It is my belief that for-profit schools (in these cases Apollo Group and Kaplan Test Prep) have looked at code schools as potential cash cows devoid of the complications of both federal financial aid and the gainful employment entanglements associated with the "type" of students that typical for-profits schools attract. While for-profits seemed like a perfect fit for acquiring code schools (and I'm sure led to handsome paydays for the founders), these businesses brought bloat, inefficiencies, and baggage that could not operate in the fast-paced and nimble environments they bought into.
I can't speak for these two code schools but I heard from a reliable first-hand source that when Dev Mountain was bought out by Capella Education, the founders "checked out." What checked in was a bureaucracy that was more concerned about asses-in-seats than providing a bleeding-edge, entrepreneurial-driven education. If you look at the reviews of Dev Mountain by recent students there is no doubt whatsoever that this is what happened. Is this possibly what befell Iron Yard and Dev School? I can't say. What I can say from decades is that when you sell out to a for-profit school, you are very well dancing with the devil.
Unfortunately there's nothing to be learned about code-bootcamps from this. I can tell you, however, as someone who recently completed TIY and now has a better job than any of my college-completing friends have, going through TIY was the best decision I ever made.
And you can safely ignore anyone who dismisses the level or quality of what you learn at TIY. I learned how to code and I learned how to continue to learn how to code. That's more than I can say for any of my other learning experiences which were almost completely focused on "passing".
I was a founding person in a bootcamp that Apollo actually started (not bought) in Phoenix. Apollo started us two years before buying Iron yard. We were successful and well respected in Arizona and Apollo was very hands off with us letting us run as if we were a startup. Apollo decided to buy a bootcamp (Iron Yard) because Apollo has such crappy relationships with "department of education's" in every state that they could never grow us into other states like California which is where we were looking to go. So buying one that was already in other states was a good idea (they thought.)
So even though our parent company bought another camp, it didn't feel to us that we were acquiring them, we were basically told that TIY was going to absorb us as they saw fit. In that process we were treated pretty poorly by TIY -- basically like we didn't matter. The Iron Yard was going to open up a camp in Phoenix (and planning to piggyback on our success), but they treated us so poorly that nobody wanted to help them anymore and they had basically zero support from our Alumni who didn't appreciate their lack of respect for our camp staff. Soon they canceled their expansion to Phoenix. One of our camp's managers went to go work directly for them though much earlier in the acquisition process and when I asked him why TIY doesn't care about our camp, his response was basically that TIY was ran so poorly internally that it wasn't personal, that it was a disaster over there in TIY. Soon he quit and went back to Apollo management.
So, I would have to disagree, while Apollo does destroy many things, I'm fairly certain that the unwinding of TIY is their own doing (from a managerial standpoint). I have no doubt that they had good teachers thought who poured their hearts into the curriculum and students. So don't confuse my words for accusing TIY of having poor curriculum or teaching.
The same is true for Houston. I'm about to hire an Iron Yard graduate for a junior dev position, and if I had the budget to more people, one of the other top candidates was also an Iron Yard grad.
A few students had pretty bad experiences, I think. It was a very demanding program. Several times, I had full-grown adults break down and cry during our 1:1s. But over all, the majority of students thrived. It was life-changing-- in a good way-- for most of them, and that's why I and my fellow instructors were there.
It was one of the most meaningful periods of my career. I wouldn't go back and undo any of it, but I also won't be teaching at a code-bootcamp again. I'd consider a slower-paced program such as a university, tech school or high-school, though.
Despite the hours, it was worth it tho. I love hearing from my former students. There are times when I wish I was still doing it.
When you care like you and I do, you put your whole self into helping people make a better life for themselves learning to do what you already love to do, you'll take the low pay and the stress because it outweighs the negative.
The sad thing is that people who run a lot of these places know that, so they can get away with paying you a lot less than you'd make if you stayed in dev.
I believe that the models that will be successful are models where there is curriculum designed to be done asynchronously, with ample time for practice and repetition to build skills, followed by assessment and feedback.
