David Silva taught himself to code using books and tutorials in Colombia. He won an AngelHack Hackathon in 2013 and when AngelHack launched their education vertical with One Month Rails, he got involved. David is now instructing and mentoring students at AngelHack Education- we talk to him about the structure of the course, expectations and student outcomes, and how their collaboration with the One Month Rails is creating a unique introduction to learning software development.
Tell us about your background and how you got involved with Angelhack Education.
How did you switch from web design to web development? How did you learn that new stack?
At the beginning there was a little learning curve; lots of Googleing. I started by learning PHP and how to connect to a database and things like that. I got a couple of books then after a few months of learning, I got a job in software development as an intern where I could learn from more senior people.
That’s a great way to learn!
That boosted me up a lot- especially understanding the technical concepts of normalization, how design works and all those kinds of things. Since I’m not an engineer from school, it’s a good thing to teach people because I know what it’s like to move from nothing to starting to learn how to code.
These days, there’s a slew of ways to learn on the internet and from books but it must’ve been a challenge to teach yourself 4 years ago.
Yeah! There was nothing and especially because I was in Colombia back then so there was no easy access to great resources. It was challenging but it was very rewarding and I’m very glad I did it.
How did you get involved with Angelhack and how long have you been there?
Angelhack has a series of hackathons all over the world and I won last year in June. That’s how I found out about Angelhack. I’ve been in touch with them since I moved here and they were my first friends in the area. When they were launching the program I applied for the teaching position.
For the Angelhack Education section of the business, you all are using the curriculum from One Month Rails, right?
Have you had to change the One Month Rails curriculum to fit this? How are you all working together?
We added a couple of things that are not in the One Month Rails course because we will have a longer program. The One Month Rails program, you can follow it an hour each day. Since we’re going to have more time, we’re adding some more complex stuff like jQuery, how to create your own jQuery plugins. We want to have like a small hackathon at the end of the month so that more experienced developers will come and sit with the students and create a project in class or in groups. That’s something we added.
The course is 5 weeks?
We have 5 weeks of class. We’re going to finish the One Month Rails course the first 4 weeks and then the last week we’re going to do some more advanced stuff.
So students will learn on their own throughout the week and then come into the classroom and you all will work together on projects and things like that in person, right?
Why use that reverse classroom model? Why do you think that’s going to be effective?
There’s two aspects of it- the first one is probably price because a lot of people don’t have $4000 or $10,000 to pay for a fulltime course; people also don’t usually have the time. It’s really hard to stop working for a month and start to learn Rails so this method allows for that because it’s cheaper and it’s less intensive.
Also, it’s meant for people that are not 100% sure that they want to become programmers. They might just be curious or they might want to learn a couple of skills but they’re not 100% sure they’ll become programmers.
We’re not promising that you will become a programmer and get a job with Google after graduating right away.
What level do you expect to get people to at the end of the course?
I guess it depends a lot on the person but after this course students will be able to do their own websites for their projects, like very simple informational websites.
During the class we’re going to do a clone of Pinterest- everyone will have their own version of Pinterest with image uploads and use identification and all that.
What are the technologies they will be learning?
Will students be working together on projects or will they be doing only personal, individual projects?
We’re going to be learning about the development process of an application; how companies work and what’s an agile method and SCRUM and those kinds of things.
If someone has an interest in founding their own startup, they will be able to identify good developers and they will be able to lead development processes. It’s a great skill because a lot of founders are running into trouble sometimes trying to find a new person, leading them and they don’t know the terminology so sometimes they even end up not getting what they were looking for.
Our students will be mostly working in groups and we will try to have different scenarios so they know how websites and companies work.
Where will the classroom be?
At Techspace in San Francisco.
How many students will be in a class?
From 10 to 15. To start with, I’ll be teaching with a teacher’s assistant.
Can you tell us about the scholarships that Angelhack is offering?
Angelhack as you might know is mostly run by women and most of the employees at Angelhack are women. So they’re very committed to diversity inclusion in tech and that’s where the idea of our scholarships for came from. Companies should be looking to be more inclusive, that’s the plan. We’re going to have to do our part.
Angelhack is known for their hackathons- do you think people will be ready to participate in one of the Angelhack hackathons when they’re done with one of these programs?
Hopefully…yeah! They should be able to do fast prototypes of applications on their own.
Are you all planning to expand to other cities?
Yeah. We’re doing it very slowly at first because we want to have a month or two of classes here, see how it works out. There’s probably a lot of things that we will tweak because we’re experimenting.
But yeah, we’re actively recruiting to see if we can find ambassadors in other cities that would be willing to run the program in other cities.
Have you thought of doing other languages and expanding beyond One Month Rails and using another online program for a different language in the future?
Maybe; I want to say I’ve been working on Angular for a year and Angular is one of the hottest tools right now. We’re working on a curriculum for Angular but it’s really not going to be ready until January of next year. It would be a more advanced class.
How has it been to work with One Month Rails?
Chris, the cofounder and head of content at One Month Rails is a star- he’s really good. He’s been teaching for several years and he’s designed curriculum for several institutions.
Do you have anything that you want to add about Angelhack Education?
We’re pretty excited to get started. We’re really hoping to make a good impact on people. Also, we’re going to have tools for the students to communicate with us and between them, like a dedicated platform that’s going to be for the students. Our goal is that they will be in touch with us and between themselves for a long time. We don’t want them to work with us for a month and forget about us; they should keep in touch, keep training, keep learning. Maybe someone will find a cofounder in class and they will start something together.
There’s actually this couple that just got married who met at an Angelhack hackathon last year. So we want to create a space, a nice community of people.