What would you do if you only had $100 to reinvent your life? For students of Kenzie Academy, the answer is simple. Pay a $100 commitment fee, attend Kenzie Academy, and launch a tech career in less than a year.
“Having a graduate degree, I was not looking to add more student debt,” said Ryan Molyneaux when asked why she joined Kenzie Academy. Ryan was accepted at a university for software engineering when she was forced to withdraw from the program due to skyrocketing college costs. Determined to pursue affordable education, Ryan eventually took the alternative route to break into the tech field.
Taking the same route was former in-store shopper Darlyze Calixte. “I wish I could say that my journey started when I was a kid, that I was coding for years, and I got my degree in computer science but that just wasn’t the case,” she said. After a year of training at Kenzie, Darlyze secured a job as a software engineer.
Mya Williams was a middle school teacher who wished to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a tech professional. And like Ryan and Darlyze, in just a year, she hit the ground running to become a UX designer.
All three come from different backgrounds, yet all three share one thing. They took an alternative route into tech, went through rigorous training at Kenzie Academy, and, well, that made all the difference.
How Kenzie Academy Started
Kenzie Academy is an Indianapolis-based coding bootcamp that seeks to retrain people for new-economy tech jobs. It was founded in 2017 by startup veteran Chok Ooi, who wanted to create another pathway to tech for underserved communities. The bootcamp is a father’s letter to his youngest daughter, McKenzie, from whom the school’s name was borrowed.
“The vision for Kenzie Academy is that by the time my daughter reaches higher education, a model like Kenzie Academy is already a viable alternative to learning. This way, a four-year college isn’t the only option for people who want to seek higher education and, ultimately, a better life,” shared Chok during a Breaking Into Startups podcast interview with Career Karma. “I chose the youngest one [McKenzie], so I have a couple more years to make that happen.”
But what Chok hoped to achieve in “a couple more years,” he’s already made in less. Since its inception, Kenzie Academy has consistently served the underserved. “The only difference between two people—one who comes from privilege and one who doesn’t with both equally smart and hardworking—is access.”
“The person from privilege has access to a lot of successful people…who can mentor and support him or her,” said Chok. “Kenzie Academy levels this playing field.” The question is, how?
Kenzie Academy’s Learning Pillars
“Kenzie Academy,” explained Chok, “is a program that takes people with the passion and interest to break into tech and provide them with the right training, the right mindset, and the right access.” Let’s break that down.
The Right Training
Kenzie Academy closes the gap between coding bootcamps and traditional colleges by offering the best of both learning models. On one side, Kenzie Academy’s programs are longer than the typical three-month bootcamp programs. This gives students enough room to do more than just memorize code. They also build a fundamental understanding of how things look under the code.
On the other, the school’s bootcamp programs are shorter than four-year college degree programs. This provides students the time to develop essential tech skills without running the risk of these becoming outdated by the time they leave school.
Education at Kenzie can start from as low as $0. With its Kenzie Free program, students get access to mini-courses designed to teach the building blocks of web development. Some bonuses: it’s self-paced, so you don’t need to feel pressured. Industry experts crafted it, so you don’t need to worry about the material’s quality. And as the name suggests, it’s free, so you don’t have to worry about any financial risks.
Ultimately, if you’re still in two minds about launching a tech career, take Kenzie Free. Is coding something you can do? Is coding something that you enjoy? Is coding the right career for you? Kenzie Free helps you answer all these questions.
Remember: only if you answered ‘yes’ to all three should you move on to any of Kenzie Academy’s immersive programs.
- Duration: Nine months
- Location: Online and on-campus (due to COVID-19, classes have been temporarily moved to remote instruction)
- Cost: $19,900 plus $100 enrollment fee (financing options available)
When Kenzie Academy said ‘immersive,’ it meant it. Its full-time Software Engineering program promises to whip you into shape through a two-track rigorous training that covers the full spectrum of web development.
After this, you move on to the three-month track, where you explore what goes on behind the scenes of web development. In this leg, you’ll learn how to architect web applications, ensuring efficient and seamless interaction among web systems, servers, and databases. By the end of the program, you’ll know exactly how to utilize the tools and technologies that make websites and applications tick.
So, how does all of that translate into practice? We thought it would be counterintuitive to talk about the program’s project-based curriculum without talking about, well, the projects.
One that’s worth mentioning is Eleanor Hall’s eCommerce website mockup called Clothing Hall. Eleanor’s clothing website is complete with product listings, a shopping cart, and an API for checkout functions. Also a Career Karma Project Spotlight pick, the Clothing Hall promises a positive user experience for any lurking fashionista.
- Duration: Six months
- Location: Online and on-campus (due to COVID-19, classes have been temporarily moved to remote instruction)
- Cost: $10,900 plus $100 enrollment fee (financing options available)
Here’s a great way to learn web design without having to quit your day job. Despite being held part-time, Kenzie Academy’s UX Design program doesn’t hold out on depth. Projects are the name of the game for this program, and just as how UX design resembles storytelling, so does this. The plot twist: you’re the protagonist.
Your story kicks off with creating user personas and crafting journey maps, storyboards, and user flows. This levels up to creating high-fidelity mockups and mobile-based apps. Then, you move on to completing a foundation project and a case study.
The program caps with a two-week UI design project, where you’re expected to create a web design from end to end. For nine Saturdays throughout the program, you present your design projects to the class and receive constructive feedback. Everyone learns from one another, so you likewise get the chance to evaluate your classmates’ projects.
By the end of it, you’re a full-fledged UX designer with a rich portfolio and amazing character development to boot. Among Kenzie Academy’s UX design alums are Matthew Conroy, Jai Thurman, Jessica Ireland, and Ben Findley.
