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Hackernoon logoExperience: how we created a school for mobile developers by@HeadsnHands

Experience: how we created a school for mobile developers

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@HeadsnHandsElena Lysiakova

Our company has several offices. The main development center is located in regional city of Russia, Saransk. As many studios, from time to time we need new people to join our team. Today I want to share a story of how we solved the recruitment hunger with non-standard IT approach.

In Heads and Hands our main expertise is development of mobile apps. Frankly speaking, it’s something around 90% of products we develop. Historically, the main part of our development is located in Saransk city, which is not that wide actually. It’s logical, that we faced a problem with finding new employees.

The simplest solution is to search for new people with x2 salary offers, but surprisingly this approach didn’t work. The vast majority of people have their safe working places and don’t want to change anything or already have moved to another cities. The only solution we were left with is to train new specialists ourselves. There are some pros of course, including relatively low cost of the new employees and high loyalty to the company; but there are also cons such as no experience with working on real projects.


Our first step towards implementation of our idea laid in creation of curriculum. It may seem too bureaucratic and not necessary in the beginning, but later practice showed us that it was a great decision. For teacher and his students it’s much easier and more convenient to look at the curriculum and see what they will have on the next class or what this student has missed previously. The creation started with general list of questions that everybody who wants to develop mobile apps needs to know. For example, for iOS development the beginning of the curriculum looked like this:

  • Development basics. iOS, XCode, HelloWorld.
  • Objective-C. Basic information. Operators. Types of data. Variables. Arrays.
  • Objective-C. Classes, fields, methods, properties.

As you can see, this plan orients on complete novices in programming, but on this stage we also managed to get higher level students to involve and become interested in the course. Later we added more details to this plan and decided to have practical part on each lesson. Right now we write every lesson down in details. Probably, sometime this curriculum will expand to the whole professional study book.


What did it cost us to establish a school? Well, our whole investments ended on buying two 13-inch MacBook Air and time to teach lessons. Of course, the time is more valuable.

For a classroom we used our lounge zone in the office. It’s way more informal than regular classrooms, that is why such studying place became a great motivation for learning (for those, who dislike boring lectures and academic style, of course).


Developers school logo

After some preparations the time for the most important thing came — we placed an announcement about opening a school. We even had some design inspiration in process and created a logo for our school that gave our announcement more credits and interest.

We had little requirements for those who wanted to study basic mobile programming. So, our student was a last year student in university that still has desire to dive deep into the profession. We had two types of announcements. One offline on tech faculties premises in universities, and another one online in our social networks where we asked to share the news among our friends and fellow groups (universities groups, groups of young developers, etc.) In the end we covered a nice audience: we had several hundreds of displays each day which is actually a big number for a regional IT-group.


In the end we got dozens of emails for every platform from people who wanted to study. When we sorted it we faced the need to find the ones we want to give the admissions to. We never wanted to form big groups because such approach will be less qualified in the end. That is why we stopped on the groups for 4–5 people. In such case teacher will be able to control every student’ progress individually and all students can estimate the proper attention for everyone. In the end, we had a goal to choose ones who will be more suitable for our company.

Interview was based on short personal story and programming experience together with questions why this person wanted to study mobile development.

As we found out it wasn’t a problem, because we had the right number of people with basic programming skills applied to a study. For others we suggested to start with basics (to learn what are variables and methods are, to write ‘Hello, world!’ and come to us again in the future).


We had two groups of students ready (iOS and Android ones) and continued with actual lessons. As I mentioned before, we held classed in our lounge zone. We thought that 2 evening lessons per week with 1 or 2 hours will be enough, but practice taught us that there are some complex subjects you cannot fit into 2 hours lesson. That is why we rewrote our study plan in process and divided several lessons themes into two or even more lessons.

The lesson itself consists of two parts: theoretical one where the teacher explains the theme on real examples, and practical one where students are divided into pair to perform a complex task for the current subject or one we taught on the previous lesson.


In the beginning of the last year we had our first graduation. At that time our team got several new developers that are still working in our company. Some of them even have surpassed their teachers in some aspects of work.

This year we are also looking for new blood joining our team and don’t want to stop on this matter. We start to plan new teaching format called IT-laboratory of web projects. If it will be interesting, we could also write about this experience later.


In the end I want to mention that we are not the only one who started their own development school. There are various courses from other companies that are taught inside or on the base of local universities. Some time ago, even the well-known group established their own development school in our city. Well, we wish them luck and hope that such approach will enrich the recruitment process in our city and our company.


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