NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Marcus Whitney built his career in technology and as an entrepreneur from the ground up.

“I got into tech as a way to not be waiting tables and to take care of my family,” Whitney said. “I started teaching myself how to code. Back then, you did not have Nashville Software School, or even online schools for code, like Code Academy. You had to go to a bookstore and get a paper book and read it.”

That was the first step. It landed Whitney a job in software development at Nashville-based Health Stream and later with the email marketing start-up, Emma.

“It is the one industry with the least biases in terms of how you look when you come to the table,” Whitney said. “If you’ve got the skill, you can make a living in this industry. People do not care about the credentials, how you look, or what kind of music you listen to. Come as you are but come with the skills.”

The skills Whitney taught himself opened doors to fruitful partnerships. He co-founded Jumpstart Foundry, a venture capital fund that invests in healthcare technology companies.

And he’s now the CEO of Health:Further, a strategic advisory firm that helps healthcare organizations innovate.

“We see more private equity moving to town, meaning more companies being launched here and being invested here,” Whitney said. “There is a need for more programming talent. If you are really interested in this field, now is the time to start studying.”

“We’ve got approximately 50,000 tech workers right now in our Middle Tennessee area. That’s doubled in the past 18 years. We see that doubling again in the next six years, at least that’s a goal that we’ve set,” said Brian Moyer, President and CEO of the Greater Nashville Technology Council.

The council launched a new tech apprenticeship program last year. The average applicant is about 30 years old, meaning many are looking to make a career change into the growing and high-paying technology field.

“We’ve had 1,500 people apply for that in the past year, and of that, 25 percent have been female, which is a number we want to work on, 50 percent are veterans, which is one of our targeted categories, and 51 percent are other overlooked segments of our population.”

Moyer said cultivating and keeping talent in Middle Tennessee starts in kindergarten and continues with programs at area universities.

“We have one of the fastest growing tech workforces of a market of our size in North America,” Moyer said. “So, lots of positive things. People looking for work, this is a great place to come. We’re open for business for sure.”

Both Moyer and Whitney pointed to data science as the area of tech with the greatest growth potential right now.

Tons of data is being collected every day and scientists are needed to develop ways to use that data to streamline business and make our lives better.

News 2 is digging deeper into the region’s evolving job climate and the opportunities that are coming. Our teams have special reports from Nashville, Clarksville and Murfreesboro as we profile “Nashville 2019: Now Hiring” in every newscast Thursday. We will also have a live town hall meeting at 6:30 p.m.

News 2 is reporting on Nashville’s historic growth and the growing pains that come with it. Click here for more Nashville 2019 reports.