This post is from Eric Dodds. He’s a partner at The Iron Yard and runs the brand and operations.
A Quora member recently posted a question about courses at The Iron Yard:
Is Iron Yard Academy Worth The Investment?
There were several responses. I wrote the first and one of our graduates followed up on my post:
Great question. For context, I’m a partner at The Iron Yard (and helped found the company).
I’ll give a broad overview of what joining The Iron Yard means (and why it’s worth the investment).
As with all investments, determining value ultimately depends on what you desire as an outcome (i.e., your return on investment).
The Iron Yard is built for people who want to launch careers in technologyfrom the best possible foundation. We’ve designed our courses to prepare students as true professionals for a variety of jobs (not teaching them ‘just enough’ for a specific type of industry).
Learning to become a professional programmer in a short amount of time takes an incredible amount of focus and investment—both on the part of our students and on the part of our staff. Some people want to learn more about programming, develop a cursory knowledge of coding, or learn on the side while they work. There are lots of great part-time programs and online resources for them, but we’ve seen over and over again that becoming a highly-qualified professional is almost impossible without 100% focus and guidance from a qualified, experienced educator.
So, to answer your question more specifically, if you’re looking to learn from the best programming instructors in the industry, build a rock-solid foundation as a software engineer, learn how to learn (so you can teach yourself), participate in a best-in-class, holistic career support program and access The Iron Yard’s deep, international network of companies, graduates, accelerators, and more, then yes: The Iron Yard is absolutely worth the investment.
An analogy we often use is the process of learning a foreign language. There are thousands of options available for learning a new language, from mobile apps like Duolingo to more robust programs like Rosetta Stone or even night classes at a local college. Anyone who’s tried learning a foreign language, though, knows that for most people those resources only go so far. That becomes readily apparent if you visit a country of native speakers. Local dialects, slang and culture are hard to pick up from digital products or part-time classes.
The best way to learn a foreign language is to have a native tutor you and teach you the foundations—the why questions that underpin the culture and the way people view life that seeps into the language they speak. That understanding provides context for sentence structure, conjugation, etc. Syntax comes in time, but without a foundation, syntax alone isn’t enough to make you fluent.
The Iron Yard serves you as that guide, giving you the mindset, skills and tools you need to thrive as a native in the world of programming.
Full disclosure: I’m a graduate of The Iron Yard’s front end engineering course. That being said, I am obviously partial to The Iron Yard in comparison to other code schools such as General Assembly, Hack Reactor, etc. As a student at the Greenville campus (TIY’s home base), I’ve also had the chance to meet a huge number of the company’s teachers, staff, and founders. If you’re going to hand over thousands of dollars and three months of your life to someone, it’s nice to know that, at their core, the person taking your money is a good person.
To answer the question succinctly: Yes, The Iron Yard is worth the investment.
I like Eric’s analogy comparing learning to program to learning a foreign language, but I’d like to expand on it a bit. You can use all sorts of books, apps, and software to teach yourself the basics of a language, maybe even enough to feel comfortable getting around a foreign city on vacation for a few days. But moving to a whole new country and feeling “at home” there? Not gonna happen.
Similarly, teaching yourself to code using online resources like Codecademy and Treehouse is enough to get by as a programmer. The problem, though, is that getting by doesn’t equate too getting a job. Being able to recognize and understand the fundamentals is great, but there is truly no one resource (or really, combination of resources) that will tell you how to set up your environment, which tools people in the industry are using to wireframe or to run repetitive tasks, or where to turn if you’re looking for UX/UI advice. In short, you’d have to spend so much time finding resources that you’d never have time to actually use them. That’s where having a top-notch teacher really pays off — he or she can set you on the right path without explicitly giving you the answers.
Being a developer is about more than just being able to follow along with tutorials or being able to replicate a solution to a common problem (copying and pasting code does not make you a developer); it’s about solving new problems or solving old problems in a new way. To reference Eric’s answer again, the most crucial skill The Iron Yard provides is the ability to “learn how to learn.”
If you’re looking for a job after you graduate, the ability to adapt and learn is necessary for survival. Companies expect you to demonstrate an understanding of the basics, but they’ve really hired you for your ability to push beyond the skills you already have to develop solutions that fit their business and market. As with all things, you’ll get out of the course what you put in; the more you invest, the stronger your commitment and drive to push yourself, the more you’ll learn and the further you’ll go after the three months have wrapped up.
For me personally, The Iron Yard’s connections to employers and companies were less important than the connections to actual people. My classmates continue to be an amazing source of support, and just generally great people. My teacher and TA have been there to answer questions and coach me through the transition from designer to developer, both during the course and after it had ended. The Iron Yard is essentially an invitation to a community; having a network of other developers to turn to is an invaluable resource, and can’t be replaced by online courses, virtual mentorships, or libraries of books, no matter how hard you try.