Creating Super Heroes
According to the European Commission we will face a shortage of 900,000 coders by 2020. The number of people studying computer science in university, meanwhile, is stagnant. We just aren’t educating enough developers for the increasing demand for them in the marketplace. The increasing wave of boot camps and intensive schools popping up, especially in the US and in the UK, have showed us that there is an alternative to college if you want start a career as a developer.
In Portugal, those opportunities do not exist. The culture is that everyone must attend college, regardless of course, the state of the market, or the quality of the education received. Many of these paths lead straight to unemployment. Young people often find themselves with a university diploma in hand, and absolutely no professional prospects.
In Portugal, by 2020, at least, 15000 programmers will be required
Back in 2013 while we were in complete economic depression we couldn't stay stand still and do nothing to address this issue. As in everything that has such a gap between supply and demand we saw an economic opportunity. Not with standing we couldn't be more motivated to work on a new project that could have such an impact on people lives.
Deconstructing the myths about programming
We believe it is perfectly possible for people to have new opportunities in the labor market, in this field, without spending 3 years in a university degree. This notion drove us to create a platform that would teach people programming principles.
As opposed to traditional programming education however, we want to teach our students not just how to code, but how to think like a developer. We want our students to be ready for the market’s needs. Code is still at the core of everything we do, but it is not enough. Not nearly. Developers need to be aware of user experience, product and business development, teamwork, communication capacity… and a lot more. Our mission is to teach as much as we can, not just technical knowledge. Learning how to code is about learning how to think; and that’s why we believe everyone can learn.
"Everyone in this country should learn how to code because it teaches you how to think."
Founder of Apple
Creators School is for everyone. It is for complete beginners, computer science students looking for practical skills, professionals who want to change careers, founders, project managers and even designers who just plain want to understand how developers work to become better at doing it together.
You don’t need to be a genius. You don’t have to master mathematics. You don’t need a university diploma. As long as you’re curious, want to learn, and won’t give up when faced with problems, we will teach you.
Evolving with each edition
The first two editions were great experiences not only because we had a positive impact on students, but also because we learnt how to make the program better. We now have a better framework.
The first edition encompassed: introduction to web development (40%), introduction to web design (40%), product development (10%), and business development (10%). It was an intensive regime of 80 hours across 2 weeks with the usual theoretical and practical sessions. The students also had to create a team and work on a project that was presented at the end of the course to a panel of judges comprised by elements of partner companies.
We had 16 students. They had remarkably different backgrounds. We expected computer science, but we had people with training in design, biomedicine, and even nursing. Three of them got hired on the spot. One student kept working on the project he started during the course and he now runs a startup of huge potential. Even though frequently our direct impact didn’t happen in the way we expected it to, all of our students are working. Not only that, they agree that what they learned in Creators School is useful, and made a difference when they started off.' The first two editions were great experiences because besides we created a positive impact on ours students, we have also learned how we could improve and create a stronger framework.
The first edition taught us plenty. We changed the program material, which appeared to be too extensive and diversified. Its lack of focus appeared to prevent further growth. We also came to the realization that two weeks is not enough for someone without any ackground to do substantial learning. This made us rethink our methodology.
The second edition was an 80 hour long course that spanned over the course of one month, in an after labor regime. We wanted professionals to be able to attend too, and also to promote a better understanding and assimilation of the materials. We dedicated 40 hours to web development basics and, in addition, 3 tracks that the students could select from: web design, product & business development, and advanced web development.' ' With the first edition we have learned that the content was too extensive and with too different information, which caused a lack of focus that prevented further growth of the students.
We had 20 students, 70% were professionals looking to complement their knowledge. Two students have begun work in a partner company. We have always encouraged engagement with the community at large, and one of our students now runs Girls Lean In in our city. Despite any and all success, we still learned plenty from the second edition of Creators School. The after labor regime meant that students were tired when they got to us, and unfocused. The month long span of the course also implied long breaks between sessions, and the students had trouble remembering the previous session’s content. Other problems arose, like the reluctance of companies to hire someone after just 80 labor hours of training. Our communication was also not as effective as we hoped it would be, and students had trouble picking which of the three tracks provided was right for them. We are very open about these limitations. That’s because we believe in learning, and that applies to ourselves too. We believe in the impact projects like Creators School can have. We have a better framework now, and we are as motivated to answer the market’s needs and create a positive impact as we ever were.
The new Creators School
After the second edition, everything was put in question: our methodology, the content, even the city where the thing was held.
We have created a completely new approach.
Creators School is now a nine week long, intensive, hands-on, full-time training program. It will make just about anyone into a full fledged junior web developer. The most efficient way to learn how to code is to actually code. That’s why we will spend most of our time practicing rather than listening to lectures.
8 hours a day
Also, we have decided to move. Oporto. Interest in the second edition was high from Portugal’s second city. It is larger, and we want to grow. We want to reach as many people as we can, and we want to start over.
The first 8 weeks will have a strong focus on web development. A normal day in Creators School starts with a recap, and any lectures necessary. Then we move on to pair programming, a mini-project and group discussion. The students will have the opportunity to work with developers of partner companies, to attend meet ups and sessions with guest speakers. '
Test Driven Development
HTML & CSS
Ruby on Rails
During the program, the students will create a team and develop a project. All Fridays will be dedicated to this. This will give them the opportunity to implement what they have learned and also to develop project management competencies.
The 9th week will have a different focus. The job market. We will work on communication tools, and even prepare interviews, including technical tests.
We have also made a lot of changes in the way we communicate. The new edition of Creators School will be unprecedented and we had to rebrand. It's almost common sense now that coding is the language of the future and that there are endless possibilities for one who 'speaks' it. There is, however, a stigma associated to it, that we want to vanquish. Is it for 'nerds'? Is it a ‘boy thing’? How do you tackle these stereotypes?
So we started working on a concept that translated the power of coding. How it empowers us. We looked into it, and found some beautiful words from people who have code in their lives. One in particular made us smile:
"Knowing how to program is the closest we have to a super-power"
Founder of Dropbox
It sounded absolutely perfect. We liked the thought that code could be a superpower. Creators School is all about turning ordinary people into super-heroes by teaching them how to speak the language of computers.
This idea helped us show people what coding can be nowadays. We associated our message about debunking the myths that surround coding with illustrations of superheroes and the testimonies of real professionals. We also managed to communicate what some of these technologies actually are, and how they can change people’s lives for the better. The success of this initiative is a step towards making the third edition of Creators School a success.