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- Who: Nicolas Genest
- Website: codeboxxacademy.com
- Course Topic: Software Training
- Interesting Stats: Milestone of 250 graduates
Who are you and what course have you created?
I am the Founder and remain to this day the President of CodeBoxx Technology. CodeBoxx was launched in May 2018 on the foundation of a unique accelerated technology training that offers anyone who wants a shot at a career in technology.
CodeBoxx reshapes human labor one individual at a time. Moreover, in the interest of securing controlled environments and exciting early growth opportunities for our graduates, CodeBoxx also hires some of its graduates in a Digital Workshop called Boxx Solutions. We showcase there the quality of our technologists and coders by designing and developing amazing digital products and solutions for corporate customers and startups.
I built the technology training program with the experience, eyes, and needs of a modern-age CTO since I have been part of many highly successful executive teams as Chief Technology Officer. As CTO of Modcloth, I orchestrated the rebirth of the brand alongside Matt Kaness and a renewed executive team in 2016.
The software has answered most of the problems I have encountered in my career. I have witnessed the opportunities in computer software since 1985 and was fortunate enough to be exposed to programming languages very early. Even during school, while getting my degree, I was already programming software to automate pay processes and clerical operations in small businesses.
I’ve seen the world progressively transformed by the software revolution, and I am fortunate to have been part of it. The best part is that as devices and experiences multiply, it’s only the beginning. Software and technology is the opportunity to gain experience and knowledge in many fields and industries. Designing a program for learning the modern ways of software development is a way for me to give back.
What market does your online course serve?
CodeBoxx Technology is, first and foremost, a unique 4-month technology curriculum that offers anyone who wants a shot at a career in technology. We are the best Academy for experienced individuals who want to re-skill or refresh their skills.
Many people feel ripped off by other boot camps out there. They come to us to finally get the outcome they were promised. We adapt to the individuals who need on-campus training. We also offer a full-time online version of the program that produces the best, most disciplined, and most productive remote individual contributors. They are exposed to the following modern themes and technologies:
- Full Stack Software Development
- Fundamentals and Pseudocode
- Mechanics of Interpreted Coding Languages
- Mechanics of Compiled Coding Languages
- Web Programming using Ruby on Rails
- Using and Managing Databases
- Life is a Web Service
- Offering and Exposing a Service on the Internet
- Understanding the .NET Framework
- Front-End Deep Dive
- Mobile Application
- Blockchain and Smart Contracts
- Python, AI, and Machine Learning
What’s the biggest benefit of taking your course?
The breadth and depth of the technology themes we expose the participants to is a highlight. It is all done within the context of an immersive business simulation. The participants who complete the 4-month training are guaranteed a job either immediately in the market or through our Digital Workshop Boxx Solutions.
How did you get into the market?
In 2018, after a big exit out of a Walmart acquisition, I wanted to take a shot at solving two problems that I saw in the market:
- The technology and software programming industry was dramatically suffering from a labor shortage that no education system could resolve on its own. We needed a pragmatic way to identify smart people wherever they are and train them in the modern ways of being valuable and productive technologists.
- Companies and particularly startups, struggle to get all the value out of their technology investments. The barrier to entry is often too complex, and they are at the mercy of too many elitist technologists. I wanted to tip the scale back into balance in order to train more business-biased technologists with greater work ethics, more productive and outcome-oriented.
Why did you decide to create an online course in the first place?
At first, the program was exclusively delivered on campuses, but when COVID hit, we were forced to close down early. There was no return to classrooms for over a year.Adapting our program to the reality of remote work became a survival decision for us. - Nicolas Genest Click To Tweet
Nadya Fortier, my co-founder, really pulled a miracle. She turned a full-time intensive program into a remote learning experience just as immersive and efficient as the on-premise version of the program.
Little did we know that the online campus would end up delivering such high quality disciplined, and productive individual contributors who were truly outcome-oriented and efficient.
Did you have any moments of doubt before you created/launched it?
I developed the program from scratch. It took me about eight months full-time to iterate against the sequence of themes, the introduction material, the guidance to the coaches, the resources to be used to solve the problems, the business immersion context to accompany each theme, defining realistic but yet challenging deliverables for each week, coming up with correction criteria, the scoring weights, the complementary subjective scorecard process that the coaches need to deliver on.
There were so many moving parts to this process that I was highly doubtful that anybody would handle such a workload and such a structure on a weekly cadence. So to be sure it was delivered correctly and to make the adjustments on the fly from week to week, I delivered the first two cohorts myself. Then I selected someone to hand it over to. To make sure people find out quickly.
If so what made you turn it around and do it anyway?
I always considered that if I had a way to quickly identify people with potential, I could inspire them enough to persist in a transformational journey that would open the doors to a better life for them. I wanted to reproduce the three sparks that turned me into a passionate, hard-working technologist and productize them for others to develop the same passion.
What’s your online course like?
There is a two-week selection sprint program called “Genesis” to allow participants to identify if a career in tech is really what they thought it would be and also to validate that the process is adapted for them.
Then they start “Odyssey” for a 14-week marathon. One theme per week for 14 weeks. No lectures, only hands-on exercises and access to valuable resources to figure out how to solve the problems presented and come up with a deliverable to be turned in at the end of the week.
There is an Introductory video of me presenting the subject of the week and giving keys and guidance on how to be successful.
The program is delivered in French and English.
Nobody graduated from the program while staying in their job. It’s a very intense program that requires a lot of dedication.
We recommend that the participants have a conversation with their loved ones and make a deal with them so they can focus and dedicate themselves to what will be a truly immersive experience.
How long did it take you to create your course?
