By Kristin Smith February 12, 2015

Why Code Fellows Will Be Going Strong in 50 Years

Code schools went mainstream in 2014, and all signs point to a bright future. Here’s why:

Yes, I know. It’s a little late for a retrospective of last year. However, with 2015 off to a fast and furious start and our full-time programs filled to the max, I’ve found myself completely consumed by the energy, excitement, and tremendous amount of stuff to get done at Code Fellows.

Before we get even further into the (sort of) new year, I wanted to share some thoughts about where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re heading. It’s exciting to see how far we’ve come so quickly, and even more humbling to realize that we’re just getting started.

Where we’ve been

Before I get to some of the specific milestones we reached last year, I need to provide some historical context:

As exciting as it’s been to watch the current wave of code schools gain traction, let’s remember that we’re not the first to try to tackle a developer shortage through alternative education models.

Back in 1997, when the first big tech boom of our generation was in full swing, tech startups were plagued by the same shortage of qualified developers that companies are experiencing today; numerous training programs sprang up to close the gap.

Most of these schools aren’t around anymore—they failed when the dot-com bubble burst. With scores of businesses shutting down, and investment dollars to start new ones slowing to a trickle, the need for new devs came to a virtual standstill.

So why is it different this time around? Why do we expect Code Fellows to be around for the next 10, 20, 50 years?

First, technology isn’t just for tech companies anymore. It’s transforming every industry: music, fashion, agriculture, education, retail, healthcare, you name it. Whether they want to be or not, almost every business today is in the technology business, and the sheer scale of the demand for qualified developers is only going to grow over the next decade.

Second, it’s not just startups and leading-edge companies investing in technology. Blue chip enterprises are scaling up both their internal and customer-facing platforms. The involvement and investment from such stable businesses ensure that demand will weather even the most bearish of market cycles.

Where we are today

Just three years ago, the first immersive software development schools were getting started. Dev Bootcamp, generally considered the first bootcamp, launched in Feb. 2012, and other well-regarded schools got off the ground later the same year. Almost two years later, in Dec. 2013 there were 45 programs operating. The pace picked up considerably in 2014, and by the end of the year, according to industry news site Course Report (we have an industry news site!), the number had grown to 150 code schools operating in countries all over the world.

In addition to the tremendous growth, 2014 was clearly a breakthrough year for our young industry in other ways:

  • The Obama administration embraced code schools and hosted a White House round table to share ideas for growth and access.

  • The administration backed up its support by creating a $10 million pilot fund to pay for veterans to attend a code school.

  • Code.org, which started in 2013, helped bring the conversation about learning to code to a mainstream audience in 2014. Millions of students participated in the Hour of Code, and even the President tried his hand at writing a line of JavaScript.

  • Code schools became attractive businesses, and began attracting venture capital. Established education companies began acquiring code schools for real money, validating the immersive learning model and providing resources for growth.

At Code Fellows, we also hit our stride last year. We grew and matured in ways that set us up to help even more students improve their lives and to help employers fill their talent needs:

  • We tripled the number of programs from six in 2013 to 18 in 2014 and changed the name of our full-time intensive programs from Bootcamp to Development Accelerator to reflect the advanced skill level of incoming students and mid-level job readiness of graduates.

  • We expanded the few evening workshops we ran in 2013 into a fully developed Foundations curriculum, and ran 18 night classes and one full-time Bootcamp to get newer devs on the path toward the Development Accelerators.

  • We continued to build out our team, adding more staff to support both students and hiring partners.

  • We expanded our Seattle campus and opened our second campus in Portland, learning a great deal in the process.

Where we’re headed (2015 and beyond)

Many code schools got started in an informal way, often because a smart developer or entrepreneur had a personal need to fill. As schools continue to mature, the industry around them will, too. If there are currently 150 code schools, it’s entirely possible that there will actually be fewer by the end of the year. Even as new schools continue to start up, others will choose a path (to be acquired, to merge, etc.) that’s right for them in an increasingly crowded space.

There were already several deals in January, and a certain amount of consolidation simply makes sense. Bigger players can bring deeper pockets for faster growth, and smaller schools can benefit by joining forces.

Provided that students continue to have choices, the remaining schools stay focused on students (rather than shareholders), and there’s enough competition to spur innovation, the trend may not be all bad.

Expect to see more financial aid options become available, in the form of scholarships, better financing, and (fingers crossed) support for veterans.

And as the cost of education continues to outpace all other costs, expect code schools and other accelerated learning programs to become an increasingly visible and accepted part of the national conversation.

At Code Fellows, we intend to continue reaching, evolving, and expanding; you’ll see us try new things that allow us to stay current with the job market, reach more students and more hiring partners, and continue to make the quality and number of candidates coming through the software talent pipeline better than it’s ever been before.

We’ll do these things without sacrificing the principles that got us here: continuously improve, be self critical, and care about each student, each hiring partner, and each team member in a way that roots for them and helps them achieve their own success.

I’m bursting with excitement, humbled by the potential, in awe of our students and our team, so happy for our 340 grads and ready to really get after helping close the demand/supply gap for tech talent in 2015. I hope you’ll be along for the ride, too!


If you would like to get involved as a mentor, hiring manager, intern, instructor, expansion team member, or student, please contact us.