Fast growth in the technology sector has led to increased demand and higher salaries for skilled workers in computing-based roles. This demand has quickly outpaced the number of people who are graduating from traditional computer science degrees, thus creating a significant talent gap in the technology sector. According to Code.org, there are over 500,000 tech jobs in the US which remain unfilled.
In response to this demand, a new educational model entered the market: bootcamps. Bootcamps are short, intensive training programs designed to help students acquire skills in a particular industry and prepare them for work. Over the last few years, this model has become popular in coding roles, and over 23,000 people are expected to graduate from a bootcamp in 2019 alone. Coding bootcamps are helping to satisfy the large market demand for skilled engineers, and students appear to be interested in the model.
But the technology industry is not all about technical roles such as web and software development—two of the most common courses offered at coding bootcamps. Non-technical roles, such as digital marketing and technology sales, represent a large and growing number of new hires at tech companies.
One bootcamp has recognized this gap in the market, and is looking to educate the next generation of technical salespeople: Flockjay. Shaan Hathiramani founded Flockjay with a simple vision: to train people from non-technical and underrepresented backgrounds to break into tech sales roles. Unlike other bootcamps, Flockjay doesn’t focus on web development or software engineering. Instead, the Flockjay sales bootcamp offers tech industry-focused sales training.
Flockjay Sales Bootcamp
Flockjay reviewed the current tech education market and decided to combine the familiar model of the bootcamp—short-term training programs, with a focus on employment—with a new role which is not targeted by other bootcamps. Flockjay helps students become technology sales reps in a short period of time. During the program, students acquire all of the technical skills they need to thrive in a modern tech company, and graduate with an awareness of how to find a job in the tech industry.
Currently, the primary path people take to enter a role in sales is to either work their way up within a company, or attend a business or marketing-related degree program. However, the degree route is not for everyone—in order to attend, students often have to take out thousands of dollars in debt, and it takes four years to graduate from a full degree program. Further, most universities offer sales education as part of a broader business course, rather than its own focus. But Flockjay has a different vision for a sales education.
Flockjay students attend courses 2 days a week for a total of 12 weeks. The Flockjay sales bootcamp curriculum covers topics from inbound qualification and outbound prospecting, to modern sales tools and solution selling. Students will learn about both traditional sales terminology and skills—time management and email writing—as well as specific skills which employees at tech companies need to know, such as how to use Salesforce. Over 200 hours of expert-led coaching are recorded so you can review course material any time. Live instruction occurs twice a week via Zoom at 5:00
Towards the end of the program, students participate in a number of workshops and classes designed to prepare them for the world of work. This is similar to other coding bootcamps, which often offer career services toward the end of the program to ensure students can easily transition from the bootcamp to employment. Flockjay teaches students how to write a resume, how to succeed in a technical sales interview, as well as how to pitch one’s self to employers. Students will also learn about conference networking and other employability skills, which are more specific to the sales industry.
The bootcamp has also invested significant time and energy into building a learning community, which they believe is vital to the success of students. The founding principle of the company is that “birds fly farther and faster together,” hence the name of the company. Indeed, finding a job in technology is not only about acquiring technical skills, but also learning about how to adapt to new environments and how to communicate with new people effectively. Whereas college lecture halls may be filled with hundreds of students, Flockjay fosters a more tight-knit student body, which continues even after students graduate from the program.
An Employment-Focused Education, Accessible Anywhere
Like other bootcamps, Flockjay retains a firm focus on employment. The program is split up into two components: live classes and sales projects. Eight weeks of the program is spent on developing and refining new skills through participating in online classes. The other four weeks are spent on actual sales projects, where students are able to apply their skills in realistic scenarios, as well as job interview preparation and placement. This curriculum allows Flockjay students to graduate with both technical skills and some practical experience they can mention in job interviews.
