Portland Companies Lead the Charge to Change the Ratio of Women in Tech

Two Local Companies Providing Scholarships for Women to Attend Epicodus Code School

PORTLAND, OR: Epicodus, a Portland-based code school, announced today that two Portland-area companies DevelopmentNow and GlobeSherpa, will be providing scholarships for women to attend Epicodus’s first-ever, all-women class for Java, JavaScript, and Android development.

"We’re very excited to be working with DevelopmentNow, and GlobeSherpa to support women choosing programming as a career," said Epicodus president Michael Kaiser-Nyman. "This is a great time to be a programmer, and we're proud to be part of a movement making the industry more accessible and friendly to women."

The all-women class, starting August 10, is part of a larger collaborative initiative called Break the Code, which Epicodus launched in May. Women are estimated to make up less than 30 percent of the tech workforce. In an effort to improve this statistic, Epicodus launched Break the Code in May, in partnership with a dozen Portland-area tech companies and nonprofits, to empower more women to join the tech industry and start a productive dialogue about changing the ratio of women in tech.

“The development of world-class talent in technology and engineering is critical to Oregon’s economic growth and GlobeSherpa is proud to support the Break the Code scholarship program,” said Nat Parker, GlobeSherpa CEO.  “Providing equal opportunities to women in technology is an important part of creating diversity in an organization and makes the organization and the region stronger as a result.”

All students who apply to the Java/JavaScript/Android class by July 10 will be eligible for the scholarship. Once accepted, students will have the opportunity to apply for the funds. Recipients will be chosen by the three companies providing the scholarships in partnership with Epicodus and will be announced by July 30.

To learn more about Epicodus or to apply, visit www.epicodus.com.

About Epicodus

Founded in early 2013, Epicodus’s mission is to help people learn the skills they need to get great jobs. Epicodus provides four month, forty-hour per week, in-person classes on web programming including courses in Ruby/JavaScript/Rails, PHP/JavaScript/Drupal, and Java/JavaScript/Android. Epicodus’s first class started with just eight students and one teacher, and has since grown to a dozen staff and hundreds of students and alumni.

Media Contact:

Emily Priebe | Epicodus



Announcing the Break the Code Tech Crawl on July 9

We've been thrilled by the support we've received from our community on our Break the Code initiative, and now we're excited to announce that we're leading a Break the Code Tech Crawl for women.

Five of our Break the Code partners are opening their doors along the route and will be providing light refreshments and offering tours of their office spaces. Here's the schedule and the route:

5:30 - 6:00 GlobeSherpa1000 SW Broadway #1800
6:00 - 6:30 Thetus, 326 SW Broadway
6:30 - 7:00 Epicodus 208 SW 5th Ave #105
7:00 - 7:30 CrowdCompass, 308 SW 2nd Ave #200
7:30 - 8:00 Puppet Labs, 308 SW 2nd Ave, Fifth Floor
8:00 - 8:30 Jive, 915 SW Stark St #400

This is a great opportunity to check out the tech scene in Portland and learn more about companies that are taking a stand to support women and diversity in tech. We hope to see you there on Thursday, July 9!

How to Start a Coding School

I regularly hear from people who are interested in starting a coding school and want to learn more about my experience starting Epicodus, so I thought I'd jot down a bit about our history, what's worked well (and not), and advice I have for other people.

Before the first Epicodus class, I did a lot of networking to find out what companies were looking for in junior developers. I made sure that there was actually a market for the students I was going to teach, and learned about what companies value in junior developers. What I heard more than anything else was that specific languages and technologies were less important than a hunger to keep learning and an attitude of humility. And while there were many companies who weren't sure that graduates of a program like Epicodus would be a good fit for them, there were just as many who were very excited about hiring junior developers.

Next, I turned to the student side of things. I volunteered at local meetups and events for beginner programmers to see how other people were teaching beginners. I also went through many books, videos, and tutorials myself. At the in-person events, I watched the students learn to see which lessons and approaches were effective, and which didn't work as well. After getting some experience, I assembled my own lessons and put on several free evening workshops to get more experience teaching and running classes, and saw how I could make my lessons better. I asked for a lot of feedback from the workshop participants.

