Albrey Brown – Founder of Telegraph Academy

Albrey Brown, is a Berkeley native who does not take ‘No’ for an answer. He was rejected on his first attempt to apply to Hack Reactor and went on to become a founder of a top coding bootcamp called Telegraph Academy. Most importantly, he found love for teaching students how to learn how to code and has helped hundreds of students find jobs in technology. Although he never graduated from college, he always knew that he was going to be a teacher. He grew up in a single family home where his mom raised him to become the man who he is today.

Years in Tech3
Grew UpBerkeley, CA
Current JobEngineer, Founder
Date Recorded7/17/2016

Key Points:

  • When you’re learning a new skill, it’s good to have resources (see below), but try to find someone to double check if you’re doing the steps “correctly”
  • Top Coding Bootcamps need to be more accessible and there are resources like Telegraph Prep and Climb that are working to democratize this form of coding education
  • You’re always going to find another bug (another hill to climb, a new algorithm problem) so don’t be afraid of that. Take risks.
  • Mentorship comes through various channels. If someone invests time into helping you, the best thing that you can do is succeed.
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Show Notes (focus on the Stepping Stones):

[1:12] – Albrey grew up in Berkeley, CA in a single family home with his mother and his aunt. He had no idea of what a startup was.

[2:34] What was he passionate about? Basketball, English, Writing, but he was a “bad student”

[3:15] Albrey’s mother got diagnosed with Cancer during his sophomore year and he took a couple of years off after he graduated high school (never graduated college)

[3:39] He started a business, wasn’t passionate about it, and shut it down

[4:28] Decided to learn how to code and talks about how he met his developer friends

[5:32] Beginner Resources – What resources did you use to learn how to code? First, a mentor. Then, he started with The Odin Projectand Learn Ruby the Hard Way. This is a great way to try coding regardless of if you want to attent a coding bootcamp.

[6:35] What was your motivation to learning how to code?

[7:37] Listen to your gut and common themes from feedback that you get from people that you respect / aspire to be – Why did you start a school? His teacher, pulled him aside to tell him that he was going to be a teacher, even though he always thought he was going to go to the NBA. His teacher said No, you have what it takes to teach and you are going to be a teacher.

[8:39] Why did you decide not to go to college

[10:47] What led you to choose Hack Reactor instead of all the other bootcamps like App Academy or Dev Bootcamp?

[11:52] How did you prepare for Hack Reactor’s Interview Process?

[13:38] Figure out what you don’t know – What didn’t you know before the interview process? He didn’t know that he had not mastered Javascript. You have to know a language before going to a coding bootcamp. He didn’t know what the bar is. The system is built for you to go in and fail during the interview so that you are humbled by the process and understand what you need to work on. So he didn’t know whether he was ready or not

[15:10] Don’t let money stop you from acquiring a new skill – How did you pay for your tuition ($18,000)? When he passed his interview and got accepted into Hack Reactor he needed to figure out how to pay tuition. He had no more money and used a crowdfunding platform called GoFundMe to raise $18,000 in 30 days.

[17:40] What is an HIR (Hacker In Residence)?

[18:19] Tell us more about the Bootcamp Model as a new model for education

[19:06] What makes Telegraph Academy different from all of the other Bootcamps?

[21:40] Take a Bootcamp Preparation Program if you are starting from scratch and need someone to guide you – What is Telegraph Prep? Telegraph Prep is a 6 week program that gets your ready for any Bootcamp. You are not bound to go to Telegraph Academy once you finish the Telegraph Prep program.

[22:22] Figure out the financing packages that are available – What financing packages are available at Telegraph Academy? Climb, WeFinance

[24:58] What are some of the outcomes for Telegraph Academy? 7 cohorts so far; 8 started in July. 44 Graduates. 95% received a job within 6 months. 85% received a job within 3 months. Calculated using the Standard Student Outcome Methodology (SSOM). The types of companies Telegraph Academy graduates have joined include Google, Accenture, and others. They are also the first bootcamp to place a grad at 99 Designs.

[26:17] What do the demographics look like at Telegraph Academy? Telegraph Academy is 60% underrepresented people of color. Telegraph Prep is much higher at 75% underrepresented people of color. Women and Gender Non-Binary is 30%. They are working on getting those numbers much higher.

[27:15] Tell us more about your Partnerships and the reaction you’ve gotten. Tech Hire Initiative (White House), Reactor Core, Climb, and companies to develop an actual pipeline program to address this diversity issue head o

[29:00] How did you put this all together? He is a big advocate of taking the road less traveled. Family members and others told him not to do it, but that motivated him to do it more. He is irrational and is all about taking risks. He didn’t grow up with money and knows how to live off of $300 if need be.

