Enspiral Dev Academy now recruiting keyboard warriors

Merry Christmas New Zealand. You’ve been gifted with the intensive 9-week C# and Ruby on Rails programming school known as the Enspiral Dev Academy.

A derivative of the highly praised Dev Bootcamp in the United States, Enspiral Dev Academy seeks to create jobs by equipping anyone with 9 weeks to spare and a can-do attitude with extensive programming knowledge.

The initiative is being piloted by a dynamic partnership made up of Enspiral members Rohan Wakefield and Joshua Vial. Rohan’s background is in recruitment and organisational development, while Joshua is highly experienced in technical development of web apps and web products. The duo behind Dev Academy also have access to the collective input and knowledge of the team behind the Enspiral Network, which is essentially a large group of like-minded people operating an open-space office in Wellington that houses 12 startups and oversees 50. It’s a modern-day, highly entrepreneurial version of the A-Team.

Over a year ago, Joshua and Rohan sat down with some of New Zealand’s tech giants, like the Xeros, TradeMes, and Powershops, to discuss recruiting some of the key people needed to supplement the culture and structure of these companies.

“When we got out into the markets,” said Rohan, “we realised that there were bugger all candidates out there.”

There was also nothing being done about it. New Zealand’s big tech companies have been assiduously building their products, and have not been able to find the time or resources to create a solution which addresses the shortage of experienced technical staff. They’re having to import their main people from overseas.

“That means that the tech sector can’t grow,” said Rohan.

“The Xeros and the TradeMes are constantly stifled by the lack of talent. And we’re also talking about smaller companies. The smaller companies are hit the hardest because the big brands take the best coders.”

“So we said, ‘We can do something about this; we already know the people at Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco.’”

“Joshua Vial my business partner had worked with their founder before.

“So we called them up and said, ‘How about starting up your next location here?’”

“They said it was really not going to be easy, and that they wouldn’t say yes to just anyone even though they get calls a lot from all around the world. But they said yes.”

That was in February.

Over the past 10 months Rohan and Joshua have been self-funding everything they’ve been doing to migrate the concept from Dev Bootcamp to New Zealand.

The Enspiral Dev Academy launched in Wellington on Monday, December 2nd.

The amount of interest that has been generated around the Academy, both prior to launch and after, has been overwhelming. Rohan admits this was no easy task since their resources were limited and they’re essentially targeting three different market segments – the university graduates, interested individuals not currently in the professional space, and professionals who want to re-align with the field.

“We used social media to our advantage. We also have already got quite strong connections to the tech space, so we started off by putting a splash page up, and then going to people and saying, ‘Hey, we’re bringing this concept to New Zealand. Enter your email address if you want to get involved and want to know more.’”

“From there we had 100 people register for interest. These were people that were interested in getting the training, not just interested in seeing it happen. We’ve seen a number of those people enrol.”

Those who have been accepted will be privy to the pilot program, which will make up the first cohort and will see 20 students participate.

“We will really put a huge amount of effort into making sure those 20 students have a very successful experience,” says Rohan, “and we’ll be making sure that the companies that are supporting us – the TradeMes, the Xeros, the Powershops – have a very successful time in receiving those candidates into the market.”

“We will have 3 teachers for those 20 students and we will also have at least 5 teacher aides, which will be the people that support the students, but don’t have the senior development qualities that teachers will have.”

Dev Academy’s structure makes for a high concentration of staff to students, but that’s essential for its method of teaching to be effective.

Students need to have questions answered quickly. That’s what facilitates accelerated learning.

There is no level of education required for potential students to apply since that’s not what Dev Academy will be focusing on when reviewing applications.

“It helps obviously if you have a technical background. It helps if you’ve learnt to code before. It’s not necessary.

“What we are looking for in particular is a real passion to get into this space and a real ability to learn fast. It really is not easy. Anyone can be a developer, but not everyone can do it in a short time period. We’re looking for people with the ability to work in a pressure cooker environment. We’re looking for the passion and ability to work with others, and the ability to demonstrate zeal and concentration. We’re looking for that ability to understand a situation and see how you can be a big advantage to your group, and not a disadvantage.

“There’s a lot of soft skills required to get into this course. The people we’ve been interviewing, we’ve been interviewing to really understand their character and their motivation, rather than testing them on technical ability.”

Ideally, in a given year, 300 students will successfully graduate from the Academy, and all of those that want a job in the tech sector, will be placed. In 2014, Rohan expects 80 or so graduates to come out of the Academy.

“What we’re seeing so far, is about 70% of people who are applying want to be placed in a job. About 30% of the people that are applying either already have jobs, or want to do it and pay for it out of their own pockets. They don’t want a job at the end of it. They either want to do a startup or they want to have that skill under their belt.”

Will you be taking advantage of this opportunity to make your 2014 new year’s resolution come true? Tell us in the comments.

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