Reflecting on BoomTown
Tulsa BoomTown is a project to show off the growing tech ecosystem in Tulsa Oklahoma and to highlight some of the great things about our city. Our mission of amplifying the message that Tulsa is the next great American tech city led us to focus on 4 major factors that we want to share with everyone.
- There are great companies already here doing cool work, many of which need more tech talent to join their teams and help them grow.
- There are opportunities to relocate to Tulsa from elsewhere including the remote work program Tulsa Remote, and the software engineering school Holberton Tulsa.
- There are some great associations and tech-focused groups here in Tulsa, including the co-working space 36 Degrees North, the new startup incubator on the 5th floor of City Hall, and groups like OK Women in Tech, Techlahoma, and TYPROS.
- The great amenities and the low cost of housing make Tulsa an excellent choice for those leaving the coasts for a better standard of living.
We built these foci into our home page at tulsaboomtown.tech so that we could amplify the message that Tulsa is a tech boomtown and a great place to move to as it reinvents itself and has an impact on the broader tech industry.
My very earliest concept for BoomTown was a database of companies in Tulsa. I thought this would be a useful tool for Holberton Students who would be seeking jobs after graduating from the foundations program. It was also a great way for myself, and whoever worked with me to get a personal read on the local tech scene, and maybe even gain some name recognition with a few hiring managers. When I first pitched the idea as a final project option I kept the scope simple and focused on the job hunt traction it could get us in the hopes of getting some interest from my colleagues in cohort 12. I believe I even made a point of saying that it would be a simple static website so the project would be more research than development, but wow did things change in implementation!
Based on some really good conversations with the cohort and our school’s career success lead, we pushed the idea further and started talking about a showcase of local companies and resources that would be more beneficial to students of Holberton as well as the local community. To my great good fortune, I was joined on the project by Jacob Wagner, Blake Stewart, and Reese Hicks.
Our Team and Tech
For my own part in the project, beyond the idea originator, I was lucky enough to work with each member of the team in supporting their work. Through this process, I was able to have a hand in every part of the design, coding, and implementation of our project. As it was my idea that kicked off the project I also took the lead in project management. Through the hard work of my team, I was given the opportunity to move in and out of our codebase, allowing me to keep thinking about our mission and what stretch goals we could add to push past our original MVP spec. I am overjoyed to say we did get far beyond our MVP and implemented many of our stretch goals. We also plan to keep pushing this project forward as we enjoyed working together and believe in the mission.
For the time I dedicated to running the project overall my main responsibilities were in: running Trello to manage our sprints, leading team stand-up meetings, and checking in with each team member via slack for updates on progress. On the technical side, I spent much of my time working to parse data that I gathered through accessing the remotive.io API and data Blake gathered via web scraping OKjobmatch.com. These two sites were crucial in getting local and remote job options into our MySQL database for Jacob to dynamically populate on the website. For data parsing, I used Python with the Pandas package. For insertion into MySQLdb I used the built-in Python-MySQL package. For me, this was such a challenging and cool experience getting to go from overwhelmed with data to building data cleaning tools and properly inserting them into SQL tables. During our foundations course work, we had a project working on a particularly complicated API for a major social media site and I thought I would never want to work with APIs or data ever again, but this project really turned that around for me and I am so excited to keep learning things like this and web scraping.
As a team, we faced a multitude of challenges, collectively and individually. Starting with deciding on how to host the site which involved Blake and I reviewing documentation for GCP, AWS, and Netlify and going all the way through trying to work on persistency for our Flask web application which Jacob has invested several hours on. Along the way, there has been no shortage of learning opportunities. For my personal experience, I was more at home in the code and struggled more with project management at first, having never done anything like it before. I knew of various tools like the kanban board on GitHub, as well as GitHub for that matter, and things like Trello, and the lifeblood of Tech communication Slack. For managing my team I went with a Trello board that I dedicated a lot of time to, and a slack channel for the team where we regularly checked in, announced pull requests, and discussed strategy. While it was hard to coordinate work at first when everyone was more in the research phase for their role in the project, over time, through Trello and daily stand-up meetings, as well as regular slack communication, we really hit our stride.
