The founder of Indianapolis-based coding school Kenzie Academy says a packed reception this week attended by big names like Governor Eric Holcomb and leaders from the business community demonstrates how the state and city are embracing the tech community. Chok Ooi says he touts the Indy story to his connections in the Silicon Valley. "This is a great place to do business and this is a great place to open an office here and hire people here," he said. In an interview with Inside INdiana Business Multimedia Journalist Mary-Rachel Redman, Ooi says Kenzie Academy plugs its students into the tech world through a high-profile network.
"We have about 30-plus mentors who are from the Silicon Valley, New York City, as well as here in Indiana," he said. "What we want to do is essentially bring this group together. These are people who are very successful in the industry. So, they are CTOs, a VP of engineering, chief front officers at successful tech companies and for them, they want to give back to society. And what better way to give back then to come to places like Indiana where people are hungry for opportunities and the tech industry is emerging."
The organization, which offers training and apprenticeship opportunities, is in the midst of working with its first cohort consisting of 18 students from more than 100 applicants. One of the big draws to the program, Ooi says, is an income-sharing agreement that allows participants to repay the costs of the training in the future once they establish themselves in the industry.
Holcomb says the kind of training offered through the academy will help Indiana skill-up its workforce. "The folks that don’t will be left behind," he said this week, "and so we want to stay in the front — in the pole position, so to speak — and create more separation between us and the competition."
Kenzie Academy first launched late last year at The Speakeasy’s downtown location. It has not yet selected a second cohort, but Ooi says he receives inquiries every day.