Making a difference with Oracle Academy
The spotlight is on Jordan Eldridge, Code Differently, United States.
Code Differently is a workforce development company in Wilmington, Delaware, teaching technology and employability skills to underserved high school students and to adults seeking a career in technology. The makeup of classes is 90% underserved or ethnically and/or gender underrepresented in technology. Diversity and inclusion are part of its mission; ‘Changing Lives’ is its motto.
In partnership with the New Castle County Government and Oracle Academy, it equips cohorts of 100 students during the year and 150 in the summer from across nearly every school district high school in New Castle County with skills in computing and programming.
Code Differently is Oracle Academy’s largest community-based partner in North America, using the Java curriculum in its coursework and preparing students for Oracle professional certification exams.
Jordan Eldridge is a software engineer and team lead, one of 10 in the company who use Oracle Academy resources in their classes.
Oracle Academy: Can you tell us a little bit about Code Differently and why it’s different?
Jordan Eldridge: Code Differently is a leading diversity, equity and inclusion technology education and workforce solutions company. We design and deliver technology career-focused training products and services to address the educational divide and strengthen the economic outlook of the most underserved and underrepresented populations. What makes us different is our ability to reach into communities to attract people to pursue technology education or careers. Most of the people that we approach have never thought about pursuing those careers.
We have a great high school-focused program. We believe the earlier the exposure to technology, the greater the outcome. We help people realize that technology skills such as coding, technical writing, and other skills are obtainable. Changing Lives is our motto and it works.
It is amazing to see our high school interns going on to college to pursue computer science, working as software interns before even going to college, and building lifelong relationships in our local technology ecosystem. It’s just mind blowing!
Oracle Academy: How do your partnerships with the local county government and with Oracle Academy work?
Jordan Eldridge: We have had the pleasure of being a worksite for the New Castle County Community Service youth employment program for a few years. Essentially, New Castle County is the employer and the youth employees are assigned to our worksite to learn employable skills such as building their technology skills and working on real technology projects. New Castle County has been really innovative in their initiative to have 1,000 kids coding across the county. We offer employment experiences such as software development and managing the user experience.
Our Code Differently software engineers are essentially the development leads of the interns. We are all frequent users of Oracle Academy resources and teaching methodologies. We leverage Java Fundamentals with cohorts who have no prior experience. The interns progress to Java Foundations, and Java Programming for those who have demonstrated their coding knowledge. This year, some of our interns even started to learn Database Foundations, too.
Oracle Academy: Strong partnerships! How is the certification working out?
Jordan Eldridge: Certifications have been amazing! Last year, eight of our students achieved the Oracle Foundations Associate, Java, professional certification. Passing that exam demonstrates both conceptual knowledge and skills in the fundamentals of Java programming. Three of the successful interns earning their certifications were freshmen in high school, 15 years old. They became certified Java developers even before getting their driver’s license! These certifications carry a lot of weight, leading to college course credits and making the interns more employable.
Building on the Java certification, we are now planning to leverage the Database Foundations course and prepare interns to sit for the Oracle Database SQL Certified Associate exam.
Oracle Academy: What kind of class exercises do you give them?
Jordan Eldridge: We try to focus less on class and more on skills building. For the learning piece of their employment, the interns are assigned projects or labs that are similar in nature to real development projects. For example, they may have labs to create a shopping cart or inventory tracker. I’ve also given labs on applying promotional codes. We all love a discount when shopping, so these labs really interest them. That is just one example of many. Oracle Academy really prepares our interns to be able to implement so many real work scenarios.
Oracle Academy: What is the Oracle Academy contribution to Code Differently?
Jordan Eldridge: Oracle Academy’s state-of-the-art learning tool has been a game changer. I’m amazed at everything Oracle Academy has to offer. The curriculum to career path is clearly defined. The tool allows us to assign learning material, track progress, and test the comprehension. The instructor materials are extremely helpful too.
We leverage tons of the information to prepare live demonstrations to deepen the learning of our interns. Our software developers also have leveraged the live webcasts and on-demand training with Oracle specialists. From the beginning, the Oracle Academy team has provided us first class support.
Oracle Academy: How did you get involved with Oracle Academy?
Jordan Eldridge: As one of the development leads, I would spend a lot of time searching or creating material needed to help our interns build their foundational skills. I heard in one of our company meetings that we were going to pursue a relationship with Oracle Academy to standardize our learning material and allow us more time to focus on delivery and coaching. I was brought into the initial implementation meeting and was blown away. I quickly became intrigued with the curriculum and overall service offering. I spent days upon days combing through the site. I guess you can say I became the resident expert just because I was spending so much time looking through material. Ha!
Oracle Academy: That’s great! And was technology always your chosen career?
Jordan Eldridge: You wouldn’t believe that I wasn’t even interested in pursuing a career in technology. I wanted to be a physical therapist or a teacher. Prior to joining Code Differently, I was a supervisor at a trampoline park and professional trampoline dunker with the Philadelphia 76ers. After five years of that, I needed a career change. My parents connected me to a local software development bootcamp. I met the Education executive director and he took me under his wings. I completed the boot camp―probably the hardest thing I ever did in my life!
I landed my first technology role with a major fintech company. During my industry employment, I learned a lot, but really wanted to be able to do more impactful work in underserved communities. After three years, I decided to join Code Differently and do just that. I’ve been loving it ever since!
Oracle Academy: And overall, how is Code Differently impacting your community?
Jordan Eldridge: It’s just amazing to witness our interns’ and students’ lives change. From not knowing anything about coding to displaying technology skills that are on par with university students or entry level technologists is simply amazing. They are motivated. They know what they want and they go for it! Our software engineers do a lot to expose our interns to new experiences and motivate them daily. Imposter syndrome is really real! We are constantly reminding them to celebrate the small wins and more importantly, you belong here! Let’s keep it real. Coding can be an emotional roller coaster. Every software developer fails from time to time. It can be a hard pill to swallow, but it’s the norm in our field. We encourage our interns to keep faith. Don’t give up. And guess what… the ones who don’t give up are thriving. I just love being a part of the journey!
Oracle Academy: And what kind of work can they expect to get?
Jordan Eldridge: In this day and age, technology skills are essential. Everything our interns learn will make them more knowledgeable and marketable in whatever they choose to pursue as a career. We currently have 11 interns building a Community Care Response tool that will help community responders locate much needed services for people in need. There are an additional 28 interns working at a major fintech on various banking software tools.
We had our first Technology Career Signing Day in May. Since then, we’ve had increased interest from a lot of companies in our technologists. We expect to expand our corporate relationships even more next year.
Oracle Academy: What do you do outside of coding?
Jordan Eldridge: I’m a sports photographer on the side. I love basketball. It’s by far my favorite sport. I like to shoot big sports tournaments that display great up and coming basketball talent. I’m gradually getting into other avenues of photography such as graduations and weddings, too. I’m also a big family guy who loves spending time with my family.
Somehow, my life always circles back to coding. My goal is to combine my love for basketball, technology, and building technology talent all into one purposeful movement. Who knows, maybe I will start introducing machine learning or data science to do predictive modeling for NBA teams. That sounds good to me!
Thank you, Jordan Eldridge, for your passion for Oracle Academy.