Makers Academy is a highly selective 12-week, full-time program (preceded by a four-week pre-course) which teaches web development in London. Courses start every four weeks at the new Makers HQ in Shoreditch and admission is highly competitive. Makers Academy accepts only the exceptional applicants onto the course, for a rigorous program that culminates in graduation. The final week for the students is dedicated to their future ambitions. This week our new Graduates will receive the personal attention of our expert placements team. They will focus on life-long learning skills and prepare to enter the job market. This could include technical tests, working on open-source code or even working with our engineering team on live, real-world, production code.
Nine out of ten Makers Academy graduates earn, on average, in excess of £30,000 within six weeks of graduating. Makers Academy is attempting to tackle the issue of the lack of women in the IT Industry. There is a £500 scholarship to any woman attending their course and they recently teamed up with IBM and Mozilla to offer a full scholarship to a female applicant.
Recent Makers Academy News
- July 2016 Coding Bootcamp News Roundup + Podcast
- Alumni Spotlight: Joseph Knowles, Makers Academy Ronin
- 8 Tips for Moms Learning to Code
Recent Makers Academy Reviews: Rating 4.76
- Lending partners include PCDL (UK Govt) and EdAid
- Payment Plan
- Available through 3rd parties
- £500 scholarship to any woman attending the course.
- Minimum Skill Level
- We expect people to generally understand what coding is about and have some exposure to trialling simple coding challenges.
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- To prepare for the pairing session with one of our developers, we would ask people to complete some coding exercises at home and then come in for a pairing session.
£250 Makers Academy Scholarship
Makers Academy is a highly selective, 12 week, full-time course (with a 4 week part-time pre-course) in web development based in London's Silicon Roundabout. The Course Report community is eligible for a £250 scholarship to Makers Academy!
- Offer is only valid for new applicants to Makers Academy. Applicants who have already submitted an application cannot claim this scholarship.
- Web Development (London)
Makers Academy Reviews
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Having taken 4 years out of the workplace to stay at home with my two young children, I decided to do a coding bootcamp in order to find challenging meritocratic work that wouldn't care about my 'career break'. I did a lot of research and felt that Makers Academy were head and shoulders above the rest of the UK bootcamps on offer. Not only do they teach you to code, they teach you how to become a good developer by drumming into you the principles of good design, testing, pairing, and agile working. The instructors were amazing and all really lovely people (a couple of whom have remained good friends). It was a very intense 3 months, but some of the most enjoyable I've had. I was offered a job within 2 weeks of finishing despite the fact I was only looking for part-time work (which is thin on the ground in this field). I would recommend Makers Academy unreservedly!
Attending Makers Academy was a the right choice, the things I’ve learnt are priceless and the people I’ve met are very special.
It has been all about the people, co-working in a lot of different projects either in pairs or bigger teams (4-5 people) coding all day with the coaches supporting us. It was just brilliant, I’ve learnt how to learn and it feels great.
The mentality that reign at Makers is “learn by doing” which is the best way to learn, and the lessons/breakouts are dynamic to make sure you get a proper understanding.
Obviously it is not come for free, and I am not talking about money but the effort that you have to put in order to get the most out of it. You must be very motivated and pro-active, ready to join the Makers family.
ps: They don’t ensure you a job, but after pushing hard the 11 weeks plus the hiring week you will find yourself above any other CS graduated. I’ve got a job after one month and I would have never thought that it would have been possible.
I just loved it and I would definitely do it again!
Before attending Makers, I had finished university with an unsatisfactory degree and was working dead-end jobs to keep myself afloat with little hope for the future. I half-heartedly applied for Makers, expecting yet another rejection but the day after the intense interview, I received my acceptance letter.
What proceeded was probably one of the hardest yet most fulfilling experiences of my life. They provided an intense curriculum with a very relaxed atmosphere to complete it in. Whilst at Makers, you are constantly surrounded by happy yet hard-working individuals, which makes for a very conducive work environment. I managed to build things over the course I never realised I would be able to do and feel that now that I have finished, I am ready to take these new skills and motivation into the work place. I have already been offered a job in a company I did not think I would ever be able to work for and feel this course has opened up a whole new career path for me.
I wholeheartedly recommend Makers Academy to anybody looking for a new career or even looking to apply new skills to their current job. It was an amazing experience and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to attend Makers Academy
I would start by saying that attending Makers (September 2014 - December 2015) is by far one of the best experiences of my life from so many different perspectives. The learning curve is insane, the people on my cohort and the staff are inspirational and I had the time of my life.
I chose Makers for a couple of reasons, one of the biggest reasons was simply the feeling I got after having interviewed at a number colleges. The Makers process for entry is a lot more selective, giving me confidence in the marketing message and the course content they would eventually deliver. The atmosphere was collaborative, positive and I felt at 'home'.
Having now completed the course and started on my journey as an active member of the London developer community, I can also say that Makers take teaching best practices seriously and are actually pretty unique for this approach in the education sphere. At the core of the syllabus is a test driven (TDD) approach, something which not only makes your resulting code more maintainable and adaptable but also makes you a hot commodity in the job space.
The best part of the course is the intense learning experience, you do get pushed to the limit! I was at college from 8.30am to 9pm every day for three months and also coding on weekends, so expect to get addicted!
At this point I need to give a big shout out to their Chief Joy Officer, Dana, who is absolutely crucial (at least from my personal perspective) to your experience on the course. She offers regular meditation and yoga and is there to talk you through any difficulties you are having, both course related and personal. She was a huge support to me throughout the course and is now one of my close friends.
The only downside I can honestly say is that Makers live and breathe agile (a well used industry practice), what this means is that they are constantly iterating and so every cohorts experience on the course is quite different and course materials that are perhaps not always polished. It does however mean that they are keeping up with what your eventual employers would like to see on your CV and gives you the opportunity to truly learn like a developer.
The support on the course and post-course, while looking for a job, is one of the big reasons I am still a familiar face at Makers Academy. It has become a hub for my development, and the placements team at Makers are my first port of call for any career related questions I have.
I was on the course from September to December 2014. I had three of the most fun, intellectually stimulating months in recent memory when I was on the course. I loved my cohort, the teaching style under Enrique's leadership was well-suited to my learning style, and Makers provided a focused, work-like environment without which I never would have learned to code. The CEO, Evgeny, is very receptive to criticism and promotes a culture of openness within the company, among both the staff and the students.
I also cannot say enough good things about the placements team. Samantha, Ruben, and Will really, really go to bat for you. Makers has only been around for two years, but when a group of us went to Silicon Milkroundabout earlier in the year, we attracted a lot of interest because employers could pick out that we're Makers students. I think it says a lot that so far (and it's a tremendous reflection on the placements team) Makers has done a reasonably good job of churning out grads of consistently high caliber.
I've been reading about a bubbling backlash against bootcamps like Makers Academy in recent months, and I think a lot of it is caused by misplaced expectations on the part of students. It's not a magic pill that will turn you into a great coder in 12 (or 16, now, with the precourse work) weeks. That's impossible. The Makers system works really well for people who are reasonably smart, but much more importantly, hard-working, self-aware, and willing to help those around them. You don't need to be a genius to succeed in a coding boot camp. It's precisely because these are the qualities that are found again and again in good developers. If you walk in the door on Day One with the mindset, "I've paid £8000 to be here, I expect these people to make me a developer in three months," you are probably not going to do too well.
You're probably wondering, what is Makers' distinguishing point from General Assembly, or any of the numerous boot camps in North America? I don't know enough about Dev Bootcamp or Hack Reactor, but Makers is much more discerning than GA, particulary when it comes to Test-Driven Development (TDD). Do some research on what TDD and Behavior-Driven Development means before you make your decision. Learning to write automated tests alongside your code is a painful process the first few times, but it is incredibly valuable -- it is often the difference between building something maintainable and extensible versus just hacking together 200 lines of spaghetti code that somebody else has to spend a week untangling later down the line. When you have junior devs who have been coding for 8 weeks already thinking about technical debt before they've written a single line of production code... I think that's pretty awesome.
