Betts hosts a tech show on KBLA Talk 1580, and she helps locals enter into the field with tech bootcamps hosted by Made in South LA.
By Jason Lewis
The saying used to be that “tech is the wave of the future.” But that future is now here, and tech industry jobs are booming with six-figure salaries. But like many things, that wave didn’t reach Black communities like it reached more affluent areas.
Cassie Betts is bringing that tech wave straight to Black people with her weekly “Talk Tech to Me Uncut” show on KBLA Talk 1580 every Saturday at noon, and through Made in South LA tech bootcamps, which helps people obtain the knowledge and skills to obtain tech jobs.
“‘Talk Tech to Me Uncut’ is all about technology, where Black people are the new superheroes,” Betts said. “South L.A. is the new tech Mecca. It’s all about getting the regular normal person in America, but specifically we focus on Black America to understand technology. It’s a show that encourages people from disinvested communities to learn about tech and multimedia. It also introduces them to techies who look like them, the different careers in tech, and how to get into them. We’re taking away that veil of the unknown into the technology industry.”
Jobs within the tech industry sound more complicated than they really are, which can discourage people from pursuing those jobs.
“All of the vernacular you hear behind technology sounds like it’s just so complicated when oftentimes it’s like these found long words that you’ve never heard of in your life that really means, like, ‘presenter,’” Betts said.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median annual wage for computer and technology occupations was $97,430 in 2021, more than double the median wage for all other occupations. With a few years of experience, many of these positions can pay over $100,000 a year.
“I literally know people who make $500,000 a year,” Betts said. “And they’re not smarter than you and I. It’s just that they know their stuff well, and they lead a group of people. And they’re at Google or Meta. One-hundred-thousand dollars straight out of bootcamp is not unheard of. An 18-year-old making $100K is not unheard of. These kids are literally making six figures and beyond because they know what they’re doing, and somebody out there needs them. There are so many unfulfilled jobs.”
Made in South LA, which Betts founded in 2014, has bootcamps in coding, web design and development, graphic design, animation, and other software engineering fields.
“If you’re really going to go from zero-to-job in six to eight months, you have to eat, sleep, and work coding and engineering,” Betts said. “And you can get a job right after that bootcamp. And a six-figure job.”
While a college degree in computer science is a direct path to these tech jobs, it’s not required to enter the field because of tech bootcamps.
“There are so many other bootcamps out there,” Betts said. “Some are free and some offer scholarships. Some cost. Your church might do it and schools are doing it now. And Google has a whole academy because they were getting talent [out of college] that just wasn’t ready. People were graduating college, but didn’t really have the skills that companies needed them to have. Different companies and corporations are creating their own pipelines of training. I just feel that there’s no excuse other than your own self from getting into tech and securing that bag.”
Los Angeles is one of the nation’s tech hubs, with tech companies flocking to Culver City, Santa Monica, and Playa Vista. Many of these companies are mandated to hire local people.
“They’re building these amazing things, but what about the locals?” Betts said. “They’re going to hire locals, but as what? To clean? Well why can’t locals be hired to be the engineers? To build the websites? To do the digital marketing?”
The higher paying tech jobs have also led many people who work in that industry to move into Los Angeles’ Black communities, which has in part led to the rise in the cost of living. This is a problem that is happening in tech hubs around the nation.
“Gentrification is happening in cities all around the world,” Betts said. “Not even just in our communities. Literally every race, people are being displaced. From rural areas to cities. They’re getting displaced because companies are bringing in other people who are trained in these technologies. So what if we’re trained, and we’re doing trainings, and we’re training up the community so as this is happening, companies can hire the local communities because they are trained in different types of technology.”
Being well-versed in tech is not only for people who are looking for tech jobs, but also for local small business owners.
“I had been screaming from the rooftops before COVID that you have to have a website, you have to be on Yelp, you should be doing social media,” Betts said. “What are your analytics? Just get in it. I know it looks big and bad, and it’s a lot to consume. But just start one by one. You know that you need marketing. Literally just start posting. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, just post. You’ll figure it out. And every so often just evolve with what you’re posting. Get into it. Take classes. There are so many free opportunities online.”
Betts has partnerships with local business source centers such as the Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation (VSEDC), and she works with teens at the South LA Best Buy Teen Tech Center.