[30:40] What do you have planned for the future? Thoughts on education in general? He thinks there are a couple of different directions that Telegraph Academy can take in the near future: 1. Directly address the Pipeline Problem by focusing more resources on Career Transitioners vs. kids at first 2. Manageable Coding Education for Professional Football Players (4 years vs. 3 months)

[33:37] The Lightning Round
1. How would you get back to this point in your career if you were dropped into a new city with only $100? (assuming your food and shelter is taken care of)

  • Become a Lyft or Uber Driver to get a car (here’s the Uber option), make money, learn about your city, and meet people

2. When you ran into roadblocks or struggles, was there any piece of music or a movie that you watched that helped you get over that situation?

3. Looking back, what is one piece of advice that you would give to someone now that you’ve been through this journey?

  • The best resource that you can have is a mentor

4. Have you been able to speak with anyone that Sponsored your GoFundMe now that you have executed on your promise to start a school?

  • Yes; His cousin Brian Tippens, who never told him what he did when he originally contributed. Now that Albrey reconnected with him after the launch of Telegraph Academy, he just realized Brian is the Head of Diversity

Full Transcript: 

Ruben: Growing up we’re told that in order to be successful, you need to be a banker, a doctor, or a lawyer. That’s what the gatekeepers want you to think. But we’re a part of something bigger. We’re part of a technological revolution. Either you’re at the table or on the table. Getting eaten. 10X.

Yo, yo, yo, this is Ruben Harris, I’m here with the homies Artur and Timur Meyster and this is the Breaking Into Startups Podcast. Timur, can you please tell the people what we’re doing today?

Timur: Yea. So today, it’s Sunday morning. A lot of people are out getting brunch but we’re here at Telegraph Academy with a very special guest about to talk on how to break into startups.

Artur: Yeah, and today we have a super special guest Albrey Brown, who’s the co-founder of Telegraph Academy. Before that, he was a Hack Reactor grad and even before that, he’s a serial entrepreneur. He’s done a lot of business ventures, grew up in Berkeley. So before we jump into your life story, tell us where you got started and what was your childhood like?

Albrey: Yeah, definitely. First and foremost, thank you guys for having me on the show. I’ve been seeing you guys grind for a very, very long time and it’s great to see your dreams kind of coming into fruition.

I grew up in Berkeley, California, about 15 minutes away from San Francisco. It’s funny when you talk to people from outside of the Bay Area, all they really know of is SF. And so, 15 minutes away, we have really good food. We were the first people to start organic and artisan. So Berkeley, CA, look it up. But born and raised 25 years there. It’s very, very close to Oakland which holds my heart as well, a new tech hub that’s coming up.

As a kid, I went from public school to private school back to public school when it came to high school. I grew up in a single family home with my mom and my aunt. They really put a lot of work towards making me the man I am today. And like I was saying before we started the podcast, coming up, nobody even really knew what tech was. Nobody really knew what a startup was. When did that statement even like start, right? This is a startup, now everything is a startup, right? And we didn’t really see Silicon Valley or even San Francisco as one of the places that was going to be the new hub, seeing these changes over the last 15 years have been pretty incredible. When I was in high school, I took a couple computer science classes and never really felt it was for me. I don’t know if you guys have taken any come up but it was like very boring Java classes. I mean I never really got into actually building anything. So not a lot of exposure to tech coming up but somehow I found it and that’s what kind of brought me here today.

Timur: Amazing, So tell us a little bit more about what you did in high school, what were your passions? When you were looking at the world back when you were sixteen, seventeen, what did you want to do when you grew up?

Albrey: Yeah, I mean first and foremost, I wanted to be a hooper. I feel like everybody who could dribble a basketball, wanted to be in NBA. So I spent four years playing basketball, like I said, took a couple computer science classes, mostly was like English, speaking, writing, those type of things are really my passion and as I was going through high school, I was like pretty much a struggling student. Very, very intelligent by what they told me, but I was lackadaisical in the work that I wanted to do. So I wasn’t the best student at all, also went through some things where my mom got diagnosed with cancer in my Sophomore year. All she asked for was to see me graduating. By the end of it, I got to speak at my graduation which was pretty huge.

So with that, after I got out of high school, I kind of took a couple of years off. I was like kind of going through it after my mom passed and didn’t really know what the next step was. And I decided to start a business and that business was basically what, you know Google Now, the application, it basically can tell you everything about your life, right? So we were building this application that will plug into your calendar and then learn about things that you do on a weekly basis and when you didn’t have something to do, we would know what you like and what your schedule was so we could suggest things within your calendar. I spent like nine months being the head of product for that startup, spent a lot of money and a lot of time. And then we just realized that one, the passion for it was…we kind of lost it. We’ve been sitting on the product for so long and not telling anybody about it for so long and then when we put it out, we were like, “Wow! This isn’t what we thought it was going to be.” We thought we were going to make a billion the first day and it didn’t. It was a little bit disheartening.

So after that, I decided to learn how to code. I’d worked with four developers up until then and they were writing in Ruby on Rails and they were like, “Hey, how about you just learn how to do this.” So that was my first foray into serious programming.

Ruben: Yeah, and how did you meet those developers, initially, to build that first product?

