Alvaro Rojas has a background in Marketing from UCLA but eventually found himself looking to learn more about Web Development and coding. After deciding on Ironhack, Alvaro became an alumnus of the institution, as well as an employee! He currently works as their Expansion Lead, helping other people gain access to the highly-ranked institution, which currently sits at 4.97/5 stars on SwitchUp. We sat down with Alvaro to learn more about Ironhack’s most recent initiatives including an expansion to Berlin. See what he had to say:
How did you get involved with Ironhack?
Well, I’m actually an Ironhack alumni! I took the Full-Time Web Development course back in October 2016. Coming from a business background and working in the tech industry, I’d always felt the need to learn how to code. Software is taking over the world, and in my opinion, having a basic knowledge of programming will become basic literacy in the very near future. It’s crucial to understand how the products that are transforming society as we know it work. I wanted to stay ahead of the curve.
So you have this unique 360º perspective of being an alumnus and now part of the team… how did that happen?
I do, and I have to say it’s a big asset for me. It really helps me empathize with students. I fell in love with the whole idea from day one. Ironhack is an experience that stays with you way past the actual bootcamp. It’s kind of a family, with a beautiful mission to transform people’s lives through education. In my case, after the bootcamp, I returned to LA, but stayed in touch with Gonzalo Manrique, Ironhack’s co-founder. A year later he asked me to join them expanding through Europe, and it was a no-brainer for me.
You’re starting to have a very strong presence in Europe. Why did you choose Berlin?
Ironhack has a very disruptive business model, so we look for places where we believe we can provide the most value and gain the fastest traction. In basic terms, the digital transformation is generating a huge demand for employees with diverse digital skills, and traditional education has failed to adapt to this paradigm. Our approach to education remains the same as 100 years ago, and the result is an ever-widening digital skills gap.
Companies are desperate for Web Developers, UX/UI Designers or Data Scientists, and for obvious reasons, the demand is higher in the biggest tech ecosystems. Berlin is home to the single largest software market in Europe - around a quarter of the European market by value. They say a Startup is born here every 20 minutes, and Mckinsey estimates there will be 100.000 digital job vacancies by 2020. It’s the perfect setting to ensure our students gain access to opportunities and a clear next step for us in our expansion through Europe.
We also look for places where people are ready to break from traditional education and embrace new models. Berlin is one of the most disruptive and forward-thinking cities in the world, with an innate capacity to attract talent. Local people are open to alternative educational paths, and international talents flock here because it’s such an awesome city to live in and the lax visa regulations.
So how is it going so far? What will Ironhack Berlin look like?
The reception we’ve had has been incredible. We already have students for every cohort we are launching in 2018. We’ve made a point to be in touch with the local community providing free workshops and events through our Meetup page, and the feedback we’ve received is extraordinary. We have already signed with local hiring partners such as N26 and MoBerries and co-hosted events with Google Campus, Startup Grind and Startup Weekend.
Our first cohort starts in May, and we’re ready to go. We have already assembled our all-star teaching team led by Maxence Bouret, who is currently our lead instructor in Paris and has played a pivotal role in shaping Ironhack’s current curriculum. We will be based out of WeWork in Atrium Tower (Potsdamer Platz). The building itself is currently under construction, and I think it’s one of our most amazing facilities in Europe. Trust me, when you’re going through such an intense experience, having the right amenities and setting makes the biggest difference.
Sounds amazing. There are quite a few bootcamps in Berlin already, how does Ironhack stand out from the competition?
I’m going to quote something I overheard at one of our Open house events this year “well.. if you actually really want to learn how to code, then Ironhack is your best bet”.
We provide high-impact, condensed educational experiences designed to get you from zero to job-ready in three months. And we are laser-focused on one objective: ensuring our students secure a job right after graduation. Even if your intention is not to work as a developer and you’re a potential entrepreneur, you will still want to have the best coding skills that enable you to build your own product or manage your team.
So how do we achieve this? The first step is straightforward, we need to make our students employable. They need to stand out from the rest. We hire instructors with real-world experience and embrace learning by doing from day one. We are also in permanent touch with companies around the globe to create a continuous feedback loop and iterate our curriculum to ensure we teach the latest in-demand languages and methodologies.
Additionally, we provide extra-curricular support throughout the bootcamp. We prepare students for technical and personal interviews, help them optimize their LinkedIn and teach them best practices on how to approach employers. Our students come out with three fully-fledged projects upon graduation so they can showcase their skills and what they’ve learned from day one.
But being employable is irrelevant without access to opportunities. We pride ourselves on being a global tech school, with a wide community of alumni and hiring partners to ensure our students gain access to a global network. We’ve had students get together to form their own startups, veteran alumni hire recent graduates, and students now working at companies such as Google, Magic Leap, Visa or Facebook. We also host a hiring week after every cohort ends where companies come and interview prospective students. With +1.200 graduates, our average placement rate is 90%.
What do you currently teach?
-Weeks 7 to 9 focus on micro service architectures; you learn how to connect a web application to an external API, how to create your own APIs, and how to connect to them through Angular2. Students get time to work on their final project where they put everything they’ve learned together. You can see some examples of student projects on our web page.
Given your background, what would be your advice for individuals looking to attend a bootcamp?
Form my experience as an alum, I think it's all about the attitude. When you go into a coding bootcamp, you’re always a little scared. It’s a demanding experience, and people have a natural tendency to be reluctant to learn something so technical. But just start coding! It's not as difficult as it may seem, and having the right guidance is key.
A lot more people than we believe have the aptitude for it and actually become really good programmers. You just have to take a leap of faith and commit to three months of very intense work. We have a 90% placement rate and while we do have a rigorous admissions process, the majority of our students get hired. I recommend people to just go for it. I can guarantee that if you have the right attitude, you'll succeed.
Ironhack Berlin’s next Full Time Web Development cohort starts on the 21st of May in Berlin. You can find more info here.