Makers Academy is a highly selective 12-week, full-time program (preceded by a four-week pre-course) which teaches web development in London. Courses start every four weeks at the new Makers HQ in Shoreditch and admission is highly competitive. Makers Academy accepts only the exceptional applicants onto the course, for a rigorous program that culminates in graduation. The final week for the students is dedicated to their future ambitions. This week our new Graduates will receive the personal attention of our expert placements team. They will focus on life-long learning skills and prepare to enter the job market. This could include technical tests, working on open-source code or even working with our engineering team on live, real-world, production code.
Nine out of ten Makers Academy graduates earn, on average, in excess of £30,000 within six weeks of graduating. Makers Academy is attempting to tackle the issue of the lack of women in the IT Industry. There is a £500 scholarship to any woman attending their course and they recently teamed up with IBM and Mozilla to offer a full scholarship to a female applicant. Makers Academy also guarantees a job offer within 6 months of graduation after successful completion of job hunting program activities.
Recent Makers Academy News
- October 2017 Coding Bootcamp News + Podcast
- July 2016 Coding Bootcamp News Roundup + Podcast
- Alumni Spotlight: Joseph Knowles, Makers Academy Ronin
Recent Makers Academy Reviews: Rating 4.81
- Lending partners include PCDL (UK Govt) and EdAid
- Payment Plan
- Available through 3rd parties
- £500 scholarship to any woman attending the course.
- Minimum Skill Level
- We expect people to generally understand what coding is about and have some exposure to trialling simple coding challenges.
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- To prepare for the pairing session with one of our developers, we would ask people to complete some coding exercises at home and then come in for a pairing session.
£250 Makers Academy Scholarship
Makers Academy is a highly selective, 12 week, full-time course (with a 4 week part-time pre-course) in web development based in London's Silicon Roundabout. The Course Report community is eligible for a £250 scholarship to Makers Academy!
- Offer is only valid for new applicants to Makers Academy. Applicants who have already submitted an application cannot claim this scholarship.
- Web Development (London)
Makers Academy Reviews
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Having worked with and spoken to developers who had graduated from Makers Academy, I had very high expectations going into the course. I can safely say the course met my lofty expectations in terms of learning how to code, but easily smashed them when it came to the quality of the coaching and careers teams. The coaches are some of the smartest, most accomplished people I have met; they are genuine top coding talent that has come to Makers due a love of teaching others and the flexibility it gives them as coders to also pursue personal project. The links the careers team has with tech organisations is also incredible - they place into prestigious companies month after month after month. They even have streamlined recruitment processes into their hiring partners, with one hub application providing access to multiple companies. Meanwhile, they have a fantastic support system to keep you going through what will be an intense few months. Overall - a fantastic, enjoyable curriculum and an organisation that also has the teeth and tenacity to get you hired.
Makers Academy is quite the experience but it's not for the faint of heart. The course provides a intensive experience covering programming best practises such as pair programming and test-driven development, helping students gain the skills to get a job as a junior software engineer and be an effective member of a team. The support provided from the coaches and Chief Joy Officer throughout the course was fantastic and the careers team were brilliant, helping me find a job within a week of finishing the course. It's a great choice if you want to become a software engineer.
Makers has completely reinvigorated my relationship with learning and instilled within me a belief that I can achieve whatever I set my heart to.
The couse itself is challenging and is designed to acquaint you with the feeling of unknown. If you're looking for a formulaic, spoon-fed experience similar to University/School this may not be for you. You are often given the bare minimum information to fulfill each week's task which can at times be frustrating but empowering at the same time when you ultimately succeed. By the end of the course I felt like I could learn absolutely any language/library/framework independently.
Content-wise there is a huge emphasis on best practices (e.g. test driven development(TDD), pair programming) which, having spoken to people from other bootcamps where TDD is not covered, would perhaps set you apart and better prepare you for life as a software developer.
The coaches at Makers are amazing. They offer plenty code review to push your skills to the next level and are masters of extracting every ounce of learning possible every time you are stuck/need help.
It could not be emphasized more that the Job Assistance that you receive after the course is invaluable. The careers team helps to find you ample opportunities to apply to whilst providing coaching to help keep morale, motivation and belief high until you finally find your first software developer job.
Overally Makers has been the most valuable experience in my adult life and I could not recommend it more.
It is intense, but its not too hard in terms the learning curve and at the end of it many of our cohort got a job within 2 weeks - including me. They have a good careers fair where students can meet employers, who end up hiring many of the students finishing a cohort.
The teachers are very knowledgable and supportive, this course does demand some independent learning as well, but if you ever feel you are struggling there is loads of help. It has a large focus on group and pair work, to prepare you for industry, and helps give you confidence for job interviews. If you are thinking of becoming a software developer and get a job quickly then go for Makers!
I attended Makers in search of a career change, like many others. After quite possibly the most difficult 12 weeks of my life, my search is over.
Makers is difficult. Very, very difficult. It doesn't matter if you've never written a line of code in your life, or if you're a hobbyist developer wanting to take your skills to the next level - Makers will be difficult for you. It is a bootcamp in the purest sense of the word. Expect to put the rest of your life on hold for 3 months.
That being said, it has been a fantastic experience for me. The course content is fantastic, the coaches are fantastic, the staff are fantastic, the careers support is fantastic, and your fellow students will be fantastic as well.
Makers sets itself apart from other bootcamps by its course content. While marketed ostensibly as a web dev bootcamp, there is a strong focus on writing high-quality code, which is valuable to any software developer. The cirriculum at Makers will prepare you for any software development job, which I believe is a huge plus.
You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll probably dream in code as well, but at the end of the course you'll look back with amazement at how much you can learn in 3 months if you put your mind to it.
Makers is a life-changing experience.
Makers was a fantastic experience, albeit very intense! They do a lot to foster a sense of community, I met so many lovely people both in my cohort and staff members. This really pays off during the course as it is difficult and you are really pushed so having a support system within the course makes such a difference. There's also a lot of effort put into student well-being with yoga and meditation classes. The course focuses on helping you to teach yourself, you are not spoon fed very much beyond the very first steps and are taught how to find the answers yourself. Beyond coding, you also learn good practices to use while coding which I found invaluable, this works as a framework for everything you pick up. I think my only criticism would be that there is a lot of self-learning, but with perspective, it has helped me so much after graduating when I'm working on my own.
As for employment the careers team were lovely for me and supported me all through the process. They found me relevant jobs and chased up companies who were dragging their feet.
I came to makers with no tech background and now have a job as a developer! If you can afford it and are a hard worker I would definitely recommend it!
If you're serious about a career change and are up for a challenge then Makers Academy is for you!
The entire course is pretty intense, 3 months of weekly topics followed by weekend challenges to really make sure you learn as much as humanly possible. It was amazing!
This is not to scare you off but equally if the above doesn't excite you then you might struggle because every person who makes it onto the course will have signed up to this and be raring to go!
The course: Like many people I wanted to make a switch into development and doing tutorials at home wasn't really cutting it. The course itself is great, every week (well most) your coach starts the week of introducing the next topic. Sometimes this may involve whiteboard sessions, talking through syntax and others just pointing you and your pair to the repository for that topic. That week you then spend working through a specific challenge focused on teaching you about this topic. Each day you switch pairs so you have the benefit of looking at different code, different ways of thinking and learning from one another.
This is ultimately the key thing that makes Makers Academy so good. They get a whole bunch of passionate people from diverse backgrounds together, set them a challenge and support where necessary. Makers isn't an onsite tutorial because if it was you really wouldn't understand the content. If I didn't have to figure things out myself (or with my pair) I honestly don't think I'd remember half of what I do now.
Career support: They have a great careers team who do everything they can to support you in your job search afterwards. But just like the course, this is driven by you and you have to be prepared to put the hours in.
I loved Makers Academy, but be warned, this course is not for the faint-hearted! It is really intense - it has to be, it's only 12 weeks long! So you have to be prepared to commit utterly during that time, including weekends, if you want to make progress.
