Project Code: Bridging the gap between industry and academia
Project Code is a boot camp that teaches students to become a full-stack engineer in 12 weeks
The job market in Bangladesh, at least for the most part, is tricky. While toppers can land jobs at reputed companies or even excel in the field of research, the average students struggle to find what to do next. Consequently, many of them opt for a Master's degree. The popular belief is that an additional degree will help them secure a good job.
Unfortunately, the reality is hardly that simple. University degrees and the theoretical knowledge that the students acquire are important, but when it comes to professional life, skills and practical knowledge are of the utmost importance. Freshers often do not know where and how they can acquire the essential skills required to fit into the job market.
With an aim to address this problem in the system, the Khan brothers, (Eshtiaque Khan and Ershad Khan), Bangladesh-born Europe-based investment bankers, envisioned Project Code, a boot camp that teaches students to become a full-stack engineer.
A high-level software engineer who designs, tests, and implements numerous software applications are known as full-stack engineers. In addition to leading coding teams, they develop scalable online services, software, and apps.
"Any Master's or a post-graduation degree is a specialised programme and a long-term commitment as well. One should only do it when they have a purpose or the right motivation. If someone wants to sharpen their skill for the job market, only then should they enrol into training programmes," said Eshtiaque.
Project Code is a joint venture by the Khan brothers and Code Workers – Europe's leading coding boot camp that produces full-stack software engineers in just 12 weeks. It started its journey in Dhaka in early 2022.
Project Code is offering a 12-week Software Engineering programme at its Dhaka campus with the same curriculum, course content, and learning methodologies adopted by Code Works. They have onboarded some of the top-tier tech platforms in the country as their hiring partners, and students of this programme can secure a good job in these companies even before graduating.
The power brothers and their soul-searching project
Both Ershad and Eshtiaq studied in Europe and come from a business background. They both work as investment bankers there. Eshtiaque has been in investment banking for almost a decade. He works as the Vice President at Natixis, a French corporate and investment bank. Ershad, a graduate of IE Business School, works at Activum SG Capital Management as a Real Estate Private Equity Analyst.
"After securing stable jobs overseas, we kept wondering, 'what's next?' We wanted to do something for the country that is meaningful and create employment opportunities for the youth," said Eshtiaque.
They partnered with Code Works to introduce this programme in Bangladesh. But the problem was, in Europe, the entire course costs around Tk 2,000,000. Very few people could afford it at these prices here.
After a few months of negotiations, the tuition fee was brought down to Tk 200,000, and Project Code began its journey with its first batch of four students – all of whom secured jobs with the hiring partners upon completion of the boot camp. The programme now has two more batches.
How to enrol into the programme
The entire application process at Project Code is a lengthy one, but it's not complicated. It starts with an online form, followed by an online coding test. If the applicant passes through, he/she is asked to sit for a motivational interview with Eshtiaque.
After that, participants are invited to do a live coding test, under the supervision of the instructors. The applicants are then assigned to code a simple app.
"It certainly is a lengthy process, but a much-required one. The course plan and course duration are pretty hectic. So we have to assess the candidates carefully. Only those who are highly motivated about this will make it through. This is why our acceptance rate is very low, about 1-2%," said Estiaq.
Only after completing all of these steps, students can apply for scholarships offered by the hiring partners of Project Code. Generally, one-third of the course fee is covered by these entities. As of now, Project Code has more than 12 hiring partners including Selise, Samsung, ShareTrip, Shuttle, Samsung, Jatri, etc.
The Project Code programme and curriculum can be divided into four parts: admissions, pre-course, junior period and senior period.
The first portion of their main course is the junior period, which is where the students learn the majority of the concepts, tools and frameworks they will need to start building real applications.
The senior period is where the students take what they learnt in the junior period and use them to build projects.
They have to do three projects: a solo project – which they have to complete in a week, the legacy project – done in a pair or group in one week and aims at fixing and testing an already-built project, and the thesis project – last step of the program and it's the biggest project where students work in larger teams to create an enterprise-level project in two weeks.
The fruits of labour
According to the brothers, a large number of university dropouts have been applying for the programme.
"The beauty of this boot camp is anyone from any background and any age bracket can apply for this, as long as they have a thirst for coding. Since we start from the basics, no advanced knowledge in coding is not required," said Ershad.
Afia, a fresh graduate of Project Code, also shared her experience. She studied Computer Science Engineering (CSE) at Brac University, but began her professional career as a banker.
She was always into coding, but never got the chance to work as a software developer. It was not easy for her to quit her full-time job to follow her passion, but once she got the grasp of coding, it was a very gratifying experience.
Even before finishing the course, Afia was offered jobs from two of the hiring partners. She has not made a decision as of yet.
According to Eshtiaque, finding the right instructors was also a challenging process. From around 1,000 applications, they chose three instructors for the training who were trained from Codeworks, Barcelona.
"Boot camps are very intensive. This is why training through boot camps is so effective. We start here at 8 AM sharp, and the classes and experiments go on until 9 PM, that too, six days a week. Unless someone has a strong will, it is difficult to cope with the schedule," said Samiya Kazi, the lead instructor of Project Code.
The hectic schedule of this boot camp is equally arduous for the instructors as well. But, as she explained, "The classes are very interactive here. Through the process of teaching, I learn a lot from my students as well. I can see myself growing. This is what pushes me to thrive every day."