I like to keep things friendly and informal, but some things have to be spelled out pretty strictly for the sake of the community. You will notice most of our policies are designed to protect the learning of others. All policies are based one guiding question: what if everyone did it?
“Is my time slot reserved?”
Not until you have paid for your invoice.
This means anyone looking at the schedule will see that time as available until it is paid and could potentially sign up for it even after you have received an invoice. The invoice would be cancelled in that case.
“When do I have to pay for the next block?”
Four weeks in advance.
Because we have a waiting list for planning purposes it is important we get continuing blocks taken care of about a month in advance. About five weeks prior to the end of your current block you will get an invoice to continue in that same time slot for the next block. Every invoice must be paid within seven days meaning that you will have paid for your block in full four weeks before it starts.
“Can I split up the payments?”
Of the few times I have allowed this exception most of them result in people promising to pay an just saying they decided not to for whatever reason (usually they say they don’t have the money, although their vacation schedule and private school enrollment prove otherwise). Often this would happen after I had told others I had no room and was full. This robs potential members of the opportunity based on some parents trying to get away with whatever they can, unfortunately.
“Can I get a refund?”
Be sure of what you want and your schedule before you commit. After you pay your invoice it will not be refunded under any circumstance. If you are not sure wait until you are. I have very few time slots so you must be sure you really want to learn here and are committed to at least giving it a try for one 16-week block. Besides, making any decision after only a few sessions would be completely dubious since it is impossible to assess progress after such a short time.
“Is there homework?”
No, not officially.
Your amount of time dedication is entirely up to you. But only spending one hour a week will produce very poor learning performance. Instead, you should shoot for at least 2-3 hours of work outside of sessions in order to retain what you are learning as you go. If you are unable (or unwilling) to spend that extra time it is in your best interests to simply not enroll. Instead, wait until you can dedicate your attention (during the Summer perhaps) and try again then (if there is anything available).
“What if I miss a session?”
You can push out two sessions for every block of 16. Missed sessions after two are simply lost. In the Summer months the number increases to four.
Life happens. I get it. Weather, traffic, homework, conflicting events, unexpected opportunities, over-scheduled exhaustion, all are understandable but they don’t change the reality that there is very little flexibility in the schedule.
You can also push-out sessions within four days of a calendar holiday.
Always inform me immediately if you are not coming or you automatically forfeit your push-out after 10 minutes late.
"Can I get a free make-up at another time?
Absolutely not. There just isn’t time. The schedule is full.
Remember, resources have already been spent for that time whether you come or not. I deliberately operate with very low margins in order to provide private mentored learning opportunities to the largest possible demographic, so giving sessions away for free is just not possible, even if the reason is completely understandable.
“What if I am early or late?”
No more than five minutes early or late. 10 minutes late automatically cancels.
I understand. Life happens, but it doesn’t change the reality of the schedule. Truth is there is never a good excuse to be late or early, ever. Manage your time. Arrive early and wait close by. Bring something to do while you wait. Make sure your ride does not leave the area during your session and stays close by. If you know are going to be late send me a Discord, Skype, or email message before the 10 minutes has passed.
It’s not just the time lost. Often arriving late affects your ability to focus and learn. Arriving on time — or slightly early — allows you to prepare mentally and be ready to learn right away.
“Can I be kicked out or disqualified?”
Yes. But it has only happened three times in eight years.
When you join this community you agree to uphold the values and expectations and can be removed without refund for violating them. I reserve the right to make that judgement myself. In every case I have had to remove someone it has involved physically violent behavior, serious violation of trust or ethics, or intellectually bullying others in the community. I should mention that I have not removed many that even my wife thought deserved it (which says a lot). It is more important that people make such mistakes in a non-professional environment and learn their lessons here before it becomes critical later on the job.
“Can I get a letter of recommendation?”
I normally do not have room in the schedule to write such letters unless it is during your session time. College letters of recommendation take an extraordinarily large amount of time to do well (sometimes even two sessions), and for all the colleges for which a single person applies.
Besides, you may not want a recommendation from me anyway.
I compare you to others I have mentored — not your other peers. You might be an absolutely amazing technologist compared to all the other people at your school, but within the SkilStak community you will likely just be average. I have no way of knowing what the others in your school are like and therefore am forced to make a comparison that could look confusing to the one considering your recommendation. It would be dishonest to do otherwise.
“Can I get a job recommendation?”
Job recommendations are often a lot easier to make than letters of recommendation. I have been told that such phone calls have convinced some to hire the candidate. Indeed, more than one company has called me directly looking for applicants who I was able to place with them. I also whole-heartedly recommend people on LinkedIn as well.
“Can I pair up with someone else?”
It depends. But the cost is always the same.
Imagine the difference between teaching a voice or guitar lesson to one person vs two.
All of this depends on the goals of the mentoring relationship with each individual. No two people learn the same way nor at the same pace. Adding just one additional person changes the entire learning dynamic requiring a different mentoring approach.
Those who only have one hour to code each week are more likely to need less attention during sessions because they will be entirely focused on writing as much code as possible during their sessions. Two independent learners working silently in flow state on their coding challenges only asking for help as needed can allow two or more people in a session at a time because mentoring is focused on answering each specific person’s question when it occurs, much like a learning lab at a university.
However, when a large amount of topical presentation is required having two or more can be very ineffective since the two might be on entirely different tracks of learning.
On the contrary, someone who codes frequently during the week and queues up questions and concerns to be discussed requires a one-on-one session since the session will be mostly highly specialized dialog addressing that individual’s needs. This does not allow more than one person at a time.
When and if I deem it appropriate to combine two or more individuals for any reason the cost will always be the same. Such a decision always involves consultation with everyone involved to get consensus. If consensus cannot be achieved I reserve the right to make that decision at my sole discretion.