Education and Leadership Podcast(s)?

Internally I’ve created a small podcast which I’ve titled The Education & Leadership Podcast and on it I share some thoughts on this growing company, provide insights via my “guests” (which are our staff members), and also tidbits on the growing trends within our market and vertical.

I have a few questions and thoughts that I’d like to posit – so if you don’t mind indulging me for a moment…

First off I’d love to hear from you if you know of any other great podcasts that tackle a combination of technology, education, and leadership – I’d love to download them and listen in, especially if they are podcasts that target specifically the growing code school arena. That would be amazing.

Second, I’d love to hear about other podcasts that you think I and my team might benefit from. There is always room to learn more about our industry, education, and especially leadership and I’m always open to trying out a new podcast or two.

Third, would releasing the internal podcast publicly be of interest to anyone? Obviously I’d have to rethink my approach if I knew that it was also going outside of these hallowed TIY walls but I’d love for your thoughts if you have any. And, if you have or know of any examples of internal podcasts that were developed for staff but that are also shared publicly.

Which brings me to my fourth question: If I were to release them publicly I’d love to increase the quality through and by which I record them. I’m a complete podcast noob and even though I’ve tried it once or twice I’ve never really done it well or “right”; I’d like to get some decent equipment and start out strongly. Suggestions?

Finally, what do you look for in a podcast and what keeps you “hooked” and continuing to subscribe to them? What differentiates a mediocre podcast from an amazing one? What can we do or borrow from others that are “best in breed” that might make sense?

Appreciate the thoughts folks!

New (and Old) Territory: Python at The Iron Yard

Our traditional portfolio of courses cover the three primary areas of common tech stacks: front end, back end and mobile.

Those are broad terms in the world of programming—technologies abound within each category. We’ve chosen JavaScript, Ruby on Rails and iOS development because of demand, flexibility and the variety of opportunities each gives our students upon graduation.

One of the great things about our school, though, is flexibility. If there’s demand, we can meet it and we’re not tied to certain technologies because we know they will change and adapt (or even see the end of their life).

JavaScript, Ruby and iOS aren’t going any where for a while and have served our students well, but recently we’ve had conversations with certain employers who have demand for other languages.

Specifically, over half of our Raleigh-Durham Employer Advisory Board expressed interest in hiring more Python developers. That’s exciting for us—Python is a venerable language with an extremely robust community.

After several more conversations and some planning, I’m excited to announce that we will be offering our first Python course at our Raleigh-Durham campus in January, 2015.

We are actively looking for an instructor, so if you’re interested or know someone who might be, let us know.

Lucky for us, both of our Durham instructors are adept at Python, so we already have a head-start on curriculum. (Our Front End Engineering Instructor, Julia, just finished a book on Django, published through Oreilly! More on that soon.)

Wondering what Python is?

Python is a very versatile server-side programming language. It has been around since the 80s and is used heavily in both academics and the sciences, but is also found in both large and small scale consumer companies and products around the world (like RedHat, Instagram and more). You can learn more on the official Python website or Wikipedia. If you want to take a test-drive, do a few tutorials.

We’ll post more information soon!

Important Updates to our Job Placement Program

Here’s the short story (full details are below) 

In order to comply with state licensing requirements, we are making updates to our job placement program in some states. This is primarily a difference in the way we communicate about job placement—we aren’t legally allowed to offer a placement guarantee to students. For us and our students, though, that won’t change our commitment to having the best career-support possible and job placement for all of our students. In fact, we’ve decided to raise the bar for ourselves by offering even more ongoing career support and training for students who graduate from The Iron Yard.

Full details are below and we encourage you to read more about licensing and education. As always, feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions at all.

Code Schools, State Licensing, Job Placement and You

Part of our mission at The Iron Yard is helping people launch new careers in technology. Here’s how we explain that in our mission statement: “We are committed to training the highest-quality developers and startups in the world, both in skill and in character. Our mission is to find people who want to pursue the craft and life-long adventure of technology, teach them the tools of the trade, and then release them into the world with the drive and capability to make a difference.”

