Why We Launched an Elite Summer Coding Program

Apr 8, 2020 2:07:37 PM / by Jennifer Robertson

A few months ago, Qwasar was focused on our on-site program in Oakland, CA. We have an awesome core group of learners and were looking to grow our programs over the spring and summer.

Then the coronavirus lockdown hit.

We pivoted fairly quickly to an online format and have been doing some testing and specific product work to improve what it's like to learn online.

We've heard of hundreds and thousands of companies who have frozen their hiring, retracted offers, cancelled internships, and let people go. My guess is you have too.

I graduated in 2009 when the economy was awful and ended up working as a cashier. I empathise with those graduating this year and with students looking for internships. There's a lot of unknowns and a lot of frustration: you know you're capable of working but you just can't get an internship in your field, let alone a paying job!

One of our specialties is training people to become software engineers to a very high level. Our curriculum is vastly different from all other bootcamps and CS degrees, and thanks to how learning is designed, we can scale quickly and easily.

We decided to do our best to help those who are struggling to find software engineering internships. The reality is that the number of internships has decreased, so much fewer people will have the opportunity to complete an internship in the coming 3-6 months. We want to provide an option for as many people as possible - which means 000s, not just single digits.

In light of the lack of software internships, we created an Elite Summer Coding Program that is designed to help students and recent graduates learn a huge amount while still simulating the workplace. Ok, we might not have a fancy welcome package for you like some of the companies offer these days, but you will undoubtedly learn key skills that will help you land a software job when the economic uncertainty calms down.

Why did we create the elite summer coding program?

In some sense, we feel that we have a responsibility to contribute to society because it's part of our mission as a company and what we consider important as founders. We have programs that can be done remotely, that train to a Silicon Valley standard, and that scale, meaning we can offer something to many, many people who have lost opportunities for learning and advancing their career path.

Bootcamps can't scale and train to the level of our program. Many universities and colleges have closed for the summer or stopped offering classes. Employers have called off internships.

We analyzed data from over 270 resumes from CS graduates, bootcamp graduates, and people generally looking for a software engineer internship or entry-level job. 90% of bootcamp graduates didn't have foundational, back-end skills or understanding. 60% of CS graduates weren't employed after their degree and 90% of them also lacked foundational, back-end programming skills and experience. This is exactly what you'll learn in our program.

What will participants do?

While there's more information about the program on our program page,  in short, you'll be doing 3 thinks: coding, peer code reviews, and virtual daily meetings.

Participants will complete a structured series of coding projects and exercises that start small then increase in size and complexity. Your comprehension will grow bit by bit and you'll use in one project things that you learned or built from the previous project.

You will spend a lot of time coding, living the software development lifecycle, problem solving, debugging and fixing bugs, wrapping your head around concepts such as pointers or pointers of pointers, and learning by doing.

YOU are responsible for your learning and your work, just like in a job. There are no teachers or professors who will give you all the answers or tell you where you went wrong. You have to be resourceful.

How much does it cost?

The program is $250. We're trying to be accessible!

When programs are free, learners lack commitment and motivation; we know, we did it for years. We want you to truly commit to this program.

Will there be interactions with real software engineers?

Yes! We will have weekly presentations from software engineers in industry.

If you're a software engineer and would like to volunteer to present, please contact Jennifer directly. we would very much appreciate your help and support, as would our learners and soon-to-be program participants.

We also want to have a few Guest Peer Reviews where in-industry software engineers will complete a peer code review on your software and projects. This is a great way for engineers to check out some young talent and for learners to get to know and network with engineers in industry.

How does it resemble an internship or work environment?

There are multiple ways in which this program resembles an internship or work environment:

  1. Responsibility - you are responsible for your work and for producing software that works. Answers won't be provided for you because you need to learn to be resourceful, autonomous, and ask colleagues for help.
  2. Structure  - the program runs Monday to Friday, 9a - 5pm, just like a job.
  3. Projects - all of your work is project based
  4. IDE - you'll use and code in an integrated development environment (IDE)
  5. Code reviews - you will both give and receive peer code reviews; software engineers spend about 30% of their time doing code reviews
  6. Client-ready - your software needs to work and function as if you were delivering it to a client; there aren't any grades and instead it's more about learning and working with others to deliver software that functions
  7. Commitment - you're expected to commit to the program and if you don't turn up, just like in a job, you won't be a participant any more. You can certainly take a day off, go to any health appointments, etc., but you'll need to let us know, just like you would your manager in a job.
  8. Deadlines - each project has a target deadline
  9. Self-management - while there are software projects to do, in many ways, YOU are the project, and you'll learn about yourself, handling yourself in a professional work environment, and how to keep going even if your code isn't working and it's been 2 weeks.
  10. Tools & standards - we use industry-standard software and project management tools and standards, including a Code Norm as used by Google and git for version control

Consider these the top 10 resemblances. We want you to be as ready for the workplace as possible.

Why a foundational understanding of computers is important.

There tends to be a split between engineers who really know how a computer works, understand low-level programming languages, pointers, memory management and allocation, shell, and can learn new languages or tools quickly and easily, and then those who don't.

Following data analysis on hundreds of resumes, those who had significant back-end understanding were more likely to be employed in software jobs.

Higher level languages tend to do a lot of the heavy lifting, thus many people never learn what's going on under the hood. Good car mechanics learn by doing and understand every part of a car's machinery: coding is the same.

Is there a limit to the number of people who can do the program?

No. We will take as many people as are qualified for the program!

This program does require some previous coding experience. We expect you to know what variables, functions, loop statements, and if...then... statements are.

What are the program dates?

We start on May 15 and run through mid-August.


You can apply here.


Jennifer Robertson

Written by Jennifer Robertson

Jennifer is one of the co-founders of Qwasar and is on a mission to make a difference via engaging education.

Subscribe to Email Updates

Lists by Topic

Posts by Topic

Recent Posts