You do not need a classroom for this. A wise man once told me that a good teacher is not the sage on the stage, they are the guide on the side. And that's what adults need. They don't need to all sit in a room together being held back cos one person doesn't understand it. Lecture and talking and demos can all be done online on Youtube.
Or you make a web site, write some content and make some videos, give some practice problems with unit tests that tell the student if they got them right. Easy peasy. Nobody's time is wasted.
The third part is the part that doesn't scale - you need people to provide coaching and feedback. And you need one on one time to discuss feedback, options, choices, etc.\
Think about this:
If I tell you to make me a five page web site with a contact form, appropriate color scheme, valid semantic markup, clean CSS, appropriate color scheme, and content, then I have to do the following:
1. Develop lessons to give you the information on how to do these things
2. Give you ample opportunities and time to practice and excel at these things individually
3. Give you detailed feedback on your practice so you can practice more
4. Give you the time to do the assessment well
5. Review your work and give you detailed feedback on it so you learn.
Notice that I start with an end in mind, then work it out to get you to be successful - I don't just start teaching you a bunch of stuff and then make up some test... it's all planned out.
So the curriculum design takes time and planning. It's an art and science of its own and we learn new things about how people learn all the time. But a small group of folks can take the time to put curriculum together. There are people who study this for a living. They're not subject matter experts though, so you kinda do need both.
But notice all the places where there's review and feedback. That's the part that doesn't scale. That takes time. It takes a LONG time to give good, detailed feedback to a learner so they can improve. Your job isn't to fail them - it's to make sure they're successful - if they do their part and you do yours, they will be. (Obviously if you only put an hour into this final project there won't be much for me to give feedback on, so the learner has to put in the effort too) But you are their guide on the side, not the keeper of all knowledge that they must appease.
So to find people who are caring individuals who can be these instructors, who can help people understand the curriculum, who can coach them through the process, who can meet with them... that doesn't scale. People will need to be compensated for this. With benefits so they don't have to worry about their own well-being as well as their students'. But if you can figure out a way to scale this and finance it, it would work well. I interviewed for and was offered a position at a bootcamp that had a model very similar to this, but they were doing a commission-based salary based on number of students that chose you as their coach, so it was too risky for me. I hear they changed their model tho and are doing well. Hopefully more places will catch on.
Bottom line - good curriculum designed with outcomes in mind from the start, with everything aligned, is a good start. But learning happens through practice and feedback - I don't care how many times you read the book or watch the Pluralsight videos - you won't learn it till you practice it, do challenges someone else offers you, and internalize the feedback they give you once you're done.
Ah well... this got super ranty and I'm tired. I hope it makes sense. You can email me if you want to chat about this more. I'd be happy to do that.
Another thing to think about is this: Just cos you know SWE really well doesn't mean you have the ability to teach it to others. Not everyone "gets" things quickly, or will understand your explanations on the first attempt, so you must be patient. Not everyone learns the same way, nor do they have the same educational experiences, so you must be kind. And not everyone has a great home life, and has a ton of distractions that prevent them from learning, so you must be empathetic. Finally, not everyone loves to code - they just want the dollars that come from a job and will do whatever it takes to get there, including lie, cheat, and do the bare minimum, so you must be firm and strong to avoid burning out and thinking they're all terrible lazy students.
There are people who can do this. But they're rare. And even rarer when they see the low paychecks offered.
But there are a few other things that these kinds of institutions need to solve:
- How to keep your staff from burning out
- How to keep your staff up to speed
Both are hard problems. TIY (at the time that I taught there, anyway) was staffed by people who had 10-15 years (and more in some cases) of industry experience in a broad range of fields. If I spent the next 10 years of my career teaching, I suspect my value proposition would go down over time, as I began to have less and less relevant industry experience.
One thought was that schools of this nature should be a two-sided business. Instructors would teach for a cohort (or two) and then flip over into the consultancy side of the business for some time doing real-world industrial work.
My confusion comes from thinking of them both as full time jobs (so therefore where would you get the time to do extra study on the side).
Would the consultancy allow you to 'learn by doing' (i.e., you pick a new technology to use and figure it out as you build and deploy it)?
