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Tell HN: I want to teach you web development. In 8 weeks. For free (sort of)
195 points by kabuks on Nov 22, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 139 comments
Want to become a web developer? Are you based in the Bay Area? Can you take next February and March off?

I want to teach 6 people Ruby on Rails from scratch. Hands on. In person. 5 days a week, for 8 weeks. No computer science background required.

There is such high demand for good ruby devs right now. I'm willing to invest my time, money and energy upfront to get you in good enough shape to land a job as a Junior Rails Developer.

I will line up several companies that would be very interested in interviewing you. If you get a job with any of them, they'll pay me your tuition, so you get the training for free.

What do you think?

You should make clearer: if someone doesn't get hired, who ends up holding the bag? And how large a bag?

I'll forward this to someone I know.

Agreed. Tuition is $6k, paid over 5 years ($100/month) if you don't get hired, or don't want to get hired.

Nice. Even for more risk-averse people, that's a pretty sweet opportunity.

I discussed this very idea with @bendycode this past summer. Kudos to you kicking it off and best of luck!

Here are some things we discussed are important for RoR devs to know. ymmv.

Effective pairing skills Mastery of the CLI Experience deploying to Heroku & non-heroku hosts Git knowledge Spec tests Feature tests Haml/SASS Ajax UX/Jquery Configuration Management Twitter Oauth Twitter API Facebook Oauth Devise & User login/sessions File uploads and S3 storage DelayedJob Cron tasks Pagination Caching Search Index (eg: Solr, Sphinx, etc) API consumption API creation/support

I personally would refrain from getting too far into Haml/SASS without first creating a significant understanding of the underlying HTML and CSS. While these tools are certainly effective, it seems like it would be foolhardy to not start from the ground up as there are more projects built with straight HTML/CSS. Especially given that a junior developer is likely to be maintaining existing projects, not necessarily rolling your own.

Great list! If you get a chance, I would love to connect and hear more about you guys have thought about. Maybe we can work together.

Sorry, I'm sure you have the best intentions but it's not possible to go in 8 weeks from "no computer science background required" to a rails junior.

Not true at all. I went from "no computer science background" to a Django junior hire in ~10 weeks of (admittedly quite intense) self-study. I'm now employed as a mid-level programmer making very good money.

My anecdote is about as valid a characterization of whether it's possible in general as your sweeping, baseless generalization.

I got a relative lot of email on this (given that I normally get zero mail it was a landslide) so I blogged responses to the questions I got.


I'd be curious to hear the rationale behind my downvote.

Is anyone seriously suggesting you can turn a programming illiterate into a rails hire in 8 weeks?

It's very subjective to talk about what a "rails junior" means, but it is very possible for someone (like the students at Code Academy) to learn an immense amount of programming knowledge in a short amount of time (say 12 weeks).

Are the companies you working with going to actively short the comp of a junior rails dev hired through this program (treating the 6K as a training incentive) or will graduates theoretically get market rates (treating the 6K as a hiring/headhunting bonus)?

Great question. I would sincerely hope it's the latter.

Companies pay up to 25% of first year salary to head hunters (or as a referral bonus), that's the budget we are after.

But you raise a very good point. We need to spell that out. Not sure how to enforce it though. Any ideas?

Self-enforcing, assuming you have assembled a decent list of companies you are recruiting for. You have created Joe, a new valuable job candidate, and if there was just one company looking for a guy like Joe, then they would make him eat the cost of tuition (reduce his comp), but since he is a great guy that five or six companies are competing for, the offers they each give him have to be competitive.

Treat and frame it like a recruiter payout but only 10% or less. Going with a model they're familiar with will reduce the friction. Great hires are never docked for recruiter fees.

This is awesome. Too bad I am on the east coast. Can you maybe video tape the whole thing and make each day available online?

I would be willing to pay for something like this.

Mee too, I'm from Europe though.

Maybe the OP or somebody in the class could share what they do with as much details as possible on a blog as they go?

Would be interesting.

Me too and Im from the east coast...of Canada

Me too, but Im based in Shanghai, China

A lot of ambitious and hungry people ready to take Kabuks up on his deal. And a lot of hackers skeptical of the results. Will he pull it off? Will those code hungry bootstrappers make the commute, make the grade and get paid? Kabuks, please keep HN in the loop on how this unfolds.

