Since the program will be expanding to Chattanooga, TN in May, the program developers wanted a more cohesive name to reflect what prospective students will experience at Covalence. Covalent bonds are created by the interdependency of one unstable atom sharing electrons with another to achieve a stable balance of forces. Just as unstable atoms share electrons to achieve balance, Covalence is sharing its coding expertise with other states in order to balance the demand for skilled employees with a highly-trained workforce on a regional and national scale. Therefore, the Depot U brand name was restructured as Covalence.
When asked what the future holds for Covalence, Blackburn stated, “I believe the program will continue to strengthen and refine its focus on teaching aspiring developers how to code by offering accelerated, demand driven Full Stack and Front End coding programs in multiple states. By establishing a best-practice program with Depot/U at Innovation Depot in Birmingham, Covalence can now bring that expertise to other communities across the country.”