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Our latest on Logic Room

  • An interview with Supacoderz's founder Pete Heard

    Adam Lovallo12/11/2013

    Supacoderz is an extremely selective, hands-on development training program designed to turn complete novices into web developers ready for every level web development jobs upon the successful completion of the 10-week program. We ask founder Pete Heard about his teaching style, why he chose to focus on .NET, and what makes Supacoderz unique. 


    When is your first fulltime cohort at Supacoderz?

    We are taking applications for our first cohort in London in February or March.


    What is the back-story behind your school? How did you end up in this space?

    Basically I wanted to teach people web development because I’ve had a pretty good career in it myself and I noticed there aren’t enough developers in the industry. I’ve done a lot of training before so I thought I could be a really good teacher full time. I stumbled across Makers Academy and I thought ya, that’s a good idea… ya, intensives… that is probably the way to do it.


    Can you describe your teaching style/approach?

    I get on well with people and I’m very results oriented. My teaching style tends to focus on getting people to build real applications, get them deployed and really sing their own praises about what they’ve done. I want to get students building banging apps, really.


    What makes your school unique?

    I guess our unique selling proposition was really our focus on .NET. Nobody was doing a .NET bootcamp yet. If I was a ruby programmer I think it would have been more difficult to just say ok, I’ll just do what they're doing. But because I had that technology differentiation I felt I had an immediate USP.


    Why did you choose to focus on .NET?

    Microsoft is a much bigger market than Ruby, really. If you take a look at job boards you’ll find there are 3 or 4 times as many jobs listed for .NET then there are for Ruby in London. 


    If that is the case, why do you think the majority of schools in this space are focusing on Ruby?

    I think it has to do with the culture behind the ruby programmer and the differentiation between that and a windows/Microsoft programmer. I believe that Ruby has very much has sunk its talons into the young, trendy mac/iOS user generation. I believe coding is starting to become cool and it has started in that arena. That gives rise to the sort of person that wants to be an entrepreneur. I read a report out a while ago where people in the UK were saying no, they don’t want to go into banking. Instead they want to become programmers. They want to work in Shoreditch or in tech city and be part of the startup revolution. It seems to be a very cool trendy thing to do now. So I think that is really where it started. I don’t believe that really ties hand in hand with the way Microsoft is perceived as a product and that’s why the bootcamp concept hasn’t exploded in the way it has with Ruby.


    When you look at the local job market, is the mix of companies looking for .NET developers different than where Ruby folks would end up?

    Ya, they are. There is a much bigger corporate following with .NET. We’ve identified this down to 5 types of people that would be interested in a bootcamp. We target 4 of them. The cool trendy one we don’t target because like I said they are more focused on the startup community. So of course the sort of companies that would do ruby and more sort of startups. Ruby pretty much dominates tech city, for example. .NET on the other hand is more corporate.


    What do you look for in terms of level of experience and background in your applicants?

    We want someone whose goal is to have a solid and secure career ahead of them. We are perhaps looking at someone that isn’t as entrepreneurial and isn’t as bothered about having a mac. Its just they want a career. That actually stands us in in a really good position because those people you tend to find are more easily moldable than a headstrong person that just wants to do ruby. You can really take them on and you can show them some really great things. Those people you can really start something inside of them and build on that character quite a lot. I’ve seen in teaching I’ve done that before that you could take the stereotypical .NET programmer that isn’t too bothered and just wants an easy life and you can really show them something that really ignites their passion. And that is really the sort of person we can expect to come to us.

    That said, we’ve also got the entrepreneurs that have started to come to us and they want to build products. When I see an entrepreneur I’m thinking oh, they’d probably be a Ruby dev. But I say to them look: I understand. I’ve got a mac but I’ve got bootcamp on it. And you know actually a good thing about .NET is that you will have much greater career prospects afterwards. If you come along to us we will help you build your product as you train with us and then the advantage is that you can fall back onto a job market that is 4 or 5 times the size and you’ve got Microsoft behind you.


    What is your ideal class size?

    I think a cohort needs to be around about 10 people.


    Are you the primary teacher?



    To what extent are you focused on pair programming as opposed to solo work?

    The way that that seems to have done well is pair programming. In our course people will switch their pairs everyday and that will be our main focus.


    Can you share a quick snapshot of the curriculum?

    Each student will create a specific application as part of the bootcamp. It’s an application that we have that is designed that is engineered by the teachers to expose the student to all just the right amount of every bit of technology so that they learn by doing. Students will build the product in exactly the same way but we will show them each individual bit. For example, say you need to build in authentication. We will explain how authentication works and we will explain it in a little test app so it is clear how it is done. We won’t demonstrate for any longer than 10-15 minutes at a time and everything will be very hands on. We don’t have lots of slide presentations. Instead, it is a lot of drawing on the white board and natural collaboration. Students will then go off and do it work out the problem for themselves 45 minutes or an hour. We just keep that going and keep that going until you’ve worked through every single bit of an application and then its hands off and its right.


    What other skills do you touch on in the program?

    We want to give our students the greatest benefit possible for their investment. When we sat down and thought about it we realized we really wanted each individual student to graduate really well rounded. So we will show them how to market themselves by answering questions on stack overflow, pushing their code to github, and deploying to appharbor. We will teach a bit about Photoshop so they can create beautiful designs and show them things like flat UI and responsive design.


    When you think about your school relative to the other schools out there, what are the questions that you would want an applicant to be asking of all of the schools that they apply to?

    Show me what has been built by other students Show me what your guys have actually built. That is important. We are all about building real applications.


    Can you talk a bit about the workshops you are doing and how people can get introduced to your team?

    We run a free monthly workshop in London. Typically we have 4 students come in that might have a bit of html knowledge come in. What we do is we build a responsive website in a day. We kick off an ASP.net MVC project and we go in vertically. Really it is all about results in this one-day course. We want to show people what is really possible when they commit themselves. Plus it’s a great opportunity to meet our instructors and see first hand what we are all about. We also have been actively blogging, creating videos, and we write a newsletter where we gave away tips and tricks. We also are on skype and google hangout if people want to connect with us. We give away a lot of information for free so that we can really help people learn.