Brandon Caruana thinks establishing a tech company in Grand Cayman is a no-brainer.
“Most software engineers are looking for a certain work/life balance,” said Caruana, a partner with the financial-technical advisory firm Cartan Group. “I think Cayman gives you that in abundance.”
What Cayman does not have in abundance is computer engineers.
Caruana and his company are helping to remedy that lack by offering free coding classes. Earlier in the year, Cartan ran a 12‑week Women Code Cayman course. But this week, he took on a group of 20 kids between the ages of 12 and 16. The students lived up to the cliché that kids are better at computers than adults.
“I was like, ‘Wow, this might go a little faster than I anticipated,’” Caruana said after the first morning session of the five-day class.
He is hoping that teaching students the languages of computers will inspire them to want to know more. Although there are few established avenues in Cayman to provide the kind of training a software engineer would need, some high schools are offering some basic coding courses and the University College of the Cayman Islands is introducing a new course in cooperation with Cayman Enterprise City.
CEC is providing space for Caruana’s coding class, and other sponsors, such as Walkers, Harneys and the Ministry of Community Affairs, are also providing support.
For this course, Omise, a Thailand-based company that provides payment gateway services – coordinating multiple payment platforms for businesses – has donated Dell laptop computers for each student in the course. The students get to keep the laptops when they complete the class. Caruana said this will allow them to take the tools they have learned to use with them.
He is hoping to not only foster an ongoing relationship with Omise as a sponsor, but is encouraging the company to establish its headquarters here. If that happens, he said, he’s convinced other tech companies would follow.
“I think it would be huge,” he said, if Omise were to base its operations here. “I think it would attract in the tens of millions of dollars in investment.”
“Cayman needs to attract unicorns,” he added, using a term that describes privately held start-up companies worth $1 billion or more. “That’s one of the reasons we’re trying to get Omise to set up shop here.”
Most such companies do not need much physical space, he said. Due to the nature of the business, much of the work can be done through networks of remote operators.
“But the architects all work in a region together,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you want to be in Cayman? I think Cayman can be that place.”
He points to the advantage of the island’s tax laws and its infrastructure.
“Compared to some of the other [Caribbean] islands, it’s a bit more advanced,” he said.
Rather than importing the computer engineers needed for such an industry, Caruana thinks locals can be trained to fill much of the need.
Roger Cockhill, 13, might be one of them. He was one of the 20 students typing computer code into a laptop in Caruana’s class.
“At my school in England, I was given the option to do computer science next year,” Roger said. “I was taking this to get a head start.”
He was intrigued by the morning session.
“You have to be really precise about what you put in the computer or it won’t act on your commands,” he said. “It’s hard, but it’s fun at the same time.”
Abigail Davis, 13, was taking the course with her twin sister Alexandra. Both are students at John Gray High School. She said they both want to be computer engineers.
“I’ve learned how to build a program,” she said. “That can help me help my mom [with her computer] and other people as well.”
“It’s nice to have lessons where you learn cool stuff,” she said.
Caruana said he would like to see the students’ enthusiasm translate into broader interest in computer learning in Cayman. His organisation plans to continue offering the free courses. There will be ongoing support for the students who participate, he said.
For an upcoming Women Code Cayman class, he said, “We already have a waiting list.”
An adult men’s class is also planned, as well as another course for young students. In addition, Caruana said he hopes to offer some courses geared to specific programming issues.
“There’s definitely a need in Cayman for it,” he said.
For more information on Code (Cayman) and its upcoming training programmes, visit www.codecayman.com.