Alia Borroho, 32, has been a business development director at an education tech startup in Little Rock. She wanted to write software code instead. After 12 weeks of classes, she’ll be able to do so.
Borroho is one of 14 students – and one of two females – attending classes at the newly opened Iron Yard Coding Academy, a chain of 14 campuses in the United States with one in London.
Students take 12 weeks of immersive classes – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week – but Borroho said she takes home work that keeps her busy until 11 p.m., with additional work on weekends. Tuition is $12,000 for one of two classes: Front End Engineering, where students learn skills such as website design and Java script, and a database driven .NET class.
The first class started June 29. Borroho said she’s surprised how quickly she’s learning the craft, which she hopes will enable her to write a diabetes management phone app or perhaps start a female-driven business accelerator.
“A lot of people, once they start coding, if they’re going in the right direction, it’s exhilarating,” she said. “You get to learn things that you never thought possible. You never knew you’d be on the other side of the computer, telling the computer how to act, what to say, what to do. It’s brilliant. I mean, it’s the best thing that has ever happened to me, really.”
The Little Rock campus got its start as a result of a conversation between Iron Yard’s CEO Peter Barth and Tom Dalton, director of Innovate Arkansas, which is working to create tech-driven innovations and jobs in Arkansas. Dalton said Barth was impressed with what he heard and decided to locate a coding school here.
Iron Yard Campus Director Mary Dunlap said the school currently has enrolled eight students in the Front End class and six in the .NET class. Classes are capped at 15 students.
Many students are in the midst of a career change, but students can obtain a specially designed loan from the student financial aid company Climb Credit. The Coding Academy doesn’t offer career placement but does offer career support. Dunlap said students are told they typically can find a job within one to three months after graduating and can expect to earn $45,000 to $60,000 starting out.
“We’ve all just quit our jobs and come here, and it’s a huge risk, but the return of investment is just tenfold,” said Borroho, whose tuition is being funded by a scholarship from Winrock International.
The campus held its grand opening Monday featuring short speeches by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola. Hutchinson said the campus is “extremely complimentary” to his initiative, passed by the Legislature earlier this year, to require all Arkansas high schools to offer a computer science course.