It is the very nature of technology to be disrupted, and now a YouTube star is taking aim at the Internet’s invisible army of software developers.
Aaron Jack, a former San Francisco-based software developer who has accumulated hundreds of thousands of YouTube followers is also the co-founder of a new coding boot camp based at Freemote.com. (Freemote stands for a combination of “freelance” and “remote,” two of the biggest trends in tech work.) Jack famously went from being a “broke” English teacher to making $150,000 in less than a year by learning to code. Now he wants to help others do the same–only cheaper and faster. Inspired by his own missteps as well as the dozens of job interviews he conducted as a recruiting engineer at Uber, Freemote may herald a revolution in tech learning.
“One of the problems that almost everyone runs into, is that you think you have to learn more than you actually do in order to get a job,” Jack observes. With this in mind, Freemote focuses on training platform developers, for whom the barriers to entry are significantly lower than for general software developers. This means that Freemote’s boot camp is far less expensive and shorter than the industry norm. Coding boot camps can easily run into the low five figures and take up the better part of a year. By shortening the length of time spent training, Jack says that his clients can often start working professionally before they’ve even graduated. And within seven weeks, every Freemote student has established a portfolio.
Jack, who once spent $30,000 on a boot camp, says that by trying to teach too much, industry-leading boot camps are simply churning out thousands of people with the same skill sets and fake project portfolios that don’t impress hiring managers at all. When they don’t get hired, they spend more money on more boot camps. “But more money isn’t the solution,” Jack says. “The solution is going narrow, not broad.” In other words, learn a specific skill set that clients are willing to pay for, right now.
Earn While You Learn
Lest potential students think he’s all about the money, Jack has posted a free, twenty-minute YouTube encapsulating what he’s learned from his coding journey. He advises his subscribers to learn only what’s critical to get their first coding job–a skill set he has termed, “web developer plus niche.” Such an education may sound less impressive than full-fledged software developer, but Freemote’s program is purposefully more streamlined and more accessible to beginners, and his students can immediately begin working on major platforms like Shopify, which recently signed partnerships with Google and Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com; and WordPress, a platform upon which much of the web is based. Jack notes that platform developers for these sites charge $150-250 per hour, or thousands of dollars per project. “You can do the math in terms of what that means a year,” he says with a smile.
The more digitized our world becomes, the higher demand for coders. Most people, Jack says, can be trained to code. It’s other factors that keep the average student from being able to complete a boot camp course. The prospect of losing nine months’ worth of weekends, for example, or that five-figure tuition fee. By shortening its courses and making them affordable, Freemote has lessened the likelihood of students becoming bored or demoralized and dropping out. And Jack’s “camp” assigns real-world projects students are able to build within their professional work portfolio, like clones of existing, popular websites.
“Your learning accelerates by working on real-world projects,” he says. “So even though our boot camp is shorter than others, and way shorter than an academic program, it will probably get you to where you want to be faster than studying directly for, say, a developer job at Google, which is considered the holy grail. Because you’re building up real-world experience and a portfolio as you learn.”
Speaking of real-world, Jack is also a firm believer in the importance of being part of a tech community. “Our team is remote and based all around the world,” he says. “Together, we have over five decades of experience in tech, from coding to marketing to recruiting. We’re here to help you through every step of your journey, from your first line of code, to reviewing your projects in the program, to giving you that first congratulations when you land a job.”
Freemote offers two dedicated technical mentors to every student, ensuring they stick with the program. And Jack says he makes sure that one of his coaches is always available to help, one-on-one.
The Right Space
Because its emphasis is educating freelance coders, Freemote does not currently offer career placement, though Jack does offer an emphatic word of advice to his students: e-commerce. “The world of e-commerce is full of lucrative opportunities; there are no limits right now,” he says. “Shopify alone has millions of stores, and thanks to COVID, more people than ever are opening up their own businesses online. So there’s a lot of money to be made from SMBs and even entrepreneurs. The scope of potential clients is very broad.” Last holiday season, e-commerce sales grew at 11% annually–far higher than sales at brick-and-mortar stores.
Finally, Jack tells his students that while they may not feel that experienced, they should always keep in mind that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. “Don’t underestimate how many people are technically illiterate,” he says. “You should start bidding on jobs right away.”
Don’t Go For Broke
On his YouTube channel, Jack draws a contrast between Freemote and the industry’s most well-known boot camps, which have published data showing that less than half of their students end up with full-time employment after paying the big bucks. The expectation that you’ll get hired right away by a big tech company without previous experience is a fallacy, according to Jack. Remote freelance coding is an entrepreneurial endeavor and a step up to the next level. If you have the drive to learn a trade in a matter of weeks, he says, Freemote offers a path to get to that holy grail. But, Jack cautions, you shouldn’t go broke just trying to make more money than you do now. Instead, he says, get a narrow and quick education. Then focus on landing simple, real-world projects that are in demand. Those small jobs will become leverage for bigger jobs or full-time developer interviews later on.
In other words, just do it.