Albrey: Yeah, like I said, I was a serial entrepreneur so when I had started to build this application called Piqd, we brought on a CTO who was doing Ruby and then he had, three other developer friends, basically work under him. He was managing them. So we worked very closely on the product every single day and I got to see them just basically type up some, what was gibberish at that time and then show something on the screen or show something in the database, which was like magic to me until you realize it’s just a language. You’re just like directing the computer as to what it needs to do. So I was afforded the opportunity after the venture ended to get some tutoring. They sent me a lot of resources for Ruby and then I ended up meeting my current co-founder, Bianca, who taught me JavaScript.

Artur: Awesome. Can you tell us a little bit about those resources that they pointed you to?

Albrey: Yeah, actually a lot of them are deprecated now. I feel like the things are moving so quickly in terms of EdTech when it comes to learning how to code. But there was The Odin Project. I know that’s still around. Ruby on Rails. That’s another one that’s pretty good. But I think out of all of the resources that I had, the best one was just having a mentor. Like, just having someone there who can get you past like wanting to throw your computer and with any new skill, if you want to learn how to, I don’t know, you guys do salsa dancing, right? So you guys are out there. Having someone to tell you whether you’re doing the steps correctly, having someone to tell you how to direct someone else really accelerate your learning is hugely beneficial. So no matter what resource I was using as long as I had somebody to hit up and be like, “Hey, I ran into this problem,” and they could quickly get me to think about it in a different way, that was the best thing I ever had.

Timur: Cool. So what was your motivation for learning how to code? Did you want to become a software engineer or gain the skill set to build your next venture?

Albrey: Well, it’s kind of both. I mean there’s no downside to learning how to code. That’s what I’m realizing more and more. Not only…I’ll be honest with you guys, like the real, real. I saw that if you go to a bootcamp, you make $105,000 at the end. And I was like, “Oh, I’m sold.” At the end of the day, that was the main motivation, being able to sell skills to be able to make money and then I think that my general philosophy is if everyone had money, we would all be just more free to do the things that we want to do. And I saw software engineering as a way for me to create freedom for myself. And then I wouldn’t have to think like, “Today, do I want to work on my startup?” or “Today, do I want to go get brunch?” I could just do those things. So I saw it as a pathway towards freedom. And as I started learning more about programming, I started enjoying it more and wanting to follow the profession of coding.

But I think deep, deep down inside, what I always knew was that I was going to become a teacher. I was going to become an educator. When I was in eleventh grade, I had a teacher named Mr. Carlton and like I said, I wasn’t the best student. It’s in AP English and he pulls me aside one day and he’s like, “I just want to let you know, one day you’re going to be a teacher.” And I was like, “First of all, I’m about to be in the league. I might be teaching you how to get these buckets.”  But he was like, “No, you have it. You are a teacher. You’re somebody who likes to explain things and get your point across, etc.” And as I started to learn how to code and also teach people how to code at the same time, I kind of always knew that I would be either running a school or doing some sort of educational piece.

Ruben: That’s awesome. So given that you had gotten that piece of advice and you’re thinking about getting ready to learn how to code, was your mentor the one that told you to either choose between the bootcamp or going to college or did you just come to that decision on your own?

Albrey: Yeah, well, I kind of have a biased opinion on college in general in terms of return on investment. I could go through all of the different research that I’ve done but at the end of the day, if you look at how much college costs versus what you get afterward in terms of can you get the investment of the thing you graduate with. It doesn’t really stack up to what you get out of the bootcamp. I know it’s a small sample size like $17,000, three months, 105K, it’s only really served probably…You can think about within the Hack Reactor network at least about 2,000 students. College itself usually costs around $100,000 over a four-year period and the average college student makes about $52,000 coming out. So that 100K that you just invested, if you didn’t have to pay for taxes, food, and apartment, things like that, it would probably still take you about two years to pay that off; whereas a bootcamp is just, I think has more bang for your buck. So when I ended up doing the math and ended up doing the research, it just made more sense to me. Just take a chance on a bootcamp even if they were new and the sample size was low. So it was kind of a no-brainer to me, which I realize is not how everybody thinks about it.

Timur: And I love the fact that you’re real with us. You told us, “Listen, $105,000 after three months, sounds like a great deal.” I know, for me, that was also one of the motivating factors. And on top of it, for our listeners, when you do start your job as a software engineer, you’re going to be getting paid to learn more. So your journey of learning how to code doesn’t stop with you getting a job. It is one of those jobs where once you’re in, you’re basically growing and becoming more experienced. You’re learning about all these technologies and at the same time, you’re getting paid pretty well to do so. So I think in terms of career paths, it’s definitely one of those that could set you up for a huge successful career. A question for you, in terms of deciding which bootcamp you wanted to do. You mentioned you started learning Ruby. There’s a bunch of bootcamps out there that focus on Ruby and then Hack Reactor does JavaScript, what kind of led you to pick Hack Reactor versus all the other bootcamps?

