Dan answers some infrequently asked questions about CodeSchool | NetEngine

Dan answers some infrequently asked questions about CodeSchool

Back in March, we told you about our plans to kick off the NetEngine CodeSchool. Further to that, NetEngine struck a partnership with TEDx Brisbane to help them automate their booking system. We needed to build something, so who better to assist than our CodeSchool cohort.

Today, Ruth Bailey pinned Dan Sowter downstairs in our local coffeeshop to answer some of her questions about how it’s all coming along.

The pupil size of your students: How did it vary from when they started, till when they finished their first lesson?

The pupil size? Do I say they came in wide-eyed, and busy-tailed, and keen to go? Yeah, I guess they started like that. How did it go from there? I think maybe halfway into the first lesson I could see that people hadn’t thought that it might be a little harder than they had expected, and obviously I took that as feedback that I had to slow down.

So yeah, big, to small, and back to big again when we told them how much fun it is, and they noticed how much fun it is. I think they’re probably around about back now. We’re currently 4 lessons in, and everyone’s looking pretty happy again.

Why was the TEDx app a good fit for the Pro-Rails CodeSchool course.

Ah that’s interesting. It took me a while to realise there’s such a good fit between the two, but when we talked about doing the CodeSchool thing the first time, we knew we wanted to have professional features that we actually do in every application. The TEDx one was a good fit because it has some of the bread-and-butter stuff. It has an API, it has background workers, it sends emails, that kind of stuff, but it also doesn’t do too much of it.

It’s around about the right size to fit over six weeks, which was really good. Otherwise, it gives us just the right amount of opportunity to show off our favourite little toys for each thing.

Why would people want to take up a CodeSchool course with NetEngine and yourself?

I think it makes a lot of sense. There’s a couple of different kinds of people that I can imagine want to come to a course like this. Most of the time, I expect that they’ve come from a background in another language, and they’re looking for an opportunity to keep doing what they love, but recognizing the fact that the languages they’re been programming for the last ten years, that the job market for them is going to start declining. So I can definitely see why it would be attractive to come and learn how to do what they already know, coming from something like a Java background, in Ruby, and we’ve got a couple of guys who are doing that, which is pretty cool.

Otherwise (and I don’t think I’m alone in this) a career in coding is a really good idea at this point. I think it’s going to supply plenty of jobs for the next couple of centuries.

Three traits that you’re looking for in the CodeSchool-ers?


  1. They need enthusiasm, passion for the stuff. There’s an awful lot of detail in web development these days. You can learn a language, but then you can’t make something, and you can learn a framework, and you still can’t make something. It has to be something you care about enough to spend some of your free time keeping up with the trends, and actually really caring about it. You definitely need that.

  2. You’re probably going to need some patience. This isn’t easy, unfortunately. I’d love to tell you that it was, and tell you all to come here on your first day and we’ll make you superstars, but it’s really hard work so definitely need patience, and you need to stick with it.

  3. A pretty open attitude, just accepting that this is a craftsman kind of thing, and that there are going to be easy ways to achieve things, but that all of the beauty is in the detail, and if you spend that extra time caring about something that works and something that’s great, that it will eventually be the thing that you find the most rewarding. So yeah, that.

Based on this feedback, what additional advice, guidance, training have you sought to help you cope with the CodeSchool-ers better?

As in, what have I been changing to make myself a better teacher, that sort of thing? I have read through some other code-school curriculums and that sort of thing just to get an idea of what people are learning elsewhere, and I’ve done a lot of stuff where I’ve asked other Rubyists to read the pull-requests that we’re all sending each other in CodeSchool to make sure we’re not teaching anyone bad habits. I’ve done a bunch of that.

Otherwise, the style is changing every lesson. The one last night for example is the first time I’d really gone and built a bunch or stuff before they arrived, and had them delete it, and re-create it, and all that kind of stuff, and I think that was really good. So we’re learning a lot from ourselves. That, and I’m just soliciting as much feedback from the guys as I can. I really want to make sure this is something they love. They’re steering the ship.

Does that mean you’re learning to nurture more?

Am I learning to nurture more? No, no if anything, I’d like to become more blunt.

What do you see as the future beyond the Pro-Rails course for CodeSchool.

I think it’s going really well - people are really enjoying it - but I’d like to see it become.. I think it needs to become a little bit more beginner-friendly or we’re going to alienate a lot of people, so we’re going to have to do that. And I’d like to see us offering some sort of daytime course as well.

I know that doing it at night limits the numbers, and there’s a lot of people out there who would love to do it if they could do it in place of something like Tafe or College, so I’d like to see us do that. Eventually, rows of people who are enthusiastic, and tutors walking around in between them, being enthusiastic. People learning - that’d be awesome.

Has anything really surprised you about this group of four?

About this particular group of people? I think I was surprised the very first time they came to me out of hours, and were like “I’m working on this, can you help me?”, or “I’d love to add this extra feature to the TEDx thing”, and I said “Fuck, that’s awesome. These people really do want to do this, and they really do love it. Awesome.”