Last week, New York Code & Design Academy opened their new coding school in Atlanta and invited prospective students to hear more about their classes and how the New York Code + Design Academy can kickstart their careers. “Atlanta was at the top of the list, so it’s one of the first that we’re opening,” says CEO and co-founder Jeremy Snepar. “We love the market down here. We love the tech community. I think it’s so interesting that so many of the top Fortune 500 companies have either a headquarters or a regional headquarters down here.”
After a consultant career in digital media and technology, Snepar saw the gap in computer science education in our country’s school systems and launched the New York Code + Design Academy in 2012. With schools in Amsterdam, Austin, New York, Salt Lake City, Seattle and more, the New York Code + Design Academy makes programming education accessible to everyone — from high school graduates to those looking to change careers.
Here, Snepar gives advice to incoming classes on stress management, preparing for an interview, and what’s the number one thing you should never stop doing as a developer.
What kind of student is New York Code + Design Academy looking for?
We want people who are hungry, who love tech, and who have been curious about learning to code. I think the most important characteristic that a person has is resilience. People who are not afraid of a challenge because learning the code is hard. I’m not going to sugar coat it and say that this is easy stuff. It’s not. It’s just a matter of being able to get through the challenges and being able to work through the frustration — because that’s what coding is. It’s being up until 2:00 in the morning because you’ve missed a curly brace in your code, finding it, and making it run. That’s what this stuff is about. That passion is what’s going to push you through.
What’s the number one issue you see among student programmers?
Managing stress. Every entrepreneur, every developer has to deal with stress management. There are productive ways to deal with stress and then there’s destructive ways to deal with stress. I think we try to be very cognizant of where our students are at and make sure that they’re doing the productive ways to manage stress, which are things like exercise, make sure you’re eating right, make sure that, you listen to music, focus on a hobby. Things to get out of the code and just relax your mind.As they get ready for interviews, what are some things they should keep in mind?
The first is be prepared to whiteboard a problem. That is not something that’s very easy to do, if you don’t have experience with it. If you’re not prepared for that, your mind’s going to go blank and you’re not going to actually get up there and do it. We practice in class and we also do a lot of lunch and learns, where we’ll bring in companies to come in and talk to students about the recruiting process, work on their resumes, etc.
Second, be able to talk about the projects that you’ve built. It’s really important as a developer to always be developing, whether they’re small apps, a website or just a simple algorithm. Continue to build things because not only is it going to expand your knowledge, but when you get into an interview, you’ll be able to answer questions. And lastly, it’s really interesting that most of our students are coming from a career in something. Maybe they’ve worked 2 or 3 years doing something already. Companies love the fact that our graduates actually have some work experience.
Do you have any advice for developers as they enter the real world?
Always be learning. As a developer, you’re always going to have to upgrade your skills. New languages are coming out, new versions of languages are coming out. Being a developer is a state of mind, right? It’s not a certain level of skills, so if you’re a developer, to advance your career, you’re going to have to learn new skills, new languages, etc. That’s my big piece of advice. Always be learning.
The other one is build a network. Building your network as a professional is a very difficult thing to do and it takes a lot of time. That was my biggest problem when I was young and starting my career is that I found networking to be so difficult, just walking up to people at a conference or at a meet up and just saying, “Hello” and introducing yourself. I always say it’s like how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Just make one relationship at a time and eventually 5 years, 10 years down the road, you’re going to have a really strong network that will help propel your career forward.