Coding Camps: A Smart Bet For MBAs Or A Waste Of Time?


A Codesmith-style Fourth of July celebration

Travis Sorenson’s path to a coding camp was by no means a direct one. After earning an MBA from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business in 2014, Sorenson gained employment at what he calls a “fairly standard MBA job” that earned somewhere above the $111,000 average starting salary for Darden graduates. Sorenson says that after some time at the company, he realized it wasn’t a permanent fit for him.

“I was really, really excited about it, but when I got there, I was just miserable,” said Sorenson “I remember getting my first paycheck and seeing, in my head, the golden handcuffs being put on.”

Motivated by an innate joy of building things and the appeal of the employment opportunities associated with coding, Sorenson started trying to learn to code in the summer after he graduated from Darden, immediately before his initial employment. The prospect of employment in product management was one of the major factors that motivated Sorenson to learn coding, he says.


“Product management requires such a rare combination of skills, and as an MBA you already definitely understand what the customer wants and needs. But, without the technical aspect, you can’t really communicate that to the engineering team,” says Sorenson, who recently graduated from Codesmith’s 12-week academy camp. “These types of programs really bridge that gap.”

To code, or not to code, that is the question – an often contentious one being asked more and more frequently in the MBA world. Some MBA critics contend that coding camp is as valuable as a two-year MBA degree. Others believe it’s an essential experience to have at a time when technology pervades every aspect of business. One thing is for sure: Coding camps have begun to spring up around the country. And some MBAs, beasts of opportunity that they are, have taken notice. Programs such as CodeSmith are creating new job opportunities for MBAs, positions that, before now, would have required a degree in computer science to attain.

Codesmith is a newer addition to an array of similar camps – a program intended to be as immersive as possible. The software engineering program teaches computer science, JavaScript engineering, and mobile development. Taking place in Playa Vista, California, the camp offers 12 intense weeks of full-time learning with 11 directly supported hours of learning and applying each day. Not all coding camps are the same-length.  Fullstack’s camp is 13-weeks long, while TechTalentSouth’s and CodingDojo’s are eight weeks and 14 weeks long, respectively.


Codesmith is fairly new relative to other similar immersion-oriented programs. Even so, the camp’s tuition–at $17,200–is one of the highest compared to other camps of similar composition and structure, though Codesmith offers 25% to 50% scholarship discounts to military veterans, women, and underrepresented minorities.

The CodeSmith curriculum is devoted to “creative learning” – learning by doing. Lectures are presented each morning and afternoon that lay out the fundamentals on a given topic, then the rest of the day is devoted to actually building projects. According to Will Sentance, the CTO and co-founder of Codesmith, much of the program’s success is owed to pair programming – a learning system where two programmers work together on the same work station.

“It is the secret hack to accelerating the learning process. It’s absolutely crazy. The program couldn’t go on without it,” Sentance says.

Each person in the pair has a role – one, the driver, writes code while the second, the observer, reviews each line of code as it’s typed. Some other coding camps, including Hack Reactor and Epicodus, use pair programming in their curricula as well.

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