S4E20: Projects and Portfolios: a Hands-on Approach to Learning to Code With Ashu Desai

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Ashu Desai is the founder of Make School, a computer science college in Silicon Valley that trains students for careers in software development.

After a childhood in Singapore and Hong Kong, Ashu moved to Silicon Valley at age 10, where he was bitten by the tech bug. He has been building apps since age 16 after getting involved in the computer science program at his high school and self-teaching coding languages.

Ashu attended college for a year, but didn’t find the focus practical enough, and dropped out to build his own projects. This experience is also what inspired him to found Make School, a product-based approach to learning that focuses on teaching real-world skills.

In our conversation, Ashu talks about the importance of a practical education, how Make School works, and tips for getting a job once you’re ready.

This episode was transcribed with the help of an AI transcription tool. Please forgive any typos.

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Laurence Bradford 1:17
In today's episode, I talk with our shoe designer, the founder of Make School. We talked about his experience building his first app at 16 why he dropped out of college and how to build a portfolio that stands out. The audio cuts out a little in this episode, but it's definitely worth listening to. Alright, let's get into it. Ashu Desai is the founder of make school, a college based in Silicon Valley that provides an alternative to a traditional computer science education. oshu has been building apps since high school and has spent his career teaching others to code.

Laurence Bradford 1:53
Hi Ashu. Thanks so much for coming on the show.

Ashu Desai 1:55
Hey, Laurence. Thanks for having me.

Laurence Bradford 1:57
I'm really excited to chat with you today and talk about your budget. Background how you got into tech, your college experience. And then what led you to create make school? So I want to start back in the beginning. And I know from doing some research on you that you got into tech initially at quite a young age. So I'm interested, how did you first find out about technology? What inspired you to explore it?

Ashu Desai 2:19
I grew up mostly living in Asia, in Singapore and Hong Kong. And when I was about 10 years old, my parents moved to Silicon Valley. And this was a really cool opportunity for me to explore more about what this area was like. And I was lucky to go to a high school where a lot of my friend's parents were venture capitalists or entrepreneurs. And my high school actually had a computer science program where there are a few levels of courses that you could take. So my software school started taking the AP Computer Science course. And this was a really exciting experience for me to take some of my passions for math, but also my passions for building and expressing my ideas, and that that's how I first got exposed to the language and From there, I started exploring after the summer after my junior year of high school, my mom was pushing me to look for some sort of job to get work experience. But I wasn't someone who was very keen on having a job. And so I convinced her that instead of getting a job, I would teach myself how to finance and spend that summer poring over some books on Objective C, which back then was the language to develop iPhone apps and trying to clone some popular flash games that I had been addicted to while in high school and poured them over to the iPhone.

Laurence Bradford 3:29
So what was your first app about like, what was the What was it?

Ashu Desai 3:34
The first app that I built was a Conway's Game of Life. It was a little clone of a game that students often build as one of their first exposures to computer science. The second act i built was a game called helicopter. And this was one that that had a bit more commercial success. And it was a clone of a flash game where you fly a helicopter up and down a cave of 40 pillars along the way. And it was really cool to end up having about 50,000 And people around the world downloading it and really excited to see something that I had built in the hands of real people and people writing reviews about the app saying that this is something that they enjoy playing every day.

Laurence Bradford 4:11
Wow. So when you were just 16 years old, that's really impressive. And you mentioned some of the things that you learned how were you learning them? Like, were you taking online courses? Was it through books? What what tools are you using?

Ashu Desai 4:23
There was some exposure to computer science through my high school and some of the peers and teachers that I had there. And beyond that, for the iPhone, languages and frameworks, specifically, it was primarily through books, as well as googling, and what anything that I couldn't figure out through the books back then there weren't too many iOS courses online. And and it was StackOverflow was a really strong resource where anytime I got stuck, or I had a bug, I would just take whatever error the ID was spitting out and stick it into Google and try to use that to debug the problems that I was having. Unfortunately, a lot more great resources out there out there to learn Back then it was a lot of a lot of trial by fire.

Laurence Bradford 5:03
So aside from iOS development, was there anything else early on that you dabbled with? So any other kinds of technologies or programming languages?

