The Craftsmanship Academy has become a "graduate opportunity" for Coding Boot Camp graduates. Boot Camp graduates (or those expecting to graduate before October 1, 2015) can apply.

So, how did this come about?

I've previously written about why the Academy is different than a Coding Boot Camp.

I have wondered why any company would pay some of the salaries I was hearing about for Boot Camp graduates. Recently, I came across a great article Will a "Programming Boot Camp" Help Me Get a Coding Job? that has some very good reflection with respect to where the industry is with Boot Camps. (NOTE: I'd encourage anyone considering a Boot Camp to read this article) Although I expect that Boot Camps will continue to grow, there will be a growing understanding that Boot Camp graduates need significantly more training for all but the simplest programming jobs. I'd be interested in seeing a deeper study in the kind of jobs they are getting and how their college degrees and previous experience are playing into that. (NOTE: 75% of graduates are employed in a job requiring skills they learned at a bootcamp, and 71% of students have college degrees, and the average age of those students is 29).

It appears that Boot Camps as an alternative to college are only a small percentage of reality. Boot Camps evidently work well for those that feel that their college degree didn't lead them to a job they loved (or could pay the bills). I'm confident the vast majority of boot camp grads aren't building solid software assets. They MAY be on the periphery… doing some of the tedious and low-risk work on a team building solid software assets.

There is a huge gap between colleges teaching Computer Science (laying a foundation in theory without much practical training), and Boot Camps teaching coding (laying a foundation of knowledge without much depth in theory and real world projects).

The gap needs filling, and many Boot Camp grads are generally on their own as to how to fill the gap.

Let me back up in history.

In 2011, we announced the Craftsmanship Academy as the first of its kind. At the time, there was only one "Coding Boot Camp" that I knew of: The Starter League (which was then called the "Code Academy"… not to be confused with Codecademy) I spoke to the founders, and they recognized that what they were doing was completely different than what we were doing. They were clearly taking someone from "clueless" to "beginner." We were clearly interested in taking "beginner" to "solid junior developer on their way to becoming a Software Craftsman."

My call on our industry was that other Software Craftsmen all over the country would open their own academies, each having their own emphasis based on the personality and focus of the Craftsman who led it. The goal was to have places that would intentionally produce Software Craftsmen versus people who merely had a degree in Computer Science or Computer Information Technology or even Software Engineering. We wanted more people who build software and build it well… the kind of people who created The Agile Manifesto.

Although I was an enthusiastic early signer of the manifesto, and would have been at the meeting that generated it if I weren't busy writing a book on applying the principles, I have grown to recognize that the most important part of The Agile Manifesto isn't the four assertions it makes. The most significant part was the preamble:

"We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value…"

The authors of the Agile Manifesto were not just philosophers, they were accomplished Software Craftsmen. They learned what was important about software by doing it and helping others do it. And every single one of them had built multiple large systems and had been doing it reflectively for years. These are the people who embraced "best practices" and learned "best times to use best practices." And they continued to build software and help other people build it. They built software that was more than simple websites or what I call "marketing apps." They built software assets.

When I started taking on apprentices, I was looking for someone who had "learned to program" through intro courses and small projects, loved it and dreamed of becoming really good at it. I did that for many years in an informal way between 1998 and 2010 and saw incredible success. Apprentices at RoleModel grew to be some of the most sought after developers in the Triangle area. But it took years for them to get there. They were involved in multiple significant projects before they were Craftsmen.

When I formalized the process, it started with the "immersion phase" where I taught amateur programmers how to think about professional software development and applying each of the most important principles through cementing them in projects. We used a variety of different technologies so they could see how the principles applied in different contexts. They had mentors who were building advanced software focusing on the quality of their understanding and how it manifesteed itself in what they did.

The results have been great, but it doesn't scale well.

Coding Boot Camps scale well. According to The Course Report they've gone from non-existent in 2010, to a projected 16,000+ graduates (with an average tuition price of qualifying courses is $11,063, with an average program length of 10.8 weeks).

With so many graduates… they have produced the level of skills I've always looked for in an apprentice.

In the two (2) official "classes" we have conducted since 2012,

  • We've had no more than 6 in each class.
  • Of those, we've had two (2) not make it beyond the first few weeks.
  • Seven (7) have completed the immersion phase and moved on to apprenticeships at RoleModel Software.
    • Five (5) became full-fledged Jr. Developers or Developers at RoleModel Software,
    • One (1) of those moved on to work for RedHat as he was seeking an opportunity for an eventual job in IT security
    • Two (2) of those seven didn't make the progress we expected over the next eighteen months, but both of those said that they learned a lot (see more below).

Of the five that made it to full-fledged positions at RoleModel, they all had done more programming before they came in than the ones that did it, and they scored well in my Interactive Programming Skills Assessment, where I look not only for clear programming skills, but also examine how they go about solving problems that they've never seen before.

Of the two who finished the immersion program but didn't make the progress we wanted to see at RoleModel, there is no question that they are better prepared than many for a career in Software.

One is interviewing for several jobs right now and said, "My job search is looking very promising… I have moved through the application process, phone screens and a face-to-face pre-screen and am now looking at full interviews for three companies this week… the Agile/XP skills along with the Ruby/Rails and JavaScript experience that I received from RoleModel are very much in demand and are making all the difference in my search… I have not seen any companies in my search that have a culture that encourages learning the way RoleModel’s does."

So, we're just turning our Academy into a potential entry level into RoleModel Software and raising the bar on who we are taking in our next Academy. Boot Camp graduates are welcome (whether an in-house or self-paced). They should have enough programming experience to cross the first hurdle. My Interactive Programming Skills Assessment is the next hurdle.

We currently have two people signed up for our October 1 Academy who are currently going through coding boot camps.

Apply if you have graduated or are graduating from boot camp and want to fill in the gap.