{FAQ}

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What about homework?

Each module has up to 60 minutes of optional homework for a maximum of four hours per class per week.

Certificates require completed homework.

What tools and languages will I learn?

This depends on your skill level and somewhat on your age (for legal reasons). Have a look at Tools by Level.

The languages represent the best of breed for a true Full Stack Engineer.

What is a Full Stack Engineer?

One who has mastered the fundamentals of both systems operations (ops) and software development (apps) earns the title "Full Stack Engineer" (which is radically abused and misunderstood in the industry). In many respects such an engineer can provide all the services of an entire IT department on a smaller scale. As such, Full Stack Engineers are the most sought after position of any other technologist career (yes, even more than "blockchain engineers").

SkilStak's course curriculum is specifically designed to produce true Full Stack Engineers (and not just Full Stack Developers).

What is a Full Stack Developer?

One who can code for both the "front end" (usually web-based interfaces) and the "back end" (usually web services). JavaScript Node gained its massive popularity because it provided a way for developers to apply their skills in this way. However, "serverless" architectures are changing that definition somewhat. Go (golang) remains the dominant, high-performance solution for "back end" services replacing Node in most cases. Node remains extremely popular for web development in general.

What about Python?

Even though I taught Python for the first five years at SkilStak as the primary first language for beginners, modern JavaScript has far surpassed Python in advantages as a modern first language for the widest number of potential uses.

Python has horrible asynchronous options. Python gives you a 90s coder brain. Go beats Python at about everything else.

Modern JavaScript syntax is so new that many educators are not even aware of the important changes that fundamentally improve the initial uptake of absolultely essential modern concepts such as "functions are just values" (first-class and higher-order functions). In fact, a large percentage of beginning programming instructors can't even explain what those terms mean and why they are so cricitally important to modern programming.

Python, on the other hand, still lacks multi-line anonymous functions. When the Python team attempted to add them they hit huge snags with the Python syntax that uses spaces as part of the language (something long controversial that may ultimately prove to be its downfall).

Python requires installing an interpreter and messing around with system PATH variables and horrible package management. JavaScript is already on most devices in a way that can be immediately useful to young programmers.

The most insidious thing about learning Python first is what it does to the learning of the next language. Python is so different, which appears to make it easier to understand (also false), that looking at any other language later seems more foreign than if the coder had learned JavaScript first.

I realize much of the rest of the modern programming and academic community will take exception to my conclusions, but I take solice in the fact that Stanford, Code.org and many others agree with this.

How old do I have to be?

Ages are always recommendations. I regularly encounter students who are 10 with the technical aptitude of 30-year-olds.

By the same token, adults are very welcome to our program. Our adult Upskilling program has been successfully grandfathered into our current offerings. But the principle remains for those adults who want to improve. Labs can be used for independent-learning adults who want to just check-in on the plan and progress.

For example, helping you know to never (ever) do the Codecademy.com Python course (which is ancient and deprecated Python 2) v.s. the JavaScript course on the same site (which was one of the first to update to JavaScript ES6 syntax).

What are the prerequisites?

Prerequisites are the specific courses for which a current certificate must be earned and presented before signing up for the offering with the prereq.

What are codes?

Codes of four capital letters are fun and terse ways of referring to an offering, be it a course, camp, certificate or other special offering.

Code patches come with most achievements and credentials and can be worn any way you wish. The most formal way to present them stacked on the left long sleeve of a standard charcoal SkilStak DickiesĀ® shirt, always long-sleeved, never tucked in. šŸ˜

What does FAQ mean?

FAQ is short for Frequently Asked/Answered Questions.

Who is answering these FAQs?

This is Mr. Rob. Hi there.

Why should I come to SkilStak?

This question is coming up more now that many schools are waking up and adding computer science and programming, which is great! We don't really consider any of it competition.

In fact, our current and former students started, led, or have assisted with most programs in regional public and private schools. In many cases they taught the whole thing exemplifying our pay-it-forward mantra.

I realize there is no way for this to not sound self-serving so I encourage readers to start with some of our referrals before continuing.

Here's the problem. It's very hard not to come off negative, but it is simply today's reality.

šŸ’¬ "The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge." (Daniel J. Boorstin)

The honest answer why you should come (beyond the benefits of a supportive co-learning community) is that existing learning options are still woafully behind industry standards and the rest of the world, yes, including AP Computer Science, one of the most broken parts of the system. All colleges still require computer science students to take beginning CS courses even though the whole idea of "advanced placement" is to supposedly "advance" past them (even if they might give them a few credit hours for it). Why?

Because the content of most AP programs is down-right horrible by any objective industry standard. Schools and AP programs are currently teaching languages and technologies that are completely dead and defunct. For example, a local high school "HTML5" class required learning the marquee and center tags that have been deprecated for more than seven years; Adobe Flash is still taught despite Adobe abandoning it and its many security flaws; Java inheritance is emphasized over composition when using such professionally would instantly marginalize most developers. It saddens me to report this and I'm committed to helping everyone as much as possible -- including schools that need (and want) help.

