Treehouse Lab at Twitter NeighborNest: fostering coding for all

Monday, 31 October 2016

Over the last eight weeks, Twitter NeighborNest and Bay Area Video Coalition (@BAVC) have been helping new learners from the Tenderloin, South of Market and the Mission District to gain free access to get a handle on the basics of coding. The idea for this collaboration came as a suggestion from the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (@sfoewd). They were interested in helping new learners to get free access to coding resources in the hopes that they will achieve the required technical competence to get placed in the TechSF city scholarship program. The TechSF scholarship provides Bay Area individuals with advanced technical training, career counseling and job placement support at absolutely no personal cost. To date, the scholarship program has placed over 1,000 people in tech jobs over the last 4 years.

For the first eight weeks, the Treehouse Cohort (named after the online learning platform “Team Treehouse”) worked diligently on mastering HTML, CSS, jQuery and other technical languages with the support of their tutor, Matt Rodigheri. The group was comprised of 11 individuals aged between 21-65, all of which came from a variety of professional backgrounds. The only prerequisite for acceptance was a strong passion for learning the fundamentals of coding.

Twitter supplied the cohort with the essentials: Treehouse licenses, a quiet, learning-focused space, computer access, and of course, a steady supply of hot coffee and snacks. Twitter engineers also volunteered their time to speak with the class, chatting openly and honestly about their personal career path, including what led them to a job in tech.

Out of all the labs hosted in San Francisco, the NeighborNest cohort model has proven to be the most effective way to help new learners to prepare to take their next career step. BAVC has found that when people learn as a close-knit cohort, they get to know each other, they can share out their learning tips and they can organically develop a sense of camaraderie with their fellow classmates. They are not just learning online by themselves but gaining a cohesive support network in the process.

These hard-working individuals are now learning the basics of web development and one of them has even created a mobile app for a friend’s business. One learner expressed that, “because we have an environment like the NeighborNest, that is welcoming, quiet, communal, and with a set lab schedule, we are able to focus and learn at a faster rate than if they were working on our own.” Another added, “I don’t have computer access at home so having a place to come and access computers and the internet is so important for my personal progress.”

Twitter treated the cohort to lunch and a tour of its headquarters after 8 weeks of hard work. The NeighborNest and Bay Area Video Coalition have decided that the cohorts progress should continue. As such, Twitter is extending the classes for another 6 weeks (14 weeks in total) and added some new members! When the Treehouse cohort graduate ends in mid-November, perhaps San Francisco will have some new individuals prepared to enter advanced training and to pursue exciting new careers that seemed unimaginable just five months ago.