I definitely will. Thanks for framing it as a challenge :) Keeps me motivated.

In truth though, I feel like the response here has been super helpful and encouraging. And the skepticism healthy and respectful. I really appreciate it.

Your Ted talk was a lot of fun. You seem like a great teacher. I envy those who can learn programming from you. Wishing you success!

Is there really that much demand for Rails devs, compared to iphone/android etc? (genuine question, not trolling or anything)

Honestly, it's also slightly easier to train a good junior Rails dev than a good junior iPhone dev, given things like tracking allocated memory.

Not sure about Android.

Maybe not anymore with storyboarding and ARC in iOS5 ;)

in my opinion, yes

So, you're a rails guy that decided to become a recruiter?

Sort of.

I'm a rails guy, who really enjoys being around people. And I'm asking companies to pay me to train devs, instead of find devs.

So a recruiter/trainer. I don't mean that to sound derisive - lord knows we need lots more of both competent developers and recruiters.

Good luck to you!

That sounds like an awesome way to carve out a niche. Best of luck to you!

That's not a fair way of describing him, as he's actively becoming a supplier of new developers, not merely acting as a middleman.

I have some modest experience. None the less, I'm interested. How much do you hope to teach in eight weeks? What should a Junior Rails Developer be able to do?

Great questions.

A junior rails developer should have - A good grasp of Ruby - A good grasp of the rails framework - Experience pair programming - An understanding of the Agile Software Development, and Test Driven Development - Basic HTML, CSS, and Javascript skills - Basic git (source control)

More importantly, they need to know how to reach out to the ruby community, and have developed the skill of getting stuck and learning their way through the stuckness.

I am Mike McGee, the other co-founder of Code Academy (http://codeacademy.org), and this description is pretty much exactly what our students are learning now.

Our program is project-based and centered around pair programming with Ruby on Rails as our web framework. It has been amazing to see the progress of our students in the first 8 weeks of the 12-week program.

While we may have a different focus and a different business model, if you want to talk to us about our experience it could be helpful in what you are trying to do. You can contact me at mike at codeacademy dot org

I am UC Berkeley student studying mathematics. I would do, anything, to be part of this six week session. I have been painstakingly trying to each myself programming spending more than 3 hours every single day outside of my normal schedule just trying to learn more programming. I learn quickly. I am highly focused. I've started a profitable, successful company before. I have a burning desire to learn this.

Have you considered just applying to places? His setup works because people are really, truly desperate for programmers. If you're a Cal math student who's really into programming (even if you just started learning), you have the intellectual chops to do it. You would get training just the same, except you'd be getting paid for it at the same time.

I got my first job/internship involving programming with zero (literally 0.00 hours) programming experience. It's quite possible.

Of course, there's a lot to recommend learning from a good, dedicated teacher instead of a couple stolen minutes everyday from another developer in a production environment.

Actually, that's exactly what I've been doing. I work for a tech company now where I'm honing my skills but the work I've been doing is far more algorithmic rather than development oriented. My goal is really to be a PM and then move to start my own start up. I know exactly what I want to do and how I want to do but getting the skills in another thing. I'm not sure I'm learning fast enough where I'm working because a lot of the work they want me to do is things I already know. Knowing this, what do you think I should do moving forward?

Would you mind sharing some more about how you got your first programming job?

Did friends help you land the job, or did you just wow them in an interview? Did you have an impressive portfolio or degree?


A friend helped land me the job in a corporate IT department (an advertised but effectively fake-competitive position, bypassed HR), plus I have a strong technical degree from a brand-name university. No portfolio or design experience. I'd like to say I wowed them in an interview, but it was really just sitting down in a bar on a Friday night, shooting the shit, and then getting a programming book to study over the weekend so I could start on Tuesday.

I was very lucky, of course, so it should be said that one size never fits all. I also think it was totally inappropriate for me to get hired. But when you're unemployed with dwindling savings and have been homeless for 2 months straight, a $45k/year internship is something you jump for, no matter how unqualified you are for it or how unfair it is that you're getting that opportunity.