Part of that commitment relates specifically to jobs. When we launched the school we decided to draw a line in the sand and guarantee that our grads got job offers or their tuition back. It was a way to keep us honest to our commitment as well as keep the bar incredibly high. In our “playbook” for new employees, here’s how we explain that decision:

First and foremost, the job guarantee keeps us honest and forces us to put our money where our mouth is. The question for us is simple: either we can train job-ready engineers or we can’t. We won’t accept anything less than excellence, so the answer is that we can train job ready engineers and we’re willing to prove it—that or give someone their money back if we don’t deliver. Having a very clear measure of success establishes our benchmark for quality.

Second, we truly desire to lower the barriers people face in starting a career in programming. If someone is a working professional and they want to learn to code and get a job in a short amount of time, their options are very limited. Online education isn’t deep enough for most and self-study on nights and weekends can take a very long time. Traditional 2-4 year training programs are expensive, time-consuming and worse, out of date. Our school is the cheapest, quickest, lowest-risk way to launch a career in programming. That’s something to be proud of!

So far we are proud to say that we have lived up to that commitment having never issued a tuition refund based on an inability to find a job. In other words, every student who has fully participated in our job placement program has gotten a job in the field.

Another part of our commitment to students is working to become officially licensed as an educational institution in every state where we operate. In fact we’ve had a team working on licensing since we started expansion. We want to ensure that students are confident in their commitment to us. So what does being a licensed educational institution mean, exactly?

For any organization offering formal education, there are state rules created for the protection of a student as a consumer, put in place to make sure that we as an organization have worked with the state commission(s) to understand expectations and operate in a manner consistent with those expectations. As you might expect, that is a good thing. Many “schools” have taken advantage of large numbers of people by accepting tuition fees—often in the form of federal loans with no regard for student debt—and not providing the education or opportunities they said they would. Graduation rates at those schools are abysmal and career support is virtually non-existent, revealing the unfortunate reality that some people selling education are more interested in money than actually helping people.

We welcome transparency and consumer protection. Guidelines for official certificates, refunds and other policies help make everything crystal clear for everyone involved.

Unfortunately, the process works the other way as well—sometimes state guidelines keep us from doing things we’d like to do for our students. In almost all cases, state licensing organizations have a rule against using the word “guarantee” in messaging, or even implying that placement in a job is promise. That might be an issue for some and semantics aside we’re fine with the word-change—this doesn’t alter our commitment to prepare our students for junior level, software development roles and we will continue to strive to maintain our track record of success.

For us, evidence will always be more important than wording, and that’s why we invite curious parties to connect directly with our graduates to hear their stories of success.

What does this mean for students who enrolled under the “guarantee” program?

The guarantee is still in full effect.

What are the details of our career support program?

When you are accepted to The Iron Yard Academy, you join a family that extends far beyond your individual class or campus. Our code school and accelerator graduates comprise a national network of tech professionals, giving you access to people and companies in almost every sphere of the industry.

If you choose to enroll in the career support program, we’re committed to helping you get where you want to go. Every student who has fully participated our process has gotten a job in the field. Here are the details:

  • Our careeer support program requires active participation from both our students and our staff. As we said above, our support is individualized and focused and we require the same of our graduates.
  • Throughout the semester our staff walks students through a curriculum that lays the foundations of understanding job postings, interviews and hiring processes in the tech industry. We cover what goes into great portfolios, cover letters, communication and project management. Through all of those components we focus on empathy as it applies to all parts of a job in programming.
  • In each city, we involve companies and their key staff (many from our Employer Advisory Boards) who guest lecture, conduct mock interviews, facilitate in hackathons, advise on final projects and join us at a Iron Pints throughout the program. This allows both our students and employers to get to know each other before the program is even over.
  • Upon graduation, our students have built an impressive body of work as proof of their skill and have developed the skills needed to search for and interview for jobs.
  • After the program ends, the work of finding work begins. This is a collaborative effort between our staff and the student. We help our grads build out a job-application toolkit that they can adapt to fit various opportunities. This allows them to rapidly create high-quality cover letters, portfolios and answers to questions, meaning they can pursue a large number of opportunities in a short amount of time.
  • We have relationships with employers—local and national—who are interested in hiring our students and provide job opportunities, apprenticeships and internships for them. At the same time, we require students to (and support them in) quickly building out a top-notch portfolio and identifying job opportunities that interest them. (Our most successful grads apply to more than 20 jobs per week post-graduation.) Wherever needed our staff provides personalize guidance and recommendations.
  • For students who choose to freelance, we provide project guidance and introductions to opportunities for work when available.

