Code Louisville helps El Toro sustain rapid growth

El Toro has become one of the most talked about companies in the region over the last few years, and for good reason. From 2014-2017, the Louisville-based digital advertising firm grew its revenue 12,032% (no, that's not a typo), good enough to place it 13th on Deloitte’s list of the fastest growing tech and media companies in North America.

But growth of this speed and scale presents challenges, especially for hiring managers. That's where El Toro's relationship with Code Louisville, the software development training program led by KentuckianaWorks, has proved crucial.

We keep Code Louisville’s staff in the loop about our hiring needs, and they send us candidates who might be a good fit.
— Maurice Zakhir, Director of Operations & HR, El Toro

"We've hired 12 people since January and have plans to bring on 50 new employees total this year. 75% of them will be software developers," explains Maurice Zakhir, Director of Operations and Human Resources for El Toro. "With the help of Code Louisville and the city's growing tech network, we've been able to source talented developers locally, especially to fill our entry-level positions. We keep Code Louisville’s staff in the loop about our hiring needs, and they send us candidates who might be a good fit."

6 Code Louisville graduates currently work at El Toro, in both back-end and front-end development roles. 3 members of the UX (user experience design) team behind El Toro's Campaign Portal - one of its signature offerings for online advertisers - are Code Louisville grads, including the Team Lead.

"I was a data analyst before I went through Code Louisville's courses in front-end development, Node, and Python," says Anthony Lee, now a developer for El Toro. "I already had some tech skills, but I needed more training and networking opportunities. One of my mentors in the program worked at El Toro, so he helped make that connection."

 El Toro HQ in downtown Louisville

El Toro HQ in downtown Louisville

Victor Horton, another El Toro developer, also heard about the company through Code Louisville's mentorship program, which pairs experienced industry pros with small groups of students learning the fundamentals of computer programming. Unlike Lee, Horton didn't have a tech background when he began Code Louisville's front-end development course, but he did know he was ready for a career change.

"When I graduated college in '04, I didn't see learning computer programming as an option. I was more focused on just getting a job and making money right away," Horton says. "It took me a few years to rediscover my love for technology and computers and decide to take the leap in this new direction."

Horton also benefited from Code Louisville's on-the-job training subsidies, which incentivize employers to consider hiring candidates from non-traditional backgrounds.  

We have a proven talent pool of developers here who have their own portfolios and a vast range of experience in different industries.
— Brian Luerman, Code Louisville staff lead

"Employers don't generally know as much about our curriculum as they do about more conventional credentials, like a computer science degree," says Brian Luerman, who manages Code Louisville. "We have a proven talent pool of developers here who have their own portfolios and a vast range of experience in different industries."

In Victor Horton's case, that previous career experience has come in handy. Horton, who worked in sales before enrolling in Code Louisville, uses his communications skills to assist with client relations at El Toro in addition to his role as a product developer.

But not all companies have gotten the memo about Code Louisville. Luerman says that one of the program's biggest challenges continues to be finding employers who are willing to try something new and learn more about their students.

Trying new things has never been a problem for El Toro, which was founded just five years ago and embraces its status as an industry disruptor. Perhaps it’s that attitude that makes Code Louisville such a natural talent pipeline for the company.

"We don't have a cookie cutter outlook on hiring. We're looking for individuals with unique life experiences and perspectives, who think differently. You don't have to be a genius to work at El Toro, but you do have to stand out," says Zakhir.

With El Toro projecting yet another year of exponential growth, it appears they know what they're doing.


Code Louisville is a software training program provided at no cost to students. It is run by KentuckianaWorks, the Louisville Region's Workforce Development Board. To learn more about hiring through Code Louisville, visit codelouisville.org/hire.