Since late October last year I have been involved with Code Your Future (CYF), a free coding school for refugees and asylum seekers in UK. It has been a challenging but rewarding way to spend my Sundays and some of my evenings supporting students with their issues. Below is some early reflections on what I learnt from being involved in CYF so far.
Coding schools are becoming an essential way for people to start their careers in the world of software and web development. The number of great engineers that I met through the programme who had gone through similar courses themselves was a great surprise to me.
What I learnt quickly is that mentorship is not easy to get right. Mentors need to be fun but also rigorous. In a voluntary group we benefited from different skills and experiences that mentors, who are professional engineers brought with them to the class but engineers are not always good mentors. In my opinion engineers should aspire to be good mentors as it is an essential skill to have in order to progress to become a good developer one must be able to explain their ideas and support others.
Motivation and commitment are pretty key for students. When working with vulnerable individuals some of this responsibly lies with the course. There needs to be a form of manifesto which declares the intentions and motives of the group and serves a reminder for why students need to be focused in doing their best on the course.
Another interesting issue is the curriculum which need to be carefully designed to fit for a purpose. This has been one of the trickiest parts which thankfully we are addressing for the next cohorts of the programme.