How Claim Academy Teaches Soft Skills at a Code-Heavy Bootcamp

We often get asked how and why our bootcamp ranks above others in this nation. There’s a simple answer to that – it’s because we care. Our mission is to change a person’s life, and this is a mission we don’t take lightly. 

Prospective students want to know that they will be attending a coding bootcamp with dedicated instructors and an applicable curriculum. We promise to deliver these technical skills while also teaching interpersonal skills that will be vital to a graduate’s success in their desired occupation. 

1. Soft Skill Development 

It is not enough for us to just teach you how to code and then send you right off into the workplace. Yes, you will have all the technical knowledge you need to hit the ground running on your first day; but those are not the only skills you’ll use in your daily professional life. We believe that it is also important to teach soft skills in order to fully prepare our graduates for their new roles. We prepare our students to tackle the social and professional atmosphere of the office with multiple career-building activities. 

  • LinkedIn Tutorials for Your Professional Brand 

We teach students how to create a compelling professional page and how to use LinkedIn to network and promote their personality and brand. We educate them on what to feature, how to position themselves, and overall presentation to prospective employers. Students can ask our student success specialists for individual advice at any time or for a one-on-one evaluation of their profile. 

  • Mock Job Interviews 

Practice makes perfect, and students will be able to prepare for interviews by practicing first with our instructors. Our goal is to educate them on the type of questions to expect and how to respond correctly. Students will receive feedback immediately after in order to improve the quality of their interviewing skills. 

  • Resume Help

To further the success of our graduates in job interviews, our job coach will teach students how to prepare and format their resume for results. 

  • Presentation Practice

Students learn the best practices for presenting their final project to the class and employers on Demo Day and Hiring Event. They are educated on how to create a compelling presentation, how to tell a story, transition, and showcase their uniqueness. They will also learn how to properly address an audience and dress for the occasion. 

2. Employment Opportunities

So, you’ve got the coding and professional skills you need to succeed and excel in the workplace. Now what? The next step is getting our students and graduates connected with interested employers. We have several ways in which we help form connections between our new developers and companies looking for qualified software developers. 

  • Demo Day and Hiring Event
    • Students who have successfully completed our program will present their final project on our Demo Day and Hiring Event. Employers from a multitude of companies are encouraged to attend and watch the students debut their independently created software applications. 
      • After the presentations, employers can meet with the students and even use breakout rooms to interview them.
  • Using our Website to Hire Graduates
    • Employers reach out to us constantly with job opportunities and inquire about hiring our graduates. We have many repeat employers, such as Mastercard, Express Scripts and Charter Communications, who have each hired more than 9 past graduates of Claim Academy.
  • Alumni Nights
    1. Claim Academy graduates regularly come back to speak at our open house events. The alumni provide valuable advice and information about the coding bootcamp, hiring process, and how to succeed in the workplace. After the event, students can meet the alum to network or ask for career advice.
  • Employer Nights
    • Employers like Slalom, Anheuser-Busch and NISA regularly come to speak about their company and why students should choose their companies over others. 

3. Hands-On Learning

We take a more personalized teaching approach than other, larger universities. Daily exercises are divided into 3 parts – peer programming, mentor led instruction, and lab. 

  • Smaller Class Sizes
    • Students can more easily engage with their instructor and other classmates. Our maximum class size is 20 students. 
  • One-on-One Help 
    • Our instructors will teach the class as a whole, and then spend time individually with any students who need additional help. 
  • Teamwork
    • We encourage students to support and work with their classmates on tricky subjects. Students who attend the in-person coding bootcamp work with their instructors and peers every single day.

Join the Revolution! Apply Today:

How to Pay for Coding Bootcamp Without Breaking the Bank

1. Scholarships

There are a surprising amount of coding academies that offer scholarships for passionate students. With the rising need of technical talent, scholarship funds are becoming available for students who want to take the less traditional and faster route to entering the technology field. For example, Claim Academy alone offers scholarships for students who are veterans, women, part of a minority group, and recent high school graduates and GED holders!

A link to the finance information can be found here:

2. Loans

Prospective bootcamp students can apply for personal loans from banks or private lenders. There are lending companies, such as Climb Credit, who partner with coding bootcamps to provide students with reasonable loans.

Check out Claim Academy’s partnership with Climb Credit here:

3. Income Share Agreements (ISA)

An Income Share Agreement is formed between the student and the bootcamp. The agreement entails that the student will pay back a percentage of their salary for a fixed amount of time upon graduation. An ISA is a worthwhile option since these bootcamps assure quick job placement after the extensive training.

Learn more about ISAs here:

4. Employer Sponsorship

Many employers encourage the development of technical skills outside of the workplace, and may be willing to help fund additional schooling. Even if an employer is not willing to give up the employee full-time, they may be willing to support coding classes as a side project. 