But, since this is a review, I'm gonna be honest about where Makers still needs improvement. I feel extremely fortunate to have been on the course when I was, in large part because of Enrique's teaching. However, as of November 2014, Enrique is no longer with the company. Neither is Alex Peattie, who left in September 2014. There is currently a lack of experienced senior developers with industry experience on the permanent teaching staff.
I think Makers also need to better define its target audience. There are generally two categories of people who sign up for Makers: those who want to become developers and those who want to become entrepreneurs of tech startups. Makers is successful at meeting the needs of the first category, but is currently not well-suited to the second category, particularly with the introduction of an entire week dedicated to finding a job placement at the end of the course. If you are just looking to prototype a web app, I would say that Makers is probably overkill.
Overall, I had a great experience at Makers and would recommend it to anyone who wants to make a career change and is willing to put in the effort and time.
The MA Remote course is good for having a general introduction to web development practices and technologies involved (mainly Ruby). The course is based on TDD, agile and pair-programming. Although they say anybody can be a programmer in 12 weeks, I would recommend this course to people with a technical background or already familiar with programming, otherwise, instead of acquire the skills to be ready for the job market, the time would be spent on learning the fundamentals, which being honest, is not enough for assure a job in the end.
The good stuff about the course is that the topics are mostly up to date with the requirements of the market. The languages, practices and workflow is quite similar to what I encountered on the job that I found. On the other handm I expected more experienced tutors and definitely more support on the job hunting process at completion of the course.
It's cheesy to say but Makers Academy has directly changed my life.
There are lots of places that you can go to see what their syllabus looks like, the languages they teach and the frameworks they expose you to but none of this really captures what makes this such a revolutionary school. Simply put: Makers is somewhere that changed my perception of learning. Underlying their program in web-development was a subtle thread teaching you to be able and confident to pick up any piece of technology and, given time, change it, manipulate it and ultimately get it to work.
In practice this proved far more valuable. While studying on the course I was able to practice learning on a particular, useful stack of technologies but when I came out the other end into the real world and a job I was quickly thrown into the deep end using a language and frameworks that I had never even heard of before. That I didn't sink is a testament to everything that Makers taught me. I would thoroughly recommend them to anyone considering going to a developer bootcamp.
So I usually don't write reviews for much but I know this is a huge decision for some and when I was doing my research I was always wishing there were more reviews (especially for some of the online bootcamps). So I'm about to finish up Makers Academy Ronin, which is now Makers Academy Remote and wanted to write this while it was still fresh. Sorry for the length but I tried to be as in depth as possible.
TL;DR- Makers Academy Remote has been an amazing experience. They have a lot of positives and a few downsides for people not in London or willing to move to London. Despite that, I was able to get a job offer on Friday of week 10 and in the US starting the Tuesday after the course finishes. I’d definitely recommend Makers Remote to anyone who knows they want to get into Ruby and can dedicate the time and effort to the class. Makers is growing so they're starting to have more reach in the job placement/help department.
My time at Makers has been a little different from my classmates. I'm in the US so with the time difference it's been rough. For the last 12 weeks, I've had to get up at 3:30-4:00 am every day, and when I visited my family on the West Coast, I was waking up at 12:30-1:00am. Going into this class, I was nervous for that reason alone but I knew if I did a self-paced bootcamp that I wouldn't accomplish as much in 12 weeks (I'd have an excuse to delay or put off work). I was fortunate enough to have a 3 month break from work due to my work schedule but that meant I was on a time crunch for the course. I went into the course hoping for a job shortly after graduating knowing if I didn’t, I’d need to go back to my current position. So now that you know what my situation was when I chose Makers, I guess I'll go over why I chose Makers Ronin.
I did my research for probably 6-7 months before I decided on one. I went back and forth between in person and remote courses. I was accepted into 6 or 7 bootcamps that had some pretty rigorous application processes and some low acceptance rates. I actually paid a reservation fee for one but then decided on Makers Ronin because of a few things. First was timing. I needed to start before a certain date so I could finish the bootcamp before I had to go back to work if I didn’t get a developing job. Second was price. There was a huge price difference, especially if you opt for in person bootcamp. I did it from my home and didn't have to pay extra for room and board. That helped tremendously. Compared to other online (Launch Academy, Learn.co) bootcamps it was probably similar if you finish them in 3-4 months. I’m not sure how doable that is with self-paced, I tried finding out but they were just too new when I was applying to bootcamps. Third (as stated before) it wasn't a self-paced course. I know myself. Had I done a self-paced bootcamp, I would have skipped school for the slightest reason. "Oh it's a full moon tonight, I can't do school…” “Gosh darn it, it’s the Asiatic Sparrow-Hawk’s migratory season, guess I’ll stop school for 2 months…" Makers kept me on track to finish in 12 weeks. It was rough given the time difference but doable. Fourth reason was their results. At the time I was doing my research, they were showing, or at least advertising, some pretty incredible results for both in-person and Ronin. It was hard not to do the class since it was everything I wanted and then some. So those are the reasons why I chose it.
Most of those reasons held true and some deviated from my expectations slightly. The deviations mostly were in the job department and basically the whole reason most go to a bootcamp. Most of us do the bootcamps to get a job or help our current career. So first, and it's not really Makers fault at all, is since they're based out of London, their connections are mostly in London. They're slowly branching out to other parts of the world but haven't quite reached the wonderful US of A. So that was extremely nerve wracking. Basically if I didn't want to move to London or the few other European locations (which I didn't), I was on my own for available jobs. I didn’t have the connections that knew what Makers Academy was or sometimes even bootcamps in general. I know there have been a few, not sure how many, Americans that have done the Remote course. I was never given any information on if they received job offers or not, so that was another scary part. I was basically going into this not knowing if I'd be able to get a job at my location. Another deviation was the job report for remoters. What we were told initially was slightly different from what we were told during the class. If I remember correctly they basically told us that if you're not in London, your chances of getting a job drastically decrease. Somewhat expected but still scary. The percentages provided that time weren't as great as they made it seemed when I first started the class. Also, when they were telling us about the results, they informed us that they had one cohort where no one got a job but they took full responsibility for that. Not sure if it was because of the curriculum or coaches or what. The results did seem to be increasing with every cohort but I felt as if they skewed the results to their favor. When someone has to justify why they’re only counting certain people for their results, it gets me wondering what the results really are. This is just my opinion about the information they provided us during the course, it could be off. You might want to ask them for the job placement results for each and every remote cohort. Could help your decision based on your location. They still have really good results and as I said before, they’re getting better with every cohort. We’re not yet at the hiring week where they give pointers about your resumé (CV) and how to deal with interviews and such. I’m sure it’s helpful and I plan to learn a lot from it for future job interviews.
As far as the curriculum goes, I feel it was everything they promoted. Now I’m not sure if this learning style is for everyone. It's very fast paced and a firehose of information. They do a workshop in the morning and then we break off into pairs for a weekly project. On the weekends we had solo projects that were fun and challenging. They are very hands-off because they’re trying to simulate a dev shop as much as possible, well that’s how they sell it at least. If we had a question that we couldn’t find or get answered someway, the instructor was willing to step in and guide us but still never giving a direct answer. It can be extremely frustrating at times when you just want to know the answer but I can see the value in that. Towards the end of the course, it was almost like completely giving up on life if I had to ask the coach for help. I would do everything I could to get the answer without asking him. The majority of the answers are on stack overflow, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to make it work with your code. We’ll see just how helpful it all was when I start my job. Some of the curriculum seemed to be incomplete or pieced together from different versions. It was a huge pain for some of the challenges and as you can imagine, quite frustrating. Their curriculum is open-sourced so it’s constantly being updated and changed for the better. So what I went through won’t be the same as the next cohort and so on. I do believe they have a pretty solid curriculum, not sure all my classmates will agree but that’s how I feel at least.
