Makers Academy is a highly selective 4-month, full-time program (preceded by a four-week pre-course) which teaches web development in London, England. Makers Academy is creating a new generation of tech talent who are skilled and ready for the changing world of work. The academy is inspired by the idea of discovering and unlocking potential in people for the benefit of the 21st-century business and society. At the core, Makers combines tech education with employment possibilities that transform lives. The academy accepts only exceptional applicants into the course. And while they are highly selective, they focus on your passion for becoming a developer by gauging your coding experience.
The course has been designed by a team of inspirational software engineers with strong backgrounds in educational psychology, enabling students to master any technology in today's marketplace. As big believers in self-directed learning, students will finish the course as a confident and independent software engineer ready to hit the ground running. There's a focus on life-long learning skills, while the course includes technical tests, working on open-source code or even working with the Makers engineering team on live, real-world, production code.
Makers Academy also offers a software engineering apprenticeship and fellowship as a pathway to a long-term career as a software developer. You don’t pay tuition and on completion of the course, you will become a Makers employee for 12 months and will work on site with a hiring partner with continued support from the Makers Academy coaches and careers team. Fellowship applicants must demonstrate a technical ability that outshines other candidates — Makers is looking to invest in outstanding individuals and a more inclusive tech future.
With one of the UK’s largest Careers team dedicated to finding you a job after the end of the course, Makers Academy will introduce students to over 250 of London’s top technology companies looking to hire (including but not limited to Deliveroo, British Gas, Starling Bank, Financial Times, Compare The Market.com, and Tesco). Also, Makers Academy guarantees a job offer within 6 months of graduation after successful completion of job hunting program activities.
Recent Makers Academy Reviews: Rating 4.8
Recent Makers Academy News
- From Finance to Software Development with Makers Academy
- Become a Developer at these 31 Summer Coding Bootcamps!
- November 2018 Coding Bootcamp News Podcast
In PersonFull Time40 Hours/week11 Weeks
- Start Date
- June 24, 2019
- Class size
- Lending partners include PCDL (UK Govt) and EdAid
- Tuition Plans
- 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.
- 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.
- Placement Test
More Start DatesJune 24, 2019 - LondonApply by May 27, 2019August 19, 2019 - LondonApply by July 22, 2019September 16, 2019 - LondonApply by September 2, 2019October 14, 2019 - LondonApply by October 1, 2019
Makers Academy Reviews
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Makers Academy works hard at maintaining a supportive environment that encourages personal and professional development. The primary focus is teaching you how to solve your own problems and show you what a developer looks like. They place an emphasis on pair programming and agile software development which allows knowledge sharing amongst students. Personally, I found this the most rewarding part of the course - just by having someone to discuss the problem with made it easier to solve. Prior to Makers I held a non-technical management role but this wasn't a hinderance for me. Within 16 weeks I had obtained valuable skills that landed me my first developer job.
*Excellent use of paired programming and agile development
*Great community - You're a Maker for life and the alumni are always happy to answer any career/life questions. I've definitely made some friends for life on the course.
* Great on course support for stress management (bi-weekly yoga) and daily meditation
*Job guarantee - if you follow the advice YOU WILL GET A JOB
* Difficult to get coach feedback - I would have benefited from regular feedback on my projects
* Post-course support could be improved to ensure grads are staying motivated
If you want to change your career, learn coding and get a job as a Junior Developer, Makers Academy will sort you out.
- You learn pair-programming and how to effectively work in a team.
- You will work in an agile environment.
- You learn Test Driven Development and good code practices.
- Access to some brilliant coaches.
- Super friendly atmosphere and you will make friends quickly.
- 'Job Guarantee' simply if you don't get a job within 6 months after the course you'll get your fees back. I was offered a job after 1 month and some of my colleagues even earlier.
