Q&A with CodingNomads Co-Founder and Lead Instructor, Ryan Desmond
We spoke with Co-Founder and Lead instructor Ryan Desmond about his journey to start a coding boot camp -- and he gave us some exciting insights on digital nomads and the pros of learning to code abroad!
What motivated you to start a bootcamp?
Three main things inspired us to start CodingNomads
After working as a software developer for almost a decade, I realized how much I love teaching when I started training other software developers on Java applications. Seeing all the demand for engineers and the career potential within, I became really passionate about helping more people access these skills who don't have the time or money for a college degree.
Our team also loves to travel. We are digital nomads, using our tech skills to work from the road. We've met countless people who long for skills to do the same, but don't know where to start. International coding bootcamps combine our passions for teaching tech skills and travel, and provide a fun, exciting option for people who want to learn to code, but also want to travel and live like a digital nomad.
We also wanted to provide a more affordable option than the current US bootcamps, which can cost upwards of $15k for a 3 month onsite course. For our first course, we're offering tuition at $7k.
What are some unique aspects about CodingNomad that set your courses apart from other bootcamps?
We teach international coding bootcamps in amazing coworking spaces around the planet. For example, our first bootcamp is in Ubud, Bali, which is known for its thriving digital nomad community, its beautiful tropical coworking spaces, and being the cultural heart of Bali. We believe that taking yourself away from your normal daily routine and distractions can help you focus and learn fast. We also believe that international travel helps people grow and become more adaptable, making them better professionals in the rapidly changing software industry.
We teach Java, which is year-after-year recognized in the industry as one of—if not the most—common programming languages with high global job demand, but few bootcamps teach it. We know from experience that once you learn Java, you're equipped with the know-how to learn any other language. We know that it's a solid foundation for any engineer, and the job market proves this.
You offer students the chance to live and learn as a Digital Nomad, how do you decide where to base your bootcamps
First, we want to host bootcamps in desirable travel locations where students would be excited to live for 2 months. We choose locations that have a lot of cultural / outdoor activities for students to enjoy on the weekends, so they can pair their learning experience with memorable life experiences.
We also want to make sure locations are safe, traveler-friendly, and have all the amenities needed for students and instructors to be comfortable living for two months. This includes clean, comfortable accommodations, fast reliable internet, the availability of medical services nearby, affordable cost of living, etc.
The next thing we look for in a bootcamp location is a great coworking space where we can host productive, comfortable courses, and where the students can network with other digital nomads.
Also, we want to span the globe with our bootcamps to give students from all locations the opportunity to attend, as well as give a variety of locations for students to choose from.
What challenges have you faced so far with starting your coding bootcamp?
We are targeting a very niche market of people who want to learn to code, but who also want to travel. This is both exciting and challenging. The students who want to come to our bootcamps need to have an appetite for adventure and world travel, as well as the desire to learn fast and work hard. The response we've seen so far is immense – students who love to travel have reached out with enthusiasm, saying this is the perfect school for them. But there are also many people who don't feel comfortable living abroad, or have too many commitments at home to join the course. We are really testing the market to see if there is enough global demand for "destination education." So far, the results are looking very promising!
In addition, it is a challenge to establish credibility as a first-time coding bootcamp. Our instructor and co-founder Ryan has almost a decade of software engineering experience in San Francisco, and has spent years training engineers from companies like Amazon and Capital One in complex Java applications. So while we're very confident in our ability to teach, some students understandably shy away from attending newer bootcamps. On the flipside, some students are excited to join a newer, smaller bootcamp because of the personal attention they'll receive, and because they know we will be personally dedicated to helping them succeed. Some students have sought us out to not feel like "just another number," which is a criticism we've heard about the larger more established bootcamps.
What successes have you had with your first few cohorts?
People started reaching out to us before we even began promoting the course, just by finding us online. All of our cohorts so far love traveling and want the chance to do more. Our cohorts also find us attractive for teaching server-side technologies so they can differentiate themselves from other bootcamp grads, which are mostly learning client-side languages. Our students see our course as a great opportunity to really focus on learning to code, while also pairing it with a fun and exciting trip. It's very exciting for us, as we are attracting a certain type of student that works hard and plays hard, so we're excited for everyone to meet and have a great time together!
