Hey there, Sean! First things first: What motivated you to start a bootcamp?
It was a variety of factors. In early 2013 I was leading an angel-funded startup and we had a difficult time finding junior developers who were actually productive on a development team. The turning point for me was when a peer CEO told me he wouldn’t hire recent computer science graduates to fill junior developer roles because they simply didn’t have the right skills. That blew me away.
Beyond that, I’ve always been interested in education and adult learning. The idea of creating an organization that helps people achieve their personal and professional goals and be creators, rather than simply consumers, is tremendously satisfying.
What challenges have you faced so far with starting your coding bootcamp?
We’ve faced challenges similar to all early stage and growing companies - including mundane challenges like outgrowing our office space and managing cash flow to exotic challenges, such as dealing with a 1,000-year flood during our first cohort. Right now, our big challenges involve managing growth sustainably and ensuring that we are consistently providing world-class learning experiences as we grow.
What successes have you had with your first few cohorts?
Our graduates’ successes are our successes. We’ve completed nine cohorts since the fall of 2013, totaling over 170 bootcamp graduates. Our studies show 96% of our graduates are employed as developers within 12 weeks of completing their studies, and 49% within four weeks. We are extremely proud of that. 90% of RefactorU graduates earn starting salaries between $61,000 and $68,000 (the mean is $64,000). Anecdotal evidence suggests starting pay is rising. One graduate was making $140,000 as a developer with no prior coding experience.
Additionally, we have more than 12,000 people engaged with RefactorU’s online courses through Udemy and directly through our LMS at http://refactoru.com. We love to be able to help people who are at the beginning of their career transition, as well as those who have decided to pursue an immersive learning experience to accelerate their skills.
What plans/dreams do you have for your bootcamp over the next 5 years?
We have a lot of things in the hopper, including launching several new offerings related to web application development, and other emerging or creative technical skills. My “back-pocket” vision is to meaningfully change the lives and careers of 10,000 people by 2020 through RefactorU. We are off to a good start, and several of the projects we’re working on will accelerate that.
Any advice for students looking to join a bootcamp?
My advice is to make sure you know why you’re going down this path, that it’s something you really want, and that you want it for reasons beyond financial rewards. Yes, financial rewards are an important factor, but tenacity is one of the few things that will get you through bad days, and passion for what you’re doing will keep you engaged for the long-term. Little else matters in the grand scheme of career transition.
Another piece of advice is to select a bootcamp that matches your learning style and work/life preferences. RefactorU stresses the need for balance, to get rest and exercise while trying to acquire a massive amount of information and skills. Research from neuroscience tells us that consistent sleep is required for learning. Other bootcamps do things differently. Prospective students need to know what’s important to them and make their choices.
Any advice for people who want to start a bootcamp and/or start teaching code?
RefactorU is hiring instructors. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you see bootcamps replacing college for parts of the population?
Yes. For skills-based training, nothing is better than immersive learning experiences. That type of learning can and should apply to many different disciplines, and we’re already seeing more bootcamp-style experiences across a range of fields. However, it’s not going to happen overnight. The industrial model of early education and the byzantine model of higher education are systemically entrenched and reinforced -- politically, economically, and socially. We’ll need many different models and interventions to create a large-scale educational system that is efficient, affordable, and consistent with the needs of the marketplace.
What is the job market like where your bootcamp is based?
On fire. Boulder, CO, has more startups per capita than any other city in the country. As of September 2015, Colorado’s unemployment rate was 4.0%, well-below the national average, and Boulder’s unemployment rate is 2.6%. The Denver metropolitan area was recently ranked by Forbes as the No. 1 place for business and careers, out of 401 metropolitan areas. Relative to RefactorU’s graduates, we estimate that there are 1,600 open junior developer jobs in Colorado related to the stack of technologies we teach. Our grads have many options.