When Dave Gold was approached by Milwaukee coding bootcamp devCodeCamp to teach software design, he jumped at the chance to build a coding curriculum from the ground up. As devCodeCamp prepares for their first cohort in April, we talk to Dave about preparing a curriculum around the demands of the Milwaukee job market, the rigorous process of accreditation, and how he plans to create a realistic working environment with project-based learning and job preparation from day one.
Tell us about your background in programming and education.
I graduated with a degree in Computer Science and got a job working in C# and .NET that took me to Shanghai. There, I learned to develop in an enormous ERP product from a team of Chinese developers who I looked up to. I came back to the Milwaukee office of my company and I taught that knowledge to existing developers to help sharpen their skills.
Next in a senior development role I worked on leading projects and coordinating with multiple developers at a time. Next I did a some functional product design and finally project management to gain perspective of software I designed used by customers.
How were you introduced to DevCodeCamp?
Linked-In, it all happened as a development bootcamp should-> through technology.
Is there a demand for jobs in Milwaukee for .NET?
Since you learned to be a developer in a traditional 4-year Computer Science degree, did you have to be convinced of this bootcamp model?
No, I didn’t really have to be convinced. It’s something that I knew could be done. When I went through my 4-year degree, I didn’t really learn about modern development tools and I think this is an opportunity to show people that there are better ways; you don’t have to hit your head against the wall trying to figure things out. It’s a supportive environment.
Do you think it’s important to incorporate some of the theory learned in a CS degree into the bootcamp or are the two siloed?
I think they’re siloed in some respects. I think that what we’re trying to do is find the happy medium, where we take everything that’s valuable out of a 4-year degree and combine it with real world experience and create a very valuable educational experience.
Have you been involved in developing the devCodeCamp curriculum from the beginning?
Absolutely; it’s my baby.
How have you decided what to include and exclude?
The main thing I wanted to do is make sure what the students learn is in-demand. We’re partnering with employers in and outside of the Milwaukee area. We plan to keep talking to them about the technologies that they use, and the languages that they use.
That being said, we’re creating software developers regardless of what language they write so that they’re adaptable and can work in another technology if their role requires it. I think that gives our graduates a little bit of an edge.
And what language does devCodeCamp teach?
Does devCodeCamp have to meet a minimum placement rate?
We have to meet a threshold. For everybody who is admitted to devCodeCamp, we have a minimum 70% graduation rate and we have an 70% job placement rate of those graduates.
Will you all be publishing those numbers regularly?
Absolutely; we’re very transparent. And just to be clear, those numbers are minimums. Of course we’re striving for 100% but at the very bare minimum, we have to meet those numbers.
You’re starting your first bootcamp on April 13th. How many people will be in that first class?
We’re still figuring out the final roster, but we’re keeping it purposefully small because we recognize that we’re new and we want to make sure that the first cohort goes well and that we can make changes if we need to. Our maximum is 24
Are you the main instructor?
This time around I’m going to be the main instructor. We have a few other instructors who are revving and ready to go, and will help out with teaching in the future.
Have you found an ideal student at devCodeCamp? Are there technical requirements to get in?
Beginners can absolutely excel at devCodeCamp. I think being able to write software requires more of a personality than a knowledge base. If a person is driven and can sit in front of a desk and not leave until the problem is solved, they can be successful. They must have that drive and persistence.
Do you have a coding challenge in the application for admissions?
We do have something called “sub-level” and it’s part of our admissions process. It’s a series of small coding challenges emailed to applicants.
Will you be doing assessments or exams throughout the coding bootcamp? What’s your approach to evaluating students?
What is the DevCodeCamp teaching style? Is the class project-based or driven by lecture?
Both. We’re going to start with a lecture in the morning. I really don’t want to be talking for hours because I believe that people learn by doing, especially in software. The lecture will be about half an hour long, in which we’ll bounce topics back and forth, show real world examples, and why we’re going to use these concepts.
Then we’ll go into the lab, where we enforce that knowledge that we just talked about; we jump to the lab so that they get that practice. After the lab, students then go back to the project work where they get to their projects and features and incorporate what they just learned into it.
Are those projects collaborative?
Students pair programming and also work collaboratively in groups.Collaboration, Communication, and Creativity is key to a successful software developer.
Are you incorporating job preparation into the curriculum?
From the first couple of weeks, students are going to meet with our student outcomes department. There’s also dedicated class time set aside every other week where students will work on their resumes and practicing interviewing.
Job prep is really well integrated into the program. I want it to be fluid and give them time to think about how they want create their own personal brand, present themselves and contrive their resume. It is very important for students to think about how they want to talk to employers and present themselves.
Do you have hiring partners already?
Yes! We’ve gotten a lot of positive reactions and excitement, our advantage right out of the gate is the fact that we have been placing graduates for over 10 years in IT related positions and another 10 years beyond that in IT and software corporate training so our hiring network is wide and developed. Those relationships are a big bonus for our students
Will devCodeCamp students do a capstone project?
Yes, and they will work several projects throughout the entire bootcamp.
Are you teaching full time with devCodeCamp? Do you have time for other projects like your own personal projects or freelance work?
Absolutely. I’m a full time employee and we’re looking for full time instructors.
I’m making it a point to all of our instructional staff that we spend 10% - 20% of our time working on our own personal projects. I think it’s important because you can talk code all day but the world keeps evolving and we need to stay updated.