Portugal’s Newest Coding Bootcamp UmaHub Kicks Off In April 2018

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One of the main goals of UmaHub is to support more women to go into tech. Founder Elena Kolevska on how her 12-week coding bootcamp facilitates this and what participants can expect:

How would you describe UmaHub in a few words?

UmaHub is a new kind of programming bootcamp, having more human, more personal approach. We understand that learning to code is hard and it can be very overwhelming at times. That’s why we designed our program to be as empowering as possible for our students, divided into logical units giving them small rewards as they go. Another unique part to UmaHub is that we prepare our students for being part of distributed teams, working remotely.

How did you come up with the idea for UmaHub?

I discovered I liked teaching when I was in University and became a math and physics tutor to kids. It’s just so rewarding to see how content people are with themselves when they understand something that was previously confusing.

The second factor that pushed me towards this change was the huge shortage of good developers worldwide, even more, developers who speak business language. And finally, the third factor was my personal need for a change. After so many years in front of the computer, I was craving more human contact in my work. UmaHub is uniting all these things.

What are you focusing on with UmaHub?

The main thing we’re focusing on is, of course, turning people who’ve never coded before into professional developers. But teaching them the soft skills is right up there on our list together with coding. Communication is a skill that can and should be learned and even more so in distributed teams, made of people with different cultural backgrounds, scattered around the globe.

Personally, you’ve got 10 years of experience as a software engineer. What were your biggest learning points?

The obvious one is that, as a software engineer, you can’t stop learning ever. This industry is developing so fast, it’s almost impossible to keep up. But there’s one thing I learned that you don’t usually see in online guides, tips, and tricks: get a mentor! Choose a team with a good balance of junior and senior developers and get a senior developer to mentor you. In the perfect case scenario, the team leader would know this already and would assign you a senior from the moment you join their company.

UmaHub’s first bootcamp will start in April 2018 – what can you tell us about the program? What can participants expect?

It’s a 12-week full-time program for women and participants can expect a lot of hard work. But they can also expect to be guided and encouraged every step of the way, an atmosphere of support, sharing, sisterhood. Unlike many other bootcamps, we don’t think that coding should be the only thing in our lives during the bootcamp. Taking care of our bodies and the health of our group, as an entity, is equally important to us. That’s why we’ll have weekly surfing lessons and daily mindfulness practices (yoga, meditation, or simple walks on the beach). The students will usually have their weekends off, but we will encourage them to organize group activities themselves, as another exercise for team building.

You mention that you’ll screen and select candidates to make sure their knowledge and character are compatible with the rest of the group. What do you expect from participants?

We have so much to teach and only 12 weeks. That’s why we need to preselect candidates who would be compatible with each other in terms of both character and previous knowledge. We’ll try to facilitate that by a 4-week online pre-course after which, hopefully, all the candidates will be at the same starting line. However, I must be honest here and not sugar-coat anything: we expect the best version of our students. And with a little bit of luck and a lot of work, I expect them to discover a whole new best version of themselves.

Initiatives like Web Summit take different steps to encourage women in tech. How do your programs contribute to this situation and what do you think should be improved?

Yes, we want to stimulate more women to go into tech and came up with a few things to support that. For example, our first bootcamp is going to be for women only. Additionally, we have a 500€ scholarship for women on all upcoming courses. We also offer support for mums of young kids by helping them get a spot in local kindergartens and even have a kid-themed bootcamp (starting September 2018) where we will have 12 weeks of programming and co-living with our students and their kids, nurturing the collaborative and supportive spirit. The name “Uma” means “One” (feminine) after all.

I think that the number of women in tech and actually in leadership positions, in general, should be much higher because of the “female way”. Female leadership is different. It’s based on collaboration, not competition. It’s very interesting if you look at the animal kingdom you will see the concept of the alpha male repeating in different groups. But there’s no such thing as alpha female or at least none that I could find. Female groups usually work together towards a common goal, sharing tasks, responsibilities, and rewards. At UmaHub we want to firstly, recognize this and, secondly, build on it.

How would you describe Portugal’s startup scene and what can other European countries learn from it?

Oh, it’s booming! It’s sizzling with ideas, events, collaborations, new projects. I don’t know if that’s just me discovering the startup world, after living in my code for the last decade or something amazing that is really happening in Portugal. Maybe the sun, warm weather, amazing food, hospitable, intelligent and hard-working people are the right mix for a winning combination.

What advice would you give entrepreneurs for their startup?

If you want to start a business make sure you ask yourself why you want to do it. What’s the goal? Secondly, don’t be afraid or too proud to ask for help and guidance. Thirdly, ask for advisors; most people would be honored to be seen as an advisor and would love to help just because it feels good. Fourthly, find a support group with people from different areas of expertise, people who you can exchange knowledge and services with. It’s so much easier (and cheaper) when you have a group you can rely on for any question outside your domain.



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