Durham’s Momentum Learning Turns Career-Changers Into Coders

From left: Momentum's Co-Founder and CEO Jessica Mitsch, Co-Founder and CTO Clinton Dreisbach, a current student and an alumnus at the Momentum office.

Tucked away below-ground, the group of 20 works on their code. The team is as diverse as the colors in a 64-pack of Crayola crayons. Everyone brings something unique to the table.

When they get stuck on a problem, they turn to each other for a fresh perspective on how to write code and problem solve.

This is Momentum Learning’s Cohort 6. They each made the tough decision to change jobs and dive into programming, and are now preparing for a career in the technology industry.

Momentum, a Durham-based coding school, is now expanding its reach beyond just students. After raising $2.75 million in a recent Series A round, Momentum is starting a program to work with companies to train their current employees.

Clarkston Consulting, a global consulting firm also based in Durham, supplied the new funding. Previously, Momentum’s seed round of about $400K was raised mostly through angel investors, with Triangle stalwart Capitol Broadcasting Company as the lead investor.

Momentum offers part-time and full-time programs for people looking to switch career paths and get their start as programmers. At the end of the program, if the students don’t have a job offer within six months, Momentum will refund their tuition costs.

The company aims to be transformative in the local technology industry, said Co-Founder and CEO Jessica Mitsch. The name “Momentum” comes from the idea that the students coming into the program were like a ball sitting at the top of a hill, full of untapped energy and ready to go.

Mitsch started her career by landing a job at Red Hat right out of college, where she worked on their “people team” doing talent acquisition. For a person uncertain of where she wanted to end up, Red Hat was the perfect starting point.

“I just wanted to have an impact on education,” she said. “I deeply believe in education and the power that anyone who has access to education has.”

During her time at Red Hat, Mitsch learned a lot about the technology industry and how it impacts the way people live and communicate. She was then approached about opening a coding school, which turned out to be the perfect fit for her.

The school started out as a branch of The Iron Yard, then a national coding school, and Mitsch learned how to manage teaching students how to code. When The Iron Yard eventually closed, Mitsch knew she had to continue the work she was doing. That’s when Mitsch and current CTO Clinton Dreisbach founded Momentum Learning.

“For me, my favorite part of doing this is definitely the students,” she said. “I really believe the code school model is proving out a different and effective way of approaching vocational education.”

Cracking The Code Of Diversity

One aspect Mitsch likes about the school is the multi-generational classrooms. The school has a mix of people coming from all different walks of life in each class.

Leslie Heal Ray, a current Momentum student, has a doctorate in music and previously performed and taught music for a living.

“There’s a lot of patterns in technology to look at,” she said. “You’re never really done learning, which is the same as music. Something about that really makes me happy.”

Mitsch recently had a current student walk in and give her a big hug because he had just gotten his second job offer. She said the best part of her job is to see people take ownership of their transformation and feel empowered to go into a new career that they’re interested in.

Momentum also offers free community events around once a month for people who want to get involved or learn more about coding. The events can be found on Momentum’s meetup.com page.

“Our overall mission is, how do we impact the most impactful industry?” Mitsch said. “We want to make sure we have great talent coming to technology.”

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About Laura Brummett 6 Articles
Laura is a GrepBeat intern, covering all areas of tech and startup news in the Triangle. She is a business journalism major at UNC-Chapel Hill, minoring in studio art and history. Reach her by email at laura@grepbeat.com or find her on Twitter @laura_brummett.