Hear from 3 local businesses who have hired graduates of Innovate Birmingham

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Innovate Birmingham teaches its students valuable skills to fulfill the demand for tech talent here in Birmingham. Photo via Innovate Birmingham

Talk to any graduate from Innovate Birmingham and they’ll tell you that the program completely changed their lives. But what about the companies that hire graduates from Innovate Birmingham? We spoke to three local companies that hire directly from the program to learn about their experiences with the graduates.

Innovate Birmingham

Innovate Birmingham prepares students for promising careers in the tech field. Photo via Innovate Birmingham

Not familiar with Innovate Birmingham? Innovate Birmingham harnesses the potential of local talent to meet the needs of regional employers. They do this by providing holistic support and career development for aspiring tech professionals and offering fast-track bootcamps that align with local industry standards.

Innovate Birmingham is training the next generation through two “boot-camp” style programs: Software Development and Data Analytics. Each program emphasizes three main goals:

  • Equipping students with technical skills.
  • Fostering personal and professional development.
  • Connecting students with potential employers.

Last November, alumni from Innovate Birmingham shared their experience with the program and how it had changed their lives. Now, we decided to speak with three employers who have hired graduates directly from Innovate Birmingham to see how graduates stand out.


BBVA employees meeting Innovate Birmingham candidates at Innovation Depot. Photo via Innovate Birmingham

BBVA USA is a bank headquartered right here in Birmingham. As the 30th largest bank in the nation, BBVA needs employees well versed in tech skills to design web pages, algorithms and more in order to stay competitive. We spoke with Cliff Ritter, a University Recruiting Strategist at BBVA, on why he’s so excited to hire graduates from Innovate Birmingham.

How has Innovate Birmingham equipped your company with the talent and skills you were seeking? What have been some contributions of theirs that have stood out to you?

Cliff: Over the last three years, they have provided candidates with a variety of skills to make them successful in the workplace, both in the software development realm and data analysis realm. All of the cohort graduates have already proven that they have student mentalities by going through the bootcamp. Even better, we promote continuous learning at BBVA, so many of the Innovate graduates that we have hired have taken advantage of that to grow their own skills—helping them move up in the company.

Can you describe your partnership with Innovate Birmingham? 

Cliff: Our partnership with Innovate Birmingham is very hands-on. BBVA is always willing to participate in any events that Innovate Birmingham is hosting. At these events, BBVA can both learn more about the skills these students are developing within the programs and can also assist them with job search skills such as interviewing and resume writing.

Why do you believe Innovate Birmingham is important for our tech workforce? 

Cliff: With Birmingham’s ever-growing tech scene, the demand for skillsets like software development and data analysis is only going to continue to grow. Innovate Birmingham’s continued education of cohort students is vital for Birmingham’s long-term success.


One recent Innovate Birmingham graduate joined Keysys. Photo via Innovate Birmingham

KEYSYS is a local software development firm that specializes in creating innovative solutions for their clients. Since their founding in 2007, KEYSYS has served startups, enterprise companies and nonprofits all around the country. KEYSYS needs creative, talented personnel to help create unique business plans for each client. We spoke with Kelly Knudsen, the Chief Impact Officer, to hear why KEYSYS chooses Innovate Birmingham graduates to bring those goals to life.

How has Innovate Birmingham equipped your company with the talent and skills you were seeking? What have been some contributions of theirs that have stood out to you?

Kelly: Since May 2019, KEYSYS has hired four Innovate Birmingham graduates, and all four still work for us and have exceeded our expectations. They have been assigned to teams and are all now contributing to their team effectively. They have all had the ability to transition from client to client to support our consulting model which is challenging for a new developer. We have even had one IB student who has completed a Scrum Certification, which not only adds to his skillset but benefits KEYSYS as well.  

Can you describe your partnership with Innovate Birmingham? 

Kelly: KEYSYS’ partnership with Innovate Birmingham has been very beneficial. At events hosted by Innovate Birmingham, we have the opportunity to meet with students and mentor them in interviewing skills. These meetings have provided a useful insight into the talent of the group.  

Why do you believe Innovate Birmingham is important for our tech workforce?

Kelly: Many people want to get into the tech field but don’t know how, maybe can’t afford it or don’t have time to invest in a two-to-four year degree. This boot camp has been instrumental in allowing people to do just that and KEYSYS is more than happy to support those efforts. Additionally, Innovate Birmingham has done an excellent job working with companies to hear the needs of the local workforce. After hearing from the community, they have pivoted on which technologies they teach in order to accommodate the needs of employers.

3. Altec Industries

Altec Industries—a leading equipment and service provider for electric utility, telecommunications, contractor, lights and signs, and tree care markets—is headquartered right here in Birmingham. In fact, Birmingham is home to Altec’s original truck body manufacturing facility. We spoke with Hannah Deegan, a Talent Acquisition Specialist at Altec, on the ways Innovate Birmingham graduates add to the community at Altec.

How has Innovate Birmingham equipped your company with the talent and skills you were seeking? What have been some contributions of theirs that have stood out to you?

Hannah: Innovate Birmingham has provided Altec with strong tech talent that can be difficult to find in our city. We have hired two developers from the Innovate Birmingham software development program, and they have both proved to be key players for their respective teams. The candidates who graduate from this program all have a couple of things in common – grit and determination. To get through the program, the candidates need to be self-starters and have a passion for lifelong learning. These are crucial skills that help immensely in the professional work environment. 

Can you describe your partnership with Innovate Birmingham? 

Hannah: Altec has been partnering with Innovate Birmingham since 2017. We participate in multiple different capacities, including aiding in resume reviews, holding mock interviews, being an employer partner, etc. Altec also hosted a lunch and learn with one of the cohorts to show them what life is like as a developer at our company.

Why do you believe Innovate Birmingham is important for our tech workforce? 

Hannah: Innovate Birmingham is a program that helps transform the lives of citizens living in the greater Birmingham area through the power of education. On top of this, they have proven to be a key player in developing a strong talent pipeline for our tech community in this city. With the gap only growing between the number of open tech jobs vs. the number of qualified candidates to fill these jobs, the importance of this program is only proving to be more crucial. 

Considering Innovate Birmingham?

Innovate Birmingham
Tenants at Innovation Depot, where Innovate Birmingham operates. Photo via Innovation Depot, Inc 

“Innovate Birmingham’s employer engagement strategy hinges on leveraging employer partners that have committed to supporting our program along with network partners in the economic and workforce development sector. Innovate Birmingham works closely with employers, IT staffing firms, and other workforce matching organizations to facilitate career exploration and job placement.”

Haley Hoppe, Director of Engagement, Innovate Birmingham

One thing is for certain—local tech companies are lucky to have graduates from Innovate Birmingham. If you’re interested in starting a career in the tech field, there is no better place to start than Innovate Birmingham.

  • The fast-track bootcamps at Innovate Birmingham add early value towards a tech career.
  • In addition to a diverse candidates, each candidate is prepared for a diverse range of jobs.
  • Innovate Birmingham is more than tech training. They also prepare each candidate for the professional world.

Learn more about their courses and scholarship opportunities.

Have questions about Innovate Birmingham? Contact Haley Hoppe, Director of Engagement at haleyh@innovatebham.com!

Sponsored by:

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Nathan Watson
Tennessee native who fell in love with Birmingham during college. Graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2019. Passionate about Birmingham and its continued growth.
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