5. Attending Bootcamp Part-Time 

Many coding bootcamps require a full-time commitment during the weekdays. Because of this, large numbers of students will attempt to work on weekends to help pay for classes. However, a student could instead choose to attend the bootcamp part-time. Yes, that means the student will be in classes over a longer period of time, but it can also mean an easier balance of school and work.

Students at Claim Academy have the choice between a 9-week,12-week, or online program, depending on what best suits their lifestyle:

A Lifelong Love of Learning Leads To A New Career Path.

Claim Academy students have a lifelong love of learning and problem-solving. Claudia Sittmann, an educator, St. Louis native, and world traveler, with a passion for software development and education, is no exception. She found a new career path and a new job as a software developer. You could say programming and a love of learning are all in the family–her father was one of the developers that helped create IBM’s famed AI interface, Watson. Sittmann’s mother, a retired teacher, also helped spark Claudia’s love of education, learning, and helping others. We sat down with Claudia to discuss her experiences in education, the inspiration to reinvent herself, and her challenges and accomplishments in becoming a full stack software developer.

Tell us a bit about yourself, Claudia. Where did you grow up?

I was born in Germany and moved to the US when I was young, so I don’t remember a lot about it.  I have lived in St. Louis pretty much all my life, and I grew up in Webster Groves. My mom was a German language teacher, and my dad was a software engineer for IBM. He did some of the programming for the Watson program.

My first career was teaching Spanish, French, and German to middle school students (sixth, seventh, and eighth) at Mehlville in South County. I kind of took after my mom and pursued teaching.  I’ve been doing that for six years, and I really enjoy languages, traveling, and sharing that with my students, but I just started to feel that I wasn’t being challenged.

I went to high school here, and then I attended the University of Indiana in Bloomington. I studied German and Spanish language and literature,  and I received my bachelors. After finishing my undergrad, I moved back to St. Louis to attend Webster University and earned my masters in education and my teaching certificate.

It took me a few years to figure out what to do with my bachelors in linguistics, and teaching was in the family, so it felt like the natural next step.

I hear you come from a family of coders and educators. How did they influence your choice to become a software developer?

Well, watching my mom work as an educator made me want to help people. I liked how she helped students and formed relationships. Initially, that’s why I wanted to go into teaching, then I realized there were other ways I could help people and also challenge myself.

My dad was a people person, but he was also one of the smartest people I have ever met. He knew a lot of famous people and did some of the coolest things working on software. He traveled all over the world–Japan, Switzerland, Germany, and throughout a lot of other European countries.

I finally realized that I could do something more challenging and could fulfill my passions. I wouldn’t change being a teacher for the five years that I’ve done it. I think that teaching translates well into other professions.

Tell us more about your study of linguistics.

We grew up hearing my parents speak German in the house. I used to go to German language classes on the weekend. As I got older, I realized that there’s a lot more to languages than just the reading and writing aspects. I’m the kind of person that’s always liked puzzles and riddles, and I realized that every language is just a different puzzle with different pieces and patterns.  If you can figure out those patterns, you can speak almost any language. The first class I ever took in linguistics was so challenging, but I really enjoyed it, and I kept at it.

I have found that there are a lot of similarities between linguistics and coding.

What was your first exposure to coding or software development, and how did that lead you to Claim Academy?

Definitely growing up and seeing my dad coding, but recently, through my teaching, and taking notice of the big shift in education-STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)  that also helped motivate me to make a change. I’ve been preaching to my students, especially my female students, that the field needs more women, and that they can do it. We recently had an hour of coding project we did at the school, and I loved it.  I liked teaching all my female students how to do this, so I figured that I’d learn how to code.

The First thing was that my sister did the same transition–from education to coding. She went back to school and earned her associates in computer science. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back to school, especially after I had already earned my bachelors and my masters. Going back to school for two or four more years wasn’t that appealing to me.

I did a lot of research into Claim Academy and other places. Your reviews and personal testimonials from former Claim Academy graduates really convinced me that I needed to be here.

How did your experience in education inform your life and outlook?

I guess that through my higher education experience, I had the opportunity to travel and study abroad. And, then, as a teacher, I actually got to chaperone a trip with students to Costa Rica. I’ ‘ve been very fortunate to travel a lot. I think travel has opened my eyes, not only to technology but to other cultures. It’s also taught me how to get along with anyone, any race, or any culture. That’s one of my strengths–I can get along and interact with anyone.

Who inspired or continues to inspire you?

I guess it’s a bit cliched, but I’d have to say, my dad. He passed away almost seven years ago. There are so many times when I wish he were still here. He was such a valuable resource, and I didn’t realize how lucky I was until he was gone.  I try to model myself after him–he was friendly and really smart.

How do you relax after a long day of coding?

Honestly, my dog and three cats are my babies. They help me relax after work and school. I love Netflix, and I love watching all the foreign language films.

I also like playing sports video games. I play sports vicariously through gaming. I like a lot of spy and war games with missions to complete.  I also enjoy puzzles too, I like solving problems, and it’s great escapism.

How did you decide to select Claim Academy from all the coding boot camps out there?

