Often the draw of a bootcamp is the potential it presents to transform your career, and more largely, your life. But each coding bootcamp has a different way of approaching that question of transformation. And when making the decision of which bootcamp to attend, it can be difficult to gauge exactly which one is right for you and for the type of change you seek.
For Makers Academy, transformation comes through rethinking the approach to learning to create agile and empathetic software programmers. One-on-one connections with peers, coaches, and the Makers community are a predominant part of the learning process and the culture of the bootcamp.
If connection and rethinking the way you learn is a driving force behind Makers, wouldn’t it be great to get an inside peek at who you’ll be learning from and what kinds of people are in the Makers community? Read on to hear from a Maker’s coach about what a Makers Academy’s programme is like. We’ll also hear straight from an alumna about their experience in the bootcamp.
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Meet Your Makers Academy Coach
Leo Hetsch is one of the coaches at Makers. Hetsch discovered his love of programming at 14 before he even realized it was a potential career and not just something fun to do. His first position was at a web studio in Paris, and since then, he’s moved between smaller and larger product companies in e-commerce, dating, music, and delivery over the past six years.
“I’ve always enjoyed solving technical challenges, building programs, and working with other people,” Leo said, “But I also felt like I was drawn into sharing the knowledge and experience I had and helping other people to grow and discover this incredible world of software.”
Hetsch knew about Makers through a friend who was an alum. Having only heard good things about the London-based coding bootcamp, he decided to become a part of the Makers Academy community.
Leo’s Take on Active Learning at Makers Academy
One main part of the Makers curriculum is its active learning concept. Leo said that he hadn’t heard of this concept before teaching at Makers.
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The average bootcamp grad spent less than six months in career transition, from starting a bootcamp to finding their first job.
“Now it makes so much sense when I think about it, and for two reasons—first, software development is an incredibly practical thing to learn. It cannot be taught in an abstract and theoretical way, at least not if you don’t have a solid previous knowledge of it. You need to get your hands dirty, to try it by yourself, to build, break and rebuild things.”
The second thing, he said, is that humans learn better by actively engaging with what we’re learning, by making mistakes, and receiving feedback, rather than passively receiving knowledge or facts.
Leo said that this applies particularly to software development. The best way to learn is to try and build something, make mistakes, receive feedback, and modify your approach accordingly.
“Being a coach at Makers means not giving raw knowledge or directives to learners, but rather providing them with an environment that will prompt them to try things by themselves, to explore and set their own goals, and to reflect on the results to improve on their practice.”
At Makers, coaches give guidance, pointers, and provide some direction to learners. But in the end, the goal is for students to direct their own learning and become independent of coaches to learn by themselves. As Leo put it, “It’s empowering, and this is what they’ll need to do as professional software developers.”
How Makers Academy Students Learn How to Learn
Another key tenet of Makers is its interest in teaching students how to learn instead of what to learn.
“You won’t always know ‘what’ to learn,” Leo said, “Again, this is especially true in the software world, where tech is changing rapidly, and new things to learn appear every year. The way we write web applications today is very different from the way we were doing it 10 years ago. And this will probably be done in a very different way 10 years from now.”
Because of this, Leo said that a software developer will always have new things to learn because of a new job, a new project, or even out of intellectual curiosity. The question then is not what to learn, but how to learn it. It means thinking in a deeper way about what is our process to achieve learning, how we discover knowledge and apply it to build software, and how we can reflect and improve.
“At Makers, we ask learners to think about this process and to live by it because by following it, they won’t worry anymore about what to learn. If they need to learn it, they will be able to do it.”
Focusing on the learning process rather than on concrete bits of knowledge makes for more independent software developers, who are able to adapt to a variety of new situations and projects. Leo said this is true for technical skills, but also other skills that are equally important, such as teamwork, communication, and honesty.
“In my previous positions, I had to interview junior and senior developers, and often the end decision to hire or not wasn’t made on ‘raw’ technical skills and knowledge, but rather on the ability of a candidate to adapt to new situations and problems, to communicate clearly, and be a functioning part of a team,” Leo said.
“I’d rather interview a developer who is honest about not knowing something, but who will eventually learn it and grow as a developer rather than someone who has sharp technical skills but won’t be a good fit for the team or won’t adapt. I see Makers alumni often falling into the first category and they are the developers I would have loved to interview in my previous companies.”
Meet a Makers Academy Graduate
Rianne McCartney was a criminal solicitor who couldn’t envision a future that she wanted in that industry. After watching her partner go through Makers and land a job he loved, she realized that the tech world was the place she wanted to be in.
For Rianne, Makers Academy’s active learning model means that students are given access to the right tools and a structure to follow. After that point, the responsibility is on the student to find the answers and make it work.
“It takes a little getting used to,” she said, “And it’s very frustrating when a coach doesn’t simply give you the answer! But ultimately, you learn a lot more.”
At the beginning of the course, there’s a curriculum in place which specifies the coding languages you will work with and everyone is working on trying to solve the same problems. According to Rianne, this is necessary for complete beginners.
Towards the end of the course, you start to work on group projects in which you have a lot more freedom to explore different languages. For the final two-week project, each team is completely free to decide what they create and what they use to get there. You can choose a safe route and build on what you’ve already learned or go wild and learn something brand new.
Rianne enjoyed the pair programming that Makers Academy utilizes as well.
“At Makers, you spend your mornings learning independently and then pairing in the afternoon which is a nice mix,” she said, adding that it was also a good way to get to know everyone in her cohort.
“The Makers community was great,” she said. “It was very social and on most days you could usually find some of our cohorts in The Culpeper pub after a hard day of coding! There were always a lot of activities to get involved in, whether that’s yoga, meditation, career events, or Friday socials!”
Life After Makers Academy
Rianne now works as a software engineer at Gousto since graduating from Makers in 2019. It’s a full stack role, but she’s primarily working on the front end, particularly on the website’s menu. She found that Makers prepared her well for this position.
“We do a lot of pair programming at Gousto so the process felt quite natural by the time I started.”
“If I did have to learn a new language, I wouldn’t be daunted by this because of the approach we took at Makers,” she said
Her Makers community also has carried on past graduation. “Our cohort stays in touch,” Rianne said. “We’ve tried to have regular meetups, although the pandemic has obviously interfered with that. I’ve been to events at Makers and taken my colleagues along. I have also been to events connected to some of my cohorts’ new workplaces.”
She started as the only Makers alum at Gousto, however, they’ve expanded a lot over the last year.
“We now have enough Makers for our own alumni slack channel!”
Be the Next Student Success Story
If Leo’s curiosity-based, empathy-infused, transferable skills teaching style sounds up your alley, apply to the next cohort and start your journey towards a fulfilling career in software development!
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.