Spotlight

Spotlight

Durham coding school goes remote and helps people stay digitally and socially connected

Posted April 24, 2020 3:16 p.m. EDT

Momentum provides a way for individuals to stay digitally and socially connected while building their professional skills. (ILONA TITOVA/Big Stock Photo)

This article was written for our sponsor, Momentum.

The crisis at hand has significantly altered everyone's routine — both professionally and personally.

With few opportunities to wander further than your front door, many people have more free time on their hands with limited ways to spend it. For those looking to stay professionally and socially connected, upskilling through an online school provides the ability to do so.

Unlike many other coding schools, Durham-based coding school Momentum traditionally provides its project-based curriculum in-person. Over the past few months, however, the instructors and students have pivoted to and refined their virtual curriculum.

For instructor Amy Gori, who has been involved with the coding bootcamp since its inception, the switch to online learning has given Momentum a new opportunity to embody its core values — many of which are much-needed in the midst of social distancing.

"Community and connection have always been at the top of our list of values. From the very beginning, we built this whole business around supporting people, honoring them for who they are and helping them achieve their goals," Gori said. "When we started to think about what happens in the classroom, we were very intentional about operating in a way that builds that sense of connection. It's an intentionally safe place for people to be vulnerable and learn something that's very difficult. We make space for the lack of understanding and the frustrations that people encounter."

With the help of modern technology, the team at Momentum is able to maintain that foundation of community and connection in a virtual landscape. Slack is used for instant messaging, GitHub is used to share code and Zoom is used for "face-to-face" meetings. Instructors have even gone so far as to create and leave open a Zoom meeting room that students can use anytime as a virtual coworking space.

Throughout the experience, instructors and students have been surprised by the unexpected benefits that a virtual coding school experience has to offer. In Gori’s case, students are able to "take the training wheels off a little sooner," pushing themselves to be self-sufficient while knowing help is readily available should they need it.

"We have such a great community of people. They're enduring the same struggles, there's encouragement and sharing, and if you mess up, it's okay — we're still here to help," Gori said. "By the time they're ready for the job market, they know how to build software even when they're sitting in their home office. They know how to share code, get feedback, deploy it and see the results of their work in the real world, even though they're working in this semi-isolated fashion."

"It's not unusual to have an engineering team that's distributed across the world even in different time zones, or to have a team that's partly local and partly remote," Gori continued. "We're able to let them work in a real-world scenario this way, which was not something we fully anticipated implementing in our curriculum, but has been going well."

The latest cohort at Momentum recently completed their final project demos, virtually showcasing their presentations over Zoom to instructors, local professionals and alumni, and many students are now beginning their career search. As is the case with many online coding schools, the social connections of instructors and alumni have proven invaluable in networking with potential employers.

Although alumnus Dan Coda completed the program two years ago and has secured a new job at IBM, he can testify firsthand to the importance of connections made through Momentum.

"The whole team has great contacts in the area, and they've built up this community from people they already knew," Coda said. "There were people available to the cohort — whether on campus, through Slack or through a number of other mediums — for us to reach out to, ask questions to and get that unique insight. It was huge to have the support of people who were already in the industry in some form or fashion."

Since graduating, Coda has kept in touch with most of his cohort, many of whom have also made the career pivot to the tech world. In addition to keeping ties with his previous Momentum community, Coda also continues to cultivate a strong camaraderie with the current students. In fact, he even sat in on the most recent cohort's final presentations.

Coda's not the only alumnus who keeps in touch, however; many Momentum graduates have made themselves available to current students using a shared Slack channel, offering advice and their contact information for anyone with questions or in need of extra support.

"At the end of the day, especially now when everything is virtual, at Momentum, you know that you have the resources available to you," Coda said. "You have the instructors, you have alumni who are way willing to help you out, you have team members with professional contacts who are going to be able to help you. You have people that can help you hone in on what your skills are, what you're bringing to the table, how to approach interviews and how to properly network with people. It's great to have those resources available so that you're not out there, floating on an island by yourself, thinking, 'Well, how do I go about this?'"

This article was written for our sponsor, Momentum.

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