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CTO Productivity Tips with Rob Kaufman

By January 22, 2019 No Comments

Audio Version

One of the biggest areas of stress for CTOs is productivity and someone with a lot of wisdom in this area is Rob Kaufman. Rob is the co-founder of LEARN Academy where he helps people become software developers and then helps them become employed in the field.

Today on CTO Studio with Rob we go deep into the subject of productivity and running a coding school. Join us and listen in to this fascinating discussion!

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • How much focus is on collaboration skills at LEARN Academy?
  • Why it’s important to have students solve their own problems.
  • What is the difference between a junior developer and a senior developer?
  • The naive algorithm: what is it?
  • Why he knows what burn out looks like and how he actively fights against it.
  • And so much more!

Our first topic is LEARN Academy, Rob graduates about 20 coders every 2 months. The format for LEARN Academy works like this: it’s 3 months full-time in the classroom and then one month full-time in an internship before graduating.

They work with companies all over San Diego to ensure their graduates end the program with work experience. When he talks to prospective students he tells them the last day of group projects and the first day of internships should feel like same, just in a different place. And he also tells them the last day of their internship and the first day of their full-time job should also feel that way.

But for about 40% of their students it feels exactly the same and it’s in the same place – about 40% of their graduates end up staying on with their internship and working their after graduation.

They also offer job services for the other 60%, and they offer job services beyond their graduate’s first job. They reach out when they are transitioning from their first job and LEARN Academy’s career services person meets with them, does a second resume check and talks to them about growing from their junior roles and transitioning into the next phase of their career.

His goal as well as his CEO’s goal at LEARN is a long-term partnership with their students.

It’s not about coming in and learning code and never contacting LEARN Academy again, it’s a much bigger process that takes place over the entire career of the student. In fact, LEARN has been so effective with their partnerships that alumni are now hiring new graduates into their businesses!

What does the landscape look like for LEARN among the coding schools out there? When they started there were no code schools in southern California, and the idea came about because his software consulting office in Portland brought in six interns from a local code school up there and they hired four of them after graduation. Rob wanted to replicate that process in his San Diego office but he couldn’t because there were no code schools in the area.

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Driving home one night after an SD Ruby meetup he realized if no one else was going to start a code school then he was going to have to do it. Fortunately, his partner Chelsea was there to help. She has a background in business and education which combined with his passion for technology allowed them to create a code school.

Because Chelsea is from San Diego and Rob is from LA, their school was built with a San Diego vibe to it. They inherently created a place with a work-life balance and with community at its core.

They’ve had students who have lost family members while they were in school and those students needed to suspend their time and come back at a later cohort. They sit down and have a conversation with their students; they work with people wherever they are at and that allows the school to be successful.

Code schools live and die by their employment number – that is what they are competitive about. He can say comfortably that 84% of LEARN Academy graduates have employment in software development within 6 months of graduation, and they are stingy about that number.

For example, they had an alumnus whose father passed away and the alumnus took over the auto dealership. They don’t count him because he doesn’t have a job as a software developer. They want to be honest with that number and to be realistic about that number.

So what type of people do they attract as a result of that number – people who want a job or people who want to code? It is both, according to Rob. They want a career and software development is a great career because it has a future that is really obvious. There is a huge shortfall of software developers in the industry and that is why code schools now exist. There is a great need for talent.

And how many of those people who come to LEARN Academy are looking for their first careers versus people changing fields? Most people who come are changing their careers. Rob estimates probably 80-90% have had some sort of job, they aren’t fresh out of school.

He further breaks it down by explaining roughly 60-65% of LEARN students are in their 20s and 30s looking for their first big career or wanting to change their career. And the other 35%-40% are people who did things like software development in the 80s and then went into management, or maybe they are a CEO or CTO who is tired of doing the nearly impossible task of finding a technical co-founder. So they want to know enough to be their own technical co-founder and join LEARN to do it.

Also on today’s CTO Studio Rob and I also talk about who teaches at LEARN Academy, and why to balance your talent ratio. We end the show by talking about how to choose which specific productivity regimens we should add into our lives and then how to add them. You can hear us weigh in all of those topics on today’s CTO Studio.

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