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Entrepreleader: DevLeague

DevLeagueʻs Latest Graduates!

DevLeague is a software development and cyber security bootcamp that specializes in preparing students for a career in the tech industry. DevLeague, one of the premier technical services bootcamp in the Pacific, focuses on strong mentorship to guide students through skills development. DevLeague also values community building and fostering a competitive environment for software developers in Hawaii. I met up with Russel Chang, co-founder and Operations Lead, to gain an in-depth look into DevLeague. Here’s what he had to say about  the formation of program, the current curriculum, and the importance of mentorship in professional development. 

What was the  pivotal moment where you wanted to start DevLeague?

Russel: My business partner Jason Sewell and I were collaborating on my sixth startup before we started DevLeague. That company wasn’t working so we shut it down. We came together and brainstormed ideas for another startup. We saw the opportunity to build a coding bootcamp with accelerated programs. We would be one of the first ones in the state of Hawaii. At the time there were probably only around five nationwide. We were one of very few schools that were purely concentrating on Javascript at that time as well. 

Why did you choose to involve accelerated programs into the Devleague curriculum?

R: What normally takes people years to study, we teach in a matter of weeks. To give you an example for our Javascript course, it’s 16 weeks for the full-time program and 30 weeks for the part time program. Our courses are immersive. We teach at a quick pace so students can apply their skills in the working world. This is where the game is played: outcomes are the key drivers of what we do. Currently, there’s a shortage of technical workers that hold back many companies. Most university programs take around 4 years to complete and for many people this is simply not feasible. For instance, most of the people that come to Dev League are already college graduates or they have professional work experience. Our students primarily come in to sharpen their skills.  

DevLeague seems very accommodating by offering both full time and part time courses. You’re really focused on giving people every opportunity to learn.

R: It’s all about skills development. Increasingly, we believe that skills are what people need to stay relevant in the workforce. This applies whether you’re trying to get into the software development or cybersecurity . This also applies If you are an existing employee trying to improve in your current position. Employers want to retain their employees and they do this by giving them new skills so that they can hit their business goals.

Can you talk about DevLeague as a network? Every time I meet someone who’s involved with software development or coding on the island they’re familiar with DevLeague.

R: This was deliberate from the beginning of DevLeague. It has taken a long time. Jason Sewell and I set out to build a community of like-minded developers. In the beginning, we only had five students. Then it was eight and then fourteen. It continued to grow. Now we’re five years in and we have over 200 graduates who have come out of the program. The majority of them have been successful in securing a full-time positions after finishing our program. One of our core values is giving back to foster a community. Because of this, we have graduates all over the world a that still contribute and participate. Recently, we just had graduate visit from Tokyo. His younger brother is in the program now.  

 

 What are some of the companies people went to after being involved in your program?

 R: I believe Microsoft has hired most of our DevLeague graduates. Jason would probably disagree with that and say Sudokrew, his other company, has hired the most graduates. It’s probably a tie between those two companies. We have some graduates working at Apple and Amazon. Some have moved to local companies such as Hawaii Pacific Health.

How would you describe your network in Hawaii compared to the mainland?

R: Anybody who is a software developer in Hawaii is here because they choose to be. They could have gone and worked anywhere else in the world but they want to be on the islands. Our goal is to build the competitive technical workforce so that they can actually stay in Hawaii and thrive. People who attended Dev League recognize this and want to be part of the network in the Pacific. One advantage that we have over mainland is that we have smaller student to teacher ratio. This allows our students to have a more intimate experience. DevLeague teachers are very hands-on. We guide each student to understand the material. It comes down to mentorship. We share our experiences to guide the current cohort which in turn builds the following generation. If we can do this successfully, it makes for a richer experience and a better developer.

I love that you talk about mentorship and building relationships. Was there a mentor in your life that has influenced you greatly?

R: I have had many mentors over the years. One mentor that helped me the most was Greg Kim, a partner at Convergent Law Group.  He took me under his wing. Greg was one of the Hogan Entrepreneur Program mentors. He bought me into the program. That is how I got connected with Rechung, co-founder of BoxJelly. Greg was instrumental in showing me how to outline information in a very direct fashion. He showed me the importance passing down knowledge through mentorship and how to guide someone else to reach their goals.

Can you talk about your experience working out of BoxJelly?  

R: Working out of BoxJelly has been a very positive experience. We came from a different environment where we operated in partitioned areas and smaller rooms. At BoxJelly we work in a more open space. I think our students really enjoy being able to spread out. Working in the shared spaces allows our students from different classes a chance to interact. Students who are just beginning the program can work alongside those who are further along. This gives those starting the opportunity to see what they will accomplish later in the program. Working at the Boxjelly has has enabled us to achieve a degree of collaboration that we didn’t have in the past.

As a mentor, how do you help people get through doubt?

R: It’s important to focus on what the person is trying to accomplish. Everyone has big dreams. Once you identify that dream I tell them to break their goal into smaller pieces. This can be difficult. From the start, people want to sell the bigger vision. I suffer from that as well. By breaking your dream down into smaller goals, you can make them more approachable. Next, it’s important to just get started and take one step at a time and go from there. Also, remember it’s important to  celebrate the easy wins along the way.

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