I’d say the biggest thing when it comes to their curriculum and getting a job is to make sure that Ruby is a popular language in the area you want to work. After starting the class, I quickly realized that I was in a .Net/Java heavy area with very few Ruby companies even in the area. So that drastically lowered my chances of getting a job. Makers Ronin has been great and I’m glad I did it. I met a lot of people, learned a lot (to say the least) and now have a skill under my belt that would have taken a lot longer had I done it on my own. To put it in perspective, I met a guy who was doing the Free Code Camp to try and learn. He started about 6 month before me and after 4 to 5 weeks of Makers, I already knew more than he did. I’m not sure how dedicated he was to the Free Code Camp but that’s part of being on a self-paced curriculum compared to one that’s not. I’d most definitely recommend Makers Remote to someone if their goals line up with Makers’ curriculum. It’s not for everyone, that’s for sure but if you dedicate 12 weeks out of your life to finish the course and make sure you remain enthusiastic along the way, I believe you’ll do fine and enjoy it.
My results: I received a job offer on the Friday of week 10 of the course for a local company who uses Ruby on Rails. I had an interview Tuesday of week 11 with another company and possibly another later in the week or early next week with yet another company. I start my job the Tuesday after we finish the course which is awesome. To have a job before graduating is a great feeling. I’d say the most valuable piece of advice given to me was to get involved in the local developer community. We have a pretty active one where I’m at. I went to as many meetings as I could, messaged and emailed multiple managers and other developers telling them about my past experiences and what I was doing with the bootcamp. That probably helped more than anything. I had a lot of responses and a few that, as stated earlier, led to interviews and an offer. Good luck with whatever bootcamp you decide on, there are a lot of good ones out there, you just need to decide on which one lines up with your goals and expectations.
Our latest on Makers Academy
Welcome to the July 2016 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to big fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. This month the biggest trends this month are initiatives to increase the diversity in tech, some huge investments in various bootcamps, and more tech giants launching their own coding classes. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast!Continue Reading →
Convinced by their hands-on approach to teaching, Joseph Knowles enrolled at Makers Academy's online bootcamp option, Ronin. We talk to Joseph about the difference between his undergraduate experience and a bootcamp, using Slack to build an online community, and his new job as a software developer at FNZ!
Tell us what you were up to before you started at Makers Academy and Ronin.
I graduated from university with a degree in a biology in July last year. I traveled around Spain, doing lots of different jobs and it gave me better perspective. I’ve been doing online programming courses like Codecademy for a couple of years, but didn’t have the time to commit and get really good at it because of my degree.
Did you ever take a computer science class in your undergrad?
I didn’t take any classes but I used a bit of programming in biology research.
How did you decide that you wanted to take a bootcamp?
It’s always been an option since I discovered online courses a few years ago. It’s always been more an issue of money and having the flexibility of moving to a new city. The biggest bootcamps are in London and it’s very expensive to live there.
Where are you living right now?
I live a couple of hundred miles north of London, too far to commute. I know it’s probably ideal to take the class in London- you’re focused and you’re surrounded by other programmers; but I just don’t have the money for that. I kept my options open for months and researched all of the online bootcamps I could find before deciding on Makers Academy.
What stood out to you about Ronin?
I read the founders’ blogs and they seemed to be keen on the best approach to learning, by researching and improving their methods. That was a breath of fresh air after coming from university where the people teaching tend to stick to what they know, lectures, even though they’ve been proven not to work.
At university they also don’t really have a great understanding of any industry outside of academia, it was really enticing to see that Makers Academy has a whole team for hiring and lots of hiring partners. At Makers they teach you what you need to know to get a job.
Was there a job guarantee?
No, they don’t make a guarantee, although I believe they are at 100% job placement now.
Since this was the first Ronin cohort, was there an open feedback loop between you and Makers Academy?
Yeah, Makers Academy was quite open about about this first cohort being a work in progress. We’ve given them a lot of feedback; they ask us for feedback every evening and then put it into practice really quickly.
What was the Ronin application process like for you?
There was an interview which consisted of a technical test and asking about my motivations. The test was in very basic Ruby. I think it was more to see how you approach new things, to make sure you actually had looked at some programming before you applied for a programming class.
How many people are in your cohort?
There are 8 of us taking Ronin online and another 24 or so doing Makers Academy live in London that we’re learning in tandem with.
Do you ever interact with the people who are doing the live in person boot camp?
We have a really active Slack group on different channels where we communicate. We do the same challenges and make the same projects.
We interact with other Ronins the most though. We’re on Google Hangouts sharing our screens from 9 till 6 every day. We have two standup meetings every day for 20 minutes then we meet as a group with one of the facilitators as well.
Who were the facilitators working with you?
Sam is the coach in London and he’s specifically dedicated to us.
What did you cover in the month of pre-work before class started?
We did a lot of challenges in Ruby and Git, learning the basics so we could pair program together. Then we moved on to testing frameworks like R-spec.
How are you learning the actual material? Are there recorded lectures?
Most of the course material is on GitHub but we also have live “breakout sessions” on Google Hangouts. Those are recorded as well.
How many hours a week would you say you’re spending on Ronin? Is this a full-time job?
More than that! We’re at the desk on Hangouts from 9 till 6, which is a full time job. I continue working after that as well.
The students learning in-person in London often stay in the office until 9:30. I track my work on RescueTime- I think I really work 70 – 80 hours a week.
Do you like the online format of Ronin?
It’s good. You can’t really replace in person interaction, but they do a really good job. We’re all friends now and we communicate a lot.
I’d prefer, just like anyone would, to talk to someone in-person rather than on a video call, just for the social aspect of it. But since that’s not possible, this is a great replacement.
Is the course project-based? Do you get to work with actual clients?
The course is almost entirely project-based. We pair-program on a project with a walk-through each week, Monday to Thursday, then we have Friday and the weekend to do a project by ourselves, so we were coming up with two projects a week.
At the beginning, they were quite basic. Six weeks into the course I’d made a fairly functional social network.
Yes, I worked with a real client for my final project. It was great, she had an amazing idea and was really enthusiastic about us bringing it to life.
How does remote pair programming work?
I think it’s a really good way to keep focused when you’re learning online. Also, discussing programming as you go is useful, rather than just sitting and thinking by yourself. If there’s something you don’t understand, your partner probably understands it, and if you understand something that they don’t then explaining it helps you to learn it.
The fact that Ronin has been online hasn’t really been a problem for working together. Google Hangouts is really good and sharing the screen has worked well.
Do you know what type of job you want after you graduate?
I don’t know exactly, but I want a junior developer position. There’s a huge variety in Makers Academy hiring partners, and I find a lot of them interesting for different reasons.
What’s the job market like in your area right now?
There are a lot of tech jobs in London. Leeds is the city nearest to me and has a technology center with quite a lot of jobs too.
When did Makers Academy start preparing you for jobs and interviews?
Their philosophy is to reserve that until the very last week of the course so that we can focus on coding the rest of the time, but they don’t completely neglect it. They’ll give us tips about things that are important like maintaining a blog. There’s a weekly talk from someone in the industry; for example, a couple of weeks into the course someone from GitHub came in and gave a talk on how to use it in the workplace.
What are you up to now? Where are you working?
I’m about to start working at FNZ in the Czech republic, as a software developer. I’ll be using C# and .NET to help develop features for their products. I got the offer just a few weeks after graduating, it’s just what I was looking for and I can’t wait to get started.
What was the process like to find a job? Did Makers Academy help with placement, interview prep, networking etc?