I chose to do Makers Academy because I felt that just doing online tutorials by myself was difficult to find time to do while working, demotivating and left me with a lot of questions. Makers Academy did not disappoint. The way that the course is structured means that you're not spoon fed a 'how to be a developer' syllabus but rather led to discover yourself how to be a developer - you're given signposts, if you will, rather than an actual map. So we were taught concepts, skills and behavioural practices (Agile, XP values) over the concretes of how to actually write code, as the latter is usually quite easy to find yourself. The focus is put on learning how to learn and learn quickly in order that students can leave with a certain level of self-sufficiency when coming across a new language or coding practice after the course is over.
We pair programmed throughout the duration of the course - this is great for honing communication skills, for learning how to talk clearly about unfamiliar concepts and enhancing understanding. Again, this is not for everyone - if you're a lone ranger, get frustrated at others for being slow or resentful of people being ahead of you, then you should probably look into other courses.
One of the really great things about Makers Academy was that we were being taught best practices on real-world applicable projects from day one. It meant that right from the beginning I knew that what I was learning I could actually use once the course was over - which sounds daft but I did a degree and have not used it since graduating.
I also appreciated Makers Academy's attention to the wellbeing of their students - it could be easy to burn out in such an environment, but daily meditation, twice weekly yoga and the support of the Coach and Joy Officer kept me simmering at an optimal learning temperature rather than boiling over.
Conclusion: do this course if you want to be a software developer, are happy to put in the time, are cool with self-learning and enjoy collaborating with people to build awesome things.
Makers Academy is the place to be if you want to bring change into your life. It does not matter where you have come from if you are committed and determined you will achieve your goals. I was surrounded by wonderful, motivated people from different walks of life but Makers also attracts like-minded people when it comes to persistence, work ethic, and open-mindedness. The curriculum was very hard sometimes, and I strongly recommend reading blog posts about the experience because it is a very intense course. The weekly and weekend challenges were diverse and they were regularly updated based on feedback from previous cohorts. We were introduced to quite a few technologies as well as encouraged to look into things interesting to us. The coaches are great and very helpful but the students need to know when to ask for help. This is a skill that's worth practicing during the course. Other than showing us the best practices for coding, this boot camp also stands out because of its fantastic emotional intelligence curriculum, daily meditation and twice a week yoga session. After finishing the course, the careers team supported me all the way to make sure I was ready for the interviews. Their optimism and energy inspired me every day, and they worked really hard to find the places that are perfect fits for juniors.
I can not tell anything else than if you want to become a Software Developer then there is no better solution than Makers Academy.
The course is tough, but the methodologies, the principles and techniques you learn during the course are in the highest demand on the market at the moment. They also keep the curriculum updated to demands.
I had such an amazing 14 weeks with makers ( course on site + jobhunt ) and I can only recommend it.
I've learnt a lot about myself thanks to their Chief Joy Officer, Dana, whose curriculum about Emotional Intelligence taught us for example how to be kind to ourself so that we can push to our really bests.
The onboarding team, the careers team, the whole Makers staff and of course all the students are amazing poeple. I've made friends for life here and I'd be more than happy to life my life just coming back and doing the course over and over.
I can not say anything else than thanks for changing my life, thanks for helping me become a Software Developer and thanks for bringing such a big value to people.
If anybody wants to reach out for any questions, I am more than happy to answer, find me on LinkedIn or twitter.
If you're looking for some solid coding skills and access to a new career path, Makers is the place for you. The monumental task of squeezing huge amounts of base knowledge for web development is expertly managed in the 3-month window, leaving graduates with a solid foundation to build on in a web development career. Learning how to learn is the name of the game. I couldn't recommend it more
This is an excellent bootcamp. The course is highly selective so you get to train with an excellent cohort of students who are driven and ambitious. The tutors are supportive and although you learn to work independently you are carefully guided if you experience any more intransigent coding issues. I am absolutely thrilled that I was able to experience this course and it is no exaggeration to say that completing the course has changed my career opportunities. The career support at the end of the course is outstanding and after graduation you automatically become part of a close community of coders who are leading the way in coding in the UK. My advice: Sign up now! You will not regret it!!
Makers academy was an amazing place and environment to learn how to code. The sense of community right from the start of the pre-course is incredible, with your cohort and the Makers community as a whole.
The course itself not only teaches you syntax and certain languages, but also how to teach yourself. This makes picking up new languages and technologies much easier. The methodologies taught, agile and XP, are invaluable in the real world and very sought after.
The careers team were so helpful in finding a job. Any issues or questions I had they were more than happy to help me.
I joined Makers Academy in September 2017 on their immersive coding bootcamp. There was an initial interview process to assess eligibility to the course with a basic technical interview. The first month was a 20 hour per week remote precourse which set the level of understanding needed to progress to the full course.
Our class of 17 students were tutored for around 2 hours per day at the start of the course with afternoons reserved for challenges we worked on in pairs, aimed at cementing the knowledge gained in the morning workshops. This combination of traditional classroom and challenge based learning led to an excellent understanding of test driven, agile software development fundamentals and also promoted solid self learning principles.
Students at Makers get to enjoy a lot of comforts including a fully stocked kitchen, daily guided mediation sessions and yoga classes. Everything is there to be enjoyed and there is no pressure to take part if it's not your thing.
After the 4 months spent with Makers Academy I was able to successfully land my first job within a week. My time there had fully prepared me for the reality of making the career change into software development and the careers team were on hand to help with the transition in the build up to leaving.
I would fully recommend Makers to anyone who's considering making the move into development. It can be daunting to take the leap but it's the experience of a lifetime for those who take the risk.
Makers lived up to their promise and exceeded my expectations.
I built the product I had always dreamt of, met a bunch of great people, been welcomed everywhere thanks to their great reputation, and got a job within 8 days from finishing the course! What's not to like? Alessio
I have only had the opportunity to attend a single coding Bootcamp, I'm glad it was Makers Academy.
The most impressive part of the course for me, besides the excellent coaching and learning environment, is the post-course support team! they worked tirelessly for as long as it took to get me lots of job Leads both with the massive selection of hiring partners they've built up and helped me improve my interview skills and methods.
The main reason I went to makers over other any similar boot camps is the quality of the post-course support.
I had a great experience at Makers Academy! It's very intensive and you get to learn a huge amount over 4 months. I'd recommend it to people looking to transition into software development - the course was very focussed on teaching skills that would be beneficial in that environment and ultimately helping you to get a job as a developer. That said, the process of getting to that point was really fun, the coaches were supportive and excited to transfer their knowledge, and I only started to be encouraged to think about jobs about 6 weeks from the end of the course.
The school is amazing, there is good support but don't expect anybody trying to stick knowledge in your brain - they learn you how to be a knowledge worker, you will have to make the learning by yourself!
I was very pleased by the support before, during (with an amazing student's emotional support) and expecially after the course - they really try to be there at every step of your career, from starting the course to getting a job.
I was convinced doing the live (not online) course was going to make a huge difference.
I attended it and it really worked for me, expecially regarding team working skills.
Although, if you fill you got a good set of those skills already, you can save lots of money by taking the online courses - many remote students have been hired already but don't ask me the stats!
Also, if you have a good base you could even try without the course and save those money alltogether.
Makers Academy was a tough but really rewarding experience. The course requires you to take a certain responsibility for your own learning but is structured in such a way as to continually build up your skills and confidence. The weekly exercises introduce important concepts through the applications you build. The concepts are not handed to you on a plate and do require you to figure some things out yourself, but I found real value in this process. The coaches really know their stuff and are on hand to help if you are really stuck - again they won't give you the answer on your plate but will help you develop a way forward and solution yourself.
One thing I did not really appreciate before the course at all was that I would gain experience in areas of development best practice - things like test-driven development, pair programming, or daily standups and retros when working in groups. Getting exposure to these was valuable in its own right, and is also something that I found really interested potential employers.