The group created The Hive, a daily budget app that targets a younger audience. “The biggest thing when it comes to budgeting and saving is it’s boring,” said Jai. “Other apps were very cluttered with terms we didn’t know and our participants didn’t know. After talking to our participants, we found a way to make the app more calming and engaging.”
The Right Mindset
Learning never stops at Kenzie Academy. Some students learn how to develop applications. Others learn how to design websites. All learn how to learn. “The first thing I always tell students…[is] even if they forget everything that we teach them, we’ll still count that as a success if they learned how to learn,” said Chok.
“Because of how fast the industry is evolving, you may learn Ruby or Python today but two years from now, a new sexy language may come up and what you learned has become totally outdated. We want to equip people with the right mindset of learning how to learn. This way, they can evolve successfully as the [tech] industry changes.”
Kenzie Academy tackles this in numerous ways.
Students get one-on-one meeting times with instructors and facilitators several days a week. The Student Services team has also begun hosting study hall sessions over Zooms where students can help one another and facilitators can jump in.
The school holds a mentorship program that connects students with industry professionals, many of whom are Kenzie Academy’s employer partners. Kenzie Academy currently has around 70 students in active communication with their respective mentors.
Kenzie Code Battles
All work and no play makes any student dull. That’s why every Tuesday, Kenzie Academy students get the chance to play through Kenzie Code Battles, the school’s very own version of code wars. Each session, participants work together to solve a code challenge within a given timeframe.
Anyone can play the game, from current to former students. Although the battles are advanced as “playtime,” they’re also more intentional than that. Participants come out of the game with improved mental fitness, practical knowledge, problem-solving skills, and ability to work in teams.
While Kenzie Academy places great value on mental workouts, it also works to eliminate the risks of burnout. It does so by holding various community events, all designed to show that there’s a point to all the mind-numbing exercises students do.
Most popular is the AMA (Ask me Anything) sessions, which are Q&A events that feature notable tech professionals. One that’s worth mentioning is Kenyatta Leal, who spent 19 years of his life incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison.
Shortly after his release, Kenyatta began The Last Mile program. The rehabilitation program has since helped formerly incarcerated individuals turn their lives around and launch careers in tech. Other notable speakers include 2020 US Presidential candidate Andrew Yang and America Online CEO Steve Case.
With all these big names visiting the school, Chok said the sessions are more than just for fanfare. “[These sessions] pretty much give our students the opportunity to [not just] meet tech leaders, but also [let them] know that [they] are no different from many of these successful people,” he said. “They, too, with the right opportunity and hard work, can be as successful as the guest speakers we bring in.”
The Right Access
There’s no shortage of access points at Kenzie Academy.
Access to Resources
Kenzie Academy promises “a future you can afford.” Recognizing that bootcamp costs don’t come cheap, Kenzie offers several financing options. All options are backed by the Kenzie Guarantee that your education is free if you don’t land a qualifying job within six months of completing your Kenzie Academy program. The school’s financing options include:
- Upfront Payment. As the name implies, you can pay for the program out of pocket before classes begin. Your payment covers both the cost of attendance for the program plus a $100 enrollment fee.
- Payment Plans. Kenzie Academy’s payment plans can last 12 months or 24 months depending on the availability of your resources. Both payment plans include a $500 down payment (includes $100 enrollment fee), and a 0 percent interest rate.
- Outcomes Loans. Kenzie Academy’s Outcomes Loans allow you to defer repayment for up to six months after completing your program, or until you receive an offer for a qualifying position making at least $40,000 annually.
Access to Opportunities
Perhaps one of the biggest perks you can get from Kenzie Academy is access to opportunities that help you stand out in a sea of aspiring tech professionals. Want to learn more?
Check out Kenzie Academy’s Western Governors University (WGU) Degree Pathway. This partnership offers a shorter path to a degree for Kenzie graduates who wish to further their learning. Graduates of both immersive programs can transfer up to 36 credits toward any of WGU’s seven bachelor’s degree programs in Information Technology.
So, if we add all these up—the right training, right mindset, and right access—what do we get?
Kenzie Academy graduates report a 130 percent salary increase in their first job post-program. This averages to earning $65,000 a year, which is more than the average national salary across the job board. Behind these numbers are the little success stories of students like Ryan, Mya, and Darlyze.
After pushing her way to get a coding education, Ryan is giving back to the community. She’s currently a Curriculum Software Engineer at CodeHS, an interactive learning platform providing programming instruction to K-12 students. Darlyze, meanwhile, got her big break as an Associate Software Engineer at Infosys, a global leader for next-generation digital services and consulting.
And Mya, merely hours after graduating from Kenzie, started working as a UX Engineer at Crafted LLC, a WordPress development agency. After gaining significant experience at the company, Mya went back to Kenzie Academy as a UX Design Facilitator. There, she continues to develop the inclusive community that once embraced her and helped her succeed.
Kenzie Academy was founded on one simple principle: to build an institution that cares about the success of its students. “Out of all the bootcamps I applied to and interviewed for, Kenzie was the only one that gave me the impression that they saw me as a person,” said Darlyze.
“People in Silicon Valley are honestly no different from you,” shared Chok. “The only difference is they have access to a network that you’re lacking.” And this is where Kenzie Academy steps in.
From the very first call with the admissions team to the call you receive for a job offer, Kenzie Academy is there with you. It works to offer access to the right training, the right network, and the right support. If that sounds like something you’d want to receive, visit Kenzie Academy’s page.
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.