We are going above and beyond just your first job offer. We are currently building out ongoing edcuation materials on advanced topics so that as you progress in your career you can have continued access to proven resources from The Iron Yard. We’re also laying the groundwork for an alumnit mentorship network, ongoing access to our staff, alumni events and more. Your first gig is just the first step—we want your relationship with The Iron Yard to provide ongoing value as you progress in your career.

We believe in what we do and our program is extremely selective, so if we can’t produce the right result, someone’s doing something wrong.

We’re here to help and answer any questions you have. We are committed to transparency, so please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Rate of Learning

We get asked often what the ROI (Return on Investment) will be for our Code Academy courses and it’s entirely the wrong question to ask because there’s really no quantifiable way for us to know, for certain, what each student will achieve (and receive) by participating in our cohorts.

Now, for certain, the students will receive an epic-level of education around our core technologies and yes, they will begin to learn the fundamentals of great engineering and yes, our graduates get great-paying jobs right out of the course - those are things that we stake our name on and that our alumni can testify to, but is that the best valuation of a so-called ROI?

It’s not; here’s what we focus on:

One of the most important things that we offer is this: We create a trusted and safe environment to grossly accelerate one’s rate of learning in particular technologies that are lead by experts in their field. It’s the ROL, that’s the focus here and that becomes one of the critical factors in a students’ success.

You see, you just can’t get that anywhere else, especially in many other comparative offerings. Here’s how this plays out specifically:

  1. Trust: We are people-centric in all that we do and although we aren’t perfect people (we all make mistakes) we happen to focus on this as part of our organizational DNA. This means that we are hell-bent on doing this besides just talking about it and our approach creates an atmosphere of trust where ROL can be truly accelerated. And that makes sense, right? No one ever feels inclined to learn from someone that they do not trust.
  2. Cohort Environment: Self-guided online solutions have their place and we like a ton of them, but it’s not even in the same universe as sitting with others who are just as passionate as you are about learning and walking through it together. Rate of learning is always a collaborative endeavor and our cohort model has proven this time and time again. When others are counting on you to perform and to not just acquire but use the new skills you have a nicely-pressurized environment for true acceleration.
  3. Full Time Experts: This ties quite nicely with the previous point but only hire the best and brightest in their respective fields. The difference, though, is that our staff is full time employees with our organization which implicitly and explicitly create value that no contract-based instructor could ever bring. Allowing our staff to be full-time means that they can create that framework of trust with our students through the very difficult bumps that they will experience during the curriculum. Because our instructors aren’t just “there” to drop some knowledge and then head out they can be fully invested in the students’ success. Trust and relationships combined with full time expertise equals magic.
  4. Soft Skills: Learning “tech” isn’t just about creating an incredible arsenal of tools and toolkits to execute against as it’s also about learning the vernacular of what it means to be a professional software engineer. We assist and train our cohorts to learn what it means to have a personal and professional brand, what it’s like to do contract and consulting, prepare them for interviews and real-world projects. We engage them with the local community heavily through hackathons, meetups, and conferences. Being a “pro” in this field is so much more than memorizing a library (but you knew that already, right?)!

All of these things create the foundation for an incredible amount of learning - and we accelerate that ROL as intelligently as we possibly can. We push, we encourage, and we do it together in partnership with the student - and we go hard.

So when you consider some other places to learn software engineering and technology skills you should ask what their ROL is besides the easy and obvious questions around ROI.

