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Hacker Fellows matches up computer software developers with local tech start-ups


What’s the best way to bring top computer software graduates to Detroit and Michigan?

For Hacker Fellows the answer is simple. Pair them with start-ups. The potential for growth can be limitless.

Hacker Fellows, a program of Invest Detroit in partnership with Grand Circus, is funded by 21st Century Jobs Fund, a MSF program supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) designed to accelerate the growth and diversification of Detroit’s and Michigan’s economy.


Now in its second year, the Detroit-based fellowship program for software developers recently hosted an Interview Day to introduce its fellows to startups across the state.  The process is designed to be more fluid than a typical interview.

Keheira Henderson

Keheira Henderson

Keheira Henderson, 21, a computer science major at North Carolina A&T State University, found the interview style refreshing.

“What I appreciate about the start-up community, is like everybody’s real chill,” Henderson says. “People were asking questions … things that I foresee for myself. It was possibly the most relaxed interview I’ve had. The people seem to care more about your person than what you can do for them.”

Henderson is aware of the disproportionate number of women and African Americans in the software development industry. But that’s not what drives her.

“If I have to take the first step, I’m all for it,” she says. “I think that’s really cool because people can stop complaining that they don’t see us. We’re here. You just have to actually look for us. We’re doing some pretty amazing things and that’s pretty much all that matters.”

Robin McNally

Robin McNally

Robin McNally, 22, a graduating senior from Michigan Technological University, began his computer adventure when he broke his family’s home computer.

“I’ve had a long progression of breaking things less,” McNally says. “If you’re interested in software development, it’s really accessible. We’ve already talked to the companies once over the phone, and over the next week or so, job offers will start coming in.”

Henderson, McNally, and others will start the program with five weeks of cohort-based training in downtown Detroit, where they will be introduced to the startup ecosystem, given the technical skills needed to work for a Michigan startup, and connected to a strong network of peers and mentors.

Bradley Hoos, executive director of Hacker Fellows, sees this as a way to broaden their network by bringing together the 2015 fellows who are currently working at start-ups with the 2016 fellows. This will inspire more peer-to-peer learning.

“That’s going to allow us to create a tighter eco-system of young developer talent here in Michigan start-ups,” Hoos says. “That will make them stickier to the area by having that effect.”

Michigan’s economy needs more software developers, he says. The key is to pair up the talent with “high-growth” companies that are going to be “scalable.”

Bradley Hoos

Bradley Hoos

“We are really supporting growth of Michigan’s economy by addressing a really acute need that’s finding the best technical talent,” he says. “The need is so real and the impact has been really significant.”

It’s significant because many graduates tend to look at the bigger companies as the best place to go straight out of college, says Nataliya Stasiw, portfolio manager with the MEDC.

They’re looking at Google, Yahoo, and other innovative companies. Rarely, are they seeking out start-ups.

“We’re trying to showcase our companies here in Michigan trying to do something innovative,” Stasiw says. “We are connecting these young graduates and showing them that there are so many opportunities in Michigan. We’re encouraging a connection.”

The program is one of several essential resources supported by MEDC intended to foster and advance the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Michigan. Because at the end of the day, the biggest challenge for tech startups in Michigan is finding top developer talent.

“A lot of these students once they’re out of the university, they’re not familiar with the start-up space,” Stasiw says. “What Brad and his team does is work with the companies, so they definitely (fill) the need, then provide the training. When the fellow actually joins the company, they have a much better understanding.”

For more information about the Hacker Fellows program, visit

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29 comments on “Hacker Fellows matches up computer software developers with local tech start-ups

  1. Team of Computer software developers with local tech start-ups to make a that set up which is very strong and away from Hackers. Everyone know that at Internet Security is the main issue for so many companies. Therefore, everyone company have a team of expert developer to deal with hacker or have a very strong system and the approach of the hackers is not easy to such system.

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  3. Informative, Though It's mandatory for all organization to keep their data secure They can appoint a software developer so that they can protect data.
    Whatever, thanks for your article, Nice staff here.

  4. Without having a software developer in a big company, it may be dangerous. Becuase nowadays there are lots of people want to hack your data and one more thing is that hackers are always active than you. So it's mandatory to have a software developer.

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  7. Software is a general term for the various kinds of programs used to operate computers and related devices. (The term hardware describes the physical aspects of computers and related devices.)

  8. I met a software development engineer a few days ago, who has interest in hacking, so I felt curious to know about his qualification, and I was surprised to know that he has learned hacking much before he earned a degree in computer engineering. Isn’t it surprising?
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  9. Alright so it's not really a question about the topic at hand here but… how long does it take you to put together these kind of posts? Is it easy? Like did you have to research all this stuff? I've been

    • The length of time it takes to write a story depends on the topic. Yes, we research every story to be sure they are accurate. 

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