Ashu Desai 5:12
Yeah, the first one that I'd started to learn was, was basic on the TI 83 calculator, or just simple programs to try to not cheat, but make math a lot easier for me. And then Java was something I was taught in high school, which is commonly taught for the AP Computer Science class, and also started exploring web web languages. So trying to learn how to build websites for HTML, CSS, and then a little bit of JavaScript to make them a little more engaging.

Laurence Bradford 5:40
Nice. So we've talked a lot about your experience in high school, and you then went on to college. So what happened there?

Ashu Desai 5:48
Yeah, I went to UCLA to study computer science. And initially, I was really excited to be able to spend all of my time pouring into a subject matter that I was really passionate and excited about. But when I got to college, my expectations weren't necessarily met with the education that was delivered there. And I was really lucky that in high school, the last computer science class that I'd taken, the teacher was very encouraging students to build their own original projects, and try to create something that they was really exciting for them personally and that they can that they wished existed in the world. And and when I got to UCLA, most of my computer science classes were sitting in 100, or 150% lecture hall, studying for tests that we would write on paper for computer science, which felt a little broken, and then it didn't feel like I was learning that the things that I really want to be learning and so I ended up skipping class a lot, which I don't necessarily recommend others do.

Ashu Desai 6:42
And but I instead I would sit, sit in my dorm room and work on various projects. At the time, I was trying to build some hardware accessories for the iPhone, not like a Bluetooth game controller that turned the iPhone or the iPad into gaming console. And one of the especially tough things about the experience with that was I was mostly working alone in my dorm room. And I actually went to a few professors at UCLA to try to find help and try to find support around how to how to build this this device that I wanted to build and I was really turned away by the resources there in part because they didn't have very much experience in commercialization of either software or hardware products. And also the the professor recommended that I actually worked by myself that way you still I didn't take or try to take ownership over what I was building and so didn't feel very supported by the educational ecosystem there which is what prompted me to leave after a year.

Laurence Bradford 7:33
Yeah wow. So what how did you I'm just how did your parents feel about all this like you're in school for one year you were in your CS program, doing law things outside of this like were they supportive when you decided not to go back for the next year?

Ashu Desai 7:48
They it kind of mix back so they they come from a traditional Indian background and so education is something that's really really important for them at the same time, days. They also had been encouraging me to be very entrepreneurial through my entire life and realize that I had this passion and this excitement for, for building products and building software for people. And so I think they definitely wanted me to stay and finish my education. And sometimes they still ask me if I'm ever going to go back to school. But ultimately, they were supportive of me pursuing something that I was really passionate about and was working really hard towards. And I think initially when we also framed, framed the decision to leave school, it was not about dropping out of school entirely. And I think this is one of the misnomers that a lot of students have on the channel frustrated with their education. They kind of jumped from either I'm all in or I'm all out. But the way that we really framed it back then was let's take some time off school. And let's see how things go. If the growth in my career and my development is is the way that we'd like it to be, then I can stay, stay not going back to school, but if things don't go the way that we planned, then maybe it makes sense to go back to school.

Laurence Bradford 8:59
Yeah. I mean, that makes sense. It's one of those schools one of those things, you can pretty much always go go back to if that was your decision. Obviously, things have worked out well for you since leaving. So, so after. So after leaving school, what was like one of the first things that you did? or What were you doing to fill your time instead of, you know, going in class and all that?

Ashu Desai 9:22
Yeah. So after my first year at UCLA, I ended up interning at a company called route one, Inc, which was building educational iPhone games. And that was a great experience because I got to learn from a few experienced entrepreneurs who had built educational technology companies, and another who had been at Google from the very early days. And so that was a really great exposure to both startups as well as software development and provided me with much needed mentorship. And those the individuals who I worked for are still very influential to us this day. they've introduced us to a handful of our investors and are now running a company called Edmodo, which is one of the Biggest edtech companies as well. So being able to have that mentorship from from that experience was was really fortunate. And then after that internship, I ended up meeting up with my co founder, Jeremy gone to high school with me. And we had taken computer science classes together back then. And he had a very parallel path where he started building apps while he was at MIT, had some some success with his apps as well and felt felt like he had taken a lot of the classes that he wanted to take at MIT and wanted to now explore doing something that's a little more focused around bringing software to real people.