- 'Hiring Partners' each month there is an internal careers fair. Employers attending are well known and established companies as well as small start ups you probably never heard of. All of them are happy to hire Makers and after each fair you can apply to them via careers team provided you have completed the course.
- Once you become a Maker you're always one of them. There's a great support after the course especially from careers team who really want you to land a job. You can still come in everyday like the course never ended, keep on coding, applying for jobs, getting professional advice on your CV or practicing interview questions, tech tests and many more.
- You are not anonymous. Companies know and continue hiring Makers Academy grads.
- Yoga classes are amazing !
- Sizes of some cohorts.
- Make sure you know basic HTML/CSS/SASS as this is not covered.
Having said that half of the course is about team projects during which you are encouraged to fill this gaps.
You will decide what tech you want to use for these. At that point many teams decided to go with MERN stack instead of RoR.
This is a true life change opportunity. I had no prior knowledge/experience in this field and I made it. I strongly believe that with the right amount of effort everyone can go take advantage of this opportunity. Nothing will be given for free, it requires time and effort...if you think you can afford to invest time and effort in yourself then you'll be a perfect fit for this.
My personal experience: I learnt a lot in 4 months time, alone it would have taken me at least the double of time and probably with not the same results. In one and a half month after the course I received my job offer from a great company through the Makers Hiring Partners.
- Great and stimulating environment;
- Teaching a process that companies out there are looking for;
- Skilled coaching team;
- Possibility to borrow a macbook in case you don't have one;
- A great building with second monitors for everyone, a nice ping pong table and a kitchen area;
- Even if you consider yourself a strong ping pong player, you'll find someone stronger than you there;
- Beers on friday night (is that a cons?! uhmmm).
I've really enjoyed my time at Makers and cannot recommend it enough to the ones thinking of joining a bootcamp. Now that I've attended a few hackathons and meetups, and having met some of the other bootcamp graduates, I'm more convinced that Makers is better.
The philosophy at Makers isn't to teach you a certain technology stack, or framework. Instead, they focus on skills of learning how to learn. They do this with an explicit focus on your process, which leads to progress and results. The sylabbus is designed by some really intelligent people, and it shows because you're still thinking about the things you learn in week 1 when you finish the course (for eg: single responsibility principle) but at a much higher level.
The careers support you get is also very professional and excellent. They will go above and beyond to make sure you have everything you need to go get yourself a job you really like.
To add to that, I've found the coaches and staff to be extremely helpful and friendly. You really feel it in the vibe and community here. Also, I've found that other Makers who might have graduated years ago will go out of their way to help you, give you advice or give you a job. They're also open and radically honest which really helps build trust.
All makers also follow the principle of 'trust over fear', which means they trust one another more than doubt or fear them, which generally leads to happier people who want to do a good job and it shows.
Those are the pros. Here are the cons. It can be difficult to get feedback from coaches and there aren't enough of them. This would be OK, except for the fact that your review process (the process by which you're allowed to apply for jobs through the careers team) depends on getting coach feedback. This is not the coaches fault by any means.
If you're thinking of joining a bootcamp, just come to one of the demo days and speak to as many students as you can - it's not easy, and it's very intense but you will thank yourself for joining.
Makers has gifted me with one of the most intense personal journeys I had ever experienced and it's not over yet. As I write, I'm a very recent graduate, about to start her job hunt. I am still coming to the office to get motivated everyday, but I already miss the vibes we had during the course. The academy is very young and friendly, the coaches are approachable, but not too much! They want you to struggle a bit first, to build solid basic skills and forge your ability to learn on your own, which is the actual golden potential we advertise once graduated. The community around you during the course is a real gem, both as a resource of knowledge and also socially speaking.
If I have to mention a con, I would say that the technologies learnt are not of the most popular ones, once one starts applying for jobs, however, as said above, the real goals of the course are having solid basic knowledge and knowing how to learn.
I have just started job hunting and the careers team is available for advices. They do a great job in getting companies in, to meet us. It is still very important to also apply to outside companies in order to get as many answers as possible.