I developed the program from scratch. It took me about eight months full-time to iterate against the sequence of themes, the introduction material, and the guidance to the coaches. I also researched the resources needed to solve the problems, the business immersion context to accompany each theme, and defined realistic yet challenging deliverables for each week. Finally, I came up with correction criteria, the scoring weights, and the complementary subjective scorecard process that the coaches need to deliver.
I did a brain dump at the first of my years as a CTO. After this, I was able to recognize the behaviors, personalities, and patterns among the hundreds of employees I worked with and the many leaders and stakeholders I interacted with. Then I identified the character traits and reflexes of successful collaborators. On the other hand, I also identified what prevents success in technology. After all that, I created the profile of the ideal digital-age developer.
I tailored my program to allow people to achieve that profile by balancing soft skills with hard technical skills.
Tell us a little about the process of launching your course and getting your first sale(s).
I was the guest on a tech segment during a weekly technology podcast for seven years, and I shared the project with 10,000 listeners for about two years. At first, I was trying to get entrepreneurs and followers of mine to seize the opportunity and take on the challenge, but it didn’t happen, so one day, I decided to do it myself and picked my home town of Quebec City to launch my program. So I left Silicon Valley for four years to develop the concept and launch the company with Co-Founder Nadya Fortier.
The first two cohorts were very much filled with listeners and followers from the Podcast years or their relatives in search of better careers or change in their lives. Everyone came with their own history, their own aspirations, and their own capabilities. And you could say that the participants of the first two cohorts, through their leap of faith in a new program, contributed to adjusting and perfecting the content, the pace, and the delivery of the training with the coaches.
Do you have a lead magnet?The entire training is at no charge until completion. In the end, a deferred tuition model has us invoice a tuition fee that equates to 20% of the first-year salary of the graduate who gets a job. - Nicolas Genest Click To Tweet
The only people paying for the training are the people successfully scoring a first job and jump-starting their career in tech.
That’s usually all we have to say to get people to register. Once they are registered, we have them go through an enrollment funnel. This leads them to understand exactly what they are getting themselves into. It also prepares them for the two-week-long selection program.
We have put together a great number of stories of the lives of graduates we changed. We try to show a wide variety of backgrounds and outcomes so that a greater number of people can relate to our value proposition.
What’s the traffic strategy that works best for you?
Buying Facebook traffic and YouTube video advertising used to be our preferred ways of getting registrations. It is no longer the case.
We also need to fight against the bad reputation other boot camps gave to accelerated training over the past years. Some lost their right to practice because of misrepresentations of their ability to train and the outcomes they were able to secure for their students. We need to fight this.
What online course platform are you using?
We developed a portal at CodeBoxx to manage and assist the journey of our participants from registration to graduation. Even all the way to placement and career management. Everything happens through that platform. We capture a variety of metrics to feed a power ranking. This is updated weekly to track the progress of our participants. Our program is designed to evaluate both the soft and the hard skills of the participant. We add together three different scores to make up their total score.
We track culture fit, soft skills, and of course, the technical and functional quality of participants’ deliverables over time. Every week, our coaches fill out scorecards and provide targeted feedback to a small subset of participants. These participants have been matched to them based on personality. For technical skills, we use a very explicit and binary correction grid. It is a very objective process as the requirements document given to every participant is precise and detailed. We use these exact requirements to distribute the points every week. Such consistency allows us to monitor and compare the performance of all of our cohorts over time.
Do you like it?
We own and control 100% of our education platform; it’s the most important asset we have.
Are there any features you wish it had?
We build any feature we need it to have. We employ our own graduates to iterate against our learning platform.
What made you decide to use your chosen platform over others?
As a CTO for over 15 years, I learned that you never outsource what makes up your DNA or what defines your purpose or competitive advantage in other people’s software.
What other tools do you use to run your online course business?
We Use Slack and Zoom along with Google Meet.
What books or training programs have you found useful on your journey to a successful business owner that others might find valuable too?
- 12 Rules for Life – Jordan Peterson
- Leonardo Da Vinci – Walter Isaacson
- Career Manifesto – Mike Steib
- 5 Dysfunctions of Teams – Patrick Lencioni
- ReBoot: My Five Life-Changing Mistakes and How I Have Moved On – Julie Wainwright
Do you have any big mistakes you’ve made along the way that you’d be willing to share?When things get bigger, surround yourself with competent people who are likely to understand and share your passion for the vision and mission of the company. - Nicolas Genest Click To Tweet
Don’t let yourself be sidetracked by individual agendas. Also, don’t allow personal ambitions to deviate your purpose and your pursuit of a better outcome.
Please share some idea of revenue.
At launch, the company made just a little over a Million in its first year. Last year, the company delivered a top line of 8 Million dollars. Most of it was generated by people who didn’t know how to write a single line of code the year before.
Please tell us a little about what the money you’ve earned from your course has done for you.
We have a great number of great graduate stories. Last year, the Quebec campus saw his first Graduate Millionnaire. He launched his own NFT marketplace, leveraging what he learned during the blockchain and crypto week of the program.
In addition to revenue are there any numbers you would like to share?
We passed the important milestone of 250 graduates on our way to 1,000 and have four campuses.
What has creating your course done for you personally?
Seeing my program still being delivered to this day. Seeing the number of lives it changes, staying in touch with those who have a better life for trusting the process is the greatest source of satisfaction in my career.
I have been the CTO of many successful companies and led many teams to achieve what was not considered possible. With these teams, I took on technology challenges that many turned down. I learned to do the hard things and not to shy away from complexity. But launching CodeBoxx and seeing the curriculum become bigger and more impactful is the single most important source of pride and satisfaction.