“I started Rocket Academy by hosting a website and asking friends if they knew anyone who wanted to learn coding. Luckily, a few people were interested, and Rocket has [since] grown from there,” said 32-year-old Neo Kai Yuan, as he briefly gave us an insight into what sparked his startup idea.
According to Kai Yuan, he has always wanted his work to contribute to social good. After enlisting in National Service, he worked as a software engineer in healthcare, education, and finance sectors.
These stints led him to want to address the ongoing demand for software engineering in Singapore.
When he was studying at Stanford University and working in Silicon Valley, Kai Yuan gained the confidence to start up his own business. He was also greatly inspired by online coding bootcamps in the United States and its ability to raise significant venture capital.
Tapping on his coding expertise and professional network, he set out to help others navigate the tech industry.
Providing a concise education without a lengthy timeframe
Kai Yuan noticed how Singapore’s training in software engineering could take as long as a university course with a matching price tag.
He therefore came up with a goal to have Rocket Academy fill this gap with a more efficient education to software engineering through the use of a reverse classroom approach.
Learning to code through Rocket’s courses / Image Credit: Rocket Academy
“Rocket’s curriculum is more comprehensive than other short courses, and more practical than university courses. Our courses teach full-stack app development and algorithms; crucial topics for software engineering work and interviews, while most university courses teach computer science theory that is not necessary for entry-level software engineering jobs,” says Kai Yuan.
Based on his experience, engineers learn most of what they need to on the job, and they can simultaneously learn computer science theory to solve senior-level software engineering problems.
Therefore, Rocket emphasises hands-on learning and the course completion is entirely project-based. Students are required to review videos and readings prior to the class, and teachers spend class time guiding students through hands-on exercises in small groups to solidify learning.
Screenshots of ongoing lessons via Zoom / Image Credit: Rocket Academy
Aside from coding skills, Rocket Academy ensures that its students walk away with independence, network, and confidence.
However, Kai Yuan said that at the start, many casted doubt on the comprehensiveness of Rocket’s courses, and whether they would make students more successful than other short courses.
The full truth is, the school that attracts the best students will be most successful. Hence, every decision Rocket makes puts students first. The most glaring obstacle I faced when starting Rocket was ‘How do I get customers?’ My friends were the ones who supported me and referred good students.
– Neo Kai Yuan, co-founder of Rocket Academy
Selecting the right educators for the role
Rocket Academy’s admissions team carefully reviews each application before making a decision. For students to graduate, they have to successfully complete the minimum requirements across four projects.
Its academia is broken down into introductory Coding Basics or a career-prep Coding Bootcamp course.