How CodePath Trains Developers To Build In A Mobile World

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Editor’s Note: Semil Shah works on product for Swell, is a TechCrunch columnist, and an investor. He blogs at Haywire, and you can follow him on Twitter at @semil.

Late in 2013, I stumbled upon two bootstrapped entrepreneurs with deep backgrounds in mobile development — Timothy Lee and Nathan Esquenazi — who were on very focused, technical, educational mission: To take some of the best web developers and train them to develop for mobile platforms. Everyone knows it’s impossible to find good mobile engineers across iOS and Android, and with talent either locked up in big companies or fragmented across so many startups, their startup was born: CodePath, an intense, live, workshop-style bootcamp for engineers to work on mobile development projects. For this weekly mobile column, I invited the CodePath founders share their vision, as well as to explain the program to engineers and companies who may be interested.

How was CodePath formed, and what’s your mission?

Our mission is to empower software developers, free of charge, to continuously expand their skillsets across new specializations and platforms. To start, we have designed an accelerated program that effectively ramps up engineers in iOS and Android development. The programs we offer are supported by paid training and sponsorship from mobile startups.

CodePath was formed largely out of our shared passion for teaching and curriculum development. About a year ago after our startup was acquired, we had the opportunity to design and develop a project-based mobile curriculum for Yahoo. We ran hundreds of engineers there through this program and saw the opportunity to bring this unique format and structure to the startup community at large.

Why is the program restricted to developers with a CS background?

Fortunately, there are a wealth of great programs and low cost curriculums that already exist for junior or aspiring developers. However, not many companies are addressing the needs of the professional developer community. We find that there are many inefficiencies in the way that developers today ramp up on the latest technology stacks. In addition, seasoned developers often find transitioning out of their existing specialties to be quite difficult. While we strive to keep our curriculum as open as possible to everyone today, there’s an incredible value in initially focusing our programs towards the professional audience.

Don’t the plethora of online coding courses provide enough tools for people to learn these skills?

There is definitely an almost overwhelming amount of online resources and we certainly don’t miss developing in a pre-Stack Overflow era. However, there are many advantages to learning within a structured, accelerated program with an emphasis on best practices and standards. We think the programs are valuable in part for the same reason people find value from a personal trainer at the gym or for the same reasons an athlete has a coach. We think the weekly code reviews, well-designed curriculum and peer collaboration on real projects can make the learning process considerably more fun and effective.

How do the iOS courses differ from the Android courses?

The courses are more similar than they are different. First and foremost our programs are about creating an effective learning environment and connecting talented engineers together so they can build interesting products. Both courses give engineers a chance to ramp up on the respective platforms, adopt the best practices surrounding mobile development, and explore how to design enjoyable user experiences. The iOS course is focused around the latest iOS 7 technologies and techniques. The Android course is focused on introducing the world of modern Android development with KitKat. In that sense, the development environments, tools, and platforms are what separate the two courses while the spirit and the format remain the same.

Do you plan to extend to Glass, or other wearable platforms?

Absolutely, we think part of the strength of Android in particular is the proliferation of Android-based devices that extend far beyond the phone. Automobiles, eyewear, tablets and even military helmets are quickly becoming a part of the Android ecosystem and we are interested in actively encouraging exploration of those platforms as they are adopted.

How do larger companies who want to hire mobile talent get placements, and how do they get involved in Code Path?

We are currently exploring the various ways our programs can provide value to companies. We think increasing the pool of talented iOS and Android engineers is in the best interest of many local companies. We have been working with companies like Yahoo, Hulu, Zendesk, MyFitnessPal, and Riviera Partners to sponsor our past CodePath programs. For companies that need mobile training for their engineers, we allow them to reserve paid seats in our San Francisco courses. Any company interested in getting involved as a sponsor or inquiring about mobile training should contact us at dev@thecodepath.com to learn more.

What are some key stats around the program so far? Are you thinking of expanding beyond the Bay Area?

Right now we are very focused on providing the best programs that we can within San Francisco but we are committed to expanding these programs in time to other cities. Here are a few of our key stats:

  • The average participant has a CS degree and 4 years of professional experience

  • CodePath has a diverse group of students and about 30% of our alumni are female engineers

  • Over 100 engineers have taken our program in San Francisco in small cohorts of 15-30

  • CodePath has trained 200+ engineers at Yahoo and helped many transition to the mobile team

  • Our current volunteer mobile mentors include senior iOS and Android developers from Nest, Climate Corporation, Edmodo, Couple.me, Klout, Couchsurfing, and FlipBoard

  • CodePath alumni projects include Fixed, GoodMorning, Flash Math and Spitfire Athlete

Why does mobile development pose such a challenge, even for adept web developers?

As an experienced engineer, learning the nooks and crannies of any new framework takes a significant time investment. One difference in web and mobile is there is not really a distinction between a front-end mobile developer and a back-end mobile developer. A successful mobile developer must be full stack and must consider user interaction as much as technical implementation. As part of our program, we emphasize the level of visual detail required to create polished mobile experiences, which is often a new challenge for web developers that are currently focused on scalability and infrastructure. One other challenge is the difference in architecting, testing and deploying for embedded devices as opposed to applications in the cloud.

As a two-person bootstrapped company, how will Code Path grow?

Right now we rely on people to spread the word about our mobile courses to friends and colleagues. If you know any engineers interested in learning iOS or Android, have them sign up for the next program starting in March. If you know of companies that have mobile training needs or would be interested in sponsoring our initiatives, we’d love to meet them. If you are a mobile engineer interested in mentoring or teaching, we definitely want to talk with you. Feel free to reach out to us for any reason at dev@thecodepath.com.