The Long Game

It still floors me every time I consider the amount of work that we ask our students in our Code Schools to execute and the sheer intensity that they experience over the course of 12 weeks.  What’s even more crazy is to realize and remember that it’s just the beginning of a lifetime journey of learning.

When I got my first shot at the “big leagues” as a software programmer over 17 years ago I had no idea what I was doing and I had no idea of what the future really held for me in an industry that was a foreign to me as a girl saying “Yes” to an invitation to my High School Jr. Prom. I wasn’t thinking long term nor was I thinking short term - I was just thinking about surviving.

And so it has been the same with many of our students as they’ve discovered as soon as the first few weeks that survival would become a distinct, if not chief, motive for them throughout the program. But over time they would breath the fresh air of a new perspective and it would dawn on them that they can not only survive but thrive in this world.

But it’s just one step before 1,000 more. The art and science of mastery of software (and anything for that matter) is the right mix of grit, resolve, and execution. It is a marathon and not a sprint. I am reminded of the celebrated Chilean American author, Isabel Allende, who once said this about success and work:

Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too.

The muse, in the case of software and our students’ experience in our class environment, are the small breakthroughs and moments of epiphany that delight, inform, and inspire them to continue to walk forward, even if the walking seems to be painstakingly slow.

But it must be founded on the back of hard work and an attitude that screams that the student will not give up. I call this grit and the pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth, who in many ways came up with the definition of “grit” (and won a MacArthur Genius award and grant for her research) once said it best this way:

Grit is the disposition to pursue very long-term goals with passion and perseverance. And I want to emphasize the stamina quality of grit. Grit is sticking with things over the long term and then working very hard at it.

It is within this formula, this doggedness if you will, that is absolutely essential for success. Debbie Millman, also has some choice words that reflect a similar sentiment:

Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.

Could there be no truer statement than that as it relates to great software engineering and the birth of great software engineers? It takes time and the journey has just begun for each new cohort that survives and graduates from our growing local academies.

I was lucky as I was too young and too naïve to know any different than just doing the work and doing it consistently, better than the last time so that I wouldn’t disappoint those who had employed me and, perhaps more importantly, that I would feel good about myself and the work that I was doing. If you had told me that it would take years, decades even, to become even remotely “good” at this I would have probably quit.

Our students are wiser and older than I was when I first began and so they have an even more brave task at hand as they cannot and have not been fooled into this quest for mastery, excellence, and potential - they were coached and counseled to consider other opportunities instead of this one and yet they still signed the line that was dotted. They are, in many respects, more brave than I could ever be.

And that gives me hope and instills within me a great sense of purpose - that their focus on the long run, the long marathon is not built on ignorance but rather one of hope. I am inspired and continue to be every single time I sit with one of them casually and hear their hopes, their dreams, and their stories.

I want to encourage our current (and future) students to never give up; the journey  that they have begun or want to embark on is too exciting to miss out on. Yes, you will work hard and you will doubt, oh you will have doubts, but was anything worth doing ever entirely easy? As Theodore Roosevelt once soberly shared:

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.

You will be envied for your courage to lead a life of challenge and put others in a state of awe at the audacity of your decision-making. You have started well and begun running a race worth pursuing. Don’t stop. Persevere.

Meet Eric Dodds: Co-founder, Partner and “Director of Making Stuff Happen”

I was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. My siblings and I had an eclectic upbringing because my parents allowed us to explore almost any interest we had. That broad exposure propelled me into adulthood with a love for reading, research, philosophy, tools and mechanics, travel, good music and more.

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My parents also instilled the concept of a good work ethic in me. During middle school and high school I had a variety of odd jobs, including mowing lawns, busing tables, working fast food, doing maintenance at a tennis facility, doing part time work for real estate agents, washing cars and doing part-time work at my dad’s transmission shop. Somehow I was able to find the time restore an old Jeep with my dad, which was one of the most formative experiences of my life. You can read more about that here.

After high school, I did a short stint at a rigorous private college in Pennsylvania. The cold and gray weren’t to my liking, so I headed back south and completed and a Bachelors of Science in Marketing at Clemson University. I lived on a lake during part of my time in college and spent almost as many hours wakeboarding as I did studying (which was a whole lot—I was quite the nerd in school.) At one point I competed in competitions on the wakeboarding circuit, but I never placed.