Albrey: Yeah, definitely. I think I had someone in my corner who was a Hack Reactor grad. Her name is Bianca. She helped start Telegraph Academy. Actually, it was kind of a full circle moment. But when I first looked up bootcamps in general, it was hard to see that actually working. It was hard to see 3 months, $105K, and say, I could actually do that or this is not a scam or something like that. But I had been also working with Bianca who had just graduated and just gotten a job in that range for that amount of money and after that amount of time. So for me, it was more of a referral thing. I didn’t really have any other choice that I was so closely tied to. Some would say I should have done more research and reached out to more people but I feel like it turned out pretty well.

Ruben: Yeah, so you got into Hack Reactor. What was that experience like? Was it a breeze? Was it anything unexpected?

Albrey: Again, I also had never really had a professional interview experience in terms of, like I have been a personal trainer for a while and then I ended up trying to start a company and then I wanted to get into Hack Reactor. So the interview process was scary and since then I had no idea what to expect. And I think it’s funny because at a bootcamp, we’ll teach you how to not game the system, but get used to interviewing for companies. But there should be something that gets you ready for the interview at bootcamps because it’s the exact same thing. It’s the exact same thing. And the thing that really holds you back is not really knowing what’s going to be on that test.

So when I went in for those interviews, it was very difficult in terms of culture shock, in terms of not really knowing what to expect but if you know what you know and you know the language really well, then it doesn’t really hold you back. In fact, I’d tanked my first interview. I totally tanked and the person interviewing me, I won’t say who, was like, “Hey, you’ve got to come back in three months.” And I was like, “No.” She was like, “What do you mean, no?” I was like, “I’m not coming back in three months. I’m going to come back next week.” And she was like, “That’s not how the interview process works.” And I was like, “Well, this is what I know.”  I said, “I know that you guys want people like me at this school and I know that you guys want people who are going to hustle and grind to make it in here. So how about we put the interview next week and I promise you, I’m going to come in here and kill the interview.”  And she was like, “Well, I’ve never heard that response before. So yeah, how about we do it?” So she emailed me a secret interview link, she said, “Don’t tell anybody about this.” And the next week, I came in and I made it past the interview.

Artur: That’s amazing.

Ruben: And it sounds like through that initial rejection, you realized what you don’t know. And so can you talk a little bit about what you didn’t know to prepare to get into those things?

Albrey: Yeah, I think that I didn’t know that I had not mastered JavaScript. To get into a coding bootcamp, a lot of people think that coding bootcamps teach you a language but that’s not actually true. You have to know a language before you go into a coding bootcamp so we can use that to teach you the rest of everything else. So without having a barometer, without having somebody to tell you what the bar is, it’s very difficult to feel yourself at that bar. The system is actually kind of built to have you go in and fail the first time and be humbled by the experience. We’re not going to tell you what’s on the interview. Come in with your own level of where you think you are. If you make it fine. If you don’t, we’re not going to reject you. We’re going to say, you need to work on this, this, and this.

So what I would say is because the interview is changing all the time and what I didn’t know was whether I was ready or not. And what I didn’t know was whether I was a JavaScript master or not. And what the interview showed me was, one, outside of what I didn’t know technically, was one, never taking no for an answer, and two, that even if you don’t know, the great thing about programming is that you’ll be able to figure it out at some point.

Artur: That’s awesome. So you ended up getting your way into Hack Reactor, what was that experience like? It’s three months, six days a week. Was it something that you expected to kind of going in…the intensity level?

Albrey: Yeah, I got in February, to the June cohort, and ended up, I had no more money and I ended up actually doing a GoFundMe to raise the 18k. I was super blessed to have people in my life that were willing to give a good amount of money towards something that had only existed for a year.

Ruben: Did you start that campaign before or after the interview?

Albrey: After the interview.

Ruben: Wow!

Albrey: In 30 days, I raised $18,000. So that was pretty awesome and to be able to say, because in my first GoFundMe video, I’d say like, “What I think is that we’re in a new industrial revolution, like a technological revolution. And what I want to do is turn around and started school.” And to be able to say that two years later is a huge blessing.

Timur: So in your GoFundMe video, you already kind of declared your intention of starting a school?

Albrey: Yes. At that point, it was going to be called Develop Yourself, like develop yourself while becoming a developer. I’m a huge advocate for self-improvement, for positive mindset, etc. I think that all can be looped back into learning how to program and the program, we can actually use as a conduit for self-improvement – getting frustrated with the process, hitting a bug in your own process, whether it be fixing an application and fixing your life, which is why I love Hack Reactor. The Hack Reactor philosophy is so in line with how I want to live my life, which is, you hit a bug and all you have to do is research it and figure it out and you’ll get to the next thing and you’ll get to the next thing. And then the second piece is you’re always going to have another bug. You can always feel like you’re at the top of the hill but there’s always going to be a new thing for you to conquer and Hack Reactor is built in that way. It’s built as a place where, I see it as a three-month vacation, where you kind of just code every single day and build a new skill.

