The value of a software developer used to be measured by the lines of code they wrote. Until it became clear that a developer’s job is not just to write any code. It’s to write code that drives business growth. For CTO Nicolas Genest, this realization led to the creation of CodeBoxx, a coding bootcamp that creates a pool of business-ready and business-first software developers.
From a Three-Time CTO to CodeBoxx Founder
To say that Nicolas Genest is a veteran in the tech industry is an understatement. Indeed, one can say that he’s been in the industry way before he even landed his first job in tech.
Nicolas’ first foray into the tech world started in 1985 when his godfather gave him his first computer, a Tandy Color Computer 3. “I started playing games [with it] and learned how to code in Basic,” recalled Nicolas. “It was a very straightforward and linear approach to programming that enabled me to alter games I thought were too easy.”
It wasn’t until he turned 15 that Nicolas realized his fascination with tinkering with computers could evolve into a career.
“My mother had me study for a year in Vancouver to learn English,” said Nicolas, whose first language is French. “I was able to take many elective classes, and all of the classes I picked were about programming or computer-related.”
“When I came back to Quebec after that, I told my parents I would not pursue a scientific path like I originally planned but that I would learn as much as I could in computer science and would move on to launch a company as soon as I could.”
True to his word, Nicolas didn’t waste any time. He was deliberate with every step that he took towards his goal, and it was evident with the career he built thereafter.
Years after getting his first job in tech, Nicolas rose through the ranks to become the chief technology officer of ventee-privee, a French e-commerce company that pioneered online “flash sales”.
“I was able to collaborate with visionaries and entrepreneurs who really supported all the initiatives that allowed the company to take such a leadership position in Europe that it delayed the expansion of Amazon. I was fortunate to be part of such a cultural phenomenon and experienced exponential growth really early,” he said.
Nicolas brought this growth mindset with him when he joined San Francisco-based startup The RealReal as the CTO. “Allowing the [company] to take technology in-house and turn it into an incredible asset that contributed to the success and growth of the company is another thing I am truly proud of,” said Nicolas.
“I built the team from scratch, and many people are still there today. The platform is state of the art in terms of scalability.” Indeed, what started as a startup has since grown to become one of the largest online marketplaces for luxury goods today.
Nicolas then exited the company after three years and assumed the CTO role for lifestyle brand ModCloth in 2016 in the hopes of salvaging the brand. “We overhauled and modernized the entire information system there, rationalized engineering to its true purpose, and gave the brand back its identity,” said Nicolas.
In the space of a decade, Nicolas managed to become a three-time CTO, helping companies flourish and carve out their names in cyberspace. This leadership experience also gave him a unique opportunity to see what was truly missing in the developer world.
“Throughout my endeavors as CTO—taking over teams or building them from scratch—I was forced to pragmatism,” he said. “I made a discovery: With the right culture, leadership, and guidance, you can sometimes achieve more with experienced individuals than you can with Stanford and Berkeley graduates on the technology front.”
“Sometimes being a grinder, not being afraid of commitment, and being results-driven is more valuable than knowing 10 ways to build systems architectures…So, I decided to build a training program to create the kind of developer I really would have liked to hire myself—a program designed by a CTO for CTOs.”
“I packed it with all the themes, tools, languages, and practices that made my success throughout my past experiences. This included the public clouds, APIs of the market, and data and AI services that enable modern tech developers to deliver great end-to-end customer experiences. I doubled this program with a learning track of the soft skills that employers really seek in technology developers these days.”
And so, the coding bootcamp, CodeBoxx, was born.
CodeBoxx: A Code School that Bets on Potential
CodeBoxx was founded with the goal to create a strong pipeline of well-rounded software developers. To do so, Nicolas opened the metaphorical school gates to diverse populations—regardless of background, race, gender, age, experience, or financial status.
For as long as they showed potential and interest in software development, they could get into CodeBoxx’s Software Development Immersive and get the training they need without having to pay tuition upfront. Only after they complete the program and secure a job in tech do their payment clocks start ticking.
This accessibility is premised on the school’s resounding motto: smart is everywhere. By lowering the barriers to tech training, the school can become a pool of diverse talents with untapped potential, particularly for “college dropouts or immigrants who have a limited window of opportunity to turn their lives around.”
“We believe that a career in technology should be based on potential, not privilege,” said Nicolas. “That leads us to take on all the risks on behalf of the candidates we believe in so that the only thing they need to worry about is their success.”