I turned down an opportunity for grad school in favor of learning the ropes in the real world. Despite my efforts to seek my fortune in hip cities out West, my first professional adventure came in the came in the form of an internship at a nationally-known agency in my home town.

Amazingly, my first assignment was to work directly with a PhD who had been interviewed in Fast Company Magazine (in print, no less). She taught me the foundations of critical thinking and analyzing large amounts of information well. Under her tutelage I did everything related to market research, from conducting door-to-door surveys to marrying qualitative and quantitative data about large brands.

That particular agency had a policy of not hiring students straight out of college, so for the next year or so I jumped on their agency merry-go-round as needs arose, doing everything from design work to more market research to writing to project management. Eventually I wrote a love letter to the company stating that I was tired of dating and wanted to consummate the relationship. I made an offer in the form of selling myself on eBay for $30k (my requested annual salary). They didn’t bid, but did give me an offer letter after some time off due to the economic downturn in 2008. Another company had been courting me simultaneously for full time work, but they were a large organization and I’ve always favored responsibility and opportunities to learn over money. Greenville had succeeded in keeping me once again.

The next several years were a wonderful blur of project management, account management, content strategy, social media work and, eventually, actual strategy work. I had the rare opportunity to do important work for national brands like Best Buy, Double Day Publishing and Colonial Williamsburg in my early-mid 20s.

After a few years in the saddle I took a step back to do some soul-searching and realized two things:

  1. I had this crazy idea that I could run a company really well. I had an entrepreneurial itch that I had to scratch.
  2. Any time I worked on anything digital for clients, work didn’t feel like work.

Those two realizations put me on a deep-dive trajectory into the heart of tech startups. I became obsessed. I lived on Hacker News, started learning to code and began applying to startups like it was my job, until I realized that I didn’t want a job, I wanted to run my own company. That kicked off a series of unfinished entrepreneurial endeavors in partnership with one of my room mates at the time who happened to be teaching himself Ruby on Rails. We started building rental property management software as well as a wedding website template service, both of which were retired upon discovery of significant competitors (and my buddy getting an amazing job at Treehouse).

At that point, I knew I’d entered the rabbit hole and there wasn’t any going back. I made my then fiancé (now wife) aware that some sort of technological endeavor was in my future and she graciously agreed to support me and said she was willing to move wherever we needed to (except North Dakota).

Shortly thereafter a friend pulled a favor and got me into the sold-out Grok conference as a volunteer. It turned out that a few other volunteers had bailed, giving me the opportunity to work double-time and a personal thank you from two guys named Matthew Smith and Peter Barth.

Over lunch with each I learned that they were working on a new endeavor called The Iron Yard, which would be a combination of a coworking space Matthew started (chock full of nationally-known designers and developers) and a startup accelerator program that Peter ran (then called ‘The Next Big Thing’).

The next 6 months were a chaotic mixture of salivating over the idea of working with The Iron Yard, doing freelance copywriting and web work for their new brand and website (for free, because I was so excited), helping Peter out with odds and ends for the accelerator program (where I met Aubrey, The Iron Yard’s first official employee/intern), getting married (to an amazing woman) and somehow avoiding sleep enough to completely remodel a bathroom.

When the dust settled and I started to search for startup jobs out west again, I got a call from Peter with news that a group of investors wanted him to launch another accelerator program in Spartanburg, SC focused on Digital Health and that he wanted me to jump in and help him run the programs. What’s more, he wanted to bring me on as a partner in the company. That was, quite literally, my immediate vocational dream fulfilled beyond my wildest imagination.

Peter trained me using the sink or swim method: read read read, fly to San Francisco and meet with founders and investors, read read read, fly to Boston and meet with founders and investors, rinse, repeat. The experience was exhausting and intoxicating all at the same time and my sponge of a brain soaked up every last drop it possibly could.