On a personal technical and management challenge note, at the onset of the project I felt really overwhelmed by the scope of the project. Even now at the release of the MVP, it’s still daunting thinking about all the various moving pieces many of which were coded by my team. What I mean to say by this is that as a new engineer I have a strong desire to write everything myself and really know how each piece of the codebase works. I understand that in the complexities of real-world engineering projects knowing everything is unrealistic but at this stage of my growth as an engineer it still bothers me. Thankfully I was able to work closely with everyone on my team and get to know most of the inner workings of the project, and all of the broader strokes. Even when it comes to the parts of the project that I had less contact with, and may struggle to reproduce off the top of my head, through working with my team and completing Holberton, I know that if I need to build something I can figure it out.
A fun challenge to positive I had during my engineering work on the project which included data parsing, remote jobs API calls, and inserting clean data into the SQL database, was that while I didn’t know where to start, through reading documentation, watching tutorials, and testing code I figured it out. For instance, I was able to complete my stretch goal of launching a Twitter bot to handle some of our social media marketing. I had no idea where to start with the Twitter API and making a bot but through research and working with the Tweepy python package I was able to learn about OAuth and Twitter’s API, and it has been really fun and interesting.
As I mentioned at the top, the original Idea for BoomTown was to build a database of local tech companies so that students like myself could have a quick reference of companies and the sort of jobs that might be available. The added benefit of building this project was that I would get to reach out to companies and introduce myself as an aspiring engineer. What we have come to build is so much more than my original idea, and now we have a mission to push this project forward. As we started developing the idea I got to speak with leaders in Tulsa and see projects that are focused on building tech here. I was inspired by the foresight and drive to reinvent Tulsa and lean into tech as the next industry for this city that was raised on Oil. This led the team and I to push past our original MVP idea of a simple companies/jobs site to a mission-focused meta-resource for the city’s new tech echo system.
We still retain our original modules including a carousel of local tech companies with information on their work and links to their sites, but now we have so much more to offer. Tulsaboomtown.tech is a site filled with resources such as a listing of opportunities to relocate to Tulsa or to upskill in tech here, information on local tech associations to find collaboration or mentorship, a whole page of remote or local jobs to help techies get to work. We are inspired by those that have been doing the work for years already, those that could see a bright future for Tulsa on the horizon, and have been pushing this city forward. We know that with enough hustle we can reinvent Tulsa into the next big tech hub, the capital of the silicon prairie if you will. Holberton School has the potential to graduate 150 engineers a year. Tulsa Remote, the program that offers remote workers grants to move to Tulsa, can draw in 100s of technology workers over the next few years and has already been hugely successful at retention beyond its initial 1-year stipend. The George Kaiser Family Foundation(GKFF) has been putting so much into technology, music, and the arts as part of Tulsa’s evolution that we’re on track to eclipse Austin as that city prices out all its creators and loses its soul in much the way San Francisco has.
Don’t just take my word for it, visit us and check out our site, do your own research too. Look at what Tulsa has to offer; it’s central, cost of living is still low, it has a great music scene, the tech scene is rapidly growing and a new incubator is launching, the city has some great patronage in the GKFF, and the city has the vibe of a place on the come up. If you’ve never been here I encourage you to drop in over the summer when we are past the dangers of COVID. Come visit us for Tulsa Tough or any one of the great music events. Check out or tech ecosystem with leaders like Xalter or GitWit. Take a good long look at Tulsa Remote and ask yourself would you rather pay $3000 for a studio in Menlo park or have most of your rent for a swanky loft space covered for a year here in Tulsa. If we’ve learned anything over the last year it’s that most tech work can and arguably should be done remotely. With this epiphany, I know an exodus from the overpriced coasts is coming, and the places that are set up to receive transplants with open arms are going to be the big winners. Watch out for Tulsa, the next great Tech BoomTown.
Tim McMacken is a software developer and graduate of Holberton School Tulsa’s Foundations course work. He is working on getting enough knowledge to be dangerous in C and Python, as well as soon to be starting with C# and Unity. He enjoys baking, brewing, & taking on way too many projects.