What do you do once you've established yourself as a top-notch web consultancy in Rails apps? If you're thoughtbot, you collaborate with Kaplan to create Metis, a 12-week Ruby on Rails course, to fuel the next generation of developers.
We caught up with Josh Steiner (of thoughtbot) and Jason Moss (of Kaplan) to find out more about the first Metis cohort, how the program helps graduates find jobs in tech, and what students can expect to learn throughout the course.
What is your background and how did you end up in the Code Bootcamp space?
Josh: I’ve been working at thoughtbot for over a year now, and before that I was a part of thoughtbot’s apprenticeship program. Prior to my apprenticeship, I was a student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and while there, I made Rails applications for Major League Gaming.
How did you get started with Metis?
Josh: Matt (the other instructor) and I are both involved in Learn, which is thoughtbot’s educational venture (we have workshops, forums, and mentoring), and we saw a bootcamp as an evolution of that idea. thoughtbot is known around the world as being an expert in Rails, so this seemed like a great next step. We pitched it to our CEO, Chad, and he actually told us that Kaplan had approached thoughtbot with the same idea. So thoughtbot and Kaplan came together at the same time, wanting to do the same thing. Matt and I were put on the project to design the curriculum and teach these first classes.
Tell us about Metis and the relationship that thoughtbot has with Kaplan.
Josh: It’s been a wonderful partnership- very collaborative. In some aspects, such as the curriculum, thoughtbot takes the lead, and Kaplan provides expertise (e.g., on learning science and assessment). In other aspects, such as hiring/placement, Kaplan has taken the lead and thoughtbot is assisting by leveraging our client network to identify hiring partners. They’re a great group to work with, and you can tell they are very passionate about what they are doing.
When is your first cohort?
Our first class is Feb 24, and you can apply for the June cohorts in Boston and New York on our website. There will be more to come after that, but so far, those are unannounced.
How many people are you seeing apply for the first cohort?
Josh: We’re at a number we’re happy with for the first class, especially with only two months to get the word out and launching over the holidays. We wanted a slightly smaller class for the first time.
We have seen a ton of interest, however. People see thoughtbot on the ticket and the class appeals to them because of that. We would like to get people to the level of an apprenticeship at thoughtbot, but unfortunately we can’t hire everyone. Hopefully, a few of them will end up working at thoughtbot.
What are you looking for in potential students? Do they need programming experience?
Josh: People need to be comfortable with the computer, but they don’t need to have done any programming in the past. We’re mainly looking for three traits: drive, grit, and communication. We think that these are the most important qualities of a good programmer, and are particularly important for somebody who is going to learn to program in such a short amount of time.
What can a potential student expect to see in the admissions process?
Josh: We have an application on our website, and then filter students for an interview to better understand their motivation, goals, and familiarity with Metis. We also ask some technical questions to understand how they approach and solve problems.
Describe the partnership Metis has with Upstart.
Jason: We have partnered with Upstart, a firm that provides individuals with access to funding for career advancement in exchange for a percentage of their future earnings. As part of the agreement, participants in Metis will have the option of guaranteed tuition financing (up to $15,000) through Upstart in exchange for a small and pre-determined fraction of their future earned income. For more information, visit: www.upstart.com/metis
Can you give us a quick run-down of the curriculum? What’s your teaching style?
Josh: The curriculum is broken into three parts- the first 7 weeks will be teaching the fundamentals of programming. We’ve designed an application, and through the application, we’ll exercise all of the things that we think good web developers need to know. Each day, Matt and I will present a problem to the class (eg. “how can we get users to log into our site”) and then teach them what they need to know to solve the problem. Then we’ll all program it together. By doing it this way, they get to see how experts approach problems. By hearing why we make decisions, instead of us just telling them “this is the way to do it”, they will be able to apply that knowledge in other scenarios, as well.
The next two weeks will be a team programming project- we’ll emulate a client project, and they will see how we work at thoughtbot every day. Matt and I will come to them with a few ideas, the team will pick and plan out the project, and program that collaboratively for the next two weeks.
The last three weeks will be their capstone project. This is a solo project, and it’s something they will be passionate about, because they picked the project themselves. Up to that point, they’ll get small homework assignments (wireframes, database diagrams etc), so that on Day 1 of their capstone project, they can just sit down and start programming.
Also, during the first 7 weeks, we’ll have an “Investment Day,” which is modeled after something we have at thoughtbot. On Fridays, students can work on anything they want. Some students may want to reinforce subjects that they have struggled with. Others may take the opportunity to work on open source, pair program, or build a small app on their own.
How does Metis help your graduates find jobs in tech once they've completed the program?
Jason: Metis has a full-time Employee Placement Specialist on our team, whose primary responsibility is to help our graduates find jobs. This person is a resource, who can help with everything from resume-writing and interviewing to career coaching and company targeting. Everyone at Metis will also participate in a Hiring Day at the end of the 12 weeks. The Hiring Day is an opportunity to meet directly with employers who are interesting in hiring entry-level Ruby on Rails developers, and specifically, Metis graduates. Also, once they've graduated and while they're looking for jobs, we provide them with 3 months of online professional development through thoughtbot's Learn Prime so that they can keep sharpening their skills.
Can you explain the relationships that Metis has with partner companies? Who are some of your partner companies?
Jason: Some of our Hiring Partners include: CoachUp, Constant Contact, Iora Health, LevelUp, WegoWise, 3PlayMedia, Wistia, and of course, thoughtbot and Kaplan. We'll be adding many others in the near future. Hiring Partners are not required to hire our graduates, but they do agree to attend and interview graduates from at least one Hiring Day and then they give us feedback on the graduates. We give the hiring partners our students’ resumes and code samples, and we work to understand their needs and optimize our curriculum accordingly.
Do you get a recruiting fee for placing a student with a partner company? Does the student get a tuition refund?
Jason: Yes, we get a 20% placement fee, which is paid within 30 days of the student’s start date. A student who is placed and stays at a Hiring Partner gets a $2000 tuition refund.
Tell us about the Boston tech scene- why does Boston need a bootcamp right now?
Josh: The main reason this is our first location is because thoughtbot is headquartered in Boston, and we’re close to New York, where Kaplan is located. In addition to that, Boston has a great tech scene. We have an awesome Ruby group in Boston and we have two Ruby events each month, which are great opportunities for students to network. There are usually announcements with multiple companies hiring at both of these events.