Puerto Rican entrepreneur's new school aims to help redefine 'hacker'

A Puerto Rican entrepreneur has opened the first ´hacker´ school in Puerto Rico, and in all of the Caribbean, and has said that problems faced by the island, such as a large public debt, are more than offset by incentives and other resources that this U.S. territory  offers to new businesses.

"The word 'hacker' has in the past carried a negative connotation," Sofia Stolberg, co-founder of Codetrotters Academy, said during a phone interview from the island. In the technology community, the word is being used nowadays to mean just a person with a technical ability to solve situations, Stolberg said.

"Most people who know programming use the skills for a positive end," Stolberg said, adding that Codetrotters likes to use the term "hacker" to emphasize its new positive connotation.

The recently opened school teaches students Android development, Python, Elixir, Javascript, CSS and other similar subjects in courses that are given in intensive 10-week intensive training sessions.

Students can train at the school for 10 weeks for approximately $3,500, while a similar educational program in the U.S. would cost more than double that -- even at the lowest-priced schools, Stolberg said.

There are plenty of opportunities for jobs in computer technology in the U.S., and the field offers more and higher-paid jobs than those in other fields, Stolberg said.

"We had a lot of demand, with nearly 600 applications," Stolberg said, adding that the school has been open for only a month and a half and already offers training in Spanish and English for some courses.

Despite news from the island that most recently has centered on the country´s large public debt and lack of repayment capacity, Puerto Rico offers companies very important fiscal and other incentives, Stolberg said.

"We have a highly developed human capital ... and have some stability in currency, judiciary system, laws and infrastructure," Stolberg said. Because Puerto Ricans are a cultural U.S.-Latin American "hybrid," this could help the islanders become a bridge, Stolberg said.

In addition to Codetrotters, Stolberg also was involved in the creation of the first co-working space in San Juan, which gives start-up companies a place from which to launch products in an entrepreneurial environment.

Stolberg also has worked with start-up entrepreneurs at the Founder Institute, where six companies from the island "graduate" every year. Companies that graduate are those that develop a business model that can also function globally.

"We are betting that the way to generate sustainable economic development will be through technological entrepreneurship. It is easier to create a company in the technological entrepreneur environment," Stolberg said.

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Codetrotters Academy

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