Ashu Desai 10:33
And so we started working together on a variety of projects started with building a few different iPhone games together. And then from there, we at some point realized that the experience of building apps was so influential to us as high schoolers where it both opened our eyes to what was possible with computer science that it wasn't just this hard, technical field, but it was actually something that allows students to express their creativity and explore and it also really set us up for potential careers. is where we had even in high school internship and job opportunities, because we had this app and we could show someone, here's what I built, maybe I can come to build this for you. And so we then started to think about let's teach other high school students who have some exposure to computer science but don't necessarily have that haven't really crossed over from the theoretical side, the actual practical side of building and shipping railroad products. And so we actually went back to our old high school as one of the first things we did as as the company make school. And we we taught the class and the class that we had met met in theory is back and taught to the students how to build iPhone games.

Laurence Bradford 11:39
Oh, wow. So like you really went full circle. So you ended up going back to the high school to teach Actos, the place you first learned, and I don't want to jump too far ahead. But today like how has make school evolved because I feel like you're not going to classrooms anymore high school classrooms to teach.

Ashu Desai 11:58
Yeah, I mean, we're not ourselves going to high school classrooms to teach where we are building high school or curriculum for high schoolers to use. So we still do a bit of that, but and the company's evolution from that classroom. It started there. The following summer, we invited 30 high school students into our living room to learn how to build apps. And that was the summer where our summer program was born. And so from from that 30 students in our living room, we expand the summer program to about 400 students across a few different cities in the US and a few in Asia. And that that program was was the first flagship program that we had it at make school where we really wanted to supplement the traditional theoretical education that students are getting in high school in college with the more practical software development, app building nature and it was really cool to see how students were getting amazing internship opportunities that summer after that, as well as feeling so empowered and excited about their education because for the first time, they had this education that really made them them feel like they could express a piece of themselves express their creativity and go out and build something that has value for people. And there's something that's so tangible about having an app that you can pull out your phone and show to your friends and say, Hey, I actually built this.

Ashu Desai 13:13
And that excitement and that that energy is really ultimately what what makes school is all about, and how can we bring that excitement in that energy and that empowerment to education. And the next evolution for the company was around the fall of 2014. And we started to think about what more we could build beyond just the SAR program. And there are a few different elements here on on the student side, we had these students who were feeling like they're falling in love with education for the first time in our summer program. They're feeling like they're learning more in two months at our summer program than in three years of college. And on the flip side, you have industry which is desperately trying to hire engineers and not feeling like college is preparing them for for the Wrights skills. So you have this big demand for for this modern, modern day skills from the 21st century economy. That's not the That by traditional education, and on the student side, you have this big disenfranchisement with traditional education. And also this worry of going into crippling debt, which is really, really taxing our generation. And we decided to say maybe maybe there's actually something else we can build here is problems to a larger scale than just just the summer program that you're running. And so started piloting what what is now our college started with a class of 11 students in a one year program. And now the college program is two full years where students who are coming right out of high school or have done a year or two of college and then jumping straight into the tech industry.

Laurence Bradford 14:37
Okay, so I definitely want to talk more about the the product college which you you sort of you ended up with, just now. And I would love for you to first come explain though, like, you guys have this product based approach to learning right? So like, what is that and like, what kind of things are the students going through the product college working on and also not to ask? 100 questions at once. It's a two year time period, which is quite, which is quite long, right? Like if you're looking at other coding boot camps in this space, a lot of them are only like 12 weeks. So what made you guys decide to have it be for two years?

