Erik Trautman is no stranger to coding bootcamps; he's a graduate of App Academy, creator of open-source learn-to-code site The Odin Project, and now founder of Viking Code School, the first fully online coding bootcamp that is 100% accountable to student outcomes. We catch up with Erik about Viking Code School and find out why (and how) he's offering a job guarantee to graduates of the online programming bootcamp.
Why did your team decide that Job Placement was an important goal for Viking Code School?
Getting either your first job or the first job you really love is a life-changing moment. It’s so significant that students regularly take on mountains of debt and spend years of their lives training just for the shot at an opportunity to build an interesting, challenging and fulfilling career.
We’ve seen enormous and encouraging progress making this path to a great career more accessible via the rise of the in-person bootcamp-style programs over the past several years. It’s still a young market but it’s done a great job proving the relevance and effectiveness of a high-intensity education that’s laser-focused on job outcomes. Specifically, by being accountable to their placement results, the interests of these programs are strongly aligned with those of their students.
Unfortunately, there are still significant geographical and logistical boundaries placed around that kind of training. These boundaries have meant that a significant number of people around the country and the world still don’t have access to top-tier job-focused training. How do you fix this? You can’t build an in-person bootcamp in every city in the world and quality will vary widely in the attempt anyway.
Online programs like the MOOCs were initially hailed as a possible solution when they arrived a few years ago but they have tended to optimize for scale (and replication of the traditional educational model) at the expense of student experience and outcomes. What we need is to make the same kind of quality and outcome focus that an in-person bootcamp can offer, which often provides a life-changing impact on the student, much more accessible via the online medium. That, in a nutshell, is our mission at Viking.
Since you're guaranteeing jobs, how strict are the admissions standards? Will you accept beginners? Will there be a rigorous coding test?
Our mission is to be highly accessible but with very high standards as well. We are looking for students who are highly capable, highly motivated, strongly curious and great communicators. In other words, the same criteria used by employers to hire for their teams and the characteristics that correlate well with a strong career. When they come to us, students could be relative beginners or they could have significant experience; we give them the resources they need to get up to speed fast during the process.
No matter their background, students will be learning at an incredible rate and so we want to make sure that this level of intensity fits well with their abilities and their personal growth curve. Our admissions process is designed to assess this level of fit by emphasizing coding and communication and we admit the applicants who are strongest along those axes. This is to the advantage of our enrolled students, who will work closely with their peers throughout the program.
Even before the job guarantee, did you find that students were still getting jobs?
The two programs (before and after the job guarantee) were apples-to-oranges. The program was 12 weeks, part-time [300 hrs] and is now 14 weeks and full-time [1000 hrs]. Their outcomes showed us that this model would work, but we're not going to rest on those.
How will you match students with jobs? Do you have hiring partners already?
There’s no substitute for hustle and the job search will always ultimately be in the hands of the graduate. That said, we spend significant time throughout the program covering areas relevant to the process like personal branding, resume preparation, interview practice, negotiations and more to make sure students have everything they need to take on the process. We’ll be working with partners as part of our global network to help students source jobs and we’ll be showing students off directly during their virtual demo day. We don’t succeed unless they do, so we support students in their job search for 6 months following the program.