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Coding Dojo CEO Michael Choi Discusses Where and How to Start a Coding Bootcamp

By Henry Kronk
June 23, 2018

Many people agree why coding bootcamps are important. The tech industry continues to suffer from a skills gap and many companies that haven’t (yet) experienced strong growth struggle to hire qualified developers. But when it comes to the ‘what,’ ‘where,’ and ‘how’ of bootcamps, important decisions need to be made. Coding Dojo, a bootcamp that started in the Bay Area, has recently opened a second campus near Berkeley. eLearning Inside got in touch with CEO Michael Choi to discuss some of the logistics required to keep abreast of in-demand programming skills in the current landscape.

On it’s face, the new East Bay campus was a no-brainer for Choi. “We’ve been operating here in San Jose,” he said. “Sometimes we have students who come from San Francisco or Oakland and it’s just too long of a drive. We’ve been hearing from our students with the next step of expansion, and they ask, ‘Could you please come closer to the city?’ A lot of these students have to drive an hour or up to two hours in the morning and the evening. A lot of that is driven by our own community.”

Collaborating With Businesses, Communities, and Local Government

But there’s a lot more to establishing a new campus than that. Coding Dojo operates brick-and-mortar centers throughout the U.S. in cities like Dallas, Tulsa, and near Washington D.C. Before creating a new bootcamp in each community, a lot of assessments need to be made.

“We also conduct location analysis to find out where are places that people want to code and, not only that, where are places where employers are in need of a lot of developers,” Choi said. “There’s also a third factor that we look into when we’re opening new centers now: the support system within the local community at the city and the state level. We’re working with a few cities right now and a few states where there’s a lot of support. The state wants us to come to them so that we can create these opportunities for the folks in that state.”

berkeley, ca
Berkeley, CA. Andy Wang, Unsplash.

These are states like Oklahoma and Idaho. Coding Dojo conducted a survey on their learners in 2016, and they found that keeping a local emphasis is a primary concern for their learners. 

“We found that about 80-90% of students who come to our onsite school, they come within a 20 mile radius. During the summertime, sometimes we have people from other states, sometimes other countries just to learn in our schools.”

But these traveling learners are in the vast minority. The demographics and movements of Americans who study at coding bootcamps and then enter the tech industry doesn’t follow the same patterns as, say, learners who complete a computer science degree, or undergo any other four-year bachelor’s program for that matter. And that might help fill in an extra layer of detail regarding the current skills gap in tech hubs throughout the U.S.”

“I think the skills gap—it does exist everywhere,” Choi said. “In this area we live in, we’re fortunate to have a lot of good engineers. A lot of good engineers want to work in tech so they move to this area. So we have the privilege of having a lot of really good engineers in the world come to this area.”

“Even then, there are a lot of companies in this area, and they’re all looking for developers. People who have traditional CS degrees, they’re all getting snatched up by the top companies. So a lot of the medium sized companies or the startups, there’s just not enough engineers for them to hire.”

Coding Dojo Reassesses Each Campus’ Curriculum Every Year

“Companies that are using the technology that has come out in the last 3-5 years, there’s not a lot of people who know how to use them. There’s always going to be that gap, even if there’s a lot of engineers. It takes awhile for an existing engineer to learn a new language or a new framework.”

“If there was no new language or new framework introduced in the last three to five years, then all that would need to be done would be graduate more computer science students or have more people go through the coding bootcamp. But the thing is, the language that was really popular five years ago almost always isn’t popular any more.”

“To pick an example, five years ago when a lot of coding schools were popping up, Ruby on Rails was probably the most top language or framework to use. A lot of top companies were saying, ‘we need Ruby on Rails developers. And if you know how to do Ruby on Rails, we have a job for you.’ But that’s not longer the case. If you look at the East Bay area, I believe it was less than 15% of open jobs are looking for Ruby on Rails developers. So if that’s the only language and framework you know, now, it’s not as hot as it used to be.”

“Based on my personal experience, when I talk to a lot of potential employers, compared to 3-5 years ago, I still hear the same thing. They’re all looking for good engineers, they are all struggling to find them. They’re all trying to poach developers from other companies. There is a limited pool.”

“About once per year, we look at the landscape for each local market. And we determine what are the top three languages for that local market. And it’s all different. For example, here in the Bay Area, Swift is one of the popular languages and C#… people don’t really use C# that much. But if you go to Seattle, C# is in very high demand and there are a lot of opportunities. So every year we do a study on the trends. We don’t just look at what are the languages people want to learn—the demand side—but also the languages companies need—the supply side. So every year we look at that and ask ok do we stay with the current curriculum or do we take out Ruby on Rails and replace it with Java because it’s on the up trend.”

Cover Image: Christopher Robin Ebbinghaus, Unsplash.