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Closing the Skills Gap

Derek Lo  •  December 22, 2017  •  Recruiting

Over the last year alone Py, has built a community of over 500,000 programmers. It has been our longstanding vision to lower the barrier to entry for CS education. We offer a series of courses and resources for aspiring engineers and veter coders alike to learn new skills. Over the last year, we've engaged with thousands of our users from all backgrounds and walks of life to learn about their interests in tech, and personal reasons for using Py. Here's are some of the things we've learned:


Our Users

We love to hear what our users think about our app, why they're using it, what their usage patterns are, etc. We've discovered that Py is replacing the spare moments in people's day with learning! We've heard stories of people using Py all over the place, from their train ride to work or while out on their lunch break. People use Py everywhere and at all times of day. One thing that unifies many of them, however, is that they use Py for something career related. In fact, 65% of our users told us that they were learning with Py to either move into a new job or improve in their existing career path. It was exciting to understand people's motivation for learning, and it made sense to us; learning how to code can completely alter your career path!

We also learned that many of our users actually already had at least 1 full year of coding experience. In fact, 36% of our users have at least 1 year of programming experience prior to downloading Py.

We found that many of them already knew one language or framework, but wanted to brush up in a completely new technology. This led us to build more advanced content into the platform to cater to these more advanced users! But with the introduction of more difficult material, we found that some learners would get stuck by starting material that was not at their skill level. To solve this problem and maintain a high quality experience for our users, we introduced a skill test into the app that could help personalize curriculum to individual users based on their prior skill.

Thousands of users completed the skill test. The users in the top 3% aced the test and were clearly people with at least some amount of prior programming experience. We wanted to find out more about these top users. Were they employed? Were they actively seeking new opportunities? The answer is that most were already employed and not actively seeking new opportunities, but were open to checking out positions at other companies if something interesting happened to pop up on their radar. We realized that this exactly describes what a passive candidate is. And passive candidates are like gold to recruiters, since the most in-demand people typically don't have any problems landing jobs, and therefore are rarely actively applying to them. This led us to our next question: could we match any of our top users, some of whom were passive candidates and some not, with top tech companies?


Get Hired!

We ran this experiment for 2 months. Within Py, we presented a screen to the users who performed in the top 3% on our skills test that asked if they were interested in checking out job opportunities. If they answered yes, we invited them to send us their resume via email to get in touch with them. We interviewed almost every single one of these people, using their resume only as a way to get additional background information about them, not as a screening tool.

During our experiment, we matched 2 Py users with job opportunities at exciting Y Combinator-backed startups Skymind and Modular Science! This is exciting for us, and has proven that our experiment could have potential as a longer-term monetization strategy for our business, which will help us keep our education curriculum as free as possible. This is an early sign that alternative means of thriving as a business may exist, without charging exorbitant prices for the education.

We've learned a lot about our users. They come from all across the world, have varying levels of prior programming experience and are predominantly using Py to improve their career. Whether or not this placement strategy will be successful long-term, it has been a very cool experiment to run thus far, and we've gotten real people real jobs!

To check out our learn-to-code app, click here! If you're a company interested in hiring talent, we'd love to get in touch with you.