A few months after I started a fellow named Mason Stewart reached out to me to inquire about using The Iron Yard’s classroom space to teach free programming classes for kids. We loved the idea, so we let him use part of our and even contributed our own time and money to get computers and other supplies for his students.

At the same time kids classes were running, Peter and I were scheming up ways to make the Southeast a better place to start and grow a company. Specifically, we were trying to figure out the problem of scale: our geographic region was talent-poor relative to large tech hubs, so if one of our portfolio companies raised money and needed to go from 5 to 50 people in 6 months, the result would almost inevitably mean moving to a larger market.

We decided to solve the problem ourselves by training the develompent talent that startups needed. Mason must have overheard some of our conversations, because over lunch a few weeks after the idea was born, he told us he wanted to figure out a way to teach programming full time.

It’s been almost two years since that initial discussion and we now have Iron Yard Academy campuses fully up and running in 5 cities, with almost the same number in the works to go live later this year.

I am a blessed man. I have the opportunity to serve The Iron Yard by overseeing all of our marketing activity, helping build operations across campuses and lead the incredibly talented team of Campus Directors. Some of our team members have suggested my title be “The Director of Making Stuff Happen” or “Director of Words, Lord of Brand.” Most of the time I just go by Eric.

I write fairly often, so if you want to see inside of my head, check out my blog.

When I’m not working you’ll likely find me reading a good adventure fiction novel, tinkering in my workshop, or playing outside. I love mountain biking, backpacking and rock climbing, in particular.

Here are a few pictures of my, my wife and some of my adventures.

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Me and my lovely wife on a backpacking trip in New Hampshire.

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My workshop, where I tinker, fix bikes and build things.

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I’ve never been one to take myself to seriously.

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Me belaying my brother on a rock face called “The Cereal Wall.” This particular climb is called “Whiskey for Breakfast.”

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I think my wife and I are a marvelous match.

Why We Don’t Offer Night Classes

One of the questions we hear most often when we’re talking to students interested in our program is the following:

Why don’t you offer night classes?

The question makes sense and is legitimate, without question, and we understand the interest and need. For many people, leaving a job for 3 months, or in many cases quitting all together, is a huge risk and financial burden (and it really, really is).

It seems like it would be easy (and perhaps more profitable) to offer our courses in a nights-and-weekends type format so that people could continue to generate income while learning a new skills for a new career. It’s a good idea and several code schools out there offer courses in some sort of work-while-you-learn format.

But we still don’t do them and here’s why…

You see, we understand that night classes are a good idea and work really well for students working professionals seeking an MBA, graduate degree, etc. What they aren’t a good idea for is building foundation for someone’s first step into a programming career.

Why the difference? There are several reasons…

Let’s take the example of someone getting their MBA via night classes. The benefit of being both a working professional and studying advanced business topics is that many things you learn are immediately relevant to the work you are doing, or at least can apply conceptually. That relationship creates a feedback loop that constantly simulates and focuses your mind to think critically about business.

A majority of our students aren’t working web development jobs within the discipline they are studying at The Iron Yard. This is their first foray into intensive, formal study of a programming discipline and they are trying to pivot their career into technology from the outside.

If we offered our intensive courses in a longer format at night, our students’ attention would be divided from the outset and their ability at end simply wouldn’t be as deep or powerful. (That’s not an opinion—even some of our sharpest students have tried to work on the side and suffered the consequences.) We want to teach and mentor the best students, and divided attention is not the way to accomplish that goal.

Why immersion?

Our courses are immersive by design because a singular focus and repeated, uninterrupted practice  are the best possible way to build the foundational software engineering principles required to launch a career.

The concept of kata, from martial arts, is a great way to explain this.

Kata originally were teaching and training methods by which successful combat techniques were preserved and passed on. Practicing kata allowed a company of persons to engage in a struggle using a systematic approach, rather than as individuals in a disorderly manner.

The basic goal of kata is to preserve and transmit proven techniques and to practice defense. By practicing in a repetitive manner the learner develops the ability to execute those techniques and movements in a natural, reflex-like manner. Systematic practice does not mean permanently rigid. The goal is to internalize the movements and techniques of a kata so they can be executed and adapted under different circumstances, without thought or hesitation. A novice’s actions will look uneven and difficult, while a master’s appear simple and smooth.

