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Founder Spotlight: Jake Hadden, DigitalCrafts

Liz Eggleston

Written By Liz Eggleston

Last updated on July 9, 2015

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DigitalCrafts is a new programming bootcamp offering a full-time immersive in the heart of Atlanta’s growing startup scene, right next door to the Atlanta Tech Village. We sit down with co-founder and Student Services Director Jake Hadden to discuss the motivation for creating a 16 week program, what drew them to Atlanta for the first DigitalCrafts campus, and preparing MEAN Stack & LAMP Stack curricula for the first cohort in October.


Who is the team behind DigitalCrafts?

My business partner, Max McChesney, and I both graduated from the University of Georgia. I worked in management consulting and then ran an innovation accelerator- think “internal Shark Tank.”

Through working in those roles, I realized I have a passion for helping other people achieve their goals. That’s what drew me towards my partner Max and this particular educational model. I couldn’t think of anything more exciting than bringing in a beginner, training them, giving them the skills they need to succeed, and then actually getting them a job to further their career.

Max worked for several tech startups in the Atlanta area and founded a startup called Expat Assistants in Argentina, that provided web marketing and SEO services. He had some exposure to coding but then actually attended a local coding school and became a firm believer in the accelerated learning model. He saw an opportunity in Atlanta for a program with a different approach to culture, curriculum, and duration, and we’ve been running with DigitalCrafts ever since.

Who is developing the curriculum for DigitalCrafts for the immersive program?

We hired Rob Bunch in June as our full-time immersive instructor. Rob has 11+ years of Full-Stack Web Development experience in a professional setting. Rob and Max are working together to create the curriculum, relying on Rob’s experience as a developer and Max’s as a former bootcamp student (and mine as a newbie!). We’re going to run mock classes to make sure everything runs smoothly and to give Rob plenty of practice in a classroom, and then we’ll bring in some experts from the area to help us to refine it.

Are you bootstrapping this business?

At the moment, this business is completely bootstrapped by Max and me.

Why start DigitalCrafts in Atlanta?

This is our home, and it’s where we have a very strong network of friends, family, and investors. Also Atlanta has a growing technology scene and with new additions like Atlanta Tech Village, Switchyards, Yik Yak, and many more, it’s only getting more exciting to be involved in the local tech community.

There are several other coding schools in the area- does Atlanta need another one?

Yeah! Atlanta is just exploding with demand for tech. There are so many tech startups coming to Atlanta. The cost of living is low. If you’re trying to get a job in Silicon Valley, why not go to a coding bootcamp where the cost of living is low and then move when you get the job?

One of the important reasons that we picked Atlanta is that the current web development schools in Atlanta really focus on a Ruby and Ruby on Rails curriculum. As a student evaluating these programs, consider there are going to be potentially 150+ graduates from the other programs in Atlanta every year fighting over the exact same jr. Ruby on Rails job openings.

What programming language will DigitalCrafts students learn?

DigitalCrafts will teach both Javascript and the MEAN stack as well as PHP and the LAMP stack over the course of 16 weeks. At the moment, no one in Atlanta teaches either. Javascript is a very hot technology now with the advent of NodeJS, and the demand for LAMP Stack is huge. We picked these two languages specifically to cater to the Atlanta market.

How did you decide on 16-weeks for the length?

Watching these bootcamps evolve over the past two years, I’ve gotten the feeling that so many of these programs have started to cram so much more in such a condensed time. We want to be very transparent with our students, and we didn’t feel comfortable saying that we would graduate them as a junior level developer in 8 or 12 weeks. We also believe that the industry is going to shift back to more intensive, longer programs, more hours, longer curriculum- we want to be on the forefront of that. Max’s experience as a student and our research speaking with local alumni of other programs points to a longer program as well.

Are all 16 weeks spent in the classroom or is part of that done remotely?

All 16 weeks are spent in the classroom. All students will be required to complete prerequisite work, which will be roughly 30 hours.

What technical level does the pre-work get students to?

The most important thing is that the pre-work gets all the students onto a level playing field. It teaches students the fundamentals of web development which is key before class kicks off.

Is the immersive bootcamp intended to get students jobs when they graduate?

While there are no guarantees, that is certainly what we’re working hard to accomplish with our students. The program is geared towards beginners, which I think is important. That’s not to say that if you were intermediate that you couldn’t get a lot out of it, but it is geared more towards beginners. We train you for 16 weeks in programming languages and technologies, and students go through a rigorous soft skills training process where you’re doing resume and interview training. Also, we’re introducing you to the hiring partners we have in the local area.

We feel very confident that if you come in with drive and motivation, that you can obtain an internship or junior level web development position, but it takes a lot of work from the student as well as the school. If you work hard, that usually pays off.

Who are those hiring partners that you have relationships with?

We have a number of startups in town and we’re always working to sign up more. Full stack developers are especially useful for younger companies as they have a wider range of skills over a really specialized developer, which fits in well with the start up needs.  We’ll be going after the Fortune 500 companies next, and will really kick those efforts into gear once class starts.

That’s another perk of being located directly next door to the Atlanta Tech Village. Our headquarters is right next door to the epicenter of technology in Atlanta. Atlanta Tech Village has 100+ startup members, with  roughly 15 very well-known startups in the building. We encourage our students to go to the networking events there as often as possible.

How large do you expect the first cohort to be?

We only accept 12 students per cohort. I’m not 100% sure, but we accept fewer people into each cohort than any program I’m familiar with. We’ve received a lot of applications so far, so as long as we find 12 people in there that meet certain criteria, I expect we’ll fill up the class.

What does the DigitalCrafts application process look like?

There’s an online application and then an in-person visit and interview. There’s no coding challenge at the moment but that’s in the works. It’s about motivation, problem solving skills, and basic behavioral interview questions. If you fill out the application with 50% effort and spelling mistakes throughout, that’s a red flag. With only 12 seats available, we have to be very sure we only accept students that we can confidently put in front of companies on the back end.

Are there scholarships available?

There definitely will be scholarships available, but nothing that’s on paper at the moment.

Are both Max and Rob the instructors for the class or are you hiring other instructors?

Rob will be the main instructor for the whole 16 week immersive program, while Max and I are leading the business and campus operations on a daily basis. We’ve hired two additional instructors for our part-time courses in web and mobile development. While Max will help out with the curriculum, we believe our actual instructors should have as much professional experience as possible, so we decided to pay up for it.

Have you had to work with any of Georgia or Atlanta’s regulatory agencies? Do you have plans to get accredited?

In the state of Georgia, you have to get a license to not only start a business, but also to provide educational services, which is what we’re doing.

If we were to get our curriculum accredited by the federal government, that process would be cumbersome to our curriculum, so we’re intentionally steering clear for now. It’s important to stay nimble in technology whether you’re a professional developer or teaching development, and federal accreditation can make changing the curriculum (and getting it approved) take upwards of a year. Technology moves far too quickly for that.

Thanks so much, Jake, and good luck in the first cohort of DigitalCrafts!

About The Author

Liz Eggleston

Liz Eggleston

Liz Eggleston is co-founder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students choosing a coding bootcamp. Liz has dedicated her career to empowering passionate career changers to break into tech, providing valuable insights and guidance in the rapidly evolving field of tech education.  At Course Report, Liz has built a trusted platform that helps thousands of students navigate the complex landscape of coding bootcamps.

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