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Building Better Job Support

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Rithm School

Sep 14, 2016

One of the nice things about working at a coding school compared to a more traditional educational environment is that we don't need to grapple with some of the headier philosophical questions surrounding the purpose of education. For us, the purpose is clear: get students job-ready in 16 weeks.

With that clarity of purpose also comes a straightforward metric to measure our own success: are students getting jobs? If students leave our program and can find and retain jobs as developers, that's a pretty clear signal that we're on the right track.

But unfortunately, the ease of measuring success isn't correlated with the ease of implementing success. Getting a job can be a hard, time-consuming process, no matter your industry or skill level. We've seen a lot of students trudge through the job search, and we have a pretty good idea of where the pain points are.

In what follows, we'd like to talk about (1) some of the challenges students face in trying to get a job, (2) some of the challenges bootcamps face in trying to support students, and (3) what we're doing differently to tackle those challenges.

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Challenges for the Bootcamp Graduate

For graduates of web development bootcamps, one of the biggest challenges is that technical interviews are still, by and large, geared towards people with more traditional backgrounds in computer science. Many interviews still focus on testing candidates' depth of computer science knowledge, even if such knowledge isn't the primary focus of the role a company is looking to fill.

Bootcamps can teach students how to build awesome things using the latest technology, and can absolutely get hard-working students job-ready in just a few months. And while most bootcamps do spend some time teaching computer science fundamentals, most simply don't have the time to devote more than a week or two to the topics. Because of this, many students leave these programs with just an understanding of a few key ideas, and an ability to recite the solutions to some fairly common problems. But they often can't compete with candidates who have studied computer science for years.

One of the best ways for a bootcamp graduate to try to close the gap between themselves and a candidate with a computer science degree is to do mock interviews. A lot of mock interviews. Like, every day.

But, like any other skill, the ability to ace a technical interview requires practice. Time spent whiteboarding not only exposes you to more problems, but also helps built comfortability and confidence at the white board, and gives you valuable experience working out solutions to problems on the fly. And here, again, is where many bootcamps can fall short: because time is in such short supply, and because mock interviews with instructors require a lot of resources, most students graduate from bootcamps still needing a significant amount of interview prep.

Of course, this ignores the fact that the interview process in general can be incredibly stressful and demoralizing. Articles pushing back against the status quo do appear from time to time, but the culture around hiring practices doesn't appear to be making significant changes anytime soon.

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Challenges for the Bootcamp

Some of the problems outlined above are shared by both the bootcamp graduate and the bootcamp itself. Getting students job-ready in a short amount of time is always a challenge, and determining the tradeoff between teaching theory and practical skills isn't easy. Providing the one-on-one support that mock interviews require is also quite expensive — each hour spent with one student is an hour not spent with the class as a whole — and so balancing this priority against all the others is tricky.

But there are a few other problems bootcamps face when trying to support students in the job search. One problem is that instructors and career counselors require two different (though related) sets of skills. The best instructors in the world might not be great at helping students find jobs; maybe it's been a while since they've interviewed, or they aren't great at providing mock interviews. They also may not have a large enough network of personal connections at companies to help find suitable matches between graduates and job openings.

On the other hand, people tasked solely with helping students find jobs may not be technical enough to really grill students in a technical interview, or they they may be more focused on building relationships with companies rather than supporting students once they've graduated from the program. A lack of student support can be especially problematic right after graduation, when students are thrust out into the world and expected to spend hours a day applying to and interviewing for jobs. It's an abrupt change, and one that can make many students feel an acute sense of imposter syndrome until they've acclimated to the new routine.

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One Possible Solution

Immersive programs that teach people how to code promise students that they can become developers in a short amount of time. But that promise consists of two parts: learning how to code, and learning how to get a job. Many programs, at best, only effectively deliver on half of this equation.

So, what are we doing differently? One of the things we're most excited about is our partnership with Outco, which provides four weeks of part-time technical interview preparation. Outco is passionate about teaching students how to pass technical interviews, and they have a proven record of success.

With this partnership, both organizations get to specialize, and focus on what they do best. Here at Rithm, we can create the best possible curriculum and delivering a really high-quality educational experience for our students. We'll teach you the practical skills you'll need every day in order to be successful on the job. And in order to ensure you'll get that job, Outco can focus on teaching you computer science, whiteboarding skills, and supporting you with access to career coaches who won't quit on you until you find a job. Together, we're providing an experience you simply won't find at another program, and we're confident it will lead to successful outcomes for everyone involved.

Rithm and Outco are focusing on the development and success of our students well after the curriculum portion of their experience ends. Finding a job is stressful enough, and there are a number of challenges that students and schools need to overcome. With this partnership, we're excited to make the transition from job-seeker to gainfully employed as smooth as possible.

Our first class starts on October 10th. Drop us a line if you'd like more information.

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