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Why coding bootcamps may well be the most adapted form of hands-on education to address a great…

Why coding bootcamps may well be the most adapted form of hands-on education to address a great part of the African needs for innovation

Like most people concerned with contemporary 21st century challenges, my social network newsfeeds are full of articles about the challenges of education, most of them being nothing but daunting. Here’s how most education systems around the world are becoming irrelevant in raising a new breed of people ready to tackle the numerous contemporary challenges, and in the short and medium term, to just get students prepared for the workplace, let alone that of new emerging jobs …

Last week, I came across Otto Scharmer’s concept on the vertical development needed to “upgrade our societal operating system”. As a person who precisely chose a university curriculum that would not separate out humanities, social sciences and STEM into different universes, I sought cumulating the dual degrees critical open minds like Mr Bruno Latour were drafting and putting in place in rather established European universities, I felt compelled upon reading to assess the relevance of the continuous training solution I have also experimented last year and that I am working to bring to a new market, Morocco. Here’s what I find promising about what coding bootcamps like Le Wagon can bring to the African need for innovation.

  • The coding bootcamp’s hands-on methodology is all about closing the knowing-doing gap

Nowaday, resources of knowledge are everything but scarce. You need good internet connection and an insatiable curiosity, and you’re ready to embark upon an endless learning journey.

As Otto Scharmer puts it: “If you want the app, you just go to an online learning store like edx.org and get your free knowledge download. Done! You don’t need a physical university for that. The primary reason we have universities and other institutions of higher education today is to support the development of vertical literacy. That means creating a learning environment in which the learner can step into his or her highest future potential”.

This is precisely what a coding bootcamp does. Through the 300 challenges and 45 live-code sessions of the fullstack program of Le Wagon, as much as it could also feel a little bit frustrating to learn a new set of coding elements everyday without having the comfort of thinking you’ve fully digested the tricks of the previous day, I realized that these layers came together in a very “neuroergonomic” way after I was done with the bootcamp. It is rather impressive to see how well designed this immersion into the vast world of coding is. The material itself, the platforms developed by the founders, encompass the best practices of coding in a very accessible and readable manner. The lead teachers and teacher assistants that are taking turns into teaching parts of the curriculum are all fully committed to deliver digest explanations given the fast-paced learning curve that’s proposed. They are also keen on spending extra-time with students to make sure they feel fully on track.

  • The bootcamp format optimizes the time, money and energy of aspiring startupers/startup opportunities job-seekers to enhance their technical skills

What a bootcamp does well is bring ideas to life quickly. Through its comprehensive approach to create top-notch web-products, and most particularly through the curriculum of the 7th, 8th and 9th weeks where students put to test all the the knowledge acquired during the program and develop two projects (a clone of the Airbnb application coded on a week by team, then an innovative personal project coded in two weeks by team), Le Wagon fullstack program gives a fairly good overview of all roles involved to create a web-product. In the African markets where startupers need to bootstrap, to start up with minimal financial resources, even more than anywhere else, such an optimized, structured hands-on overview is beneficial. While Africa consists of a large number of underdeveloped markets, posing a very wide range of different challenges, it is particularly useful for innovative web-based products, to go-to-market fast even more so than anywhere else.

Aspiring startuper sharing his product (Nov 22, 2017 — Workshop Product Design Sprint)

Let’s assess and compare the options to deliver a web-based product (web-app/website) for an aspiring startuper:

Computer Science traditional tracks:

  • Time to reach an actionable knowledge: 3 years;
  • Cost: tuition + 3 years of personal expenditures + cost of opportunity for having not gone to market sooner (!) ;

Outsourcing developers:

  • Time to reach a deliverable: 2–3 months, without flexibility on the features delivered (any change to the specs has a price);
  • Cost: average of 50 K MAD (as per the quotations you find from freelancers) + cost of frictions for managing a technical work the client does not master;

Le Wagon Casablanca’s training:

  • Time to reach an actionable knowledge+deliverable MVP: 9 weeks;
  • Cost: 54 K MAD total cost — with a series of discounts available (www.lewagon.com/casablanca);

Now you choose …

  • You’ll hone on your technical skills… and you’ll build up your network, which comes in handy when you create your own company!

