Herb Stahl walked through the doors of the coworking space Phase Two with hopeful anticipation. A Los Angeles-based software architect at leading global cybersecurity firm Symantec Corporation, Herb was attending his first Demo Day, hosted by The Coding Boot Camp at UCLA Extension.
With over 25 years of experience in coding, he was prepared to share his feedback and career advice with the over 30 students who were arrayed around the room and eager to show off their applications and portfolios.
“The excitement and earnestness that I saw from this varied group of smart and motivated people not only energized me but is making me really think where I should be focusing my energy,” said Herb.
Demo Days are quarterly networking events that represent the capstone of a student’s boot camp experience. Participants showcase their final projects and speak about their new skill set with program alumni and local industry professionals.
The free-flowing format fosters authentic conversations and meaningful mentorship. Think science fair, not Shark Tank.
In the intensive boot camp program, students usually have just a few weeks to ready their final projects before Demo Day. This compressed time frame and the caliber of results impress many of the industry guests, who are often working with longer development runways.
“I was wildy impressed with the caliber of the projects I saw at [the University of Washington Coding Boot Camp] Demo Day,” said Lauren Lee, a developer advocate for Nexmo, the Vonage API platform. Lauren is also the founder and host of the podcast “We Belong Here: Lessons from Unconventional Paths to Tech,” which features stories of career changers who have transitioned into tech.
As a graduate of the Ada Developers Academy in Seattle, Lauren understands the creativity, effort, and teamwork that shined through in the Demo Day presentations.
“The students spoke about their projects with passion and possessed deep knowledge of their tech stack,” said Lee. I walked away feeling confident that these students are capable of entering the tech industry as curious and capable software developers.”
Strengthening the Trilogy Network
Joseph “Goose” Aranez, a software engineer at San Diego-based Trust and Will, completed one of the first Coding Boot Camp at UC San Diego Extension programs in September 2017. He has been a devoted attendee at his local Demo Day ever since.
“As a graduate, I represented myself not only as an industry professional but also as a ‘finished product’ of what’s ahead for the graduates,” said Aranez. I’ve interacted and connected with graduating students, saw their demo projects, and given them constructive and inspirational feedback.
With a mix of CTOs, managers, and technical recruiters in attendance, Demo Days provide companies with a pipeline to new talent. As opposed to a formal hiring event, however, Demo Days are focused on building community and giving students the opportunity to make new connections.
“The students were there not to just ‘land a job,’ but to showcase what they have accomplished through their demo projects,” said Aranez. “From project management to games, the graduating students have far more knowledge of not just tech but also entrepreneurship.”
Mentoring the Next Generation
Many industry professionals report that their participation at a Demo Day was rejuvenating. The students’ evident love of learning and pride in their work provides a spark that leads to more mentorship and engagement with the next generation of tech talent.
“New things need to be built that solve new problems, and these new engineers need to be the ones that are doing it,” said Herb Stahl. “I am looking forward to having the next part of my career [ensure] that happens.”