This summer, a recently founded New Haven startup aims to teach students how to code.
Alena Gribskov ’09 conceived the idea for CodeSail, an eight-week, full-time boot camp that aims to teach enrolled students how to program, with her two co-founders Tiffany Pang and John Cadengo. Regardless of their previous coding experience, the students will learn full-stack Web development by the end of the eight weeks, Gribskov said. The program originated to fill the gap left by the discontinuance of the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute’s Summer Tech Boot Camp — a 10-week program that taught students to launch their own Web application or website — which ended in 2014, Gribskov said.
Gribskov formerly worked as the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute Program Director and ran the YEI Summer Fellowship, a 10-week entrepreneurial incubator. Through her work with both programs, Gribskov noticed a trend.
“I noticed that, in my meetings with student entrepreneurs, they would have this great idea, but they wouldn’t have the technical skills to build it themselves,” she said. “They were all looking for technical co-founders. That’s when I started thinking — what if these guys could be their own technical co-founder?”
CodeSail draws on Gribskov’s prior experience with entrepreneurship, Cadengo and Pang’s experience with teaching software engineering and takes inspiration from the former YEI Summer Tech Boot Camp. Unlike other tech boot camps, CodeSail will try to incorporate entrepreneurship lessons into the tech education framework. Gribskov remarked that she is particularly interested in “lean startup methodology,” a philosophy that emphasizes publicly mobilizing ideas as quickly as possible. She is actively infusing that methodology into the infrastructure of the CodeSail summer program, in order to teach students both technical skills and management skills.
“We want to teach students the full life cycle of a product, everything from development to market adoption,” Gribskov said.
The boot camp will culminate in “Demo Day” where students will pitch their capstone projects to potential investors and the general New Haven community.
John Cadengo, one of the CodeSail co-founders, spoke about how his experience with entrepreneurs who were not yet skilled in coding motivated the team to start the company.
“One of the things that I noticed at YEI was that, one of the number one indicators of whether a startup would be successful was whether they had an engineer on the team. As an engineer myself, I was always being approached by these startup teams to be their engineer. My advice to everyone who asked me was — why don’t you learn on your own? That’s how CodeSail was born.”
Based on the success of former, similar programs she has worked with, Gribskov said she believes CodeSail will fill a need among entrepreneurs and others. Several former students spoke to the influence former YEI programs had on their career trajectories.
David McPeek ’17, who attended YEI Summer 2014 Tech Boot Camp, the inspiration for CodeSail , said the program had a huge impact on his time at Yale.
“I was an English major before I attended the boot camp,” McPeek said. “I entered the program because I didn’t really know where I saw myself. I was entering this boot camp because I wanted to gain some hard skills. Turns out, I didn’t just learn these hard skills, but I learned a totally new perspective on what I could do with my career, my life — creatively.”
The boot camp influenced McPeek to take a semester off, get an internship with a tech company. Then, when he returned to Yale, he switched his major to computer science.
“Since Yale was no longer offering [the YEI Tech Boot Camp], and I had seen what great outcomes had come out of it, I thought, why couldn’t we provide the same kind of immersive experience?” Gribskov said.
CodeSail costs $7,500, with some partial scholarships available.
Correction, April 18: A previous version of this article misstated the price of CodeSail.