The course strucutre was really good and building up my confidence in my own skills - after the first few weeks I felt empowered to try new things with the training wheels firmly off, completing projects in areas such as machine learning and blockchain. At the start of the course I never could have imagined I'd feel confident enough to take on subject matter like that. Again I won't claim it was easy, but we felt we could embrace the struggle and build as we learnt!
In terms of outcome, I've secured a job with a software consultancy, which I'm really pleased with. The careers team provided good support in helping to put me in contact with potential employers and briefing me on areas to focus on for interview.
Makers Academy has given me a fantastic foundation as a developer and both a desire and curiosity to keep building my skills.
I spent a couple of years trying to learn coding on my own, but never really got to a point where I could have been employable. Makers Academy was the perfect place for me to learn in a structured way. The curriculum focus a lot on "learning how to learn" and learning by doing, so don't expect to be spon fed. We coded from day one and were taught about TDD and Agile practices, stuff that I never heard of before during my self studies. They prepared me for being part of a real working environment, it's not just about coding. After 3 very intense, challenging and rewarding months I found my first job as software engineer for a company that I thought would never even consider me as a candidate.
To sum it up, if you like to work hard, and learn a tons and be part of an amazing community Makers Academy is the place for you!
I found Makers Academy to be a brilliant experience that fast tracked my programming knowledge in the space of 3 months. I was taught industry best practice, alongside the skills of learning how to learn effectively in an industry that is constantly changing. We carried out pair programming every day, and were well supported by our coach who went above & beyond to help us learn. I got a job one week after graduating. It's a well respected course within the tech industry & has amazing hiring partners.
Before starting my journey in software engineering; I searched around for the best bootcamps in the U.K. Makers academy was simply outstanding in terms of what it had to offer and so I went for it.
So here I'am a month after finishing the course about to start a job as a software engineer and nearly double my pay from my previous job. If you are the thinking about studying programming / coding, there's no better place than Makers Academy, they don't set limits to what you can achieve and you are constantly challenged to improve and be your best.
This course is as intense as it gets, and you will get out of it what you put in. This course is for you if your a hard worker, passionate about code and serious about changing your career. Don't expect to be spoon fed and you must have the right mentality to be successful.
The Makers career team are second to none, and they really do have very strong links with the industry. I got my job through them in a very prestigious company. So if your looking to work in the industry after finishing, this is the right place to study.
This has been an amazing experience and it has truly changed my life, if you serious about making a change; then Makers Academy is the place to be.
Our latest on Makers Academy
October 2017 was a busy month for the coding bootcamp industry with news about growing pains in bootcamp outcomes, mergers, acquisitions, investments, a trend towards bootcamp B2B training, and diversity initiatives. To help you out, we’ve collected all the most important news in this blog post and podcast. Plus, we added 12 new schools from around the world to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
Welcome to the July 2016 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to big fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. This month the biggest trends this month are initiatives to increase the diversity in tech, some huge investments in various bootcamps, and more tech giants launching their own coding classes. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast!Continue Reading →
Convinced by their hands-on approach to teaching, Joseph Knowles enrolled at Makers Academy's online bootcamp option, Ronin. We talk to Joseph about the difference between his undergraduate experience and a bootcamp, using Slack to build an online community, and his new job as a software developer at FNZ!
Tell us what you were up to before you started at Makers Academy and Ronin.
I graduated from university with a degree in a biology in July last year. I traveled around Spain, doing lots of different jobs and it gave me better perspective. I’ve been doing online programming courses like Codecademy for a couple of years, but didn’t have the time to commit and get really good at it because of my degree.
Did you ever take a computer science class in your undergrad?
I didn’t take any classes but I used a bit of programming in biology research.
How did you decide that you wanted to take a bootcamp?
It’s always been an option since I discovered online courses a few years ago. It’s always been more an issue of money and having the flexibility of moving to a new city. The biggest bootcamps are in London and it’s very expensive to live there.
Where are you living right now?
I live a couple of hundred miles north of London, too far to commute. I know it’s probably ideal to take the class in London- you’re focused and you’re surrounded by other programmers; but I just don’t have the money for that. I kept my options open for months and researched all of the online bootcamps I could find before deciding on Makers Academy.
What stood out to you about Ronin?
I read the founders’ blogs and they seemed to be keen on the best approach to learning, by researching and improving their methods. That was a breath of fresh air after coming from university where the people teaching tend to stick to what they know, lectures, even though they’ve been proven not to work.
At university they also don’t really have a great understanding of any industry outside of academia, it was really enticing to see that Makers Academy has a whole team for hiring and lots of hiring partners. At Makers they teach you what you need to know to get a job.
Was there a job guarantee?
No, they don’t make a guarantee, although I believe they are at 100% job placement now.
Since this was the first Ronin cohort, was there an open feedback loop between you and Makers Academy?
Yeah, Makers Academy was quite open about about this first cohort being a work in progress. We’ve given them a lot of feedback; they ask us for feedback every evening and then put it into practice really quickly.
What was the Ronin application process like for you?
There was an interview which consisted of a technical test and asking about my motivations. The test was in very basic Ruby. I think it was more to see how you approach new things, to make sure you actually had looked at some programming before you applied for a programming class.
How many people are in your cohort?
There are 8 of us taking Ronin online and another 24 or so doing Makers Academy live in London that we’re learning in tandem with.
Do you ever interact with the people who are doing the live in person boot camp?
We have a really active Slack group on different channels where we communicate. We do the same challenges and make the same projects.
We interact with other Ronins the most though. We’re on Google Hangouts sharing our screens from 9 till 6 every day. We have two standup meetings every day for 20 minutes then we meet as a group with one of the facilitators as well.
Who were the facilitators working with you?
Sam is the coach in London and he’s specifically dedicated to us.
What did you cover in the month of pre-work before class started?
We did a lot of challenges in Ruby and Git, learning the basics so we could pair program together. Then we moved on to testing frameworks like R-spec.
How are you learning the actual material? Are there recorded lectures?
Most of the course material is on GitHub but we also have live “breakout sessions” on Google Hangouts. Those are recorded as well.
How many hours a week would you say you’re spending on Ronin? Is this a full-time job?
More than that! We’re at the desk on Hangouts from 9 till 6, which is a full time job. I continue working after that as well.
The students learning in-person in London often stay in the office until 9:30. I track my work on RescueTime- I think I really work 70 – 80 hours a week.
Do you like the online format of Ronin?
It’s good. You can’t really replace in person interaction, but they do a really good job. We’re all friends now and we communicate a lot.
I’d prefer, just like anyone would, to talk to someone in-person rather than on a video call, just for the social aspect of it. But since that’s not possible, this is a great replacement.
Is the course project-based? Do you get to work with actual clients?
The course is almost entirely project-based. We pair-program on a project with a walk-through each week, Monday to Thursday, then we have Friday and the weekend to do a project by ourselves, so we were coming up with two projects a week.
At the beginning, they were quite basic. Six weeks into the course I’d made a fairly functional social network.
Yes, I worked with a real client for my final project. It was great, she had an amazing idea and was really enthusiastic about us bringing it to life.
How does remote pair programming work?
I think it’s a really good way to keep focused when you’re learning online. Also, discussing programming as you go is useful, rather than just sitting and thinking by yourself. If there’s something you don’t understand, your partner probably understands it, and if you understand something that they don’t then explaining it helps you to learn it.
The fact that Ronin has been online hasn’t really been a problem for working together. Google Hangouts is really good and sharing the screen has worked well.
Do you know what type of job you want after you graduate?
I don’t know exactly, but I want a junior developer position. There’s a huge variety in Makers Academy hiring partners, and I find a lot of them interesting for different reasons.
What’s the job market like in your area right now?
There are a lot of tech jobs in London. Leeds is the city nearest to me and has a technology center with quite a lot of jobs too.
When did Makers Academy start preparing you for jobs and interviews?
