Hey, Kevin! What motivated you to start a bootcamp?
Simply put, I love learning new technologies and teaching it to others. Besides my full-time work as a developer of mobile apps for iOS and Android, I've been teaching game development as an Adjunct Lecturer at the Guildhall at SMU for over 8 years. Ironically, since I don't have a college degree myself, I can't work there full-time, so when I first read about the concept of a code bootcamp I knew it was something I wanted to do. Having my own code bootcamp not only enables me to teach full-time but it gives me the opportunity to help others start their own careers, which is very satisfying. As I like to say, "Developing software is not rocket science, so let's stop acting like it is and let's get to work!"
Also, as a military veteran myself, I have a special interest in reaching out to other veterans that might have a desire to get into software. Very often, veterans have considerable experience with technology but simply lack the specific skills required to land an actual tech job. I think code bootcamps are an excellent way for motivated veterans to get into software development. In addition to helping veterans directly, the Guild is the only code bootcamp that I know of that extends its Veteran Scholarship to the spouses of veterans.
What challenges have you faced so far with starting your coding bootcamp?
Since I already have experience teaching and designing curriculum, I think my biggest challenges have all revolved around more mundane issues like finding office space and getting noticed amongst all the other more established bootcamps. Fortunately, my office space issue has been resolved through an amazing partnership with The North Texas Enterprise Center in Frisco, TX. As for getting noticed, I'm just going to have to buckle-down and start producing some outstanding junior developers that make the local tech recruiters take notice.
What successes have you had with your first few cohorts?
Well, I can't really claim any "successes" yet since our very first cohort is in February, but if any bootcamp shoppers out there want to be part of something brand new and earn the bragging rights as a member of Cohort #1, please consider The Guild of Software Architects.
What plans/dreams do you have for your bootcamp over the next 5 years?
While the Guild is currently focused on creating junior-level iOS and Android developers, we do have future plans to offer courses dedicated to Mobile Game Development. These future game development courses will be designed in partnership with The North Texas Enterprise Center in Frisco, TX and will be aimed at creating new mobile game developers for the growing game industry in North Texas.
In the meantime, I would still encourage students who are interested in both mobile app development and game programming to consider the Guild. Even though we are not currently offering a dedicated game development course we are fully open to teaching it on the side. However, please keep in mind that when it comes to job placement, we will be focused on regular junior-level mobile jobs and not game development jobs.
Any advice for students looking to join a bootcamp?
When I interview applicants I'm always trying to weigh two things: potential and passion. In other words, does the applicant have the right kind of attitude towards learning and problem solving, and do they sound passionate about the job and the future it entails?
Put another way, I think it's very important for applicants to understand that working as a software developer is all about constantly learning new things and problem solving. I say this because some people find this type of environment too hectic for their liking. This is especially true if you don't actually enjoy writing code and you're only doing it to land a job with a bigger salary. I always like to ask people, if you didn't get paid to write code, would you still do it as a hobby?
Now, for students who are uncertain about attending a code bootcamp or simply can't take the time off, the Guild also offers special night courses called Career Accelerators. These courses meet twice a week for a month and they're designed to push people past the basics of iOS or Android and get them to a place where they can effectively start learning on their own. I think they're a great way for someone to explore the possibility of a career switch into mobile development without giving up their day job.
Any advice for people who want to start a bootcamp and/or start teaching code?
Like any start-up or new business, launching a bootcamp is hard work, but if your primary interest is the teaching aspect of it, the Guild is definitely looking to expand its list of courses, which obviously requires new instructors. Expertise in web development and mobile game development via Unity with a focus on VR gaming are of interest to us.
Do you see bootcamps replacing college for parts of the population?
As an alternative form of education, code bootcamps are definitely being used by some students today as a replacement for college. This is especially true for individuals who already code as a hobby. The fast paced learning environment and the opportunity to collaborate with other like-minded coders is not only cheaper than college but more thrilling in general.
The other big trend I see involves individuals who have a college degree in something non-technical such as English or Philosophy, but then use a code bootcamp as a way to make a serious course change in their careers. They may not be hobbyist coders that code every night, but they know enough about real-life work to be motivated to succeed.
What is the job market like where your bootcamp is based?
While places like Silicon Valley get most of the attention, if you add together the employment opportunities of the Dallas/Fort Worth area plus Austin and Houston, and then combine that with the low cost of living and affordable housing, there's no other place I would rather work. With our network of local recruiters, I have no doubt that our students will be fully capable of finding employment.