Can You Really Demystify Computer Code and Data in a Day?

Course Aims to Show How Files That Sit on Servers Talk to One Another

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Credit: Christopher Lane for Ad Age

John Ridpath measures his time at tech-education consultancy Decoded as though it were a young child. "I've been here 21 months," said the company's head of product on a bright Wednesday morning in April at Decoded's Manhattan loft space. It's fitting, considering Decoded is still trying to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up.

A handful of people were gathered that day, mostly Decoded staff along with one paying client, to take a daylong crash course in computer programming called Code in a Day. Designed for C-suite execs or board members who want an overview of coding concepts, the nine-hour class taught by Mr. Ridpath and freelancer YK Hong promises to take students "from zero skills and confidence to coding your own app in a single day."

Code in a Day is a pricey proposition at $1,495. "It is a premium kind of product because it's geared to business people who don't have a lot of time but need to get up to speed on this world quite rapidly," said Decoded's U.S. CEO, Liz Lukas.

The session guides would-be coders through a series of high-level explanations of various programming languages including HTML, CSS and Javascript, the goal being to craft a simple app built on these concepts that is accessible via the web and hosted by Decoded. While there's some hands-on immersion involved, the class is really intended to give a bird's-eye view of how code works to enable the everyday digital functions we take for granted, and show how files that sit on servers talk to one another.

Code in a Day private sessions cost less per person than the open-session rate and require groups of 10 or more. Best Buy execs took part in a Code in a Day session recently, as did the small team at DDB Vancouver.

"I always liken things like this to the '90s, when people were building websites; some people were charging $500 and some people were charging $5,000," said Todd Szahun, VP-data strategy and partnerships at WPP's data and tech consultancy The Data Alliance. Mr. Szahun scored a seat at a "jam-packed" Decoded mini-course on data at SXSW this year.

During a brain-refueling lunch featuring quinoa and salmon, one participant at last month's New York class added weather data to her mobile app using coded lines of brackets and semicolons to tell the application how and where to grab weather information dynamically to feed into her app.

Students learned about online resources to assist them in future coding endeavors and can request additional help from Decoded tutors down the road. Still, those seeking in-depth knowledge of Javascript or data and stats-related languages like R or Python will want to find another class. The once-a-month open sessions (there's also a Data in a Day course) are a minimal component of Decoded's business, which is focused on custom courses for brands and ad agencies.

Five people operate the burgeoning New York branch, "but I could see us doubling or tripling that by the end of the year," said Ms. Lukas. The company also opened a Singapore office with one staffer charged with developing opportunities in Asia. The company has 30 employees.

In London, where the company was founded, Decoded is still developing products such as shorter sessions and a free CodeEd-in-a-Day offering for schools in the U.K. That product is likely less viable here in the States, where schooling is not as homo-genized. The firm is pondering additional subject areas, including cyber security.

"In terms of the value exchange, there's just not enough out there in the market to compare it to," said Mr. Szahun. "What's the alternative?"

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