Meanwhile, entire schools are blocking professional tools for dubious reasons. GitHub (which was just purchased by Microsoft for 6 billion dollars, that's how important it is) was blocked for almost a year until our students successfully lobbied to have it unblocked and explained why. Chrome DevTools -- reported to be the #1 most important web developer tool -- was also blocked by an entire district because the horrible testing software they use actually has the answers coded into the source code. One hour of technical review of that educational software package could have prevented that wasted purchase.

Usually no single individual is to blame. It's a systemic thing and thankfully it is improving, slowly. This is the reason I started SkilStak instead of working within such a broken system. Something had to be done. And I'm glad I did.

I'm very proud to say since 2015 SkilStak students are head and shoulders beyond most of their peers and many currently employed adults (which creates something of a chronic problem with student humility).

For example, our students started officially learning the Go programming language (created at Google) in 2013, and it has since become one of the hottest languages on the planet. Duke, for one, is hiring heavily to create monitoring systems with it and near the end of 2017 Forbes called it "one of the 2 highest-paying languages you never heard of." Well, we had.

The most important course every single SkilStak student must take is Essentials where students learn what most do not teach: how to become and remain a relevant technologist. It really makes no sense to build skills without knowing how to maintain them.

SkilStak students have responsibly identified significant security holes in several companies networks and helped them to close them and have helped corporations track down and correct web sites that had been hacked.

Students at SkilStak have received professional Linux certification at the age of 15. No other local educational institution can currently claim that in our region.

How do I sign up?

Call or send an email. We'll find a time for you to meet and register you for it.

An invoice will be sent to that same email address. You can pay however you like, online, cash, or check but payment must be made within 10 days of the invoice or your registration will be canceled.

Meetups require an RSVP to reserve your spot. Donations and payment for these is cash only.

I opted for a personal connection over any registration system. The fewer layers between me and you the better.

Do you have semesters?

No. We do lessons (private and semi-private), meetups, and events. This allows the maximum amount of flexibility for each student and his or her situation and other activities. Some will synchronize with their school semesters, some will cram 16 lessons into a vacation break, some will to two lessons per week. Everyone is different.

Should I get a certificate?

Astute hiring managers will always assess your work experience regardless of any credential. They are searching for someone they can trust to do the job. Notable hiring organizations (such as Google and Facebook) actually look down on software engineers who list credentials over code.

These days many hire directly from GitHub repo review without even looking at resumes. Two separate parents employed as recruiters have declared that very thing in class when they noticed we teach GitHub in Essentials . Yet no public or private school in the region teaches this important service.

After all, what does answering a bunch of multiple-guess questions and paying $150-$500 at some testing center actually show about your skills?

This is why SkilStak certificates map directly to work you have accomplished and can proudly demonstrate. In many ways our certificates program is like that of some scouting programs. A list of requirements that are evaluated during an intense assessment. Plus you get a patch in addition to the paper. šŸ˜

How early can I arrive?

You can arrive no more than 10 minutes before your class. At that time you can enter SkilStak and wait in the other rooms quietly during the transition until your seat is available.

Students who enter or are dropped off before 10 minutes will be automatically charged a full hour of lab.

When situations call for dropping off much earlier than class begins arrangements should be made to register for a lab before class begins. This not only allows for occasional needs but also ensures I am prepared with something for them to do during that lab time.

What if I'm late?

It is crucial students arrive on time or no more than 10 minutes before. I understand there are legitimate reasons for being late or missing (weather, emergencies, etc.) but unfortunately these unexpected things do not dismiss you from the obligation for paying for that time.

What if my ride is late?

It is crucial students are picked up on time. All rides should be prepared at least 5 minutes before the end of class to pick up.

Advanced permission to release the student to roam outside (at the park or walk) can be signed at registration.

Rides arriving more than 10 minutes late will be automatically charged a $50 late-pick up fee, no exceptions.

Do you accept credit cards?

Absolutely, just not on site currently. We use PayPal for all of our transactions currently meaning we sent an invoice for course payments and you pay though that. Check or cash can still be used and recorded in the invoice.

Do you accept PayPal?

Yes. It's our main method of payment.

Do you accept Venmo?

Venmo is a "digital wallet" system popular for paying babysitters and such and is subsidiary of PayPal. We plan to accept payment through Venmo soon.

What does semi-private mean?

Semi-private simply means the maximum students per class is two. (Private would be one.)

Why a home-based business?

Think guitar lessons. Most SkilStak courses and Meetups are held at our home in Davidson where we have dedicated a room to this purpose. This is why our courses are limited to two students maximum at any given time and Meetups are only held on the weekends and often involve going to another location in our SkilStak van.

Learningā€”especially technical skillsā€”happens best one-on-one where everyone can work on things together in highly personalized, pair-programming environment. As the number of students goes up, the quality inevitably goes down. It's not bad. It's just physics. This is the main reason we opted to stay as small as possible.

An important secondary reason is because we believe intensely in reducing our impact on the delicate and beautiful ecology or our area that has already been irrecoverably damaged by wasteful Lake Norman mansions, motorized craft pollution, and over fertilized lawns.

There simply is no more eco-friendly business model than a humble home-based one that promotes busing, walking, biking, and skating and allows the space to be used all day instead of wastefully running the AC for eight hours in a 3000+ square foot empty home while the occupants are at school and work.

My wife and I believe strongly in doing our very best personally to bring about the important changes needed in our world. Choosing this business model and location is one important way we acted on that belief.