An Interview with Jason Moss, Co-Founder of Metis Programming Bootcamp

All about coding bootcamps

Q: How long have you been involved in the programming scene?

A: I'm actually not a programmer. However, I've been working in education for 20-something years.

Q: What motivated you to launch Metis Ruby on Rails bootcamp?

A: The decision to launch Metis was about how to take 80+ years of learning about education and marrying that with world class expertise in software. So we at Kaplan went looking for the perfect partner – and decided that it was Thoughtbot. The programming expertise aspect of the bootcamp comes from Thoughtbot. Instructors are full-time Thoughtbot devs “on sabbatical”...their personal programming experience in the programming field is what helps the students. Thoughtbot has over eleven years of experience building world-class software.

Q: Why is the “Programming Bootcamp” possible?

A: When Kaplan made the decision to launch Metis it was intentional on the topic that it was not simply launching a programming bootcamp, but a “new economy skill training”. Of course, programming is one of the most highly sought after skills that we teach. However, Metis will also offer training in data science, product design, and digital marketing...these are all skill-sets that have an insane demand. Employers are struggling to fill all of these roles – there are the same pain points for all these roles. For me, the bootcamp has become possible because it provides an accelerated career path to get somebody through the door to these new jobs. It has been demonstrated that in these 10 weeks you can get through to that entry-stage. Bootcamps are not the end of the learning, they are just the first step in the learning. They are being seen and recognized and employers are acknowledging them and validating them. From a macro level we see that the number of people emerging from college with CS degrees can't keep up with programming positions, because software is eating the world.

Q: How would you compare this education model to a college education?

A: The college degree has come under a lot of attack as the student debt figures are rising and the percentage of unemployed graduates is being shared with the public. That said, for me the bootcamp is not a replacement for the college education. Attending a programming bootcamp is a discreet decision...our purpose at Metis is to help get somebody a job. That is a very specific goal, which is not being met by colleges. The decision to attend college is going to be informed by a lot more factors than just getting a job.

Q: What types of companies are hiring bootcamp graduates?

A: There is a natural appeal with startups, but the type of companies hiring bootcamp graduates is broad. There is a little bit of a Catch-22 to this. There is nothing to me that suggest that a bootcamp graduate needs to work at a startup; I think that is just more of a by-product of peoples' natural circles and there is a certain appeal to working at startups. Large companies are starting to work with the programming languages being taught at bootcamps and are increasingly willing to offer apprenticeships, so the net is getting much wider. Kaplan and Metis have a network of employers around the world including not just startups but multinational companies. Metis has every reason to believe that our graduates can work at those larger companies and not just startups. Some of those larger companies may be a better fit because the companies will have more resources available.

Q: Can you comment on the emergence of the startup culture? Do you see this tying in to the emergence of programming bootcamps?

A: I would be careful to christen this as a “startup culture moment”. If you trace economic activity trends there are lots of sparks over time. Open source software has contributed to the recent spikes in social marketing, just as alternative vehicles for financing are helping with the proliferation of startups, but I don't want to say that we are now in a startup culture whereas before we were not. There is a natural synergy between startups and programming bootcamps because the bootcamps are startups themselves. Also, the bootcamps are teaching languages that are open source. Knowing each other through meetups and networks are contributing to the seeming startup nature of these bootcamps. These companies have the same inherent needs, thinking about UX and design, amassing lots of data about tricks and traffic pattern, which is contributing to why the startups and bootcamps are closely aligned.

Q: How long do you think that the job market will hold this many programming positions with the currently high pay levels?

A: How long will bootcamps be able to fill these positions is another question you should be asking. From my research we are nowhere near the supply and demand lining up - that is going to take a long time. What will happen is that certain languages will go out of vogue. For example, Python might fade out while Swift bootcamps might proliferate. There is nowhere near the amount of flow companies need coming out of Computer Science degrees (CS) and bootcamps. 80,000 CS graduates; the numbers are frightfully low. That trend for needing developers is one to stay for a while. I think that bootcamps are a great source for fulfilling that, despite the skepticism. Bootcamps aren't a cure-all. Programmers are going to require a certain level of mentorship and bootcampers will have to have received exceptional training to receive the high pay levels. Our belief at Metis is that there is always going to be a market for top-talent. By partnering with Thoughtbot the feeling was that we would make sure that we are producing exceptional developers.