Their philosophy is to reserve that until the very last week of the course so that we can focus on coding the rest of the time, but they don’t completely neglect it. They’ll give us tips about things that are important like maintaining a blog. There’s a weekly talk from someone in the industry; for example, a couple of weeks into the course someone from GitHub came in and gave a talk on how to use it in the workplace.
What are you up to now? Where are you working?
I’m about to start working at FNZ in the Czech republic, as a software developer. I’ll be using C# and .NET to help develop features for their products. I got the offer just a few weeks after graduating, it’s just what I was looking for and I can’t wait to get started.
What was the process like to find a job? Did Makers Academy help with placement, interview prep, networking etc?
Makers Academy has been really helpful. In the last week of the course they taught us how to write CVs and do interviews specifically for applying to junior developer roles. They gave us further advice on tech tests and networking that have led to a lot of interest from employers quite quickly; I’d had a few interviews within a couple of weeks of graduating.
Would you recommend Makers Academy/Ronin to a friend?
Definitely. In fact, I already have and he started the Ronin course last week!
Let’s face it, coding isn’t for everyone. There is a certain breed that thrives from the challenges associated with programming and web development. Before you initiate the hunt for the perfect daycare find the time to take an online course or experiment with online tutorials and different software. Prepare yourself for the experience. Research front end development, web design and full-stack development. Test the waters and see if any of these spark a passion within.Continue Reading →
After Dan Blakeman graduated with a degree in International Politics, his passion for technology led him towards online marketing. After having the chance to develop a successful social network with outside developers, Dan was ready to make the leap into Web Development. The Makers Academy online program Ronin was a flexible option that didn’t sacrifice job placement assistance. Now 2 months into his Ronin experience, we talk to Dan about Makers Academy’s interview process, preparing for his next professional job, and the feedback loop he’s seen so far.
Tell us what you were up to before you started at Ronin Makers Academy.
I studied International Politics and Human Geography at University. When I graduated in 2009, I had this amazing learning experience at university, but the skills and knowledge i had gained were not immediately suited to the jobs market.
Technology was always my passion. After graduating I headed towards this and online marketing was a natural fit, I worked in online marketing for 3 years, where I was lucky enough to have the chance to build a social network from scratch with outside developers, which grew rapidly. But I was keen to keep taking this further. To me it made little sense to not learn to write code and bundle these digital skills together.
What made you decide that you wanted to take the leap and become a web developer?
The direction that technology is headed right now is very exciting and it’s where I want to be. It was just the next step. Online marketing got me close to where I wanted to go but not exactly there. There’s so much opportunity to be had, why stop learning?
Was your motivation for doing a bootcamp to get a job as a developer afterwards?
Definitely. Ultimately, I’d like to create my own business. But certainly in the short term, my goal is to get an exciting job in a young company which will help me deepen the skills I will need to run my own company in a couple of years time.
How did you hear about Ronin?
I actually had a friend who went to Bitmaker Labs bootcamp in Toronto. He couldn’t recommend a it enough and I could see how much happier he was in his career.
My original plan was to go to Toronto on his recommendation, but it was difficult to consider doing this financially. Also, one of the perks of a bootcamp is the introductions and help finding a job afterwards. So if I did a bootcamp in Toronto, it wouldn’t have helped me to get a job in the UK.
When you were talking to Makers Academy, was there an emphasis on job placement?
Definitely. I don’t think I would have applied if there wasn’t such a clear route into employment. It was made quite clear that we’d get the same placement assistance as the onsite students.
What was the Ronin application process like for you?
It was exciting. It was different than any other application I’ve ever done because it was based around your attitude and how willing you were to put in the work. Not once was I asked what my degree was or where I worked when I was 16; I didn’t even send a CV.
You’re asked what your motivations are and what you’ve accomplished up until that point.
The second stage you had an interview face to face over Skype and we did a coding test.
Did you need coding experience to get through the tests?
The coding challenge was basic, and the interviewer friendly, like a team-mate. If you’ve done Codecademy you’d be fine.
What did you learn during the first month of pre-work?
From what I read, I expected the pre-course to be pretty simple, but I think the pre-course was just as intensive as the course itself. We worked through Ruby and programming from scratch and got really comfortable with it, this was perfect as we entered the main-course feeling strong and ready to build upon this knowledge.
Does Makers Academy do tests or exams? What happens if you don’t pass?
We have a weekly challenge but it’s not framed as something you have to pass or else you’re kicked out. It’s more like a chance to reflect on how you’re doing, where you’re struggling and where you can put more time into improving. We review our challenge code in a one to one with our tutor.
Since Ronin is online, how do you interact with other students in the program?
We’re largely on Google Hangouts most of the day. At 9:30am we have a stand up to talk about how the previous day went, any issues and our plans for the day, then we’ll break off into pairs.
We’ll then have our own Google Hangout for individual pairs and we’ll spend most of the day sharing each other’s screens, talking through what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and working together on projects.
The Pre-course work was focused around solving individual coding problems whereas in the main course, you’re building actual projects together like building a social network or a takeaway ordering system.
If you run into something you don’t know during the day, what do you do?
I think it’s quite clear to us that we’ve got very intelligent and approachable coaches on hand, but they’ve been great in teaching us to not become dependent on them; because as soon as you’re in the jobs market and working as a developer, you will have to solve these problems on your own.
One of the best things i will take from this course is the importance of learning how to balance emotions and how to approach and solve things that I’m not yet equipped to solve. Makers has been brilliant at teaching us ‘how to learn’.
I’d also say, having them curate ‘what’ to learn when new to the field has been vital. Especially given they have a close relationship with leading tech companies. Having a good idea where best to spend your time has been important to me, and something that’s near impossible when trying to learn a new field alone and without access to leading tech companies habits.
Who are your “coaches?”
We have one main coach who meets with us twice a day, imagine a very knowledgeable and supportive friend, he can’t do enough for us. We also have online contact with the other coaches who are on-site. We often watch lectures and talks from them remotely, where we can ask questions and take part live, so we feel close to all the coaches at makers, even though we’re yet to meet them offline.
Since this was the first cohort of Ronin, what is the feedback loop like? Were there things that have not worked for you and how were you able to influence the future curriculum?
Makers Academy is a super agile company. We have a feedback form every day and you’re encouraged to put at least three things on it every day. If something was an issue, and you mention it, often the very next day it’s fixed.
These were often just small things like making sure that the camera is clear so we can see everything on the board whilst a speaker was speaking. Then having mentioned it, the next day Makers Academy will have purchased new equipment and rearranged its position to improve the quality; it’s just brilliant.
How many hours a week are you spending on Ronin?
It is intense. Approaching 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s your own choice really. You decide how much time you want to put in. I quit my job so I could do Ronin to the nth degree.
How have you stayed committed to an online program?
Makers Academy is onto a good thing with the application process; they’re selecting people based on their motivation. I believe, if you’re willing to quit your job and spend a lot of money to commit, you’re going to stay it through to the end.
It’s also amazing to be able to do this alongside 12 peers at the same stage as you, we’re all ‘sharing the journey’ and supporting each other daily.
Has Makers Academy started preparing you for post-bootcamp and getting you ready for interviews and resume prep?
Since we’re only two months in, we’re encouraged to really focus on the skills for now - although job prep is always there in the background and you’re constantly guided towards best practices.
What are some of those best practices?
A concept that is constantly drilled into us is “test driven development” If someone experiments with a new idea in code without testing it, we delete those files. Also, we’re learning the very best practices with object-oriented programming.
They make it quite clear to us that in the job market there are ‘hackers’ and there are ‘professionals’, and they’re guiding us towards being a professional that other people can work with in a team– that means great communication, writing clean code, and adhering to best practices so other developers can quickly take up your code and extend it where needed.