In summary, I would recommend Makers Academy any day or the rest of my life.
TLDR: Tech is great, Makers is great. If you're reading this, change your career and join Makers already.
My previous career was in psychology. I left not because I hated it but because I did not feel fulfilled or challenged in the right way and I couldn't see myself doing it for the rest of my life. Leaving it and joining Makers was the best decision I've ever made.
- Great atmosphere to learn and challenge yourself. They seem to have nailed providing a relaxed environment that encourages you to work your hardest for yourself, not for anyone else.
- Coaches make you really think about the questions you're asking and help you understand the more fundamental issues with whatever your problem is. This can be frustrating at the time but when you're stuck alone on a problem with no one to ask for help, you'll appreciate it.
- The syllabus is excellent. The reasons I know this are 1) people interviewing me for jobs after Makers were often impressed by our experience and understanding of key concepts 2) I now feel completely comfortable picking up new technologies and attaining a job using them.
- The careers team are really something else. A lovely bunch of supportive, enthusiastic and knowledgeable people that go the extra mile every time to keep you motivated and ensure you land the job you're happy with.
- I'm not sure if it's because of the standards Makers set applicants but the vast vast majority of people I've met on this course have been well-grounded, smart and generally very fun to code and learn with.
- Getting code reviews from coaches occasionally took an inordinate amount of time. I believe this was a consequence of implementing a Viva process with too few staff or too little organisation. They seem to be remedying this now so maybe it will be less of a problem for future cohorts.
- I think they could do with getting a couple more coaches in general to meet demand.
Having spent my time with a friend deciding what schools would be good for us to learn code, I really gravitated towards Makers and since I made the decision to join the course have not been disappointed. Am really happy with the community feel of the course and the willingness of not only the coaches to help improve you but members of your cohort as well. The 12 weeks can be intense at certain points, but once you have found a rhythm you are comfortable with, you will settle in quite quickly. The activities provided also are very helpful, and I never thought I would take to Yoga as well as I did.
The community feel doesn't stop after Makers and this has been a really great feeling. With them willing to help you by putting on Careers Fairs, as well as chances to meet and talk to other former Alumni really beneficial. Can not recommend it enough.
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 is an amazing 12 week bootcamp that teaches you so much about coding. I would highly recommend it if you are thinking of making the move. You get support when you need it and the curriculum is well thought out to teach you certain skills. You will be in awe of how much you can learn in such a short amount of time at Makers and it is the best thing I have every done. To go from not having much coding knowledge to producing a group project in less than 2 weeks is unbelievable.
The only thing that I found slightly difficult to adjust to is in Makers you make a lot of your projects from scratch and they are very small projects but once you are at your company you are working on much larger code bases and finding your way around legacy code can be a bit difficult to grasp.
The Makers Academy bootcamp was amazing. I started with absolutely no coding experience, but in just 12 weeks I am comfortable writing programs in various languages. Makers Academy had a very clear structured course, and offered lots of additional reading and practice outside of their course. The coaches were very supportive and always happy to help with any problems we were having. The environment at Makers was great too, it was very relaxed and strongly encouraged self-learning to enable us to continue learning after we finished the bootcamp and moved into a work environment. I would definitely recommend Makers Academy as a place to learn how to code to anyone looking to make the move into software development.
Before Makers I had no coding / STEM background. I studied Fine Art at university and before that my A-levels were Philosophy, PE and Art.
I started coding on my own for a few months - Codecademy, Odin Project etc. - to see if I could do it and if I enjoyed it. I found that I loved it (and was not terrible at it) so started looking for a course. I chose Makers on the basis of people I knew doing the course and enjoying it, Makers' teaching ethos and also their work on increasing diversity in tech. And maybe also the misc. good vibes that seemed to come with pretty much all the material that surrounds them. After doing most of the recommended prep materials and submitting my cover letter I was asked to come in for a pairing interview. After a brief chat on my background, why I was interesting in coding etc. we jumped into some pairing. I didn't have the answers to all the questions but I had a systematic approach to solving the problem, was ok with not knowing the answer to everything (which came in handy because there were quite a few things I didn't know!) and was able to communicate my thinking. At the end of this the interviewer told me that Makers would be happy to offer me a place.
