The Tech Academy was originally started as “Prosper I.T. Academy” by Erik Gross in 2010. In the end of 2013, Erik brought on Jack Stanley as his co-founder and they started The Tech Academy.
What motivated you to start a bootcamp?
Erik: We need more technical talent in the industry, and the conventional routes aren’t able to handle the situation. I have always enjoyed teaching, and I love to help people break into this field. I wanted to remove the perceived barriers of time and money, and also to encourage people who maybe weren’t thinking of themselves as ‘computer people’ to look at the field. An immersive boot camp that is self-paced and proficiency-based is, I think, the best way to get a person off to a great start in technology.
Jack: We saw a need for junior developers and knew how awesome it was to work in the industry. Really, it came down to wanting to help others. There is a major shortage in trained developers and we exist to fill that demand.
What challenges have you faced so far with starting your coding bootcamp?
Erik: Speaking as a life-long geek, it was a challenge to find a way to break down the subject of technology and software development so that any bright person could learn it and do it - without necessarily having a technology background already. My initial attempt to create ‘basic’ courses turned out to be above the heads of some of our students. Bringing Jack onboard led to a solution to that problem that has become one of the primary reasons for our success - our ‘Computer Basics’ and ‘Overview of Software Development’ courses. They really do break the subject down to the individual, rather than making the person try to wade through a sea of confusion - it handles the perception that computer programming is an intimidating field, meant only for some special kind of person who ‘gets’ computers.
Jack: I would say the problems have been:
- Not blending in with other coding bootcamps. There are so many others out there and we are totally different. It was a challenge to set ourselves apart from other code school.
- Isolating the best approach to training students - something we definitely have under control now. We have found that allowing students to move through material at their own pace with Instructors around to help at all times, was the best approach. That way the subject is “broken down to each student” as opposed to “breaking the student down to the subject”.
There have been other barriers to starting the bootcamp but I would say the challenges are behind us and we’re succeeding quite well!
What successes have you had with your first few cohorts?
Erik: The most satisfying successes have been the personal stories. Yes, all of our graduates have gotten hired and we have companies coming back to us to hire more when they see how well our graduates do on the job. That feels really great! But more than that, what gets me excited about what we’re doing here is the change we help affect in people’s lives. We’ve seen people go from uncertain futures, low pay and lack of confidence - to being certain, able and financially successful. That’s awesome!
Jack: Our biggest success is that all of our graduates have gotten hired. Also, several employers who have hired graduates have come back for more. Our goal at The Tech Academy is to create well-rounded, entry level developers that exceed employer expectations. We’re proud to say that we have been achieving that and that is our largest point of success.
What plans/dreams do you have for your bootcamp over the next 5 years?
This is all to the end of helping as many people as we can.
Any advice for students looking to join a bootcamp?
Jack: I would simply say: Do the program which interests you the most. It takes a lot of drive and persistence to make it through a bootcamp, so go with the one that excites you the most. Also, ensure your bootcamp teaches you enough so that you can continue to work in the industry for years to come. Technology is constantly changing, so make sure that you learn enough to change with it in the future.
Any advice for people who want to start a bootcamp and/or start teaching code?
Erik: Avoid throwing around complex technical terms without explaining them in a way your students can understand. Balance out study of the theory of a concept with practical exercises that get them to apply that theory in action. Pay attention to the soft skills needed to get and stay hired. Serve others - you are there to help, not to prove how smart or experienced you are.
Jack: Yes. Make sure that you know your stuff well before trying to teach others. Consult with other trained developers. Be willing to learn from mistakes and be willing to be wrong. Be patient. Always treat your students as the priority. Start with a strong focus on basics and fundamentals and build from there - do a “bottom up” approach as opposed to starting from the top (most advanced) subjects. Constantly perfect your curriculum. Don’t teach students things they will never use. I could go on, but mainly I think that one should always be improving and looking at ways to better their program.
Do you see bootcamps replacing college for parts of the population?
Jack: Short answer, no. I think that even if all current bootcamps and colleges operated at capacity, they would fall short on meeting the demand. College is a valuable tool for someone who has the time and money to become an expert. Bootcamps are a better option for those who need a rapid training cycle and employment. I would say if you can afford college, go to college and then go through a bootcamp. That would be the best of both worlds.
What makes your bootcamp distinct/unique?
Jack: Thank you for asking this.
- As mentioned earlier, our program is self-paced. Students move through the courses at their own speed, with instructors present at all times to assist when necessary, and typically complete the program in 10-20 weeks (depending on prior knowledge and experience).
- Our full program can be done online remotely from anywhere or in-person at our Portland campus.
- We have Instructors available to assist you via email, Skype, phone and they can even do screen shares to debug your code. If you’re able to attend at our Portland classrooms, do so, but otherwise you can do it online.
- We offer open enrollment, which means students can start anytime. If you want to enroll on a Tuesday at 10:00 a.m., you can, and you can start studying the first course (Computer Basics Course) that same day. Remotely or in person.
- 100% job placement rate. All graduates of our software developer bootcamp have gotten employed. Some students have gotten hired while amid the program. The longest someone has taken was two months after graduating.
- Our program is proficiency-based, meaning we focus on application and utilization of the data. We focus on the ability to write code and actually use what you learn. At the end of the day, what matters is that students can perform the job requirements of their employer.
What is the job market like where your bootcamp is based?
Jack: Excellent. There is a shortage of trained developers and many job openings. As a boot camp, we commonly get contacted by employers who are looking to hire for un-advertised positions. Anyways, there a huge demand for developers in our area (Portland).