The Bolter: A New Code Workshop by TechMill

The Bolter: Code Workshop

Learn to code at The Bolter

Over the past 3 years, TechMill has played the role as a catalyst for our evolving tech and startup community here in Denton. Throughout our time in Denton, we have organized a wide range of events and initiatives, but our goal was always to be iterative, learn from the community, and listen to feedback. After watching the community change and grow, and watching other organizations fill gaps where we couldn’t, I feel like we have finally discovered our purpose.

When we started, TechMill focused on specifically supporting startups, as many of the founding board members were embedded in those communities. Since that founding, we have identified a growing need for practical tech education. This is very much a "cart before the horse" situation -- it’s is very hard to find resources for new startups and convince other companies to make Denton their home if there is a lack of technical talent to support their needs.

We often hear1 about the lack of job opportunities2 for students who graduate from UNT, TWU, and NCTC. Then we experience a “brain drain” of that talent to the surrounding DFW area (or out of state) where those opportunities are available. And while university computer science programs excel at providing a theoretical foundation in core computer science principles, new CS grads can find themselves overwhelmed with the ever-changing landscape of new frameworks, languages, and architectures in today's technology workplace.  We have great relationships with professors and leaders at our local universities who understand this issue, and we are working with them to support their students who want to stay ahead of the technology curve.

What you will also notice is a growing population of technology professionals who do call Denton their home. In 2015, the US Dept of Labor & Statistics reported that 24 percent of employed people did some or all of their work at home. In addition, the number of distributed companies is increasing, providing an advantage of hiring talent wherever it’s located.


With that in mind, TechMill is starting a new initiative: a part-time developer program called The Bolter3. Hosted at Stoke near downtown Denton, the program consists of short engagements--2 nights a week for 8 weeks. This program will support those looking for a career change, or students who want to supplement their academic experience with modern software development skills. Initially, we will start with an “Intro to Web Development” series consisting of learning HTML, CSS, Git, and JavaScript. This course is built upon an existing framework built by Epicodus that sets up course material, hands-on exercises, and homework. The program will last two months. The first month (section) teaches HTML, CSS, and Git while the second month introduces JavaScript and programming concepts.

If you've ever looked into attending a code camp, you probably noticed they're in the realm of thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. As this is an alpha program not just for TechMill, but anyone in town wanting to learn how to code, we're running this course for free.

The only catch is, if you sign up for our first cohort, we need your feedback. This is a critical component in evaluating the course material, the speed at which the class is taught, and pain points for attendees that can be addressed in the future. After the initial class, we can recoup, evaluate, and eventually produce a polished code camp right here in Denton.

One of our volunteers, Bradford Neumann, teaching a class over User Experience (UX) design.

 

“Why would I pay someone to cover material that I can access for free?”

That’s an obvious question with an easy answer: If you’ve ever looked into learning how to code, you probably have stumbled across hundreds, if not thousands, of free programming resources. You have access to free development environments like Repl.it, a well-documented knowledge base for open web standards (with examples) from the Mozilla Developer Network (MDN), and free code hosting and version control through Github. There is absolutely no barrier of entry to information on how to become a great developer without a fee.

But things happen. Maybe you started a course, watched the first 2-3 videos, and promised yourself you’d get around to the assignments on Saturday. A week rolls by, then another, and now you’re too busy with some other side project. Maybe you are taking those courses, but you’re just not getting it, and while you post your questions in the comment sections, you’re unable to get a straightforward answer on “how” or “why” something works. That’s the gap we’re attempting to fill.

TechMill has a bullpen of amazing, supportive, and talented developers and technical professionals who have been where you are, and now make a living doing what they love. Between our weekly in-person meetups and our community Slack group, you’re never more than a few clicks away from connecting with someone. The classes are in person, led by experienced developers, where you have the opportunity to ask those fundamental questions to help you build a solid understanding of the covered topics. With this material, we’re able to focus on content, comprehension, and repetition instead of administration and building curriculum.

There are many fantastic code schools and bootcamps you can choose from, including some right here in DFW such as The Iron Yard, DevMountain, and many others. We can’t provide you a job, and we can’t provide you a career -- but we can show you an environment full of industry experience and a chance to take the reigns and pave your own way. For TechMill, this is an opportunity to make an impact in tech education by providing resources and building community by growing new developers, increasing the density of technical talent, thus enabling growth for tech-enabled businesses in Denton and encouraging businesses to relocate to Denton.

This is a new adventure for us, and I hope you’re excited as I am to see how we can position Denton as the best city in North Texas for developers to live, work, and play.

Footnotes
1  “Mixer focuses on keeping creative talent in Denton”. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
2  “2015’s Best & Worst Texas Cities for Finding a Job”. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
3 A bolter is a mechanical device for separating flour from bran, by beating it through a rotating cylinder of cloth and series of sieves. Some grain is filtered out along the way, the rest will make it through to the end.