By Monique Rinaldi
John Mierzwa has never been a fan of traditional education. He loves accelerated intensive learning, which prompted him to create Deep Dive Coders, a rigorous 10-week computer boot camp.
Deep Dive Coding consists of 40+ hours in the classroom and 20 to 30 hours outside the classroom where students complete homework assignments and /or group assignments.
“When you see students from day one and then you see them in their ninth or tenth week it’s mind blowing how different they are,” Miezwa said.
During the 10 weeks, the students learn how to use a variety of languages and skills including Java Script, JQuery and MySQL.
“With languages we’ve always known the only real way to speak a language is immersion, but the reality is that’s the only way to learn anything; to learn it deeply anyway,” Miezwa said.
Mierzwa started Deep Dive Coders in June 2013. He set up shop near the Standard Diner and started recruiting students. When he had enough students, he opened his first cohort in October 2013, with a second one in January 2014.
Meanwhile, CNM was about to start the Stemulus Center and wanted to begin a coding boot camp themselves, but could not build it internally, Mierzwa said.
CNM and Mierzwa decided to collaborate and in the end CNM acquired Deep Dive Coders and renamed it Deep Dive Coding. This made CNM the first higher education institution in the country to own an education boot camp.
Mierzwa started to work for CNM in May 2014.
He now oversees the boot camp as well as ingenuity software labs, a software development company that gets software development contracts and uses recent coding graduates on the contracts to get experience and build their portfolios.
“We have a variety of programs that we’re working on at any given time, but Deep Dive Coding boot camp is really one of the strongest, most important programs that we have,” Miezwa said.
What does it take to get in the boot camp?
With 12 sessions under his belt, four alone and eight with CNM, Mierzwa and Deep Dive Coding have had a 90 percent completion rate. Of the 89 students who have graduated from the eight sessions of Deep Dive Coding, 16 of those students were women and 35 were minorities.
The successful completion/graduation rate is a combination of the interview process and the resources within the boot camp. The interview process consists of a 30 to 45 minute conversation with the applicant to make sure he or she is a good fit for the boot camp.
Some of the things Mierzwa looks for in candidates include the stability of the applicant’s personal life, the ability to work in teams all day every day and his or her commitment to the boot camp.
“We’ve had people who saw my ad a couple of years ago and are just now getting into the boot camp or I had a conversation with them a year ago and they’ve had to do somethings to get themselves properly prepared to come do this for 10 weeks,” Miezwa said.
For all the programs in the Stemulus Center there is a success network that includes a Student Success Specialist and a Career Coach who help students stay on track.
The student success specialist works with the students to help them work through any challenges they may be facing in the programs or in their personal lives. The career coach helps the students achieve their career goals.
There is not a lot of turnover and if there is it is usually in the first couple of weeks, which gives the students an opportunity to get back some of their tuition.
Because Deep Dive Coding is a non-credit program, it is not eligible for federal financial aid or student loans, but the Kellogg Foundation offers money to people with young kids, minorities as well as people with lower income and it can pay for all or some of the cost.
Deep Dive Coding is also one of the most affordable coding boot camps in the country, Mierzwa said, the average cost to attend a coding bootcamp in the country is $11,000, but the in-state tuition cost for Deep Dive Coding is just under $6,000.
The out-of-state tuition is much lower as well at $7,000. Deep Dive Coding has at least one out-of-state student in each bootcamp.
“Someone can come here pay the tuition and live here for two months while attending the bootcamp and still pay less than they would for just the tuition somewhere else,” Mierzwa said
A day in the life of a Deep Dive Coder
Each day is different during the boot camp, but there are a few consistencies. From 7:30-7:45a.m. the students eat, at 8 a.m. classes start and at 5 p.m. class is over.
What the students do during the day can varies. There can be a lecture, students could spend the day working on homework such as websites, or there could be a guest speaker such as a software developer or an entrepreneur. Sometimes the day will consist of two or even all three of these activities.
If it is Tuesday or Thursday, the students go to the gym across from the Stemulus Center to work out for an hour to help the students develop healthy habits in and out of the boot camp. Dinner is also provided once a week to the students by the boot camp.
Before every graduation, Mierzwa sets up a “Demo Day” at Fat Pipe , so students can showcase what they’ve been working on to employers and entrepreneurs.
Life after Deep Dive Coding:
“There’s more and more employers hiring our students, realizing they’re great employees, realizing they’re fast learners, they’re committed, they’re smart and they’ve got some really cool technical skills,” Miezwa said.
After students complete the boot camp, they usually go one of three ways: they land a high paying job, start their own company or freelance.
So far there have been many companies that have been created by Deep Dive Coding graduates, each company started involves more than one student and according to Mierzwa totals to 10-15 graduates. These companies include Hermes Development and Internet Crossroads.
Where do we go from here?
“Eventually every topic is going to be offered to some degree in this [bootcamp] format because it’s so effective,”Miezwa said.
Next, Mierzwa wants to add more sessions to the four the boot camp offers each year. He also wants to add Microsoft’s .net technology, which helps build Windows software, because of the huge demand that has formed.
Mierzwa believes the boot camp style won’t stop with coding.
“I believe coding is just the first thing to be taught in a bootcamp style like this and it’s amazingly successful and that’s why the industry is growing so dramatically,” Miezwa said.
Follow Monique on Twitter.
Name: John Mierzwa
Title: Director of Stemulus Intuitives
Background: Received a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Phoenix. Worked as a carpenter for 18 years worked up to vice president of sales and operations. Started a language school in 2006. Moved back to Albuquerque in 2012.
What do you think about the innovation economy in ABQ?: “I think it’s great. Let’s say since the four years I’ve been back things have changed dramatically as far as the momentum of activity which is exciting. There’s a little bit more money. There’s a lot more people who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs and starting their own companies. Like CNM, UNM is getting involved in innovate ABQ. More large institutions are getting involved in the innovation. It’s going in the right direction with lots of momentum.”