[Stamford Advocate] Software Developer Moves Apprentice Program to Stamford

By Brandon Campbell

Thanks to the work of a software development apprenticeship program this summer, there will be 15 more trained, experienced coders available to companies in Fairfield County next month.

The Apprentice100 program, which was created by New Haven-based Independent Software, has moved to the Stamford Innovation Center to attract companies and students from southwestern Connecticut.

Derek Koch, founder and CEO of Independent Software, said that the idea for the A100 program came out of his own experiences with hiring candidates at the software development company, and he learned that many companies were in need of more code-writing talent.

“They were crying out for more development talent in Connecticut,” said Koch. “So we decided to focus on what there was a lot of in this area, and that is students coming out of college that had talent and education background but lacked experience that they needed to achieve their own aspirations and needed an opportunity to build their portfolios.”

Independent Software began hiring college students as interns to help them build their experience and Koch soon realized that it could be turned into a program that would cultivate and keep talent in the community. Koch also looked at it as an opportunity to develop a stronger startup community in Connecticut.

After hosting the program in New Haven for a year or two, Koch said that he looked to other areas of Connecticut to host a cohort, which is the name for the 12-week A100 program held by Koch. They saw Stamford as a location with a strong potential for expansion and a place with the opportunity to attract the attention of companies and potential apprentices in that area.

Barry Schwimmer, founder and managing partner of the Stamford Innovation Center, which is hosting the A100 program this summer, said they formed a relationship with Independent Software through CTNext, a support network for Connecticut entrepreneurs. When the opportunity arose to have a stronger connection, they jumped at it, he said

“What’s been so great about having the A100 program here working in our buildings, taking classes in our classrooms, and working on projects in our conference rooms is that they’ve been fully exposed and integrated with our community,” Schwimmer said. “A big part of our interest in this program was to expose the communities to each other, it’s exactly the mission of both of our organizations, so this cross pollination is invaluable.”

Schwimmer also found that the desire to expand through Connecticut to be particularly beneficial. Independent Software will be running two cohorts this fall, in New Haven and Hartford, and Schwimmer hopes that they will return to Stamford to work with them in the near future.

“A significant impediment of an entrepreneurial community is the availability and exposure of strong tech talent,” Schwimmer said. “We are very strong supports of Derek and having more people in this community getting this experience and exposure to potential sponsors and other entrepreneurs leads to only better things.”

Koch is pleased with how successful the program has been in building the entrepreneurial community he feels Connecticut needs, and sees the environment as unique to other places that may be attractive to software developers, such as Silicon Valley in the southern San Francisco Bay area.

“For people who are aspiring software developers, there are a lot of companies that are doing really interesting work, however it’s very likely that you’ve simply not heard of them,” said Koch. “So many companies around here are really excited about local talent, it’s just a matter of people getting involved in programs like A100, and taking risks, because it can really open up doors to some of the great talent that Connecticut has to offer.”

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