In April, Make School held its first Product College Preview Weekend for prospective students in the Class of 2020. The weekend was packed with tours, sessions, and discussions with many Product College teachers, current students, and staff. One part of the Preview Weekend was a panel with some of the Product College's top instructors. If you weren't able to make it to the Preview Weekend, we hope you find the below questions and answers from the panel helpful.
Check out Part I of this article for more questions and answers.
Want to ask your questions in person? We're hosting a second Preview Weekend July 13-15. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
The Instructors: Adam Braus (Product Development, Web Development), Dan Morse (Product Development, Mentors), Alan Davis (Computer Science, Data Science, Public Speaking), Eli'el Gordon (Mobile Development), Mitchell Hudson (Web Track and iOS)
(Alan Davis, (Computer Science, Data Science, Public Speaking))
Can I focus on both web and mobile?
Eli'el: Both the mobile and web tracks are full stack, so you'll be doing both frontend and backend. Every student takes one track, but you're going to be doing both frontend and backend whether you choose mobile or web.
Adam: So if you start learning mobile, you might have a prerequisite that you have to learn how to build APIs first, so that's actually web. But everybody will learn how to build APIs, because that's the backend of web, and it's also the backend of mobile. It's kind of unique that way, actually. A lot of other mobile schools just really focus on the frontend and the backend is stubbed out, but we really see it as valuable to give the mobile people the ability to make your own APIs, because that puts you in the driver's seat in terms of what you want to create.
What job-related skills WON'T I learn at Make School?
Adam: The way we develop our curriculum is that we go to companies and we ask, "What do you need to do day-to-day? What are the hard technical skills and also the soft skills -- in terms of building relationships and communication -- that you do?" And then we take the things that they tell us and turn those into learning objectives. I don't know of another school that does it that way.
So, in terms of the hard and the soft skills that you need to be employed, those are as much as possible brought up and practiced while at Make School. Inevitably, though, you learn a lot more once you get into the industry.
Dan: We like to say that year one at Make School is helping you become employable -- the baseline that you need to get a job -- and the second year is about diving deep into preparing you for the fifth year of your career or the tenth year of your career.
How will Make School help me with my entrepreneurial goals?
Alan: I would say that, here in Silicon Valley, everyone wants to build the next big thing. You might hear people say, "I'm looking for a technical co-founder." You will never hear someone say, "I'm looking for a non-technical co-founder." Never in your life.
Someone asked specifically, should I go work for another company for a few years and see how the industry works and get my skills that way before I go out on my own because I might sink? And my answer to that is a resounding YES.
Start here. Go get a job for two, three, five years and see how the industry works and how startups run and how to build a product in that real situation at a real company. You'll be paid extremely well to do that and to learn all these things, and what's great about that is it's not your risk because it's not your company yet.
Then, once you have three to five years of experience, then you can go take the risk because you'll have much broader and deeper perspective on how the whole system works then you would if, straight out of Make School, you take all the risk right away.
Dan: I've heard a lot of successful entrepreneurs give this same advice -- work one or two years in a well-oiled machine so that you know how to build a well-oiled machine yourself.
(Adam Braus, (Head of the Product College))
Will I be able to get hired for jobs that require a bachelor's degree?
Adam: So sometimes when you're looking for jobs you'll see, "Required: Bachelor of Science." Guess what? If you apply to the job and you can do the skills of that job, they'll consider you for the job just like anybody else, nine times out of ten.
The most important way that you can communicate that you're ready for that job is through your portfolio, and that's what we focus on. That's what you're building as you go along at Make School. During a single year at Make School you'll launch at least four products.
That is what recruiters will look at and say, "Yeah, let's bring her in." And then your technical interview skills come into play, and we have a whole curriculum and drilling built around those skills so you have hours and hours of practice under your belt before you go in.
Mitchell: What we're seeing a lot of in these job postings is X years with this skill or "equivalent experience." So I think employers, what they're saying is actually that traditional college isn't producing enough people with the skills that we're looking for, so we want the equivalent -- that's ok with us.
Adam: Part of the reason that we simulate a job environment is that, on paper, Make School students look like people who worked for two years. At Make School, you don't necessarily have clients, but you have a portfolio of projects that you built that are polished like they would be if you were working for clients at a design consultancy for two years.
What does a week at Make School look like for students?
Dan: Monday morning starts with our "All Hands." This is basically the students coming together, we do announcements, have some expectation setting, and go over any opportunities that might be coming up. It's very fun and energizing -- it's a great way to start off the week.
Next is programming lab. We give reserved time for coding because we think that it's the most practical way to grow your skills, and during programming lab a lot of the instructors are available and shuffling around to support people with their projects.
Then from one to two each day is lunch. You're free to go wherever you'd like -- there are some great choices very close by.
And then throughout the afternoons are our course blocks.
Adam: To put it in the largest possible context, part of the way that Make School works is that it simulates what a job looks like. So when you're a software developer, this is what your day looks like. You get to work and you have a stand up with your team, you talk about what you're going to do that day, and then you sit and code for three hours, and in the afternoon you have your meetings. That's called a Maker's Schedule, so that's what we try to model it after.
What do Make School students do during their summer?
Adam: They get internships -- that's the main goal. You do your first year, then you get your internship, and in your second year you go deeper into the things that you saw and learned during your internship, and then you go out and find what you want your full-time job to be.
Some students, due to the level of experience that they come in with, will skip the internship and just go get a job for the summer. We recently had one student get into an accelerator with their startup, so they're going to go to that accelerator for the summer. We'll also be rolling out summer classes starting this summer, so that will be an opportunity, too.
Can I attend a university at the same time as Make School to learn about my other interests?
Adam: You couldn't attend at the same time, because there aren't enough hours in the day. Make School, I would say, is much harder than a four year college. It's a more intense program. You're coding 30 or so hours a week, and then you have a bunch of other work that you have to do, as well. So you wouldn't be able to do it in terms of hours.
Having a lot of interests, though, I think there's a big opportunity there. The cool thing about project-based learning -- that's what we do here -- is that when you do a project, you can do it about anything. So if you really like music, guess what? You can build things in code about music all the time and you're going to learn a whole lot about music creation, music sales, music promotion, music whatever-you're-interested-in.
That's the way that I would approach it. I like to use technology as a lens that I put on things, and it's almost like a magnifying glass that lets me go deep into something that I'm curious about.