Le Wagon focuses on teaching to creative people how to build up their technical skills: we are selective in terms of personality, as we not only assess the motivations, goals, capacity to learn quickly and friendliness of our applicants, but we truly give an opportunity to all those that match these criteria no matter what they studied previously so they can bring their ideas to life with our program! Doing so, we create diverse cohorts that prove to be useful connections adding up to the global community of Wagoners. In the one batch I took part in in Barcelona, we had 14 individuals gathered representing 10 different nationalities, aged 17 to 35+, 5 women out of the 14 participants, of which, one was pregnant. We all came with a very diverse cultural personal and professional background (investor, former consultants, freelancers, “proven” and aspiring entrepreneurs). I personally gained a lot from the conversations that I had with each person that was taking this training as an opportunity for a significant professional transition.

  • A coding bootcamp will put you in a place to fully embrace opportunities arising from the growing need of home-grown top-notch tech talents

From the numerous discussions I’ve had in the last six months with founders and CEOs of African web-based startups, I can tell that more and more web-based African companies are indeed recruiting in Morocco, and in other African tech hubs such as the Silicon Savannah in Kenya or the Yabacon Valley in Nigeria. But they struggle with a high turn-over with foreign talent and a huge need for an upgrade of local talent. This is where home-grown talent from an internationally recognized and tested tech education are absolutely necessary.

The coding education market in Africa is quite undeveloped, and traditional institutions are simply not giving people the skills that they need to succeed, and to fill the widening technical skills gap in the African workforce. Le Wagon offers a practical, personalised solution that provides the tools that will be able to serve a whole generation of African entrepreneurs and creative workers.

  • Last, but not least … coding bootcamps are good to enhance your leadership skills and ability to bring your team to success

Working each day with a new buddy as per Le Wagon methodology, doing about 8–10h of problem-solving on cases and A LOT of debugging is quite challenging and a very humbling collective learning experience. It obviously gives to any participant a renewed and thrilling feeling of being totally out of their comfort zone … everyday! Out the comfort zone is where self-knowledge lies! When working under pressure to release a web-product in the last 2 weeks, up to the level of Le Wagon’s alumni, after 7 weeks of achieving a renewed learning curve, people learn to deal with their capacity to maintain a positive collective performance despite the fatigue and possible frictions that arise. Doing so, they build up their access to the intelligence of the open mind (curiosity), open heart (empathy) and open will (courage).

After 45 days, it is very obvious how Wagoners are indeed more comfortable approaching volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity, the world of VUCA as Otto Scharmer puts it. They not only learn coding, they learn to unlearn and relearn, which is a powerful skill to get prepared for new jobs that will be arising soon.

They might also be ready to shift from the usual corporate ego-system with actors who are used to performing in competing silos to a truly collaborative startup ecosystem mindset, helping each other in the most efficient way with very clear actionable roadmaps and tools to meet their objectives.

Aspiring startupers designing their product (Nov 22, 2017 — Workshop Product Design Sprint)

It’s no wonder that so many startupers that met through Le Wagon ended up finding the right partner to build successful startups. More than 100 startups have been launched by Le Wagon alumni, with 25 of having successfully raised funding to date. 15 Le Wagon students have raised more than €1.5m in external investment, and 10 more have raised between €300,000 and €900,000 each.

I tend to think that having gone through Le Wagon’s coding bootcamp not only enabled these startupers to quickly build the best MVP possible, it also prepared them thoroughly to work together with their partners, invent new coordination mechanisms with a shared awareness and vision and concrete methodology.

I very much believe Le Wagon, the 1st coding bootcamp ranked worldwide, has a significant role to play in Africa, even more so when we’ll have more funding opportunities to offer with partners to help onboard a more diverse range of student into this international vibrant tech community.

On the Moroccan launch, co-founder and CEO of Le Wagon, Boris Paillard said: “We’re particularly excited to open our school in Casablanca, where the African journey of Le Wagon is starting. While the Moroccan startup ecosystem is burgeoning and the technical level of the accessible talents is remarkable, we’re confident we can help accelerate the African innovation with our unique methodological blend of code, design and business, so as to build world-class products. Because the African tech ambition deserves to expand outside of its frontiers, we’re thrilled to onboard the African talents in our international community.”

Considering the most recent announcements of new coding schools opening it might have already, even before the kick-off the its first batch starting March 5th in Casablanca, it may even have acted as a hands-on innovative education trend-setter.

If you are interested in enrolling in the first Africa-based batch of Le Wagon, sign up before Feb 16th: www.lewagon.com/apply/casablanca

For any question, contact the author at hanae@lewagon.org