Computer Programming/Software Development


Lacking tech curriculum in schools, Memphis groups step up to prepare students


Kelly Miller

Kelly Miller, right, and her manager Sharon Bailey at the ServiceMaster Downtown headquarters. (Kim Coleman)

ServiceMaster partnered with Tech901 in the past year to develop the nonprofit’s Code 1.0 course. They wanted to offer a course that would benefit local companies. During the planning stage, conversations were held with local IT professionals to gauge their needs.

After the graduation of the first Code 1.0 cohort, ServiceMaster hired four students as interns. Kelly Miller was later hired full-time. She now works as a front-end developer with the American Home Shield E-Commerce team.

“I deal with the customer-facing side. The images, the words, and the content you see is created with JavaScript, HTML and CSS. It’s connected to the back end — the database and such. I am interested in front-end development so everything you see on the site is what I create,” said Miller.

Miller holds an undergraduate degree in Engineering Science from Vanderbilt University. After an internship as a product engineer, she switched gears and became a teacher.

She took a position in the Peer Power organization. While working as the STEM coordinator in 2012, she was recruited to East High School to teach engineering courses. After several years, she was ready to tackle a new challenge.

“I knew I wanted to do something more technical since I had that undergraduate degree. And it still very much was an interest of mine. I wanted to pick a field that was growing,” said Miller.

Upon returning to Memphis, she heard about Tech901’s Code 1.0 course.

“After I read about it, I really was like ‘this is too good to be true’ and people always laugh at me for that. After an information session, I signed up for the course. Anyone with a STEM background can pass the course,” said Miller.

The course uses the Harvard C550 computer science curriculum paired with a local developer for instruction. Instructor Brad Montgomery, who is on the board of directors for the Memphis Technology Foundation, also heads the Python users group. Python is one of the primary coding languages.

The class provides the foundation for basic programming, learning basic algorithms, and common techniques for sorting data. Students also learn database and front-end technologies. A team concept is emphasized to mimic real-world work environments.

“Development today is getting more and more advanced. You have more happening on a web page. The web is not just a brochure. It’s applications that do things and let you track data and manage workflows. It’s getting pretty complicated,” said Montgomery.

“It is a challenging course, but it’s not unapproachable. If you graduated from high school, you can do this type of work,” he added.

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