I have a lot of friends that were looking at Launch Code. In theory, they sounded great, but it wasn’t a great fit. I was looking for a small, tight-knit family, and I don’t have to wait in line. Meeting Ola, seeing the facilities and meeting the people.

What was the most challenging moment at Claim Academy, and how did you overcome it?

I guess it was during our first project. In the beginning, most everything made sense, then it was time for the first project, and it’s time to sink or swim.  You have to really put what you’ve learned to use. I started to doubt myself and thought I didn’t know what I was doing. With the help of the instructors and my sister, I figured it all out by breaking it down into smaller pieces. In the end, when the first app, I did actually worked, I realized I could do this.

There’s always a point where I think every student has some doubts. You just have to go to the next step and stay motivated.

Did you try to learn to code on your own?

I did try to learn on my own. I learned some small chunks of things here and there, but I couldn’t see the big picture or understand how it was all connected. It was also challenging to determine what I should focus on.

Some people can learn on their own, but I think most people need the structure. Claim Academy knows what you need to know. I have never been in the tech industry, so I don’t know what I need to know. That’s what’s great about being here–Claim Academy’s instructors know precisely what skills you need, and they’ve formulated the lessons in a way that you get all that.

I tried the free approach to things, and it wasn’t enough for me. I learned a little bit of HTML, and that’s about it. I felt like I was going down a path that wasn’t going to lead me to learn what I actually needed to know to do the job. At that point, I was willing to spend money on the right program, and that’s where Claim Academy came in. On the first day I visited, I was a bit intimidated when Praneeth told me that you don’t accept everyone. At first, that kind of scared me, but then I realized that you were being honest and responsible. That really showed me that you wouldn’t just take a student’s money, especially if you believed they couldn’t succeed. That ended up putting me at ease in the long-run.

What do you think the future of coding is?

Technology is changing so rapidly. Right now, it’s all about the user interface (UX) and making things easier for users. Even as I’m learning the old ways of coding to the more recent ones, I’m seeing that making things more comfortable for the user is what it’s all about. It’s changing the way coders code.

What would you tell someone considering a career in coding, especially women?

Don’t sell yourself short. I hear a lot of my female friends say that there’s no way they could ever do it.  ; I tell them that you can. I think too many people are misinformed about what programming or coding entails. If you have good math and logic skills, you can do this.

I doubted myself from the first time I even considered the thought of learning to code and changing careers. It’s week four, and I’ve already received my first job offer. I’m blown away. If you want it bad enough, it’s totally worth it. I know a lot of people that could do it, but don’t believe they can.

Coding With a Mission: Claim Academy student, USAF veteran, and Boeing full stack developer, Kevin Thornton.

Kevin Thornton, Claim Academy Graduate

At Claim Academy, our students are our true inspiration. Their sacrifice, dedication, and personal stories motivate us all to raise our own game.  Each of our students has a great story to tell. Today, we’re going to let one of our current Claim Academy students and Air Force veteran, Kevin Thornton, tell his story. Kevin recently accepted a job with Boeing in St. Louis and will be relocating to the greater St. Louis metro after graduation this month.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Austin, Texas, went to high school there, and did a bit of college at UT (The University of Texas at Austin), and then my folks moved out to West Texas and retired in San Angelo, Texas, so I relocated there for a few years. Around this time I realized I would need additional money for graduate school so I decided to enlist in the Air Force earlier than I had originally planned.

While in the Air Force, I considered making it a career, but my parents were older in age and as the last, and youngest child, I knew that I would be needed at home to help them out. After my time in the military, I finished my undergraduate degree at Texas Lutheran University. I studied Patristics, which is the study of early church history and writings.

After earning my bachelors, I began to pursue my masters at Southern Methodist University. Unfortunately, my dad developed cancer at that time I was in grad school, and I came home to take care of him. After he passed away, I stayed in San Angelo to take care of my mother.

Did you return to school or work after that time?
While in San Angelo I worked as a special education teacher at Belair Elementary. It was during that time where I developed the idea of using coding to help parents with autistic children. There was a lot being done for the kids, but not much that was being done to help the parents.

I also worked at a help desk at the hospital, and that was kind of like being the cop of the IT world–no one wants to see you until there’s an emergency. And, then, everyone wants you to be there immediately. I felt like one could plateau pretty early on the IT side.

I knew the real future lies in coding–creating products and things from scratch that real users needed.

What languages were you coding back in the 1990s?
Working at the help desk, I mainly used scripting, automation, bat files, and things like that, though I did experiment with C++. In terms of coding, I wasn’t doing as much of that as I was in hardware and software troubleshooting.

What was your first exposure to coding or software development?
When I was in high school, it was Basic and COBOL, and I took some classes on it. I took those classes in the 1980s, and it wasn’t that interesting at the time. It was basically databases and very basic automation, and where you’re in your teens it wasn’t that exciting.

