The Coder Factory mission is to empower the citizens of the world to embrace their technological future.
We talked with Sydney-based founder Pete Argent about his background, the coding bootcamp market in Australia, and what makes a successful Coder Factory graduate.
What’s the backstory behind your school. Weren’t you involved with a different bootcamp before?
That’s right. I started with Sydney Devcamp earlier in the year. That was the bootcamp style, 10 weeks intensive. I jumped at the opportunity to teach Rails and it was a great experience for me, but we never got enough students to start a second intake. So I figured I’d go back to freelance coding, but then I thought about how much I loved it, and we actually got a lot of inquiries about people wanting to learn part time. So, I thought I’d offer a part time course- I offer two evenings/week or a saturday class for 10 weeks to start with. Now, this year, I’m offering a range of courses- so a three week beginner course (I know that in those three weeks students will get hooked and want to do more). And then an 8 week Rails coder course. An then an option to do an Angular coder course to add more skills and new tech to their skill base.
Is there an intensive full time option?
I’m offering a six week full time option for a summer coder camp, and I received a lot of enquiries at the end of last year, but so far this year it hasn’t really taken off. I find most of my students aren’t looking for a career as a coder, but more so have an entrepreneurial interest. They have an app idea and they’ve tried and failed to get someone to do it, so they figure they’ll take the plunge and learn for themselves.
That’s definitely a different value prop than a lot of bootcamps in the US. You aren’t marketing that students can graduate from your school and get a job.
That’s right. Also, in Australia, I suppose there’s still a bit of snobbery in hiring people who have just done a coding school. I don’t think there is the same desperation for developers as there is in the US. So they can still afford to only take seriously people who have been to University or have been coding since they were ten years old.
How would you compare your school to GA in Australia?
For one, we’re probably less than half the price. This may be because they have a global brand, but especially considering the low costs I have to run my school, I don’t see why they should be charging that much. But also, I suppose my school is more targeted towards people who want their own startup. We also have a very fun, family feeling at our school instead of feeling corporate. I love teaching so much- I love that look in a student’s eyes when they’ve come in not knowing anything about coding, and then a few weeks later, they all of a sudden understand the possibilities in front of them. That’s such a thrill- I’ve definitely fallen in love with it and want to continue as long as I can.
Could you describe your teaching style and how you construct your courses?
We want to make sure that at the end of every week and lesson, they have something tangible that they can show off and feel like they achieved something. Since I did learn Rails on my own, I suppose I have a good way to teach people coming to computer science for the first time. We start off with some web design, because it’s a good way for them to see the output. Then we do some programming fundamentals with Ruby. And then we move on to the magic of Ruby on Rails, and that’s when they really start to fall in love with it as well and we like to build things that they can relate to as well. So over the period of weeks, we built a social network site that has all of the features that Facebook has, so they can see that they could have been Mark Zuckerberg if they wanted to be. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to build something great like that.
Why have you focused on Ruby on Rails from a technology perspective?
Well it’s definitely my expertise. But its also a great language for beginners- it stands out especially with the community that’s behind it. The amount of documentation, stack overflow answers, and open source gems that they can use to add functionality to their application without needing to fully understand everything that’s going on behind the scenes. I know computer scientists look down on that, thinking that you should know everything behind the scenes- but I don’t think it’s necessarily the case, especially for people who just want to get an MVP built. It also makes people understand what open source is all about as well and makes them want to give back.
Are most startups in Australia using Ruby on Rails?
Yes the vast majority of new startups are on Rails.
Is there an ideal candidate in terms of background or study? Who are your most successful students?
My most successful students are ambitious, they have big dreams, and they’ve already taken some steps towards those dreams before coming to Coder Factory. Some of my students have already done Founder Institute, so they’re already submersed in that world and excited by it, so they want to come build their own thing. And some of them have gone on to apply to incubators after graduating.
Are you the primary teacher?
Yes, but recently my good friend and colleague, Andrew, has come on. I haven’t come from a formal teaching background, but he’s just finished a Masters in Technology Education. In the process of building curriculums and programs, he’s now excited to teach as well. It will be great to have him come on this year, help me teach, and even take on his own classes.
Of the various levels and classes that you offer, where are you seeing the most demand?
The beginner class has filled up, and I have a good feeling that those students will go on to do more classes. It’s only the summer, so it hasn’t picked up quite yet.
What’s your typical class size?
I want to keep a maximum of 10.
What’s the best way to reach out to you?
We do info sessions so people can meet the team and find out more. I’m happy to meet for a coffee and find out what my students’ goals are. We’re also starting a Sunday Coder Club, at a pub, so we can sit around with a beer, helping each other on our personal projects. I’m also always getting a bunch of interest from parents wanting their kids to go through the program.