GeekPack founder Julia Taylor spent years working odd jobs after leaving her job as an intelligence officer for the United States Defense Intelligence Agency in 2010.
Seven years later she would develop the idea for GeekPack, a group of online web coding courses geared toward women who can enroll on a national scale. When GeekPack was selected to be a Southwest Colorado Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurs cohort, it was a special moment for the self-taught web developer.
Taylor said there is a gender gap in tech fields, and in her own experience, people have not always been supportive when she had questions.
“When I was learning, I didn’t know the community. And when I would ask questions I would be made fun of,” she said. “And it was just really hard to want to keep learning when people were so mean.”
The company started after many years of moving as a result of her husband’s service in the British Armed Forces. Taylor wanted to find an industry where she could work remotely.
“My career progression just nose-dived because we moved every two years,” she said. “I related to military wives who needed remote work, but it didn’t exist back then.”
She began coding while working in an office administrative role after her boss asked her to add a feature to the company website. Taylor did not have a tech background but started researching how to code online. From that moment she was hooked.
In 2016, she started her own company working in web development for clients. As she gained notoriety for her work, women contacted her through social media about coding. She realized her passion was to teach tech skills to women and started developing the idea for courses in 2017.
“I thought if I’m going to teach it, I want to do it the way that I wish I’d been taught and the support that I wish I had,” Taylor said.
In 2018, after her husband retired from service, Taylor and her husband bought an RV so they could travel across the United States while starting her new business. The couple came across Durango and decided it was the right spot for them to settle down. They purchased a house in 2019 and the company became based in Durango.
Taylor wanted to build a community where women could learn tech skills in a welcoming environment. Through online courses, GeekPack is able reach students across the nation. She said she wanted to expand the online curriculum for coding.
“It’s not just when you have an issue go to YouTube and try to figure it out,” she said.
Taylor said people can learn how to code the way she did but it is time-consuming. She said what took two years learning on her own, students can learn in three months through GeekPack.
While GeekPack’s target audience is women, it also allows men to join the program.
“It’s the approach that we take. It just resonates more with women. We have guys in our program, absolutely, and they’re awesome. It’s just they have to know the community-feel we have,” Taylor said. “We market to that type of person who wants extra support, tech support with a heart.”
She said there is a high demand for tech jobs in rural areas such as Southwest Colorado and that a long-term goal would be to develop chapters of GeekPack specifically for rural communities.
“They are skills that can be used in different places, whether it’s with a 9-to-5 job or not,” Taylor said. “Every business is a tech business now, and COVID just accelerated that. So having any sort of tech skill is worthwhile.”
GeekPack has gained nationwide notoriety for its movement to help women in tech fields. Taylor has done multiple interviews on local news channels in Denver, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.
GeekPack is competing in the Greater Colorado Pitch Series on July 12 for a chance to receive a $250,000 investment from investors such as the Colorado Venture Fund.
Taylor said her goal is to have more than 100,000 women in the GeekPack community who are tech scholars, advancing their careers and their professional lives over the next five years.
She also wants to broaden GeekPack’s curriculum to include LinkedIn skills and business skills so that women have all the tools they need to start a company or find a job in the tech industry.
“I want to expand to be more than just code and want it to be tech skills in general,” Taylor said. “Because right now, the women we specifically market to want their own business, they want to work from home or they want a side hustle.”