In the ’90s, the internet was growing exponentially and I could see the possibilities that were happening all around…

How did you decide to enlist in the Air Force?
Every member of my family served in the military, and I also wanted to get the GI Bill for graduate school. I felt that it was a responsibility to the country to serve and give back. It doesn’t really matter if it’s the Job Corps or the military, just give something back to the country you are fortunate enough to live in.

What was the most valuable thing you learned from your time in the military?
Working as a team and working with people with different backgrounds, personalities, and how to troubleshoot and organize on a massive scale. Also how to prioritize, triage and prepare technologies for deployment.

And finally, learning how to adapt and overcome. There’s an old saying, I believe from Helmuth Van Moltke, who stated that “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”* That’s very true. You can make plans, but you also have to be able to adapt very quickly.

If you can, describe what you did in the Air Force?
I was part of the first crew chiefs assigned to the B-2 Stealth Bomber when they reactivated the 509th Bomb Wing. It was a prestigious assignment, and I was proud to serve in the program.

How did your experience in the Air Force shape your life and your outlook?
It just reinforced my idea and feeling that I was part of a bigger picture and a team. It instilled in me the belief that what you do matters, and how you do it, matters.

How did you decide to pursue a career in software development?
I reached that aha moment where I realized that IT help desk had a limited future for me. I wanted to leave footprints or do something that impacts peoples lives,  and I realized you have to create a product that actually does some good. I wanted to do something that gave back to the parents of the children I worked with. When I was teaching special ed, I realized there was a need for a portal that was directed at these adults. I had the idea for my Capstone (software project for Claim Academy’s final) before I came here, but I realized that I needed to learn how to code.

Learning how to code on your own can be done, but it’s a lot easier when you have structure, guidance, and immersion. That’s why I decided to go the coding boot camp route.

What have you learned from travel?
I’ve learned that geography and the landscape might change, but people are people in every culture.  You’re going to find people that you really like and have a lot in common with, and you find people you’re not going to mesh with. The things that are going to change are our culture, food, and their approach to life. Basically, you’re going to find good and the negative in every country and situation. You could talk to the Inuits in Alaska or any culture on the planet, and find some that you like, and others that you just do not get along with.

Who inspired or continues to inspire you?
I think that people that attain a level of success in their fields yet stay good people and give back are inspirational. Keanu Reeves is approachable and good with his time and willingness to help people. Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook set up the scholarships that enabled me to attended Claim Academy and obtain the job with Boeing. Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and his wife (Melinda), etc. People that think outside of their circles to help others.

How did you decide to select Claim Academy from all the coding boot camps out there?
I previously looked at other boot camp programs, and I was accepted into one of them, and I even made a downpayment on one. Then I discovered, and this struck me as false advertising, that they’d simply used the university’s logos (UT, USC, University of Oklahoma, etc). They would use the university affiliation, letterhead, images, etc. so they appeared to be part of the university, but in reality, they are just licensing the name. When I found that out, that struck me as a caveat emptor situation (buyer beware), and it was disillusioning. To be fair, in the tiny print, they do have verbiage indicating they’re not really affiliated with the university.

So I decided to research more schools with solid reputations. Claim Academy was one of them. The pre-course work was challenging and was real coding. Plus, Praneeth seemed very knowledgeable, and Jennifer was very helpful with the logistics of getting here. After speaking with them, I felt like the school really had their act together. When you’re traveling in from out of state, it’s important to have a place to stay before you arrive and Claim Academy made it as easy as possible.  Additionally, the Facebook scholarship and endorsement on websites such as Course Report stood out for me. If Facebook believed in Claim Academy enough to allow them to distribute scholarships, then there must be something positive going on there.

What was the most challenging moment at Claim Academy and how did you overcome it?
For me, it was probably the first week and adjusting to the pace. There’s a reason they call it boot camp.  There’s so much information, but what’s kept me going is my classmates and my instructors who reassured me that everyone feels this way initially. Understanding that everyone is pretty much in the same boat, but others with less prior knowledge than mine have made it. You have to be willing to spend the time outside of class to make it work, and it takes effort on your part.

Helping our Nation’s Veteran’s Fill The Coding Pipeline.

2.77 Million Service Members Have Served On 5.4 Million Deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan Since 9/11.*

200,000 of them separate from the military every year.**

Approximately 200,000 service members separate from the military every year**. Our nation’s veterans are a diverse, skilled, dedicated talent pool that needs the right training and preparation for the civilian workforce.

Our nation’s veterans already possess tenacity, problem-solving abilities, and can handle pressure in a way many civilians cannot.  Some have also acquired valuable skills in the military that may translate well into growing fields like software development. Others, while capable of learning anything, haven’t had exposure to coding. That’s OK; we have the solution.

At Claim Academy, an accredited, accelerated, and GI Bill®***-approved coding boot camp, we teach the skills that help veterans leverage their military experience and transition into great careers with excellent pay, benefits, and unlimited futures. We also work tirelessly to ensure that our students-both civilians and veterans, land jobs as soon as possible. In fact, we have multiple students that have received and accepted job offers from top St. Louis-based companies, even before they graduate.

