This article was published in the Tech Summit 2020 issue

by Amy Larson, CTO, 1-800 Contacts

I once heard a Silicon Valley executive say there was a standing order at his company to hire anyone who had the required technical skills and they’d figure out what to do with them later. At the time, I thought he was bragging about their deep pockets and fast growth. Years later, I realize it was about more than that: tech talent is hard to find, and it’s only going to get harder.

That isn’t news for anyone reading this; we all know about the huge demand for qualified talent. But rather than following the Silicon Valley point of view mentioned above, we’re taking the 1-800 Contacts approach: hire for passion, engagement, and smarts, and then we’ll help train them for where they need to be.

Throughout 1-800 Contacts’ 25-year history it’s been tremendous at fostering talent within the organization. I look around and see peers throughout the company who started in our call or distribution centers, put in the work, and had the opportunities to grow into leadership positions in every department.

This led our IT leadership team to ask: why not create the tech talent we need?

The result is CTAC U, a free development bootcamp available to our associates. Through the bootcamp we can support and invest in the associates who already have a passion for our company and culture while helping fill technologically demanding roles.

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The program was designed and is supported all through our internal team. Two software engineers teach the courses, one for front end and one for back end coding. Each student is paired with an experienced mentor and provided a Pluralsight subscription. We think it’s important to allow our team to set their own pace and also allow for self-directed learning. I’ve heard from one of our CTAC U teachers that she wished this existed when she was making a career change and taught herself to code.

At the end of the year-long program, associates should have the know-how for an internship in our IT department.

CTAC U is core to who we are as a company, and where we want to go: we’ve always invested in our people, sought more diversity and women in tech, and paved the way for specialized talent in Silicon Slopes.

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I take so much pride in the folks we’ve helped develop – those still here and those who’ve progressed beyond our need and now hold director and VP titles at other companies. Investing in our people and prepping them for satisfying careers with us or elsewhere in Silicon Slopes is the 1-800 Contacts way.

Read the rest of the articles in the Tech Summit 2020 issue of Silicon Slopes Magazine
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