After successfully establishing Sabio’s second campus in Orange County, Aaron Gibson is moving to Seattle to launch the coding bootcamp in a third city. Meetup events have already started at Sabio’s Seattle campus, and the first cohort is due to start in late May 2017. We asked Aaron why the Sabio team chose to expand to Seattle, why Sabio will stand out amongst the other coding bootcamps in Seattle, and whether grads are likely to get hired at local giants Microsoft and Amazon.
Why did the Sabio team decide to expand to Seattle?
Expanding to Seattle is a good idea on several levels. First and probably foremost, Microsoft and Amazon both have world headquarters there, as well as many other technology companies. The demand is there both for people who want to enter the tech industry and also for companies who need to hire programmers. On top of that, we've been getting a lot of requests on our website and via email asking us to open a Seattle campus.
Seattle has a reputation and a history of being a town that's very focused on inclusivity and equality. That really appeals to our principles at Sabio because those are the same principles by which we guide our company.
And on a personal level, I had never actually been to Seattle before. I traveled there for an open house on President’s Day Weekend, and it was an amazing experience. Despite it being a holiday weekend, we had to actually bring in extra tables and chairs to accommodate all of the demand from interested students. I really felt connected to Seattle– the values of the people, the conversations I had– in a way I wasn't expecting. It just has a different vibe than what I’m used to, and I really liked it. So I think Seattle is a good place for Sabio to grow.
There are quite a few coding bootcamps in Seattle already – what will make Sabio standout amongst the competition?
We stand out in a number of ways. First and foremost is our curriculum. There are a lot of bootcamps, but not many of them are teaching the Microsoft Stack, which is strange because Seattle is Microsoft's front yard. Other bootcamps teach Python, for example, which is a very valid language to learn, but if you look at the numbers in the Stack Overflow developer survey, Python was about 12-13% of the market whereas C# Microsoft product accounts for ~31% of the market. There are more jobs available in the stack that we teach. Sabio’s arrival is going to address a vacuum that needs to be filled.
In addition, Sabio has been teaching web development since 2014. We're currently on our 28th cohort. We've got the reputation and the experience that other bootcamps just don't have. We've had great success with our formula in Southern California. I can't imagine we're going to have any less success in Microsoft's hometown.
When we expand to a new city, we’ve got our whole community behind us. There are around 230 people who have already graduated and are out in the workforce as actual web developers. We have the numbers, the experience, and a formula that we know works.
Why are you specifically excited to grow the Sabio community?
I was actually the first instructor at Sabio in Los Angeles when the business was still bootstrapped. Now Sabio has grown to two campuses with five or six senior instructors.
In the year since establishing the Orange County campus, we've doubled our capacity and are hiring more senior instructors. Demand has been off the charts and we've had very good success with getting people hired and we’re seeing increasingly higher salaries, so we're just going to take that same formula and keep applying it.
I have had pretty good success in Orange County, and I'm going to take what I've learned and apply it to the Seattle location. But the stakes are a bit higher this time, and things will be a little more difficult. I'm really looking forward to the challenge.
When will the Seattle campus open?
The pre-work section has already started. Students are doing the pre-work remotely so that when I arrive there in late May, we will be able to just jump right into the bootcamp.
What is the Seattle Sabio campus going to be like? What neighborhood is it in?
Sabio Seattle is in the South Lake Union neighborhood. The campus is in a WeWork coworking building. The thing that really struck me about the office space is how comfortable it is– the youngsters use the word “chill.” There are good amenities like free coffee, free parking, even free beer.
We're going to have our own permanent classroom within the WeWork. Sabio students are usually given keys to the classroom because the bootcamp requires about 70 hours of work every week to pass the program in 12 weeks. The space is going to be similar to our classrooms in Orange County and Culver City. The whole atmosphere in Seattle is a little bit different; it's got its own vibe which I really enjoy.
How many students are you expecting to have in this first cohort?
We keep our cohorts at 10 seats to ensure a high quality. We're expecting to have a full cohort of 10 people in Seattle. We had about 20 people show up to the open house a couple of weeks ago.
Are you the main instructor and will you work with any teacher assistants?
At first, I'm going to be the main instructor for the pre-work and for the bootcamp. We do have some Sabio team members in Seattle to help us set up, but they're both interviewing at Microsoft right now and there’s a good chance they're going to get hired there full time. So it's going to be my job to recruit other instructors to assist me and help me run the Seattle campus. Demand is so high that I think we'll be able to support two or more cohorts very quickly.
