T. J. Jones is the Director of Partnership Development at Coder Foundry in North Carolina. We talk to T. J. about the types of students who excel at Coder Foundry, the companies who hire from the school, and the value that Coder Foundry adds to the job placement process.
Tell us about what you were doing before you came to Coder Foundry.
I worked remotely for five years for a technology company in San Diego. Our CTO started a small coder academy/coding school in San Diego for a brief moment. That was the first time I heard about coding academies. That was five years ago.
Were you immediately convinced of the bootcamp model?
I saw the model cropping up, mostly online first, and it made sense to me. I've seen two privately funded schools close their doors in the past week. I think the market is responding to the type of education one gets that can prepare them for a software engineering job.
What is your position at Coder Foundry?
Director of Partnership Development. I do admissions and also student outcomes.
Can you describe what goes into partnership development?
Partnership development is just a fancy way to say that I do admissions and student outcomes. As our team grows we'll create new positions and focus on either admissions or outcomes. Right now I'm working with companies to consider using bootcamp style learning as another employment channel, especially if they have an under performing channel that they source candidates from.
Do your hiring partners tell you the types of students they want to hire?
Yes. Typically they have a certain skill set they're looking for and experience level (jr, mid, sr.). One of the benefits of working with a coding immersion school rather than a large recruiting agency is getting that personalized/boutique experience rather than sourcing resumes from keywords. We can vouch personally for the students we place because we know it's our reputation on the line as well. Our students are a reflection of our curriculum and process.
How many cohorts has Coder Foundry graduated?
We've had three cohorts and have graduated thirty students.
Would it be a red flag to you if an applicant wanted to start their own business and not get placed in a job?
No, we actually encourage it. Because we have chosen .NET most of the students coming to Coder Foundry are looking to build enterprise solutions. Some have no intention of getting placed and may want to spin off a consulting company. That's fine with us. We currently have a student going this route. Shout out to Hugh at LibreWorx.com!
Who are some of the hiring partners you’re working with?
We’re nine months old, so we’re still establishing those partnerships. A few that we work with right now are CaptiveAire, a consulting company called CoreTechs, and we just recently placed a graduate with a company called MoneyGuide Pro. They’re a financial services company and they build financial software for large financial institutions.
The partnership side is in its infancy really, as we’re just now starting to establish long-term partnerships. Silicon Valley has an ecosystem around which they can funnel candidates- that’s really what we’re trying to do here. Our largest markets are Charlotte and Raleigh, Atlanta.
Will you take a placement fee or recruiting fee from those companies?
I wouldn’t call myself a recruiter- we aim more for a partnership. There is a placement fee which will be typical to the industry. These companies will already paying a placement fee anyway, and they’re probably not getting the types of candidates they want because the recruiting industry is just simply looking at resumes, filtering keywords and putting candidates in front of employers. We feel like it’s a broken model, a broken way to source employment.
We’re trying to challenge that; we have a 12-week relationship with this candidate. We’re going to see their work, see what they can do, see their values, what they’re passionate about. So when we put the candidate in front of an employer, we feel like that’s a better potential hire and a service that you’ll pay a premium for than a recruiter who’s never met this person and who just went through a stack of resumes.
Is .NET the technology that your hiring partners are demanding now?
The feedback that we get from students, the reason they apply is that if they want to learn the .NET stack, ours is the most rigorous one out there. If you want to go work at a startup, then Python and Ruby are great. But we’re not really targeting those types of employers, we’re looking at large or mid-enterprise level companies and consulting companies.
How often are you iterating on the curriculum? Do students and hiring partners give you feedback?
We’re always looking for feedback from students and instructors. There’s something to be said for people who have had experience in the marketplace and in academia and can kind of weigh in on the curriculum.
Over the next year, I think we’ll see the employers start to weigh in with suggestions for the curriculum and we can definitely throw those in there, but in 12 weeks you can only cover so much and we try to hit the main points. The hope is, in terms of the partnership, that they will be able to send their employees back for corporate training. If you’re moving from Java to .NET or if you’re moving from one technology stack to the other, a coding academy like ours that focuses primarily on a particular technology can be a great resource for enterprise-level training.
Do you have a job guarantee?
What we say is, if you pass the class, you’ll get a job. Because what the employers are betting on is our curriculum and what we’re betting on is our students. The students really represent us in the marketplace so when the employer makes a good hire, that really reflects on us and what we’re doing and speaks for our curriculum. Our program is 12 weeks long and you're going to be building five web applications from the ground up using .NET and AngularJS. At the end of the course you'll have a portfolio of work you can showcase on a profile site. We feel like this gives students a head start on their peers because they're building applications that they can showcase instead of proprietary technology that prospective employers cannot access.
When we talked with Charles, a Coder Foundry alum, he said that he did 6 or 7 interviews once he graduated. That’s pretty impressive- is that typical?
Six or seven, yes. The hope is that we could narrow it down to three or four interviews. For instance, a student came in with a financial engineering background, so probably doesn’t want to work in the food industry, you know? He probably wants something in the financial services industry.
Johnny, who just got placed, was actually working on Wall Street for a few years, went to Columbia for financial engineering, actually moved from China here to North Carolina, came to Code Foundry and now he’s working in Virginia.
The hope is to line up our partnerships with our students’ backgrounds. The goal is to have types of partnerships in multiple cities and in multiple verticals with different employers.
Did Johnny get hired as a developer?
Yes, he got placed in February. He hasn’t started yet, but he signed his offer letter and was officially hired. He starts a little later in March.
Who is the ideal applicant at Coder Foundry?
A lot of people think that we’re taking students who have no idea what computer programming or computer science is and turning them into these rock star developers. That’s just not the case. So we’re really being selective in who we accept.
We’re seeing a lot of applicants who have 10–15 years’ work experience, maybe they’ve worked in older technologies, maybe not object oriented programming, and they want to learn .NET because that’s the enterprise-level solution that most companies are using.
We also see the occasional electrical engineering undergrad who didn’t do an internship and needs some work experience; they’ll use Coder Foundry and the 700 hours of experience that they put in at Coder Foundry will be that first notch in the resume.
So your ideal student is not a beginner?
Definitely not a beginner. We feel that it speaks less to the level of credibility of the program and curriculum when you just take beginners.
The individuals that are really attracted to Coder Foundry are looking to take their professionalism to the next level, not just do it as recreation or a side hobby with no background experience to work off of.