[As of December 2017, Coder Foundry is now closed.] In Coder Foundry’s Master Programming Class, students learn .NET, C#, Angular JS and HTML5. T.J. Jones is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at full-stack coding bootcamp Coder Foundry in North Carolina. He tells us why the school has a focus on .NET and C# courses, and what sorts of enterprise companies are looking for people with those skills.
In our 2015 Student Outcomes Report, we learned that students who learned C# were the most likely to be employed as a developer after graduation. Why do you think that's true?
First, let’s take a look back on some things. Around 2002, Microsoft spent about $2 billion creating and promoting C# development. There was a New York Times article about it which seems crazy to read now. We’re still seeing the effects of Microsoft’s actions 14 years ago. The small companies that started using those languages back then have grown up to become huge companies – so .NET and C# have had a lot of time to mature.
These companies have pre-existing code that's been in production for a long time and they're looking for someone to come in and either maintain it, do a re-write of it, or fix what is broken. That's why there is a need for C# developers.
Now all of these companies are grown up, what types of companies do you see in your markets?
We're seeing enterprise-level types of companies, companies that are stable and mature. They've adopted C# and Microsoft .NET programming for the long haul. These are former startups that are now in a different stage of growth – they are five or 10 years down the line.
Company industries vary, from banking to aerospace. Some new startups are also using C# and .NET to solve specific problems.
What are some examples of companies using .NET and C#?
Here in North Carolina, we have several companies which use .NET and have hired our .NET bootcamp graduates.
There’s Advanced Fraud Solutions. They make fraud detection software for banks.
CaptiveAire is a $50 million to $75 million company which builds mass-scale enterprise ventilation for restaurants. They need developers to program the microprocessors and semiconductors within the system that have to turn on and off, depending on the temperature.
Medical Justice is another local company. They sell SEO and reputation management for doctors. They enter patient reviews into their system and sell a software as a service product to doctors to automatically generate reputation management for them.
These enterprise folks are doing a lot of different things with .NET. Whereas at startups you hear more about Ruby, Python, and those types of languages. But organizations, including startups, do often use both.
If you’re taking a .NET and C# bootcamp, are you going to be a back end developer?
You're more than likely going to be back end.
We teach full stack here so we're doing Bootstrap, CSS HTML, Java Script on the front end but we're doing mostly C# and .NET on the back end. We do teach some Angular and you can build some products in Angular if you want.
Some choose to go strictly MVC (Model View Controller), which is the design pattern we teach for building websites. A lot of people come to Coder Foundry and know C# but they have never learned MVC so that's another thing we teach as well.
Can you tell us what C# and .NET actually are and how they interact with each other?
Not a lot of people know that when they come into Coder Foundry. When people are thinking about a boot camp they're just like, “Hey, I want to learn how to code.”
Can you tell us about a couple of the coolest projects that you've seen students build with their C# skills? What are students at Coder Foundry building for their final projects?
You have to realize that we're building full-on, full-scale applications, things that somebody could go use tomorrow – we're not doing prototypes. The projects are geared towards products that anyone could use. We’ve actually built a bug tracker that lets you track bugs in your software. It’s not that sexy, it’s just a big tracker. But when graduates are interviewing and they showcase a project like that, the hiring managers understand what these things are and how hard it is to build in 12 weeks. So they're like "Wow, you built a bug tracker in 12 weeks?" and the grads say "No, I actually built it in 3 weeks."
It's really up to the students what they build. We give a project spec and they code out the specs. We're not building a “Zombie-fy” app because it doesn't really translate well to the enterprise. So we're really trying to set the outcome, and we want a positive outcome for every student.
What do you do at Coder Foundry?
I'm the director of partnership development, so I help on the admissions side. I help students understand and figure out what stack they want to learn. If they decide .NET is for them and they want an enterprise-level job, we move them through our program. Then when they graduate from Coder Foundry, I help them line up opportunities with our established partnership network.
In doing admissions, have you run into a lot of students with misconceptions about the language in general?
Yeah, we get people that are like "Hey, I want to learn the MEAN stack or I want to learn a different stack." But if a student already knows about C# and the type of job you can get from it, they're very quick to sign up for a class. They've done their research; maybe their dad or their relative or their mom or somebody works at a development shop as a developer and they know about .NET and C#. They know what kind of money they're making so they're very quick to sign up.
Other students want to learn about the language that powers the apps that they use every day. But what they don't know is that companies you rely on like airlines and banks are using C# on the back end of their systems. When you go to the bank to process a transaction, there's usually some C# code in that process because that development environment is probably using C#. It's pretty common among everyday tasks.
When you started, did you run into a lot of skepticism from hiring managers who are like "What is a bootcamp? What are you doing? No, I'm not hiring from this three-month school"?
That’s all over the place. There's kind of an elitist attitude among developers that nobody can really do this. We talk a lot about imposter syndrome here at Coder Foundry and help students get over that. But it starts with developers and companies realizing “if we don't do something in 10 years all our talent is going away, everybody's going to be a senior, and our hiring processes are broken to the degree that we can't really bring on new people, train them quickly and move them into the flow of what we're doing.”
I think there definitely needs to be a change in process for companies to consider. These folks who are coming out of bootcamps are just as capable, maybe even more capable than somebody with a computer science degree. I say more capable because you get 600 hours of coding experience and you’d be hard pressed to find that in other parts of academia.
One of the things is the tech press really doesn't do a good job of covering just a programming field in general or their application development field. They just cover brand new startups, Google, and new apps. That's why we were ecstatic when Course Report ran the report saying C# is such a great language to learn. You guys just confirmed everything that we knew about getting a technology job outside of Silicon Valley, by learning C#.
North Carolina had the mean starting salary of $65,000 – it was up there with Chicago and Portland.
I help people sign contracts. I'm in the room with students when they sign their offer letter and I can tell you that number is real.
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