(Almost) Everything You Want to Know About WeThinkCode_ as a Potential Future Student
You’ve heard so much about the revolutionary tech college that is offering a free (yes, free) two-year-long software engineering course but you have so many questions that can only be answered by a bone fide student. Well, I happen to be one of those and I’ve gotten a whole lot of these questions that I’ll answer right here.
Disclaimer: I was a student at WeThinkCode_ from 2017 until 2020. I have seen the course evolve and it is still evolving; therefore, the info in this article may not always be relevant. I will update it as often as I can and include articles/videos from students in later cohorts when I come across them.
Attached at the end of this article is a video created by WeThinkCode_ which covers some of the things I talk about in this article.
No, it’s not a scam. No, you can’t attend part-time. Only if you drop out before graduating are you required to pay back your tuition for the period of time you were at WTC. Should you perform well and complete all the requirements, you’ll get two internships AND a job placement. Finally, you’ll learn the fundamentals of programming (not necessarily a particular set of languages or technologies).
Is WeThinkCode_ a scam?
The most common question that comes up, and it always comes up first, is whether or not WeThinkCode_ is a scam. I’ll admit, a free course in software engineering that guarantees job placement after graduation does sound too good to be true; and in a world where nothing is for mahala, you do have to be careful. I can hereby confirm that after 5 years of operation and having over 400 graduates placed to this day, WeThinkCode_ is not a scam and, since 2019, even boasts a SETA Level 5 accreditation.
How does this work?
These are the three stages of the application process:
- 2 online puzzles/games
- A 6-day bootcamp (which has been newly re-designed). Bootcamp was previously 4 weeks long.
- And an interview with WeThinkCode_ staff & students
You do not need prior coding experience or additional qualifications to apply to WeThinkCode_. Heck, even the usual barriers that exist for traditional varsity and tertiary institution applications don’t exist and hence, you don’t even need a matric!
There are only a limited number of places available in the programme because each student’s tuition is sponsored by one of the corporates who invest in the two-year programme. Some of the headline sponsors of WeThinkCode_ are BCX, FNB, BBD and Derivco, and there are still numerous other sponsors of the course (you can view them all here).
Because your tuition is sponsored, it is a requirement that you perform to a set of standards that ensure you are not wasting the opportunity. Should you stick to your commitments during this course, during your first and second years of training, you will be offered the opportunity to attend two 4-month internships with one of the sponsor companies. After your two-year tuition, should you meet the requirements, you will be placed permanently at one of the sponsoring companies, should they have the capacity to hire at the time.
Do students have to repay their tuition?
Should you accomplish your goals and fulfil the obligations of your WeThinkCode_ contract, then no repayment is required. However, if you drop out prior to graduation, you will be required to pay back that portion of your tuition which has already been paid for you by sponsors. Graduate after two years of training and pledge 12 months worth of work at your placement company and you will have fulfilled your contractual obligation. Your sponsor company sees you as an asset and valuable addition to their development team — that is your ‘payback’.
And not to worry, you will still earn a salary during your post-grad work!
How does internship work?
You will get 2x 4-month long internships during your time at WeThinkCode_. The first will be after your first year of coursework and the second, after your second year of coursework. Both internship placements are dependent on your performance during the school year.
For your first internship, you are not required to know much. The internship experience will expose you to your first work experience as a software developer and will serve as a learning experience to prepare you for your time as a full-time software developer.
Included in the WeThinkCode_ curriculum are exercises to better prepare you for your time in the working world, and more specifically, as a software developer in the working world. Skills such as presentation, communication and feedback analysis are just some of what you’ll be able to add to your arsenal before entering what may very well be your first job.
Is the pay good?
If this is the first of your concerns for deciding whether or not to join the course, your priorities may be misaligned and you should rethink whether you’re interested in the course because you want to learn, or because you’re just in it for the money.
(But yes, the pay is decent.)
Where is the campus?
WeThinkCode_ currently has two established campuses; one in the Johannesburg CBD near the Jo’burg library and the second, newer campus is at Workshop17 at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. There will be a third campus launching in Durban around June/July 2021 as well. More information can be found on the WeThinkCode_ website and more details will come as development finalises.
Is there accommodation on the campuses?
I can’t tell you about Cape Town, but in Jo’burg, there is low-cost student accommodation just two streets down from the campus building. You can choose a room that’s shared between 2 and 6 people (women and men are placed separately) and there is a shared rooftop braai/smoking area as well as shared kitchens and bathrooms (women’s and men’s) on both floors.
Does WeThinkCode_ help financially-struggling students?
Yes. Should you require it, once you’re accepted into the course you can apply for a stipend which will be paid monthly during your course times, but not during the internship (you will be receiving a salary from your host employer). The stipend is to assist with spending on any commuting, accommodation and other living costs that you have for the duration of the course.
What are the entry tests/games like?