How to keep our staff from burning out is an easy one. Give them real breaks and often, and pay them enough to have time to do their own projects on a sabbatical year every two years. At great pay with these things in place, you can ask them to get and keep themselves up to speed. Basically, treat the teachers like they have real value and you will get real value and real competition for those positions. Or, just make the corporations pay for the labor training they say there is such a huge need for?
And I might as well add that I've been studying this space, let's call it the "bootcamp space" since it began because of its potential similarity to places like Medowmount, Marlboro Music Festival, and Tanglewood. I've been to a (tier one! tippy top! woo hooo- I was "good enough" ha ha to "get in"- please, I should hope so- I'm breathing aren't I?) bootcamp myself to learn about the teaching there, and have also experienced the online learning modules offered at these places. I'm sorry but they are so far behind their analogues in other advanced fields of study that don't even use technology. I've known a few incredible teachers these schools regularly pass on who are considered too "old" to get a job in software engineering. (yeah, it's illegal to discriminate, but it happens all the time based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and even more instensely- strangely in this field on age ?!) or who are turned down for reasons like "not enough industry experience" as an excuse to turn down an "older" worker (read: over 30) when their current slate of teachers have only had the experience of working on various incarnations of omni-auth at a durian delivery service for six months out of Toledo. But yeah, Durain.ly. Industry experience. Ok. Let's please make these coding schools get real, shall we? I would have LOVED to have worked with some of the folks I've met with zero up-to-date industry experience over some of the hip, younger "teachers" (former graduates of said programs) I was paying to "learn" from.
Interpreted from this point of view, you had put into camp of elitists who will write off any theoretically cheaper entry path to industry.
Simultaneously, plenty of positions are ok for beginners and it is good idea to hire people who are still learning basics for them.
I think we could all learn a lot from their failures. Is there anything about their experience that could help you predict who would make an ill-suited applicant? Or some helpful advice on how folks should be prepared to approach the program ("you should expect to put in X hrs per day over the next 180 days if you want to be successful")?
The thing is, students can't hear about the outcomes failures as much as they should because no one on the student side (the non-moneymaking side of it) can afford to be honest; they are the victims of this, especially once they have spent money. This is why I'm trying to help with that here. "Review sites" (not to name any names) are often just glorified advertising services. (literally handled by the marketing departments of these coding schools) I know this because I have been on both sides of this- inside the school and out. But since we are talking about failures that cause closings of schools here, and since so many will be seeing this page, I think it is time we talk about these issues honestly. The victors will be the schools who take responsibility for their own failures. They will be those who are brave enough to invite anonymous critique they can't control. (not "independently verified" claims of their success metrics they can control by virtue of what they measure and who is doing the verifying, and how much detail they go into in these metrics, and how much they get to leave out of that whole story- which is a lot, by the way.)
Ok not really your mother, since I doubt your mother's beard is as luxurious as my own, but we need a call to catch up.
Cheers to everyone involved with this, and I hope you all land on your feet.
2. Because of that, and for any of a number of other reasons, we may generally be overestimating how effectively these kinds of schools are educating people.
3. It's an open secret that hiring in the technology industry isn't based on aptitude, but rather on credentials and hazing rituals. Something like 3 decades of cultural development have trained developers that the most important risk they face in hiring is accepting someone underqualified, rather than passing on someone who is in fact qualified.
Given all these problems, it's not surprising that a school with a model of charging a 4-5 figure tuition in exchange for attempting to increase the likelihood of graduates employment would fail.
I actually looked at working for a boot camp once. To do so would have required more than a half pay cut. If I'm going to do that it will be as an underserved public sector educator, not a for profit company.
This was in Chicago.
Another was talking about $80K/year...in freaking Ohio.
I would love to teach more than I do, and I'm starting to work on some web courses because I've learned from corporate training that I'm good at it, but the money doesn't make sense at all.
I don't get this sentence, is this good or bad? I grew up in Ohio and for the majority of people I know there, they would be absolutely thrilled at that salary. The cost of living is nowhere near SF levels.
