OXBRIDGE MEETS THE ROYAL MARINES: How Makers Academy’s Bootcamp Helps Tech Talent Thrive In London


The rallying drum for programming education in the U.S. has been beaten nearly raw at this point — coding literacy is highly valued by employers, and de rigueur for entrepreneurs. However, to find some truly unique experiences of young coders, one can look overseas to Makers Academy in London’s ‘Silicon Roundabout,’ where U.K. students undergo an intensive 12-week web development education which ‘Shaker Maker’ (re: marketing director) Jordan Poulton describes as “Oxbridge meets the Royal Marines.”

For young Brits, the opportunity to learn code can mean the same as for Americans: a new job, greater career opportunities, or just the chance to design your own digital business. But Makers Academy co-founder Robert Johnson, who is originally from America, sees stark differences between British and American opinions of programming.

“I get the feeling in London, there’s a little more of a barrier to get over,” says Johnson. “The hardest part has been convincing people it’s possible…We want to teach as many people as possible to learn to code.”

They’re off to a good start: Makers Academy has graduated almost 70 students in roughly six months of operation, and brings in a new batch of aspiring coders every six weeks.

Poulton, who graduated from Oxford in 2009 and has also been a contestant on BBC’s The Apprentice, says that Makers Academy costs £8,000 (about $12,800), which he acknowledges is a “life-changing amount of money to spend.” For their fees, student receive a full day’s worth of classes from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., typically followed by extracurricular coding — and the assurance of a job at the end of the twelve weeks.

“We spend a lot of time trying to teach the basics of programming, how to think like a developer,” Poulton said.

Aouled Miguil, 26, was drawn to Makers Academy after becoming frustrated with the amateur web developers he was forced to work with on his startup ideas. Miguil, who says he has had a lifelong interest in technology, considered attending a U.S.-based programming course before finding Makers Academy.

Miguil currently works with Discoverables, an early stage job-finding platform based in London, and says he enjoys his new line of work. However, he notes that many established technology companies are still learning to trust graduates of web-development ‘boot camps.’

“There are CTOs who are quite skeptical of programs like Makers Academy. They think it just can’t be done,” Miguil said. “There’s a disparity between old-schoolers, and what’s demonstrably happening.”

For their part, the Makers Academy team believes that European companies will soon be placing greater emphasis on junior web developers. As demand for top coding talent ramps up, programs like Makers Academy and San Francisco-based Dev Bootcamp may become the ideal finishing schools for young, raw technical thinkers — although Rob Johnson says the most important factor on student applications doesn’t always relate to brains.

“What we’re really looking for is a whole lot of passion.”