In our context, kata looks like consuming large amounts of new information almost every day, then applying that information to an open-ended programming problem that’s due the next day. On weekends there’s no new information (from the instructor), but the homework is more comprehensive and complex. That process is repeated for 12 long, arduous weeks (84 days, to be exact).

That repetition is absolutely crucial—it builds mental muscle trained to tackle difficult programming problems even when the task seems daunting. Intelligence certainly helps when facing complexity, but ask any great programmer and they’ll tell you that persistence in facing hard problems head on is the quality that ensures a successful career (because it applies to all programming, not just a single discipline).

When someone leaves our program, they’ve faced their fear enough times to tackle those hard problems and learn what they need to learn to solve them. They are, of course, junior-level engineers, so there are many things above their heads. That’s not the point, though—they’ll gain understanding with time. If we’ve given them a constitution for facing complexity, they will be successful.

A Slate article that discusses the intensity of bootcamp for Marines articulates this well:

"Why do all these things?" you ask. Because it is the easiest way to get a human being who is unaccustomed to performance under stress to take action while being placed under an extreme and sudden stress environment (combat). It trains them to block out the noise and the fear and the stress and just do what they need to do.

So, to be more concise, we don’t offer night classes for entry-level training in our core subject because they aren’t the best way to help our students launch careers in technology.

(We are exploring shorter format classes for current developers seeking training on more advanced subject matter, but more on that later.)

Don’t take our word for it, though. We asked our students if they think our courses would work in a nighttime format, and here’s what they had to say:

The night-class format loses the sense of urgency we have now. No one has missed a class in this current semester except for big emergencies, but if a class were eight months long, there’d be the tendency to skip whenever inconvenient. So, the students who would be most attracted to this format (students with kids and lots of obligations) would be least served. 

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There’s just a different kind of focus for this 3 month course (since it’s all day) that I honestly wouldn’t have if I came to it after being at work all day.

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It would take away from the immersive experience and I feel make it more difficult to grok concepts in a reasonable amount of time. 

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A night class would never truly be a priority — it would always be something that gets fit in after work, house, spouse, kids, etc. And coding just not a subject you can absorb without a huge commitment and constant hands-on practice.

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It seems like the key is alignment of focus: 

  • Student ability to focus on learning a ton quickly,
  • Instructor ability to focus on students with aggressive goals
  • The Iron Yard’s ability to focus on helping each student in his/her respective career goals

All of these efforts would suffer if spread out over longer period. 

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One of the biggest pluses to me is the ability to go over something with the instructors after the lecture. I would imagine with a night class you’d only have time learn and the ability to ask questions while the subject is still fresh would diminish. Also I can’t imagine when I’d do homework with class at night and a day job (assuming). 

Marry the Mission

Photo Credit: Some Guy Photo

I was once told by a good friend and mentor to ensure that whenever I build an organization that I stay flexible where I need to stay flexible and that I’m firm where I need to be firm.

The obvious follow-up question(s) I had were two-fold:

  • What are the elements of an organization that need to be flexible/firm?
  • How does one determine whether they are categorized rightly?

He went one step further and emblazoned in my brain this saying that helped me, to a degree, codify his point:

Marry the mission, but date the model.

Well-put old man (he wasn’t that old by the way).

In essence he was challenging me to really be steadfast and true to the core mission of the organization, the why we exist type of things. The epic-sized vision that I had for the organization, the mountain that I and my team were trying to climb.

Where I needed to stay flexible was how I approached those big challenges and how we went about solving them. The models of execution, in other words. We are and should forever be flexible with how we would achieve our great mission.

One example of recent here @ The Iron Yard is the fact that we’ve already pivoted our roles within the leadership. As we’ve grown we’ve had to stay incredibly flexible with what we believed we would be doing strategically and tactically and what reality was really demanding of us.

