1) Run us through a typical day running your coding bootcamp.
Most of our effort is currently focused around attracting students. The Twin Cities market is large enough to provide a vast pool of potential students, but small enough where wordofmouth marketing is still a very powerful strategy. Mike and I are always meeting with people who are great candidates to either become a student or who are in a position at their companies to send students to Smart Factory.
2) The coding bootcamp/immersive program is a recent trend, and new courses continue to pop up everyday. Is there a unique feature or distinct motivation for your bootcamp?
Our school teaches topics that we not only find fun and interesting, but also material that our instructors use on a daily basis building and designing apps for clients. It’s easy to teach something when you have a particular interest in it. We love building apps so teaching others to do the same is extremely rewarding.
3) What backgrounds do you find your applicants usually coming from? Is there a particular kind of student or learning style that excels in your programs? Is there a kind of student or learning style that is not well suited for your programs?
A Smart Factory student is one who knows how much they don’t know, and has the drive to close that gap. We’re looking for students who are willing to invest in themselves not only for professional growth, but also for personal satisfaction. Students who complete our courses will rapidly expand their skill set and help drive their organizations forward when they go to work the next day.
Our students typically have some background in software or design. Many of our courses are introductions to specific topics – such as Intro to Ruby on Rails – but the instruction is presented assuming that the students have some prior experience with software development or design.
4) What are some of the biggest challenges facing your coding bootcamp and the industry today?
One of the ongoing challenges (or enjoyments, depending on your perspective) is the pace of change of the tech industry. We can spend a lot of time designing a course based on current best practices, and six months later the material is replaced by a newer, better technology or methodology. Everything we teach is highly relevant and current, but there is always something new around the corner. Like all technologists, we’ve adopted a culture of change in order to remain relevant.
5) Since your first cohorts, how has the direction of your coding bootcamp changed over time, if at all?
We’ve started offering short workshops in addition to our core multiweek courses. The workshops are a great way to present instruction on a very specific topic such as responsive web design. It allows us to be more agile in adapting our offerings to the everchanging tech industry while keeping tuition fees affordable.
6) What kind of roles, jobs, and/or companies do your programs ready your students for?
Our courses are designed to help students take the next leap in their career, whether it be a new job, a promotion, or the start of a new company. Successful completion of our courses and workshops makes our students highly competitive in this modern technology job market.
7) What’s the best advice for students who want to attend your coding bootcamp?
You’ll certainly benefit from the expertise of our mentors, but learning as much as you can about the material before coming to Smart Factory will only make your time in our classroom even more valuable.
8) What’s the best advice for people who want to start a bootcamp?
Take your time finding the right instructors. Good teaching is the core of a successful software school!
9) How do you see the learn to code movement and the bootcamp industry changing over the next one to five years? Where do you see these programs fitting into the larger picture of education?
The style and pace of the code bootcamps are much different than traditional educational systems, whether it be elementary, secondary, or higher education. Code bootcamps have gone against the rigid structure and traditional approaches to classroom learning, and the measure of success support the bootcamp approach to teaching and learning modern technology. I definitely think there is a need for higher education institutions to adapt to this style of instruction in the near future.
10) Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Cofounders Jeff Lin and Mike Bollinger have a strong belief that good education leads to great experiences. In the rapidly changing web and mobile industry, learning comes in the form of doing. They started Smart Factory as a way to offer handson learning with instruction from experienced mentors in a fastpaced and fun environment.
Jeff Lin is a cofounder of Smart Factory and is also the founder and CEO of Bust Out Solutions. He has taught web production as an adjunct faculty member at Hennepin Technical College where he continues to serve on the Board of Advisors for the web department. With a background in software engineering and an eye for design, he believes in a holistic approach to building rocksolid software with impeccable user experiences.
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Mike Bollinger is a cofounder of Smart Factory. He is also the founder and CEO of Livefront, a mobile software design & development firm, and cofounder of TECHdotMN, a media group covering technology news in Minnesota. With over fifteen years of experience in software design and engineering, he has helped launched mobile products for Fortune 500 companies and startups alike. His love for international travel and photography inform his approach to creating beautiful, simple design experiences for people in motion.
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