Ashu Desai 15:13
Yeah. So I'll start with the last question and work backwards. The reason we decided to build it for two years is because we are looking at this like a college and not like trying to build some sort of boot camp where you learn very quickly. And the goal here is to really replace what that college education means for students and really design that college experience that we wish we had. So we do feel like college can be streamlined. I think it's a large ask I have people step out of the workforce for four years before they start earning and they start building. But at the same time, when you're taking 18 1920 year olds, who don't have a lot of the real world and are coming straight out of high school, they definitely need a substantial amount of time, both for their maturity on the technical side, but also in soft skills in terms of understanding more about the world and understanding how to be a good citizen. So there's a lot of content and curriculum that we build. That's more than just technical and more than just product based education. But it's soft skills. It's personal finance, it's a new trick, how to how to be an upstanding citizen. And there's also a lot around the community and the network that people expect from having this really social experience in college, they had to meet lots of interesting people and be in a supportive environment where they have strong mentorship and strong coaches, through their through their time. And so we really do look at this. Like look at this like college, there's a lot to say that we feel students need to learn before they're ready to go out into the world. And that's, that's how we ended up coming around to this to your timeframes.

Ashu Desai 16:40
What technical content Do we need to teach what soft skills we need to teach and how do we how do we blend those in in a reasonable time timeframe for students to learn now, education is not one size fits all. So it's definitely students who come in with with more experience or more more knowledge or expertise and they end up accelerating and being able to graduate earlier To integrate jobs and, and yeah, in terms of what the what the product based education and what what that looks like or what a day to day in the life of a product college student is like, and it's a combination. It's once students first start, it's more around structured courses covering computer science fundamentals and software engineering fundamentals. So this is where things will feel a little bit more like traditional classrooms, in high school or in colleges where we're really trying to just push in the basic, basic knowledge and understanding. And now once students are starting to pick up some of the some of the core fundamentals, on top of that, we start to layer projects that are primarily students coming up with their own ideas, and the knowledge, the tools, the tech that they've learned, and apply that to solving some sort of problem for people.

Ashu Desai 17:49
And so students will often say, hey, what problems do I have in my own life? What kind of apps do I wish existed? Or what kind of problems do does my family have or my friends have that I can actually use software to solve And then students will work either initially on their own and eventually in larger and larger teams and to try to build software to tackle those those problems. And for us, it's a lot of it is kind of about the agency and the flexibility to happen to be able to decide what you want to work on as a student, as well as as well as that that realness feeling like there's some sort of purpose to what you're building, because what you're building could actually be used by either yourself or real people in the world.

Laurence Bradford 18:26
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Laurence Bradford 20:25
Okay, so I have to ask Are people graded because I feel like one of the hallmarks Well, I guess there's a lot of hallmarks of like traditional university but of course, one of it is like getting grades and semesters and midterms and finals. Like, do you guys have any concept of that at the product college?

Ashu Desai 20:41
We have no grades and their tests. And I think this lends itself to some of the educational background that I had growing up and a lot of the modern education principles of the Montessori schools and, and derivatives of there, were actually we don't feel like those are the best way to evaluate students or to help students have achieve personal growth. And when we think about evaluating students, it's much more trying to draw parallels to what the workplace is like we're in the workplace, what you'll have is you and your, your manager will sit down and have concrete goals. Here are the kinds of things that you're looking to accomplish during the next three months, six months or a year. And here are the individual skills that you should be developing in order to be able to accomplish those goals better. And here are the types of projects that you can you should be doing in order to accomplish those goals better. And so similarly, we have coaches for every student will, once a week have a have a one on one with their coach, and they'll talk instead I that I mentioned where you'll make a roadmap and make a plan for yourself and make make a development plan for how you can become a better developer, how you can become a better communicator, how you can become a better professional.

Ashu Desai 21:47
And the way we evaluate students is more along the idea of rubrics where on a rubric you can you'll have different skill sets, some will be technical skill sets and some will be some will be soft skills around communication workout that or whatever that might be. And so instead of having a singular GPA or your number, that that's trying to measure a student's worth, we want to have this multi dimensional picture of who the student is, what skills, they're good at, where the movement and actually use those that that multidisciplinary, those, those kind of metrics to match them with companies that are looking for the kinds of engineers that they are. So imagine you're a front end focus, you're really great at design and thinking about users. But maybe you're not as great at back end and algorithms. There's a lot of companies who are looking for a company like Airbnb might be looking for front end engineers who have really good design sense and really good product sense. And that might be a good fit for you. Or if you're really great at back end things like machine learning and AI, then maybe we'll pair you like it with a company like Google who's doing more of that heavy algorithmic or prefers engineers of that of that sort. So yeah, trying to try to make it a little more multidisciplinary and a little more parallel to how the workplace evaluation and professional development.