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Augustinas Markevicius pursued a PhD in chemistry for the last four years, but decided to put his academic pursuits on hold and find an affordable web development program to break into tech. Makers Academy’s newest online bootcamp option, Ronin, offered the best combination of flexibility, price, and quality. Now two months into his course at Ronin, Augustinas tells us about using Google Hangouts and Slack to seamlessly pair program and interact with other Ronin students, his reflections on what he’s learned so far, and what he’s expecting in the second half of the class.
What were you studying before you decided to transition to tech?
I was in university for 9 years; I’m just about to finish a PhD in Chemistry at the University of Manchester and more specifically, I was working on molecular machines.
What are Molecular Machines?
Basically, we’re trying to build the smallest possible robots from molecules. It is very difficult to do and at this point it’s more conceptual research.
In the middle of my PhD, I realized that, while I like science, I’m geared more towards computer science and technology. I was looking for a way into the IT industry, and that’s how I ended up at Maker’s Academy.
Had you taken a computer science class when you were at university?
No. No computer science classes and no proper math classes either.
Why did you decide to do the Makers Academy program online instead of in person?
At the time I was in Manchester (I recently moved to London), and my circumstances prevented me from moving to London. Also, the price is not as prohibitive as the in-person course, and in the end it mostly boiled down to money. If I had more money, I probably would have chosen the in-person course in their London Headquarters.
Did you look at other online code schools? How did you find Ronin?
During Ronin, will you be working on your PhD at all or are you focusing full time on Ronin?
Full time on Ronin! There’s no chance of doing both. We are committed to study between 9am and 6pm every day. Afterwards, in the evening, it’s up to you if you want to keep coding. I think a lot of us voluntarily choose to continue, often until 10 or 11.
What are you working on after-hours?
It differs from day-to-day. The work is mainly project-based, but for example, you may be doing a project during the day and realize that you have some knowledge gaps, and so in the evening you try to fill in those gaps.
What was the Ronin application like for you?
First, there were a few logic questions, just to test our logical reasoning, like simple math games. Then we had to do a few very simple coding tasks, so Jordan (who did the interview) would fire up a Ruby environment and you had to code very simple things, just to show that you have a very basic knowledge of Ruby.
How many students were in this first cohort with you?
There are 8 students in total. I interact with all of them. We pair program, and we change pairs quite often. I work an equal amount of time with every person.
Do you ever interact with the people in the in-person Makers Academy class?
We can. We have chat channels where we can interact with on-site students, but that does not happen that much. We do interact with on-site coaches and staff. We have a dedicated coach for our course, Sam Morgan, and then there are other coaches for the on-site students which we talk to as well .
How did you communicate with Sam?
I think Makers Academy is really successful at creating that feeling of community. It’s easy to create community at an on-site bootcamp because everyone gathers together. But their ability to build a closely-knit community online really surprised me. It’s like I’m feeling pushed and helped by the other people. I feel for other people when they’re struggling and I want to help them, even though I’m still sitting in my bedroom all day.
In terms of interacting with the coach, we have two sessions every day where we review everybody’s progress, and how we’re feeling about the day’s material, and discuss our plans for the next half-day. If people run into really big problems they can always just contact him on Slack and he will either resolve the issue over the chat or jump into the Hangout. It’s all very dynamic and it changes depending on the problems.
For pair programming, we just jump into a Hangout and code, sharing our screens.
Can you tell us about a couple of the projects that you’ve worked on?
So far, we had been making very simple games. We started with Fizz Buzz, then we made a Battleship game, and tic tac toe. The latest project was making a bookmark manager. I think it’s getting more serious now.
Have you found ways that your Chemistry background has helped you be a better programmer?
I think a PhD in general helped; you learn to solve problems and you learn to be on your own. During the PhD, I would have to actually come up with problems first and then work to solve them. There were people around who I could ask questions and ask for help, but I had to drive the whole process. I think that’s a skill that Makers Academy tries to teach you. I see other people improve a lot at this, but it’s hard. So the PhD definitely helps.
Are all of these projects assigned or will you ever create something on your own?
Actually, next week we’re having a review week where I think we will have the opportunity to work on our own ideas or, if we want, to review the materials that we’ve been through. At the end of the whole bootcamp, the last two weeks are exclusively dedicated for unique projects. I don’t know how it’s going to work exactly, but it’s basically two weeks of building new stuff.
How does Makers Academy, and specifically Ronin, make sure that you have access to their network of hiring partners?
I expressed my desire to become a developer before we started. Makers Academy has a hiring week at the end of the course. Because I’m now in London, I will be able to attend it in person, at least to meet the partners and start networking. There’s one person who’s now in Tel Aviv and there’s quite a few people living in different parts of the UK- I’m not sure how they’ll handle that.
Has Makers Academy started doing job prep, interviews or resume building?
The only work that we’ve been doing for now is to build up our GitHub profile, so that serves as an overview of what we’ve achieved. We are often reminded that our GitHub profile is one of the most important things for a successful application. We haven’t started talking about how to apply. There’s so much coding to go through that worrying about these things now doesn’t make sense to me.
How far are you through the curriculum? What have you learned so far?
Is there a lot of emphasis on test-driven development?
Yes. All of the code we write is supposed to be test-driven. I see how knowing Test Driven Development (TDD) is helpful and how it allows you to look at problems from a different perspective, but I’m not necessarily convinced that everything we do should be test-driven. Recently I watched a video from the creator of Rails. He made some convincing arguments about how making your test pass rather than thinking about the application can be a disadvantage in some cases. I don’t see it as “TDD all the way” but I see the benefit of it. I like learning it.
Some dev teams emphasize Test Driven Development more than others, so I’m sure it’s good to know!
Absolutely. That’s another really good thing that I love about Makers Academy. Almost every week they have a speaker come in from different companies and organizations and give a talk. We are able to watch these presentations online as well. We have a live broadcast and we are able to ask questions to those presenters, which is amazing. Seeing how hiring managers think and what their perspective is, is super helpful for the preparation of job applications and interviews. .
Since you moved to London, would you be able to go to those presentations live?
To be honest, I’ve never asked. I don’t want to start going between HQ and my home. We’ve been promised already that we’ll have all of the facilities accessible after we finish, so we’ll be treated exactly the same way as all the other alumni.
Is there anything that we totally missed about your experience so far with Ronin or bootcamps in general?
I think the most important thing is that a bootcamp makes learning fun. They are able to provide a motivating environment, which is a really major thing. I did a lot of online courses before, it’s very easy to get bogged down in all the things that you have to learn and it’s easy to put those online courses on hold. At Ronin, I’ve been super motivated during these two months!
Ronin is the newest learn-to-code option from London bootcamp Makers Academy, designed to deliver the same outcomes as their in-person offering. Looking forward to their second cohort, the team at Makers Academy talks to Course Report about their plans for Ronin, the emphasis on Software Craftsmanship principles like Test Driven Development and Pair Programming, iterating and learning from past cohorts, and admissions standards at the full-time, immersive online bootcamp.
Ronin is online, but it's not a flexible, self-guided program, right? Tell us about the commitment required.
Paradoxically, we don't see Makers Academy, or Ronin, as a place where we 'teach' people how to code. In fact, ‘teach’ is a dirty word around here! We see our role as coaches, not teachers.
Although few would admit it, Coding Bootcamps, and online coding courses in general, are not in the business of 'teaching' people how to code. We're really in the motivation business. There are loads of great resources for learning to code out there, most of them free! Finding the material isn't the hard bit. The hard bit is pushing yourself to code for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for months on end. Coding bootcamps – whether online or offline – are designed in such a way as to really push people to immerse themselves in programming for a prolonged period. That’s where the real value lies. To use a metaphor – how many people learnt to speak French by taking evening classes? Practically none. But get yourself a French girlfriend and move to France for a few months, and before you know it you’re rattling off the passé composé like you were born with a croissant in your mouth.
Coding bootcamps immerse their students by literally expecting them to be ‘at school’ for 60-80+ hours per week. This is a huge part of what makes them so successful. The ‘curriculum’ is way less important than just actually being here, writing code, over and over and over again until it becomes second nature.