There is a staggering amount of positions in the software development space that go unfilled every year. Approximately 1,000 of the 10,000 available software development jobs in Missouri go unfilled every year****! That’s not because Missouri employers are too picky or that there aren’t millions of applicants, the reason is what we like to call the skills gap. Missouri employers want skilled coders, specifically those with full stack skills–Java and C#/ .NET specifically. Luckily, both employers and prospective veteran students, also know that this gap must be filled by training and hiring competent software developers with just the right skills–skills that veterans are learning at Claim Academy.

We teach students that have an aptitude for problem-solving and the desire to learn, the exact skills that Missouri employers like Allscripts, Boeing, Bayer, Centene, Express Scripts, InBev, MasterCard, and many more, desire and more importantly, hire.

We know that both Missouri and nationwide companies want to hire veterans. In hiring a vet, they know that they’re hiring someone who is dedicated to solving the mission, never giving up, capable of teamwork, self-reliance, and ability to adapt to change and do so on the fly.

Together, veterans, employers, the state of Missouri, and Claim Academy can create a win-win situation where all parties accomplish their missions, contribute to shared growth, and participate in prosperity. Claim Academy is ready for our mission and stands ready to help train and place vets for great roles in software development at Missouri companies.




***  The GI Bill ® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at


Claim Academy Kicks Off National Military Appreciation Month With a Big Announcement.

Attention! Claim Academy Reporting For Duty. Claim Academy Now Approved to Accept Veterans’ Education Benefits!

It’s been another great week at Claim Academy, the Midwest’s premier coding boot camp. We have big things happening, and we’re excited to share some of the big news right here with you, our faithful readers.

As many of you already know, our Founder, and Chief Idea Officer, Ola Ayeni, and several of our current Java software developer students, were featured in an article in the business section of the Sunday edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Ola revealed a big surprise in that article–Claim Academy recently received the approval of The Veterans Education and Training Section for the GI Bill®*. The GI Bill®* is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs*. You can find more information about the education benefits offered by the VA at the official U.S. government web site at*

Ola Ayeni, our fearless leader, recently said in a press statement: “America’s veterans and their family members have earned these great benefits and we want to help our country’s vets transition from the military and into great, high-paying jobs in software development. Demand for skilled programmers–the kind you’ll find right here at Claim Academy, is huge and projected to grow.” In fact, according to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment of software developers is projected to grow 24 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. Software developers will be needed to respond to an increased demand for computer software. Almost a million programming jobs in the US went unfilled last year**. Claim Academy wants to meet this demand and fill these jobs with qualified, skilled coders, including our nation’s veterans.

In March 2019, Code Academy, ranked one “One of the Best  Coding Bootcamps in 2019 & 2018” by SwitchUp *** and Rated as “One of the Best Coding Bootcamps in 2017″ by Course Report,**** was approved by The Veterans Education and Training Section, to accept and train veterans by allowing them to use their GI Bill®* benefits to cover the costs of tuition and more.

Claim Academy’s accelerated 9 or 12-week courses in Full Stack Java and C#/.Net programming are great programs for veterans that don’t want to spend four years or more pursuing a traditional degree and worrying about finding a job upon graduation. Some Claim Academy students receive job offers before they even graduate!

Claim Academy firmly believes in putting all of our students first. We are committed to helping our veterans utilize their education benefits, and train them for the in-demand jobs in software development. Moreover, Claim Academy helps fill Missouri’s programming talent pipeline and helps America grow economically.

The Veterans Education and Training Section is the State Approving Agency responsible for approving GI Bill®* Programs in Missouri for veterans and other eligible individuals. To learn more, visit:

Claim Academy graduates, including many veterans, work for Missouri-based Fortune 500 and other great companies including Bayer, Express Scripts, MasterCard, Boeing, Centene, Mercy, RGA, Daugherty Business Systems, and many more. Claim Academy is an approved center for Workforce Development, as designated by the Missouri Workforce Development Board. Because of this designation, Missouri residents can apply for grants for Claim Academy training through several Missouri Workforce Center. Scholarships and financial aid are also available for qualifying applicants.

To learn more, visit –


*GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at




Claim Academy is approved to operate by the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education.

Claim Academy Gears Up for Summer Demo Days

Any student who has attended Claim Academy knows that Demo Day is when things get really, well, real.

Prep for Demo Day starts as early as Day 1. That’s because on Demo Day, students have the opportunity to show off their skills in front of a group of community supporters, and, more importantly, employers.

This summer, Claim is hosting two Demo Days within a month’s time, which is unusual. These two Demo Days are full of students who came to Claim on the Facebook Scholarship.

Let’s rewind. In March, we announced a groundbreaking partnership with Facebook, which provided $250,000 in scholarship funds to students who could not afford to attend bootcamp at Claim otherwise.

