Los Angeles is the second largest city in the US and is most notably identified as the entertainment capital of the world. However, as of late, Los Angeles is witnessing a significant increase in its tech startup community. Startups focused on a diverse spectrum of tech related fields including ed-tech, animation, mobile applications, and game development are on the rise in LA. Some are even calling the current landscape “the second coming of the LA Tech Ecosystem,” as reported by Miguel Forbes.
Currently there are eleven coding bootcamps located in Los Angeles. The most recent addition to the field is Coding Dojo who already operates campuses in Silicon Valley and Seattle. “We sought out a location in LA because we see it as a growing tech sector,” said Coding Dojo CEO, Richard Wang. Los Angeles is also becoming a thriving ecosystem of entrepreneurs,” he added. Course Report recently had the opportunity to discuss Coding Dojo’s latest expansion with LA campus instructor, Speros Misirlakis.
What is your background? How were you introduced into the tech/web development scene?
I went to college at Northern Arizona University and received a degree in Business Administration. After college, my father really started to push me to pursue a MBA to start a career in Finance. I always had a passion for computers. During my six month hiatus between college and my MBA program, and I found myself coding – and loved it!
I graduated with my MBA in 2012 but still had that itch to pursue programming. I started looking into coding bootcamps. I stumbled upon Coding Dojo and decided to take the plunge and enroll. Turns out, I not only loved programming – but was also really good at it! After graduating from the Dojo I went on to be a TA, then an instructor-in-training, and now a full-time lead instructor.
I continue to push myself to learn and love that I get to share new discoveries with our students to help them become the best self-sufficient developers possible.
How do the instructors structure the day?
Coding Dojo students code – a lot! The instructors start out each day with morning algorithms from 9am – 10am. Each week we cover new algorithm topics, giving students the opportunity to learn and practice those algorithms in groups and individually on paper, on their computer as well as on the whiteboard. After algorithms, we give a morning lecture from 10am – 11am going over concepts ranging from object oriented programming to MVC frameworks.
The lecture is then followed by a group activity where students have a chance to explore concepts and get deeper into the subject matter. For example, after a lecture on MVC, we may have students work together on a simple MVC project to kick-start their learning by coding together. At that point, students can choose to continue working together in groups or solo for the rest of the day. By lunchtime, the class room resembles a large lab with a lot of collaboration between students. This makes a big difference in their learning.
Are you hands-on or hands-off? Should students struggle when they learn to code?
While the instructors are always there to provide hands-on support, we push our students to become self-sufficient developers by first trying to problem solve on their own. If a student is still struggling after 20 minutes we ask them to reach out to their peers for help. If they’re still not understanding a problem or concept we will address the question to a group of students – or possibly the entire class. If more than 3 students don’t know the answer, we probably have a disconnect and need to go back and refine our curriculum and learning platform to better illustrate the concept.
Coding Dojo teaches three full stacks throughout the 14 week program- which is most popular in the LA market?
The majority of our students come to Coding Dojo to become full-stack developers, which requires learning all three stacks – LAMP, Ruby on Rails and MEAN. However, I’ve noticed that the MEAN stack has really gained popularity in the last few years – especially with start-ups. It’s also a relatively new stack, so it has an added sense of excitement in learning it.
Tell us about "Silicon Beach"- what types of companies are hiring in LA?
Most people think LA is centered around the entertainment industry. However, LA is really coming into its own as a tech hub and accounts for more than 9 percent of all tech employment in the country. This is huge, considering this exceeds tech employment levels of even Silicon Valley!
It’s going to be exciting seeing how “Silicon Beach” evolves. Big tech companies like Google and Yahoo! are opening offices in the area, as well as a number of startup incubators and accelerators that are looking for junior devs. It’s certainly a great area to be in if you’re looking to launch or join a startup!
Who are the 30 students in this first class? Do most people have some experience in programming or are they beginners?
Our students range in background, but I think it would be safe to say that the majority have never coded before. For the ones who have prior coding experience, they’re looking to further understand the fundamentals and add more libraries and languages to their tool belt.
Have you changed the curriculum for the LA course or will students in the LA class get the exact same experience in Seattle or Silicon Valley?
Students between all locations of Coding Dojo will receive a very similar experience. Our core 3 programs will be taught with the same rigor as at our Silicon Valley and Seattle locations. The instructors in LA also keep close ties with the instructors in Silicon Valley and Seattle to ensure consistency. Students in LA will also receive career support as well as all the other benefits offered to all students in our other locations.