The CodeBoxx Learning Experience
Training students to become well-rounded developers in just a matter of 16 weeks might seem too tall of an order. But CodeBoxx makes it reachable by offering what Nicolas calls a “truly immersive” learning experience—something that’s “closer to an internship than training.”
The coding bootcamp implements a no-lecture and no-standardized-tests approach, a complete deviation from the traditional didactic lectures. Instead, students learn through simulation. From their first week, they are introduced to a fictitious company called Rocket Elevators, which, like a real company, never runs out of challenges to overcome.
The students are then expected to deliver different projects each week that meet the problems of the company. This setup exposes them to an environment that demands high levels of problem-solving and collaboration skills as well as opportunities that engage them in different aspects of professional practice.
The aim is that by the time they leave school, they can perform in the workplace without freezing at the first sign of a problem.
“Coding bootcamps tend to be tech-specific, and the people finishing them struggle to find their way in the industry because they don’t know enough,” said Nicolas. “They develop the imposter syndrome and some don’t stay in the field because of that. [At CodeBoxx] we teach a wide variety of technologies and languages, and we ramp up our participants on major stacks and APIs.”
“We [also] double down on soft skills. Throughout the training, we teach our participants how to behave in a meeting [and] how to quickly ramp up on an unknown stack or unfamiliar coding language. We teach them how to be productive from Day 1 within a team, how to contribute positively to a culture, and how to seek excellence in execution at all times.”
By honing their technical competencies, workplace behavior, and reflexes, CodeBoxx hopes to produce developers who aren’t just confident about writing code but also about delivering value to a business.
The CodeBoxx Digital Business Solutions Unit
Just like other coding bootcamps, CodeBoxx has employer partners that graduates can connect with for job opportunities. Unlike other coding bootcamps, however, CodeBoxx has a Digital Business Solutions Unit called Boxx Solutions, a digital workshop that offers both a job and professional mentorship to CodeBoxx grads.
“The digital workshop of CodeBoxx implements playgrounds and collaborations with [our employer] partners that allow [our] newly graduated students to…take part in the building of major platforms and pieces of software,” said Nicolas, who modeled the Digital Business Solutions Unit after the life of one of the world’s greatest artists and inventors of his time.
“[It’s] inspired by the life of Leonardo Da Vinci,” he shared. “More precisely, from his journey into becoming such an important historical figure. Leonardo Da Vinci learned from Verrocchio in Milan and was part of his workshop.”
“By learning from the masters of his time, he learned the techniques and developed his own style which quickly turned into a revolution even in his own time.”
In the same way, CodeBoxx’s Digital Business Solutions Unit puts chosen recent graduates under the supervision and guidance of senior developers. “Our units are always composed of an experienced and accountable team lead and, in some cases, we have engagement managers ensuring that the development process is unfolding correctly.”
Think of it as a paid apprenticeship that allows graduates to master a wide breadth of technical and soft skills in software development.
A CodeBoxx Success Story
CodeBoxx’s values—that smart is everywhere, that anyone can turn their life around, and that anyone should have access to tech training—is best exemplified by a story of a father and his son, both of whom entered the coding bootcamp in its earlier years.
“In the second cohort of our history, we saw a candidate, who’s over 50 years old, register into the bootcamp. A few days later, we saw another candidate with the same last name register as well,” recalled Nicolas.
“We found out later that [the 50-year-old candidate was] a father who resigned from his director position in a big telco company and enrolled in the bootcamp to propose his son to join him in doing the training…The kid was really distressed from being bullied and unsuccessful in the traditional school system.”
“After four months doing the program together [with his dad]… the kid is now a highly appreciated AI developer at one of our elite partners,” said Nicolas. “CodeBoxx is an instrument of good… and that very story is worth all the hundreds of thousands of dollars that were invested early on to launch the school.”
Also enjoying success are 91 percent of CodeBoxx graduates who, according to the school, secured jobs after completing their training. The number and success story is a testament to what one can achieve with CodeBoxx: realized potential.
Nicolas closed the conversation with a tip to aspiring CodeBoxx students: “Get passionate about the business or the project you are involved in. That passion will make you want to surpass yourself and will make you results-driven.”
“You will develop a sensitivity for the industry, and it will enable you to put technology at the service of the problems and challenges you have. Always make it about results and helping the business.”
Become a Business-Ready Software Developer
CodeBoxx is a school created from real experience and, therefore, promises relevant and realistic software development training. If that’s the kind of environment you’d like to grow in, visit the CodeBoxx website today and become part of a whole new generation of well-rounded software developers.
About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.