Time has passed quickly for these students. The first Java cohort, full of Facebook Scholarship  recipients, is set to graduate in just over a week. Their Demo Day is on July 12.

Capstone projects reflect each student’s personal interests or hobbies; we believes in giving students the flexibility to build a software application or website that solves a real problem — any

Joseph Williams, Spring 2018 .NET graduate, presents his final capstone project on Demo Day.

problem — they have identified in their work or personal life.

At Demo Day on July 12th, student projects will include, among many others, an app to schedule hair bookings, a software to help us recover from natural disasters, and a supply chain logistics management system.

Claim Academy originally partnered with Facebook because they share a common mission to address the skills gap in technology. The lack of software developers who can write code in the St. Louis region often prevents companies from claiming their stake as members of the growing Midwestern tech innovation hub. Though jobs in technology are abundant, people lack access to basic education in coding and software development. Minority populations are even less likely to gain access to this kind of training.

Thanks to the Facebook grant, we admitted 25 new students from diverse backgrounds, including some international students from Uzbekistan, Kenya and Nigeria.

Whether you’re a St. Louis local or simply passing through, we encourage you to stop in to Demo Day. See what coding bootcamps are all about – and how they set students up for success in a tech career.

There are two upcoming Demo Days this Summer: one on July 12 and another on August 2nd. For more information and to RSVP, please visit:

Claim Academy Launches New Apprenticeship Program, Aims to Empower Veterans

We are happy to announce that Claim Academy is launching our first apprenticeship program with a goal to help retired military start a civilian career in technology! Thanks to a new partnership with Eagle Technology Group, veterans and their spouses — especially those preparing to transition from military to civilian life — are eligible to apply for an apprenticeship that will launch them directly into an entry-level role in IT or software development at Eagle TG.

Although anyone may apply for the opportunity, this apprenticeship is especially groundbreaking for veterans.  This unique program is approved and sanctioned by the State of Missouri Department of Apprenticeship as well as the U.S Department of Labor.  Many veterans are interested in joining one of the fastest-growing sectors: software development and information technology. Approximately 250,000 veterans exit service annually, and of the 17,000 veterans currently living in St. Louis, many of them struggle to find rewarding work that allows them to engage the skill sets they developed during time in service.

The demand for professionals in tech grows stronger every day, and for veterans transitioning into civilian life with their families, a career in software development could provide the stability, flexibility and high earning potential they’re looking for in a job.

Ryan Nettemeier, a Principal Engineer at Eagle TG, notes that veterans in particular have a certain skill set and ability to communicate that is much needed on teams like his. “Veterans possess many of the traits we look for and expect within our teams,” he notes. “We pride ourselves on the talent, experience, domain knowledge, and the drive of our people to be the best they can be.”

Accepted candidates will start by training with us, at Claim Academy in Downtown St. Louis, where they will spend 9 to 12 weeks in an accelerated coding training cohort, learning how to code using Java or C#/.NET languages.

Employers across America have identified that veterans make great coders and even better team members. Eagle TG is no exception.

“Eagle has always focused on hiring veterans,” Ray Gluck, Director of Program Management, notes. “About 60% of our team members are veterans.”

We have worked hand-in-hand with Ray and his team in the past to find — and hire —  veterans who can code. “One [graduate] in particular, Colburn Sanders, immediately contributed to two critical high-value projects,” Gluck recalls, “and he continues to make significant contributions today as a valued team member. We’re excited about Claim’s new veteran program and look forward to bringing more veterans onto our team this summer.”

Once they complete the required training at Claim, the trainees will start immediately in an entry-level role on the IT or software development team at Eagle TG.

Since opening our doors in 2014, Claim Academy has been perfecting two core bootcamp cohorts, Full-Stack Java and Full-Stack C#/.NET with a 95% placement rate. Although these two languages are used for very different things, Eagle TG uses both. That means that people applying for our apprenticeship may choose which language they’d like to learn.

During the training at Claim Academy, all students (civilian or military) will produce a capstone project, which is typically a software application or website, to add to their professional portfolio.

We call our cohort a “bootcamp” for a reason; the training is quite rigorous. All students attending Claim Academy must be prepared to work long, hard hours — up to 50 hours per week.

“I don’t think most people realize what the commitment is for these individuals to attend a Claim Academy Cohort,” says Nettemeier. “These students are hungry, eager, and passionate. So we believe Claim’s bootcamps and Eagle’s team atmosphere will challenge, develop and help these individuals reach their personal goals.”

It’s clear that as technology advances, companies must evolve their workforce to focus on maintaining data integrity, improving website performance, developing web-based products or mobile apps, and so much more — all in an effort to stay relevant and competitive in their industries.

Claim Academy Founder Ola Ayeni is excited by the prospect of assisting veterans in their search for a civilian career. “After working with several veterans,’ he says, “we believe our U.S Department of Labor sanctioned apprenticeship program will allow us to help our men and women in uniform into high paying careers in technology.”

There’s no better time to jump on the technology train—and you can now can do it in just a few months with the help of Claim Academy and Eagle TG.