At that point, I felt ready to run my first Epicodus class. I spent a couple months getting the curriculum ready and promoting the class: I announced at local meetups, emailed local tech mailing lists, posted on online forums, and listed our classes on several websites for coding schools. I rented a room in a local co-working space, and bought computers and furniture. 

I knew that teaching staff would be my biggest cost and potentially very hard to hire, so I decided to try an unusual approach to structuring Epicodus's classroom. Instead of giving lectures in class, I completely embraced the flipped-classroom model and put all of the lessons online for my students. In class, students would just work on coding projects all day. I figured that way, I wouldn't need to hire experts to teach my classes: instead, I could just hire strong graduates to help out the next batch of students, and the lessons, which need more experience and expertise to make, would already be ready to go. Additionally, I had all of the students pair-program in class, as I had seen that two people working together learn from each other and need less help from teachers, and that would help keep the number of teachers we needed down.

I learned an awful lot of the first class. The first thing I realized was that I was totally off-base on my student to teacher ratio. With the way I had structured the classroom, I had nothing to do most of the time! Another important lesson I learned was that after the class was over, many of the graduates had a hard time structuring their job search. Finally, I discovered that there was a lot of demand for other languages than the one I taught initially - it turned out that the choice of language was more important than I had though. So for the next class, I tripled the number of students to 24, incorporated job search prep into the curriculum, followed up with all of the graduates regularly until they found jobs, and expanded our curriculum to cover two languages.

For the third class, I hired two teachers and increased the class size to 60. That 1 teacher to 30 student ratio turned out to be a good sweet spot. It also let me focus on the employment side of things, which I wanted to continue improving. We created an internship program with local companies to help our students get real-world experience before graduating, and instituted a more formal resume and cover letter review and mock interview process. We also started working on adding classes in other languages.

Since then, we've continued to grow, add staff, and improve. Every day, we challenge ourselves to make our classes and career services better, and we constantly ask our students for feedback so we know how we're doing. 

For people thinking about starting a school like Epicodus, here are a few things I'd suggest:

  • If possible, start the school with two people. Have one person focus on the classroom, and one focus on everything else (admissions, career services, administration, etc).
  • Talk to local employers and learn what languages are in high demand. 
  • Utilize the flipped classroom structure by building out all of the lessons as evening/weekend homework, and use the class time just for coding. Feel free to use Epicodus's materials at learnhowtoprogram.com
  • Provide a lot of structure and support for job-seeking, starting before students graduate.
  • Ask your students for lots and lots of feedback.
  • Little things: incorporate your company, get a business bank account, buy standing tables from MultiTable with Ikea tops, use 27" iMacs (no reason to skimp on computers - it's way easier for pairing and for teachers to help out, and over the course of the computers' lives the difference in cost is negligible), and take advantage of all of the operations and software tools Epicodus has open-sourced.

If you find this helpful in opening a school, drop us a line and let us know!

Student Profile: David Garber, Ruby/JavaScript/Rails Student

David Garber’s interest in coding was first sparked while working on President Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012. He was researching programming classes when he got a job working for Verizon. Trying online classes first, David soon discovered that working 45 to 50 hours per week while trying to learn a new language was not working. He decided to quit his job and join Epicodus’s spring 2015 Ruby/JavaScript/Rails class. 

While sharing a keyboard for eight hours a day was initially daunting, David said that pair programming has turned out to be a huge learning opportunity.

His biggest piece of advice for anyone considering attending code school? Just go. “I haven’t doubted my decision once,” he said. 

Course Report Survey Reveals 138% Projected Growth Rate for Code Schools

Earlier today, Course Report  released the data from their 2015 Coding Bootcamp Survey. The survey results represent responses from a total of 63 US/Canada-based coding schools (including Epicodus), and revealed some interesting data points.

