Sometimes you hold a thought, feeling, idea in the back of your mind for a long time. It tickles and vibrates now and then before falling dormant once more. Some conversations or experiences will activate it; time passes, and it is once more forgotten.
Then one day, like a seed germinating for months, it starts to sprout. It bursts out from beneath the surface, feeble and vulnerable, but ready to be seen and to grow. Maybe it’s going to flower and bloom, or maybe it will be plucked like a weed. But it’s time to figure out if it is worth nurturing.
The Initial Thought
help I have feelings about local code schools but don't want to condemn or betray the grads of them :(— pamela marie (@pwnela) November 16, 2015
From several years of organizing Rails Girls Atlanta, I’ve been close to many new developers and developing developers. I’ve seen people arrive to a meet up having never coded and eventually become a full time developer. I care enough about helping people get started and continue on this path that I read and write and talk on the topic constantly. This isn’t a humblebrag; I find this work interesting and rewarding.
So when code schools started to pop up in Atlanta, I watched and observed them pretty keenly. It seems like a great way for people to get their learning jumpstarted and guided. For those privileged enough to justify the cost and time away from a paying job, this had to be a great experience. At least, this is what I optimistically hoped; I knew it would take time to see.
I shied away from encouraging people to attend these programs, but would–and still do!–congratulate anyone on completing one. It is a lot of work! Several of these programs have tried to “partner” with Rails Girls Atlanta, and we’ve shied away from that too.
Again, I was optimistic that these programs were/are doing what they advertise, but there was always a deeply cynical thought that I couldn’t shake. Well, it’s been a few years, and that cynical thought has started to overpower the optimism. So, naturally, I found myself tweeting.
Feelings (Not Facts)
Like any entitled late-twenties-something, I started tweeting my feelings. These feelings were based on interactions and conversations with people attending code schools, people who had graduated from code schools, people teaching at code schools, and people who had founded/run code schools.
These are the feelings:
feeling #1) the people I've seen really succeed out of code schools would have succeeded without having attended the code school— pamela marie (@pwnela) November 16, 2015
feeling #2) these successful code school grads are still 95% "self taught" and have paid thousands for materiel available for free online— pamela marie (@pwnela) November 16, 2015
feeling #3) code schools provide a quick avenue for peer collaboration and a live person to answer questions, which is huge when learning— pamela marie (@pwnela) November 16, 2015
feeling #4) people should not pay thousands of dollars for collaboration and basic mentorship— pamela marie (@pwnela) November 16, 2015
feeling #5) those *not* ready for work after graduating worry they're incapable bcuz they've been fed lies abt what they actually "learned"— pamela marie (@pwnela) November 16, 2015
feeling #6a) what code schools can claim: "we provide structure and committed time for your own learning"— pamela marie (@pwnela) November 16, 2015
feeling #6b) what code schools canNOT claim: "we teach/prepare you for a development position"— pamela marie (@pwnela) November 16, 2015
feeling #7) code schools promote that their curriculum is sufficient. it is not. students must actively do MUCH MUCH more to be ready after.— pamela marie (@pwnela) November 16, 2015
These feelings come out of an unconditional love and desire to help developing developers find their footing and their path. 💝💝— pamela marie (@pwnela) November 16, 2015
I had more conversations and ended up with even MORE feelings:
this is part of the problem; underrepresented people paying for access that is free for others https://t.co/XgXkNUxN2U— pamela marie (@pwnela) November 16, 2015
I think *most* code school teachers and staff care deeply about their students' learning and are not the problem themselves.— pamela marie (@pwnela) November 17, 2015
And I had new ways to verbalize what bothered me so much about the packaged up code school experience:
@pwnela That naivete being the belief that you can sell an education like you can sell potatoes.— billjings (@billjings) November 16, 2015
The Aftermath and the Idea
I was blown away by the reaction to my ✨feelings✨. People who’d graduated and who were actively attending code schools were chiming in from allover. Not everyone was in total agreement, but the conversations were valuable. I realized I craved more information, and I’m in the process of talking to multiple code school graduates about what they found useful/missing/awful/wonderful about their experiences. I want to pinpoint what the void is that code schools are filling, and how that void can be filled by community–whether companies stepping in and finally developing the talent they claim to need or meet up groups holding study halls and lectures.
How can we provide 1) structure 2) mentorship 3) peer collaboration for less than, say, $5k? That is what would replace bad code schools.— pamela marie (@pwnela) November 16, 2015
new initiative #ReplaceCodeSchoolsWithCommunity2016— pamela marie (@pwnela) November 16, 2015
And I ask code schoolers:
Code school grads: if you have issues with what you learned and how your code school experience went but don't want to speak out publicly...— pamela marie (@pwnela) November 17, 2015
...because you don't want to "out" yourself on the job hunt, I'm putting together some thoughts on this. DM me if you want your story told.— pamela marie (@pwnela) November 17, 2015
I can't promise I'll get it exactly right, but there are others who would benefit from what you've experienced and learned! 💚💚— pamela marie (@pwnela) November 17, 2015
If you want to keep your name attached to it 👏👏👏👏! (But please link what you write to me so I can read and learn about it myself!)— pamela marie (@pwnela) November 17, 2015
I’m in the process of talking to several grads, and they all have varied, rich stories to tell.
The Task Ahead
I have a list of resources and online options that people have recommended to help solve this problem. I have stories to hear, and maybe some stories to share. I encourage you to also ask these questions and work on these solutions. Let’s share our findings, and maybe we can #ReplaceCodeSchoolsWithCommunity in 2016.