Makers Academy has been really helpful. In the last week of the course they taught us how to write CVs and do interviews specifically for applying to junior developer roles. They gave us further advice on tech tests and networking that have led to a lot of interest from employers quite quickly; I’d had a few interviews within a couple of weeks of graduating.
Would you recommend Makers Academy/Ronin to a friend?
Definitely. In fact, I already have and he started the Ronin course last week!
Let’s face it, coding isn’t for everyone. There is a certain breed that thrives from the challenges associated with programming and web development. Before you initiate the hunt for the perfect daycare find the time to take an online course or experiment with online tutorials and different software. Prepare yourself for the experience. Research front end development, web design and full-stack development. Test the waters and see if any of these spark a passion within.Continue Reading →
After Dan Blakeman graduated with a degree in International Politics, his passion for technology led him towards online marketing. After having the chance to develop a successful social network with outside developers, Dan was ready to make the leap into Web Development. The Makers Academy online program Ronin was a flexible option that didn’t sacrifice job placement assistance. Now 2 months into his Ronin experience, we talk to Dan about Makers Academy’s interview process, preparing for his next professional job, and the feedback loop he’s seen so far.
Tell us what you were up to before you started at Ronin Makers Academy.
I studied International Politics and Human Geography at University. When I graduated in 2009, I had this amazing learning experience at university, but the skills and knowledge i had gained were not immediately suited to the jobs market.
Technology was always my passion. After graduating I headed towards this and online marketing was a natural fit, I worked in online marketing for 3 years, where I was lucky enough to have the chance to build a social network from scratch with outside developers, which grew rapidly. But I was keen to keep taking this further. To me it made little sense to not learn to write code and bundle these digital skills together.
What made you decide that you wanted to take the leap and become a web developer?
The direction that technology is headed right now is very exciting and it’s where I want to be. It was just the next step. Online marketing got me close to where I wanted to go but not exactly there. There’s so much opportunity to be had, why stop learning?
Was your motivation for doing a bootcamp to get a job as a developer afterwards?
Definitely. Ultimately, I’d like to create my own business. But certainly in the short term, my goal is to get an exciting job in a young company which will help me deepen the skills I will need to run my own company in a couple of years time.
How did you hear about Ronin?
I actually had a friend who went to Bitmaker Labs bootcamp in Toronto. He couldn’t recommend a it enough and I could see how much happier he was in his career.
My original plan was to go to Toronto on his recommendation, but it was difficult to consider doing this financially. Also, one of the perks of a bootcamp is the introductions and help finding a job afterwards. So if I did a bootcamp in Toronto, it wouldn’t have helped me to get a job in the UK.
When you were talking to Makers Academy, was there an emphasis on job placement?
Definitely. I don’t think I would have applied if there wasn’t such a clear route into employment. It was made quite clear that we’d get the same placement assistance as the onsite students.
What was the Ronin application process like for you?
It was exciting. It was different than any other application I’ve ever done because it was based around your attitude and how willing you were to put in the work. Not once was I asked what my degree was or where I worked when I was 16; I didn’t even send a CV.
You’re asked what your motivations are and what you’ve accomplished up until that point.
The second stage you had an interview face to face over Skype and we did a coding test.
Did you need coding experience to get through the tests?
The coding challenge was basic, and the interviewer friendly, like a team-mate. If you’ve done Codecademy you’d be fine.
What did you learn during the first month of pre-work?
From what I read, I expected the pre-course to be pretty simple, but I think the pre-course was just as intensive as the course itself. We worked through Ruby and programming from scratch and got really comfortable with it, this was perfect as we entered the main-course feeling strong and ready to build upon this knowledge.
Does Makers Academy do tests or exams? What happens if you don’t pass?
We have a weekly challenge but it’s not framed as something you have to pass or else you’re kicked out. It’s more like a chance to reflect on how you’re doing, where you’re struggling and where you can put more time into improving. We review our challenge code in a one to one with our tutor.
Since Ronin is online, how do you interact with other students in the program?
We’re largely on Google Hangouts most of the day. At 9:30am we have a stand up to talk about how the previous day went, any issues and our plans for the day, then we’ll break off into pairs.
We’ll then have our own Google Hangout for individual pairs and we’ll spend most of the day sharing each other’s screens, talking through what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and working together on projects.
The Pre-course work was focused around solving individual coding problems whereas in the main course, you’re building actual projects together like building a social network or a takeaway ordering system.
If you run into something you don’t know during the day, what do you do?
I think it’s quite clear to us that we’ve got very intelligent and approachable coaches on hand, but they’ve been great in teaching us to not become dependent on them; because as soon as you’re in the jobs market and working as a developer, you will have to solve these problems on your own.
One of the best things i will take from this course is the importance of learning how to balance emotions and how to approach and solve things that I’m not yet equipped to solve. Makers has been brilliant at teaching us ‘how to learn’.
I’d also say, having them curate ‘what’ to learn when new to the field has been vital. Especially given they have a close relationship with leading tech companies. Having a good idea where best to spend your time has been important to me, and something that’s near impossible when trying to learn a new field alone and without access to leading tech companies habits.
Who are your “coaches?”
We have one main coach who meets with us twice a day, imagine a very knowledgeable and supportive friend, he can’t do enough for us. We also have online contact with the other coaches who are on-site. We often watch lectures and talks from them remotely, where we can ask questions and take part live, so we feel close to all the coaches at makers, even though we’re yet to meet them offline.
Since this was the first cohort of Ronin, what is the feedback loop like? Were there things that have not worked for you and how were you able to influence the future curriculum?
Makers Academy is a super agile company. We have a feedback form every day and you’re encouraged to put at least three things on it every day. If something was an issue, and you mention it, often the very next day it’s fixed.
These were often just small things like making sure that the camera is clear so we can see everything on the board whilst a speaker was speaking. Then having mentioned it, the next day Makers Academy will have purchased new equipment and rearranged its position to improve the quality; it’s just brilliant.
How many hours a week are you spending on Ronin?
It is intense. Approaching 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s your own choice really. You decide how much time you want to put in. I quit my job so I could do Ronin to the nth degree.
How have you stayed committed to an online program?
Makers Academy is onto a good thing with the application process; they’re selecting people based on their motivation. I believe, if you’re willing to quit your job and spend a lot of money to commit, you’re going to stay it through to the end.
It’s also amazing to be able to do this alongside 12 peers at the same stage as you, we’re all ‘sharing the journey’ and supporting each other daily.
Has Makers Academy started preparing you for post-bootcamp and getting you ready for interviews and resume prep?
Since we’re only two months in, we’re encouraged to really focus on the skills for now - although job prep is always there in the background and you’re constantly guided towards best practices.
What are some of those best practices?
A concept that is constantly drilled into us is “test driven development” If someone experiments with a new idea in code without testing it, we delete those files. Also, we’re learning the very best practices with object-oriented programming.
They make it quite clear to us that in the job market there are ‘hackers’ and there are ‘professionals’, and they’re guiding us towards being a professional that other people can work with in a team– that means great communication, writing clean code, and adhering to best practices so other developers can quickly take up your code and extend it where needed.
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Augustinas Markevicius pursued a PhD in chemistry for the last four years, but decided to put his academic pursuits on hold and find an affordable web development program to break into tech. Makers Academy’s newest online bootcamp option, Ronin, offered the best combination of flexibility, price, and quality. Now two months into his course at Ronin, Augustinas tells us about using Google Hangouts and Slack to seamlessly pair program and interact with other Ronin students, his reflections on what he’s learned so far, and what he’s expecting in the second half of the class.
What were you studying before you decided to transition to tech?
I was in university for 9 years; I’m just about to finish a PhD in Chemistry at the University of Manchester and more specifically, I was working on molecular machines.
What are Molecular Machines?
Basically, we’re trying to build the smallest possible robots from molecules. It is very difficult to do and at this point it’s more conceptual research.
