Ubiqum: an interview with Sebastián Barajas
Barna Hub: Start your career in tech
As the demand for developers increases all over the world, many of us dream of pursuing a career in tech. But what if we can’t just disappear from our lives for four years to get a degree in computer science? According to Sebastián Barajas, Founder and CEO at Ubiqum code academy, such a switch can be made in three to five months. We spoke about the flaws of the education system, the methodology that Ubiqum has chosen to train people in sought-after professional skills and what’s next for code academies.
140 character pitch
We use a project-based methodology to train people in high-demand professional skills (web development and data analytics) in 3-5 months.
Down to business
The traditional education system is completely obsolete. Lectures, subjects and exams, which are the pillars of this system and have been for 400 years, make no sense in the 21st century.
In your book Aprender es hacer, you talk about the traditional education system and why it’s not serving the needs of our society.
In my book, I compare the education system to the automotive industry. The automotive industry has had three big revolutions. It has gone through huge changes thanks to entrepreneurs, innovation and competition. But in education, a system that has its roots in the monasteries of the Middle Ages, nothing has fundamentally changed in the last 150 years. It’s an inflexible system that does not allow for innovation. This is mostly due to regulation and the involvement of many different players and their interests, mostly governments and unions.
There is a huge gap between what the education system does and what the real needs of our society are. Schools and universities do not prepare students for the demands of the real world. Teachers, who are academics, can only teach people to become academics, not professionals. And a university degree is no longer a guarantee for a job.
How are coding academies different? What is it that allows you to be innovative in the education space?
The reason why we are able to innovate is that in these professions, in technology, there is very little regulation because it’s all very new. Everything is changing really fast, and there’s a lot of demand for tech professionals. The companies that are hiring developers don’t care where they come from. If they pass the technical test, showing they have the minimum required skills to DO the job, they’re hired.
How does Ubiqum prepare students for ‘the real world’?
The only real source of knowledge is practice and experience. Our students start coding from day one, working on real projects in well-organised, simple steps. We use the apprenticeship model, so we work with mentors. There are no formal lectures, no graded exams and no teachers, just practical, project-based learning.
Everything that we do is for high-quality employment: we train highly sophisticated skills in a practical way and a short amount of time.
By the end of the programme, the students have already done something and they know how to do it. They don’t just talk about being able to do it. That’s what makes it different from a university programme.
What is the typical profile of your students?
They are mostly job changers, 27 years old on average and with a university degree who are bored, unfulfilled and not living to their full potential. They want to start a career in tech and they don’t have four years to complete another theoretical degree (which they don’t even need in order to get a job).
How do you think the role of coding academies will change in the future? What’s next for Ubiqum?
The market for accelerated learning programmes will grow in the next ten years. Traditional roles are disappearing, companies are going through a digital transformation and they need to hire people with technical skills.
One way to reskill people is to work with individuals like we’re doing now at the coding academy. Another way is to enter partnerships with companies who want to do the same internally and reskill their employees so they don’t have to fire them. This is something that we’d like to do in the future.
Maybe we will broaden our practice. Now we are in software development and data analytics, but in the future, we might move into other areas like internet security and digital business. In the US, this trend is already happening. Universities will never cover these skills.
Will you break into the market of fresh high-school graduates, as well?
In time, yes. Parents are still pushing their children to go to university, but degrees are slowly losing their prestige.
Huge corporations like Google have publicly declared that they’re no longer asking for university degrees when hiring. This doesn’t mean that they don’t value degrees, it just means that they don’t require them.
Actually, we’ve just received a call from a parent who has a 17-year-old son who doesn’t want to go to university and a 22-year-old daughter who has just finished her degree in, let’s say, liberal arts, and hasn’t been able to find a job. She wanted to find out more about our programmes because she’s thinking about enrolling them both.