Article by Nicole Gottselig, Factory Berlin member since July 2018
CODE University is training the next generation of software engineers, interaction designers and product managers with a new and innovative approach to higher learning, where students are free to focus on their passions and learn through real-world projects.
Stepping into CODE University at Factory Berlin Görlitzer Park feels more like an incubator that’s on the brink of launching a new innovation than a post-secondary environment. Airy, open meeting spaces that run workshops replace classrooms. Community areas are buzzing with students working in teams. A list of partners on the wall proudly features SinnerSchrader, Facebook and Porsche as companies students collaborate with on real projects.
Students leave CODE with a Bachelor of Arts in either interaction design, software engineering or product management, once they’ve chosen the stream that resonates with them most after hands-on experience in each role. I sat down with four students to learn more about what they are currently working on in each stream.
Selma Illig: Interaction Designer
In summer 2018, Selma Illig received her bachelor’s degree in political science, with a minor in intercultural business communication. Armed with four years of theoretical classes, academic papers and dozens of stress-inducing exams, returning to school in the fall was not part of her short-term goals.
All that changed when she found CODE’s project-based program. Fast-forward six months, and this first-year student is working on her second project as an interaction designer for an app called Vibe. The app’s objective is to help CODE students plan, attend and organize events within the CODE community. The idea came about because too many messages were getting lost or forgotten in the stream of messages on the community channels interaction designer, she is applying the tools she’s learning at CODE about the grid system, a layout that places buttons in the right spots and makes it easier for the software engineer on the project. “None of us have experience working in all three streams, and the projects give us a chance to get to know how each role influences the other,” says Illig.
When she’s not attending workshops or meeting her project’s next deadline, Selma is part of the newly formed student council, which works to help students maintain a work-life balance through proper self-care.
Irakli Goderdzishvili: Product Manager
As a high-school student in Tbilisi, Georgia, Irakli Goderdzishvili had an eye for art and an interest in pursuing graphic design, but the field lacked a sense of purpose he was seeking. By eleventh grade, he was scouring the globe for a post-secondary tech program that spoke to his goals and aspirations but came up short.
It was through a family friend that he heard about CODE University. “As soon as I got on the website, I knew it was something I had to apply for. It was perfect,” explains Goderdzishvili.
By late fall 2017, he submitted his application and added an additional subject to his studies to meet CODE’s admission requirements. A year later and in a new country, he’s just wrapped up his second project as product manager on an intensive four-week project schedule.
The project was to recreate CODE’s Competence Framework, which is an image that shows how students are assessed and the modules are structured, into an interactive digital platform.
Working alongside another product manager, he ensured all elements of the project flowed smoothly, including managing user research, user testing and design sprints to speed up the development project, crucial for meeting deadlines on a four-week project.
When he’s not on deadline, you can find him checkmating his opponents and going analog at the student-founded chess club.
Sebastian Scharf and Moritz Lang: Software Engineers
Second-year students Sebastian Scharf and Moritz Lang both wanted to break into the open source software space, so they teamed up for their third-semester project as software engineers to create a free iPad app for backend and client-side developers.
The app, which will be available for download at the end of the semester, is an editor for GraphQL, a technology for developers that specifies the exact data to retrieve from an application programming interface (API).
“We’ve been working to improve the tool so that it’s easy and enjoyable to use on touch devices,” says Scharf. Once completed, they see the app helping client-side developers see the value of API, and for backend developers to develop their own APIs.
The pair also shares similar reasons for choosing CODE. Scharf studied business administration at a university of applied sciences but found it was too theoretical. While Moritz, who worked as a web developer after high school to gain experience and not theory, wanted a program that focused on project-based learning.
“What I like is that here we learn how to learn, so if we want to change jobs it’s easy because you just have to learn another technology,” explains Lang. They have both also had experience working with two of CODE’s partners. Last semester, Moritz worked with Porsche and Scharf worked with METRO, an international leader in wholesale and food retail. In between working on their app, they also play on CODE’s soccer team.