Solving America’s Software Engineering Gap Through Redemptive Entrepreneurism

I am fascinated by the idea of transformation. Especially the ideas surrounding transformation that breaks through systemic social cycles. For instance, what are the circumstances, relationships, key moments, experiences, and life learnings in a person’s life that must happen to break out of their current life trajectory to a different path altogether? Is it just plain luck? Or who their parents happen to be and what they have been taught along the way? Or perhaps these types of breakthroughs have more to do with the specific community someone is born into? There are countless factors that play into a person’s life that inform and determine the way in which they dream of living, how they aspire to live, and the reality of how they actually do.

As an entrepreneur, I have spent the majority of the last decade working in some form or fashion with people who in many circles would be labeled as disadvantaged. And the definition I am working from for “disadvantaged” is someone who exists in unfavorable circumstances, particularly when it comes to their financial and social opportunities. My work in this area started when I served as a pastor, but then more closely zoomed in to focus when I started my first nonprofit helping churches mobilize their congregants to meet the needs of those less fortunate than them in the local community. I remember as clear as day my meeting with the mayor of our community as a twenty-six year old pastor when I asked him the question, “What are our community’s greatest needs?” He quickly responded, “I have never been asked that by a pastor before,” which was both shocking and depressing to a young bright-eyed guy wanting to live my life (and lead those under my influence) in a way that helped change the world.

My mobilizing nonprofit helping to connect people of resource to those with less of them eventually led my family and I to London to expand our nonprofit work across Western Europe. The locations would change through the years across multiple countries, but the work always orbited around the idea of helping those more fortunate understand how they can leverage all that they have and to willingly sacrifice in order to benefit those in need, while giving them practical onramps to engage in this work.

For the first decade of my career this was all done through nonprofit vehicles. The typical cadence would go something like this… cast the vision; raise the money; inspire and educate the helpers; discover the recipients of the help; and then connect the two and hope it goes well according to plan. A ton of good was done this way. There is no diminishing of the work I engaged in tirelessly for so many years.

And then, in my thirties, I discovered redemptive entrepreneurship.

I was fortunate enough to have a front row seat (by way of multiple mentors) to look firsthand at their businesses to discover what it meant to run a redemptive venture. And my life has been forever changed. I couldn’t believe it. These entrepreneurs and CEOs had the ability to holistically change people’s lives. As a previous pastor, I could speak to many things from the pulpit generically about a person’s life, implore them to specific behaviors, and educate them on their identity. But I could never personally affect their bank accounts, their relationship status, their mental well being, or their family’s physical trajectory.

But in the for-profit world as a business leader, I could. I could start companies, lead them courageously, sacrifice personally so that others on my team might win. Then, drive growth in a way that didn’t exploit my employees, clients and prospects, but rather empowered and benefited them in a way that honored their dignity and humanity.

It was life altering.

And part of this journey is that I now am privileged to run alongside people who see the world the same way I do. People who want to get behind audacious ideas, back them financially to see them come to fruition, and mentor along the way in partnership to change the world.

Now, to double-click on these ideas and give practical illustration, imagine you are a twenty-something living in Florida. You are a college student finding your way on your path to graduate and enter into the workforce. You get a call one day amidst your studies and it’s your mother. She has been diagnosed with cancer. You are the most obvious available resource for her caregiving, and her diagnosis is now your current responsibility. You decide to take a break from school. You head home to care for your mom and become a full-time caregiver.

And if that is not enough, you also need to go get a job so that you can contribute to the financial complexities of her care. You find a part-time job at the local Home Depot and in your off hours are a college-aged full-time caretaker. This is definitely not the life you planned for yourself at this age. Hope is on the decline, options seem to be dwindling, and then you hear about this guy, Daniel Walsh, from a company called VeroSkills.

Through minimal research you learn that you can use your analytical skills and enter into a six week online e-learning program to become a software engineer that matches you with top tech talent tutors and then connects you with recruiters who want to hire you. In six weeks, you went from working part time at Home Depot caring for your ailing mother making minimum wage to a software engineer position at Regents Bank making $70k.

This is a true story.

I recently sat down with VeroSkills Founder & CEO, Daniel Walsh, to hear more. VeroSkills is an education platform that provides underprivileged students access to training, mentoring by top software developers, and the pathway to a competitive career. Daniel’s heart is to make an impact for the underprivileged… to play a role in the transformative journey of people’s lives. And in our interview he explained to me that there are multiple problems that they are solving at VeroSkills.

First off, there is a supply and demand problem in the computer engineering space. In 2022, 100k new accredited software engineers entered the workforce, but there were 3.9M new tech jobs added that year alone. Which means, there is not nearly enough tech talent to supply the demand of tech openings in our nation. So to combat this gap, many have started “coding camps” to fast track new software engineers into the job market, but with a hefty multi-tens of thousands of dollars entry price, only the privileged can afford to enroll.

Daniel remarked on his aha moment, “What if we actually try and figure out a way to really solve this problem that there is not enough tech talent in the world, but not do it in the same way we have been trying to do it in the last decade, which is come out with more high priced education models to bring students in?” “What if we made this affordable for those that could never afford a coding camp?” And his solution was to make it free for students who are scholarshipped at discounted rates by community foundations and nonprofits who pay the way for cohorts of new engineering students.

But here’s the kicker… these students then get paired with world class software engineers working at the Google’s, Microsoft’s, and Apple’s of our world who minimally get paid, but are really there for the giveback effect. The students graduate from the program, and then to combat the tech hiring deficit are entered into VeroSkills’ “LinkedIn for Impact” recruitment marketplace to connect them with these life changing transformative job opportunities.

And this is where the systemic social cycles are broken. In six short weeks, a refugee, an impoverished young person, or a recovering victim from sex trafficking can be fast-tracked from underprivileged to a career making $60k plus. “Tech gives us this bridge to help these individuals transform out of poverty in a way that is sustainable and long-lasting. This is the best part of the company!”, says Daniel. “Having financial stability is a cornerstone to lasting change and breaking the cycle of poverty.”

Through redemptive entrepreneurism and aligned venture capital backing, companies like VeroSkills are leveraging business to not only make great returns for their shareholders, but also creating the double bottom line of impact. These audacious entrepreneurs and investors are actually changing lives and breaking systemic cycles. Individual, collective, and community flourishing are the net result that is quite literally transforming the world.