Market Growth Rate

Course Report estimates that the code school market will grow by 2.4x, to an estimated 16,056 graduates in 2015, up from 6,740 in 2014.

Course Report, 2015

Course Report, 2015

Tuition Range

The average tuition of the courses that qualified for the survey is $11,063, with an average program length of 10.8 weeks. For comparison, Epicodus classes are $3,400 and run about 20 weeks long, including a five week internship.

Course Report, 2015

Course Report, 2015

Teaching Languages

Ruby is the most commonly taught language and is used in 39% of courses. Course Report estimates that code schools will graduate 9,748 Ruby developers in 2015. JavaScript also gained momentum and now accounts for 23% of courses.

Course Report, 2015

Course Report, 2015

Check out the full report for all the findings. You can also view reviews for Epicodus on our Course Report profile. 

Women Who Broke the Code: Anita Borg

Before there even was such a concept, Anita Borg started a global network of women in computer science by founding the Systers online community in 1987. Anita mastered the ability to mix her technical expertise with her capacity for motivating and empowering women to join and stay in the technology industry.

Born in 1949, Anita discovered computers in her mid-20s. In 1981 she received her Ph.D. in computer science from the Courant Institute at New York University and started her career in research for many of the industry giants.

In addition to founding the Systers online community, in 1994, Anita co-founded the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing to honor the legacy of Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper. She also founded the Institute for Women and Technology in 1997 with the goal of creating programs and partnerships to propel women into all aspects of technology.

She was honored many times over for her work and tireless activism on behalf of women in technology. In 1999, President Clinton appointed Anita to the Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering, and Technology. 

Anita passed away in 2003, but her legacy lives on through the Anita Borg Institute and the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing that continues to grow and thrive. 

Women Who Broke the Code: Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper is revered in technology for a number of reasons. Hopper defied the expectations placed on women of her time again and again, succeeding in two male-dominated institutions: the Navy and the computing industry.

Born in 1906, Hopper studied mathematics and physics at Vassar, graduating in 1928. She went on to Yale, eventually earning her Ph.D. in mathematics in 1934. She was one of the first women to earn such a degree. In December 1943, she felt compelled to join the U.S. Naval Reserve where, given her mathematical background, she was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project. While there she learned to program a Mark I computer.

Continuing to work in computing after the war, Hopper moved into private industry in 1949, where eventually she oversaw programming for the UNIVAC computer. In 1952, she led the team that created the first computer language compiler, which led to the popular COBOL language. 

Though she retired from the Naval Reserve in 1966, she was called to duty again and again, finally retiring at the age of 79 as a rear admiral and the oldest serving officer in the service. But she wasn’t done with the computing industry. She remained working for several more years, and was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1991, becoming the first female individual recipient of the honor. 

Hopper passed away in 1992, at the age of 85. Her legacy lives on and continues to inspire young women to learn programming. Created in her honor, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference is a technical conference that empowers women to become a part of the computing industry.

Another part of Hopper’s legacy? She is often given credit for the term ‘computer bug.’ While she was a research fellow at Harvard working on the Mark II computer, she found a moth in one of the relays that had apparently shorted out the Mark II. That story is now often associated with the origin of ‘debugging.' 

Women Who Broke the Code: Ada Lovelace

For the next few months, we’re going to be celebrating women in programming past and present. And you can’t talk about the history of women in programming without honoring the woman who essentially started it all: Ada Lovelace. 

"Ada Lovelace," by Angela Thomas is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

"Ada Lovelace," by Angela Thomas is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Born in 1815, Ada had a famously passionate poet for a father (Lord Byron), and a mother who threw off the conventions of the day and insisted that Ada be schooled in mathematics and science. The marriage between Ada’s parents was not a happy one (her mother left her father five weeks after Ada’s birth), but their dual influence is perhaps at the heart of Ada’s programming origin story. Despite her mother’s best efforts to shield her from her father’s influence, she still inherited his romantic spirit, which when fused with her passion and aptitude for mathematics, formed what she would come to call her love for “poetical science."