With a part-time course, you’re never going to get this sort of immersion, so the rate of learning will be an order of magnitude slower. Basically, if you want to learn part-time, it’s going to take you 1-2 years of hard work and even then there are no guarantees.
Some part-time courses try to mock this immersion by having weekly meetings with a mentor, but we don’t think this is anywhere near enough, and it encourages people to do the bulk of their work at the last minute, the night before their meeting with their tutor, in order to ‘keep up’ and ‘save face’.
Also, very few programmes promote pair programming, and none to the level we do, which is strange, given that pairing has proven itself to be the most effective learning technique for junior programmers.
Students of Ronin are expected to attend a remote daily standup at 9am, and another at 2.30pm, and they spend the rest of the day in lectures, workshops and remote pair programming. That way, they’re still being fully immersed in writing software, even if they’re doing it in their pyjamas from home!
So yes, in short, Ronin is full-time, and you need to be fully committed to it, just as you would be with any face-to-face bootcamp. For now, at least, this is the only way that we can say with confidence that you can become a professional developer in just a few months.
What does it mean that Makers Academy and Ronin ascribe to “Software Craftsmanship principles”?
Here at Makers Academy, we’re strong (but not dogmatic) advocates of Software Craftsmanship Principles like TDD and Pair Programming, not just because this is the most efficient way to write good software that the world has come up with so far, but because these principles really support early stage learners, encouraging them to write clean, elegant, scalable code. We see programmers as artisans as much as they are engineers, which is a key element of the ‘Software Crafstmanship’ movement. A lot of our competitors forego these techniques so their students can ‘go faster’, but at Makers Academy, we’d much rather you go slow and do things properly – and our hiring partners agree with this approach. This is why graduates of Makers Academy, and especially graduates of our new online course ‘Ronin’, stand so far above graduates of similar courses, and all the other juniors in this industry.
How are students able to pair program and collaborate during the class? Do they interact a lot?
Yes, outside of lectures and workshops and group activities, students spend the vast majority of their time pairing. It’s an incredibly collaborative environment, which is very different to any other online course. From 9am-6pm, Monday to Friday, and usually much more than this, students are intensively and collaboratively learning to code. This is mostly done through group Hangouts and Slack.
This is your second Ronin cohort- what have you learned, changed, or iterated on for the upcoming cohort?
We’ve learnt a lot! For us, the most important thing we’ve learnt is that students can learn at the same phenomenal pace that our face-to-face students. We’ve also found that the very nature of working remotely in teams forces people to develop exceptional communication skills, and that the medium has encouraged a huge amount of peer-support and collaboration. For example, all our students have volunteered to research their own specific topics and give mini workshops to each other, rather than just relying on lectures and workshops from our coaches. Also, we were worried - because the students have never met face-to-face - that there might be a lack of cohesion in the group. On the contrary, the dynamic is excellent, with constant playful banter across our communication channels, even late at night and on weekends. Students seem really comfortable sharing their lows as well as their highs, and they all jump in and offer emotional as well as technical support to each other, without any encouragement from us. This has been an absolute joy to see. We aim to encourage more and more of this peer-led learning and support as we grow the number of students we accept onto the programme in the months and years ahead.
How are course materials and lessons delivered? Do students get to interact with the lessons while they're learning?
Almost all communications are done through Google Hangouts and Slack. Lectures, workshops and group activities are delivered live through group Hangouts – which are incredibly interactive - and all sessions are recorded so students can re-watch them at their leisure. The students have a dedicated coach who is available at any moment to jump in to a pairing session and help correct any misunderstanding and steer them back on track, and we have about 10,000 messages being sent each day on Slack. The whole thing is really designed to feel, to all intents and purposes, like you’re in a busy room full of people learning to code along with you – almost (almost!) as if you were at Makers HQ itself.
What are you looking for in a student? Do you use the same standards as the in-person MA class?
We use the same high standard as we do for applicants for Makers Academy… If anything, we have a slightly higher standard for Ronin applicants, as we need to know that the person is serious and won’t give up when the going gets tough. The course is hard – it’s meant to be – but you definitely don’t need technical experience to apply. If you’ve made an effort to learn some basic coding, and you’re serious about rapidly getting yourself to an employable level, you’re ready to apply.
I see that your students get to work with a real client. Can you give an example of a student project?
This ‘client-work’ has been really well received by the students as well as our partners. The current Ronin cohort haven’t got there yet as final projects don’t start for a few more weeks, but here are some examples of previous projects that were created in recent “final project week”s.
Evgeny Shadchnev is a classically trained software developer, with undergraduate and post-grad degrees in computer science. As he started assembling development teams, he was struck by the lack of qualified developers on the market. In response, he co-founded Makers Academy in London to turn beginners with an interest in code into job-ready Junior Developers who could hit the ground running. Evgeny tells us about the ideal applicant and student for Makers Academy, preparing to launch their online immersive program, and why bootcamps are only a piece of the education puzzle.
Tell us about your background.
I’m a software developer by training. I have both my undergraduate degree and post-graduate degree in Computer Science. I was trained in building computer systems and I worked as a software developer for a few years. That experience taught me how in-demand developers are, because I was getting a lot of attention from recruiters.
Was your background as a developer mostly in Ruby on Rails?
I was doing web development and Ruby on Rails was just one of the technologies that I was using.
At the same time, I was trying to build my own teams. Hiring developers proved to be difficult because there weren’t enough on the market. It was also difficult to hire junior developers because even if you get a junior graduate right out of the computer science department, they would lack basic necessary skills to hit the ground running on Day One.
That experience proved that this was a real problem. As an industry, we don’t really know how to teach people how to code. And my co-founder and I started Makers Academy to solve this problem.
After being in business for about 2 years, how many students have you graduated?
Does Makers Academy also offer part-time classes?
We only do full-time immersive courses because we haven’t found a way to teach people well in a part-time setting. There is nothing wrong with part-time courses run by other companies, but they serve a different purpose. We are in the business of taking complete beginners and getting them their first job in software development. It’s different from running a short course that gives you a taste of what software development is like.
If you want to go from no experience in software development to actually being employed as a software developer, it’s going to be difficult, even if you do it full time for a few months.
What do you mean by “beginner” student? Who is your ideal applicant?
The ideal student is someone who has a bit of experience with software development. Not professionally, but someone who realized that coding is something they want to give it a try. An applicant should have done something like Codecademy or another tutorial online and has done some basic work.
Here’s an example of my ideal applicant: a person who has been working as a project manager or accountant, was working with developers and thought the dev side was cool. They’ve built their own website, then maybe a second website for their local football team, and realized they wanted to make it a career. But they didn’t know how to get from amateur to professional.
This is the gap that we’re covering: how to get from someone from basics all the way to being a professional – a junior but still a professional developer.
What your acceptance rate at Makers Academy?
On average, for every 10 applications, we accept one person into the course. But I must say that it’s more complex than it may sound. For 300 students that graduated so far, we received between 2,000-3,000 applications.
Do you have students from outside of London at Makers Academy?
A significant portion of our students come from other countries. From the US, France, Germany, Venezuela, South Africa, Australia, Malaysia; you name it.
So we know that we have to compete with the bootcamps worldwide, not just in London.
Which technologies do you cover in the Makers Academy curriculum?
Frameworks and libraries come and go, whereas the ability to think like a developer stays with you forever. This is why we’re much less keen on teaching these features of Ruby on Rails and much more keen on helping the student understand why a piece of code is elegant and beautiful or horrible and ugly. We see what we are doing as teaching people how to write code in principle, how to be good developers. We are teaching them how to think like a developer rather than how to use all the features of Ruby on Rails.
It sounds like your experience has allowed you to iterate on the curriculum; what else have you changed over the last year?
We’ve started giving fewer lectures than when we started. I was teaching for the first year and I would spend several hours a day standing in front of the students trying to tell them everything I know about software development. We realized that wasn’t optimal, and instead started setting challenges and goals, showing them overall direction and then helping them get there. Basically, acting not like teachers in school but more like personal trainers.