Laurence Bradford 22:58
So it sounds like it's very personalized like with the example that you just gave of Oh, if someone's, you know, maybe better with like design and user experience and front end technologies, they can kind of pursue the front end path, whereas another person could pursue a back end path. So then do you guys not focus on just one tech stack? Can you teach like a whole range of tech stocks? Or how yeah, how does that work?

Ashu Desai 23:21
Well, you teach your range. So students can choose a specialization between web development on the front end web development on the back end or being a mobile developer. And so those are the major specializations. They're also minor specializations that that students can can think about. So if let's say they're interested in being a product manager in the future or being entrepreneur, there might be different classes that they take in supplement to their their standard sets of courses, or if they're really interested in data science or algorithms or machine learning. There are other classes that they can take to to kind of round out their core core concentration with some of the other pieces that they're interested in.

Laurence Bradford 23:57
Got it, so like for people going through the process. GRAEME, it really sounds to me more so like a replacement to college. So are most of the folks that you have coming? Are they in that age range? So like this 1718 to, let's say, like 2324? Or do you have folks that are, maybe in their later 20s 30s even, you know, 40s 50s whatever coming to the school?

Ashu Desai 24:21
About 80% of the students are under 25. So most of them are students who are doing this instead of a bachelor's program where they otherwise would be going to a traditional University, but instead they're trying to make school and the remaining 20% are older. So though, those are non traditional students, maybe they already have a bachelor's degree. Maybe some of them have bachelors in CS, but they want to shore up their their, their software engineering skills. And so it is a mix but definitely skews skewed heavily towards the under 25 kind of traditional college students.

Laurence Bradford 24:52
Gotcha. And then as far as like the breakdown with the people who have some college experience, so like maybe they went left like yourself for a year or two, and then they left school versus people who skipped college all together. I just went right to make school.

Ashu Desai 25:08
It's just about 40% who skipped college altogether and then 40% who have done where one or two years?

Laurence Bradford 25:13
Oh, wow. Okay, so that's a pretty that's a that's actually a larger number than I was expecting who skipped college, which actually makes me think of another question. Is a high school diploma, a prerequisite for med school?

Ashu Desai 25:25
It is a prerequisite. Occasionally, we have had students who are a little younger and feel very frustrated with their high school education as well. I think it's it's more rare to have students who are going to start thinking about that early. In that case, we do expect the students to get some sort of GED or take a test to get a GED prior prior to coming. We do feel that as well education can be can be quite important around that some some pieces and so do expect that for for prerequisites.

Laurence Bradford 25:53
Gotcha. Sorry. All this is really interesting to me. So, do you guys work or operate like a college in that there's Like this enrollment period, and everyone starts in September, or is it kind of more of like rolling admission and you kind of apply and start at your own cadence?

Ashu Desai 26:08
Yeah, admissions is rolling. So you can apply anytime, and we'll review your application within a couple weeks. And there, we do start courses all in September. And so if you were to apply now, you would have to wait, wait for a few months to get there. But if you we also have a lot of pre work available on our website. So if you're eager to get started, you can start learning from home, we have free courses online that you can take, and we can have, we can have some of our admissions team check in with you and help help you make progress against those and to help help accelerate your growth even prior to join. We've also experimented with a January start for students and so we'll see how that ends up going. And it's it's a nice way to get get a few more students, students in the door and a new and new injection of fresh energy and into the program. And I think we'll we'll see in the longer term how many students are entering In January start, some colleges do that sometimes you don't. So it really depends on whether whether a lot of students are excited about that.

Laurence Bradford 27:07
Okay, so you went through a bit of like the experience and what like the classes are like when people are learning and how they can specialize. And it sounds like towards the end, they're then paired up for an internship, right?