I'm writing this review a day after accepting a full stack role in a software consultancy that I'm really excited about.
Makers understand the course is incredibly challenging and do what they can to encourage devs to look after their wellbeing. This comes in the form of onsite twice-a-week yoga and daily meditation (led by the absolutely amazing Dana - believe the hype) and workshops giving you a crash course in how you can best look after yourself. Oh and there's a table tennis table for keeping you moving during breaks from the screen. Am now a complete yoga and table tennis convert.
Makers selection process means that if you're on the course you'll likely be surrounded by a group of driven, diverse and collaborative peers. A lot of friendships are made here and if not that, at the very least you'll have a strong network you can lean on in the future for information and advice in your new profession.
- Industry best practices and skills.
That being said, what you practice your learning-how-to-learn systems on are exactly what the industry is after. The Makers business models relies on them producing developers who get hired. They ensure this happens by asking their hiring partners what skills and outlooks they most value in junior developers. This feedback is then implemented as content for the course. Knowing this gives you confidence that what you're learning is desirable and valued by the industry.
The focus on independent learning, the difficulty of the problems, the lack of time to solve them all make for a super intense learning environment. The upshot of getting through this is that you come out with stronger processes for learning new things and your growth mindset becomes more ingrained, you're less bothered by not knowing the answer immediately or coming across a project that you have no idea how to do - you just get stuck in with the processes and mindsets you learnt on the course and you can lean in hard on these to iteratively solve each problem one by one until the project's completed!
You kind of have to put your life on hold for the duration of the Makers in order to get the most out of the course. Even with reducing a lot of external commitments it can still be difficult to balance the workload with what you need to stay healthy and happy (sleep, exercise, socialising, general downtime etc. ). Sometimes you do just have to have faith in the system, because everyone has their moments when things are looking pretty bleak!
I came to Makers with a non-technical background after teaching abroad for a couple of years, but otherwise having no graduate experience. I'd tried some online courses but only picked up basics, and didn't seem qualified for anything. I got a job offer in my fourth week after the course, with a company who had hired Makers grads before.
- 1 month pre-course gets everyone familiar with basic tools like command line and git, as well as basic Ruby programming
- Solo weekend projects consolidate and build on what was learned during the week
- Intensive, you will learn a huge range of techs needed to make you full-stack in the first half of the course, and apply it in group projects in the second half
- Largely self-directed learning and group projects so that you learn to rely on yourself and your teammates, not the coaches
- Gives you all of the skills that the industry wants, like TDD, Agile, pair-programming, and the ability to learn new things quickly
- Immersive extras like regular lunchtime talks from companies, and evening/weekend events e.g. Makers unconference
- Ongoing post-course support and access to Makers
- Careers team experienced and visible
- They're always trying new things and ask for honest feedback about everything
- Generally transparent
- Lots of companies want to hire more Makers grads
- Some companies retrain employees through this course
- A really positive atmosphere, and everyone is always happy to be there
- A supportive community with lots of resources so you can find whatever you need
- Focus on self-care and longevity so that you don't burn out (meditation after lunch, yoga, table tennis, game nights, cheese and wine, beer and pizza, Monday night climbing group)
- Free bread, cereal, fruit, nuts as well as the usual tea, coffee, water coolers
- Shower facilities, bike storage
- Generally life-enhancing, you will learn how to learn, how to work in teams and pairs, how to push through tough situations
- The course is always being updated, so it can be hard to get the information you need
- Things like the portfolio and review process can be unclear; an infographic would be great
- Full on due to the weekend projects on top of the full-time course
- That table-tennis table is in high demand, as are the rooms it's stored in
I recommend this course to anyone who wants to start/resume a career in tech, as you are so much more employable once you've graduated Makers.
