The Twelve-Second Code Year [part 3]

(I’m taking an intensive web development bootcamp. Part 1 and part 2 of the story. Names of students have been changed.)

7.

Makers Academy staggers each intake of students by six weeks, which means every cohort gets a chance to interact with range of would-be software devs at different skill levels. Today is graduation day for the cohort above us. They present their final projects, and Enrique gave a short speech:

“At the end of the day, this is a bunch of people who come here and learn to code in twelve weeks. Which, in itself, is insane. When I first came here, I thought, ‘there’s no way you can learn to code in ten weeks.’ (it was ten weeks back then.) … But I saw people slowly learning to make machines do their bidding. And I think I speak for the whole team when I say that’s what keeps us alive – seeing you all do this incredible thing.”

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8.

Programming is a really weird industry, and one that doesn’t seem to have any near neighbours. It’s very democratic – there are no formal qualifications needed. There are plenty of excellent devs who’ve gone on to do great things with software but who never went to university. Courses like the one I’m taking are testament to this: provided you have some code under your belt and can show off your technical chops to employers, you’re hireable. It’s also very undemocratic for the same reasons. There’s no clear path to becoming a developer. Courses like Makers rely on connections with alumni and local companies to get placements – connections that someone trying to teach themselves to code, the average career changer, couldn’t possibly expect to have. Without a structured route into the industry, plenty of good people are locked out of it. Makers is doing well to capitalise on this, connecting wannabe devs with talent-starved companies. But for a growth industry with huge and rising demand for coders, it’s surprising there isn’t yet a more established way in, given that there are far fewer Computer Science graduates than there are junior dev positions to fill. Jim Suchy, a developer at 8th Light, talked about this in a talk he gave at Pivotal Labs. One of the big problems software has is that few people stay in it for thirty years: they either get bored and move on to something else, or get moved to a middle management role and never use their coding skills again. The solution, in part, is emphasising craftsmanship – ensuring your skills improve year after year, mentoring others and learning from mentors, keeping you on the path to mastery.

9.

This course takes grit. Persistence and confidence under uncertainty are vital qualities, particularly as Makers likes to change the curriciulum regularly. You need to be self-directed, and have done the required pre-course material (and more). This is probably a good thing: as a real developer, you’ll frequently encounter things you don’t know or understand and will have to teach yourself, or ask someone for help. At the same time, there’s a limit to how self-directed you can be. Ultimately, the course is geared towards quickly producing a certain kind of developer, and that’s a good thing. It’s run from custom online material that includes walkthroughs, mini-tutorials and screencasts. Some weeks are better than others in how thorough they are; there were lots of complaints in weeks five and six where the written material seemed half-finished (Makers has since said it will rewrite those sections of the course). All this goes to show that Makers is as much a social hack as anything else – being on a team with twenty other people all hungry to learn is incredibly motivating just by itself. It’s been a fantastic experience so far.


Currently CTO at Mast. Formerly engineering at Thought Machine, Pivotal. Makers Academy alumnus.

I've pledged to give 10% of my income to highly effective charities working to improve animal welfare. If my startup is successful, I hope to give away much more.

Also founded EA Work Club, a job board for effective altruists, and Let's Fund, a crowdfunding site for high-risk, high-reward social impact projects.

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