Jordana Gustafson started following coding bootcamp education when Dev Bootcamp launched in California. After meeting Code Fellows instructor Ivan Storck at a startup in San Francisco, Jordana joined the team as Campus Manager at Code Fellows’ newest campus in Portland. She tells us about meeting the demands of Portland’s job market, what convinced her of the bootcamp model, and trying to increase diversity in web development.
Tell me about your background, your experience with education and programming, and how you got into this world.
My background is primarily in public radio. I worked as a freelancer for various public radio stations and programs for 12 years. I focused on issues of immigration and minorities and poverty. Before moving to Portland, I had been working as a producer at NPR in Washington DC. Prior to that, I reported for a documentary radio program that focused on US foreign policy. That job sent me all over the world.
That’s a pretty different career than working in coding bootcamps—what motivated you to make the switch?
It is completely different, but a lot of the things that I enjoyed about being a freelance reporter and producer are the same things that I enjoy about being at Code Fellows. As a freelance journalist you’re essentially running your own small company: you’re responsible for everything from researching, pitching ideas, setting up meetings, conducting interviews, editing, mixing, and promoting yourself and your work. I’m using the same skill set but for a bigger company. And then, I have always been very interested in education—I come from a family of teachers, and I taught English for a little while.
How did you get introduced to Code Fellows?
I wanted a new career that felt exciting to me, and I knew I wanted to work in tech in Portland—maybe as a tech writer or a programmer. Shereef Bishay, who founded Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco, is a friend of mine. I was really excited about what he was doing, and so I followed the progression of code schools over a couple of years. Soon I heard from a friend of mine, Ivan Storck, that the code school he helped start was expanding to Portland. Ivan and I had met years earlier when we worked together at a green media startup called SustainLane.
What is your role at Code Fellows now?
My official title is Portland Campus Manager, and my position includes a bit of everything: recruiting, marketing, operations, business development, furniture assembly. I’ve been here since November.
Did you have to be convinced of the bootcamp model? What convinced you that it was a good space to get involved in?
I’m convinced by the numbers, the outcomes, and by the quality of people who I know in the industry. These schools are producing real results. Code Fellows published our alumni stats, and we keep them updated. So far, 81% of our Development Accelerators graduates are hired within three months, earning an average of $75,000.
Can you tell us about why Code Fellows expanded to Portland, and why it’s an important market?
We’re excited to start expanding and meeting the needs of multiple markets. Portland is a tech center in the Northwest, and here, like everywhere, companies can’t find the talent they need. They don’t even post their open jobs because they know they can’t fill them.
Choosing to expand to Portland first was also a matter of proximity. Having the Seattle headquarters close by meant our full staff could support the new campus and ensure that the quality and standards remained high.
When will you first have students in the space?
Our first class in the new space was a Unix and Git workshop on January 31st.
Applicants need to have a good amount of experience to get into the Development Accelerator. So we won’t say it’s impossible, but generally we tell people who graduate from our introductory courses to wait before applying to the Development Accelerator so that they can put their new skills into practice, partner with someone, and build something. We work with these students to create a personal growth plan, so that they know what their strengths are, what their gaps are, and what kinds of things they should work on before applying to a Development Accelerator. Some of our students could be ready to dive right in; others may need some time to apply what they’ve learned.
What’s the next language you’d like to teach?
We are busy meeting with tech companies in Portland to find out more about what they’re looking for. What they tell us will drive our course offerings here.
What is the hiring network like in Portland? Have you had to build it from scratch?
Within Code Fellows, we have a very solid network in the Northwest and across the country. So we’re working right now on leveraging those relationships. We’re learning about where the pain points are at Portland tech companies and where we can add value. We’re meeting with a lot of the big companies here; last week we met with folks from Jive, Urban Airship, Simple, and Metal Toad.
Definitely. We are working through the applications right now. It’s selective, so this takes a bit of time. We have a lot of applications, a few students enrolled, and a whole bunch in process.
How large will the first class be?
We typically keep the class to about 20, and we’re expecting it to be full.
As you’ve expanded, has Code Fellows kept uniformity between the Seattle and Portland campuses?
From furniture to curriculum, it’s the same Code Fellows as in Seattle. But, of course, Adron Hall and I are Portlanders, so you can expect our campus to have a little Portlandia flair. We bike to work. We’re morally opposed to disposable containers (we’re looking into GO Box subscriptions for our office). We want our building to compost, and I’m working on that!
Who are the instructors for these first classes?
Adron Hall is teaching the Computer Science & Web Development Bootcamp that started February 2nd.
Have you made any efforts in Portland to get more women and underrepresented minorities involved with Code Fellows?
Yes—this is something that is very important to Code Fellows and to me, personally. I am actively reaching out to organizations that work on these issues to find out how we can support and partner with them, as we have in Seattle. I have a meeting next week with Girl Develop It, and we’re hosting an event for ChickTech in March. We’d like to partner with iUrban as well. We’re also giving away a scholarship at HackPDX’s hackathon at Nike in April with the goal of encouraging and increasing the accessibility of accelerated learning education in coding.
Is there anything else you wanted to include about Code Fellows Portland?
The fact is that the need for programmers all over the US, including in Portland, is vast, and we—code schools, non-profits, mentorship programs, and internship programs—are all working to solve the same issue: the huge gap between supply and demand in the tech labor market. We’re super supportive of our peers who share the philosophy that a lot can be accomplished in an intense, immersive format. The more they succeed, the more we succeed, and vice-versa. We’re all approaching this differently, but in the end, we have the common goal of putting skilled programmers into the market to help meet a need that is bigger than any one of us.