Be prepared to put in a lot of time, and to not be told all of the answers. It's hard, and it's up to you, but everything you need is there.
I was a professional developer before having children but found returning to tech almost impossible.
Recruiters didn't know what to do with me and my skill set seemed to be out of date.
16 weeks at Makers taught me about all of the current practices and 2 languages I hadn't used before.
That is the vanilla answer but the broader experience was considerably more enriching.
During the 12 weeks on site, I learned many things.
I learned more about self-teaching than either of my degrees, more about working in teams than I ever had working in teams and how important self-care is.
By the end of the course, I felt confident re-entering the tech world and secured several offers within two weeks of completion.
The Makers environment is one in which you are expected to be in control of your own learning. There is no one chasing you up, there is no hand holding. But there is a lot of support when you need it. I loved the environment of Makers academy - I think I thrived by being in a structured learning situation where you have the freedom to explore, make mistakes and choose your path. Being surrounded by people on the same journey as you is super inspiring, and there's an energy and drive like nowhere else I've ever studied.
The coaching team has some truly excellent teachers with a real depth of knowledge. They spend their time answering your questions with more questions, which is really effective when they lead you in right direction. The course structure is varied and the focus is less on teaching you about a particular language and more about learning how to learn effectively. One aspect which is less positive is the eternal hunt for feedback. Feedback, especially coach feedback, is something which Makers places a really high value on and is necessary for passing your portfolio and review (the metrics by which you get access to the careers team towards the end of the course). Actually getting this feedback can be really tricky and drawn out, which can be frustrating. When you do finally get it, it is usually very helpful and incisive, however.
The careers team work with you from midway through the course, increasing in contact time. There is advice on how to find jobs, how to write a tech cv, technical coaching and general wellbeing chat. I feel like the careers team are as valuable as the coaches and were so helpful with me finding employment after the course. They support you and care about your journey beyond Makers, which is a real shining light when you are struggling to motivate yourself whilst job hunting.
The MVP of Makers Academy is the Chief Joy Officer. Before I started I was so skeptical of this job title, but my opinions changed swiftly. She is in charge of student well being - there for personal coaching/therapy, leads yoga classes and meditation, and is just generally a great presence. So appreciated in a highly pressured, fast paced stressful environment.
The Friday evening drinks, the ping pong, and the events that they put on (free and with pizza, normally) show how much they care about the Makers/tech/learning community. There is a vast network of Alumni, many of whom are open and willing to help each other out which is really helpful when you're struggling with a new technology or need some advice from someone further along the path than yourself.
What I've learnt at Makers is obviously applicable to coding, but I also think that it is applicable to almost anything I put my mind to. I think applying to the course was one of the best decisions I've made, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone who has the drive and energy to work hard and learn loads.
Everyone there has decided to make a big commitment and change career. Everyone is so different but come together due to a mutual want and desire to be a software developer in one sense or another. This drive makes the people great to work with.
Makers isn’t simply teaching you a tech stack or a certain language. They ‘change the way you learn’. By this they emphasis that after 3 months they are not going to be there to hold your hand. This bootcamp is more about helping you have a process to fall back on when you are stuck. This is what will make you a great dev, not that you have learnt all the syntax in the world.
Due to this however, it means coach feedback is gold dust and you need to be very proactive by making sure you are getting all the feedback you need. It would be easy to go a long time and not know you were making the same mistake over and over. You are reliant a lot of the time on your peers and therefore small things can slip by unnoticed. This has been improved by the fact that you now need to collect evidence including your coaches feedback in order to pass your review (portfolio of evidence and a process review) which forces you to chase the coaches.