These games have changed since I applied but one thing remains consistent; these games are meant to test your aptitude for problem-solving. Being a developer is more than creating software, games or websites; you have to have the resilience to overcome persistent problems as well as the ability to aptly solve any kind of problem.
If you enjoy a challenge and consider yourself a resilient person, you should have no problem whatsoever.
Remember, if you don’t pass the entry tests/games, this does not mean you’re not fit to be a software developer.; it simply means that WeThinkCode_ may not be the correct environment for you to pursue these dreams. If you’re still interested in software development and unable to attend a college or university, you can look at doing (mostly free) online courses and activities from sites such as Codecademy, edX, Udemy, and MIT Open Courseware.
What is bootcamp like?
Bootcamps have evolved since my time at WeThinkCode_. Instead of being a 4-week long challenge, bootcamp has now been condensed down to 6 days which avoids applicants having to find large amounts of money for transport and accommodation during its period. The content has also changed to better align with the new WeThinkCode_ curriculum (you can find more about that here). Bootcamp is exciting and challenging and will probably teach you some things about yourself that you never knew. You will be introduced to the peer-to-peer learning environment that makes this course so unique and you will have to use everything you learn along the way to help get yourself and others to the finish line at the end of every day’s activities. You will laugh, you will scream and you will cry but at the end of it all, you will come out a stronger person (not just as a developer).
Are there criteria for passing bootcamp?
The specifics of the bootcamp passing criteria will probably be shared with you at the start of the bootcamp but the WeThinkCode_ team will be looking at a combination of your technical skills and your social and cultural fit. They’ll be looking at things like how you adapt to the peer-to-peer learning environment and your willingness to help others. WeThinkCode_ is a community and for a community to thrive, you need a diverse range of people who share a common goal; and this common goal is growing towards becoming a strong software development community.
What languages are taught in the course?
The curriculum has changed since I was at WeThinkCode_. The new curriculum has been altered to better suit local industry demands. Your first semester of WeThinkCode_ will introduce you to the fundamentals of coding, tools and ways of working, and you’ll be starting with Python. Your second semester will introduce you to object-orientated programming and you’ll be using Java. Either way, you will still get exposure to many different languages and technologies such as web development and app development.
I want to learn or have knowledge in [insert specific language here], will I encounter it at WeThinkCode_?
I can guarantee that should you be fortunate to graduate from WeThinkCode_, you will be a technically strong and adverse developer with a keen mind for learning and the ability to adapt to nearly any situation you get thrown into.
Do I need prior coding knowledge?
Not at all! That’s why the course was designed; to help those who have a passion or interest in software development but know nothing about it.
I arrived at WeThinkCode_ straight out of high school having absolutely no knowledge of coding; all I could do was operate a computer (which also isn’t necessary!).
Should you have prior knowledge, that’s great! Just be prepared to have your views on development changed and prepare to learn a whole lot more than you previously knew. Alongside this, you should be willing to share all your previous knowledge with your peers.
What are the two years during the course like?
Everyone’s experience will inevitably be different. I had a blast of time during my time doing the course. I think that those years were amongst the hardest I’ve worked before but this may not be the same for everyone.
Because the WeThinkCode_ course is full-time (yep, no part-time study is possible), it requires you commit your all and dedicate to doing your best while learning. Some people are fast learners and after their first year will have grasped concepts like they were born to do coding while others (such as myself) will take longer and none of it really matters as long as you feel like you are doing the most for yourself.
Should you find yourself struggling in the duration of your time at WeThinkCode_ (emotionally, mentally or even with the work), there are avenues available to help you overcome whatever stress you are dealing with and to help get you back on track; you need only reach out.
I read some tweets and a bad review about WeThinkCode_ in which someone said that the course is discriminating against black people. What’s the deal?
Like most institutions that allow for online reviews, you’ll always find some negative ones.
I can personally say that I (as a black woman), nor any of the people I interacted with during my time at WeThinkCode_, never experienced any kind of discrimination at WeThinkCode_.
It’s important to note that WeThinkCode_ strives to create an environment that is conducive and supportive of everyone. Whatever kind of minority you identify with (POC, LGBTQIA+, etc), there is a strong likelihood that there exists a support group for you on campus.
The WeThinkCode_ staff has also placed a strong emphasis on creating an environment in which you can find a diverse group of people. WeThinkCode_ has also created an initiative focused on removing gender-based biases in the tech space called WomenThinkCode=. This initiative was the brainchild of WeThinkCode_’s CEO, Nyari Samushonga (remember that diversity I mentioned?).
If you feel a serious interest/passion for software development and believe that you can invest two, hard years’ worth of work into learning more about the field then WeThinkCode_ should definitely be a consideration for you.
Videos from WeThinkCode_
The Application Process
Current second-year student Sandile Mkhize documents his experience as a first-year student at WeThinkCode_ in 2020.