Many readers will have heard about the emergence of “Code Schools” in the United States over the last few years. These are small organizations that offer to teach students how to code during a short, high-intensity course. Many people dismissed the Code School movement in its early days as being a side-show that had little relevance for the industry as a whole. But the Code Schools keep growing, so what is fueling the growth?
Economics are definitely a substantial reason. From a macro-economic perspective, the USA is not producing enough qualified software developers, so the supply continues to be less than the demand. This is the same force driving the nearshore business overall. Higher salaries in a particular profession will always attract some interest. From a micro-economic perspective there is the additional motivator of student debt. Students in the USA are graduating with more debt than ever: 70% will graduate with an average of $30,000 in debt. If you are an Arts graduate making $30,000 per year, the temptation to double your salary and clear the debt (and have a brighter economic future) seems clear.
If Code Schools were just one more way of producing software developers, this would not be such an interesting phenomenon. There is more to this than producing semi-skilled developers though:
- Code School graduates are passionate about technology as a change agent
Many of the graduates passing through Code Schools are “millennials”, who are less likely to be motivated by income. This contradicts the economic argument above, but there is an additional factor at work: millennials are also passionate about the chance to change the world through the use of technology. The graduates of the Code Schools are good problem solvers, but they also have the additional energy of those who want to impact the world. As T.E. Lawrence said “the dreamers of the day are dangerous men [and women!], for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”
- Code School graduates will likely be highly innovative
In his famous lecture (“The Two Cultures”), the philosopher C.P. Snow noted that most great innovations come from the meeting point between the Arts and the Sciences. While not every Code School graduate will be a Michelangelo, the graduate profile of a good Code School often has both a very good undergraduate degree (often in the Arts) and they have added the technical Code School training to this. Think of the possible innovation that could come from a Fine Art or Psychology graduate who learns user-interface development, or a Code School graduate that brings expertise in a specific area that is of interest to your clients, in addition to understanding code.
Further evidence of this link between innovation and Code Schools is the fact that some companies operate technology incubators in association with Code Schools. The combination of high idea generation, passionate individuals and relatively cheap labor is very attractive!
Combining the first two reasons, most companies would be thrilled to have passionate, innovative people added to their projects. They do not start with the same skills as a graduate with a Computer Science degree, but they bring unique insight and energy that help build high performance teams. Code School graduates are also able to contribute quickly to the development process; a benefit of the huge advances in framework based development is that a relatively new developer can build impressive applications.
This brings us to the question of applicability to the nearshore market:
- Adding Innovative and Passionate team members will breathe life into stale projects
As the outsourcing business has matured and more recently, the nearshore business has achieved similar levels of maturity, some clients complain that the process has become stale. This is a classic case of delivering what clients are asking for (repeatability, uniformity and control), but not always what they want (creativity, energy, innovation and joy). This is a problem which is also often true in human relationships!
There is no doubt that good process is needed to ensure quality and repeatability, but the process can also squeeze out the life from a project. Bringing in team members who can connect directly with clients in their fields of expertise, or who add depth to certain disciplines, could reinvigorate stale projects. Finding team members who “speak the same language” as your client can mean much more than just finding people with good English.
- Code Schools can increase the competitiveness of nearshore providers
Common concerns of those purchasing nearshore software development services include the ability to source enough individuals, the need for subject matter expertise and the desire for innovative approaches to solving problems. Experimenting with a Code School approach in your local markets may help tackle all of these problems for your firm and differentiate your company from others in a busy market. Some firms have started to tackle these challenges in a limited way with their existing staff. With increased demand for software developers globally, the leaders in this business are those who plan to take this to the next level with a Code School approach.
- Code School tourism is an untapped market
The economics of running a code school are excellent. The average fee for a three-month school is $12,000 and the demand for graduates is very strong. Some Code Schools are so confident that they guarantee job placement into a position paying at least $60,000 per year (or your money back) – and have never had to pay. Add to this the fact that Millennials like to think of themselves as global citizens and enjoy travel more than their parents’ generation.
The combination of these facts should make the idea of starting a Code School in a Latin American country a very attractive proposal to some readers – and if the price is right, a very attractive opportunity for American students. Will it be you?
As we were writing this article, the following quote was shared with us: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” The author of this quote was Buckminster Fuller, the discoverer of Buckminster Fullerene, or “Bucky Balls”, a previously unknown form of Carbon.
The Code School approach has many years of growth and maturity ahead of it. Not every attempt to launch a Code School will succeed, but there are models emerging that have been very successful and are attracting heavy investment in the USA. Successful graduates of the best Code Schools have a unique and highly valuable set of talents that are a huge benefit to their future employers (and their clients), if you can attract them. Because of this, we believe that the Code School phenomenon is not a passing fad, or a side-show, but will be a new and enduring source of some of the best developers of the next generation.