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THE INC. LIFE

This Start-up in Vietnam Creates the Best Place for Developers to Learn and Work

CoderSchool focuses less on theory and more on real-world skills

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BY Ezra Ferraz - 29 Jan 2018

This Start-up in Vietnam Creates the Best Place for Developers to Learn and Work

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Though there are many resources to learn programming online, Charles Lee, the co-founder of CoderSchool, believes in-person education is still the way go. He points to the fact that being a successful software engineer boils down to more than just pure technical ability.

“Our courses always include pair programming and group work, because to succeed at a company, you’ll have to master these skills as well. It’s hard to build these types of skills in an online platform,” says Lee, who adds that CoderSchool graduates can tap into the community long after they graduate.

Lee was inspired to found CoderSchool after hearing from founders and engineers that local talent in Ho Chi Minh City needed better technical training. From there, he launched a simple minimum viable product.

“So we kept it lean, with a simple Google Form sign-up, and somehow had 200 sign-ups in the first week. But what really inspired me to found CoderSchool and start dedicating my life was how good the students were in the first class. Coderschoolers performed just as well, if not better, than the students I taught back in the U.S., so I knew there was a huge, untapped market of fantastic engineers here in Vietnam,” he says.

Still, prospective students are not without their objections. One of the most common is that students think they may not have enough time for the program. Lee acknowledges that it indeed takes time to learn something new, but as a skill, programming is well-worth the effort.

“Time is our most precious resource, and we should use it wisely. Learning a new skill is one of the best things to do with your time. We've had many students say they learn more in the eight-week CoderSchool course than they did in the previous eight months of their lives,” he says.

In terms of curriculum, CoderSchool focuses less on theory and more on real-world skills, often based on successful apps. This approach prepares students to work in an industry setting and gives them confidence that they can build versions of some of the world’s most popular platforms.

“We have our iOS students build a clone of the Twitter app. It's a complicated project, but in just four weeks you can have the skills necessary to build a pretty functional and complete app,” says Lee.

According to Lee, one of the biggest challenges in scaling CoderSchool is finding and retaining quality teachers. The company is doing everything they can to make it as fun an experience as possible, including building software to reduce administrative tasks and giving teachers consultancies with corporate partners to keep their skills in tip-top shape.

“Last but not least, we're trying actively to bring teachers here from overseas. We've had two teachers take a break from their San Francisco life to come teach classes here, which was immensely rewarding for all parties involved, so we'd like to expand that ‘coding without borders’ type of program as well,” says Lee.

In addition to their native programming for Android and iOS courses, CoderSchool is adding classes in Ruby on Rails and React Native, along with classes in data science, blockchain, and user experience design.

CoderSchool is expanding more than just its curriculum.

“We’ve just started construction on a brand-new campus in Ho Chi Minh City, in District 4 that will house a large event space, classrooms, private offices for selected companies that hire CoderSchool alumni, and even a techie-focused cafe. We’re creating the best space to learn and work in Ho Chi Minh,” says Lee. He explains that they are also exploring new locations in Hanoi and Danang.

For non-technical founders and entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia, Lee encourages them to become more hands-on with their tech team.

“Don’t be intimidated by technology — if you invest in the right people, they should be able to explain and collaborate with you even if you’re not a total code geek. Stay involved and take ownership in the technology. Not only will you have better results, but your tech people will feel loved,” he says.

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