I sincerely apologize for anyone who's had to read the code I wrote back then. Though, all things considered, it's probably not as bad as many of the monstrosities I see regularly in my current position.

Thanks for sharing.

Great! That's all you need. Shoot me an email (in my profile).

btw, it's 8 weeks, not six.

T'was a typo. Sending you an email now.

Out of curiosity, why don't you take programming-related classes at your university? I've heard they've done some OS-related stuff there and it was not too shabby.

Have you taken any of the cs classes? You should consider doing 169 which covers pretty much exactly what the OP will.

Sounds like an interesting approach. I like how you're thinking and I'd make my way there for 8 weeks in a hot second. Would love to hear more.

Thanks. Shoot me an email shereef@gmail.com

Sorry, just out of curiosity how much (in average) a Junior Rail Developer can make in San Francisco or in New York. Thanks

Teaching somebody how to set up a rails app with some basic routes and implementing some ajax calls and stuff, sure.

Will they know what's going on under the hood though?

Taking somebody from ground zero and teaching them enough to be able to debug problems that the hires would need to know in order to be proficient, self starting engineers.. I'm really skeptical about that being done in 8 weeks.

Most of the little tricks and crap I've learned over the years have been through trial and error, and working on many different projects.

More specific examples: for loops not creating scope in javascript and asynchronous calls introducing race conditions due to not understanding them. Those aren't things that are in curriculums, though when trying to build some features most people will encounter them.

I have had the chance to visit the classes at Code Academy in Chicago, I can say that these students are learning way more than I ever expected.

No they will not be software craftsman in 12 weeks, but they will know how to take their own idea and make it into a Rails app. Pretty powerful stuff for not knowing how code on Day 1.

"Most of the little tricks and crap I've learned over the years have been through trial and error, and working on many different projects."

This quote represents what the students are learning at Code Academy - (http://codeacademy.org)

Is it really possible to pick up RoR in 8 weeks to be useful to a company?

How is what you're offering any different than this site: http://teamtreehouse.com/

Super honest question, I'm fairly new to the web dev world.

IMHO, he did say you'll be passable as a junior dev(depends on the person's potential i guess). I think that this would be enough for most companies, especially if they think you have great potential and can grow/learn exponentially(like be a senior in 6 or less months)

There are some projects that don't need senior devs THAT much, like basic CRUD apps, etc. And you'll be "continuing" your studies under the company's mentors/senior devs.

So yes, I think 8 weeks of studying RoR can make someone useful to a company. Not all, but probably one that needs juniors

With hands-on, 5 days a week, many hours a day, intense one-on-one mentoring, I'm still skeptical.

The main reason I asked, and why I'm a little skeptical, is I see a lot of places (in the Los Angeles area) that require additional knowledge in a myriad of other technologies; MySql, JavaScript, Html etc. along with Ruby/Rails or Python/Django.

I apologize for sounding brash, but this sounds a little too good to be true, almost DeVry ITtech ish...

I'm in India. And very interested. (Of-course I can't get a visa just for this). Are you making any kind of off-line arrangement for those who can't physically attend but still want in on a self-paced learning program? Count me in if you do. I think you can have even greater success from this if you carve out/expand this out of the usual valley-startup circles. There is a lot of pent-up demand for great developers and robust continuous demand good teaching programs out here. I might be even interested in collaborating/partnering if you wish.(gratis/paid depending on level of involvement). Have you thought on these lines?

I'm not in the Bay Area, but would be interested if this if it were online based!

I graduate from Texas this semester, but I'm not interested in the large Gantt chart consultancy firms and generic "business analyst" positions that roll through the business school recruiting system.

I've been teaching myself Linux/Ruby/Rails for a while, but I've had to scavenge time between school and work. I can make a basic forum in Rails, I know basic Git (have a Github), I've become comfortable in Linux, and I can deploy in Heroku/Linode box.

But I never had a mentor. After I graduate this month, I'd easily move to the Bay Area for this (or a job). But I suppose I might be too "advanced" for the offer.

It does not seem to me that way at all. In fact, I think that you are exactly the type of person that this program is perfect for. Honing your skills from where you are is going to be loads easier than starting from scratch. Having a rudimentary understanding of programming in this environment can only help you.