In the middle of my PhD, I realized that, while I like science, I’m geared more towards computer science and technology. I was looking for a way into the IT industry, and that’s how I ended up at Maker’s Academy.
Had you taken a computer science class when you were at university?
No. No computer science classes and no proper math classes either.
Why did you decide to do the Makers Academy program online instead of in person?
At the time I was in Manchester (I recently moved to London), and my circumstances prevented me from moving to London. Also, the price is not as prohibitive as the in-person course, and in the end it mostly boiled down to money. If I had more money, I probably would have chosen the in-person course in their London Headquarters.
Did you look at other online code schools? How did you find Ronin?
During Ronin, will you be working on your PhD at all or are you focusing full time on Ronin?
Full time on Ronin! There’s no chance of doing both. We are committed to study between 9am and 6pm every day. Afterwards, in the evening, it’s up to you if you want to keep coding. I think a lot of us voluntarily choose to continue, often until 10 or 11.
What are you working on after-hours?
It differs from day-to-day. The work is mainly project-based, but for example, you may be doing a project during the day and realize that you have some knowledge gaps, and so in the evening you try to fill in those gaps.
What was the Ronin application like for you?
First, there were a few logic questions, just to test our logical reasoning, like simple math games. Then we had to do a few very simple coding tasks, so Jordan (who did the interview) would fire up a Ruby environment and you had to code very simple things, just to show that you have a very basic knowledge of Ruby.
How many students were in this first cohort with you?
There are 8 students in total. I interact with all of them. We pair program, and we change pairs quite often. I work an equal amount of time with every person.
Do you ever interact with the people in the in-person Makers Academy class?
We can. We have chat channels where we can interact with on-site students, but that does not happen that much. We do interact with on-site coaches and staff. We have a dedicated coach for our course, Sam Morgan, and then there are other coaches for the on-site students which we talk to as well .
How did you communicate with Sam?
I think Makers Academy is really successful at creating that feeling of community. It’s easy to create community at an on-site bootcamp because everyone gathers together. But their ability to build a closely-knit community online really surprised me. It’s like I’m feeling pushed and helped by the other people. I feel for other people when they’re struggling and I want to help them, even though I’m still sitting in my bedroom all day.
In terms of interacting with the coach, we have two sessions every day where we review everybody’s progress, and how we’re feeling about the day’s material, and discuss our plans for the next half-day. If people run into really big problems they can always just contact him on Slack and he will either resolve the issue over the chat or jump into the Hangout. It’s all very dynamic and it changes depending on the problems.
For pair programming, we just jump into a Hangout and code, sharing our screens.
Can you tell us about a couple of the projects that you’ve worked on?
So far, we had been making very simple games. We started with Fizz Buzz, then we made a Battleship game, and tic tac toe. The latest project was making a bookmark manager. I think it’s getting more serious now.
Have you found ways that your Chemistry background has helped you be a better programmer?
I think a PhD in general helped; you learn to solve problems and you learn to be on your own. During the PhD, I would have to actually come up with problems first and then work to solve them. There were people around who I could ask questions and ask for help, but I had to drive the whole process. I think that’s a skill that Makers Academy tries to teach you. I see other people improve a lot at this, but it’s hard. So the PhD definitely helps.
Are all of these projects assigned or will you ever create something on your own?
Actually, next week we’re having a review week where I think we will have the opportunity to work on our own ideas or, if we want, to review the materials that we’ve been through. At the end of the whole bootcamp, the last two weeks are exclusively dedicated for unique projects. I don’t know how it’s going to work exactly, but it’s basically two weeks of building new stuff.
How does Makers Academy, and specifically Ronin, make sure that you have access to their network of hiring partners?
I expressed my desire to become a developer before we started. Makers Academy has a hiring week at the end of the course. Because I’m now in London, I will be able to attend it in person, at least to meet the partners and start networking. There’s one person who’s now in Tel Aviv and there’s quite a few people living in different parts of the UK- I’m not sure how they’ll handle that.
Has Makers Academy started doing job prep, interviews or resume building?
The only work that we’ve been doing for now is to build up our GitHub profile, so that serves as an overview of what we’ve achieved. We are often reminded that our GitHub profile is one of the most important things for a successful application. We haven’t started talking about how to apply. There’s so much coding to go through that worrying about these things now doesn’t make sense to me.
How far are you through the curriculum? What have you learned so far?
Is there a lot of emphasis on test-driven development?
Yes. All of the code we write is supposed to be test-driven. I see how knowing Test Driven Development (TDD) is helpful and how it allows you to look at problems from a different perspective, but I’m not necessarily convinced that everything we do should be test-driven. Recently I watched a video from the creator of Rails. He made some convincing arguments about how making your test pass rather than thinking about the application can be a disadvantage in some cases. I don’t see it as “TDD all the way” but I see the benefit of it. I like learning it.
Some dev teams emphasize Test Driven Development more than others, so I’m sure it’s good to know!
Absolutely. That’s another really good thing that I love about Makers Academy. Almost every week they have a speaker come in from different companies and organizations and give a talk. We are able to watch these presentations online as well. We have a live broadcast and we are able to ask questions to those presenters, which is amazing. Seeing how hiring managers think and what their perspective is, is super helpful for the preparation of job applications and interviews. .
Since you moved to London, would you be able to go to those presentations live?
To be honest, I’ve never asked. I don’t want to start going between HQ and my home. We’ve been promised already that we’ll have all of the facilities accessible after we finish, so we’ll be treated exactly the same way as all the other alumni.
Is there anything that we totally missed about your experience so far with Ronin or bootcamps in general?
I think the most important thing is that a bootcamp makes learning fun. They are able to provide a motivating environment, which is a really major thing. I did a lot of online courses before, it’s very easy to get bogged down in all the things that you have to learn and it’s easy to put those online courses on hold. At Ronin, I’ve been super motivated during these two months!
Ronin is the newest learn-to-code option from London bootcamp Makers Academy, designed to deliver the same outcomes as their in-person offering. Looking forward to their second cohort, the team at Makers Academy talks to Course Report about their plans for Ronin, the emphasis on Software Craftsmanship principles like Test Driven Development and Pair Programming, iterating and learning from past cohorts, and admissions standards at the full-time, immersive online bootcamp.
Ronin is online, but it's not a flexible, self-guided program, right? Tell us about the commitment required.
Paradoxically, we don't see Makers Academy, or Ronin, as a place where we 'teach' people how to code. In fact, ‘teach’ is a dirty word around here! We see our role as coaches, not teachers.
Although few would admit it, Coding Bootcamps, and online coding courses in general, are not in the business of 'teaching' people how to code. We're really in the motivation business. There are loads of great resources for learning to code out there, most of them free! Finding the material isn't the hard bit. The hard bit is pushing yourself to code for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for months on end. Coding bootcamps – whether online or offline – are designed in such a way as to really push people to immerse themselves in programming for a prolonged period. That’s where the real value lies. To use a metaphor – how many people learnt to speak French by taking evening classes? Practically none. But get yourself a French girlfriend and move to France for a few months, and before you know it you’re rattling off the passé composé like you were born with a croissant in your mouth.
Coding bootcamps immerse their students by literally expecting them to be ‘at school’ for 60-80+ hours per week. This is a huge part of what makes them so successful. The ‘curriculum’ is way less important than just actually being here, writing code, over and over and over again until it becomes second nature.
With a part-time course, you’re never going to get this sort of immersion, so the rate of learning will be an order of magnitude slower. Basically, if you want to learn part-time, it’s going to take you 1-2 years of hard work and even then there are no guarantees.
Some part-time courses try to mock this immersion by having weekly meetings with a mentor, but we don’t think this is anywhere near enough, and it encourages people to do the bulk of their work at the last minute, the night before their meeting with their tutor, in order to ‘keep up’ and ‘save face’.
