The hack_app team had the pleasure of interviewing Jay Wengrow, founder of Anyone Can Learn To Code, for a deeper look into their Chicago code school experience. Jay walked us through his journey leading up to Anyone Can Learn To Code, and his experience as they ramp up for their first cohort this summer.
We are so thankful to Jay for giving us his time and providing us insight into the coding bootcamp industry from a founder and former educator’s perspective.
How did the Anyone Can Learn To Code school get started?
Well, before I entered tech, I was in education. I went for my masters in education here in Chicago, and I taught for a little bit before I decided I wanted to move to tech. I had done some computer programming as a kid and I remembered how much I enjoyed it - so even though I enjoyed education, I wanted to transfer into tech. So eventually I made the leap.
After a few years of developing, my desire to teach wasn’t being satisfied so I decided that I was going to teach some people Ruby on Rails – a language I had experience with. I took my Sundays and started dedicating them to teaching people how to code. Whether in person or via Skype, I got so busy that I was literally teaching people all over the world. It was at that point I realize how much I loved it. The combination of education and tech was perfect for me. So I decided, “you know what?”, I could do this full time.
If my students could progress with just an hour of straight instruction and extra exercises given to them via Skype…. then, with an immersive bootcamp, I could take people to an even higher level.
What differentiates Anyone Can Learn To Code from other code schools?
The mainstream model of most bootcamps is to only select students who are able to teach themselves. The way this works is: the school provides a lot of material for the students to learn and teachers are in the room to answer questions or assist when students get stuck.
Here at Anyone Can Learn To Code, there is a heavy emphasis on high quality instruction.
Coming into this with my masters in education, I knew a lot about the power of high quality instruction. In fact, I actually taught the first introductory day at another boot camp, and students gave me a lot of feedback about how that clear instruction really helped them for the rest of the course. That is, they felt that that instruction given on the first day really helped them stay that course. So we put a super high emphasis on high quality instruction at Anyone Can Learn To Code.
Concerning our style, we try to float back and forth between instruction and exercise. We will introduce a new concept for 20-25 minutes and then we will switch to exercises for 45 minutes.
Since we have the high quality instruction component, we believe students can absorb the material much faster than they could if they had to teach themselves. So while most bootcamps are at least 40 hours a week, and usually encourage their students to stay nights and weekends (something that ends up being 70+ hours per week), Anyone Can Learn To Code is actually a nights and weekends only program. It is four nights a week (Mon-Thur), 3.5 hours each night, and then 9:00am - 5:00pm on Sundays. We think this really opens up the bootcamp experience to a lot of people that could not otherwise attend because of other life commitments.
Normally to attend a bootcamp, you have to quit your job in order to go to that bootcamp. And that obviously isn’t possible for many people because of the financial instability that would ensue.
A caveat to that is, many people who attend bootcamps are career switchers, so they do actually quit their jobs, but once the bootcamp is over, they still don’t have one. Some people struggle with that, even though bootcamps are successful in placing their students, there is still that period of instability - especially during the bootcamp. During a typical bootcamp, it’s almost impossible to make any income. And even if you could, the bootcamps often will not allow students to do anything other than focus on the course at hand.
Anyone Can Learn To Code is exclusively a nights and weekends program. That means students can go to work and maintain their job but still learn how to code at the same time. That being said, it is still an intense program, but I believe it can offer a bootcamp experience to people that otherwise could not afford one.
Is Anyone Can Learn To Code a pure classroom experience or are their online classes?
There are no online courses; it is all on-site here in Chicago, IL.
What do you look for in applicants and how do you make your judgements?
As the name of our program implies, you do not have to know how to code. The main thing we look for is people who are dedicated and willing to stay the course. Like I mentioned before, it is intense, especially to give up your Sunday and four nights a week to learn to code, but ultimately it’s a decision of who we believe is dedicated and capable of pushing through until the end. Does it help to have a background in tech? Sure, it obviously helps, but it is not necessary.
Well that’s it everyone! Anyone Can Learn To Code is a high quality-focused code school that is great for the person that doesn’t know how to code but is dedicated and determined to learn. Thanks again to Jay for his time and useful information! Thanks again, Jay! Best wishes to everyone at Anyone Can Learn To Code!
Please view the accompanying YouTube video for the complete interview with more information, in-depth interaction with AnyoneCanLearnToCode and hack_app teams, and increased insight into the coding bootcamp industry.