How One Company Teaches Employees to Code

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If you’re interested in learning to code, there is no shortage of platforms for you to check out. In fact, many companies outsource to the very same websites you can take courses on. Stripe is an exception; it has its own in-house coding program, and has laid out just how it teaches staff to code.

A darling among developers, Stripe is a payment processing system that has made big gains by offering easy-to-implement APIs. No matter what a developer is building, Stripe likely has a product they can use to get people buying goods and services. Stripe’s APIs are impressively built, considering how fussy processing credit-card payments can be.

The company says its coding-instruction efforts had nothing to do with making every employee an engineer. Rather, it was an effort to provide “deeper insight” on the goings-on at Stripe:

Last year, we decided to take another step and to start a coding class for any interested employees. The goal of this class wasn’t to help people become full-time engineers. It was instead to help people get deeper insight into how modern software development works so that they could better understand how problems get solved at technology companies. We hoped it could also provide a foundation that would make it easier for participants to continue to self-teach if they found it enjoyable—getting started is often the hardest part.

The 50-hour program spanned 10 weeks, starting in August 2016. Each week, 24 students would take two 2.5-hour classes taught by an instructor that Stripe hired specifically for this program. The class centered on web development, with students run through the basics of HTTP, Ruby, Linux, Git, SQL, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It mixed lecture, video group and individual projects. Stripe’s instructor also broke disciplines out into modules instead of bouncing between languages:

  • Intro to Engineering (4 hours/week): Learn to think about code the way Stripe engineers do. We’ll read and debug Ruby, and use tools like GitHub and Terminal.
  • The Stack (1 hour/week): Tackle the combination of technologies that form a web app, such as HTML and CSS.
  • Stripe Projects (4 hours/week): Build a simple integration using Stripe’s API and design a final group project of your choice.

Stripe plans to educate 100 of its non-engineers via this program in 2017.

This is a structured, proprietary way to teach people coding that may also keep employees loyal to the company. As it turns out, Stripe’s program launched at about the same time Coursera’s customized enterprise effort kicked off; the latter allows any company to create bespoke programs without hiring a full-time instructor. The benefit to Stripe’s method is that classes can discuss and access the nuts and bolts of company technology in addition to the basics.

Elsewhere, efforts from Apple and Microsoft are trying to teach anyone how to code. Swift Playgrounds is a wildly popular iPad app positioned for kids who want to learn how to code. Microsoft’s Minecraft now has Code Builder, a schools-first program to teach students how to assemble the building blocks (pun intended) of code.

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