In this interview on The Logros Show – in association with The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce – Lee Dinsdale talks to Amul Batra about running Coding Bootcamps at his company North Coders to help people get into coding.
How to Interview with Amul Batra, Chief Partnerships Officer of North Coders – The Real Sound of the City.
Lee: Good afternoon, this is The Logros Show and we are broadcasting live on top of the Sky bar in Ibiza at OD Talamanca Hotel. Today is a fantastic Show because we have Amul Batra in Manchester who is Chief Partnerships Officer at North Coders and I’m liking your background on zoom!
Amul: It’s actually a beach in Okinawa in Japan where I used to live many years ago.
Lee: Oh it’s a real place that you have actually visited, you’ve not just took it off the internet!
Amul: No, I used to live in Japan 2004 – 2007. I needed to match your location really.
Lee: What were you doing in Japan?
Amul: It’s funny because I’ve worked in the music business most of my life. I came straight out of uni and stared working for a record label in Manchester called Faith & Hope and had loads of success and a number one record, bands did really well. Because I’d done that straight out of uni I then wanted to do something a bit mad and a bit different so I took myself off to an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean called Okinawa which is part of Japan. I taught English to kids from the age of four upwards to fifteen and I kind of just lived the life. I learnt the language and travelled a bit. It was just a great kind of break from the UK shores and what was going on at the time. I went back into music for about ten years before I started on the coding journey which I guess is what we are going to focus on today.
Lee: We are. It’s quite interesting hearing you talking about moving to Japan because part of what we talk about in the show is talking to people who have set up businesses overseas and also working overseas. How easy was it for you when you look back and decided I’m going to teach in Japan? What were the steps to do it?
Amul: To be honest I went on a Japanese government scheme to teach English out there, so my now wife and then girlfriend didn’t and she just came out and got a similar job to me, so it’s clearly not that hard – do you know what I mean? For me, because Id lived in the UK all my life – I’d not lived anywhere else – I wanted to do something a bit random having been so involved in an independent label that I didn’t set up but was involved with since day one. We were really professional really quickly but I wanted it to give my mind a bit of a break from all things UK. I’d settled in Japan and my plan was never to come back. Id actually set up a company and the idea was to bring European and American music out to Japan but unfortunately I had a family bereavement just at the point of setting that up so I had to come home. That’s just life really and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. My general vibe about anything – and it runs through with NorthCoders as well is you can do anything you want to do so long as you put your mind to it. I don’t think there is a barrier to do anything.
Get into Coding With a Coding Bootcamp at NorthCoders.
Lee: Tell us what you have going on at NorthCoders.
Amul: We are a coding boot camp so we teach people how to code and then we help them to get a job. We are HQ’d in Manchester and we’ve got a campus in Leeds. Over the four years that we’ve been in business we have taught six hundred newbies to code, how to code over a twelve week course and ninety-six percent of them have gone on to get jobs with software developers.
Lee: Did you manage to speak the lingo in Japan?
Amul: Yes absolutely. I really enjoyed learning a completely random language, it is hard.
Lee: Can you still remember any of it?
Amul: Yes I can probably interpret most conversations as long as it’s not too fast. It took a lot of time.
Lee: Tell us what NorthCoders is?
Amul: It’s a twelve week coding course that takes someone who has never coded before. It was in person at our campuses until covid hit. We get you geared up so you are able to speak to computers and tell it to do things and create things that are useful to people. Then we get people into their first jobs in software. To break it down a little bit further if anyone is really interested in software we say apply for a course and before we say yes well take your money, we put you on a course and we will give you everything you need to decide whether it’s for you. I didn’t really know what coding was before I did the course. I did the first cohort of the course back in 2016 and I didn’t know what coding was, but I knew I was getting into start- up culture and tech and someone said why don’t you learn how to code? I said don’t be stupid I’m forty this year; I couldn’t pick up a skill like that. I’d just moved back to Manchester from London and I was kind of closing down my music stuff and looking to get into tech and I thought, why not give it a go? Let’s just see what happens. You get given this starter pack and it takes about thirty hours to do to try it out. That’s completely free and there is no obligation or anything, it’s there for any prospective student or learner to say – do I think I’m going to enjoy it? Once you work your way through that pack you either get a bug for it or really, really want to do it or you go, actually this isn’t for me. Then to verify that we have an Entrance Challenge that we make people sit through to prove they have done the work and that they are right for it and have spent the time and got their heads around it. It’s not for everyone. Then we will offer you a place on our course. Not everyone makes it through, people apply and then either decide to fall out of the process or they didn’t pass the Entry Challenge, about one in three people. We really care about people not getting on as much as we care about people getting on because we don’t want to take the wrong people through what is a really hard journey. It’s not called bootcamp for no reason; do you know what I mean?
We really care about people not getting on as much as we care about people getting on because we don’t want to take the wrong people through what is a really hard journey. It’s not called bootcamp for no reason;
Lee: What are the statistics on people who have completed courses in terms of employability?
Amul: It’s ninety-six percent. One in three people that apply make it on to the course but once you are on the course pretty much ninety-nine percent of people complete the course and we have got a ninety-six percent employability rate.
Lee: For someone like me who is not really familiar with coding, in a nutshell what would you say coding actually is?
Amul: The easiest way to talk about coding is if you think about an app on your phone, be that Chrome or be that LinkedIn or Facebook, whatever, all of that is built with code. Its code that sits in the back end that you can’t see that is all the logic and there is code that sits on the front, the buttons that you press, the swipes that you do. A software developer has programmed all of that. That is my easiest explanation.
Lee: Do you help people find employment when they are coming to the end of their course because that’s a big thing?
