Entrepreneurial techie Sumeet Jain is poised to fill a gap in the metro’s dot-com scene through a for-profit startup he founded last fall with his cousin Rahul Gupta. The pair’s Omaha Code School aims to provide aspiring web developers an immersive bootcamp experience and employers entry-level-capable programmers.
The California natives are partners in their own web development company, Big Wheel Brigade. Gupta rode the dot-com wave before coming to Omaha and at his urging Jain followed suit. Since forming the school Gupta’s moved to San Francisco but Jain’s remained in Omaha to run their new educational endeavor in Midtown Crossing.
Thirteen students began the school’s inaugural intensive 12-week course in February. Jain, the lead instructor, promises the May graduates will leave with a hireable skill set for jobs paying an $80K median salary.
The OCS curriculum structure is based on a bootcamp model popular across the country and one Jain’s familiar with after teaching a web development course for General Assembly on the West Coast. He says he was skeptical students could go from novices to job-ready in three months until he helped facilitate that happening. The experience convinced him to try it in Omaha, where he says “a frequent complaint of companies is that there’s not enough talent—not enough developers and not enough qualified developers,” adding, “I thought we should have something like this in Omaha, so I came back, put the pieces together, and we launched in November.”
It’s an opportunity for Jain to combine his two loves—web development and teaching. He ensures students are trained in relevant, real world programming languages and techniques most colleges and universities ignore.
Interested students must complete an online application that includes a timed coding challenge. While no prior programming experience is required, students must demonstrate an aptitude for the field, namely logic and problem solving.
“The course is for beginners but this isn’t for hobbyists,” says Jain, a self-taught web developer. “This is a class for people who are looking for a career trajectory change and that comes not just at a cost (tuition is $6,000) but with great personal investment and effort. We want to ensure the highest possible caliber of student.”
Jain says it’s no accident the school’s website and application process emphasizes the intensive curriculum, which features individual and collaborative work on real live projects every day.
“It’s really hard to sit and program for 12 hours a day,” he says. “It’s just mentally draining. Keeping that pace up for 12 weeks is a sprint students need to get through. We do our part to hedge against that weariness by holding events that let them let loose and bond and have a break.”
There are field trips to tech-based local companies and guest speakers presenting on special topics. OCS holds a job fair staffed by representatives from companies in its Supporting Employers program.
“We want our students when they graduate to have connections,” Jain says. “Such a big part of any industry is to know people.”
A mentorship program makes area experts available.
“Another commonly cited problem in Omaha is a diffracted membership model,” he says. “If somebody wants to get help there’s no single great place for them to go or no list of people to consult. We’re really excited our mentorship program will create a conduit for people to get help.”
Mentors range from non-tech to tech-savvy wonks. A yoga instructor conducts twice-weekly sessions to help students de-stress and find balance. A corporate recruiter offers job search insights. Web designers school students in collaboration. Software developers troubleshoot problems students confront writing programs.
Jain’s encouraged by the supporting companies on board and he’s proud that membership fees go toward scholarships for underrepresented minorities in what is a white male-dominated field. Each of the three women in the course received a $2,500 scholarship.
He’s also satisfied by the buzz the school’s produced.
“Support has come in a variety of different ways, most fundamentally in the form of curiosity. People want to know about us, they want to know what we’re teaching, they want to know when our next class will be offered (late summer). The interest is there, we won’t have any trouble filling our second class. I’m very confident about that.”
Jain says he’s also confident that “within six months to a year every one of our students who wants a job should be able to get one. That’s going to speak volumes because these students all took a risk on me.
If our students aren’t succeeding there’s really no reason for somebody to trust us again.”