We had the chance to sit down with Olya Zakharova, CEO and Co-Founder at Upscale Academy. With a PhD in Mathematical Methods, Models & IT in Economics, MS in Economic Cybernetics & Computer Science, Olya passionate about helping successful people to achieve even greater heights. We asked her what inspired to start Upscale Academy.
What motivated you to start Upscale Academy?
I truly believe everyone can make change and bring value to this world. You just need to find a way to do it. I chose to bring change via education. That is why I joined GoIT, a part-time coding school in Ukraine. There I felt that I could help people build their success stories.
We were very successful locally (in the Ukraine), and decided it was time to move forward. We saw a way to help people regardless of where they live with a low-priced online code school written in English!
Tell about Upscale Academy's team's background before starting UA?
Our launch team consists of passionate professionals who want to inspire change and create something meaningful. We all have different experiences, but are united by one common idea: to make the world a better place. Our team is a bright example of this idea in action. It is never too late to change your career path and get your dream job even if you’ve never worked in this sphere.
What challenges have you overcome when starting the coding bootcamp?
The biggest challenge we faced was to build a cutting edge curriculum, because there is always room for improvement. Fortunately, we've found forward-minded experts who helped us design a modern comprehensive curriculum that extends beyond code as well.
The second hardest challenge was meeting essential human needs, like eating and sleep. We are so impact-driven that things like that fell to the wayside. We joke that when people say they practically live at the office, they’re wrong because they literally do live there.
What successes have you had with your first few cohorts?
Our Ukrainian and international students are in high-demand, and we can see that hiring companies are chasing after them. The main reason is that they have a lot of practical tools, tons of projects that they have done during their study, and most importantly, they have a different mindset.
Any advice for students looking to join a bootcamp?
Our advice for students is to first and foremost have fun. Life is a journey. If you’re having a good time, you’ll put in more “work”. We also advise having a plan for after graduation - even coding school graduates who do find jobs usually take 3-6 months to do so, so choose a school that is dedicated to your success.
"You are unique, and you should always follow your goals. We will not make you a success; we will help you make yourself a success."
What plans/dreams do you have for your bootcamp over the next five years?
We have ambitious plans - conquer the world. Okay, we don’t want to conquer it, but we want to bring change by opening up the accessibility of coding bootcamps. We are going worldwide to help people from different countries change their lives, as we did in Ukraine, which is now the 3rd largest country in the world for technical outsourcing.
What sets your curriculum apart from other bootcamps? What types of resources do you offer for learning?
Upscale Academy is the only coding school that actively encourages freelancing and entrepreneurship. The job market is getting flooded with junior engineers. Rather than fudge job placement numbers, or disappoint students who never find a job, we teach an approach to freelance after graduation for students to sharpen their skills until their first job, filling their pockets, network, and professional portfolios along the way.
In addition to teaching the modern industry standard Express + React stack, we are also the only bootcamp that teaches Meteor: the fastest way to build full-stack applications. It’s an ideal choice for many startups and freelancing gigs, and also allows students to easily export their code base to make iOS and Android apps.
Sensitive to the financial challenges of many students in career-transition phases, we’ve engineered our school to cost far less than competitors while maintaining similar class time and student-teacher ratios. Because we’re all just big kids, we also made the curriculum as fun as we could. The word problems are hilarious, and the students make games that they’ll be excited to show off.
How are lessons structured? Can you give us an example of a typical day in the course?
Lessons are taught online in the same way as most other top-tier brick-and-mortar coding schools: new material and practice challenges in the first half of the day, projects in the second half. We work to make lessons build on each other so that students will graduate with bigger and better portfolios. Days are spiced up with self-development workshops, guest speakers, and optional talks relevant to job hunting, entrepreneurship, and freelancing.
What is the job market like where your bootcamp is based?
Ukraine has become abundant with technical talent, now it’s a matter of scaling to solve the world’s gaping lack of it. Forbes reported that 12 of 2017’s 20 most promising jobs are in tech. We’re helping to meet that demand in the most practical way we can imagine.
What technologies or trends do you see gaining popularity? Why?
We also see much of the future belonging to frameworks like Meteor for building rapid prototypes and the many apps that don’t need to scale (though recent developments are making this a non-issue). It’s the fastest way to teach people how to build web applications, which is rewarding for beginners in a complex field. Some of its unique strengths are you can set up projects with a front-end, back-end, and database in just one terminal command, automatically have database changes reflect on users’ browsers in real-time, and even query the database from the web browser itself.
Want to learn more? Check out Upscale Academy on SwitchUp!
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