April 12, 2013

Computer boot camps promise to launch tech careers

By TERENCE CHEA The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Student David Wen works during a class at Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco earlier this month.

The Associated Press

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The Associated Press

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But as more boot camps open, backers worry low-quality programs could hurt the reputation of the pioneer schools and drive away potential students and recruiters.

"I worry about the explosion of Dev Bootcamp copycats," said Michael Staton, a venture capitalist at Learn Capital. "If they mess up, they kind of ruin it for everybody. Then students have to worry about whether these schools can actually deliver on their promise."

The coding academies are helping meet the seemingly insatiable demand for computer programmers in the U.S. tech industry, which has been lobbying Congress to issue more visas for engineers and other skilled immigrants.

The boot camps are launching at a time when many recent college graduates are struggling to find jobs that pay enough to chip away at their hefty student loan debts.

The new schools say they are teaching students the real-world skills that employers want but colleges have failed to provide. "Our school is a lot shorter, cheaper and more applicable to the work they'd like to do than universities," said Shawn Drost, who co-founded Hack Reactor in San Francisco six months ago.

This intensive-learning model can also be used to train workers for other professions for less time and money than what traditional colleges require, Staton said. "We think this is the beginning of a really large movement that will happen across industries," he said.

Bishay, an Egyptian-born engineer who sold his first software company to Microsoft in 2001, started Dev Bootcamp as an experiment. He wanted to see how quickly he could teach his friend and other non-techies how to write code.

"I used about 10 percent of what I learned in college in my first job, and I figured I could teach that 10 percent in two and a half months," Bishay said.

Dev Bootcamp has trained about 130 students, and 95 percent of them have been hired as software developers, with an average salary of about $80,000, within a few months of graduation, Bishay said. It's now opening a campus in Chicago.

The school doesn't just teach technical skills. It teaches students how to work in teams, communicate better and interview for jobs. On graduation day, it invites tech recruiters to meet students at a "speed-dating" job fair.

"Finding engineering talent is a big challenge right now, and Dev Bootcamp is addressing a really important problem," said Felicia Curcuru, who was recruiting engineers for FundersClub, a San Francisco company that connects investors with tech startups. "There are not enough people studying computer science."

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Shereef Bishay, co-founder of Dev Bootcamp, left, talks with student Ryan Guerrettaz during a class at the camp in San Francisco.

The Associated Press

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A shrine with photos of Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Craig Barrett and others is shown at the Dev Bootcamp office in San Francisco.

The Associated Press

 


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