The "freaking Ohio" part, yeah I can understand that for a lot of parts of Ohio, but it's highly dependent on where in the state you're talking about.
Maybe I'd consider it if I owned the company. Other than that...eh.
I blame the easy investment cash that is often given based on the surface impression your company can make than on its efficiency and GAAP numbers. This promotes overhiring and reduces the role of a single developer to a point where the professional duties take a vanishingly small amount of time, so the efficiency (and hence aptitude or experience) is no longer an asset, while the ability to entertain the earlier hires becomes one of the most important requirements.
New manager training is an even bigger hole in most orgs than on-the-job entry-level engineer training.
Small companies usually have a lot more leeway here, I've been the replacement employee for a guy who only lasted a month and a half at a startup before.
After getting past my initial uneasiness around dealing with poor performers (defining poor performer as "someone the rest of the team feels is a net negative and can't trust with important features"), I'm less afraid of a not-good-enough hire (effort and conscientiousness in looking for the right solution is the most important thing I look for there), and withhold my "definitely not" calls for people I think would be truly toxic to the team's rhythm.
Why? If their hire doesn't work out, they've got a much better story - "Our hiring processes are really strict and everyone got on board with it, it must've been something else that went wrong". And when the hire does work, people at the company get to self-congratulate about how "elite" they are.
The costs of extraneous interviewing and leaving positions unfilled is borne more by the company, while the costs of making a bad hire is borne more by the hiring manager, so the hiring manager makes choices that offload costs more onto the company. Principle-Agent problem.
Could also just be saturation in general. This is not the first closing announcement in recent weeks.
The consultancy I used to work for passed on quite a few Iron Yard candidates because we were too small to have a place for them.
Good educators cost a decent amount of money, so if you have a high quality bar you're looking at a lot of (mostly fixed) costs. Add building rent + admin costs.
Public schooling costs $10k/pupil on average, and I imagine most of these code schools have a slightly higher bar.
1. Are willing to put their career on hold to teach
2. Are capable of communicating in that capacity
3. Can deal with the intensity of a code-bootcamp for very long
Does anyone in industry really count a 6-month course, no matter how intensive, as 'qualified'? It's hard enough breaking into your first job after a 3-4 year degree, most places still want more experience for their 'graduate' positions. I can't imagine it'd be easier for someone changing tracks mid-career with only a few months' coding experience.
I read a great quote once to the effect that a scalpel isn't better than a bread knife, it's just a different knife, for a different job. Don't hire a scalpel to cut bread.
For-profit education is a regulated industry in the United States and is experiencing significant adversarial attention at the moment, as a result of widespread looting of federal tuition assistance programs, to the tune of billions of dollars.
Can I name a Greek god who has non-zero relevance to this story? Apollo.
Where has all the money gone? Take a look at the salaries of school presidents, administrators, coaches, even professors, especially their pensions and benefits programs. Its as if all our non-profit institutions are really profit hungry corporations in disguise, and the "shareholders" are the administrators who control them.
Coach salaries tend to be eye-catching but they are generally entirely funded by the athletic department and its supporters, not tuition or state funds.
Instead they allow coaches and athletic directors to coordinate a conspiracy where they and their employees get to skim all of the profits of the program for themselves. When you are "forced" to pay your AD over a million dollars a year, that's the best possible thing to justify paying the president far more.
This is only true at a small number of schools. Most subsidize the athletics department through fees they levy on students in addition to the normal tuition.
My institution's in-state tuition + fees are about $9K/year. The TX state university I taught at for two years was similar.
Easy federal aid money certainly helps push up the price tag. It's effectively a subsidy.
OSU -> In-state: $26,000, out of state: $45,000
PSU -> In-state: $30,000+, out of state: $43,000
MSU -> In-state: $27,000, out of state: $51,000
UM (Michigan) -> In-state: $29,000, out of state: $60,000
UM (Miami) -> $64,306
You can argue that talking about tuition alone is misleading, but it wasn't included 15 years ago either, and yet 10K/year for in-state is around where things were back then too, IIRC.
