I've been tooling around, trying to start my own bootcamp for about 2 months now. Ever since December, I've been telling people that I'm trying to start my own school. I had big dreams, grand ideas that I felt only I had the vision and drive to actually implement.
The plan was to start a school for women only. Based on my experience with GDI, I noticed that when women are learning with other women, starting at or around the same skill level, they did much better than when they mingled genders. It seems to be about gender, about being around people you identify with and feel safe around. Women learn differently, and they value different social dynamics when they're around each other. That, and they feel less like the class is a race or a competition - instead they collaborate, and are open about what they don't understand.
This isn't to say the model wouldn't have it's problems - women who don't like each other react very strongly, much more strongly than when they don't like a man. But, as this is a learning environment, and everyone is generally very friendly and communicative here in SF, I didn't anticipate any problems there. It would also be very different from a GDI class, we would be pre-screening applicants for compatibility and ambition. By getting to know them, we could structure the class for harmony.
All of this had me very excited - I had trouble sleeping, laying down at night required a pen and paper nearby at all times in order for me to feel like I could fully rest. I'd spring out of bed every day - but the excitement began to wane once I figured out how much legal, financial, and general business development there was involved. It was extremely draining. So I started shopping for a cofounder, and I took on an intern - Lillian Chan, who I had been training in programming for several months.
I started doing competitive analysis on the bootcamps I would have to compete against, and came across HackBright. I had heard of them before, mostly good things from their students, and from people considering applying to be students, the only complaint I had heard was that "they were a bunch of dudes". At some point after hearing this enough times, I started searching through the about page of every bootcamp, trying to find a female teacher anywhere. I found none. Irritated, I turned where we all turn when we have a bone to pick with a community.
I tweeted ..
— Liz/Ann Howard (@lizthedeveloper) February 6, 2013
Ever quick on the draw, @Hackbright replied.
— Hackbright Academy (@Hackbright) February 7, 2013
After calling them out, they offered to grab coffee with me, and we had a bit of a chat. I explained my motivations for wanting to start a bootcamp for women. Mostly, I was frustrated by the lack of women teaching, the lack of focus on hard computer science, the lack of fundamentals, the creeping drift of ideas like "you don't need to know how it works, you just need to know how to use it", and other such nonsense. I feel like teaching people tools without teaching concepts is a recipe for kludgy, unmaintainable code and the inability for anyone to take such training programs seriously.
Christian expressed the exact same doubts about the other bootcamps in the space. He talked about how Hackbright did command-line on the first day, how they build concepts up, rather than going from the top down. How curiosity carries students deep into how things work, and how that contributes to their ability to understand the ramifications. He was clearly on his game, which I was immediately excited about.
That said, I was working on a competitor. I had business partners, funding, a space lined up, a long-term vision on how to expand in a slow, but steady manner. I was shopping for co-founders.
I realized after talking to Christian and David that I had never met anyone who "got it" as much as they did. I've yet to meet anyone since. I realized that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shape a company, and help two people who have come to be some of my very closest friends. I realized that working against them would make no sense, so I informed them I'd be joining the team.
It was one of the best decisions I've made in my entire life. I don't think I'll ever regret it.