Is the curriculum more project-based now?
Yes, and not just project-based. We started working with external organizations, encouraging our students to work on real world projects.
For example, two weeks ago we invited several charities to come to Makers Academy where they pitched their ideas and projects.
Have you thought about expanding outside of London?
We are experimenting with an online immersive course that we’re launching very soon; we are trying to figure out how to make Makers experience scale.
What we are doing today at Makers Academy is great, but it’s only the first step towards solving a much larger problem; how to teach thousands and thousands of people to be professional developers and do it at a fraction of the cost that we’re charging now.
When you launch the online immersive course, will it be the same curriculum with mentors? What’s the approach there?
The approach is to use a very similar structure and to run it in parallel with our main course with the same goal. We’re still starting with complete beginners and getting them all the way to job-ready, but doing it remotely. It’s going to be the first pilot for our first online immersive course. We’ve got more questions than answers ourselves but yes, it’s going to be the same curriculum, same structure, very similar projects, with online support instead of in-person support.
Who are the instructors at Makers Academy?
We’ve got a team of developers from various backgrounds. Our head of education, who leads this team, is a professor of Computer Science at the University of Hawaii. He’s got great experience both in software development in the real world and in academia.
How many students do you have in a cohort?
For the past few cohorts we’ve been averaging around 25 students per cohort.
We’ve been limited by the office size for quite a long time. We’ve just moved into a new larger office in December and now our capacity is slightly higher. We can comfortably take up to 30 students if necessary so the numbers may grow over the next year.
At the same time, we consciously decided not to massively increase the numbers even despite the demand, because we want to really nail the experience.
Do you make efforts to get more women and underrepresented minorities involved at Makers Academy?
We do make an effort to help by giving discounts. The ratio of women to men on our course is much better than the industry average. In 2014, off the top of my head it was around 25% women. It’s still a far cry from a 50-50 split but we had one class where we managed to get 40% female students. Our aim is to get closer to 50-50.
Do most Makers Academy students want to get jobs when they graduate or do some people want to start their own products?
Two–thirds of the students want to get a job. About one third want to either learn a new skill for the sake of learning it or start their own business. Out of people who want to get a job, a small number want to freelance even though we strongly discourage it, as we believe that as a junior developer you really need to get more experience working with more experienced developers for a couple of years before becoming a freelancer. But still, some students choose to do it.
Then there is another small number of people who want to get a job but not necessarily as junior developers. For example, project managers realize that knowing how to code is going to help them to be better project managers so they learn for that reason.
Finally, some people want to get a job as soon as possible. And some people are much more relaxed. There are different urgencies between different students.
Have you been successful in achieving the outcomes your students want?
The overwhelming majority of students actively working to get a job will get one within a month of graduation. Having said that, we can only help them find a job, we can’t place them. We’re trying to do what we can but we also expect the students to work really, really hard.
Do you have relationships with formal hiring partners?
There are some companies that we’ve placed several students into so there is an ongoing relationship. At the same time, not a single company has a commitment or obligation to hire our students.
Do you take a referral fee when you do place a student?
Yes. We charge a 20% placement fee when we place our students and we think it’s really important because it aligns the entire company around the goal of placing the students as quickly and efficiently as possible.
What tends to happen is that our placement team gets feedback from the hiring partners. They can relay that feedback to the teaching team if there are pieces that we’re not teaching, and we can incorporate that into the curriculum.
Having said that, I must stress that our foremost priority is doing the right thing for our students. Let’s say a student has two job offers; if one has a referral fee and the other company can’t afford to pay a referral fee, we’ll always do the right thing for the student. Our placement team is not receiving a commission for placements. They’re judged on how many students they place, not on how much money they make.
Is there anything else that you want to add about Makers Academy or bootcamps in general?
Over the last two years I’ve realized how broken the education system is. What we are doing as a bootcamp is cool, but it’s really just the beginning. Education is a massive industry that’s going to be disrupted in the next years and decades. There is so much potential for going forward.
Learning how to code is a wonderful thing but it doesn’t have to be as hard or as expensive as it is today. So as much as I like the bootcamp model, I see it as the first step. We are actively working and trying to figure out what the next step is going to be because I think there is going to be a 10x improvement in terms of efficiency and cost for the students.
To the best of my knowledge, no company in the world actually cracked this problem, even though quite a few, including Makers Academy are trying to find the solution.
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Makers Academy is a highly-selective, 12 week full-time program that teaches web development in London. We talked with Rob Johnson, cofounder of Makers Academy, about their admissions process, teaching style, and impressive job placement record.
Tell us about your story and how you ended up in the coding boot camp space in London. Are you originally from the US?
Yes, I’m an American. I spent 8 years in the intelligence branch of the US Army and as I was transitioning out, I thought about developing iPhone applications because I was really excited about the iPhone. I started Googling around and found out that you needed to learn objective C, the language that iPhone applications are developed in, and I had zero programming knowledge at the time. I went to my local Barnes & Noble and bought a book on objective C and just started reading. I realized by the time I got to the 4th chapter that I had absolutely no idea what the heck I was doing.
When I looked around at the space, I noticed that if you wanted to be a developer, you really only had two options. You could try to teach yourself, which was what I was doing and having fantastically little success with it, or you could get a computer science degree and spend 4 years doing that. I didn’t really want to become a developer, I wanted to become an entrepreneur that knew how to code.
I got to the point where I published 4 apps on the App Store, but it took me about 9 months and 30 hours a week in my own time. When I moved to London, I got hired as an entrepreneur in residence at a VC firm and one of the partners at the firm was a senior developer that had been hiring developers for this big company for 5 years. He had a Bachelors degree and a Masters in computer science and he said when he started as a developer, he had no idea what he was doing. He would interview people and they could rattle off algorithm efficiency calculations in their heads but when you said “put together a repository with a simple Rails application” they would say, “I’ve never done that before.”
So essentially what we realized was that computer science programs were training theory, they were almost training people to become computer science professors instead of programmers. I remember the conversation started because I I’d heard about this great nonprofit organization in the United States where they take veterans who leave the military, where their skills don’t necessarily translate directly into a civilian position, and they’ll train them over a course of a couple of months and place them into a position and make a little bit of a placement fee. And the nonprofit organization is able to sustain itself through just those placement fees. It was such an incredible mission because it’s a net positive every way you look at it. I guess that’s what got the whole conversation started before we co-founded.
We started the first cohort about 4 months after that conversation.
So when was your first cohort?
February of 2013.
Do you cater to students who want to be entrepreneurs with a coding background, since that’s your profile?
We do cater to those individuals but we don’t give them any preferential treatment we wouldn’t give anybody else. The people we get on the course primarily fall into 3 buckets of people. The largest group is someone making £25,000 a year working a job they don’t like with people they don’t like. They have very little job satisfaction, very little autonomy and they’ve taught themself how to code a little bit online. And they’re looking for junior developer positions, primarily. The next group are people that are in the bucket that I was in- very excited about creating value, very excited about creating businesses that make tomorrow somehow better than today. But sick of waiting for a technical cofounder to build their ideas. The third group, they’ve done front-end development or some sort of design and they’re usually freelancers and they just want to add some expertise.
Are you looking for students who have programming experience even if that means going through Code Academy on their own? Or can people be complete beginners and simply have a passion for it?
People can be complete beginners. That being said, the course is difficult and we’re not shy about that. It works great; we’ve placed people at phenomenal technology companies like Pivotal Labs and Thoughtworks, but the course is difficult. So when somebody comes to us and says “I have absolutely zero programming knowledge. I haven’t done Code Academy.” Those people will probably have a pretty low chance of being accepted in the course and it’s not because we don’t feel they don’t have the capacity to perform well – but how well can you really know if you’re going to enjoy learning how to code if you’ve never actually tried? So when somebody applies for the course, if we decide to invite them to an in-person interview, we’ll always tell them to go through the Ruby track on Code Academy. It shouldn’t take you more than a few hours.