Also, very few programmes promote pair programming, and none to the level we do, which is strange, given that pairing has proven itself to be the most effective learning technique for junior programmers.
Students of Ronin are expected to attend a remote daily standup at 9am, and another at 2.30pm, and they spend the rest of the day in lectures, workshops and remote pair programming. That way, they’re still being fully immersed in writing software, even if they’re doing it in their pyjamas from home!
So yes, in short, Ronin is full-time, and you need to be fully committed to it, just as you would be with any face-to-face bootcamp. For now, at least, this is the only way that we can say with confidence that you can become a professional developer in just a few months.
What does it mean that Makers Academy and Ronin ascribe to “Software Craftsmanship principles”?
Here at Makers Academy, we’re strong (but not dogmatic) advocates of Software Craftsmanship Principles like TDD and Pair Programming, not just because this is the most efficient way to write good software that the world has come up with so far, but because these principles really support early stage learners, encouraging them to write clean, elegant, scalable code. We see programmers as artisans as much as they are engineers, which is a key element of the ‘Software Crafstmanship’ movement. A lot of our competitors forego these techniques so their students can ‘go faster’, but at Makers Academy, we’d much rather you go slow and do things properly – and our hiring partners agree with this approach. This is why graduates of Makers Academy, and especially graduates of our new online course ‘Ronin’, stand so far above graduates of similar courses, and all the other juniors in this industry.
How are students able to pair program and collaborate during the class? Do they interact a lot?
Yes, outside of lectures and workshops and group activities, students spend the vast majority of their time pairing. It’s an incredibly collaborative environment, which is very different to any other online course. From 9am-6pm, Monday to Friday, and usually much more than this, students are intensively and collaboratively learning to code. This is mostly done through group Hangouts and Slack.
This is your second Ronin cohort- what have you learned, changed, or iterated on for the upcoming cohort?
We’ve learnt a lot! For us, the most important thing we’ve learnt is that students can learn at the same phenomenal pace that our face-to-face students. We’ve also found that the very nature of working remotely in teams forces people to develop exceptional communication skills, and that the medium has encouraged a huge amount of peer-support and collaboration. For example, all our students have volunteered to research their own specific topics and give mini workshops to each other, rather than just relying on lectures and workshops from our coaches. Also, we were worried - because the students have never met face-to-face - that there might be a lack of cohesion in the group. On the contrary, the dynamic is excellent, with constant playful banter across our communication channels, even late at night and on weekends. Students seem really comfortable sharing their lows as well as their highs, and they all jump in and offer emotional as well as technical support to each other, without any encouragement from us. This has been an absolute joy to see. We aim to encourage more and more of this peer-led learning and support as we grow the number of students we accept onto the programme in the months and years ahead.
How are course materials and lessons delivered? Do students get to interact with the lessons while they're learning?
Almost all communications are done through Google Hangouts and Slack. Lectures, workshops and group activities are delivered live through group Hangouts – which are incredibly interactive - and all sessions are recorded so students can re-watch them at their leisure. The students have a dedicated coach who is available at any moment to jump in to a pairing session and help correct any misunderstanding and steer them back on track, and we have about 10,000 messages being sent each day on Slack. The whole thing is really designed to feel, to all intents and purposes, like you’re in a busy room full of people learning to code along with you – almost (almost!) as if you were at Makers HQ itself.
What are you looking for in a student? Do you use the same standards as the in-person MA class?
We use the same high standard as we do for applicants for Makers Academy… If anything, we have a slightly higher standard for Ronin applicants, as we need to know that the person is serious and won’t give up when the going gets tough. The course is hard – it’s meant to be – but you definitely don’t need technical experience to apply. If you’ve made an effort to learn some basic coding, and you’re serious about rapidly getting yourself to an employable level, you’re ready to apply.
I see that your students get to work with a real client. Can you give an example of a student project?
This ‘client-work’ has been really well received by the students as well as our partners. The current Ronin cohort haven’t got there yet as final projects don’t start for a few more weeks, but here are some examples of previous projects that were created in recent “final project week”s.
Evgeny Shadchnev is a classically trained software developer, with undergraduate and post-grad degrees in computer science. As he started assembling development teams, he was struck by the lack of qualified developers on the market. In response, he co-founded Makers Academy in London to turn beginners with an interest in code into job-ready Junior Developers who could hit the ground running. Evgeny tells us about the ideal applicant and student for Makers Academy, preparing to launch their online immersive program, and why bootcamps are only a piece of the education puzzle.
Tell us about your background.
I’m a software developer by training. I have both my undergraduate degree and post-graduate degree in Computer Science. I was trained in building computer systems and I worked as a software developer for a few years. That experience taught me how in-demand developers are, because I was getting a lot of attention from recruiters.
Was your background as a developer mostly in Ruby on Rails?
I was doing web development and Ruby on Rails was just one of the technologies that I was using.
At the same time, I was trying to build my own teams. Hiring developers proved to be difficult because there weren’t enough on the market. It was also difficult to hire junior developers because even if you get a junior graduate right out of the computer science department, they would lack basic necessary skills to hit the ground running on Day One.
That experience proved that this was a real problem. As an industry, we don’t really know how to teach people how to code. And my co-founder and I started Makers Academy to solve this problem.
After being in business for about 2 years, how many students have you graduated?
Does Makers Academy also offer part-time classes?
We only do full-time immersive courses because we haven’t found a way to teach people well in a part-time setting. There is nothing wrong with part-time courses run by other companies, but they serve a different purpose. We are in the business of taking complete beginners and getting them their first job in software development. It’s different from running a short course that gives you a taste of what software development is like.
If you want to go from no experience in software development to actually being employed as a software developer, it’s going to be difficult, even if you do it full time for a few months.
What do you mean by “beginner” student? Who is your ideal applicant?
The ideal student is someone who has a bit of experience with software development. Not professionally, but someone who realized that coding is something they want to give it a try. An applicant should have done something like Codecademy or another tutorial online and has done some basic work.
Here’s an example of my ideal applicant: a person who has been working as a project manager or accountant, was working with developers and thought the dev side was cool. They’ve built their own website, then maybe a second website for their local football team, and realized they wanted to make it a career. But they didn’t know how to get from amateur to professional.
This is the gap that we’re covering: how to get from someone from basics all the way to being a professional – a junior but still a professional developer.
What your acceptance rate at Makers Academy?
On average, for every 10 applications, we accept one person into the course. But I must say that it’s more complex than it may sound. For 300 students that graduated so far, we received between 2,000-3,000 applications.
Do you have students from outside of London at Makers Academy?
A significant portion of our students come from other countries. From the US, France, Germany, Venezuela, South Africa, Australia, Malaysia; you name it.
So we know that we have to compete with the bootcamps worldwide, not just in London.
Which technologies do you cover in the Makers Academy curriculum?
Frameworks and libraries come and go, whereas the ability to think like a developer stays with you forever. This is why we’re much less keen on teaching these features of Ruby on Rails and much more keen on helping the student understand why a piece of code is elegant and beautiful or horrible and ugly. We see what we are doing as teaching people how to write code in principle, how to be good developers. We are teaching them how to think like a developer rather than how to use all the features of Ruby on Rails.
It sounds like your experience has allowed you to iterate on the curriculum; what else have you changed over the last year?
We’ve started giving fewer lectures than when we started. I was teaching for the first year and I would spend several hours a day standing in front of the students trying to tell them everything I know about software development. We realized that wasn’t optimal, and instead started setting challenges and goals, showing them overall direction and then helping them get there. Basically, acting not like teachers in school but more like personal trainers.
Is the curriculum more project-based now?
Yes, and not just project-based. We started working with external organizations, encouraging our students to work on real world projects.
For example, two weeks ago we invited several charities to come to Makers Academy where they pitched their ideas and projects.
