Might Coding Academies Level The Candidate Playing Field?

The machine learning space represents a fast-moving market in light of a number of companies trying to upgrade their technology. New technologies are moving at a much quicker pace than the educational system training people in those new technologies.

The perfect example of this is a platform called React, which was originally developed by Facebook and has become very attractive to companies because it offers a unique functionality for building interactive user interfaces that wasn’t available before. However, few if any colleges with computer science areas are producing people with the background to fully understand and utilize React. Why is that? It might be partly due to there being very few professors focused on this particular subject area. What we can say is the initial release of React was about six years ago and the ones who jumped on teaching it were coding academies. As a result, we now see coding academies positioned to make people without a lot of computer science knowledge almost instantly marketable and command relatively high wages.

Now, I do have to point out that these coding academies tend to select people who have a lot of potential because they emphasize overall capabilities rather than any prior background in computer science. Therefore, if you are someone who went to one of the highly selective colleges and studied Biology but would now like to reposition yourself as a software expert, good coding academies are there to help you with that transition. But make no mistake – they will only train you in the kind of technology that makes you highly marketable right away.
Who would take issue with that? It’s more of a change in mindset in people who have worked in computer science that may be a challenge. You see, a number of technologies have developed over the last 10 years, where the learning curve is not terribly productive.

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For example, it can take up to 10 years of actual practice to become a solid C++ developer. In fact, some people start programming when they’re 12, so by the time they’re 22, they might indeed have 10 years’ experience! It’s a rule of thumb that’s very indicative of Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hours to become an expert.” In the world of C++, you may really need to put in that much.

On the other hand, when technology is brand new, it often doesn’t require anywhere near that long of a learning curve. These people can jump into a work environment right away with that specific skill set and apply their knowledge. Then, over time, they can supplement the comprehension gained in only a few months of coding academy with even more knowledge on computers, operating systems and more.

Consequently, new technologies are breaking the “rule” of learning that many industry veterans have come to know. People diving into new technologies right now don’t have the disadvantage of having to compete with people with 15+ years of experience in that technology because such a person doesn’t exist.

As another example, take CRISPR, a technology that is primarily used to alter DNA sequences so that researchers can potentially address genetic defects and treat certain diseases. You’d expect those dealing with CRISPR would be exclusively the kind of people who work in a research lab, coming up with new bioengineering solutions. Instead, we see people with no PhDs using off-the-shelf tools to work with that kind of technology.

Does this mean code academies will now earn greater respect?

I get asked this question quite a bit and my answer is that, ultimately, respect will be realized when hiring managers are the ones who had firsthand experience with the code academies – either by running them, being trained by them or having positive experience having hired their graduates.

People who go for a traditional education and work for 15 years in a field have a natural inclination to suspect there is less than meets the eye in people who spend less than a year getting their education and practical experience in difficult technologies. They think, “If it took me 15 years to get here, what makes you think you can get here in one year?”

What we will see over time is that people will blend both a traditional background with what they’ve learned in a non-traditional setting, whether it be a code academy or online classes. The more that the hiring managers having a major influence on the final decision are personally experienced using those alternative venues and come to believe that they’ve benefitted from using those venues, the more they’ll believe that someone from that kind of background is indeed valuable.

So, in the context of a new decade we’ve just begun, we have to think, “what’s going to happen along these lines over the next 10 years?”
The short answer is nobody really knows.

But one of the scenarios that would make sense is that, as AI matures and gets to augment other fields of knowledge, AI will make technologies more “user friendly” that have previously been foreboding, complex and difficult. As such, more people will jump in and learn how to use those technologies.

So instead of eliminating workers who are doing certain tasks, what we might see is a dramatic improvement in what these workers are capable of accomplishing.

In a climate where non-traditional learning is becoming ever more relevant and credible, it can be challenging for a highly experienced candidate to know exactly where to turn next to make themselves more marketable.

The answer? It’s not a traditional university. It’s not a coding academy. It’s Roy Talman & Associates. Because when you Talk To Talman First, we can identify the path that aligns best with your career goals so you have a clear picture on your most ideal options. And when you’ve completed that path, Talman can help you prepare for interviews, tests and so much more.