Ashu Desai 27:18
So we don't, we don't directly pair them up with companies but we help make introductions to to companies. And so we have a strong partner network companies like Facebook and LinkedIn and Lyft are all corporate partners where they come in they they have mentors who work with students while they're in the program. They send speakers, the students can come and go visit their offices, and they send recruiters to our demo nights, which is when students are presenting the projects they built to to industry. And then if students are are at the point where they've progressed enough on the rubrics to start, start applying for jobs, then we start recommending that you have different companies that we think are a good fit and the students will also apply to you Companies that they themselves want to want to work at, but maybe aren't in our partner network. And often we will have relationships with the companies that aren't in our partner in our formal partner network. And we can still back channel and put in a good word for for students as well. So they do some of the work in terms of job seeking. And we, we provide a lot of support as well, both in getting them ready with resume review and interviewing prep, but also by making connections to companies and back channeling to help them through the interview process.

Laurence Bradford 28:28
So I've read that you're a big believer in portfolios and how portfolios are more important than a resume. So what advice would you give someone who is just looking to start building their portfolio?

Ashu Desai 28:42
Yeah, the main thing I would say is find a project that you're really excited about. And find a project that either is something that you would use or your friends would use, and usually the difference between a great portfolio project and just a good one is one that has a really deep level of polished and thoughtfulness around not just the the core basic functionality, but how to go above and beyond then it's usually when someone is really passionate and excited about the specific thing that they're working on, that they're willing to go the extra mile and not just stop when they're 80%. Done but but spend that extra time in the last 20% always takes way more time than the than the early events. And so that's a really, really important piece as it's being excited about what you're working on will will motivate you and push you much harder than than you otherwise would be. And I would also recommend making whatever code that you're writing public on GitHub, and force.

Ashu Desai 29:37
And that way, when employers looking at your portfolio, they can not only look at the asset itself for the website, and they can play around with it, but they can also look at the back end code, because the back end code will tell you tell them a lot about how you think. Make sure you have good comments in the code. So it's nice, nicely formatted and well explained. Now those are those are signals that employers really use to evaluate how will you How will You work well in a team, how you communicate with others, and would also recommend writing some sort of technical blog post, where you talk about your experience building whatever product that you built, and talk, talk through some of your thought process. And that, again, explain some of your communication. And, and often it can dig a lot deeper into the thoughtfulness that you put behind whatever projects you've built. And because you can actually speak to the technologies you use, the decisions you made, and why you made the decisions. And then those are all usually quite good signals for employers.

Laurence Bradford 30:27
Oh, yeah, I love those tips that you just gave. So one of the questions that I get asked a lot, and I think a lot of listeners probably may feel this way when they're starting to think about a project to build and what should they build and, and you know what, what angle to take and I think your advice was really great, but I would love if you could give some examples of projects that you've seen maybe students students make that you thought were really successful or maybe it didn't have to be make school students, it could be someone else you know, in your network that made a really great like project when they are first starting out.

Ashu Desai 31:00
Yeah. I'll give one quick tip. Before jumping into examples. One thing that I see a lot of students do that I would recommend not doing is building projects that are very common things like a new photo sharing app or, or an app that you can take a photo of the food in your fridge, and I'll tell you what recipes you can build. So there's a lot of ideas like this that are really, really common then every every student has. Lots and lots of students have actually tried to build this, this kind of thing before. And the more unique your app is, and the more unique The idea is, the more likely you are to get get a really strong reaction. So some examples of really unique apps that I thought were cool. There's currently a team within within makes school which I'm coaching along with support from our engineering, engineering lead. And the the app is helping design software for rubrics for Mexico. So this is a really cool one since they feel both for make school as well as other educational institutions that use rubrics. They can build a really, really A great app for it. And there aren't really great apps out there already. And so this kind of shows that there's some depth of understanding of a problem and where the problem actually can can make some sort of substantial impact in this case, education.

Ashu Desai 32:13
Another example of an app that that I've seen, which was really cool from one of our alums is, it's an both an app as well as a hardware, a little lens that you put on the on the camera, and you can actually take a picture of your eye. And and what the app will do is it'll then blow up the picture of your eye and actually scan for signs of unhealthiness from the eye as well. So this is actually something that the technology behind like scanning for unhealthiness is not really that complicated. It's being able to actually just analyze what that what the eye looks like. But at the same time, it's such a unique idea because not a lot of people have thought about this and you have to have some understanding about some field outside of computer science to be able to get to this idea, having spent some time the students specifically had spent some time in a research lab and with with with some doctors, and that's how he came up with that idea. And so the really unique ones are usually when you take, take some idea that's impactful in something that's very non computing related, whether it's in health or in food or in farming or something that's totally, totally unique, and then pulling in how can I actually build technology to go and solve this problem in this space where not a lot of software engineers are thinking about or are looking at and so yeah, pick pick something, pick something unique, and that often helps.