Ada’s ability to combine the two seemingly dissimilar subject matters of poetry and science eventually primed her to see the beauty and the vast potential in Charles Babbage’s calculating machine, the Difference Engine. When she attended one of his legendary salons at the age of seventeen she was captivated by its possibilities, and she set her mind to convincing Babbage to become her mentor. When he consented she not only became a champion for his work, but an amplifier, pushing the potential for his Analytical Engine beyond what he had visualized himself.

In 1843, Ada supplemented Babbage’s Analytical Engine with her own notes that essentially envisioned the modern computer, a machine capable of being programmed and reprogrammed to execute a virtually unlimited number of operations. She also noted that the machine could be used for far more than just mathematical calculations; any form of content such as pictures, symbols or sounds, could be expressed and manipulated digitally. In addition, her notes offered a step-by-step outline for what we would now call a computer program or algorithm.

Ada died in 1852 at the age of 36. Over 150 years later, The U.S. Department of Defense developed a language named after her. Ada's prescient thoughts on computing have had a profound impact on technology, infusing our digital age with “poetical science." 

Flipping the Equation: From Software Support to Software Development


Self-proclaimed recovering Twitter junkie, and newly-minted Ruby/JavaScript/Rails student, Jesse James was eager to learn how to program before he came to Epicodus. After working on the support side of software at Marketo as the Team Lead for the Portland office’s Premier Support Team, Jesse knew it was time to flip the equation. “I have always been eager to not only utilize my analytical skills but also my creative skills in tackling new problems and creating new software. I’ve dabbled in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript over the last few years, but nothing I’d consider beyond a beginner level, which had always bugged me,” he said.

Making Adjustments

Now a full-time student, Jesse is tackling coding head on and adjusting to pair programming. “I’d have to say, the most surprising thing about code school so far has been interacting with other students from varying backgrounds. At my last position we selected for a certain personality and skill set for our employees, so while there was some variance in personality, everyone was more or less on the same page when it came to work style. Having to be able to adapt, sometimes on a daily basis, to changing personalities and work styles has been very eye opening and rewarding on a personal and professional level. I look forward to taking these new interactions and applying them in the workplace alongside my previous experience in dealing with people."

Advice for Future Students

Jesse’s best piece of advice for someone considering going to code school? “Be open to new experiences/personalities as well as be willing to throw away things or habits you may have learned and start with a clean slate. In my own experiences thus far, and those of my fellow students whom I’m spoken with, the singular constant source of problems or difficulty has always been preconceived notions of how things ‘should’ work or how people ‘should’ act. Being open to different ways of doing things and letting someone else ‘take the reins’ are paramount to making the most of the experience."

You can find Jesse on Twitter, LinkedIn and GitHub.

Announcing Break the Code: Supporting Women in Tech

Supporting women has always been a top priority for Epicodus. Our student body has always been about one-third women, but we want to do better. And we know that many other companies do too. That's why we are incredibly excited to announce the launch of Break the Code, a collaborative initiative aimed at starting a productive dialogue and creating a more supportive environment for women choosing careers in programming.

Break the Code Partners

We've asked several companies and nonprofit organizations to help us spark that conversation and join Break the Code. Many have pledged their support and voices including: The Clymb, Columbia Ultimate, CrowdCompass, DevelopmentNow, GlobeSherpa, Jive, Simple, Smarsh, Thetus, Uncorked Studios, App Camp For Girls, ChickTech and Girl Develop It. Over the next few months we will all be celebrating and sharing the experiences of women in tech. This is a huge challenge, and we are excited that so many companies in the Portland area have signed on to help us tackle it.

All-Women's Class

Since one of the primary goals of Break the Code is to provide a supportive environment for female programmers, on August 10 we'll be starting our first ever all-women's class on Android development. We're excited to provide this opportunity for 30 students who feel that they will thrive in an all-women environment. All women (cis- and transgender) and people with non-binary gender who feel they are a part of women's community are encouraged to apply.

In the coming weeks, we will be announcing even more exciting Break the Code initiatives. Stay tuned...