What will students learn in their weeks at Makers Academy and how will they learn? What’s your teaching language? Do you focus on lectures, on lab, projects?
We do pair programming primarily because that’s the way great technology companies write code. I’ve founded companies before, that’s how we coded stuff, and if you look at places like Pivotal Labs, that’s how they write code. It’s two engineers sitting side-by-side, challenging each other on why they’re doing something and why it makes sense. As a teaching mechanism it works really well because if you have two people, the person who grasps the concept faster has to solidify why they’re doing something to somebody else, which simultaneously is teaching the person that takes a bit longer to grasp a concept – which is a really powerful way of learning how to code.
So from day 1, they’re actually coding, hands on keyboard. Every week there’s a large project. The final two weeks of the course are carved out specifically for final projects, which can be pretty much anything the students want. We do require the final projects to cover certain prerequisites of the things that we teach. It’s our way of making sure that everything was drilled in correctly throughout the entire course.
Are those projects individual or are they working as groups? Do people pitch their ideas?
We do something very similar to the Lean Startup Machine. A student tells their idea to the class, and everybody votes on the top few ideas. We don’t spoon-feed people on the course. We don’t force feed information to people, we guide people as they’re force-feeding themselves. So if somebody wants to work on a project by themselves, which we’ve had many people do, they do the project by themselves. If they want to work in a group, they work in a group. Everybody’s an adult here, this isn’t grade school.
How many people are in each cohort?
About 25. We have five instructors - two lead and the others are TAs. My co-founder was the first instructor and still does a lot of the teaching. We believe strongly that the course will continue to excel while he’s constantly doing that because we can reiterate that learning back in. Our first full-time hire, Enrique, was the co-founder of a company called Path 11. He’s a bit of a developer evangelist. We have people who have worked all over the place. We have people that have worked in Silicon Valley and at a variety of the larger tech companies. We struggle with hiring developers like everybody does, but it’s funny to see people get excited when they come in and see that we’re teaching the next generation of coders… it’s interesting to see their reactions.
How many cohorts have you gone through?
We’ve changed the structure of our cohorts. Our first few cohorts were quite small. As of today, we’ve graduated over 100 students.
Of those 100 students, how many on average are male versus female, and do you do outreach to get more women involved?
We have a £500 scholarship to incentivize females to join because they are highly under-represented in the tech community. We partner with a lot of organizations; we sat on a panel last year for The Guardian, discussing ways of getting more women involved. We’ve partnered with a couple different organizations like Stemettes and Entrepreneur First, they have very strong outreach programs.
That being said, I wish I could say that the actual proportion was much higher - we just don’t get a tremendous number of applications from females, period. The sad thing is…the females we have had on the course have performed exceptionally well. The number one reason we feel that people (either gender) don’t even apply to the course is that they think they’re not going to be good enough to get in. We do have a low acceptance rate but I think people are not confident enough in themselves.
What is your acceptance rate?
It’s about 10%.
Do you get any American applicants?
Yes. We've had Americans that live in Europe attend, but also we’ve had people get accepted to US bootcamps but still decide to fly out and attend Makers Academy.
Could you give us an example of one of your students who has gone through the program who started off as very much a beginner but ended up doing really well?
We have a whole bunch of them. The easiest way as I say would be to scroll through our blog because we try to capture as many of those stories as we can. Nadia would probably be one of the top ones. She hadn’t had any kind of a tech background. She was on the normal corporate ladder trail of life. She did an internship at Deutche Bank, and was a really excited, incredibly smart girl but she realized that that was not the path she wanted to take. She saw Makers Academy, decided to apply not thinking that she’d even get accepted. She was accepted, went through the course, and excelled. She worked hard.
We open our office in the morning at 8:30 and close it at 9:30 at night. A lot of students will show up when class starts at 9 or 9:30 and then they’ll leave at 6. Some students are there when we open the office in the morning and we have to kick them out in the evening so we can go home, go to sleep and wake up the following morning. She was one of those people; she was there the entire time, she worked hard, she asked questions and she finished the course strong. I think a week after graduation, she had something like three job offers and now she’s working at Pivotal Labs, which is one of the best software agencies in the world. She didn't look back. She had an offer from Deutche Bank too but she turned it down to work for Pivotal Labs – and now she wants to start her own tech company, it’s incredible.
I don’t know a ton about the London tech scene; can you describe it? Where are you located in London, what’s the job market like in London for a developer?
I think the job market in London for developers is pretty much the job market everywhere for developers: they’re massively in demand. We’re located right off of Old Street Roundabout, which is the center of “Silicon Roundabout” so we’re right in the main area where all the other tech companies are. The tech scene is doing well. It’s very different than the tech scene in the Unites States. I haven’t spent a lot of time in the New York tech scene. I know the San Francisco scene pretty well and I know the differences between them. I would say that the businesses in London are slightly more conservative than startups in San Francisco – and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. The reason I say that’s not a bad thing is that there are companies that are funded in San Francisco that should not be funded. If these companies were in London, they would not be able to raise a dime. Some people want to say that’s a bad thing but there’s a bit more of a barrier so the companies that you actually do see get funded are usually pretty solid.
How do you help students find jobs once they’ve graduated if that’s their reason for being there? Do you have hiring partners or hiring days?
We have something like 200 hiring partners now. The guy who runs the entire placement side of the business (and also runs our operations) is an absolute superstar who never sleeps. He’s probably reached out to every London tech company that’s been in existence for more than a year. In the final 3 weeks of the course, we start going over the students’ CVs with them. We make sure that they’ve got pictures on their Github profiles,that their Linked In and everything is all up to date. We don’t introduce them to hiring partners before they graduate because that’s going to be a distraction. But on graduation day, we do a science fair style day. Apparently in London they don’t do science fairs so I had to explain what an American science fair was.
Like I said before, Ruben is in charge of placements; he does a really good job of getting a feel for what a company is looking for and then he spends a lot of time with the students on the course and tries to match them up not just on technical skills but on things like culture fit.
Do those hiring partners pay a certain amount upfront to be a part of that science fair or is anyone allowed?
Anybody’s allowed to be there but we do charge a placement fee if they hire somebody.
And do the students get a tuition refund if they take a job with one of those hiring partners?
They don’t. We toyed with that idea for a little while, but it just became too complex to track. I don’t want to sound overly altruistic but we don't want to erect barriers to our graduates being hired. We want to help as much as possible, but if they find a job through some other means - we don't want them to have a financial incentive to go with one of our partners.
Do you have a job placement rate that you publish?
It's a difficult question because it can mean a lot of things. 100% of the people that have graduated looking for a job are in developer positions right now. The reason we don’t just do a blanket placement report is the question is quite flawed. For example, do we include people that never were looking for a job and they want to be an entrepreneur? What about people that freelance?
Even though you’re in London, I’m sure that you have been keeping up with the California boot camp news- is Makers Academy concerned at all with becoming accredited or working with London’s regulatory agencies?
We don't really care about accreditation. The credit ratings agencies had "approved" sub-prime mortgages - how did that work out? The stamp of approval of somebody going through Makers Academy is that they get a job with companies like Pivotal Labs and Thoughtworks. If I’m Pivotal Labs or Thoughtworks, I’m not going to be a nice guy and hire you. People hire staff because they are going to provide real value. It’s supply versus demand. As long as we continue to train great developers and they continue to get great jobs, that's all the accreditation we need.
Anything you’d like to add about Makers Academy, Rob?
Just one thing. We get contacted all the time by people who ask, “Should I come to Makers Academy or should I go to General Assembly or should I fly to the States and go to Starter League or one of those other ones?” There are a large number of absolutely incredible boot camps out there. I always tell people to contact two or three people that have graduated from each course that you’re considering. Talk to them, grill them, find out how they learned. Ask them what the major negative things were. Ask them what they loved. You will quickly see how different courses are positioned in different ways.
There’s no one course that fits everybody.