Have you thought about expanding outside of London?
We are experimenting with an online immersive course that we’re launching very soon; we are trying to figure out how to make Makers experience scale.
What we are doing today at Makers Academy is great, but it’s only the first step towards solving a much larger problem; how to teach thousands and thousands of people to be professional developers and do it at a fraction of the cost that we’re charging now.
When you launch the online immersive course, will it be the same curriculum with mentors? What’s the approach there?
The approach is to use a very similar structure and to run it in parallel with our main course with the same goal. We’re still starting with complete beginners and getting them all the way to job-ready, but doing it remotely. It’s going to be the first pilot for our first online immersive course. We’ve got more questions than answers ourselves but yes, it’s going to be the same curriculum, same structure, very similar projects, with online support instead of in-person support.
Who are the instructors at Makers Academy?
We’ve got a team of developers from various backgrounds. Our head of education, who leads this team, is a professor of Computer Science at the University of Hawaii. He’s got great experience both in software development in the real world and in academia.
How many students do you have in a cohort?
For the past few cohorts we’ve been averaging around 25 students per cohort.
We’ve been limited by the office size for quite a long time. We’ve just moved into a new larger office in December and now our capacity is slightly higher. We can comfortably take up to 30 students if necessary so the numbers may grow over the next year.
At the same time, we consciously decided not to massively increase the numbers even despite the demand, because we want to really nail the experience.
Do you make efforts to get more women and underrepresented minorities involved at Makers Academy?
We do make an effort to help by giving discounts. The ratio of women to men on our course is much better than the industry average. In 2014, off the top of my head it was around 25% women. It’s still a far cry from a 50-50 split but we had one class where we managed to get 40% female students. Our aim is to get closer to 50-50.
Do most Makers Academy students want to get jobs when they graduate or do some people want to start their own products?
Two–thirds of the students want to get a job. About one third want to either learn a new skill for the sake of learning it or start their own business. Out of people who want to get a job, a small number want to freelance even though we strongly discourage it, as we believe that as a junior developer you really need to get more experience working with more experienced developers for a couple of years before becoming a freelancer. But still, some students choose to do it.
Then there is another small number of people who want to get a job but not necessarily as junior developers. For example, project managers realize that knowing how to code is going to help them to be better project managers so they learn for that reason.
Finally, some people want to get a job as soon as possible. And some people are much more relaxed. There are different urgencies between different students.
Have you been successful in achieving the outcomes your students want?
The overwhelming majority of students actively working to get a job will get one within a month of graduation. Having said that, we can only help them find a job, we can’t place them. We’re trying to do what we can but we also expect the students to work really, really hard.
Do you have relationships with formal hiring partners?
There are some companies that we’ve placed several students into so there is an ongoing relationship. At the same time, not a single company has a commitment or obligation to hire our students.
Do you take a referral fee when you do place a student?
Yes. We charge a 20% placement fee when we place our students and we think it’s really important because it aligns the entire company around the goal of placing the students as quickly and efficiently as possible.
What tends to happen is that our placement team gets feedback from the hiring partners. They can relay that feedback to the teaching team if there are pieces that we’re not teaching, and we can incorporate that into the curriculum.
Having said that, I must stress that our foremost priority is doing the right thing for our students. Let’s say a student has two job offers; if one has a referral fee and the other company can’t afford to pay a referral fee, we’ll always do the right thing for the student. Our placement team is not receiving a commission for placements. They’re judged on how many students they place, not on how much money they make.
Is there anything else that you want to add about Makers Academy or bootcamps in general?
Over the last two years I’ve realized how broken the education system is. What we are doing as a bootcamp is cool, but it’s really just the beginning. Education is a massive industry that’s going to be disrupted in the next years and decades. There is so much potential for going forward.
Learning how to code is a wonderful thing but it doesn’t have to be as hard or as expensive as it is today. So as much as I like the bootcamp model, I see it as the first step. We are actively working and trying to figure out what the next step is going to be because I think there is going to be a 10x improvement in terms of efficiency and cost for the students.
To the best of my knowledge, no company in the world actually cracked this problem, even though quite a few, including Makers Academy are trying to find the solution.
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Makers Academy is a highly-selective, 12 week full-time program that teaches web development in London. We talked with Rob Johnson, cofounder of Makers Academy, about their admissions process, teaching style, and impressive job placement record.
Tell us about your story and how you ended up in the coding boot camp space in London. Are you originally from the US?
Yes, I’m an American. I spent 8 years in the intelligence branch of the US Army and as I was transitioning out, I thought about developing iPhone applications because I was really excited about the iPhone. I started Googling around and found out that you needed to learn objective C, the language that iPhone applications are developed in, and I had zero programming knowledge at the time. I went to my local Barnes & Noble and bought a book on objective C and just started reading. I realized by the time I got to the 4th chapter that I had absolutely no idea what the heck I was doing.
When I looked around at the space, I noticed that if you wanted to be a developer, you really only had two options. You could try to teach yourself, which was what I was doing and having fantastically little success with it, or you could get a computer science degree and spend 4 years doing that. I didn’t really want to become a developer, I wanted to become an entrepreneur that knew how to code.
I got to the point where I published 4 apps on the App Store, but it took me about 9 months and 30 hours a week in my own time. When I moved to London, I got hired as an entrepreneur in residence at a VC firm and one of the partners at the firm was a senior developer that had been hiring developers for this big company for 5 years. He had a Bachelors degree and a Masters in computer science and he said when he started as a developer, he had no idea what he was doing. He would interview people and they could rattle off algorithm efficiency calculations in their heads but when you said “put together a repository with a simple Rails application” they would say, “I’ve never done that before.”
So essentially what we realized was that computer science programs were training theory, they were almost training people to become computer science professors instead of programmers. I remember the conversation started because I I’d heard about this great nonprofit organization in the United States where they take veterans who leave the military, where their skills don’t necessarily translate directly into a civilian position, and they’ll train them over a course of a couple of months and place them into a position and make a little bit of a placement fee. And the nonprofit organization is able to sustain itself through just those placement fees. It was such an incredible mission because it’s a net positive every way you look at it. I guess that’s what got the whole conversation started before we co-founded.
We started the first cohort about 4 months after that conversation.
So when was your first cohort?
February of 2013.
Do you cater to students who want to be entrepreneurs with a coding background, since that’s your profile?
We do cater to those individuals but we don’t give them any preferential treatment we wouldn’t give anybody else. The people we get on the course primarily fall into 3 buckets of people. The largest group is someone making £25,000 a year working a job they don’t like with people they don’t like. They have very little job satisfaction, very little autonomy and they’ve taught themself how to code a little bit online. And they’re looking for junior developer positions, primarily. The next group are people that are in the bucket that I was in- very excited about creating value, very excited about creating businesses that make tomorrow somehow better than today. But sick of waiting for a technical cofounder to build their ideas. The third group, they’ve done front-end development or some sort of design and they’re usually freelancers and they just want to add some expertise.
Are you looking for students who have programming experience even if that means going through Code Academy on their own? Or can people be complete beginners and simply have a passion for it?
People can be complete beginners. That being said, the course is difficult and we’re not shy about that. It works great; we’ve placed people at phenomenal technology companies like Pivotal Labs and Thoughtworks, but the course is difficult. So when somebody comes to us and says “I have absolutely zero programming knowledge. I haven’t done Code Academy.” Those people will probably have a pretty low chance of being accepted in the course and it’s not because we don’t feel they don’t have the capacity to perform well – but how well can you really know if you’re going to enjoy learning how to code if you’ve never actually tried? So when somebody applies for the course, if we decide to invite them to an in-person interview, we’ll always tell them to go through the Ruby track on Code Academy. It shouldn’t take you more than a few hours.
What will students learn in their weeks at Makers Academy and how will they learn? What’s your teaching language? Do you focus on lectures, on lab, projects?
