By Neo Kai Yuan | 30 Mar 2022
Software engineering isn’t just about writing code. Software engineering is about creating impact.
In our world today, all the apps we use daily – from messaging and email to web search and government portals – are built by software engineers. The code they write solves problems and makes a real difference in the lives of billions of users.
Software engineers have the power to impact and revolutionise every industry. After graduation, I chose to work at healthcare startup Nuna Health in Silicon Valley and education financing startup Dana Cita in Jakarta because those were the industries I wanted to make an impact in.
The biggest businesses today are in the digital economy, and every other business is transitioning to software. The scalability of software enables virtually zero marginal cost of production, enabling these businesses to earn record profits. Software engineers make this possible. The more indispensable software gets, the more indispensable software engineers become.
And yet, because of the nascency of this field, there is a massive talent shortfall.
In 2021, the global shortage of skilled workers like software developers stood at 40 million, and this number is set to increase to 85 million by 2030 (Forbes, 2021). Anecdotally, every company I have spoken with that has over $1 million in funding or annual revenue has expressed more difficulty in hiring good software engineers than for any other role.
Building the Stanford of coding bootcamps
When I returned to Singapore in 2019, I wanted to create a startup to give back and create opportunities for others.
Rocket Academy is the culmination of my convictions. My goal is to equip software engineers with the skills to work in any industry, anywhere in the world, and empower Singapore and Southeast Asian companies to succeed in an increasingly software-driven global economy.
What we aim to build is the Stanford of coding bootcamps, one that attracts raw talent, trains them to become top software engineers, and funnels them to the best tech companies. At Rocket Academy, students get to develop a well-rounded portfolio, receive interview prep and resume review, and network with experienced software engineers.
Based on our experiences as educators and practitioners, we developed a curriculum that meets industry requirements and caters to students with or without a coding background. Our Basics course (6 weeks) teaches beginners to code from scratch and leads to the Bootcamp (6 months full-time or 12 months part-time), which trains students to succeed at any entry-level software engineering job.
So far, 100% of Rocket Academy’s Bootcamp graduates have landed software engineering jobs within 6 months of graduation.
Strengths of the Singapore startup ecosystem
Singapore is an ideal base for Rocket Academy because of our fluency in English, stable internet infrastructure, and high concentration of tech employers. This enables us to refer our graduates to good jobs and swiftly scale our student base.
From my experience in various startup ecosystems, Singapore stands out in terms of access to investors and top regional talent, as well as the ease to start a business – although companies here often have to look overseas for greater growth. Other Southeast Asian hubs like Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh City offer bigger markets, but starting up in those cities is a more difficult process.
Further afield in China and India, there are mature startup hubs like Beijing, Shenzhen and Bangalore that focus largely on domestic markets and experience a greater degree of startup and investor exits. As for the startup capitals of the world – San Francisco, New York, London – their level of innovation is worth emulating, yet they lack the local expertise that hubs like Singapore are leveraging to win regional markets.
1 million software engineers by 2030
Since launching our first Bootcamp in 2020 with just three students, Rocket Academy has grown to an intake of roughly 40 Bootcamp students per quarter, boosted by the hundreds of monthly signups for our free Basics course. In 2022, we aim to double our Bootcamp enrolment.
While 90% of Rocket’s students are currently from Singapore (and the remainder mostly from around Southeast Asia), we have plans to expand to Hong Kong, Australia and the US next. We are first targeting developed English-speaking markets with employers hungry for tech talent, and hope to provide more affordable solutions in developing markets at a later stage.
In the long term, Rocket Academy aims to be the top software engineering school globally, creating a rich pool of international talent and training 1 million software engineers by 2030. I believe that software engineering is an attractive, liberating and lucrative career option everywhere in the world.
Singapore’s reputation of integrity and competence, along with high standards in education, lends credibility to Rocket Academy’s success and international expansion. This will be key in earning the trust and respect of our customers and partners as we grow and scale into wider global markets.
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About Kai Yuan
Kai Yuan graduated from Stanford with a Master’s in Computer Science (AI) and worked at startups in San Francisco and Jakarta. He founded Rocket Academy in 2019 with a mission to alleviate the global shortage of software engineers.