There are so many positives from the amazement you will have from seeing your own progression over the 3 months through to the atmosphere of the building daily with weekly celebrations on a Friday (and of course when you finally get the job you have been working for!). There are also cons such as the frustration at what feels like a lack of coaching at the start (but is actually a conscious choice) through to the lack of HDMI cables in a tech bootcamp.
But there is a job offer guarantee for a reason - Makers backs themselves and they have the stats to prove why.
Our latest on Makers Academy
After seven years in finance and a three-month self-discovery biking trip, Elishka decided to pursue a career in software development. She chose Makers Academy’s 12-week coding bootcamp in London on the recommendation of a fellow female developer and has now landed a developer role at Deloitte Digital! Elishka tells us about how she saved up to pay for the Makers bootcamp, how her finance background has influenced her new career, and why she is passionate about seeing more women in the development industry!
What’s your background and how did your path lead to Makers Academy?
I studied modern languages at university and the final position I landed after my graduate program was in finance. I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to stay in finance, but figured it was a good start. Seven years later, I was still in finance. After changing companies, and trying a couple of more strategic roles, I knew I needed to do something different.
I took a sabbatical in the autumn of 2017 with no plan. I bought a bike, and cycled from Canada to Mexico over four months. It was an incredible experience and gave me time to think about what I enjoyed doing and what I wanted in a career.
When I returned to England, I worked for a local newspaper, thinking I’d pursue journalism. I interviewed a woman about how she had set up a business helping local moms find activities for their kids. She mentioned she had done the coding bootcamp at Makers Academy in London and learned to code while on maternity leave. After talking to her, I knew that coding was what I wanted to do. It ticked all the boxes of what I wanted in a job. The next day, I started learning some Ruby on Codecademy for my Makers application.
Meeting that woman was a huge turning point and forged a new trail for me. I’d never met a developer before – never mind a female one – so it had never been on my radar before and was a lightning bolt moment. This is why I’m really passionate about having more women in tech. Sometimes you have to see it to believe it, and then to be it.
Did you consider any other education options like other bootcamps, going to university, or teaching yourself?
Hearing how much the woman I talked to got out of Makers was a huge driver. I did a few evening courses with General Assembly, but what I liked about Makers was they were focused on one course and were dedicated to making you a really good developer in four months. I went to a Q&A session at Makers where you can chat with current and former students, and there was a lovely sense of community and atmosphere. From that evening, it just felt really holistic – the chief education officer spoke with us about the soft skills you learn, and explained that there’s optional meditation and yoga for students. I was forging a new career and it was important to know there would be support beyond the coding.
How did you pay for your Makers Academy bootcamp?
I had some savings from my previous job. Since the day I started working, I started putting aside money into my “Freedom Fund” bank account, especially since I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. Over seven years, it added up and I could do whatever I wanted with it. I was lucky to have that savings pot to use for Makers Academy.
What was the application and interview process like for Makers?
You had to write a short summary of your motivations for doing the course – nothing too lengthy. There were no questions about previous degrees or grades, they just wanted to screen for potential. The interview was a 40-minute pairing session doing simple Ruby coding with a Makers coach. I was nervous about it and prepared for two weeks, but it was a really fun session! The goal was to see how you approach problems and whether you were able to teach yourself a bit beforehand.
Who were the other students in your code bootcamp cohort?
Normally Makers cohorts are 30 to 40 people but because of the summer, there were only 13 of us (we were thankful for the air conditioning!). The group was super diverse in terms of age, race, nationalities, and previous experience. We had a 19-year-old student from Hong Kong, a 42-year-old product manager, and everyone in between. It was three girls and 10 guys, but Makers has just recently had a cohort with more women than men so that’s great!
What was the learning experience and the teaching style at Makers?
