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The Art of Iteration: How We Shape our Curriculum for the Needs of the Industry

Updated: Jul 2, 2019

Source Code Developer Academy benefits from a highly curated and industry driven curriculum developed by partners, Code Fellow. Understand the approach behind it

Code Fellows Instructor, Amanda offer tips to a Source Code Student

At Code Fellows, they're always looking for ways to grow and to support both the local tech community and their students.

After more than five years running their programmes, they've realized it was an optimal time to leverage their robust community of alumni and hiring partners for an in-depth look at their methods of connecting high-potential software developers with the companies that need them. Driven by a goal to ensure they were on the right course to achieve their mission, and identify areas of growth, they wanted to do even better for graduates, companies, and communities they serve.

In 2017, they connected with the team at Artemis Connection through Diversity & Inclusion in the PNW, a community of professionals in various roles within their organizations who want to create more equality in the workplace. After recognizing a shared vision for the impact that immersive tech education (especially one focused on career changers) can have on creating a more diverse, empathetic, and customer-centric tech industry, they decided to build on it.

Code Fellows collaborated with Artemis to define and conduct a thorough analysis of their curriculum and outcomes, with input from both tech industry leaders and alumni. The goal was to better understand the top challenges that industry leaders were facing, and what they see as the main gaps—both technical and non-technical—in the skill set of their software engineering teams. They wanted to know what could do to better prepare graduates for the technical and non-technical aspects of their career. Over 53 industry leaders and 206 alumni shared their experience with Code Fellows, and with Artemis’s summary of the feedback, they implemented three key initiatives to enrich the program which today Source Code Developer Academy benefits from.

1: Improve Interview Preparation & Increase Emphasis on Data Structures & Algorithms

The first piece of intel was that they needed to continue to hone graduates’ understanding of computer science fundamentals. While the majority of the curriculum teaches students the practical elements of software development, foundational understanding of data structures, algorithms, and other fundamentals of computer science affect how good software is made, and will help students accelerate their career growth once they are in their first job.

The Code Fellows data structures and algorithm instruction now includes daily code challenges in every Code 401 course. No matter which specialization students pursue in their training, they get the same consistent practice at the whiteboard and preparation for technical interviews. Students learn arrays and sorting algorithms, and canonical data structures like linked lists, stacks, queues, trees, graphs and hash tables. Students graduate with the skills to do the job, and the skills to get the job—and Code Fellows continue to advocate within the industry for better alignment between the two. They also continue to offer the Code 501-level Data Structures & Algorithms curriculum to support both alumni and graduates of other immersive programs who want to deepen their understanding of these topics. This detailed and methodological approach significantly benefits Source Code Developer Academy students and helps better prepare them for industry expectations and needs.

2: Increase Emphasis on the Soft Skills Necessary to be Successful in Tech

While specialized tech skills can get you in the door for a job, soft skills are key to growing your career in any industry. Additionally, with the increased emphasis on automation and artificial intelligence solutions, “successful employees will be those who excel in areas where the robots and algorithms can’t,” from Entrepreneur’s article, How Soft Skills Can Help You Get Ahead in a Tech World.

With a strong desire to ensure all students are equipped with the soft skills to be successful in the tech industry, they reached out to learn from industry partners. The feedback from alumni and industry partners revealed that growth mindset, communications, teamwork, and professionalism were crucial qualities for to continue to integrate into the curriculum. This effort enlisted some key industry partners, including Microsoft, Concur, Avvo, and Tableau, to share the competencies they reference when evaluating junior-level talent. With this insight, Code Fellows formed their own comprehensive set of professional competencies, now included in all Career Coaching provided in Code 201 through Code 401. These competencies help students identify and define their strengths and weaknesses, build a compelling narrative to best capture the value they can contribute to a team, and leverage that narrative in behavioral interviews.

As a final step after graduation and before starting their job search, they encourage students to schedule a qualifying interview with the Campus Director. This interview mirrors the experience they’ll get in a behavioral interview, much like their final whiteboard exams mirror technical interviews. This experience puts the final polish on each student’s professional presentation of their background and career goals, so that they have full confidence in the candidates they are putting in front of industry partners. Additional mock interviews are also now included in the Career Accelerator Program, designed to help grads seamlessly transition into the market and make industry connections to start their careers. With these changes, Source Code Developer Academy is confident that we are preparing every grad to be a successful team member in their first job and become leaders in their field through their career in tech.

3: Provide More Ways for Employers to Be Involved in our Community

An interesting insight that came out of this study was the lack of awareness of the immersive, short-term education model as an alternative source of talent. With this in mind, Artemis encouraged Code Fellows to find ways to educate the industry about their program, and build out more ways for employers to engage with the community.


Adapted from a Code Fellows blog post by:

Elizabeth Scutchfield

A strategic talent management professional and the Director of Partner Relations at Code Fellows

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