Folks, thanks for the great response. I just put up a site explaining the process and containing the details of the training, and an application form


It seems that there is significant interest in what you are offering. How do you plan on selecting the six students (apprentices)?

I think the real value in what you are proposing is in the pathway to a job. In fact, I would like to possibly take you up on this offer. I've done some Ruby, Python, and server admin stuff, but not enough to make me "employable" by my standards.

I'm currently in grad school, and I would be taking a semester off (which I am fine with) if I took your offer. When more details become available please contact me. My information is in my profile.

Would love to hear about selection criteria - it does seem that you have generated quite a bit of interest.

If there was a way to do this from Minnesota, I might be interested.

This is really interesting to me, because I too am very interested in something like this but I'm not in a "startup hot spot" like the bay. I'm tempted to just apply for a visa and come down, but I think the OP would be wise in looking at ways to take this idea outside of the usual circles of startups.

Also as a sidenote, codecademy, is a great tool for learning code from anywhere in the world. It's not bad, probably not as good as a hands on instructor, but it's certainly a worthwhile endevour to explore if you are really interested in learning how to code.

There's One more here, again from Minnesota interested in this course.

I've been doing rails work in the Twin Cities for 5 years. If either of you are interested in something locally let me know.

Sounds like an amazing opportunity! If you were in Portland, I'd seriously consider quitting my job to dive in.

I'm a non-programmer slowly trying to teach myself in my off time, but it's slow, lonely, hard-to-stay-motivated going. I've contacted a few local web dev companies to try to come in as an unpaid intern to at least try to get into a more conducive environment, but haven't had much luck.

Please keep us updated on how this goes! And if anyone knows of a similar opportunity in Portland, I'd love to hear about it.

Regarding learning Ruby in Portland, make it out to a PDX Ruby Brigade meeting if you haven't already. They have meetings focused on learning Ruby: http://calagator.org/events/1250461371

I have no preference for Ruby in particular (I've been learning Python), but that definitely looks like it's worth checking out. Thanks!

I'm 35 years old, married with 4 kids, in the middle of a career change, and teaching myself programming. If this, or anything like Code Academy, were available in the Indianapolis area, I'd be ALL over it. I have a Master's degree in another discipline, I learn fast, and am very motivated, looking to put my creativity and drive towards doing good in the world through programming. If there was an option for doing something online, I'd consider that as well.

Is demand for Rails developers this high?

There's this much of a shortage that there's no available talent to employ?

This much of a shortage to add a $6,0000 premium on top of a brand new developer?

I'm another interested participant however I'm not in the US.

If anyone would consider a similar arrangement suitable for remote participants I'd take them up on the offer. I think this would have huge demand.

Personally I don't mind if it was RoR or Python - whatever. Having someone experienced to answer my questions would make for greatly accelerated learning.

If anyone has an interest in putting something similar together please mail me. I'm my username on gmail.com

Even though I know I know a bit of Ruby and Rails, I'd love to take your course. Unfortunately, I live in Philadelphia, and I've been looking for Junior Rails Developer job for the past 5 months and haven't even got offered an interview. I'm considering putting on my resume willing to work for peanuts, because I'm passionate about working in a startup environment.

Just wondering, what's your experience besides Classparrot? It's great but I'd like to see more before getting in a bigger commitment.

Ofcourse. I built http://bettermeans.com Worked for MS for 4 years as lead dev. Taught workshops in high schools around the country for 4 years. I also really enjoy public speaking: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxSF-Shereef-Bishay-Open-En...

I'm very interested. One question: Do you have some place to put people up in, or would we be responsible for lodging, food, etc?

This sounds great, and exactly what I'm looking for. I'm currently in the Bay Area doing analytics at a services company and want to transition more into tech. I started teaching myself Python a few weeks ago, but would love a crash course in Ruby.

If there's still room, I'd love to be in this. I'll email you my contact info.

What are all these green accounts that seem to be so excited about the "Code Academy"? This is getting suspicious

I think they are students of the program who just got on Hacker News. They are baby programmers trying to get into the community, let them grow! They can also be a little feisty and protective.