Artur: That’s awesome. So you were about to graduate Hack Reactor and then take us back to that moment when you actually decided to start Telegraph Academy. Is that something that you were determined to do right after graduating? Or did you consider exploring the job search market, finding a job, finding something more secure? What was your mindset at that moment?

Albrey: So graduating…I graduated August 27th, 2014 from Hack Reactor and at that point I had already been signed on as an HIR.

Ruben: What’s an HIR?

Albrey: An HIR is a Hacker in Residence. Essentially, it’s like a fellowship program. You can stick around for three months at Hack Reactor. They pay you to help build the community, work, etc. So I got the opportunity to stick around and soak up a lot of the culture and soak up a lot of the curriculum, etc. So at that point, I was like, “Hey, if I’m going to stay here for another three months, I might as well kind of learn the tricks of the trade, how it all works internally from an employee’s point of view.” And I was sold more and more on the bootcamp experience itself outside of just like programming, like bootcamp as a new educational tool for people, not only people who are ready in careers or in transition but for people who don’t have access to those careers like me. I didn’t have a college degree or anything like that. So it was really fascinating to me to see how day in and day out, something that usually takes a year, two years, four years depending on who you are, got you trained up in three months. So I’d help from a staff point of view, I mean we’re now helping students get through the program, I learned what it takes to be a mentor, what it takes to manage the student experience and from there I was like I have to start one of these things. There’s no way that I can leave, there’s no way that I can go into the industry knowing that this type of opportunity is out there for people who may not be able to have it.

Timur: So it sounds like you had a great experience with Hack Reactor. At this point, you’re soaking up the surroundings and you’re learning more about how to be a good educator, a mentor, and then you decide to start your own bootcamp. At that point, there were already a lot of bootcamps out there, what do you think you would do differently and what problems did you want to solve specifically by starting Telegraph Academy?

Albrey: Two weeks before I went to Hack Reactor, this lady named Jessica Guynn of USA TODAY published an article about tech diversity stats and it went through the whole 2%, 1%, like 2% African-American, 1% Hispanic demographics within tech. At that time, it didn’t really affect me in the way that it affects me now or affected me while I was in the bootcamp because not only did I get to read about the context more of lack of diversity but I got to be and can feel the context of lack of diversity in terms of, when I went to Hack Reactor, I was one of two black people throughout the school, just in general. So that was really tough and not having a community that I could be a part of and be comfortable and totally comfortable in was difficult. Not that Hack Reactor was uncomfortable. I loved every minute of it and all my classmates were awesome but I think it just goes to show that there are deeper relationships that you have with people who are similar to you and to not have that was a layer that made the experience just a little bit more difficult in a typical student. I’d hear things that I didn’t want to hear. I had to shake things off that I didn’t want to shake off. I wanted to make sure that anybody else who was deterred by the experience because of that, that was a lower-barrier entry for them.

So I think, I don’t know who said this but he said, “Entrepreneurs scratch their own itch.” And my itch was that I had made it into tech. I had done everything I needed to do to wield this 100K salary and do the work that I’ve been waiting to do. But the itch was still there. And I think that itch was not seeing  people like me being able to take advantage of the opportunity. So Telegraph Academy is just a pipeline for people who feel like they don’t really know whether this is for them, whether it be because of finances, whether it be because of my itch which was not seeing people like me, whether it be because they have no idea what the hell the difference is between a front end and a back end. What we want to do is make it accessible.

One of the things that I talked about was, the Hack Reactor interviews in general? You don’t really know what’s going to  be on it. So one of the things that is a barrier to entry for people like me was not really knowing what’s going to be on that test. So we developed a program called Telegraph Prep which preps you for the test, which takes away this black box of not really knowing what you’re going into. And I think that if tech really did that in general, if Silicon Valley did that in general, kind of took away this black box of magic of whatever is going on on a daily basis that’s creating these billion dollar companies, more people would be able to take advantage of the opportunity.

Ruben: Yea, not only did you talk about preparing to get into these programs but just to talk a little bit about financing and how you overcame that with crowdfunding, as you structured this program and you talked about accessibility, what are ways that you laid out your programs to make it more accessible from people from every background?

Albrey: Yeah, definitely. So a lot of people, when they ask what’s the difference between Hack Reactor and Telegraph Academy, like how are you guys focused on people of color? Most people would probably assume that it’s within the three-month program itself, that we built it out specifically for people of color and in some way, shape, or form. We definitely tend to do that in our culture, an inclusive culture. Most of the work comes before people come into these doors, meaning, the first piece is educational. Our six-week Telegraph Prep Course which gets you ready for a bootcamp is free for women and people of color and it’s usually $1,500. So that’s an accessible piece. In six weeks, we’ll get you ready for a bootcamp and it’s pretty much guaranteed.

Artur: Is it any bootcamp or Telegraph Academy?

