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Boom or bust: The lowdown on code academies

Dan Tynan | Feb. 11, 2014
Programming boot camps are on the rise, but can a crash course in coding truly pay off for students and employers alike?

"If you have good communications skills, are presentable, and can pass a technical interview, you are as likely to land a job as anyone with a four-year degree who interviews for it," Sussberg says. "But I do have clients who won't interview people coming out of one of these programs because they believe they don't have the skills required to do the job."

Will Cole, project manager for Stack Overflow Careers 2.0, says, "It is unlikely we would hire someone who had no previous programming experience and had only gone to a 12-week boot camp."

He adds that larger companies with the time and resources to train inexperienced programmers would likely be more inclined to hire academy grads. And all types of companies could benefit from sending their data analysts, product managers, or designers to these boot camps so they can work more effectively with the dev team, says Cole.

Jason Polancich, CEO of HackSurfer, an information security data services company, says he hired roughly a dozen graduates of coding schools at his previous company. But only one of them was able to do the job — and that one had been trained as a sys admin in the Navy.

"Engineering is really hard," he says. "You can't just decide one day you're going to be one. Some people come out of these 12- or 15-week programs and are successful, but most of the time it's bad for both the employee and the company. They get really frustrated because they lack the fundamentals of computer science, data theory, and math."

Hack Reactor's Drost argues that academies like his offer a more practical real-world education than he received as a CS major at USC.

"While I was at college I never learned the fundamentals of software engineering, never wrote code in the same room with an instructor, never learned the tactics and tools of debugging," Drost says. "There's an amazing amount of wasted time in the college system. We don't waste time here."

Traditional CS degrees focus more on the science of computers and knowledge for its own sake, adds Shaun Johnson, co-founder of Startup Institute, an 8-week program with locations in Chicago, New York, and Boston, that trains people to join startups as coders, designers, marketers, and salespeople.

"Web development, however, is a rapidly moving trade where your depth of knowledge is largely measured by what you can build," says Johnson, who has a CS degree from Georgetown. "If you're looking at a boot camp or other program to get into Web development, knowing how to think on your feet is just as important as really deep comprehension of how computers work, if not more so."


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