Innovative way to bridge the talent gap for software engineers and programmers.

In the last few years, there has been a sharp increase in demand for software engineers as more companies undergo digital transformation. While the demand continues to increase due to the pandemic, there aren’t enough skilled software engineers to fill the demand. 

Rocket Academy, a Singapore-based startup created by Neo Kai Yuan, CEO and Founder, specializes in offering Stanford-quality online coding courses and bootcamps to train up more quality software engineers in Singapore and beyond.

DigiconAsia finds out more about how we can get more coding professionals trained to bridge the growing talent gap in the region:

Neo Kai Yuan, CEO and Founder, Rocket Academy

In your opinion, how effective is online learning in helping to fill the talent gap in the digital economy, especially for coding professionals?

Neo: It depends on what kind of online learning.

Online learning is most effective when it combines pre-recorded and live learning. Less-interactive material like lectures, readings, assignments can be pre-recorded for students to consume at their own pace. This can be coupled with live, small-group review and group-exercise sessions with instructors for students to practise, ask questions and receive prompt answers.

Between live sessions, students can engage asynchronously with peers and instructors via group chats, enabling a sense of community that motivates students to continue. Rocket Academy follows this model and 100% (16 of 16) of our Bootcamp course graduates have become software engineers so far, with over 40 more currently enrolled.

In contrast, self-serve online platforms like Coursera and Udemy have attracted millions of learners but have not been most effective in training new software engineers because learners do not have dedicated support to answer questions. Community forums help but can require more effort and patience, leading a majority to give up.

What is Rocket Academy’s online learning model, and how does it achieve high levels of student engagement to support each student’s learning progress?

Neo: It takes three attributes to succeed as a software engineer, and any school that trains software engineers needs to address all three, regardless if it’s online or offline:

  1. Coding skills
  2. Communication skills
  3. Professional network

Rocket Academy addresses all 3 attributes and that has been our key to success. Rocket teaches coding through our rigorous courses. We screen for communication upfront, requiring students to complete a video application and our free Coding Basics course to apply for our Bootcamp course. We supply students a professional network by inviting software engineers from varying industries, roles, and seniorities to speak with our students every week.

Rocket’s model achieves high levels of student engagement by enabling community and a sense of responsibility for one’s peers among students. Rocket organizes students into groups of 10 called “sections”, where each section has a dedicated instructor (“section leader”) and meets daily (Full-Time Bootcamp) or twice a week (Part-Time Bootcamp) for live review and group-exercise sessions throughout their course.

Between live sessions, students engage asynchronously with peers and instructors across Rocket via work and social chat platforms Slack and Discord respectively.

Once a quarter, Rocket hosts a virtual Open House in the metaverse for student presentations, graduation and networking between students and alumni.

How do you develop a strong professional network for aspiring coders and guarantee 100% job placement upon completion?

Neo: Rocket helps our students develop a strong professional network by inviting software engineers from varying industries, roles, and seniorities as Q&A speakers every week. Students suggest whom they would like to meet, and Rocket invites them. During Q&As, students ask speakers everything they want to know, and speakers often refer students to roles at their companies.

Rocket guarantees Bootcamp course graduates software engineering jobs through the following three actions.

  1. Screening students up front as if Rocket were making a hiring decision on behalf of our employer partners.
  2. Executing our Bootcamp course such that students learn the universal foundations of software engineering (including interview prep) and can succeed as software engineers at any company.
  3. Introducing students to software engineers in the industries, companies and roles students are most interested in via Rocket’s weekly Q&A sessions.

Looking ahead, how do you see the digital education industry developing, and where do you see the industry moving forward in terms of innovation beyond pandemic home learning?

Neo: Online education is the future because of its ability to reach more people, more conveniently in a more personalized manner. I expect most schools to incorporate a blend of pre-recorded and live online learning as part of core curriculum within 10 years.

The main drawback of online learning today is the difficulty of building engagement and community, and this drawback is already being addressed by metaverse platforms such as Gather and Meta.

Once students and teachers can interact online in more flexible ways that enable more meaningful relationships, it’s possible all but the most personal education meetings will happen online – by choice.