On a Mission: A Q&A with Lead Instructor Nmuta Jones

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What sets the Galvanize Web Development Immersive program apart from other coding bootcamps?
Nmuta Jones: One of the things that makes the program here unique and very rich is the fact that the immersion is pretty deep. We have a structure here that is unlike any other bootcamp that I know of in the country because of the depth of planning that goes into the curriculum development here. We’ve invested in a lot of people who have experience in education planning and design in a way that really has helped us to take what we’re teaching, which is something that’s constantly evolving, and to put it in a structure where we have educational standards and benchmarks the way you would see it in a traditional college or university, or a high school.

I developed a curriculum for the Denver School of Science and Technology and a couple of Charter STEM schools in the Philadelphia area. I was also a project based learning coach for a Gates Foundation network of charter schools. In the STEM movement, especially with the newer STEM charters that are doing really well, you have a wealth of educational expertise going into the crafting of the curriculum. That’s one thing that distinguishes us from other schools out there: the depth that we’re able to render procedures and processes from an educational standpoint, not just a technical standpoint. Those two are very different fields. People who are really into education understand that you can’t just dump technology on someone and say ‘sink or swim.’ You have to roll that out and use scaffolding and other techniques to help people learn the processes. It’s not just a simple thing of hitting go and telling them to go. There’s techniques you use to make a good teacher and a good classroom.

Another thing that is even probably more significant is the fact that we have ties with industry. When students come through the Galvanize program, we have the ability to connect the with industry partners that they simply would not have access to if they were to go with other programs. This is what makes Galvanize shine and it’s what makes us really good at what we do. We have multiple startups that are located in each of our respective campuses and a few major tech companies have partnered with us in order to provide really rich opportunities for our students to connect with the real world of software development. They have opportunities to speak to CEOs and hiring managers of a wide array of tech businesses. Some of these people come in as guest lecturers to our classes, and quite a few of them have even hired our students after graduation. These opportunities are invaluable.

How does the length of the program compare to other courses?
NJ: Galvanize Web Development Immersive is a full time intensive program. It’s eight hours a day, every business day, for six months. That’s just a deep dive that you’re not going to get in some of these other classes. It’s like the difference between taking an evening French class and actually going to France. This is living in France. For many of our students, It’s like living in a foreign country. We soak them in the language, the culture, the rituals and the mindset of a full time developer environment using modern web development languages and tools. For some people, when they come in, these concepts are like a foreign language. But when they come out, they’re much more fluent than they would have been if they were doing this as a side job or a hobby.

The development world changes very quickly. How can what you’re teaching in the classroom keep up with what needs to be known in the real world?
NJ: What we’re doing is a process of applying instructional design to a rapidly-changing curriculum. In some institutions you have a lot of instructional design, but their designs are built around curriculum that doesn’t change, like a computer science program. In a traditional computer science program, the curriculum doesn’t change as rapidly as web development reality does in the real world. Real-world web development changes incredibly fast.

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It’s very difficult to develop a curriculum around something that’s changing that fast, but we’ve done it. We’ve taken all the principles of instructional design, and we’ve applied them to curriculum development in an “agile” kind of way. Agile software development is a process where development is able to pivot very quickly, change and build on the last iteration in a way that’s lockstep with the current time and what’s going on in a rapidly-changing industry. Agile development is responsive to the needs of the current task at hand, and is constantly building the next part of any project based on data from the last iteration, and newly emerging data about the best road moving forward to accomplish any given goal.

How are Galvanize students prepared for today’s developer jobs?
NJ: We have a whole culture of promoting unfamiliar environments for our students. It’s not just that we’re teaching you JavaScript or Python or Ruby. We’re teaching you how to jump into languages that you’ve never seen before, and to be successful with them. We’re teaching the skill of adaptability. We don’t want students to be one-trick ponies. As a student here, you have to be able to rapidly pivot and learn new technologies. That’s the essence of what it means to be a developer.

Developers are constantly learning new technologies, developing new technologies, and getting proficient at things on the fly. We have a whole section of the curriculum dedicated to unfamiliar environments. And after that period in the course, students become more comfortable with unfamiliar environments, including their capstone projects. It forces them to become proficient with something new, to present it, and then get a job based on their skills. We teach our students to be lifelong learners. That is what it means to be a developer.

What drew you to wanting to teach at Galvanize?
NJ: I came in with a mission. I come from having years of experience in both teaching and software development /coding. So, I came here with a mission and a purpose to make sure that Galvanize gets the education thing right.

At the end of the day, what sticks out to you the most?
NJ: I’ve seen so many lives changed here. In my last class, I had two working class guys from middle America… guys who never thought they would ever break out of the limited opportunities where they came from. Now they’ve both graduated and they’re working as developers. It’s not just people changing their own lives, but their families are also changed. Especially underrepresented groups. When you change them and give them something that they really like to do, that they can make money at, you’re changing the path of that family forever. Some of them are joining the middle class for the first time. That’s the essence of the American dream.

If you have one piece of advice for prospective students, what would it be?
NJ: You have to want it. It’s not a magic bullet. You can’t just come in here if you don’t really want to do it, or you just want any random career. You have to have a passion for coding. You have to want to code. We try to have our admissions process identify who those people really are. But Galvanize is a catalyst for the passion of software development that’s inside of you. If the passion is there, then we add Galvanize to it. If you don’t have that passion, that base level, then the catalyst won’t work. I do think there are certain people who need to know that. If this is not what you want to do, don’t do it. There are some careers where you can kinda fake it, in terms of the passion. But this one, you can’t fake the passion. It’ll just crumble. However, if you’ve always had a dream about it, I really encourage people to just jump into it.

Have the passion? Check out our Web Development immersive program.