Laurence Bradford 33:32
Yeah, hundred percent. I really love all that advice that you gave. Okay, so with these examples, those sound awesome, especially the last one with the with the island scan. So you imagine the students spent quite a long amount of time working on this project. What happens then at the end, like do they just kind of let the project is it just kind of there on their GitHub is it's still out there in the world, like are people using it or maybe maybe they got a job like related did to you know, in for the last example in like health tech or something, and now they're working on something similar?

Ashu Desai 34:06
What kind of, yeah, it's a complete mix. So some students will build something. And there will be a handful people using it, and they continue to use it and they'll continue to make updates over time, some students will try to make it really big and try to turn it into a company and and some students will will try to use it to as a portfolio project as a showcase that will help them get a job and so it's really up to the student. It's how passionate are you about what you're building? I think there's those sometimes it's a tough decision, right? Because you can get caught up in one project and just work on that and and it kind of limits your your ability to explore different technologies and different ideas. And so in general, I would encourage people to play around with a few different ideas and a few different projects. And if there's one that really captures your thoughts captures your, your heart and your your energy. And also it seems like there are real people out there using it and you can always track engagement. You can put analytics into your app to see how many for downloading it how many people are using it every day. And if you do see some sort of uptake and people downloading and using it, and then maybe that's a that's a signal to to invest more time in it. But even if you're just building as a portfolio piece, it can be really, really helpful. And, and definitely companies that are building apps that are similar to similar to the app that you've built, is usually they look at that as a good signal. So if you want to go work, work at a company that's building health tech apps, then maybe you should build a simple, simple health tech app yourself and that will give you a leg up when interviewing that company.

Laurence Bradford 35:28
Yeah, yeah. I love that advice. I always try to tell people that like what you put it I think much better than I usually say but I usually say if you know you want to work in a certain industry or the certain kind of products like build a project a for your portfolio that aids with that industry, and it goes hand in hand that industry so like the example you said the health tech or if you knew you want to work for a company like seamless or grubhub that helps make food delivery better right building something related to that. We definitely catch the attention of the folks working at those companies. So I really I really like that advice. So thank you so much I shoe for coming on the show again. It was a pleasure to talk to you and hear more about make school and about building a good portfolio and your background of course. Lastly, where can people find you online?

Ashu Desai 36:20
Yeah, the best place to find me online is on Facebook. You can find me on facebook.com/desaiashu and I post regular updates both by the company and and other fun stuff on there.

Laurence Bradford 36:30
Awesome. Thanks again for coming on.

Ashu Desai 36:32
Thank you so much, Laurence.

Laurence Bradford 36:39
If you want to start a career in the tech industry, a high quality portfolio is a must. But putting one together is one of the toughest things for new developers and others breaking into tech. What should you say? What should you include? What should you leave out? I know how tough it can be to work out what to add to your portfolio. Especially when you do don't have much direct experience. That's why I create a free course to help you build a portfolio from scratch that shines. If you want to get into tech sign up for my free portfolio course at learntocode with.me/free-portfolio-course. So free portfolio course, all spelled out with dashes in between each word. I hope you find this course helpful. Thanks for joining me today and have a great rest of the week.

Key takeaways:

  • College isn’t always the best way to learn coding. Hands-on learning is much more valuable than theory. Build your own projects and learn by doing, or attend a coding-specific school based on real-world skills.
  • Having a portfolio is more important than a resume when you’re looking for jobs. Companies want to see real examples of what you can do. And the more unique your portfolio projects are, the more interested they’ll be.
  • The most unique ideas are ones that are impactful in industries besides tech, like farming, health etc. Identify a problem and use tech to solve it.

Links and mentions from the episode:

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