Many of San Diego’s most talented workers are being lured away with better offers in Silicon Valley.
But a local tech company called MindTouch is developing local talent and keeping them in town.
Oscar Cornejo is one of those workers. He left San Diego State three years into his college career.
"It was just getting expensive," he said. "I started working part time, that part time became more, and I just ended up dropping out."
But now he's working on code for MindTouch. It builds customer tech support websites for some of the world's largest corporations, like American Airlines, Samsung and Whirlpool. Cornejo got a job there without a bachelor's degree.
"If you know the language, if you have the projects that you can show, they're going to notice that," he said.
Cornejo learned those skills by going through Softstack Factory, a 12-week local coding program that's free because companies like MindTouch help pay for it. The company hires one graduate from every class.
"We can teach you skills, what we need to know is are you culturally a good fit, do you believe in the same things? Are you passionate? Are you driven?" said company spokesman Ari Hoffman.
And now MindTouch's doors are opening even wider. The company just moved into a 24,000 square foot office downtown, with free lunch three days a week, pinball machines, and workers walking around in shorts and playing minigolf. One side of the office is quiet for coders, and another has music blasting to pump up the sales team.
The company expects to add 50 workers in the coming months, many recruited from SDSU and UCSD.
But Cornejo said it's not the only way to get in.
"I was very fortunate to find a different avenue to be able to be hired by a tech company," he said.