New York Code & Design Academy offers part time and full time courses to help students build their digital set. Jeremy Snepar, founder of NYCDA, talks with us about the intensive workshops in web, mobile app, and UI/UX design, what they're looking for in applicants, and how they help graduates find jobs in tech.
Tell us about your background, your role at New York Code and Design Academy, how you ended up opening a coding and design school.
I launched the school in 2012. The genesis of the school really began with the start of my career at the New York Film Academy where I began right out of college in a marketing and business development role.
I worked for 4 years at the New York Film Academy but left for a career as an investment banker. After spending about 3 ½ years working at Lehman Brothers, I made the move to a small firm called MESA, which really focused on digital media and entertainment. While an associate at MESA, I advised early stage digital media companies on M&A and raising capital and became involved with the New York/Bay Area tech scene.
It became pretty clear - when you’re working with companies on the inside and really getting to know their businesses - there was definitely a need for developers.
When you say “developers,” did you find a need for full stack developers or front end devs?
Everything; full stack developers, front end developers, web designers…I would basically model out head count needs for these companies and it was incredible how many developers they were hiring and the lack of available talent.
So I thought about launching a school like NYFA however focused on web design and development rather than filmmaking and acting. I incubated the idea with a friend from MESA and we launched our first class in September 2012.
What was the first class you started with?
The first class was our 16-week evening workshop. We really wanted to launch a class for working professionals who wanted to augment their digital skill set or at least explore curiosity, without interrupting their professional lives. So we began marketing the evening workshop to professionals in media, tech, law,finance, graphic designer and entrepreneurs. We found a market and that was really the start of the New York Code + Design Academy.
You now offer an immersive course- the Web Development Intensive. Is there a plan to do a front end design immersive?
Yeah; we’re interested in launching classes that have a tangible benefit for our students. If we see the demand and if we believe that we can deliver a great product that helps students find jobs as UX designers through a full time immersive experience, we’ll absolutely launch that.
What types of students are taking your Web Development Intensive?
Most of the students are career-changers, or at least career advancers. We’re not seeing companies financing the education of students through our web development intensive, although we do see that on the evening workshops. We have pharmaceutical sales reps, investment bankers, lawyers, paralegals; all sorts of people. We also have students fresh out of college who spent all this money on college but haven’t graduated without any tangible skills.
Do you see any entrepreneurs at all or students who want to be a technical cofounder?
For sure. One of our first students, Jack Latis entrepreneur and owned some flower shops in New York. He wanted to launch an e-commerce platform to sell his flowers online and rather than hire a technical consultant, he wanted to build it himself. He ended up building his site as his final project and launched it on our demo day. He now operates two e-commerce sites online selling flowers.
Are you teaching Rails for the Web Development Immersive?
Our main course is a full stack web development intensive that includes Ruby on Rails. We’ve also launched a class in Angular JS for more experienced developers to augment their digital skill set. We have mobile development classes both in iOS and Android development.
We’re always expanding the curriculum and trying to stay on top of the new emerging technologies.
Can you tell us about the teaching style for the immersive course?
It’s a mix of both lectures and workshopping. We are big believers in learning by doing and try to imbue that philosophy into all of our courses. With the web development intensive, students are working on no less than 6 projects, both individually and in teams. So they graduate not only with a tangible set of skills but also a portfolio of projects that defines who they are as developers. We start them off with simpler projects in the beginning and build their confidence as developers. It’s very important for us to get them up to that learning curve as quickly as possible but also build their confidence along the way.
How many students do you have in each cohort?
We keep cohorts small; we like to cap a class at 15 students. We’ll usually have two instructors teach the students but it really depends upon the particular cohort.
Can you tell us about your instructors? Do you have part-time instructors or fulltime?
We have full-time and part-time instructors. We like the part-time instructors because they’re also working developers, which not only keeps their skills fresh, but they also know what it’s like on the front lines. And they communicate that to our students, which we think is really valuable.
Our instructors also recruit students directly from class into their companies.
What are you looking for in potential students for the Web Development class? Do students need to have programming experience?
We look for the problem solvers, the proactive, and the ambitious optimists that believe anything is possible. All of our students are beginners and we’re unlike other schools in that we’re not giving students coding challenges. We don’t want students who know how to code already; that’s what we teach.
Do you have students do pre-work before they start?
How are you helping your graduates find jobs in tech?
That’s absolutely one of our goals and we do it in a number of different ways. We have career fairs at the end of every class. NYCDA founders and the entire leadership team also leverages our relationships to help place students. We also have a number of partners that we work with who actively recruit our students. We try to give our students the best set of skills that we think position them for finding work as an entry level developer, and using our relationships and our partners to help make that happen.
When you place a student, is that company paying you a recruiting fee?
We’re not taking recruiting fees right now. We might do that in the future as we develop but right now, these are personal relationships of the founders and myself. We just think that’s good for the tech ecosystem here in New York and good for our students. If it becomes a business in the future, that’s great but that’s not how we’re trying to make money right now.
Are you planning on expanding outside of New York at any point?
For sure, we’re in discussions already with a number of locations. When I was at the New York Film Academy, my job included expanding the New York Film Academy into new markets. I’m looking forward to doing that with NYCDA; it’s just a little premature to make those announcements.
Are you working with the education regulatory agencies in New York? Any plans to become accredited?
Absolutely. We are working with BPSS here in NY as well as some national accrediting agencies.
Is there anything else you want to share with our readers about NYCDA?
I would say that one of the most interesting things about our program is the flexibility that we provide students. Most students who come to the New York Code + Design Academy know they want to become web developers but they don’t know exactly how to do that. They don’t know the intricacies of all the different languages. So it’s our responsibility to not only teach them but also give them a great experience.
We've built a lot of flexibility into our 12-week evening workshop, which runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:30 to 9:30pm. All students take the same curriculum in the first 8 weeks but in the second 8 weeks, students select one of three tracks: Ruby on Rails, Front End Web Development, or User Experience/ User Interface Design. Students don’t have to declare their track until about 6 weeks into the program, so they can come in, learn a little bit about different technologies, and then make the decision to pursue the track that makes the most sense for them. Students love that flexibility and I think it really differentiates us from our competitors.