9 weeks teaching at LeWagon,
new entrepreneur/coding school in Paris.

alex gerlic
Dec 29, 2014 · 4 min read

9 weeks to learn how to code. LeWagon created a full stack program around Ruby on Rails, focused on practice and designed to provide a developer and an entrepreneurial mindsets.

When I saw Sebastien Saunier’s tweet about hiring teachers for their 4th batch, I immediately wanted to jump in. Sebastien is LeWagon’s CTO and a former colleague with whom I worked for 2 years.

After some interviews with Sebastien and Boris (LeWagon’s CEO), I joined the batch as lead teacher 3 days a week.

I couldn’t wait to meet students coming from different backgrounds, sharing with them my knowledge of code and my last experiences in startups.

The batch was composed of 21 students with various backgrounds: business school students, engineers, marketers, journalists, ... 2/3 of them wanted to start a web business after the program and the rest wanted to boost their resume adding some coding skills. Before being accepted, students came across several interviews and the staff clearly explained the program and the personal commitment expected.

The program costs 3900 euros per student and it lasts 9 weeks, students have courses on the whole stack:
Weeks 1 and 2 : Ruby
Week 3 : Object oriented programming
Week 4 : Databases, SQL and ORM
Week 5 : Front-End (HTML5 / CSS3 / JavaScript)
Weeks 6 et 7 : Ruby on Rails
Weeks 8 et 9 : Personal project

The first day was dedicated to build their dev environments on Mac or Linux: Git, Sublime, Ruby, … A lot of new stuff.

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Then, during the 7 first weeks, the daily program was really aggressive:
- 9h — 11h : lecture with slides and live coding
- 11h–12h : exercises
- 12h–14h : lunch
- 14h–17h : exercises
- 17h-18h30: correction and live coding

As planned, the first weeks were rough, but students remained motivated. Some of them were surprised by the energy and the commitment required all day long: forced to check each character entered, each error returned by the interpreter, dived into coding documentation. Just like developers, they learned that coding can be rough sometimes.

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Each week, students discovered a new world: ruby, OO, SQL, … After a lecture of 2 hours to start the day, they usually pair programmed to work on coding challenges. Since a complete tests suite is provided, students were able to check and correct errors on their own. They could also ask questions to each of the three teachers in the room when they really struggled.

On the teacher side, LeWagon’s team made an awesome job to on board new teachers. Courses slides were already written and well-splitted. Students solutions were saved on a platform built by LeWagon. It was really impressive to see the amount of work achieved, while LeWagon is not yet one year old.

LeWagon is also focused on providing an entrepreneurial mindset to their students. Talks are organised on Thursdays with inspiring people: entrepreneurs, funds, consultants, … They are public and available on meetup.com: http://www.meetup.com/Le-Wagon-Paris-Coding-Station/

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At the end of the 6th week, students built in groups an Airbnb clone. They discovered software project management, branches, pull requests, conflicts to fix and deployment best practices.

Each group made a demo of the Airbnb clone to the rest of the class and I was definitely impressed by what they were able to build in one week.

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During the last 2 weeks, students worked on their personal project. Code was still the fundamental block to build their apps, but they also got training sessions about pitching, product/project management … Since each student had a lot of personal skills to share, some of them made presentations about interesting topics they master: story telling, growth hacking, …

My teacher’s role was now helping them to build their product. First days were dedicated to data models and user stories, then each group started coding with a strong motivation.

At the end of the 2 last weeks, it was time to show projects to the whole class. 9 weeks before, most of these students didn’t know how to write one line of code, but during the demo, every group showed a cool Rails app hosted on Heroku. Most of them had integrated responsive design and used APIs like Algolia, Mandrill or Maps.

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For me, that was a great moment, I was really proud of what they have achieved in 9 weeks. I was more than happy to help them to build their products.

I strongly encourage people without any technical background, but looking to learn how to code, to visit LeWagon website.

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