Having some knowledge of web development can help a startup’s founders design their own digital products or make better decisions alongside their technical team. Ironhack, Assembler School and Platzi are some of the schools that offer online, practical and market-specific technology training to boost their business.
More than a decade ago, a young man called Kevin Systrom was working as a marketing professional. He didn’t have a degree in IT, but he spent his evenings working on simple ideas to improve his programming knowledge, an area that had appealed to him since he was a teenager. Using the HTML5 programming language, he developed the prototype for Burbn, an app where users could record their location and share photos. That was the first iteration of what is now one of the most successful social networks, Instagram.
Like Systrom, many programmers and entrepreneurs have learned how to crack coding in ways other than traditional training. According to a recent survey of more than 80,000 developers by Stack Overflow, only 54% received training from an educational facility, while 60% learned programming with digital resources such as videos and blogs, 40% took online courses and 32% used forums, among other complementary options.
Whatever the learning resources they used, Spanish-speaking programmers can take part in the BBVA Hackathon organised by BBVA Open Innovation. The event, which involves professionals from different disciplines working to solve twelve challenges put forward by the bank, will be held on 22-24 October in digital format.
For their part, if entrepreneurs who lack technical knowledge but have started using so-called ‘no-code’ tools (aimed at creating digital products without coding) want to go a step further, they can learn web development thanks to a multitude of alternatives to traditional training.
Bootcamps or intensive webinars are one of the learning methods used by programmers, according to 10% of respondents to the Stack Overflow survey. One of the landmark Spanish schools in this field is Ironhack. It has nine physical campuses in different countries as well as a remote campus, has trained over 9,000 students and has closed a Series B round of financing for $20 million this year.
“Our bootcamps are fully focused on practice – students are supported by leading professionals working in business who can provide the knowledge that the market demands”, explains General Manager of Ironhack, Tiago Santos. Workers from different sectors have turned their careers around by studying with this startup that, over nine intense weeks, gives them the skills to be junior full-stack developers, i.e. professionals “who don’t know how to do everything, but can understand everything, including what happens on the server side (back-end) and on the client side (front-end)”, explains Santos. It is precisely this developer profile that is one of the most in-demand among digital job offers in Spain, according to a recent analysis by Telefónica.
Those with an entrepreneurial mind generally “want to build their own MVP [minimum viable product] rather than having it done by someone else, have outsourced their company’s programming and now want to take the reins of the technical side of their startup, or want to understand tech lingo in order to communicate more effectively with their team”, in Santos’ words.
Keep Coding, Hack a Boss and ISDI Coders are other Spanish schools that offer face-to-face or remote programming bootcamps. There are also initiatives aimed at encouraging female talent, like Adalab, which helps women in insecure work situations to become programmers.
Meanwhile, rather than running intensive courses, Assembler School offers longer full-stack development masters that last seven months, both in Barcelona and virtually, for students who already have some basic knowledge. “Our programme is 100% practical, we don’t have teachers or theory classes or subjects”, explains co-founder Kasia Adamowicz. The school’s mentors, which include the CTOs of reputable technology companies, are involved in designing the training, guiding students so that “they are working to solve real-life problems from day one”, says Adamowicz.
Assembler School’s methodology is based on “collaborative learning”, meaning that as well as acquiring technical knowledge, students improve their soft skills by working in groups in a gamified process. In Adamowicz’s opinion, “many companies don’t want a ‘whiz kid’ if they don’t know how to work as part of a team”. It’s a useful lesson for entrepreneurs who are launching their digital product after training, guided by the school and given support from its network of collaborators if they wish.
In addition to bootcamps and masters, there are virtual learning platforms to help people venture into the world of programming little by little. These include Coursera, which lists courses in computing and many other fields; Code Academy, one of the oldest platforms; and Free Code Camp, a not-for-profit organisation offering free training for developers.
Colombian platform Platzi is also noteworthy. It provides courses in Spanish to acquire digital skills, including web development, to over two million students. Its methodology makes it easy for everyone to learn at their own pace. “Our community and our artificial intelligence system, which learns from how a student learns, guide students along the way”, says Platzi’s Communications Manager, Ingrid Zuñiga. And the goal of this school? “To turn Latin America into a digital economy that exports tech talent”, she argues.
The company also supports entrepreneurs through the Platzi Startups DemoDay, a programme that offers mentoring for startups, from guidance with their marketing to how to prepare a pitch. The winning projects then travel to Silicon Valley to present their project to investors and accelerators such as Y Combinator. Head of startups at Platzi, Juliane Butty, recently took part in an InnovaHome Festival event organised by BBVA Open Innovation, where she highlighted the importance of women’s role in the Latin American entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Having programming knowledge, communication skills, the ability to work in a team and other digital skills can help entrepreneurs bring their idea to fruition. These are also some of the skills required to solve the challenges of the upcoming BBVA Hackathon, at which participants will work in groups to come up with a technological solution to solve a series of challenges.
Autonomous learning can provide much more than just knowledge. Shortly after launching Instagram, Kevin Systrom was quoted as saying that he had come away from learning programming by himself with two lessons: “you don’t give up so quickly if it’s something you actually enjoy” and “doing the work is where you learn what you’ll use every day”. Entrepreneurs who are willing to understand and build the technological foundations of the products of the future would do well to bear these two lessons in mind.