Decoded

When Chris, Matt and Jake realized Boise is missing an important part of the community, they decided to build it themselves

Law associate Chris Hoyd was starting a code school in Boise.

Software developer Matt Overall was also starting a code school in Boise.

So when Matt unknowingly stumbled on Chris’ Craigslist ad looking for instructors, it was kismet. Both saw a void in Boise for a code school, and instead of starting two, they — along with Matt’s brother Jake — decided to start BoiseCodeWorks. A school for anyone who wanted to learn the skill. No experience required.

“Our only requirement for our students is to have passion,” Matt says.

BoiseCodeWorks office sign

The idea isn’t a new one. In cities like Provo and Austin, code schools are an integral part of the community as a source for new talent, and a place where existing developers can get up to speed on new trends and languages.

Matt started noticing friends were traveling to other cities to take advantage of the schools, only to find jobs in those cities and leave Boise.

“Code schools across the country have a 90% hire rate,” Chris said.

“They would graduate, get jobs and move their families,” says Matt. But he wants to change all that with BoiseCodeWorks. “This is an opportunity for me to really give back, to be active in the community, and build talent Boise businesses will hire from.”

With the team in place — Matt and Jake as teachers, Chris managing the day-to-day business, legal and outreach — they made their first impression in March at Boise Code Camp. It was there they sparked conversations with prospective students and tech businesses to discover the interests and needs in Boise, so they could build the curriculum around it.

“It doesn’t make sense to teach something that there aren’t a lot of jobs for,” Matt says. “.NET is a very employable language in Boise. If you look at the jobs, they don’t lie. Lots of jobs in .NET and Java.”

And they made an impression.

“We had over twenty students registered after [Boise] Code Camp,” Matt says, which surprised him. Their goal, by summer 2015, was to have 10 students for their first fall course. They doubled that in one weekend.

BoiseCodeWorks class

People from all different walks of life were interested.

“Career changers. People wanting to grow their job skills. We’ve got 16-year-olds to 50-year-olds. Electricians and construction workers. A really diverse group,” Chris says.

The code school will take these students through the basics — HTML, CSS, Git — to more complex tools like Visual Studio, .NET and Javascript, for four nights a week for the next three months, similar to a semester long course at a community college or university.

But unlike a traditional college course, BoiseCodeWorks’ selling point is their flexibility.

“Traditional education isn’t conducive to software development because it changes so fast. Tenured [university] staff trying keep the curriculum up to date just isn’t going to happen,” says Matt.

For BoiseCodeWorks, a new language or trend in programming isn’t a problem. It’s expected.

“We have the ability to change our curriculum in a week,” says Matt, a full-time developer during the day who fully understands and deals with the always-in-flux nature of programming.”

“My day job is software development. Last year we were writing in a different framework than we are this year. We switch so often.”

“I would never want to call it a replacement for higher education. It’s a good step for learning software development, because it isn’t a four-year program at a university,” Matt says.

BoiseCodeWorks breakroom
The “break” room.

BoiseCodeWorks refactor sign

BoiseCodeWorks wall hashtag

Instead, the BoiseCodeWorks’ course will provide discipline and mentorship that self-driven online courses like Treehouse or Codecademy can’t offer, along with useful results.

“We don’t want that passion to die out because it takes too long to see any success … from day one, our students will feel like they are learning. Within the first week they have an online resume and a Github account,” Matt says.

There aren’t grades or degrees, but they expect each student to have a solid foundation of programming, enough to build a web application on their own.

“Our focus is to improve employability,” Chris says. But they understand the course is a foundation for building a career.

“In twelve weeks you’ll learn web development, but there is no substitute for time,” Matt says.

What’s next for BoiseCodeWorks? Their spring 2016 class is already half full and they’re working on courses for existing developers to expand their expertise.

“We have a mobile course, an enterprise course and a Ruby-on-Rails course in the plan for next year [2016],” Chris says.

But programming is changing every day, and they’re ready for it.

“If there is interest in Boise, we’ll do our best to provide it.”

Note: Want to learn to code? BoiseCodeWorks is accepting applications for their spring 2016 course, learn more at boisecodeworks.com.