To apply to this new apprenticeship training program with Eagle Technology Group, visit .

To learn more about Claim Academy’s bootcamps and free coding workshops, visit .



How to Ask an Employer to Fund Coding Bootcamp Training

Coding Bootcamp Students

It may seem like a pie-in-the-sky idea, but really, getting your employer to pay for your coding bootcamp isn’t that outlandish. Still, the conversation can be intimidating. You may imagine it going like this:

You: Hey, boss… what’s your take on continuing education?
Your manager: What about it?
You: Well, there’s this thing called a coding bootcamp…
Your manager: A what?
You: A coding bootcamp, where you learn full-stack Java or .NET in 12 weeks…
Your manager: Well how much is it?
You: Twelve thousand five—
Your manager: Forget about it.

Yikes. Fictional manager has a point. The fact of the matter is, bootcamp isn’t cheap. But, at the right bootcamp, you get what you pay for – and it’s very likely that 12 weeks of specialized training would make you much more effective in your current job.

The key is to be cognizant of when and how you communicate that message to your supervisor.

We’ve seen it firsthand. The way you “pop the question” could make or break an employer sponsorship. In this post, we break down a strategy we’ve seen work for many of our students. Here are the main factors to consider:

  • Your company/supervisor’s general familiarity with coding bootcamps
  • How training would effect your work schedule, if at all
  • How this training would benefit your employer
  • Your willingness to negotiate terms of employment or compromise

Let’s start with Stage 1: Planting the Seed.

Gauge your supervisor’s familiarity with coding bootcamps

In all likelihood, by the time you’re gearing up to ask your employer to support your training, you will have done your homework. Before saying anything specific to them, start by gauging your manager’s knowledge of (and feelings toward) coding bootcamps. See what they do and do not fully understand, and if the opportunity arises, help fill in the gaps. If they express concern over cost, make a mental note to discuss the bootcamp’s payment options in depth. If they speak positively about the value of learning certain new languages, remember to research the curriculum in depth to prepare to discuss technical advantages.

At the end of the day, this decision has to be mutual, so it helps to involve your supervisor in your own discovery and research process by asking questions and sharing realizations you’ve made about why a bootcamp training could be transformative.

Put all logistical concerns on the table

Have you ever spent hours discussing a vacation and all the fun things you could do in, say, Hawaii, before realizing that the time spent traveling across the country isn’t worth the PTO you’ve saved up… and that it’d probably be better to plan a short road trip?

Ok, that may just be me. The message is that logistics matter.

Your goal is to get down to the bottom of non-negotiable’s. If an employee at your company were to take any outside training opportunities, what are the formal barriers to entry? Are there any policies and procedures to consider? What paperwork needs to be filled out?

As you go about finding answers to those questions, work back with the coding bootcamp’s staff to get the details on start date, duration and the daily schedule. You’ll want to know exactly what’s expected of you – and how much wiggle room you’d have as an employer-sponsored student to customize your own schedule.

At Claim Academy, for example, we require full-time bootcampers (the majority of our students) to be in the building from 12 PM to 9 PM, but not all of that time is spent in a classroom. The first two blocks of our schedule are for 1-on-1’s with our mentors and for pair-programming.

We can be flexible depending on the employer-sponsored student’s technical capabilities, but this is definitely a conversation we’d want to have well before you’re up against application deadlines.

Once you do get down to the details with your manager, be prepared to discuss the variety of ways you could plug training into your existing work schedule, especially if you know you can’t take a leave of absence to attend bootcamp full-time.

Discuss the benefits and value of the training opportunity (be specific)

Remember: it’s all about paving a two-way street. Come up with a list of mutual benefits and practice explaining them to someone you trust.

Some quick tips to generate ideas:

  • Think about your team or company’s goals. How would this training opportunity help the business thrive in the long-term?
  • What about the bootcamp’s curriculum, whether a language, program or topic covered, would help you solve a specific problem in you or your team’s current scope of work?
  • What doors could this training opportunity open for your team or the business as a whole? Would having someone trained in a certain skill set allow you to develop an app or feature that generates revenue? How much would that add to the bottom line, compared to the cost of the bootcamp itself?
  • How would this training effect your long-term commitment to the company? Would you stay longer and work harder?
  • How would this effect other members of your team? Would gaining these new skills give you the ability to better distribute responsibilities among the developers, that way you can be stronger together?

It may be helpful to read student reviews on sites like SwitchUp and Course Report to reference these real experiences while you’re talking to your manager. Gather as many of these true stories and facts about the bootcamp so that you avoid the realm of hypothetical or conjecture.

Lastly, think about the best way to present this idea; you’re the best judge of whether to bring this topic up over a cup of coffee or through a PowerPoint. No matter when or how you do it, make it clear that this is a serious conversation.

