There has been a lot of attention in the media about the demand for developers, accelerated training programs popping up everywhere and a renewed focus on getting computer science principles introduced before college. These are all good things. In my experience, finding talent to develop is all about maximizing exposure to increase the odds.
What is not a good thing is the messaging that “anyone can code.”
The reason The Software Guild feels this way is because it’s misleading. Sure, anyone can learn some basic syntax, just like anyone can learn to shoot a basketball. That does not mean that anyone can get paid to play basketball. Like any acquired skill, there are a variety of factors that are going to determine both the pace of skill acquisition and the cap on the abilities. Here in northeast Ohio we love LeBron James, but I could practice 24/7 and never be as good of a player as him.
Luckily, the skill level required to become a professional developer is much lower than the level required to play in the NBA. So there are a lot of people out there who can learn to code at a professional level. The trick is how to identify them. The Software Guild is very selective about who we admit into our program, and when we profile the type of apprentice we want, it comes down to three traits:
As an accelerated training program, we take people from zero to professional in a very short amount of time. What this means as far as aptitude is that we do not have time to slow down and do remedial skills training. Being a professional developer requires a level of computational thinking, ability to deal with abstractions and attention to detail. Like any skills, these can be trained up over time, but not in the relatively short time of our program. We have developed a variety of ways to screen for aptitude, including a test.
When you have a goal, do you stick with it? Are you willing and able to make sacrifices in your life to achieve an important goal? Are you proactive about working toward your goals? When we interview applicants, we are looking for people who are relentless about becoming professional developers. Our program requires a level of dedication that necessitates hard work and sacrifice. It is not like more traditionally paced programs where you can do the minimum and skate by. The reason our employers keep coming back to us is because we put out quality professionals. High drive is a key indicator of success, and it’s something we demand out of our apprentices.
Do you already need to know how to code to attend the Guild? No. Do you need to have basic computer skills? Yes. Basic computer skills are the third indicator of someone who is ready to immerse in our program. Do you understand how your computer works? Can you install software? Can you type at a reasonable rate? Do you understand how files and directories work? The interesting thing about high preparedness is that it filters out people who obviously have not been interested in computers before. This is important because the path to mastery in coding takes years, and the industry expects you to learn new things on your own time. If you are going to have to learn new things on your own time, you have to be genuinely interested and enjoy self-learning. So it is a red flag for us when individuals want to enroll in our program and haven’t taken the time or shown the interest to learn some basics on their own.
The Guild Difference
The quality of our students is a key piece of the Guild difference and a reason why our outcomes are so good. We believe our experienced instructors and high-quality custom curriculum are the best in the industry, but without quality inputs, we cannot achieve the quality outcomes that our staff and apprentices desire. Unfortunately, there are some bad actors in the for-profit education industry who latch on to the “anyone can learn to code” marketing blitz and enroll people who are not ready for programs like this. We do everything we can to make sure we get the right people onboard. It’s the right thing to do for our apprentices, our faculty and our employer partners.