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Coding Bootcamp: How Le Wagon is Building a High-speed Train in China

7min read

Le Wagon is a Paris-based coding school that aims to empower creative individuals with the technical skills they need to bring their ideas into reality. Founded in 2013, Le Wagon has already graduated over 1710+ students from their global 9-week coding bootcamps. Honored to currently have Le Wagon hold its bootcamp in our JingAn space, we interviewed the founder of Le Wagon China, Thibault Genaitay, to hear more about Le Wagon's journey both globally and in Shanghai.

Q: How did Le Wagon start off? What demand did it see?

Le Wagon started 4 years ago in France working with numerous top-notch colleges graduating each year thousands of students with no technical skills. We fine-tuned the model of the “bootcamp” from the US, and designed a new accelerated curriculum, covering both the hard skills and methodologies employed by the best startups. Since then, Le Wagon has been supporting all creative entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into functioning prototypes, by teaching the best practices in web development with mentors.

Q: Why did Le Wagon choose Shanghai over other cities in the region?

Le Wagon is opening its doors in all major entrepreneurial hubs of the world. Shanghai was an obvious choice being one of the most active scenes of Asia. A great place to hop on a startup journey in the Mainland. And a vibrating tech ecosystem with scarcity of smart product talents.

Q: What is special about the Ruby on Rails program and why do you teach it?

Our curriculum covers the development of web apps using the MVC pattern and Object-Oriented programming languages. Ruby is just one of many. It is made of a very comprehensible syntax and clear principles, which reduces many of the frictions for total beginners in learning to code. It allows extremely quick deployments thanks to the Rails framework. Hence the large adoption of this technology within the Startup world!

Q: What skills do you hope students will take away from the program and how can they apply it in their life or jobs?

TLDR: code the startup way. Participants learn about web development from scratch, databases with SQL, and the Rails application framework. They develop front-end skills by using advanced CSS technics (flexbox, grid, animations, etc..) and go deeper into Javascript by learning libraries like React.js, developed by Facebook. In China, they build apps for WeChat. They think like software engineers do: get the big picture on technical issues, understand what MVC means, how to design a database schema or to dissect an HTTP request. They can pick up a new programming language very quickly. Participants are asked to adopt the right technical workflow, because there's definitely an optimal way of building tech products and that's what we will teach them. User stories, database scheme, mockups with Sketch, collaboration using pull-requests and code-reviews on Github… That's how successful startups work! Finally the worldwide community will help them find a dream job, either as a junior dev, product manager or growth hacker.

Q: What is the market for coding bootcamps at the moment in China?

The few existing similar trainings are made of large groups taking very theoretical programming lectures – the same kind you could find in traditional CS universities. They are “dev factories”. The ability to solve real problems and deliver great products that people want was nowhere to be found… As a result, the past graduates were able to play around with code but not build anything meaningful!

By bringing international mentors and very agile local lecturers to this dormant industry, Le Wagon was allowed to quickly empower the smartest and most diverse participants, to learn product development the startup way (lean prototyping).

Q: Do you see the demand for coding bootcamps to increase in China?

The demand for product talents is only at its infancy but possesses great potential since software is hitting China by a storm: WeChat. Didi. Mobike. The universities can not match the hard skills expected for such working environments. Hence the growing gap.

Q: What competitors does Le Wagon have in China? How do you distinguish yourself (if there are competitors)?

The market is full of edTech companies either targeting at younger audiences (high school and below) with offline courses lacking systematic curriculums or providing a large database of online tutorials (videos, quizzes, self-paced exercises) but no complementary and beneficial mentorship to learn from.

We recruit the smartest and nicest people and train them to become outstanding product people. We are not elitists. But we are very selective in deciding whom to add to the awesome community of 1500+ fellows who went through our program.

Q: Did you experience any cultural or regional barriers establishing your coding program in China?

Yes plenty. The “bootcamp” concept is not clear in China. Most local applicants are still asking for direct benefits (i.e a job guaranteed) without understanding the commitments required.

We are extremely demanding with the applicants: 2 months’ full time work, team spirit, high English level, and desire to build great things.

We empower students to learn within very modern interactive workshops, totally hands-on, fast-paced and on-site.

We are always straightforward honest on the outcomes: although there are plenty of opportunities, the ability to get a job depends on each individual. The level after camp is of a junior full-stack web developer. Not an engineer.

Q: Apart from the 9 week coding course, is Le Wagon looking to expand into other forms of coding or providing different types of courses?

Le Wagon worldwide is now bringing its courses into businesses (training employees of the largest corporations) and schools (highest-ranked management universities).

Le Wagon China is about to begin a new selective curriculum blending JavaScript, product development and WeChat mini-programs.

Q: What motivates the team at Le Wagon? Why do you want to teach coding so badly?

In the increasingly connected world we live in, we believe code is as important as the alphabet. It is painful to see creative and good-hearted people with exciting and world-changing ideas give up on realizing them just because they lack the technical skills. We’re thrilled to unveil the beauty of the tech world for them.

And because we are a bunch of nerds enjoying sharing our passion!

Q: What is the size of the team and who are the key players?

The team in China has 7 staff and 10 lecturers. We have a core team of 75 people in 12 countries, and a global crew of 140 lecturers participating in our mission. Each city is managed by a driver and animated by a community manager. The key players are the local lecturers who bring their product expertise to our students.

Q: Are you thinking of expanding to other cities or countries in the region?

Shanghai, Tokyo and Chengdu were the first in Asia. We’re now planning 6 new openings next year in China, South-East Asia and Oceania.

Q: Do you teach any native Chinese coding programs/languages? For example mini-programs within WeChat?

Programming languages are global. Services and frameworks used are localized. We do teach the WeChat APIs, the use of AMap, the integration of Baidu web services, the deployment on Aliyun, and the powerful frameworks Vue.JS / WeChat mini-programs for fast development of local digital products.

Q: What do you like about XNode’s space? Any suggestions for us?

XNode is more of an incubator than a simple co-working space. It is dedicated to help every Xnoder succeed by providing opportunities, connections and an inspiring environment consisting of like-minded people.

Keep up a high standard of community management and dedication to your members!


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