I’ve had a formal education where I was used to learning something, doing some exercises, and then taking an exam, so the teaching style was quite different. At Makers, you don’t have teachers, you have coaches, and you’re called developers from Day One. We had five or six coaches throughout the 12-week course and they would rotate so you could interact with different people. Some of them were experienced developers and some had been former Makers students who got industry experience and then came back to teach.
A typical day would include a 40-minute morning workshop introducing you to a concept, then you’re paired with a classmate to work on exercises together. You’re teaching and supporting each other, breaking down the problems together, and finding solutions. In the afternoons, you’re working on a longer-term project. You might be building a clone of a website like Airbnb or Twitter and putting fundamental concepts into practice.
The coaches are there if you have questions, but the curriculum is focused on students working things out, because you won’t have a coach in a real job giving you answers. You learn how to break down problems, debug, find solutions, and unblock yourself when something seems impossible. If you asked a question, they would ask a question back which was super frustrating in the moment but helpful in the long-run. In my new job, I’m thankful that I’m used to going to battle, instead of being overwhelmed and looking for answers.
What was your favorite project you worked on in the bootcamp?
How did Makers prepare you for the job search?
The first few weeks you just work on coding, but around week 5 or 6, they introduced weekly career workshops like how to network, how to interview, how technical interviews differ from regular interviews, and how to prepare your resume. It helped you focus on what was coming after the bootcamp was over. There was a tech test week in the middle of the bootcamp where, after doing lots of team and pairing work, you had a week on your own to work through a bunch of tech tests. The coaches review your work, help you through some iterations, and award you a “job” if you passed. It’s a great way to get feedback, and practicing a tech test was useful for after the course. We also had one-on-one sessions with career coaches and there was a career fair to meet potential employers.
Congrats on landing a role at Deloitte Digital! How did you land the job and what was the interview process like?
Deloitte Digital is a Makers hiring partner. I think they’ve hired the most grads out of all the hiring partners – they believe in Makers’ mission and the quality of the engineers produced. I applied through that route, had a technical interview, and then a conversation with the head of engineering. I didn’t have to do a tech test and the technical interview was quite informal. The senior engineer brought a problem he was currently working on and we talked through it and looked at different angles.
What is your role at Deloitte and what team are you working on?
I’m a consultant developer – I’m based with a client so I work at the Home Office, part of the UK government. I can’t say a lot about the project due for security reasons but I’m a backend engineer and I work with Java, as well as DevOps tools like Docker and Kubernetes. It’s basically web-based, backend engineering. I’m on a team of 10 which includes five developers (two of us are Makers grads), testers, business analysts, and a scrum master.
What is it like being a woman working in tech?
We have two women on my team which is nice. The industry is a bit male-dominated, so there’s definitely room for growth. There have been challenges – occasionally I have felt I’m being spoken to differently compared to the way a junior male developer might be spoken to. But on the whole, my team is really supportive, and as I said earlier, the more women we have in tech, the more women will see it as a career option and the imbalance will hopefully correct over time.
We women were at the forefront of software engineering back in the 1950s, before home computing was popular and dads started doing it with their sons. Software development is well suited towards more traditionally female characteristics like diligence, seeing the whole picture, and communicating well. Women can really excel and thrive in this career!
Which skills from Makers are you using in your new role? Have you learned new tech skills with Deloitte?
I’m actually not using any technology I learned at Makers in my role at Deloitte. Other than some tools like Git, it’s all been brand new skills! But the underlying concepts are the same as what I learned at Makers – the team did a great job preparing us to pick up new skills. We can jump into a job, read a whole new language, and be effective pretty quickly. Makers teaches you to think about the concepts in the languages you know and then research how those concepts translate to the new languages. When I wanted to know how concepts like encapsulation or dependency injection worked, I researched them a bit, then tried to rebuild my Makers projects in Java – it was a great way to learn. I knew the outline of how to do it, it was just about working out the solution to the problem in another language.
How has your background in finance been useful in your new coding career?
