Hi Jordan! What motivated you to start Ronin?
Well, we've been running an in-person bootcamp - Makers Academy - for over two years now. We’re widely considered to be the best developer bootcamp in Europe, with phenomenal hiring rates and waiting lists for many of our courses, but it isn’t cheap. For many people, the added costs of moving to London for three months put it out of reach, so we decided that we’d see if we could create a bootcamp that students could take from anywhere. We wanted to see if we could re-create the exciting, immersive experience of Makers Academy online, so Ronin was born.
How is Ronin different to other bootcamps?
For starters, it’s totally online. It’s also full-time, so you have to quit your job to do it. It’s fully immersive – unlike other bootcamps where you get one to three hours of ‘contact time’ each week, our students have their first group meeting at 9:30 a.m., then a workshop for an hour or so, then, other than another group meeting (called a standup) at 2:30 p.m., they spend all their time pairing with another student from their cohort – usually six hours, eight hours, sometimes even more. Ironically, even though Ronin is a remote, immersive, online bootcamp that you can take from home in your pajamas, paradoxically, you’re barely going to get a second to yourself for the few months you’re studying with us.
What challenges have you faced so far with starting your coding bootcamp?
The first and biggest challenge was – can we replicate the high-calibre Makers Academy experience online? We were concerned whether the remote students would be able to keep up with the pace of our usual students. This turned out to be totally baseless. They have no problem at all keeping up. If anything we’ve found that the very nature of working remotely in teams forces people to focus, helps them to develop excellent communication skills, and encourages them to work in a truly collaborative way.
Another challenge was whether, since the students would be at home the whole time, it would be possible to replicate the immersive environment that our usual students work in. What we found was that, by having the students attend daily standups and workshops and then pair programming for 8+ hours a day, immersion happens by necessity. Again, interestingly, the nature of remote pair programming means that you’re as immersed, or even more immersed, than our face-to-face students.
Another challenge was – how can we create cohesion in the group, when all of our students are so geographically dispersed? What we found was that, with a few communication tools, we could successfully create a truly dynamic environment with constant communication flying between the group, at all hours of the day and night, even on weekends. Students seem really comfortable sharing their lows as well as their highs, and they’ll all jump in an offer both emotional and technical support to each other when they need it – it’s been a joy to see.
What successes have you had with your first few cohorts?
We’re currently on our first cohort, and we’re confident that all eight of them will be highly employable when they graduate in a few weeks. We’ve listed all of their twitter profiles on our homepage, and we highly recommend anyone who’s interested in joining the second Ronin cohort to reach out to them – they’re all really excited to share their experiences with the next intake. We’re currently open for applications for the second Ronin cohort, which starts in the summer.
What plans/dreams do you have for your bootcamp over the next 5 years?
We plan to grow Ronin - a lot. Our mission is to help people become awesome developers, with a big fat highlighter underlining the word ‘awesome.’ We don’t want to be a factory for average hackers that aren’t worth hiring. We want to set our students on a path to mastery, and this means doing things right – like a craftsman. Our vision is to help dozens, hundreds, even thousands of people each month to achieve their dreams of becoming a professional developer, securing a well-paid job that they love, and mastering the necessary skills to become a Maker.
Any advice for students looking to join a bootcamp?
Most definitely... Do your research. Know what you’re getting yourself into. Code as much as you can to prepare yourself. Talk to graduates – they have no vested interest in overselling the course so trust their opinions. Invest in quality. Make sure your other half is on board, and make sure you have enough money to live while you’re job hunting after you graduate. And remember: A couple of thousand pounds might seem like a lot now, but it will be little more than a rounding error when you’re living the life you’ve always wanted. The cheap options are cheap for a reason!
Any advice for people who want to start a bootcamp and/or start teaching code?
Don’t do it. There’s not a lot of money in it, it’s long hours, and the customers are demanding – and rightly so!!
In all seriousness, it seems like a relatively easy thing to set up – as is proven by the plethora of bootcamps that are popping up all over the place. The reality is that it’s a tough business, it’s hard to get it right, and you have a lot of responsibility when you take 000’s of pounds of people’s hard earned money on the promise that you’re gonna change their life. Fail to deliver a few times and your business, along with your reputation, are toast.
Do you see bootcamps replacing college for parts of the population?
Absolutely! The ROI on College/University is terrible, the quality is patchy and the content outdated. The old claim that you go to Uni to ‘grow up and learn how to be independent’ kind of falls flat when you’re forced to take on tens of thousands of pounds-worth of debt for the privilege. When you factor in the opportunity cost of not working for a few years, it’s a wonder that people still go to Uni in the numbers they do. I went to Oxford and studied Philosophy and Spanish Literature. I wish to God I’d had the foresight to not waste those years memorizing useless, abstract concepts with no commercial utility, and gone to a bootcamp instead.
What is the job market like where your bootcamp is based?
We’re based in London and focused on the UK market. It’s widely agreed that there are around 50,000 open dev jobs here in London, and according to research 43% of companies say that talent is the thing that’s most restricts their ability to grow. We don’t quite get the salaries they get in the Valley yet, but we’re getting there. Given that the demand for developers is growing 21% year over year (YoY), and supply of developers is flatlining at 1% YoY, it’s clear that there’s plenty of room for growth in this industry.