Know what you’re willing to compromise on – and what you’re not

Once you get through your discussion of the mutual benefits, prepare to dive into the specifics of how this would affect the terms of your employment. Based on our experience, here are some common concerns from employers that you can anticipate:

  • Would you be willing to return to the company after training to work as an engineer, or in a different role where your new skills would be manifestly valuable?
  • Are you already well-versed in our company’s technology stack? Why should you learn a new language or program when we’re still paying you to work as you learn our native stack?
  • Would this encourage you to quit and join another company as an intern, apprentice or junior engineer?
  • (For current managers) How would your team survive without you for the duration of training?

Obviously, these concerns are very custom to your employer and your team. Think these things through and try to put yourself in your manager’s shoes; what risk are you taking, sending an employee off for training, and what agreement could you put in place to minimize those risks?

Our best advice is to listen carefully and take your time weighing all the factors at play before agreeing to a plan with your employer. Finally, if you do find yourself conflicted over a certain issue, it may be beneficial to involve the bootcamp’s head instructor or another staff member to lend credibility to the conversations about the quality of curriculum, topics covered during training, and past student experiences.

When in doubt, take a break from discussing the opportunity with your manager, write down some notes and conduct more research so you can continue to have an informed conversation. Getting your employer to pay for your time at coding bootcamp is not, and should not, be a quick decision. However, it very well could be the best thing you could do for your career in programming.

Are you in a position to sponsor, or a receive a sponsorship, for a coding bootcamp or other training opportunity? What do you think about this topic?

Drop your answer in the comments.

St. Louis Spotlight: Color Coded Kids

Find out how one St. Louis mom is breaking the code with accessible programming courses for kids.

It all started when St. Louis native Shay Gillespie took her 9-year-old son to his very first coding workshop. After only an hour, he was hooked. Like any mother who wants to support their child’s hobbies and interests, Shay searched for longer classes in programming that he could take near their home in North County. To her dismay, the only thing that came close was a robotics class out in Chesterfield. “You do what you have to do for your kids, right?” she asks rhetorically. “So every Wednesday for six weeks, I drove him to Chesterfield for this class.” The hour-long commute gave Shay plenty of time to think, and it was during these drives that she decided to put something together in North County for kids like her son.

After polling her friends and community with a single question posted to Facebook, Shay learned that if she were to find an instructor to teach kids how to code, she’d be solving a problem that many families face today: how to help a child take their interest in computers or video games and turn it into something even more fulfilling.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Shay began laying groundwork for what would eventually become Color Coded Kids, St. Louis’ first coding “bootcamp” for children. Today, Color Coded Kids is offered in 3 major US cities: St. Louis, Arlington, VA and Houston, TX. She plans to expand to 20 total cities in the next 5 years.

When I asked her about the kind of feedback she receives, Shay told me how parents tend to respond once they see their child’s passion take flight: “I have so much support from parents, it’s unbelievable sometimes. They tell me things like, ‘My son doesn’t want to play basketball anymore because he loves to code now.’ They say the kids remind them about class and can’t wait for new sessions to begin.”

As far as coding languages go, kids learn the basics of Python, JavaScript, CSS and HTML. The 12-week course at Color Coded Kids follows a standard progression through 3 learning stages, from Level 1 (Introduction to Coding), to Level 2 (Coding Novice), to Level 3 (The CODEt). Included in the curriculum are the fundamentals of application development, which involves learning how to build game applications (apps) while learning programming definitions, syntax, functions, algorithms and more.

Though the course is hosted in a classroom-type setting, the goal is to have fun. Shay’s mission is to help kids develop a love for technology at an early age to ultimately increase the talent pool of qualified candidates in technology related careers. When I asked her about how she finds instructors, she admitted that it’s tough. “The value we bring to our students is that we only hire real developers who actually code for a living,” she explains, “So that narrows down available instructors. I typically find instructors from friends and referrals from current instructors. We also perform our due diligence to interview new instructors and make sure they are suitable for the kids.”

Another way for Shay to find coders through her network of colleagues at World Wide Technology, where she is responsible for Diversity Business Strategy. For Shay, every day is a reminder that the future in technology is so bright for today’s youngest developers. Reflecting on her past students, she told me this:

“My favorite story is definitely finding out one of our former students now wants to be a computer developer after college and it was nowhere near what he wanted to do before getting in the classes. That makes me happy because that’s one of the reasons this program started!”

It’s no secret that most companies today lack diversity among software developers. Underrepresented groups face structural and social barriers in access and exposure to subjects like computer science. Shay and her team believe that by starting with children, they can help reverse that trend for an entire generation of future developers or more broadly, entrepreneurs.

Under CCK’s core values of Respect, Enthusiasm, Attitude, Client Satisfaction and Honesty and Integrity (REACH), kids who attend the classes will certainly be challenged in the best way, in the best environment.

You can feel Shay’s passion when she discusses the importance of early enablement in all communities.  Her analogy is this: “The kids are our future – and technology is the future – and we need them to marry each other, but they need to get to know each other as soon as possible. And that’s my goal.”

For more information, or to register your child for a course, visit