Show a man some code and he’ll be confused for
a day, teach a man to code and he can unlock a new career for life, said
Confucius. Kind of. Regardless, learning
a new programming language is a bewildering experience that can be more
manageable with proper instruction.
Experienced developers who have both the
expertise and the capacity to educate are at the crux of coding bootcamps. This
rare breed of programmers are tasked with preparing people with relatively no
prior tech training for a role as a junior developer in as little as two
Therefore coding bootcamps are flexible with
precisely what type of background their teachers have. Finding the right
teacher isn’t a necessarily a cookie cutter scenario.
“Most of our instructors have a background in
technology, although a handful of instructors have formal teaching experience
in a university setting. Some have traditional CS degrees; several are
self-taught with multiple years of industry experience. We value instructors
who have been leads on their dev teams or played an active role in
mentoring/training junior developers. Excellent managers are often great
teachers,” said Lindsey Owings, who is responsible for talent discovery at Iron Yard.
According to Jay Wengrow, CEO and lead
instructor at Anyone Can Learn to Code, a good teacher
understands how to dissect topics so that tech that is dependent on an
understanding of more rudimentary concepts isn’t introduced too early.
“As coding is based on many technical concepts
that are in turn based on even more technical concepts, the skilled programming
teacher knows how to break concepts down into their isolated parts,” said
Wengrow. “Thus, the number one skill required of a coding teacher is to know
how to think like a newbie— to get in their minds and remember what it is like
to not have yet learned all of these concepts.”
Coding bootcamps aren’t like a typical college
experience. Computer science programs at universities are based on theory
driven curriculums. “Coding bootcamps, however, have more of a vocational
emphasis, ensuring that its graduates can work practically in the software
engineering industry,” said Wengrow.
Students need to be concerned with finding
technologies that will ensure they have a professional future. Teachers need to
have a firm grasp on industry standards and a steady eye on the direction Web
development technology is moving as to best provide their students with
As the coding bootcamp industry grows and
evolves their dependency on capable instructors will remain at the core of
their operation. Coding mentors and
instructors at virtual bootcamps are the ambassadors of their school’s brand
and experience. For online coding intensives like Bloc choosing the right candidate for the job
is pivotal for the success of their students and their business.
“Extensive professional experience is
important. On average, our mentors have nine years of industry experience, but
there’s more to mentoring than being an expert at your craft. Mentorship at
Bloc requires the possession and mastery of soft skills,” said Chris Courtney, one of Bloc’s lead mentors.
“We have to ask ourselves whether we believe that a potential mentor can convey
their message and guide a student that they aren’t sitting in the same room
with. Will a potential mentor really invest themselves in making a student
Bloc’s mentors provide one-on-one virtual
training. Students need 100% of their instructor’s attention and dedication
during mentor sessions. The high standards Bloc imposes on their staff is
necessary to ensure their students get the dedication they need. Proven development experience, communication
skills and a full understanding of the Bloc curriculum are the standards.
“Our mentors work 1-on-1 with their
apprentices, which means they’re able to share detailed accounts of their
professional experience and provide guidance to their students. The proof is
often in the transformation that we see take place among our apprentices, ”
Having a teacher that can borrow from their
own professional experiences and provide valuable lessons based on real life
situations is extremely valuable for students. Being able to step out of the
curriculum and teaching from experience is a characteristic of an exceptional
“Teachers, even when required to follow a
pre-designed curriculum, perform better if they’re allowed and encouraged to
own the curriculum and take a part in helping refine the curriculum further.
This empowers them to truly facilitate the learning process, as they are
thinking about learning rather than simply delivering material by rote,” said
Coding bootcamps also need to be able to
identify ineffective teachers. Bloc, for instance, keeps an eye out to see if
mentors missed any meeting or aren’t responsive to their apprentices as,
“that’s a sign that someone isn’t living up to their end of the
mentor/apprentice contract and we take this contract very seriously,” said
Rightfully so. What separates coding bootcamps
from simple online learning is guidance and support. Struggling with one or two
concepts for a long period of time will dam up the learning process and prevent
“If students seem to have difficulty grasping
concepts for more than two weeks after having learned them and put them to
practice, that’s certainly a red flag. It’s possible that they haven’t been
taught effectively,” said Wengrow.
Owings points out “if someone is inflexible or inpatient, is
only interested in a different schedule, is not a good team player or a skilled
communicator,” this person is not going to be a successful teacher.
Interestingly similar characteristics that make up the profile of an ideal
student is what also define a great teacher.
“We look for people who are lifelong learners
themselves, those who are innately curious and seek to constantly improve, and
who are humble enough to know they can learn from everyone around them, even
the students in their classes.” said Owings
If you are already enrolled in a bootcamp or
are still scouting the field be sure to inquire about the teaching staff. While
it’s acceptable to have alumni and those with few years of professional
development experience in TA roles it’s ideal to have head teachers or mentors
with a proven career in web dev. The best teachers are those who will break
down the curriculum, relate the bits and pieces to their experiences, and walk
you through it using their past mistakes and triumphs as examples.