​Dev Bootcamp Community Reacts to Closure Decision


​Dev Bootcamp Community Reacts to Closure Decision

By Sydney Johnson     Jul 15, 2017

​Dev Bootcamp Community Reacts to Closure Decision

This article is part of the guide: The Future of Coding Bootcamps.

John-Michael Murphy had just finished up a long day of assessments on Wednesday evening when he received an email with some unexpected news. His school, Dev Bootcamp, wrote that it would be shutting down about three months after his graduation this summer.

“I was at first shocked, and then felt sad realizing that DBC will no longer be,” Murphy tells EdSurge. “This is a really good program, and they have been intentional about cultivating our team dynamics and making sure our teachers are really high quality.”

Dev Bootcamp started in 2012 and has since been hailed as one of the country’s first and largest coding bootcamps in an industry that is now saturated by hundreds of competitors. Yet while expanding to six campuses across the U.S., the school wrestled with running a financially sustainable operation. That was one of the reasons that led to its sale to Kaplan in 2014.

The company wrote in its email to students: “We’ve determined that we simply cannot reach a sustainable business model without compromising our mission of delivering a high-quality coding education that remains accessible to a diverse population of students.”

“We all knew profitability was an issue and has been for some time,” says Mark Stewart, a software developer instructor at Dev Bootcamp. “Most of us expected the possibility that we would be shut down, but if you asked me if when I was expecting it, I wouldn’t have said in 2017.”

A former executive at Dev Bootcamp tells EdSurge, “there were conversations just a few months ago around changing the business model towards [more online offerings]. Hearing they decided to close the whole thing was sudden and surprising.”

The morning following the announcement, company president Tarlin Ray met with faculty, staff and students at Dev Bootcamp’s San Francisco campus to give students an opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns.

“It’s been anger mixed with fear,” Murphy says of the reactions he has heard from his peers. “People are here because they are trying to make a bold career move, and students are worried that the tech industry will see [Dev Bootcamp’s]closure as a reflection of its quality.”

Ray and others leading the meeting on Wednesday spent time addressing that common concern. Their response, according to Murphy, was that the decision was “not because of pedagogical negligence” but because they couldn’t make the business model work.

Murphy describes the meeting as a “eulogy” of the campus’ final days ahead. And while some said they feel “betrayed” by the school, others, he says, have “built a fierce loyalty to Dev Bootcamp.” Former mentors and alumni took to Twitter to share their shock and sadness shortly after the news broke.

Despite his students’ anxieties, Dev Bootcamp’s Stewart feels the campus is in a good position to move them, and the school’s faculty, on to their next position. “Luckily for all of us, we have a careers team here, which will help the instructors out as well,” says Stewart.

As faculty begin planning their next jobs after Dev Bootcamp closes in December, however, one challenge will be to keep the campuses fully staffed as instructors look for other career opportunities. While he couldn’t share exact details, Stewart says “there are specific plans to make sure that we keep the locations staffed as much as possible even if people decide they have an opportunity they want to take before December.”

Some faculty have already been pegged for new job opportunities, Stewart shares. But for him, there is hesitation about next steps. “We did a tremendous amount of work to make this community more welcoming and diverse, and I’m not sure if other places are trying to do that,” Stewart says.

According to Dev Bootcamp’s website, the percentage of students who identify as members of a racial or ethnic group underrepresented in tech increased from 19 to 31 percent since the start of 2016. The campus also claims 28 percent of its students identify as women, transgender or non-binary, outpacing many of the world’s leading tech companies.

Murphy echoes his instructor: “I know there are other bootcamps, but Dev was a pioneer and their focus on inclusion and diversity is unique. This field will be lacking that.”

Another outstanding question is what the school plans to do with its curriculum after it closes. “Alumni have talked about how it would be great to open source the curriculum,” says Rex Salisbury, an engineer at Checkr, Inc. and former Dev Bootcamp student. “Universities will see [Dev Bootcamp] as failure and pat themselves on the back, but there is actually an incredibly compelling aspect to this model.”

Salisbury says the current students’ feelings were shared by many of the alumni he has spoken with. “They are surprised, and sad mainly,” he says. “There’s pushback against the idea that because [Dev Bootcamp] failed financially, then they failed on the experience. I would count myself in that group.”

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