NSS started our first bootcamp on June 6, 2012. The idea behind NSS was pretty simple - we felt that we could help address the shortage of local software developers by home-growing talent. In other words, we felt that there were plenty of people living in Nashville who had the aptitude to be good software developers. Those folks just needed an opportunity to tap into their latent potential. We believed that an accelerated, immersive learning environment, i.e., a bootcamp, would provide the right environment to unlock all of that untapped potential.
We also strongly believed that we needed to connect our mission and training to the needs of Nashville’s tech community and employers. This is why we decided to be a non-profit organization. It’s also why we decided to offer a tuition plan where the school took the risks of financing many of our students’ education, and committed to reach out to prospective students from under-represented groups and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. And, it’s why we were the only bootcamp in the country to have a six month curriculum - because our employer partners laid out requirements for junior developers that would take six months of training. We believed that the Nashville tech community would embrace our non-profit mission and our newbie developers, mentor them, and help them find career opportunities.
While we didn’t have everything right from the beginning, most of our basic beliefs and assumptions have held up pretty well. And our timing was pretty good. We were just a bit ahead of the whole “learn to code” movement which has provided many people exposure to the idea of learning to solve problems and build things using code.
We were also lucky with our timing in being right on the leading edge of the coding bootcamp/accelerated learning movement. When we launched there were six or seven other coding bootcamps in the entire country and only one or two of those were more than six months old. Now there are dozens.
Over these four years, our proudest achievement is that by the end of June we will have graduated 293 new software developers. That’s 293 individuals who got an opportunity to launch a new tech career. Did they all “stick” in tech? No, sadly we’ve lost a few who decided to go other directions. The overwhelming majority of our grads, though, are working today in software development or a related tech job that they could not have accessed without knowledge and skills acquired at NSS.
Equally important is the fact that 180 of those 293 graduates came through NSS on our apprentice tuition plan. The apprentice tuition plan has evolved a bit over the years but at its core it has always provided a way for us to open career opportunities to individuals without the financial resources to pay up-front for the full cost of a six month immersive learning experience. With this plan, students can defer all but $1000 of their tuition until a) after graduation and b) after they start working as a software developer. Until that point, NSS finances the student’s education and takes the risk that the student has the necessary motivation and aptitude to successfully complete six months of intensive training and successfully find a job in the field.
Our 180 apprentice tuition graduates are the payoff on our vision that there had to be a better way to get people into careers than burdening them with (more) student loan debt. It’s also a payoff on our non-profit mission to help those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and to help those from under-represented groups (e.g. women, African-Americans, etc.) gain access to a technology career.
In an important sense, the story of the last four years of NSS is easy because the story of NSS is told in the stories of our 293 graduates.
On behalf of our graduates and everyone else at NSS, we’d like to thank the community for supporting us and our programs, especially students and alumni, our instructors and team, our employee partners, community mentors, community partners, and the surrounding Nashville technology community. We are honored to be a part of such a great network of friends and neighbors.