The problem of which programming language to start with continues to plague first-time coders. While Ruby has taken immersive bootcamps by storm and Python has remained popular with university computer science courses, the general consensus is that there's no right answer.
There are programs that have opted for other approaches entirely. We spoke with Roger Le, lead instructor of Coder Vox, to learn more about the thinking that went into the Austin-based bootcamp's PHP-centered curriculum. In addition, he spoke about the challenges of the relatively new bootcamp landscape in the Midwest and offered some invaluable tips for student productivity:
Roger, what backgrounds do you find your applicants usually coming from? Is there a particular kind of student or learning style that excels in your programs?
Our applicants come from all types of backgrounds. We've had students that have worked in finance, accounting, marketing, and advertising. We also have had a good chunk of students that were some type of engineering major in college.
I believe that any person that enjoys solving problems by breaking it down into smaller chunks will do well in a programming bootcamp. It's not rocket science; it just takes hard work and discipline.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing Coder Vox, as well as the industry at large today?
Coding bootcamps are a relatively new phenomenon, especially in the Midwest. Sometimes when I try to explain what a coding bootcamp to someone who's never heard of them before, they tend to think of Princeton Review or some other type of formal educational training. That's not what we're about.
We're creating a learning environment that is immersive, engaging, and most importantly, fun! We want our students to come to class excited and we encourage them to bring ideas for projects or apps. It's like being a kid and playing with Legos, except we're doing it with code.
What kind of roles, jobs, and/or companies does Coder Vox ready its students for?
Our bootcamp prepares our students for junior level developer positions. There's a lot to learn, but we want them to learn how to think and how to find answers, rather than just storing up a bunch of textbook knowledge. We also anticipate a good number of students who want to create their own tech startups, in which case we'll give them the skills to build prototypes of their app ideas.
The coding bootcamp/immersive program is a recent trend, and new courses continue to pop up everyday. Tell us about Coder Vox's unique decision to teach PHP.
I'm occasionally asked the question, "Which programming language should I choose to learn first?" When I suggest a few to pick from, it's usually followed by "Which one is better?" From a beginner's perspective, these kinds of questions are understandable. It's easy to get confused by the myriad of online articles and tutorials that often try to tout the benefits of the latest tools and frameworks.
In reality, each language has its own strengths and weaknesses. Often the differences are minimal though, and it's akin to asking "Which is better, Chevy or Ford?"
Nonetheless, most code schools tend to choose Ruby as their language of choice. And why not? Ruby is a great beginner language, and even Yukihiro Matsumoto, the inventor of the Ruby language, said "the goal of Ruby is to make programmers happy."
We noticed a lot of bootcamps teach Ruby, but we teach PHP. Ruby used to be a part of curriculum as well, but one day we sat and asked ourselves why PHP seemed to be ignored, especially since the demand for PHP developers is so great.
So, why did we choose PHP as our language of choice at Coder Vox? Market share.
According to W3Techs, PHP is the most widely used server side programming language for websites; in fact, PHP has actually increased in usage in the past year. IEEE Spectrum analyzed the most popular programming languages based on factors such as demand and popularity. The result? PHP tops Ruby on the list, and this means there are more job opportunities for PHP developers than Ruby developers.
We wanted our students to have more opportunities after they completed our bootcamp, and we felt that giving them the skills necessary to be strong PHP developers would afford them the most opportunity.
We also strive to keep our bootcamp at a reasonably low price point to make it more affordable for our students.
What’s the best advice for students who want to attend your coding bootcamp?
Get plenty of sleep, don't be shy about taking naps. Stock up on caffeine and vitamins, but avoid carbs and junk food. Make sure your MacBook is running nice and smooth, and bring comfortable clothes. Most of all, come with an open and curious mind, and ask lots of questions!
How do you see the learn to code movement and the bootcamp industry changing over the next five years? Where do you see these programs fitting into the larger picture of education?
I see the learn to code movement growing and gaining a lot of traction. I can tell you that the response from what we are doing has been overwhelmingly positive. People see a lot of value in what we have to offer, and software touches every industry out there. Companies simply can't find enough programmers to hire, and as more and more people look for alternatives to college, I see coding bootcamps helping to fill the educational gap.
Is there anything else you’d like to share, Roger?
Our programming bootcamp starts Sept. 29th. Apply now and come join us for an educational adventure!