Silicon Alley U

Christine Quinn Introduces a Cheaper Computer Science Option for NYC Students

Sorry, Alice Cooper: school is not out for summer.
img 9737 Christine Quinn Introduces a Cheaper Computer Science Option for NYC Students

The crisp Ms. Quinn. (Photo: courtesy of the Coalition for Queens)

It was merely mid-morning when Betabeat arrived at enterprise-focused accelerator Tipping Point Parters for a presser, and already everyone in attendance seemed to be wilting. The exception: City Council Speaker (and, let us not forget, mayoral candidate) Christine Quinn, who looked downright jovial. Perhaps she was just that excited about her coming announcement.

Or perhaps she was simply thrilled to be wearing what looked like seersucker, while the rest of us suffered in the heat.

We were gathered into a rather claustrophobic–but very well air-conditioned–startup space, complete with white lighting fixtures and random whiteboard. The occasion: The creation of two new programs meant to feed engineers and other much-needed tech talent into the city’s startup sector.

The first, which bears the decidedly unsexy name of “the Advanced Software Development Program,” will offer select computer science students at CUNY instruction and lectures by “industry professionals.” The curriculum was developed in conjunction with companies like Tipping Point, to align as closely as possible with industry needs.

Ms. Quinn also admitted that, excited as the city is about the Cornell-Technion and NYU Polytechnic campuses, there will be some people for whom it’s “out of financial reach.” “We want to make sure those folks have exactly, if not a better chance, at being leaders in the tech community as anybody else.”

Since we are all contributing taxpayer dollars and everything.

The second program involves the Coalition for Queens, the borough’s very own NYTM-style boosters and organizer of the brand new Queens Tech Meetup.) The nonprofit is partnering with CUNY and Skillshare to launch its own series of practical tech classes, and money from the city will help them get off the ground. Some will be held in the coalition’s Long Island City headquarters, and the team is working on sourcing other locations. Instructors will include advisor (and New York Tech Meetup cofounder) Dawn Barber, as well as experts from firms like Ogilvy & Mather, Covington & Burling, OKFocus and Barrel NY. Classes will start this fall.

“With these two new programs, we’re addressing the skills gap in the tech sector in two different ways,” said Ms. Quinn, calling them “important steps to ensure the city’s tech sector continues to grow and will help more new yorkers get back to work in well-paying, cutting-edge jobs.”

The cost to the city: $101,000 for the CUNY program, and $65,000 for the Coalition for Queens classes. Ms. Quinn pointed out that this, in the grand scheme of things, is not that much money. It’s certainly far cheaper than a $2 billion applied sciences campus. But it sounds like there’s a limited number of students that the CUNY program, at least, will impact: She put the number at 20 for the program’s first year (and added that they’ve already received 70 applications).

She was followed by Art Chang, CEO of Tipping Point Partners. After a genuinely heartwarming ode to software engineering as stepping stone to the American dream, Mr. Chang hopped on what sounded like a personal hobby horse: “What everyone should also be focused on is the impending crisis in the $300 billion enterprise software market, whose crumbling legacy systems power our  economy, our society, and our government,” adding that, “The transformation of these systems should be a national priority” and it’s impossible without more software engineers.

Did we mention that Tipping Point Partners focuses on enterprise software?

Next up: Adam Milligan, who is helping to build up the New York office of San Francisco-based Pivotal Labs. “Oh, dump that San Francisco,” Ms. Quinn interjected with a facial expression that just screamed, “Ugh.”

He meandered through the need for people skills on software development teams, before finishing strong with a (somewhat) rousing appeal to local pride: As soon as he arrived in New York to help launch Pivotal’s office here, “I almost immediately started hearing conversations about programs like this, about mentorship, about technical educations–conversations that I didn’t really hear in San Francisco.” Cue loud, satisfied laugher from Ms. Quinn.

He added: “I believe that programs like this are the most important thing that the technology industry will do in the next decade, if not longer.”

Not to be outdone by the Manhattanites, Coalition for Queens founder Jukay Hsu stepped up to point out that Queens has no fewer than 2.5 million residents. “There’s incredible potential in the borough to help expand the talent pool here and to help contribute to New York City’s growing tech community,” he said.

Maybe what Queens needs to get some attention is start a borough beef?

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