Global Tech School Ironhack is launching a new campus in Mexico City on January 15, 2018. We spoke with Ironhack’s VP of Operations & Expansion, Alexandre Berriche, to learn about the Mexico City tech ecosystem and why there is a growing demand for developers in the area. This school uses feedback from their campuses around the world to continually improve the curriculum. Discover how Ironhack can connect you to a 1000+ network of alumni, help you with job placement, and get some tips for your application!
What's your background? What drew you to want to work with Ironhack?
After starting my career in Private Equity, I joined Jumia,a Rocket Internet company, also called the African Amazon. I was Head of Operations in North Africa and then Managing Director of Tunisia.I got in touch with Ariel and Gonzalo, the founders of Ironhack, and was really inspired by their vision. Also, since I actually attended a coding bootcamp myself, I was excited to come and work in this industry. I saw the great potential the bootcamp model had in Europe and also Latin America. I was keen to have an impact on people’s lives, so I was super receptive to our conversation and working with Ironhack. It was a great fit.
As the VP of Expansion, can you describe your role?
As VP of Expansion, I work with the founders to create a strategy and decide which markets make sense for us to open in next. Then I'm involved with the operations preparation where I actually launch the new markets.
There are three main areas to consider when launching in a new market. The first is human resources – we want to build an awesome team including a general manager. We were super excited to find a great GM for our Mexico campus. Marketing and brand awareness is number two. When you're launching in a new market, you want to increase the brand awareness and convince your first students of the benefits of the new campus. It can be difficult in a new market because we are starting from scratch, so we have to leverage the use of marketing channels such as public relations, events, and partnerships to integrate ourselves into the local ecosystem. The third area is legal – making sure the legal administration is completed. If you succeed in those three areas, you are ready to open in any market.
What stood out about Mexico City? Why did Ironhack choose to open a campus there?
We are one of the leaders in the coding bootcamp industry globally, and we’ve been thinking about opening in Latin America for quite some time. Latin America is a great market because there is so much demand for tech skills, but there is a limited number of established bootcamps in the area. In 2019 it is estimated there will be a deficit of 150,000 IT jobs in Mexico, so we can have a great impact on that. We want to train the new generation of technology professionals to join the industry. Not many, if any, bootcamps have campuses in the U.S., Europe, and in Latin America, so Latin America was very attractive to us.
Mexico City was the preferred choice because it has a booming tech ecosystem. It's one of the largest markets for startups. Mexico City is the entry for many tech companies moving to Latin America – Facebook, Amazon, and so on – so many tech multinationals are moving in. The ecosystem is not just booming, it's also maturing significantly well as there are plenty of VC’s, accelerators, and company builders.
Finally, it's a pretty friendly environment for internet technology and computer science. It's a big market to penetrate, but it's less difficult than some other markets because there are no global competitors. There are obviously some local competitors, whom we respect a lot, but we are going to give the Mexico City ecosystem access to Ironhack’s global community which is already present in Miami, Paris, Barcelona, and Madrid. We think building ties within those markets will excite students learning in Mexico City.
There are only a few bootcamps in Mexico City. How will Ironhack stand out once other bootcamps start to pop up?
Ironhack will stand out because we are global. We have already learned so much about running a bootcamp, because each market we operate in has different standards and different challenges. So by bringing this experience into the market, we are raising the coding bootcamp standards for Mexico City. Ironhack has graduated 1,000 students, so we have a large community. We have alumni working for Amazon, Google, and IBM, which is a big plus. We have great reviews on Course Report, and we have great student satisfaction for our curriculum. Over the four years we have been operating, we have continued to improve our teaching methods.
What is the Ironhack Mexico City campus like?
Our offices are at the WeWork Insurgentes coworking space, and it's amazing to work alongside different Mexico City startups and see how dynamic the space is. It’s super exciting. We’re in the Colonia Napoles, which is like a district of startups. At WeWork we take up two rooms of 20 x 30 feet each which hold between 15 to 20 students. We will start with one class, and then eventually have two classes rolling at the same time – one UX/UI design course, and one web development course.
Our objective at Ironhack is not quantitative, it's more qualitative so we are not going to accept students if they don't have the required technical level. We are selective with students and we don't accept everyone.
Could you describe the Ironhack application process? Is it the same across campuses?
Yes. We have two interviews – one personal interview and one technical interview. You can make it through the technical interview even if you don't have tons of knowledge, but you must be a hard worker. If you prepare your case, you can make it in, but we want to be selective.
Before the bootcamp starts we also have pre-work and the objective is to have everyone at the same knowledge level when we start the course. People are spending a lot of time and money to really improve, so the courses are very intensive for that reason.
Ironhack teaches UX/UI design and web development. Will you be teaching the same curriculum in Mexico City?
We collect feedback in each market, and with each piece of feedback we receive, we improve our curriculum little by little. We trust and use the same curriculum in every market. You can’t scale efficiently if you have each market doing different classes. The feedback loops in all the different markets allow us to have the best quality program. I don’t think we could have the best quality if we made too many specificities for the various cities.
How many instructors will you have at the Mexico City campus?
The number of instructors will grow as the number of students and the number of classes increase. For instance, at the Paris campus, four months after launching we had seven teachers. It will be the same for Mexico. So we’ll start with one instructor and then after a few months, seven, and after one year maybe 10 – we're going to see how fast it grows.
Since Ironhack is a global bootcamp, how do you help with the job search and placement? What sort of jobs do you expect graduates to get?
We are trying to build partnerships with Linio, TIP, and many Mexican startups where we can place our students. Companies will be invited to Hiring Week at the end of the bootcamp to see what type of talent we produce. We’ll start by targeting companies in Mexico City and then we’ll expand and make partnerships with companies in Guadalajara and Monterrey as a second step.
Most of our graduates become junior developers. We have less entrepreneurs and more junior developers. Ironhack focuses on career changers and trying to help them to achieve their ambitions so that’s why we are so focused on placement with Iron Week, and a placement manager in each market.
Is it pretty normal for graduates to stay in the city where they studied?
We are seeing graduates stay in the city where they studied, unless they’re coming from abroad. We have a few international students and currently, most of them go to the Barcelona and Paris campuses. We don't know about Mexico City graduates yet, but most of our applications so far are from Mexico – with some international applicants as well.
If someone is a beginner and thinking about attending a coding bootcamp in Mexico City like Ironhack, do you have any meetup or event suggestions?
Yes, Ironhack is doing a huge full-day event at WeWork on December 9th. Anyone can attend and it’s free. This is a great opportunity to learn about tech, discover the Mexico City ecosystem and decide if you want to apply to Ironhack.
What advice do you have for people thinking about attending a coding bootcamp like Ironhack?
The first thing is, it’s an amazing commitment, and if you are applying for good reasons and have the technical ability, you will be accepted and get the best experience. It's a once in a lifetime experience to spend nine weeks changing your career. You will learn so much, meet new companies, and get hired. If you want to learn more, go to the Ironhack website, download the application guide, and come to some events. We have a Meetup group and Facebook page. You can read plenty of reviews of the school on Course Report. If you are sure of your motivations, you are a hard worker, and you’re committed, I'm sure you will be accepted.
Do you have any additional comments about the Ironhack’s new Mexico City campus?
We are very excited about having an amazing team at WeWork in Mexico City. We are at the center of the startup ecosystem so I think it will be an amazing experience for our students.