This has been a week full of feelings.
I saw last week that Dev Bootcamp, one of the earliest zero-to-hero coding programs out there, was closing shop. This isn't a total shock, but it's definitely a bummer - Dev Bootcamp is well-known as one of the top programs on the market and it's a big loss. I have a personal connection here as well: Dev Bootcamp is the first program I ever saw that offered this sort of training, and it planted the seed for me that I might be able to take my programming hobby more seriously.
I stumbled on Dev Bootcamp's website not long after their opening in 2012. We were just back in the US after my failed Med School experiment, and I was still floundering a bit with what my next steps would be. I remember seeing the description of their program and photos of the space - bright beanbags, open floorplans and desks full of Macs - and being jealous of the participants and impressed by the effort. We'd visited Chicago not long before for a forensics conference, and we both enjoyed the city, so the fact that they had a campus opening soon there was even more tempting.
Of course, I had over $60,000 in fresh student loan debt and no idea what I was doing next. Paying $10,000 for tuition, moving to a Big City, buying an Apple computer (blech!) - all so I could keep goofing off making websites? I remember my then-girlfriend-now-wife, in her usual supportive way, suggesting that she would move with me if I really wanted to try something different. "Some day when we're rich and famous, this would be a fun thing to try," I said.
I remember her playfully chiding me a couple years later, while I was applying to App Academy and looking at rental/travel costs for San Francisco: "Should've moved to Chicago when we had the chance!" As usual, I can't say she was wrong.
The closure announcement resonated with me - my life now is closely tied to bootcamp programs like these and I try to keep a finger on the pulse even now that I'm not an active employee of one. I started working on a blog post about the future of bootcamps (some of that copy is in here, some will come later). I reflected a lot on my own time as a student, and then as a staff member. I felt bad for the folks it left in limbo.
Then came Thursday.
I was already at work when I got a Slack message from a friend & former student of mine currently enrolled at The Iron Yard in Greenville:
"Huge shocking bummer of an announcement this morning. Iron Yard decided to close all campuses...we're all shell shocked."
I took a moment to catch my breath before replying. I commiserated, but guardedly so: there had been some restructuring & campus closures not long before I left TIY, so I assumed this was another round of the same. Companies shift, but "close all campuses" seemed like an overstatement.
Not long after the first message, I got a second - this time from a friend still on staff:
"guess you've heard by now?"
"Yeah, someone DM'ed me. What's actually going on?"
"Ceasing operations. the whole shebang."
Things happened quickly after that. A local radio station posted an article titled "Local code school closing their doors." The Iron Yard released a statement that started to spread across the news. The TIY Students & Alumni Slack org got very busy very quickly.
The Iron Yard very succinctly announced that they were fulfilling their obligations to current students and closing their doors.
This hit me hard. I know from personal experience what kind of insane dedication went into keeping TIY running. It's a huge loss not only locally, but to each of the other communities where Iron Yard campuses serve as local tech hubs & event spaces.
There's a storm of emotion from students, current and former. Many of those who either very recently completed the program or are currently enrolled feel cheated, as though their experience will mean nothing going forward. Fortunately, the tech sphere at large is much more focused on results than credentials: projects and portfolios and technical interviews will make evident the good fruit TIY has borne. Still - it's an understandably awkward conversation to have, as a first-time interviewee, when someone says "That place closed, right? What happened?". There's no joy in the kneejerk schadenfreude I feel for everyone currently tangling with these fears.
Aftermath & Moving Forward
Along with all the feels this week come thoughts and predictions and retrospectives. I've already written some of those down, and I'll continue to ruminate on them in the wake of The Iron Yard's announcement. My first responsibility, however, is to be respectful of the folks still sorting through their own emotions right now. I hope you'll do the same.
I'm sure there will be some more big announcements in the near future. If we follow the Rule of Three, there will likely be one more closure in the near future. I suspect we'll see some shifting priorities as other organizations fill the gaps left by recent changes.
These sort of decisions are never arrived at lightly, and without getting into a longer discussion right now, I do think it's pertinent to note that both Dev Bootcamp and The Iron Yard had large investors involved (Kaplan and Apollo Education / Whoever-The-Hell-Bought-Them, respectively). Private money makes for private talks and private decisions, and I sincerely hope that no unfair judgments are made this early in the process. I can personally vouch for the transparency, decency, & dedication at TIY.
This was posted on Twitter by one of my former coworkers, and is 100% the attitude of every person I worked with at The Iron Yard. There will be no rush to the lifeboats - everyone on that ship will fight until it sinks. Which brings me to my last point (for now) and a plea.
I worked with every team at The Iron Yard. I knew every employee by name and met the vast majority in person. I don't say that to boost myself - I say it to demonstrate the kind of connectivity & culture TIY promoted. I can wholeheartedly recommend any TIY staff alumni for your team.
If you're hiring for any sort of people-focused, education-related, or technical roles, there are a slew of fantastic minds out there who would love to chat with you. Seek those folks out and I promise your organization will benefit.
If you have open positions, or are just curious about whether someone from TIY might be good fit for you, feel free to give me a shout and I'll do everything I can to personally connect you with a handful of the best damn human beings you'll ever see.