YOUR BUSINESS AUTHORITY

Springfield, MO

Log in Subscribe
SBJ photo by Jessica Rosa

A Conversation With … Krista Peryer

President and Co-Founder, The Geek Foundation

Posted online

What is The Geek Foundation, and why did you start it?
We started in October of 2015 and we exist to teach programming and computer science classes and maker classes, anything that has to do with tech, especially to increase diversity and inclusion in the field. Maranda [Provance] and I are co-founders. She had a background in sciences, and her motivation to get into it was because she didn’t have any girls in her class with her until her senior year at (Missouri State University). I kind of went down the road of teaching myself front-end web development, HTML, CSS. I thought maybe I should try to go to college for it and couldn’t find a program that really fit what I was looking to do. About 10 years ago, I started seeing that we had a big area of tech employment here with Jack Henry, O’Reilly [Automotive], Expedia. Those places were always constantly hiring for developers. We have this huge tech hub here, so why not start a school? We can teach those things and try to fill those jobs.

Tell me about the grant you recently received, which was your first.
That was a collective impact grant that we just got awarded from (Community Foundation of the Ozarks). We were awarded $24,000 in partnership with Pitt Technology Group and Northwest Project, which is the Drew Lewis Foundation. We’ll work directly with Northwest Project’s clientele, and then Pitt Technology Group is working with us to help tailor curriculum to get certifications to help women get into (information technology) jobs.

How are your programs for kids and adults structured?
Our primary goal is to get kids interested in what tech is. A great way to do that is through interactive, hands-on projects. We have a project that will be coming up soon that’s a tiara – wire and LED lights soldered together that form a tiara and then you can program the LED lights to light up and sparkle or change colors. The Girls Who Code camp is an ongoing thing. (Maranda) goes on-site at Boys & Girls Club and works with girls. Our adult classes, we’ll be starting this spring. One will be the IT program that will run in partnership with Drew Lewis Foundation and Pitt Technology Group. That will be a boot camp, and it will be about four to five months long. It’ll be a couple nights a week, about two to three hours a night. Our web development classes will be structured in the same exact way.

What are the challenges of getting a diverse workforce within IT?
Some of the barriers that I noticed here specifically are that people don’t have the time or the money or the formal education or they don’t have the resources or the connections. That’s why we’re offering our classes for free, so everyone has accessible education to move into these roles.

What’s the local potential in this field?
We have a large tech hub here that people really aren’t aware of. When we think of O’Reilly, most people think of automotive, when you think of Jack Henry, people think of banking, when they think of Expedia, they think of travel, but they’re actually large tech employers. Same with Bass Pro [Shops], CoxHealth and Mercy. And they are always hiring. There is so much opportunity to have people being able to get into high paying, high rewarding careers. Technology can be really frightening when you think about the future and people think about jobs being taken because of automation. But our goal is to get people to embrace it.

Krista Peryer can be reached at krista@thegeekfoundation.org.

Comments

No comments on this story |
Please log in to add your comment
Editors' Pick
Business Spotlight: Fighting Chance

COVID-19 threatens boxer's dream to help at-risk kids.

Most Read