Last week in Chicago, we hosted an inaugural (and hopefully to-be-repeated!) panel with women leaders from across the spectrum of coding schools and accelerators in the city. Our goal? To have a conversation about the burgeoning industry we're all a part of and discuss how coding schools fit into broader trends in education, technology, and business.
Our guests were a stellar batch of visionaries, educators, and technologists from a range of Chicago programs. From Mobile Makers, we had Jessi Chartier, the Director of Education. From the Startup Institute, we had program coordinator (and alum) Carlin Thomas. i.c.stars, a 2-year business leadership incubator, sent over Training Program Director Tasha Levy, and our very own senior instructor Alyssa Diaz rounded out the group. Moderating was the inimitable Jill Felska, Global Director of Career Services at Dev Bootcamp, who has a career's worth of experience helping people find careers that make them happy.
So what did we learn? Four big takeaways:
1. There is no "best" program, only "best fit for you."
Many in the audience wanted to know which was the "best" program, but all of the panelists agreed that "best" is a relative term. "Best for you," is a much better goal to aim for, and "best for you" depends on a lot of factors. Each program offers different curriculum, different timelines and schedules, and different approaches to career transitioning and skill-building. Mobile Makers, for example, focuses exclusively on building mobile apps, while Dev Bootcamp focuses on web development. i.c.stars also includes leadership and business development skills for the tech sector, but its two-year timeline may not work for those looking for faster change. So how do you decide?
2. Start with goals, work backwards.
Jessi Chartier told everyone that, when people ask her what program they should apply for, she starts with the same question "What are your goals?" Are you trying to get a job as a web developer at one of your favorite tech companies? Are you trying to build an app to launch in the App Store? Are you trying write a business plan and start your own company? Are you trying to develop a freelance career? Starting with your goals will help you narrow down programs until you find one best equipped to help you reach them.
3. "Education" means different things
One attendee asked the panel how these types of coding schools and accelerators fit into college, grad school, and other higher education options. The panelists pointed out that education doesn't have to follow a particular path anymore. In this day and age, the tech industry is oriented towards "competencies" rather than degrees. When you're applying for a job, it doesn't matter so much what your resume says you can do, or where your "certification" comes from, it matters what you can show them you can do. It matters what kinds of questions you ask and how quickly you learn. Skills-based learning is growing in all sectors, including traditional colleges. These programs can function as alternatives or supplements to a traditional degree.
4. Coding schools can help bridge the tech gap for women
Lots of women were nudged off the path of computer science and math at early ages due to stereotypes that convinced them that math was for boys. Others found themselves the only women in college STEM programs and decided they'd rather not be the "only" and switched gears. Others might have experienced hostility or loneliness early on while learning to code and it knocked them off their path. Immersive coding programs can be a great way to find your footing if bias, stereotype, or impostor syndrome kept you out of the game early on.
All in all, huge round of thanks to our panelists and their programs for bringing their expertise, candor, and honesty to a great discussion! Want to read more about this event? Check out the Mobile Makers blog post!
Ready to get started learning to code? Apply to Dev Bootcamp. We have rolling cohort start-dates, so you've never missed a deadline!