We chatted with the founders of Rithm School, a new immersive bootcamp in San Francisco. Read our full interview below.
Q: What motivated you to start a bootcamp?
A: We love teaching people how to code and we think students take to this challenging material fastest when they have experienced instructors and senior developers to guide them. We see starting our own school as an opportunity to create a learning environment where the class size is restricted to 16 and every teacher is an experienced dev.
As a group of instructors, we’ve had experience teaching at Galvanize and General Assembly. At Rithm we’re striving to offer students a more personalized learning experience. We are especially excited about the way we are supporting students both before and after our program.
Q: What challenges have you faced so far with starting your coding bootcamp?
A: As Rithm is relatively new, it’s been a challenge to create a unique culture that will best serve new developers as they rapidly acquire new skills. Right now - we’re focused on finding students who are naturally curious, self-motivated, and creative. We’re offering up to $12,000 in merit-based scholarships to ensure that our cohorts are full of dynamic students who are eager to jump into this experience with both feet.
Another challenge has been that the coding bootcamp scene in SF is crowded! It’s been a challenge to distinguish ourselves from all the other available options. Luckily, our real-world project components in our curriculum, our small class sizes, the quality of our instructors, and our program’s length really help us stand out.
Q: What successes have you had with your first few cohorts?
A: Our first cohort starts in October. Between the three founding instructors, we have taught over 200 full-time students. Our previous students have a lot to say about their experiences with us -so check out our reviews. The consensus is, we know a thing or two about teaching people how to code.
Our teaching philosophy is fairly straightforward: you’ve just got to get coding. You’ll learn a lot in lecture, and the majority of learning is done on your own or in a pair. The best thing about having experienced instructors on hand is that when you get stuck, you’ve got someone with a lot of know-how right next to you to help you think through the problem. We believe that code is something you can learn on your own - the only reason to sign up for our program is that we’ll help you accelerate the process and you’ll build an incredible foundation for a successful career as a web developer.
Q: What plans/dreams do you have for your bootcamp over the next 5 years?
A: We firmly believe that small class sizes are vital when it comes to educational quality. Our commitment is to ensure we have a 4:1 student-teacher ratio no matter what happens in the next 5 years. If more students want to be a part of the Rithm experience - we may consider running multiple classes in San Francisco and or maybe opening schools in other markets including Seattle and New York. However, all that said - we’re less interested in the growth of our company than we are in the growth of our students. Every decision we make will be based on how we can offer the best possible educational outcome for everyone who joins the Rithm community.
Q: Any advice for students looking to join a bootcamp?
A: Ask a lot of questions to any school you’re considering.
Make sure to meet the instructors and staff that you will be working with. Ask them about their teaching style and find out if its a match for the way you learn. Figure out how large your cohort will be. Ask if they hire their own graduates as instructors. Figure out what kind of ongoing support you’ll get after you graduate. Look into their alumni network and hiring partners.
If your goal is to get a developer position - ask about the job-readiness portion of the curriculum. How much time is spent focusing on whiteboard interviews, computer science fundamentals and technical interview prep? Learning to code and preparing for technical interviews are not the same thing. To find a job, you’ll need to be prepared to be outstanding at both.
Q: Any advice for people who want to start a bootcamp and/or start teaching code?
A: Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.” As instructors, it can be a struggle to admit that we don’t know the answer to some questions. And - that’s the nature of the tech industry. There is so much growth and new knowledge out there, we think it’s important to model the mindset that it’s ok to not know. What matters most is a willingness to find out.
Q: Do you see bootcamps replacing college for parts of the population?
A: Not necessarily. We’ve worked with students who have college degrees and are looking to change careers or supplement their college education with a practical skillset that directly leads to placement in the tech industry. It’s possible for someone to have similar outcomes without a college degree. We think college education and coding bootcamps are fundamentally different.
Q: What is the job market like where your bootcamp is based?
A: The job market is quite large in the Bay Area, and searching for a job is highly competitive. At Rithm School, we have partnered with Outco to provide an additional four weeks of interview prep, computer science fundamentals and behavioral interview prep for all of our students to ensure they are confident in their job search. We have also partnered with Slow Ventures and with their portfolio companies to match our talented graduates to open positions.
I’ve loved working with students since my days as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Georgia Tech and I started teaching at coding bootcamps in 2013, and have worked at both Galvanize and General Assembly. At Rithm, I’m excited that our small classes will allow more opportunities for me to collaborate with students. I built my first website in middle school, and I took every computer science class I could get into after that. I ended up with a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in CompSci from UC Riverside and Georgia Tech. Right after school, I joined the development team at Amazon.com and spent five years there. By the time I left, I was the Lead Back End Developer for Kindle’s Cloud Reader and had interviewed over 150 developer candidates. After Amazon, I spent a year and half as CTO at a small startup in San Francisco.