This is awesome. I'd take you up on this. I've worked at a YC startup as a first non-tech employee and have self taught myself a good amount of Python/Django/HTML/CSS. If there's any add'tl info you need to make your decision, feel free to contact. Email is zain.allarakhia@gmail.com

Sounds interesting. How much is tuition? What are the companies that will reimburse tuition?

Tuition will be 6k paid over 5 years ($100/month)

I haven't asked the companies' permission to publicize yet. Sending them emails now, and will get right back to you once I get their ok.

Great idea. We need a lot more people like you. I am assuming (and hoping) this is just a trial run for bigger and better things you have planned. There's definitely a need for this.

You're the solution to our unemployment problem. Best of luck.

Great initiative! I reckon the demand will boost shortly...

Where do you want to get to after 8 weeks? Would the "students" be ready to take junior RoR jobs straight after 8 weeks in your vision OR do you expect it will take longer?


The goal is to have people job-ready after 8 weeks. A big part of the program will be focussed on learning how to learn. And students will be learning and building software in an environment very similar to a work environment.

This sounds awesome.

I'm interested, in the Bay Area, and ready to quit my job, if necessary, to make it happen. I shot you an email this afternoon. Any idea when you'll decide if you're going to move forward?

This is a legitimate niche just begging to be filled.

Consider me very interested - based in NY but certainly willing and able to go out the Bay Area. My contact info is in my profile, and I'll email you.

I'm VERY interested in this. Please email me when you have everything set up. Either at my email here or admin at 1every dot com. Thanks. I look forward to seeing you in February.

This. I too am VERY interested. My email is andre at garrigo dot net. Please send me any info that I may need to proceed with this. I already live in SF and work for a tech startup, but I am always interested in learning.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Being a web developer takes more than simply 'knowing RoR'. Developing is less about the code and more about the solutions you express through your code, as I am sure you know.

Well, I am not so sure about a formal course like this. I am on the peninsula learning Ruby and Rails. If anyone would like to meet some time casually send me a message.

I would jump at the chance if it was available in Austin.

How many hours a day?

The program is 5 days a week, 8 hours a day. Why not come the bay for a couple of months?

This sounds pretty awesome! I'm already a junior .Net mvc developer, but I'm learning Rails to build my new startup. I would be interested in attending/helping.

Is this a test to see if it's possible to make the programmers companies are looking for instead of just hiring programmers, or a test for your teaching skills?

It's an attempt to find 6 people who would take 2 months of their lives to learn Ruby on Rails. If anything is being tested, it's interest in the program.

I'm interested! How many/what hours/day would this be, and when would it start? -Shannon shannon at starrynightcoaching dot com.

Maybe HR departments should become 'teach to code' classrooms. The head-hunter fee would be a comparable sum for an 8 week class.

This sounds like an amazing opportunity. If it were even remotely feasible, I'd consider relocating from DC just for this class.

If only i'd be in US :|

Do you think you could find a way for people outside Bay Area too?

Sincerely i would pay (not really 6k though) for something similar.

This may be something you could perhaps use a video broadcasting service and see how much reach you can get.

Sounds great. I have a previous background in programming, so is there some "accelerated" route I can take?

A lot of the learning will be self-paced. So not everybody needs to be going at the same speed, and on the same page. I'm designing the program to make sure that if you have programming background, you won't be bored.

I shall join you and learn what you have to teach me!

Give me the dates, times, and place you will be teaching immediately!

I'll take you up on this offer; I'll do it. My contact info is in my profile, if this goes forward.

jumar, you're contact info is not in your profile. My email is shereef@gmail.com

I apologize, I hadn't updated my profile at that time; I've since updated it and emailed you.

I'm definitely interested in this opportunity - my e-mail address in my profile.

Great offer. I can't take you up on it, unfortunately, but that is a great idea!

Thanks. Can you give me some insight into what stands in your way? The time commitment? The tuition? Lack of interest? Just looking for as much feedback as I can get.

I'd love to do it too, but can't, for two reasons - first, I am in NY, and second, it would not be possible to take that much time off of my day job.

If it is web based, or weekends, then I'd be very interested.

I'm non-technical, still finishing up studies, unable to move to SF, etc.