Amul: Absolutely we have a whole careers week dedicated where we get people understanding what the tech industry looks like, the sort of jobs and roles that they can get. We help gear up their CV’s so that it’s a tech ready CV. We give them interview practice and we help them understand how to pass tech test thats they would need to do to get into those jobs. We have a whole team that does that helps people get careerready. We wouldn’t have the employability staff that we have otherwise. It’s a people business, we’ve got to help get these people ready for work so we give them the hard skills which are the coding and then we help them the soft skill which is how to do well in an interview and all that kind of stuff.
Setting Up a Coding Bootcamp Company
Lee: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into setting up NorthCoders?
Amul: I didn’t set it up; I was just closing down the music stuff and wanted to get into tech. Somebody said why don’t you learn to code and I said, I’m forty and too old for this. I decided to do the course and it blew my mind. What I realised is that it can be any body, any background. I thought do you know what; instead of going to get a coding job, I am going to invest in this business. I came out of the music and I had a bit of start-up capital and instead of setting up my own business I invested in NorthCoders. I’ve been there pretty much from the start, first as a student and then as a company owner. I think the thing is it is for anybody who is vaguely interested in tech. We don’t care if you’ve got a GCSE. We don’t care if you’ve been to university. What we care about is your ability to be really enthused by getting into computers and solving problems. The point with NorthCoders is that traditionally the only people that become software developers are the people who have got computer science degrees. People who have been to university and decided at age seventeen they want to be a techie whereas now we have taught people between the ages of seventeen and fifty something and we’ve got them careers in technology and software developers. We are doing a lot around getting women into code. We run all kinds of things to help gender diversity. It’s age diversity, its ethic minority getting into code. It’s LGBTQ+ and really including as many different types of people, so people with autism, neuro diversity. The idea is we don’t care about your academic background; it’s about your ability to get through our materials and our course. Tech is not a very diverse industry and we want to make it much more diverse.
The idea is we don’t care about your academic background; it’s about your ability to get through our materials and our course. Tech is not a very diverse industry and we want to make it much more diverse.
Ideal Attributes For Getting into Coding
Lee: That’s one of the things I wanted to ask you because every time I think of coding I just think of the high level of academia. Let’s just break it down into reality, what kind of attributes are you hoping people have when they come on the courses?
Amul: They’ve got to be passionate about solving problems. At the end of the day when you are trying to make a computer or a phone do something you have to look at it without looking at a computer first. You have to think what’s the problem I have to solve here and then with the training we give you is, to write a code to solve those problems. So it might feel like you have to be good at maths or whatever for the front end stuff and be good at design but actually, you have to be good at looking at something and think how can I solve that problem? Once you have got that sorted the actual coding bit is just language, it really is just a little bit of syntax and language and writing instructions on the computer for the computer to understand you. It isn’t that hard. It used to be seen as someone with headphones on, this nerdy, geeky guy sat in a darkened room whereas loads of cool businesses in Manchester need so many software developers much more than anyone else can throw out. Businesses like Misguided or Auto trader, Boohoo, AO.com and Jaguar Land Rover all need software developers. Victoria Plumbing sell toilets and stuff but they have a cool website and they need people to come in and help them bring those products to the people that need them.
How to Get into Coding
Lee: For those listening who are wanting to get involved in coding, take a course and look for new employment, Amul over to you? What are the practical steps of how to go about it?
Amul: It’s really simple. If you want to find more about the course and apply for it, its www.northcoders.com and you have all the info there. You can apply for the course there. If you are vaguely interested just apply and you will get the resources sent straight back to you and you can try it out for free and then start gearing up for the Entry Challenge that you have to do. If you are really into it and you enjoy solving the problems you will get a bug for it and you’ll want to do it. There is a fee, its seven thousand and two hundred quid for twelve weeks. Once you have passed the challenge and you don’t pay anything until we know that you are ready for it and you want to do it. You can finance that, we have financial plans, one is interest free over twelve months and one is a five year thing regular interest. The important thing is you will be investing in your career. People who do our courses say there is a high chance that you will get a job at the end of it. The average starting salary is about twenty five grand. We have people who did our course three years ago and are earning fifty grand. There is a lot of potential in Manchester. Covid has slightly affected that but the industry in Manchester has started to pick up again.
If you are vaguely interested just apply and you will get the resources sent straight back to you and you can try it out for free and then start gearing up for the entry challenge that you have to do.
Lee: Where do people go to find out about the courses?
Amul: It’s www.northcoders.com.
Lee: On that point in terms of the cost you did mention it is possible to finance the cost over a period of time to help people who may not be able to pay out initially.
Amul: Yes there are details of two or three different providers. It’s all outlined on the page. The sorts of people that have come on the course in the past are people who have backgrounds of engineering, accountancy, law and recruitment. We have people who have been claiming benefits, on Universal Credit. We’ve had taxi drivers, delivery cyclists. We’ve had a busker who didn’t have a job before she did the course, single mums. We had a farmer who is now a data engineer at a Manchester based company. We’ve had a station announcer at Piccadilly Station and she’s done the course and she’s now a software developer in an insurance company. It really is anyone who is into solving problems and it’s quite future proof when you think about where the world is going. There is going to be more digital jobs than any other kind of jobs.
Lee: Absolutely. Thank you very much for joining us here on the Logros Show.
Amul: It’s been my pleasure, thank you for having me.
Lee: We’ve been listening to Amul Batra who is the Chief Partnership Officer at North Coders based out of Manchester and they provide boot camp courses in coding with a ninety- six per cent chance of employability once the course has been completed.
Lee: Thank you very much Amul. This is the Logros Show
Article Transcription by Terry Capostagno
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