Consequently my role as a chief strategist has now shifted with a greater emphasis on our existing human capital and team dynamics. If you were to have told me this shift a few months ago I would have probably looked at you funny. This is just one example of many where we’ve all had to shift with the growing weight of a scaling organization.

But the mission is still the same and we are still executing against it better than ever. My role as one of those executioners and my angle of attack has just changed (i.e. the model). I’m flexible there because it just makes sense for this season of growth and I’m personally delighted by the new challenge.

In the end I feel that I’m honoring what I know should be and is true: Our mission is sacred (just as I perceive the marriage to my wife to be) but the way in which I participate in that dynamic can change (like when I became a father… and then did it again!).

Have you isolated what is “datable” and what is “marriage” material as it relates to your organization, your position, and your role & responsibilities? What’s missing?

Rocket Ships for Everyone

Sheryl Sandberg is often quoted as have said this in relationship to exciting opportunities and great companies:

If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.

Contextually the comment was made via a conversation that she had with Eric Schmidt who had just become the CEO of Google and who told her that despite the fact that the job he was offering her did not fit “nicely” in to her spreadsheet of needs, wants, and criteria that it was going to be a ride that she didn’t want to miss out on.

I think of this often when it comes to the opportunities that was have created for both our staff and our students.

For our staff we are building a culture worth talking and worth working for with a mission that laser-focused on changing people’s lives - there are few things more obvious and satisfying than this type of organizational calibration.

But perhaps more importantly they are helping to create an organization that’s worth writing home about - a place where they can distinctly call their own and where they get to execute with autonomy and excellence. They are participating in the creation process of building a kickass rocketship and not just one that the leadership and cofounders thought up and then began assigning seats.

This is what makes our culture a more attractive than that of a Google or another _insert_name_here_ company because our so-called rocketship is still being put together and their handprints and the staff’s signature additions are being folded in as foundational.

My goal, to put it as succinctly as possible, is to create the best place they’ve ever worked. This task is quite large but we’re trying our hardest to make it a reality.

For our students we also have the same goal and intent; that they have strapped themselves into an adventure worth 1,000 lifetimes and embarking on a new journey that will forever impact their life’s story. They have taken the first courageous step in saying “Yes” to our program and we’re going to do them a massive solid on making it worth all that and a bag of chips.

But it’s much more than just a tit-for-tat type relationship - the global technological economy is begging for them to be resources and would loved to have had them yesterday - and we have the distinct pleasure of being the first to offer a big cushy seat into the engineering ecology that will serve them the rest of their lives.

What an honor that really is to be one of the first to introduce brilliant people to a world of limitless opportunity where great work and love for craft is amply rewarded. I couldn’t live or work in any other market segment or industry as it favors the bold, the brave, and the passionate; and especially those open to a bit of risk and adventure.

Have you said “Yes" recently to your own metaphorical "rocket ship"? Or are you stagnating in your current employment with very little to look forward to? How can we help you jump on one that’s destined for great things? We’d love to chat about either joining our illustrious team or becoming a student in our Code Academy or even becoming a distinguished family member in our Accelerator Programs.

There’s no better time than now!

Durham: We’re Coming and We’re Partnering with SmashingBoxes!

And we’re partnering with the premier web and mobile development companies in the Southeast, SmashingBoxes, to make it all happen! You see, it just made too much sense for us to join with a local establishment that’s already knocking it out of the park and providing our extraordinary program as a complement to what’s already going on!

Naturally, we’ve figured out a killer place to land: American Underground (yeah, it keeps getting better and better!), a unique campus-like experience for our new students. If you’ve ever toured there at all then you know it’ll provide that Iron Yard-touch that you’ve come to expect from us via our other campus experiences.

If you’d like to read more about what’s going on check SmashingBoxes blog post about it as well as some local press from Durham Magazine.

We’ve got tons more to share with you about this unique partnership but we want you to be the first to know that signups are already open (and filling quickly) and we’d like for you to be part of our inaugural cohort there!

Per usual, you can ping us directly via email or call us at anytime: 1-855-762-7446

Can’t wait to meet you and hang! This year is going to be epic for the NC state!