As record-breaking layoffs force many Central Valley residents to seek new job skills, a local tech company is now offering its seven-month computer programming class for free. Founded by IBM and E&J Gallo veteran Phillip Lan, Bay Valley Tech’s code academy is helping students from Modesto, Stockton, Turlock, Tracy, and even some Bay Area communities prepare for higher paying jobs that often offer remote options or flexible hours. The code academy is a highly effective, collaborative program that leverages self-paced online courses as well as mentorship by professionals and advanced students and also provides many opportunities to interact with local employers.

Ryan Dziadosz, CEO of Takapa Media and president-elect of Modesto Downtown Rotary, provides scholarships for Bay Valley Tech students and is a strong advocate of the innovative school.

“Takapa Media is proud to join the Stanislaus County Office of Education and other organizations in supporting Bay Valley Tech. This unique program is lowering barriers, offering hope and changing lives. Expanding our county’s tech talent pool will benefit Central Valley employers and attract more tech companies into the region,” Dziadosz stated.

Bay Valley Tech is experiencing phenomenal growth, aiming to produce 1,000 new software developers in the Central Valley and East Bay. Let’s get to know a few students and alumni who are building a brighter future for their families while expanding our local tech economy.

Siegfried Guentensperger

As a young boy, Siegfried Guentensperger was curious about how things worked and often took them apart. Unfortunately, he couldn’t always put them back together again. But his curiosity eventually helped him learn enough coding skills to program gadgets through a simple $30 Raspberry Pi computer. A few years ago, Guentensperger discovered that Bay Valley Tech was sponsoring a local hackathon and entered the programming contest hoping to connect with talented “hackers” who shared his interest in technology.

Modesto’s supportive tech community helped Guentensperger’s confidence and competence in programming grow. Last summer, he joined a Bay Valley Tech cohort quickly learning the modern software technologies and frameworks that employers utilize to build crucial applications. Bay Valley Tech’s strong emphasis on networking and collaboration with local tech professionals and employers also helped equip Guentensperger for his job search later in the year.

Today, Guentensperger is a business analyst and software developer in E&J Gallo’s marketing organization.

“The technical skills I learned at Bay Valley Tech and the relationships I built there were key in preparing me for my current role. I highly recommend the program,” Guentensperger said, who continues to be a key contributor in the local tech community. Gallo managers also seem to like the program as well, having recently hired several of Siegfried’s fellow Bay Valley Tech alumni.

Alejandro Alcazar

Alejandro Alcazar, is currently zipping through his software coding assignments. After some difficulty finding business-related jobs locally, Alcazar decided to explore opportunities in computer programming. He heard about Modesto’s tech scene and after attending a few “Code Night” meetups hosted by Bay Valley Tech, Alcazar soon realized that he wasn’t on his own. He could learn these new skills with the help of the code academy’s supportive instructors, mentors and fellow students. He joined Bay Valley Tech’s program at the beginning of the year and has already impressed his instructors and fellow students.

“At the code academy, it’s all about becoming a better software developer and learning best practices in preparation for the workplace,” Alcazar commented. “Software development takes a lot of teamwork and creativity. It is both interesting and challenging because although there are often many adequate solutions, your team has to find the truly optimal ones, he added.”

Now that he has almost completed his coursework, Alcazar sees the limitless opportunities a software career provides and the potential for tech to improve the Valley’s economic prospects. With a bright future ahead of him, Alcazar is looking forward to making a positive impact on his family and the world through developing innovative software solutions.

Roberto Mejia

Growing up in the Central Valley, Roberto Mejia lacked tech role models. He was an excellent student and developed a strong interest in computers early on. Through his tenacity and excellent instructors at CSU Stanislaus, Mejia acquired some solid programming skills. Lack of experience in modern programming languages, such as JavaScript, held him back though. He joined Bay Valley Tech after a challenging year-long job search. Mejia’s desire to succeed and hard work impressed many in the local tech community, who quickly rallied around him. Despite doubts, Mejia pressed ahead with the help of mentors and friends. Code academy instructors and other professionals also encouraged Roberto to keep learning and networking, providing support with interview preparation and employer introductions.

A few months later, Mejia received two job offers in the same day. He is currently a software developer with Tyler Technologies, yet another tech company expanding their software development team here in the Central Valley. “Roberto is an inspiration to many in our community,” stated Martyn Conkling, Bay Valley Tech’s director of education, adding “He frequently speaks to other code academy students encouraging them to work hard and chase their dreams. He is a great example of someone who shows up to give, and not just to get—someone who will help the Central Valley reach its full potential.”

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