Week 25 at an Unbootcamp

As enrollees in the web development curriculum of Learners Guild move through the program, they are increasingly working to ensure that they can hop straight from the Guild into a real job.

School-to-work pipeline

Learners Guild in Oakland has prided itself in turning out software developers so skilled that they can get themselves happily employed without any placement services from the Guild. This is in contrast with various coding bootcamps, which all-but-guarantee jobs or internships to their graduates. It also shows impressive confidence in the program, since the Guild’s own investors are financing Learners’ education and the return on their investment depends on ex-Learners earning good incomes.

That notion is no longer an article of faith. The Guild is beefing up its efforts to facilitate post-Guild employment. As I finished my 25th week, out of 40, at the Guild on 27 October, concern about rapid employability was increasingly in the air:

  • Learners have increasingly chosen to immerse themselves in high-demand technologies, including React, Redux, React native, Ethereum, and Deeplearn.
  • They have branched out from the Guild’s primary programming language, JavaScript, to add other often-demanded languages, including Python, Java, C++, and Objective C, to their skill sets.
  • Algorithm puzzles on HackerRank are now a daily exercise. For example, in a few minutes, write a program that determines whether 1 letter can be removed from a collection of letters and the result will be a collection in which each letter that is present at all occurs the name number of times. Then figure out whether you could have written the same program differently so it would run faster. Such problems reportedly occur during technical interviews for programming jobs.
  • Learners have organized a group that is creating a website showcasing the portfolios of advanced Guild Learners available to be hired.
  • Another group of Learners is creating a small software consulting business within the Guild, in which they can get real-world project experience.
  • Learners and coaches are offering practice interviews to each other, and some are making use of commercial practice-interview services. A manager from Karat came to give a talk this week on how technical interviewing really works.
  • Learners about every week are going to meetings where they can make industry contacts.

Although I don’t feel anxious about unemployability, my own current focus, contributing improvements to the ESLint project, arguably fits the pattern. According to many (but not all) commentators, competent employers hiring software developers look at the open-source contribution records of candidates and treat them as significant evidence of quality.


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