Albrey: It’s any bootcamp and a couple other programs. I won’t name names if I duplicated that program and monetized it pretty well. But we continue to make it free because we want to make sure that people have access to them. And then we also seek out financing partners that make the price in Telegraph Academy, $17,725, not less expensive but more accessible for people where they only have to pay a fraction of that upfront and then at the end of the program when they have a job, start paying the rest back. So there are a lot of avenues that we’ve explored in terms of bringing market fit to bootcamps.

Ruben: Without digressing too much, can you talk a little bit more about the financing piece like how much they have to put down upfront to get in and things like that?

Albrey: Our typical financing package is you put up $1,000 upfront. You take on a loan that’s between 5% and 12%. You start paying that loan over 36 months and you start paying that six months after the program ends. We are upheld to make sure that all of our students have jobs within that 6 months so more often than not, you will have a job before you start paying it back. So it allows students to not take on the full risk of the course upfront and then the return on investment is amazing – $19,000 over three years is $500 a month. You’re making $105,000. I mean not, that it won’t hit your pocket, but it’s not as bad as the $17,000 upfront.

Timur: Yeah, can you talk about some of the outcomes from Telegraph Academy? Because you guys have been around for, you probably already had 8 or 9 cohorts, right? And how many students in total who graduated so far?

Albrey: Yeah, so we have 7 cohorts so far, 8 is coming up in July. We have 44 graduates right now, same statistics as Hack Reactor, 95% within six months, 85% within three months..and a lot of our students are working at a smorgasbord of different companies in terms of how big or small they are but we have two at Accenture, one at Google, one at 99designs. We’re actually the first bootcamp to get a grad in the 99designs, which is awesome. Have you guys ever heard of Rockbot?

Artur: Nope.

Albrey: Where you open, at the bar, where there’s like a screen where you can actually choose the next song and people can upload it or download it.

Timur: Oh yeah.

Albrey: So that’s called Rockbot and a TGA 1 grad is the lead engineer at Rockbot. So I would say that it’s a pretty huge accomplishment.

Ruben: And that’s awesome too because we grabbed coffee when I first moved here last year and you’ve already graduated 8 cohorts which is pretty awesome and how you’ve rallied everyone around you. Talk a little bit about the partnerships that you have established that have helped you get to this point and also, you talked a little bit about the demographics while you were in Hack Reactor like two black kids. What do the demographics look like at Telegraph Academy?

Albrey: Just to touch on your last question which is demographics at Telegraph Academy, right now we have about 60% underrepresented people of color throughout our existence. In terms of our Telegraph Prep course it’s actually much higher than that, 75%. I think we’ve taught over 450 students over the last year there. The community is super, super diverse in terms of representational women and people who are gender non-binary. It’s about 35%, which is still low but we would like to get that number up to 50/50 as soon as possible but I think it’s higher than most bootcamps in general. So in terms of the numbers, we’re not hitting the numbers we want to hit but we’re closer to where we want to be. Your first question.

Artur: Partnerships. And I remember seeing Telegraph Academy in the news, you got to go to the White House. You spoke in South by Southwest. Tell us about more about your partnerships and the reaction that you’ve gotten from the community in San Francisco and the United States.

Albrey: It’s been kind of crazy because when we became such a new organization, we got a bunch of press and everybody wanted to see what we’re about. That kind of slowed down since then but mostly because we’ve been had our head down grinding but we got to, basically, we were built in partnership with TechHire, which is the White House’s initiative to get more underrepresented people into tech. So the White House backs us. Our partnership with Reactor Core I think is the biggest thing that I can speak to in terms of the resources that we’ve gotten from them and that’s really the driver between what makes us successful.

Ruben: There’s another one called Climb too, correct?

Albrey: Yes, and Reactor Core has allowed us to work with companies like Climb, which is our financing partner and WeFinance.co is another financing partner that’s a crowdfunding organization. In terms of real, solid partnerships that we made since then, we’ve reached out and we are trying to work with companies actually to develop an actual pipeline program, more as investing at the beginning of the pipeline in terms of mentorship and at the end of the pipeline in terms of internships and things like that. So you guys will be hearing about that sometime very, very soon.

Timur: Amazing. So this is my personal curiosity but when you were finishing up Hack Reactor and you have this itch inside of you, can you just take me back to the moment when you said, “Hey, tomorrow, I’m not going to be applying for any jobs. I’m going to start this academy.” What was your next step? How did you put this all together because this is incredible?

Albrey: Thank you. I appreciate that. I’ve always been somebody who takes the road less traveled.  I think it’s an Aries thing maybe. Ruben can talk about that.

Ruben: Yup. Shout out to the Aries people in the building!

Albrey: Always wanted to do the hard thing and prove people wrong and whatnot.  I remember when I was first trying to go to Hack Reactor, I had a lot of family members that actually were like, “Don’t do this. We’re not going to donate because we don’t think that you should take this path.” And it actually motivated me to do it even more. It didn’t deter me. I was just like okay, for sure. So now when I see them at Thanksgiving, I get to stunt on them a little bit lol, no I’m joking.

