Kirill Mokevnin, Hexlet: "the greatest challenge in learning to code is managing your own expectations"

Technology has become an integral part of our everyday lives, and with it, the demand for skilled programmers and developers has skyrocketed.

From building cutting-edge mobile applications like VPNs for iPhone or Android, and antiviruses to revolutionizing industries with innovative solutions, programming has emerged as a gateway to limitless possibilities.

With this ever-growing demand, the need for quality programming education has never been more critical. That's where EdTech comes into play – a powerful catalyst transforming how we learn and making career-focused programming education accessible to all.

To find out how aspiring programmers can benefit from such a platform, we reached out to Kirill Mokevnin, CEO of Hexlet – an EdTech platform for career-focused programming education and online courses.

What has the journey been like for Hexlet? How did it all start?

Hexlet was founded in 2012 in Helsinki, Finland, by programmer Rahim Davletkaliyev. In 2013, I, Kirill Mokevnin, joined the project. Initially, Hexlet was an open platform where authors could publish their programming courses.

However, the idea proved challenging to implement, so Hexlet gradually transformed into a classic EdTech project. We are currently combining an online school and several open-source projects. Our main goal is to enhance the skills of professionals and provide education for those who wish to start a career in Tech.

The company's founders are programmers who have always been passionate about teaching and mentoring developers in large corporations. Everything we teach is based on our in-house expertise. We teach people the same way we would if we hired them to work with us. Hexlet is a platform created by professionals for professionals.

Today we cover both technical and related professions such as testing, data analysis, and more.

Can you introduce us to what you do? What makes Hexlet different from other learning platforms?

Our main differences are:

  • Our methodology for educational programs. We have a deep level of detail in our program. Our lessons are predominantly text-based and of small volume, with 80% of the learning time dedicated to practice.
  • We have a career track that helps our students find employment. We collaborate with companies that hire our graduates.
  • We utilize cutting-edge technologies in our educational process. For example, our simulator provides a real development environment that enables launching projects of any complexity and working with frameworks at total capacity. From the beginning of their education, such an approach allows students to understand what they can expect in the workplace.
  • The Hexlet platform is automated. Our systems provide the opportunity to study autonomously, as well as with the support of a mentor if self-education is insufficient or unsuitable for the student.

How do you motivate learners to stay engaged and keep learning?

We use different approaches to motivate our audience. For example, we have group learning. Group dynamics help to stay at the same pace.

The platform has a rating system. It has encouraged many students to strive for a top ranking during the week.

In addition to the system, some mentors can help with complex questions, and curators oversee the entire learning process.

We have also introduced career consultations, and we actively assist students with job placement. Employment-related questions are also included in the early stages of learning. Additionally, we conduct mock interviews, and on the platform, students can see how their classmates get employed.

During the learning process, students work on projects. Most of them start within two months of studying. It helps to show the reality of programming and demonstrates what to expect in the workspace. It also motivates them to continue learning.

What do you think are the biggest challenges that programmers face when learning how to code?

The biggest challenge those who want to learn how to code face is managing their expectations. Currently, those who do not have technical backgrounds or programming experience are actively joining the field. Such an audience does not understand what to expect.

Students who have been self-taught before taking courses already know what they will face. Typically, students with some background do not have serious problems during the learning process. However, if a student has never dealt with programming, it's difficult to grasp how programming works and restructure their thinking.

For example, when writing code, there will always be situations that you have never encountered before. Searching for and correcting errors can take days. It may seem like a waste of time.

All of this can be demotivating. But this is the learning process, and this is how programmers really work. Searching for an error in code for three days is normal for them and is part of their workflow.

The key problem for us, as creators of educational programs, is to align these expectations so that people understand what coding is really about.

What are the best practices companies should follow when developing applications?

Programming and code are just a part of a system that includes infrastructure, servers, etc. If you write code quickly, it can contain errors. Even if everything goes well, users will only see product changes after several weeks.

Application development is built around fast time-to-market. To achieve this, we need to improve the engineering culture, which includes automated tests, continuous integration, automated deployment, and so on.

Talking about personal cybersecurity, what security tools or practices do you think everyone should adopt to protect themselves online?

We are very focused on this issue because we have many services we use for work. One of the critical security rules we follow in the company is using two-factor authentication, as well as mandating the use of password managers.

What tips would you give to someone looking to learn to program?

If you can't make up your mind but really want to try, it's better to give it a shot. There are many free resources available that allow you to try programming and practice. Take a few free courses in different areas - this will help you understand how much you like programming in general and the language you have chosen.

For example, many programmers enjoy solving complex problems. But is this right for you? After all, not everyone enjoys solving complex issues.

For example, we have a free project called Code Basics. It allows you to try programming. Code Basics also help you learn basic concepts in programming and provides some practice.

What advancements and innovations in the software development field do you hope to see in the near future?

We already see the development of "future" technologies such as artificial intelligence. We are actively involved in implementing ChatGPT into our educational product.

For example, we have already analyzed texts generated by ChatGPT and evaluated them using the same methodology we use to evaluate our authors. ChatGPT showed a very low result. If an author had submitted such material, we would not have passed it in the initial evaluation stage.

And finally, what’s next for Hexlet?We plan to expand by opening more educational programs in different areas, entering new markets, and improving our customer service. Also, we plan to increase the number of partner companies that will employ our students.

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