Thanks to the predicted tech talent shortage and uncertainty in other industries, the idea of switching careers to jump to the tech industry is an enticing prospect for many in these less-than-stellar economic times.
Switch is a service that wants to make it easier to move to a job in technology. Founder Jonathan Lau describes it as TripAdvisor for switching careers, offering reviews of bootcamps, access to scholarships and financing to attend them, and the chance to get in contact with employers who hire from these programs.
Though a graduate of Stanford and MIT, Lau has first-hand knowledge of what a developer bootcamp can do for someone looking to build the skill set needed to become a software engineer. After picking up degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering, he discovered a passion for programming while working as a data scientist and decided to attend Launch Academy, a 10-week Ruby on Rails bootcamp in Boston.
That bootcamp helped land Lau a job at a local ad-tech startup. Soon after, he built a prototype for what would become Switch, seeing the potential these courses can have to change a person’s career in weeks or months.
Lau has used his network in the Boston bootcamp community to bring in the first reviews, while also reaching out to the bootcamps themselves to ask for contacts from their alumni groups. Providing transparency for these bootcamps is one of Lau’s biggest priorities — with new programs offering six-figure salaries for a few weeks’ time and thousands of dollars, he says it’s important to call out programs that don’t offer quality programs or assistance finding a job upon completion.
Most bootcamps are only a few years old, so there aren’t actually that many alumni. Lau says that by the end of this year there will be 10,000 graduates of bootcamps, and that Switch aims to have 1,000 reviews from that group by the beginning of 2015.
Though many bootcamps focus on programming, quite a few also offer classes for other careers in which certain technical skills make a worker very competitive: digital marketing, digital design, and sales. Switch offers reviews for those classes as well, and plans to roll out similar services for massive open online courses (or “MOOCs”) as well as online programs like Treehouse.
At launch, Switch recommends bootcamps based on a short quiz, lets visitors search for bootcamps based on subjects, location, price, and rating, and connect to bootcamp alumni over Skype via a mentorship program. This fall, it’s preparing to launch a job board for program graduates (and so that prospective career switchers can see what kinds of jobs might be available). After that, Lau says the company is preparing a more thorough quiz-based recommendation engine they’re calling “The Switcher.”