But for me, risk isn’t, I guess I could say I’m kind of irrational in the sense that risk isn’t as huge, like taking the risk to start a business or not have fun coming in wasn’t as big to me for some reason because I haven’t really grown up with money in general. So I didn’t really need to be raking in hundreds and thousands of dollars to want to take this opportunity. I know how to live off with $300 a month if need be. You what I’m saying? So I kind of thought to myself, if this opportunity’s here, I’m going to take it. I think it was also a testament to the people I had around me, meaning Shawn from Hack Reactor, Bianca, one of my co-founders, Hack Reactor in general, to say, “Hey, this is something that we’re also interested in.” It was like a no-brainer, kind of like Hack Reactor was. It was one of those things where if I don’t take this, I’m kind of stupid. So that’s how it came to be.

Timur: That’s amazing.

Ruben: So do you have any… I know you mentioned something that you have planned for the future. Do you have anything else that you’re thinking about that you would like to see from other people when it comes to this new educational model or any thoughts on education in general that you’d like to share?

Albrey: Yeah, I think that there are a couple different directions that Telegraph Academy can go with it and other people can go with it. I see a lot of great advocates out there, changing things from an industry point of view. There’s Erica Baker at Slack. There’s Joelle Emerson.

Ruben: Paradigm.

Albrey: Yeah, Paradigm. Totally killing it on wanting to change the industry from the inside. I super admire that because that’s something that we need ASAP. I also think that we need more companies and organizations that are focused on adults. Something that we were talking about before the podcast is I think that when it comes to this pipeline problem that everybody talks about. As somebody who runs the school for people of color, I can tell you that there is a pipeline problem. I’m going to say that. There is a pipeline problem, but not because of the reasons people think that there’s a pipeline problem. There’s a pipeline problem because no one has figured out a way to convince people that this is the thing that it needs to be there and nobody’s built a fast way to get people who are qualified into tech and away from other industries that are dying. And I think that if we spent more resources on adults and adult career transitioners then we would see a lot more success when it comes to moving the needle on diversity in these big companies because we can invest in…I love our investment in kids. I love our investment in communities. I think that’s 5-10 years down the line. But if you want to move the needle tomorrow, if you want to move the needle in December, put a thousand people through bootcamps, and hire them at the end. And then you’ll see your diversity in numbers go up ASAP. So that’s something that I would like to see out of people.

Something that’s fun, I would think, if we had a program for football players who are going through college and just put them through basically like a four-year coding bootcamp and then afterwards, football players have the lowest graduate rate of all athletes. So if you put them in something that is manageable like a coding education that is usually three months but maybe over four years, they can also manage sports and get a viable career afterwards. So I think there are a lot of cool things that we can do with this new educational model because it’s flexible and it works.

Ruben: And a lot of times, athletes end up making a lot of money while they’re in the league and then when they leave, they end up going bankrupt or they don’t have the educational experience that they had growing up to be able to get the job afterwards. So maybe there are some partnerships that can happen right now while they’re in there to lead an initiative with the Telegraph or something like that to train.

Albrey: I know. Kevin Durant hit me up.

Ruben: There you go.

Timur: So the next part of the podcast is going to be the Lightning Round. So we’re going to ask you a few questions and try to give us short answers but provide some strategies, tactics, or resources that you’ve used to either start Telegraph Academy, learn how to code, kind of get to the point in life where you are today. With that said, you guys want to take it away?

Artur: Sure. Imagine if you dropped in a new city and you had to start all over again and you only had $100. What would you do to get to the place you’re at now?

Albrey: The first thing I would do if I was in any major city with $100 is become a Lyft or Uber driver because they give you a free car and you can make money and learn about your city and you can just sleep in your car until you make enough money to find a place.

Artur: And probably if you work 40 hours a week, you’re going to run across engineers. You’re going to run across all kinds of people who live in that city and work in that city. So from a networking perspective, it’s probably going to be a priceless investment.

Albrey: Exactly.

Artur: I like that answer.

Ruben: Throughout this process while you’re going through any of your struggles with Telegraph or growing up, was there any piece of music or a movie that you watched that got you into “go mode,” like it’s hustle time?

Albrey: Yeah, there’s a funny story. Maybe this is inappropriate.

Ruben: Tell the story.

Artur: Go for it.

Timur: Let’s hear it.

Albrey: I once faked that I was going to Cal and ended up in a fraternity. I didn’t actually end up pledging because they realized I didn’t go to Cal. But they were like, “Hey, how can you just stay at the house?” So they gave me an apartment and like also stuff, right? And before each, whether it would be a party or whether it would be they’re going to play basketball or whatever, they would put on that Glengarry Glen Ross, Alec Baldwin, Always Be Closing! That gets me pumped. I watch that before every meeting. I watch that before every… just that 7 minutes is golden.

Ruben: Coffee’s for closers only.

Albrey: Exactly.

