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OpenBracket Delaware hosts brightest coders

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Kirsten McGregor

Kirsten McGregor

It’s been around for less than two years, but OpenBracket has already become a Delaware institution. In the fall of 2016, and again in 2017, the nonprofit’s annual conference attracted talented coders from all over the country to show off their skills.

“It’s funny because people think we’ve been around a long time – and we haven’t,” says Kirsten McGregor, OpenBracket’s executive director.

McGregor recalls she was originally approached by Ben duPont, who asked her to help organize a coding event that would put Delaware on the map as a destination for the best talent in tech. “He said he needed someone who would look at it from a standpoint of branding Delaware as a tech state,” she says.

Basically, the event was conceived with two goals in mind: getting the brightest coders to Delaware, and giving Delaware companies a chance to recruit them.

OpenBracket has great results to show on both those counts. Last year, some 10,000 coders competed online for a slot in the event. The 100 most successful participants got a free trip to Delaware, where they competed onsite for $15,000.

The first event, in 2016, directly resulted in at least six successful hires by Delaware companies, McGregor estimates. “Recruiting is still in process from [the 2017 event], but I know companies have already hired people,” she says.

Going forward, OpenBracket is poised to become even bigger. The organization has entered into a strategic alliance with coding nonprofit Zip Code Wilmington to add a third focus area: nurturing the next generation of Delaware’s own potential tech experts.

“There is a huge need for coding in schools, so why not have a youth event with coding teams from different community centers and schools in Delaware?” says McGregor.

OpenBracket is planning to work with Zip Code on two separate events that would focus on different age groups, from older elementary to high schoolers. McGregor envisions the events like a “homecoming game” for the students – “this is where they can show off their skills.”

At the same time, the annual flagship conference will continue, but will move from the fall to the spring based on feedback from employers. It’s easier to hire around the time young coders may be graduating, McGregor points out.

At the same time, McGregor is looking to make the conference even bigger – perhaps upgrading from the previous 100 competitors to 250 for the spring 2019 event. “We want it to basically double in size,” she says.

­- Tina Irgang Leaderman

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