Big Shoulders: Neal Sales-Griffin, CEO, CodeNow

| Adam J. Hecktman

We need more people who know how to code. Period. The reason does not rest in the need of large technology companies, like Microsoft, to hire qualified employees (although, there is that). It rests in the need inherent across companies in all industries for trained developers. As an example, Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, told CNN: “A car today has hundreds of millions of lines of code. We do see a shortage if we don’t address this and I mean fully fundamentally. Every child needs to have these skills.”

Learning to code goes well beyond the programming skills themselves. Learning to code provides a way for a student to get critical thinking, problem-solving, design, and collaboration skills. All qualities that employers look for and find hard to source.

So where do we start? High School? Perhaps. A handful of schools (including CPS schools) provide computer science education. Enter Neal Sales-Griffin. Legendary in both the Chicago community and the developer boot camp community, Neal created the Starter League. The Starter League was the first developer boot camp and it helped numerous enterprising people get their start.

Neal’s next major project is taking the help of a non-profit teaching high school students how to solve meaningful problems through coding. CodeNow has four levels to introduce young people, with a focus on those under-represented in the developer space, to web design, coding, and how to come up with creative app ideas. And the best part is that those young people can work at their own pace.

Neal is an inspiring and energizing leader. The story of CodeNow just as energizing. I hope you will watch my Big Shoulders interview with Neal around his vision for how CodeNow will create a lifelong community of technical problem solvers.

Watch my interview with Neal Sales-Griffin live on

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Adam J. Hecktman

You may recognize Adam. He’s a regular on TV, you can hear him on the radio, he’s penned numerous articles and is the co-founder of the Chicago City Data Users Group. But some of Adam’s most important work is done behind the scenes in his role as Microsoft’s Director of Technology and Civic Engagement for Chicago. Tech giants, universities and government leaders turn to Adam for guidance on all matters technology, and he happily obliges, helping Chicago overcome challenges and capitalizing on new, exciting opportunities.