Flockjay’s program is based on teaching the practical skills students need to thrive in the modern workforce, rather than the broader skills colleges may teach their students. According to the company’s website, Flockjay students can use the exact same technologies they learn in class as leading sales representatives do in the industry—thus, students who graduate should be ready to compete in the labor market.
This skills-focused education is combined with an immersive learning model, where students learn not only skills, but how to use software and apply the skills they have learned in class to other situations. This form of education often makes it easier for people to compete when they start looking for jobs, as they are more readily able to put their skills to use.
After going through the course, students receive assistance finding the right job for them, and will learn about how to prepare for an interview and negotiate a salary. In addition to providing career workshops, Flockjay can also introduce their students to top companies who are hiring sales talent. Indeed, the bootcamp partners with a number of technology companies who are hiring, and helps students find the right fit for them. It is worth noting that this has unlocked a new method of monetization for the company: companies who hire FlockJay graduates pay a fee per hire, with a six month guarantee.
The bootcamp also embraces the online-focused education model, which has become popular among many coding bootcamps in recent years. Students learn skills through live online classes, which start at a later time so people can both work during the day and learn during their evenings. Students will spend three hours each day in their online class, and complete a series of assignments as they progress through the course.
The flexibility offered in Flockjay’s program also helps promote diversity in their classes. People who have a job are often unable to participate in online courses and bootcamps due to the time commitments associated with most courses. However, because Flockjay operates their classes in the evening, students can work during the day and then learn in their free time. This, in turn, opens up new educational opportunities to people who otherwise would not be able to participate in such a program.
This model appears to be working. Flockjay, which launched in January, reported they have graduated 100 students in October. Of those students, 50 percent are women, and 70 percent are people of color. In addition, 40 percent of students do not have four-year degrees. The school is also diverse in terms of student backgrounds. Students come from areas ranging from bartending to retail sales.
Flockjay Income Sharing: Pay Only When You Succeed
Another barrier which prevents people from participating in online courses and bootcamps is the cost—many bootcamps cost $10,000 and require students to pay upfront. The Flockjay income share agreement aims to eliminate this barrier by providing an alternative to upfront payment: an Income Share Agreement.
Through the Income Share Agreement, students will only pay for the course as a percentage of their post-graduation income, and only if they earn over a certain amount of money. In Flockjay’s case, students will pay 10 percent of their income for one year, and payments will start when students earn over $40,000 per year. Flockjay income share agreement payments are capped at $9,000 per year, so if students earn large salaries after graduation, they are protected from making unreasonable payments.
Income Share Agreements ensure that the incentives of Flockjay and their students are completely aligned. Students that make less will pay less; students that make more will pay more. Thus, if a student does not succeed after graduation, Flockjay will realize a direct effect on their bottom line, giving them a reason to the best job for their students. ISAs also put pressure on schools to create and deliver educational offerings that adequately prepare graduates for the future of work.
The Future of Bootcamps
In October, Flockjay announced they have raised $2.98 million in new funding from a diverse range of investors, 50 percent of whom are women, and 50 percent of whom are people of color. The venture round included investors such as Will Smith and Serena Williams, as well as large investors such as Airtable’s head of sales, Liat Bycel, and Gmail inventor Paul Buchheit. The company also raised capital from Y Combinator, SV Angel, Lightspeed, and other investors in the round.
The formula for bootcamps is as follows: if there is insufficient supply and a large demand for skilled workers in a certain career, a bootcamp can emerge to train students for that specific role. The Flockjay sales bootcamp demonstrated that the bootcamp model can extend outside of technical roles and into non-technical ones. Their tech sales program allows students to train for a career, which up to this point has had very few alternatives to the expensive and time-consuming path of a college degree, and allows students to graduate with both career and technical skills.
While Flockjay is still a relatively new bootcamp their model is working, and students are graduating from the program. The bootcamp also signals that high-intensity, short, employer-focused training programs can successfully operate in other industries, which may encourage more companies to explore the bootcamp model outside of technical roles in the future.