It’s given me a holistic understanding beyond the code into the business decisions that are being made. I have a wider appreciation for the commercial aspects of a product, and can understand the problems management might be seeing and how that affects prioritization. I’m also pragmatic about getting things done rather than being absolutely perfect. Also, I worked a lot with Excel, which is like programming because you’re building little programs to analyze numbers, so that gave me a good start into how formulas, methods, and functions can be useful.
What’s been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to becoming a software developer?
Probably good old Imposter Syndrome. When you’re a junior developer, you’re surrounded by intensely smart people all the time, especially in senior roles, and that can be a challenge. You have to have strong confidence.
I think being a little older was also a challenge. I changed careers in my early 30s and I’m now surrounded by people who are a lot younger than me, who have been working as developers for a few years, and are great at what they do. I feel a bit behind and am putting pressure on myself to catch up and learn things faster. It’s definitely been the right decision for me, I’m really excited to go to work, but I hadn’t anticipated those challenges when I was making my career change.
Are you staying in touch with people from Makers?
I get regular drinks with my cohort to catch up and see how everyone’s doing. Maker hosts regular alumni events to stay in touch, like monthly talk nights with a speaker on a specific topic who you can talk with after.
We also have a Slack channel where we can stay in touch with the school and what’s going on. Since Makers has been around for five years, there’s a really strong alumni community. There are around 1,000 developers on the alumni Slack channel asking for advice and work challenges, and there’s a constant flow of dialogue surrounding different aspects of programming.
What advice do you have for someone considering making a career change with a coding bootcamp?
I’d first emphasize that bootcamps are very intense, there’s a lot going on and a lot of information to digest. You should think of it as a marathon, not a sprint – take breaks, take weekends off, go at your own pace. Also, there’s always a mix of different types of people in bootcamps – some have experience, some have never written a line of code. It’s important that you swim in your own lane, go at your own pace, and don’t worry about comparing yourself to others around you. Focus on your own progress, irrespective of what others are doing because it’s an intense experience. Do your thing and enjoy it!
Oh Summer, one of the best seasons of the year! While it’s a time to relax, bask in the sun, and plan trips with family and friends, summer is also an awesome time to learn. If you’re a current student, teacher, or professional looking to learn to code, a summer bootcamp is a great opportunity to learn to code in a short time frame. Various coding bootcamps that offer summer courses to help you launch a new career in tech. Check out the following courses to help you #learntocode this Summer 2019.Continue Reading →
This November has been super busy in the immersive coding education world, and at Course Report! We read about how Amazon’s new headquarters will impact the coding bootcamps in New York City, we celebrated successful coding bootcamp grads, we were sad to hear that a school is closing, we heard advice for being successful at bootcamp, and found out about new initiatives to improve diversity in tech! Plus we look at new schools and campuses around the world and discuss our favorite pieces on the Course Report blog.Continue Reading →
We are rounding up all of the most interesting bootcamp industry news that we read and discussed at Course Report in August! This month we heard about a $43 million fundraise and a big acquisition, we saw the decline of CS degrees in the tech job market, we read about a bunch of interesting alumni who were featured in the news, we looked at how coding bootcamps can help us avoid “robogeddon,” and we celebrated an initiative teaching women in prisons to code. Plus, we’ll talk about all of the new bootcamps in August and our favorite blog posts!Continue Reading →
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!
Most immersive bootcamps are less than six months and many offer part-time options, allowing parents to balance childcare and work commitments with learning to code. But as a mom thinking about a code school, what should you consider before taking the plunge? Eight moms (who are successful graduates of bootcamps like Flatiron School, Turing, Thinkful, and DigitalCrafts) share their tips for switching careers and re-entering the workforce.
Before you initiate the hunt for the perfect childcare solution, find the time to take an online course or experiment with online tutorials and different software, to see if coding is for you. Prepare yourself for the experience. Research front end development, UX 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.
Welcome to the April News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Want your bootcamp's news to be included in the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
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.