Ivan Storck has been teaching professionally and helping clients with web development since 2001. An early hire at Code Fellows, Ivan helped get the curriculum off the ground for the first courses. Now, he is helping expand Code Fellows into new markets, starting with Portland, Oregon. We talk to Ivan about his background, what goes into teaching a course, and why Portland was an obvious choice for a Code Fellows campus.
Tell us what you were doing before you started as an instructor with Code Fellows; did you have an education background, technical background?
Before Code Fellows, I was teaching Ruby on Rails in the Continuing Education School at the University of Washington. I was a Ruby on Rails programmer for the Center for Commercialization, which is one of the entrepreneurship centers at the University of Washington where they have a lot of startup companies. The Center for Commercialization has the “W Fund,” which funds companies that were built at the university.
How did you get involved with Code Fellows?
I was connected with Andy Sack, the cofounder of Code Fellows, and also the managing director of TechStars in Seattle. I heard he was looking for teachers and I was teaching at night but I wanted to do it full-time. When I heard Andy was thinking of starting a full-time school, it was a natural fit.
Were you a self-taught developer? How did you learn Ruby?
I was very fortunate to grow up with my father, who was a programmer, so he would always have computer parts all over the house. I’m mostly self-taught. I did part of a Computer Science major but I didn’t really want to get into advanced CS topics, so I switched over to Geographic Information Systems, because I really love data visualization, especially maps.
Did you have to be convinced at all of the bootcamp model, since it was so new?
I worked with Active Technologies, which did 1-2 week trainings for corporations, and I realized that students at Active Technologies were doubling and even quadrupling on the week long courses. I also always thought that a bootcamp-style education would work based on my experience not being a computer science major. I knew that there was an opportunity to teach a very practical, focused curriculum.
So you’ve been with Code Fellows since the beginning. Were you involved in creating the original curriculum?
How did you decide what to fit into those 8 weeks?
I already had some ideas from teaching at the University of Washington, so it was kind of a continuation and a deepening of those ideas. I thought, “If I had my own class for 8 weeks, what else would I add into this curriculum and how would I change the curriculum to be more of an immersive experience instead of a night class?”
It seems like Code Fellows is constantly evolving and iterating on their curriculum. Can you tell us what you’ve learned since 2013 when you started those classes?
We have learned a lot over the past year. One thing we’ve added is the job search curriculum — every Friday is focused on a job search. That’s separate from the technical training that we provide because people really are looking to go through a career transformation when they come to a Development Accelerator.
We have continually improved and raised the bar in the Development Accelerators by adding in computer science topics, agile development, test-driven development; all kinds of topics that enable a student to professionally hit the ground running.
Do you change the course during a cohort as you’re getting feedback or do you wait until you get feedback after the course?
A little bit of both. We are in a startup world now so we have an agile approach. If something is not working, we may have to do some course correction in the existing courses.
How many teachers do you have per class?
I teach with a co-teacher, Tyler Morgan, and he’s awesome. He is an expert and I really enjoy working with him a lot.
Do you have TAs as well?
What has been your experience expanding to Portland?
Well, it’s definitely been a team effort; all of us have been working on expanding to Portland. My role has been trying to recruit instructors there and talk to the instructors about what the courses are like. I’m working on the foundations class which we’re starting with there; it’s a night class.
Portland is a very exciting place. It’s not too far away. It’s close enough that all of us from Code Fellows can go down and make sure that we’re keeping the same high quality standards we have in Seattle; that’s the reason we were looking close by to expand. Portland has a very exciting startup scene as well as established e-commerce players like eBay and Nike.
How are you recruiting instructors?
The best thing to do is to connect person-to-person. That’s something that is important to everybody who works at Code Fellows. I go to programmers’ meet-ups and talk about code and see how things work from there.
When will a full-time Development Accelerator start in Portland?
We're going to announce our next steps in Portland by the end of November. I really can't be more specific than that.
As Code Fellows expands into a new city, how uniform will you be keeping the courses?
The curriculum is definitely not set in stone, although there are a lot of resources for instructors. We can’t just hand over slides to someone and expect them to catch on. We’ll be coaching any new instructors just like we would in Seattle. The experienced instructors will go coach the new instructors there so it’s more comprehensive than a formulaic franchise thing.
I think Code Fellows has some pretty strong core values that drives a very cohesive training. I don’t think it will be all that different from Seattle, but it’s going to be responsive to our hiring partners in Portland, too. For example, if we find out that Rails is more popular than Java, then we’ll tweak the curriculum to emphasize technologies that are being requested by the hiring partners.
Are there other cities that you all are excited about or are you sticking to Portland and Seattle right now?
Personally, I’m sticking to Cascadia.
Is there anything we didn’t touch on that you want to add?
I’m trying to think of a non-cheesy way to describe how much fun it is to work with Code Fellows. We had an open house in Seattle last night and every single time, I’m so inspired by the students, the teachers, and the staff there. It’s definitely one of the most fun jobs I’ve ever had.