I speak fluent PHP but would love to learn RoR. I'm not in the US either though.

Sounds awesome. I wish you luck, please keep me in the loop! (email in profile)

Anyway you can do it online? I'm here in north Texas and very interested.

Very interesting approach, hope you post a follow-up to this experiment.

very cool idea. anyone considered doing this on the east coast?

I'm not in the US, is there any way to take the deal?

I think I wish I lived in the Bay Area.

I'd probably do this if it were in NY.

Can I pay you to attend?

Sure. shereef@gmail.com

Sounds exciting.

If you don't have enough peeps yet. I'd be available! Ping me: joo.kno.sam@gmail.com.

this is a brilliant idea, kudos to you

Do it in LA

sounds great!

This is an interesting business model. I like it, but am interested to see how you will commit people to paying you $100/month for the next 5 years unless structuring it as a loan (which has it's own headaches)

For those interested in something similar, my understanding is that Code Academy (Different than YC startup codecademy) http://codeacademy.org in Chicago is phenomenal. I met a bunch of their students at the HN meetup in Chicago last week and they were raving about it. From what I understand, the 35 folks in their current batch are going to have multiple job offers, and DHH is a huge supporter, so much so that he's taught a class.

With the rise and popularity of 'teach to code' services, it remains to be seen which model works best. Taking a person from 0 (or very, very little) knowledge and experience to the point where they can be at all effective as a software developer is difficult. Expecting a matter of weeks to turn someone such as this into hireable material is a dangerous attitude to have. I'm very curious to see the graduates of these courses and even more curious to see how their skills are represented to possible hiring companies.

It's all about what the needs and expectations of the individual is - and properly setting them. As one of the founders of http://codeacademy.org I can say first-hand that it is possible to get people to a point where they are happy with their progress. But rather than asserting - our students' own perspectives is the actual evidence: http://codeacademy.org/culture

If anyone would like to know more about our experience starting and running this program - I'd love to help you however I can. It's great that there are so many people getting passionate about the issue of educating more people on how to solve problems through software.

Drop me a line at neal at codeacademy dot org.

Love codecademy Neal. Just finished the initial rollout of the tool and can't wait for the next programs.

You have to be kidding me. How hard is it to distinguish Code Academy from codecademy in Neal's comment? Neal just referenced Code Academy multiple times in this comment, but you put codecademy?

Not only that, but the two companies couldn't be anymore different. If you truly love what Neal is doing, you would know that you have not completed the program, because that would mean that you are a student in Chicago who is currently 8 weeks through the Code Academy program.

We can disagree about what approach is the best to take when teaching people how to code, but we can at get the names of companies and what they do right.

I am a Code Academy Student and it has been an amazing experience. I really don't think that I could have a better atmosphere for learning. The professor is one of the best I have had, the mentors are all very accomplished craftsman, but the atmosphere and student interaction might be the most valuable part. The 35 people devoting all of their time learning rails are unbelievably motivated and passionate. Just about every hour of the day there are people learning, asking questions, and working on projects together. To me, that part alone was worth the price of admission. When we finish I know that I won't be half as good as most of the people on HN, but I do know that I have a solid base on which to build on. Not only can I read a lot of the technical posts on HN and fully understand them, but can take those and implement them into my projects. Most of the students in Code Academy came with startup ideas, and now not only have the ability to program them ourselves, but we have a solid network to help get it done if we need it.

I'm a Code Academy student, here in Chicago. Obviously I love the concept otherwise I wouldn't invest $ and 12 weeks for this. It's not just the stuff you learn, it's also a lot about the great group of students who have really been helping each other. It's about the mentors and the people who can answer your questions as you learn as well. And Chicago's tech community's response has been outstanding. I'm not a CS major but this will give me a solid foundation to be a programmer and continue to learn.

Isn't this more of a consulting (or contracting) company? At least that's how most of the smaller (20-50 consultants and 1-5 management) companies works around here.

Code Academy is not a consulting or contracting company. Code Academy doesn't really work like anyone else works.

I don't think there's really anything unique about spamming... I was also referring to the previous posters loan idea/business model.

Structuring it as a loan is a very good idea.

nice busuness

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