Microsoft helps newly minted computer coders prep for job market

ALBANY – The local job market is extremely tight these days, with the capital region’s unemployment rate just over 3 percent.

This means that applicants have a major impact on the positions that are hiring, especially in technology, manufacturing and healthcare sectors where expertise is required. These dynamics are driving up salaries and making companies spend significant time and expense to hire the people they want.

That doesn’t mean, however, that prospective workers, especially those new to the job market — or those who haven’t tried the water in a while — are ready to go through the hiring process.

One of the local organizations trying to address this issue is CanCode Communities, a nonprofit in Albany that trains people for software coding jobs and also offers digital literacy courses to underserved populations. The software jobs students are trained for often pay above-average salaries in excess of $100,000 per year, and most students are eligible for tuition-balancing scholarships, which total $1,950 per course.

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Microsoft, which has a robust volunteer program for its employees, works with CanCode Communities, previously known as Albany CanCode. Participating employees work as “interview mentors” who help CanCode students and alumni prepare for job interviews, including by conducting mock interviews that last about 20 minutes.

CanCode Communities offers 12-week software and computer programming courses designed to prepare non-traditional students or the underemployed for careers in software programming, a skill not typically taught in traditional high schools or liberal arts colleges.

Annmarie Lanesey, founder of CanCode Communities, says many of CanCode’s students are either new to the job market or haven’t had an interview in years.

And the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way job interviews take place — often they’re now conducted virtually, which requires different skills than previous interviews, which were almost always in-person.

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“Online interviewing has been new to most people in the last few years,” Lanesey said during an interview with the Times Union conducted on the Microsoft Teams app. “It (the program) really helps us to embrace that mindset.”

This means knowing how to use common virtual meeting software like Teams, how to dress and what backgrounds to use.

But perhaps the most important thing you need to learn is the “elevator pitch,” which is a short and crisp description of yourself and why you would be a good hire for a company, says Kyle Bisnett, a senior product manager at Microsoft who has worked in the USA lives capital region.

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“Tell your story,” explains Bisnett.

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