Artur: I got it. Nice. Yes, so another question. For someone who is starting out on his journey, either learning how to code or making up their mind on what they want to do next in their career, what one piece of advice you would want them to know now that you’ve been through this journey?

Albrey: I think that the best resource that you can have is a mentor, is somebody who’s done it before and somebody who can give you honest feedback about whether you can do it at this point in your life, what it takes. It’s never as easy as you think it’s going to be, any venture as you guys know, to having somebody who can make sure that you don’t make those same mistakes is awesome. Just find someone who’s in your corner.

Artur: How would you find a mentor?

Albrey: Reaching out. Your network is your net worth, right? I think a lot of people are… here’s the thing. When we tell students to create a WeFinance account and ask their community to give them money, they’re like, “Why would anybody ever want to give me money?” But studies show that people want to spend. They want to give their money towards something. And like you guys were talking about in your Breaking Into Startups blog, if you have a compelling story, people want to be a part of that. And as long as you can give somebody a real reason why you wanted to do something, they’re going to help you. And if not, then you’re going to find somebody else. So I would say just reach out.

Ruben: On that note, I know I’m digressing a little bit but have you been able to talk to any of the people that contributed to your GoFundMe now that you have started the school with 8 cohorts?

Albrey: Yeah, actually one of my cousins, his name is Brian Tippens, and he gave me a good amount of money. He was like, “Hey, as a young African-American, I want to see you flourish in tech.” What I didn’t know is that he is the Head of Diversity at HP. We didn’t talk about that at that time. So I’ve talked to him many times as a mentor now because he is doing the same type of work, just on the opposite in the pipeline. I sent T-shirts to everybody who ended up giving to the campaign and I get messages every once in awhile about people who are like, I can’t believe we were talking about this a couple of years ago and now it actually exists.

Artur: Yeah, and I think that’s a really important point when somebody helps you out to not forget them and just leave them alone, make them feel used. This is a real relationship in making each other feel appreciated is important.

Albrey: Exactly, and the last thing I’ll say is that the best thing that you can do for somebody is succeed. If somebody invests time in you and if somebody really puts their time on the line, the best thing that you can do is do it and do it right and do it well because they get to say, “Hey, I was a part of that story.”

Timur: Just one point. I love that you touched on mentorship and I think meeting Bianca and her helping you again into Hack Reactor was huge. For our listeners, I just want to point out that mentorship can also come from various channels. So having a person that’s a mentor is huge. I think in the past we had someone who said they actually hired a tutor online who was mentoring them and they were paying them maybe $20 or $30 an hour but that was huge for them in terms of getting up with the speed of a JavaScript or those basic skills. Even listening to this podcast, this is a form of mentorship too. So we encourage you, our listeners, to just go out online. Start Googling. Start finding all kinds of free resources that can provide you with more information on how to break in.

Ruben: Yeah, are there any online resources outside of Telegraph Prep that helps people get prepared that you would say?

Albrey: I know that Codecademy is definitely a good one in terms of just like starting and seeing whether you like this stuff. I would say in terms of getting ready for an interview for a bootcamp, at least a JavaScript bootcamp, I’d say ReactiveX has really good learning functional programming. That’s something that’s awesome. Udemy has a really good course on JavaScript. I mean obviously Breaking Into Startups is one of the things that I would put out there.

Timur: Thank you.

Albrey: Like I said, I think the best thing that you can do is get somebody who’s done it before because like reading through all the coding resources I’ve seen, nobody has been able to articulate it better than an engineer in person. So if you can get somebody who is like invested in you, I think it’s the best way to go or one of the best ways to go.

Timur: Awesome. So what’s the best way for our listeners to get in touch with you, find out more about Telegraph Academy and any Twitter, email, anything like that?

Albrey: Yeah, definitely. So you can get at me at @albreybrown, @telegraph_edu. That’s our school Telegraph Academy. You can go to telegraphacademy.com. If you have any questions, you can hit me on my work email at albrey@telegraphacademy.com.

Ruben: You’ve got a pretty active Twitter game too, right?

Albrey: Oh yeah, I’m on the Twitter. You’re going to get these tweets

Ruben: Are we gonna like, hoop sometime? Are you still ballin?

Albrey: We can also get these buckets. Hit me to come get these buckets as well. We can make that happen.

Ruben: Cool, and I know we didn’t talk about it in the interview but are we going to see Telegraph all over the nation or just in Berkeley?

Albrey: Yeah, so I think that the first thing that we want to do is first and foremost is get back to Oakland. Oakland is kind of the blueprint for what I believe is going to be the new tech ecosystem and I think that that can be duplicated in Washington, D.C., in Chicago, in Detroit, in New York, like all those places. But first, we want to make sure that we can make it work here. So definitely in the future, hopefully 2018.

Ruben: Cool, and it’s working and when we hit your next city then we’ll interview you from that office.

Albrey: For sure. Let’s do it.

Artur: Thanks a lot man.

Timur: Thanks.


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