I've personally been swamped in bootcamp graduates' resumes, even though my listing specifically says "5+ years experience". That tells me that they're desperate and bulk-applying. I've also heard this anecdote from others -- totally swamped by bootcamp grads.
It's a free market, and the demand for bootcamp grads is now lower than the supply. That's exactly what you'd expect, isn't it?
Costs too high?
Cash flow issues - unsustainable inflows vs outflows?
Mismanagement or something else?
There is a business model that works but the industry is still in an exploratory phase in trying to discover it.
Industry business model? The cynic in me says that there is still interest in how to best extract money from the growing flood of people interested in programming as a job.
As someone who worked with the instructors and campuses, the global team, and taught for years at The Iron Yard, I can tell you the team -- especially the campus teams -- were largely the right mix of talent - great engineers that cared about communicating well and respecting folks from all walks of life.
With that said, after the investment rounds some things definitely began to take shape:
1. The global staff slowly became more and more steps removed from the daily convo's of the instructors and campus directors
2. There were regional managers and others who were brand new to the business; the company hired mostly from outside to bring in management team and half of them never ran a local campus first (to me their credentials from prior positions didn't always matter). They should have hired all mgmt from within, as they sadly did not mirror the culture of the campus teams.
3. There's such a plethora of schools out there now competing for the same customer-base. The Iron Yard spent a LOT of time, effort, and money making some of the best curriculum I've ever seen - including its own platform for distributing content, videos, running live-editable code blocks of any language on Docker instances on the fly, and homework and review features for staff. But a lot of places competed on price and still operated without approval from state education boards or meeting any national standards.
4. Instructors needed a change of pace, as they are constant learners too. Any churn and change of staff usually meant that "If it wasn't documented, then the lessons were not learned in-full for the next employee". So, I definitely saw some campuses run into trouble because when a veteran employee left (no upward movement for them, etc because there was already too much mgmt in-place) the impact was quite hard.
I loved the team, but ultimately a few miscalculated moves and operational/strategic retries burned the candle at both ends faster than the mgmt expected.
You truly can not expect many with another option to choose Detroit as it stands. My family on my mother's side grew up there, and it seems it's really breaking their heart to see it today. My mother holds on to hope that the artists will somehow "save" Detroit, which could be somewhat true. I'm of the opinion that nothing will save Detroit until it is so bad that the politicians no longer get anything for their corruption and excess.
This is the second time today that we've had to ask you to stop posting uncivil comments to HN. I don't want to ban you, but if you don't fix this we'll have to, so would you please fix this?
(Re-)reading the following might help:
We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14817477 and marked it off-topic.
That said, I think that what I said was about as tame as newsguidelines.html itself: "If your account is less than a year old, please don't submit comments saying that HN is turning into Reddit. It's a common semi-noob illusion, as old as the hills.", which resorts to some light chiding which I personally do not mind being subjected to.
Note: I think you'll find Detroit1234's and Detroit12345's genuine account by looking at the list of people who have downvoted all of my comments in this thread. This is, assuming you folks aren't already doing work like this.
And again, sorry to waste your time. The expected colour of discourse here is a bit different from what I'm used to in person.
I am just saying that it isn't ALL a barren wasteland. You can live in the Detroit metro area and have an OKish life.
A spirited defense of Detroit is certainly welcome, but we ban accounts that resort to personal attack. Would you please not post like this here?
I have been to Detroit. It was pretty low energy, and that was some years ago (six?). Since then the crime has risen and the population and economic activity have declined. The mere fact that some buildings are being built in some places does not indicate that things are getting much better.
I understand the Michigander pride, but I don't think Detroit compares favourably to almost any other decent city in North America. I like the character of Detroit, but I'm not going to pretend it's booming. It can get better, and a broken city presents a lot of opportunity that a functioning city does not, but that doesn't make it any less broken in the moment.
Detroit is a city where about one in two thousand people are murdered every year, nearly nine times the U.S. average. A city where ~1.4 per thousand women are raped every year, about twice the national average. This is, in relative terms, not a pleasant or safe place to live.
Michigan in general is actually about on par with the national median, Detroit has suffered especially harshly.