What plans/dreams do you have for your bootcamp over the next 5 years?
While our domain knowledge is in server-side engineering, we do want to expand to teaching front-end dev as soon as possible. We've also gotten interest in design courses, and would be open to expanding to training courses outside of software.
Additionally, we both have spent time working for social causes and are passionate about helping people of all backgrounds improve their skills to improve their lives. We want to bring technical education to underserved communities. We already offer a scholarship for local residents of our host countries that covers 80% of tuition, but it will take more time and resources to actually reach those people and let them know it's available. Over the coming years we want to dedicate more resources to helping people who otherwise would not have access to skills like these.
Any advice for students looking to join a bootcamp?
While bootcamps are a great way to jump-start a career in software engineering, they are not a silver bullet. Students need to understand that just like any career, success depends on hard work and determination. The software industry is constantly changing, and students must constantly change with it – always learning new concepts, and being persistent problem solvers. Our goal is to give students a solid core foundation in server-side engineering, from which they can learn any other language and figure out how to complete any engineering task. But before joining our bootcamp or any other, students must posses the internal motivation to never stop learning, because that's a core trait of a successful engineer.
We have seen many bootcamps over promise and under deliver on post-bootcamp job placement and salary expectations, resulting in negative press about the entire bootcamp industry. We want to be honest and realistic with our students from the get-go, so have published a "Real Expectations" page on our site for all prospective students to read.
Any advice for people who want to start a bootcamp and/or start teaching code?
If you've got the skills, and you want to share them, you definitely should. But just because you've taken a bootcamp course does not mean you'll be an effective teacher. We believe that it takes both real-world software engineering experience, as well as the ability to teach and explain information in a practical way, to form the basis of a successful bootcamp.
Do you see bootcamps replacing college for parts of the population?
Short answer: Yes.
College gives great foundational knowledge and a solid asset to a resume. If a student has the opportunity to get a degree, we completely recommend it.
But many people simply don't have the time or money to attend a university. Additionally, the majority of college is spent on general education and electives, with only a handful of actual engineering-related classes. When I graduated with a computer science degree and got my first job, I had almost no practical knowledge on how to deliver as a productive member of a software engineering team. Even though I had a degree, I had to put long hours into learning on the job. Our bootcamp focuses very specifically on practical skills required in the day-to-day duties as a software engineer, something many universities seemingly pass over. This makes bootcamps not only more affordable than college, but more applicable to jobs in the real world.
It is well known in the industry that many of the best programmers are self-taught. And given the demand for engineers, companies are valuing experience and drive over a college degree. Our bootcamps lower the barrier to entry to the software engineering field, and make these skills available to as many people as possible.
What is the job market like where your bootcamp is based?
Our first bootcamp is in Ubud, Bali, which has a thriving year-round digital nomad community based out of the coworking space where we host the course. While Ubud itself does not have a large job market, our bootcamp grads will be able to network with people working remotely for companies all over the world that are likely in need of entry-level software engineers. In the digital nomad / coworking environment, students will also have the chance to meet people and collaborate on their own projects or start-up ideas. Our bootcamp focuses on preparing students to look for work in any global location, including online. The host city coworking spaces serve as a base network and community of fellow digital nomads that can work from anywhere.
Ryan is the co-founder and lead instructor of CodingNomads international coding bootcamps.
For almost a decade Ryan worked as a software engineer in San Francisco, specializing in server-side Java applications and massively distributed parallel processing. Before CodingNomads, Ryan was a senior solutions architect for Concurrent, Inc. where he trained engineers at companies such as Amazon and Capital One on Big Data processing with Java. While training others, Ryan realized his love for teaching and was inspired to help more people learn to code. Ryan has also used his tech skills to work remotely while traveling the world. Meeting countless travelers who longed to do the same, CodingNomads was born of Ryan's passion to help others gain economic mobility and geographic flexibility through software development skills. CodingNomads' mission is to enhance the quality of people's lives by providing quality software engineering education during epic international travel experiences.
Find him on linkedin