While you may associate DevMountain with the Silicon Slopes of Utah, the team recently expanded to Dallas, Texas, where they’re teaching a second cohort of MEAN Stack developers. We talk to lead instructor Ryan Walsh about free student housing in Dallas, integrating the DevMountain culture into the Dallas campus, and keeping their MEAN Stack curriculum updated to get students job-ready!
What is your role at DevMountain Dallas?
I’m the co-Lead Instructor, along with our founder and CEO Cahlan Sharp. I teach two to three times per week in the classroom and make sure our MEAN Stack curriculum is current and updated.
Why expand from Utah to Dallas- what’s special about this city?
The Dallas campus has been open for six months; we’ve graduated one cohort and currently teaching our second. I was at the Provo campus before, so I’ve been in Dallas since February.
It’s a really cool city – super dog-friendly! The tech scene is also very active; there are meetups going on everywhere. Two weeks ago, we hosted a NodeSchool meetup at our campus. We love how active the community is, and how willing the people here have been to accept us and our students into their business and organizations.
Have you noticed a difference between the two campuses?
The students aren’t particularly different, but every cohort generates a unique identity. The last cohort was very business-like while this cohort has a more “college” atmosphere – they goof around and play ping-pong, then work all night.
Are the admissions standards different for each campus?
Our admissions process is always uniform across all campus locations. To start the application process, students select the specific session they are interested in joining. After we review their application, they will participate in a phone interview and a coding challenge. The only variant is the challenge, which depends on the curriculum a student is applying for (Web Dev, iOS Dev, or UX Design).
It’s tough, and there’s a lot of discussion between me and Cahlan (DevMountain CEO) and the other instructors. It’s a very iterative process. For example, we just added a full day devoted to ES6 to this cohort’s curriculum. We cover React for several days as well. But mostly what we look at when we design the curriculum is what will get students jobs. Personally, I love writing React.JS, but there are a lot more jobs for Angular.
We also take student feedback really seriously for the curriculum. We’ve had several projects where we’ve heard feedback about vagueness, so we’ll rework those projects. If the project isn’t working for students, then it’s not working at all.
Have you seen most of your students get jobs using Angular in Dallas?
We have one student working in React, but mostly our students get hired into Angular positions. Several of our students have worked in .NET roles, and at least one in a Rails role. We generally see DevMountain students hired in Front End positions. But since they have learned back end as well, they’re able to communicate with the whole dev team at their company.
I see a range of jobs, roles, and companies. Two days ago we had ad agency The Richards Group join us at DevMountain. And two of our students are working on the Front End team at Varidesk.
Is there an ideal class size for the DevMountain Dallas campus?
Our first cohort graduated 15 students, and there are 16 on track to graduate in our current cohort. We want to cap classes at ~15 to 20 students. We’ll expand slowly as we build out the space. We want to make sure we have enough resources to fill more seats without the students suffering.
Did those first 15 students all get jobs?
Our employment rate for the last cohort is 92%, and that’s only two months after graduation.
Are there other TAs or instructors at DevMountain Dallas?
Cahlan and I are the lead instructors; however we regularly bring in guest instructors who are working in the industry; they can use their experience to teach students. We’ve also had students graduate, get a job, then come back and guest instruct. That’s been a cool side-effect!
Our mentors play a huge role as well. They help students debug their work, get through their daily struggles and meet with them every day to make sure they’re on track with the curriculum. Established developers, alumni, and industry devs all get involved in our students’ education. That makes for a perfect combination of mentors who know where you are starting, where you are at, and where you are going.
Where is the campus in Dallas? Is the classroom cool?
We’re right downtown in the Alto building, and we’re partnered with a coworking space called Fort Work. They have a nice, large space and we have a dedicated section for DevMountain. We have a ping pong table and some gaming systems for our students to let off some steam after they’ve been sitting in front of their code for hours. We also have a Coke fridge that we regularly stock with free soda – because sometimes you need a little sugar or caffeine to make it through the day.
I know that DevMountain offers free housing in Dallas, Provo, and Salt Lake City. What is the housing like in Dallas?
The housing in Dallas is really nice. It’s about 2-3 blocks from the campus, which is really walkable. The buildings have tons of amenities- workout/fitness centers, a pool, sauna (I haven’t checked that out yet). I think we really lucked out on housing in Dallas.
More students take advantage of the free housing in Dallas than in Utah- it’s definitely something I recommend to students. It’s nice to cut out distractions of the real-world and just surround yourself with other coders for 3 months.
Have you found that the Dallas cohort is mostly out-of-town students? Are folks traveling in order to attend the course?
In this cohort, we don’t have a ton of students from Dallas itself. Right now, we’re seeing a lot of folks from Texas, but not everyone from out of town sticks around. Several student in Dallas actually live near Provo, Utah, but they found out that they could get into the Dallas class sooner than Provo, so they came down here to start sooner.
What’s been the biggest challenge in being a part of a new campus early on?
The biggest challenge for me has been adjusting to the atmosphere here. It still has the feel of DevMountain, but you have to adjust to the feel of the area and the working space and get an idea for how to best integrate DevMountain into Dallas for the students.
Are there beginner resources in Dallas that you recommend?
Meetups! The NodeSchool meetups vary between Intro and Advanced. The meetup we hosted a couple weeks ago was an Intro to MongoDB for complete beginners. Most meetups will vary between complex topics and beginner-friendly sessions.
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