New Black-led tech boot camp in Charlotte aims to increase diversity in the industry

A new, Black-led professional technology training program is coming to Charlotte.

Dark Mode, a company that aims to connect and train diverse talent in the tech industry, will launch its first technology boot camp in February 2024. Registration for the program opens Nov. 27.

Boot camps serve as an alternate pathway into technology careers. Resembling that of a school semester, the programs are typically intensive trainings that teach participants various aspects of technology development. Focuses range from software development, designing user experience — known as UX design–, to coding, cybersecurity, and even mastering specific industry techniques.

Why it matters: Less than 8% of employees in the tech industry are Black. And according to an analysis shared by the NAACP, less than 6% of participants in technology-focused boot camps are Black.

Tech boot camps can cost upwards of $10,000 and are typically offered online.

Dark Mode’s first course is a 12-week in-person training focused on UX design for $3500. There are no requirements for the course; participants can join with no experience or education in tech.

A place to start

Founder Lusenii Kromah told QCity Metro that UX design is one of the most adaptable roles in the industry.

“For our inaugural course, I was like, ‘which area should we start with’,” he said. “If they had the skills, but maybe couldn’t find a job right away. What [technology] skillset could somebody freelance quicker than others? UX design.”

UX designers create the process a customer, or user, would go through when using a company’s products or services. This can include everything from designing how an app looks to a customer’s online checkout process.

Kromah said that the salary for UX design roles in North Carolina averages around $110,000.

“UX design is on the creative side of tech…so people can make their own money too. You can showcase your skills and get clients on [freelance work websites].

Kromah said Dark Mode’s classes will happen in the evening — Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Tabbris Coworking in South End.

Dark Mode event. July 2023. (Photo courtesy of Lusenii Kromah)

“Pre-pandemic, there were a bunch of in-person [boot camps], but then I started meeting people who were taking classes online, ” he said. “They were kind of exhausted [of the online experience]. They were just looking for something else.”

The evening classes and in-person format, he said, make it an ideal option for people who work during the day or have other daytime responsibilities.

The program’s main instructors, Roderick Wilkins, Noelle Cheatam and Linsey Morgan, all work as UX designers and will bring technical skills as well as lived experience to the training, Kromah said.

Seeing a need

Kromah, who grew up in Charlotte and graduated from North Carolina A&T, went on to work in various technology roles at companies around the country, including Twitter and tech startups.

He said got the idea to offer a training course after moving back to Charlotte and starting Dark Mode as a networking group for technology professionals earlier this year.

“[The bootcamp] stemmed from us building this technology community and seeing [a need],” he said. “Young, diverse professionals needed a space to connect after work…I sent out a text, and 60 people showed up to Weathered Souls, so I knew people wanted it,” he said of Dark Mode’s first social event.

From there, Kromah said he talked with people about their experiences in the industry and also met many people who wanted to join technology careers but didn’t know how. 

He told QCity Metro the boot camp doesn’t guarantee job placement after the completion of the course, but participants will leave with skills and other tangible assets, including a portfolio.

Part of the portfolio includes real-life assignments, like designing an app for Mad Miles, a local run club, and other work experiences that will help showcase skills.

In addition to the portfolio, participants will also have a resume review, attend a recruiting panel focused on getting into the technology industry and have professional headshots taken.

Kromah said the long-term goal of Dark Mode — beyond revenue — is to “do good work.” He said he and his team are excited at the possibility of helping more diverse talent enter and thrive in the technology community.

“We know that we’re helping people once they pick up the toolset.”

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