Are you're going to be teaching the exact same curriculum as you've been teaching in Orange County and Culver City or will you be tweaking it to suit the Seattle market?
The core of the Sabio curriculum will remain the same. Of course, every single cohort we run is different because we are working on a real project for a real client, but the core skill set that our graduates have as junior developers is going to remain the same.
We will tweak the interview prep portion of our cohort to tailor it a little bit more to the local community because our research indicates that there are certain things that they do a little differently in the Seattle culture compared with Southern California. So we’ll tweak those things to suit the local environment, but we’re not overhauling the whole curriculum. We're just going to add a couple of things to the tail end of it. What those things are, people will have to show up to find out!
Are you going to be looking for local companies whose projects your first cohort can work on?
Yes. The ideal situation is that the students work on projects for local clients so the client can come in and do weekly demos and see our progress.
Right now we're working for a startup in Irvine called Bringpro.com, to build them a new admin platform to help route their delivery trucks. Their plan is to take what our cohort builds and put it into production and start using it in a couple of weeks. So we're doing very cool things with the local startup community, and becoming more and more happy about this side of our business. I don't see any other bootcamps in Seattle or any other city doing anything close to real client work right now.
But we do work with remote clients. We've worked with a former client of mine located in New York City, and with Beauty Streams in Paris, France. It just depends. We use a screen sharing tool on our computers to demonstrate our progress.
How does the Seattle job market compare to the Orange County and LA tech scenes?
The Seattle job market is competitive. You have to really know what you're talking about, and know how to pass a technical interview, to be successful there. What we found at Sabio is that passing the technical interview is really a whole second skill set that you have to learn in addition to programming. That's the way we approach it.
It's competitive because there are a lot of good programmers in Seattle, but at the same time, it is a smaller market. Salaries are higher, and there are still more jobs than developers. When our graduates go into the job market having already worked on a real project for a real client and have their code in production, they tend to get hired.
What companies might be interested in hiring Sabio graduates?
Our intention is to make a lot of noise and place people at companies in the whole spectrum of startups there. We've been in competitive situations before, and we feel very confident of our chances in that type of environment.
What we've seen here in Orange County is that everyone needs developers, not just tech companies. We have people going to landscaping companies, plumbing companies, law offices, real estate offices - many different places. People graduating from Sabio tend to have an advantage because they often have a background in the financial sector, medical sector, or education sector, and then that informs the area that they apply to as a developer.
There are lots of giant companies in the Seattle area. I already mentioned Amazon and Microsoft, but there's also Costco and so many others. I think it's going to take us a minute to work our way up to those higher level companies. But that being said five Sabio alumni have already been working at Microsoft through their Leap Program, a program to increase diversity.
Our intention is to demonstrate that our graduates bring exceptionally high value to their team no matter the size of the company. I feel very confident that within six months to two years, another Sabio graduate will make it to that level in addition to the ones already at Microsoft.
Amazon also recently announced that they want to hire thousands of military veterans to work on their technology for them. Sabio is approved to accept the US GI Bill benefits for veterans, so we are ideally placed to train the veterans for that talent pipeline.
So are there already a few Sabio grads in Seattle? Is there already a little bit of a Sabio network in Seattle?
Yeah, there is. At our open house the other weekend, we had four alumni there. Some of them are working at Microsoft, others are working at other companies.
What are you most looking forward to about moving to Seattle and getting the Seattle campus going?
On a personal level, I'm looking forward to being out of the hustle and bustle of Southern California, and the opportunity to live in a more pristine environment.
On a professional level, I felt very connected to a lot of the people I met at the open house. They've demonstrated that they've got the attitude that they're willing to work hard and put in the effort that it takes to really become a good developer. To me, that's really encouraging. The reception was overwhelmingly positive, and I appreciated that.
It's been a long, hard road to get where we're at, and it feels really good that people recognize that amount of effort and integrity that we've been working hard on.
I love the people I met in Orange County and I'm going to be sorry to go, but we're still connected on our alumni channels. So it's not like I'm going to just disappear from their lives. But I'm very much looking forward, on a professional and personal level, to getting up there and being part of the amazing community in Seattle.
Are there any Sabio meetup events that are already happening in Seattle?