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

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:

I had more conversations and ended up with even MORE feelings:

And I had new ways to verbalize what bothered me so much about the packaged up code school experience:

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.

I ask:

I propose:

And I ask code schoolers:

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.