We do pair programming primarily because that’s the way great technology companies write code. I’ve founded companies before, that’s how we coded stuff, and if you look at places like Pivotal Labs, that’s how they write code. It’s two engineers sitting side-by-side, challenging each other on why they’re doing something and why it makes sense. As a teaching mechanism it works really well because if you have two people, the person who grasps the concept faster has to solidify why they’re doing something to somebody else, which simultaneously is teaching the person that takes a bit longer to grasp a concept – which is a really powerful way of learning how to code.
So from day 1, they’re actually coding, hands on keyboard. Every week there’s a large project. The final two weeks of the course are carved out specifically for final projects, which can be pretty much anything the students want. We do require the final projects to cover certain prerequisites of the things that we teach. It’s our way of making sure that everything was drilled in correctly throughout the entire course.
Are those projects individual or are they working as groups? Do people pitch their ideas?
We do something very similar to the Lean Startup Machine. A student tells their idea to the class, and everybody votes on the top few ideas. We don’t spoon-feed people on the course. We don’t force feed information to people, we guide people as they’re force-feeding themselves. So if somebody wants to work on a project by themselves, which we’ve had many people do, they do the project by themselves. If they want to work in a group, they work in a group. Everybody’s an adult here, this isn’t grade school.
How many people are in each cohort?
About 25. We have five instructors - two lead and the others are TAs. My co-founder was the first instructor and still does a lot of the teaching. We believe strongly that the course will continue to excel while he’s constantly doing that because we can reiterate that learning back in. Our first full-time hire, Enrique, was the co-founder of a company called Path 11. He’s a bit of a developer evangelist. We have people who have worked all over the place. We have people that have worked in Silicon Valley and at a variety of the larger tech companies. We struggle with hiring developers like everybody does, but it’s funny to see people get excited when they come in and see that we’re teaching the next generation of coders… it’s interesting to see their reactions.
How many cohorts have you gone through?
We’ve changed the structure of our cohorts. Our first few cohorts were quite small. As of today, we’ve graduated over 100 students.
Of those 100 students, how many on average are male versus female, and do you do outreach to get more women involved?
We have a £500 scholarship to incentivize females to join because they are highly under-represented in the tech community. We partner with a lot of organizations; we sat on a panel last year for The Guardian, discussing ways of getting more women involved. We’ve partnered with a couple different organizations like Stemettes and Entrepreneur First, they have very strong outreach programs.
That being said, I wish I could say that the actual proportion was much higher - we just don’t get a tremendous number of applications from females, period. The sad thing is…the females we have had on the course have performed exceptionally well. The number one reason we feel that people (either gender) don’t even apply to the course is that they think they’re not going to be good enough to get in. We do have a low acceptance rate but I think people are not confident enough in themselves.
What is your acceptance rate?
It’s about 10%.
Do you get any American applicants?
Yes. We've had Americans that live in Europe attend, but also we’ve had people get accepted to US bootcamps but still decide to fly out and attend Makers Academy.
Could you give us an example of one of your students who has gone through the program who started off as very much a beginner but ended up doing really well?
We have a whole bunch of them. The easiest way as I say would be to scroll through our blog because we try to capture as many of those stories as we can. Nadia would probably be one of the top ones. She hadn’t had any kind of a tech background. She was on the normal corporate ladder trail of life. She did an internship at Deutche Bank, and was a really excited, incredibly smart girl but she realized that that was not the path she wanted to take. She saw Makers Academy, decided to apply not thinking that she’d even get accepted. She was accepted, went through the course, and excelled. She worked hard.
We open our office in the morning at 8:30 and close it at 9:30 at night. A lot of students will show up when class starts at 9 or 9:30 and then they’ll leave at 6. Some students are there when we open the office in the morning and we have to kick them out in the evening so we can go home, go to sleep and wake up the following morning. She was one of those people; she was there the entire time, she worked hard, she asked questions and she finished the course strong. I think a week after graduation, she had something like three job offers and now she’s working at Pivotal Labs, which is one of the best software agencies in the world. She didn't look back. She had an offer from Deutche Bank too but she turned it down to work for Pivotal Labs – and now she wants to start her own tech company, it’s incredible.
I don’t know a ton about the London tech scene; can you describe it? Where are you located in London, what’s the job market like in London for a developer?
I think the job market in London for developers is pretty much the job market everywhere for developers: they’re massively in demand. We’re located right off of Old Street Roundabout, which is the center of “Silicon Roundabout” so we’re right in the main area where all the other tech companies are. The tech scene is doing well. It’s very different than the tech scene in the Unites States. I haven’t spent a lot of time in the New York tech scene. I know the San Francisco scene pretty well and I know the differences between them. I would say that the businesses in London are slightly more conservative than startups in San Francisco – and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. The reason I say that’s not a bad thing is that there are companies that are funded in San Francisco that should not be funded. If these companies were in London, they would not be able to raise a dime. Some people want to say that’s a bad thing but there’s a bit more of a barrier so the companies that you actually do see get funded are usually pretty solid.
How do you help students find jobs once they’ve graduated if that’s their reason for being there? Do you have hiring partners or hiring days?
We have something like 200 hiring partners now. The guy who runs the entire placement side of the business (and also runs our operations) is an absolute superstar who never sleeps. He’s probably reached out to every London tech company that’s been in existence for more than a year. In the final 3 weeks of the course, we start going over the students’ CVs with them. We make sure that they’ve got pictures on their Github profiles,that their Linked In and everything is all up to date. We don’t introduce them to hiring partners before they graduate because that’s going to be a distraction. But on graduation day, we do a science fair style day. Apparently in London they don’t do science fairs so I had to explain what an American science fair was.
Like I said before, Ruben is in charge of placements; he does a really good job of getting a feel for what a company is looking for and then he spends a lot of time with the students on the course and tries to match them up not just on technical skills but on things like culture fit.
Do those hiring partners pay a certain amount upfront to be a part of that science fair or is anyone allowed?
Anybody’s allowed to be there but we do charge a placement fee if they hire somebody.
And do the students get a tuition refund if they take a job with one of those hiring partners?
They don’t. We toyed with that idea for a little while, but it just became too complex to track. I don’t want to sound overly altruistic but we don't want to erect barriers to our graduates being hired. We want to help as much as possible, but if they find a job through some other means - we don't want them to have a financial incentive to go with one of our partners.
Do you have a job placement rate that you publish?
It's a difficult question because it can mean a lot of things. 100% of the people that have graduated looking for a job are in developer positions right now. The reason we don’t just do a blanket placement report is the question is quite flawed. For example, do we include people that never were looking for a job and they want to be an entrepreneur? What about people that freelance?
Even though you’re in London, I’m sure that you have been keeping up with the California boot camp news- is Makers Academy concerned at all with becoming accredited or working with London’s regulatory agencies?
We don't really care about accreditation. The credit ratings agencies had "approved" sub-prime mortgages - how did that work out? The stamp of approval of somebody going through Makers Academy is that they get a job with companies like Pivotal Labs and Thoughtworks. If I’m Pivotal Labs or Thoughtworks, I’m not going to be a nice guy and hire you. People hire staff because they are going to provide real value. It’s supply versus demand. As long as we continue to train great developers and they continue to get great jobs, that's all the accreditation we need.
Anything you’d like to add about Makers Academy, Rob?
Just one thing. We get contacted all the time by people who ask, “Should I come to Makers Academy or should I go to General Assembly or should I fly to the States and go to Starter League or one of those other ones?” There are a large number of absolutely incredible boot camps out there. I always tell people to contact two or three people that have graduated from each course that you’re considering. Talk to them, grill them, find out how they learned. Ask them what the major negative things were. Ask them what they loved. You will quickly see how different courses are positioned in different ways.
There’s no one course that fits everybody.