In the bay area, there are no shortage of hackathons, meetups, or coworking spaces for developers. One of the things that is lacking is a regular mentorship or teaching model that lets beginners learn the skills it takes to become a professional.
Most of the developers in Silicon Valley are self-taught and are already working at a company, so it’s hard to blame them for not being able to teach anyone and everyone who wants to achieve the same status. The folks at something called Dev Bootcamp want to change that by putting together eight week “courses” on how to become a pro at Ruby on Rails, in hopes of getting them junior positions within top tier companies.
It’s a brilliant model, which I’ll get into more later. First, I want to talk about what I saw when I visited the tiny office space on Market St. in downtown San Francisco.
The only thing I knew going in was that there was going to be twenty people there who had just gone through eight weeks — roughly 400+ hours — of intense technical training. These aren’t your everyday courses you’ll find in school though, the mentors who taught these folks have been doing this for years.
The “students” come from various backgrounds, some having never touched backend code before. The creator of the event, Shereef Bishay, built a company at age 21 and sold it to Microsoft before spending 4 years as a lead dev there. What Bishay did was build something with a sustainable, and unique, model that will fund itself for years to come.
Here’s how it works, and the cost for the program is $12,200 for students:
- Those who want to be a part of program send an application and Bishay interviews them over Skype to get a feel for how passionate, intelligent, and willing to learn they are. The first batch for Dev Bootcamp came from a pool of over 100 applications
- Bishay reached out to companies to participate in the learning sessions, as well as participate in a “speed dating” style series of interviews with all of the participants.
- If one of the companies hires a student as a junior developer, they pay Bishay a finders fee and he puts it back into the program and reimburses $5,000 of the tuition fee to the student.
It’s a pretty genius model if you ask me, and it seems to have attracted some pretty awesome companies that use Ruby on Rails as their platform of choice:
While I was at the office, I watched the fast and furious five-minute interviews happening, which the program uses as a way to see if the students are a fit for the work culture at the companies being represented. At the end of the five minutes, Bishay rings a bell and the companies move on to the next student. When all is said and done, all 20 students got to speak to 30 companies about possible openings for junior developers.
Even though the first eight week program was supposed to teach 400 hours worth of material, I was told by its four mentors that it turned out to be closer to 800 hours. Students stayed late into the night and on the weekends, soaking up as much knowledge as they could.
While listening to a member of Twitter’s engineering team speak with one of the students, he said that the hardest part about building a team is “finding people that you don’t mind spending a lot of time with”. The students got a taste of that during their “bootcamp”, so consider that another area that they were trained in.
While it’s no guarantee that all of the students will get jobs after their eight week training, they have certainly networked with some of the finest companies in the valley, which is not an easy thing to do at all.
When I asked Shereef Bishay how they chose to teach what they taught, he said:
In a CS program there’s about 10% of material that you’ll end up really using, so we decided to focus on that 10% for the entire eight weeks
Dev Bootcamp is already accepting applications for a June program that will last ten weeks, and the team tells me that it should be “200% more efficient” since they’ve learned quite a bit during the experience, themselves. For companies, this is a great way to get access to pre-screened junior talent, since some of the companies told me that they’ve gotten burned by hiring people who just weren’t ready to work at a startup yet.
I’m tempted to learn how to code, but I’m not sure if I have the intestinal fortitude that this group of twenty had. It was really impressive stuff, and nice to see a core of mentors start to expand in Silicon Valley.