Alex was a printer and graphic designer in the UK, and a teacher in Thailand before he moved to the states and decided to learn to code. He started CareerFoundry’s six-month remote Web Development Program in January, and studied part time while working full time as a dog walker in NYC. Alex tells us why online bootcamp CareerFoundry suited him so well, explains how intuitive and easy to follow the lessons are, and even gives us a live demo of the learning platform.
What was your career background before you decided to enroll at CareerFoundry?
I'm from England, but I've traveled around a bit. I spent seven years teaching English in Thailand, and before that, I was a printer in England for 10 years. I dabbled in graphic design, but printing was a dying trade at the time, and I needed to find a new career.
When I came to the United States, I was interested in code and web development. I tried to learn a little bit of code on my own and looked for the right course that would suit me, my time, and my future. At the moment I'm a dog walker, which gives me flexible hours so I can study a little more.
Did you learn on your own before you decided to enroll at CareerFoundry?
Yes. I went through a couple of free online bootcamps, and even tried a couple of paid ones like Treehouse and Code School as well for a few months before I found Career Foundry.
Were you always looking for an online bootcamp or did you consider doing an in-person bootcamp?
I looked into in-person bootcamps, but they always seemed to be a bit more expensive and because I needed to keep my full-time job, they didn’t fit my time frame. I chose to do an online bootcamp because I can study when I get home from work, at my own pace, and in my own time. Plus, it ended up being a lot more affordable.
What else did you consider when you were choosing a coding bootcamp?
Honestly, it was hard because I didn't know there was so much to web development in general. I didn't know which path to take. I had really basic knowledge, so I was looking for a course that would teach me from the ground up. Because web development is so broad, it was a good idea to start from the bottom and see where it would take me.
How did you pay for the CareerFoundry tuition? Did you take out a loan or use financing?
I researched a lot of online bootcamps, and a lot of them required one payment. Others allowed you to enroll for three months, six months, or a year and pay a monthly fee. CareerFoundry had two options: pay a lump sum at the beginning, or in installment plans, which was perfect for me. It worked out to be more manageable, so I wasn't throwing a lump sum of money into a course.
What was the CareerFoundry application and interview process like?
It was pretty easy. I picked how I wanted to pay and the time frame that I wanted to complete it in. I chose the six-month program, although there were other timeframes available. I thought six months would be long enough to get my head around the material. I wasn’t sure, either, whether I was going to struggle or keep up.
Once I signed up for the program, I went through an enrollment process. Then, the following Monday I was assigned a mentor and just dived right in. It was very simple.
Was there a coding challenge in the CareerFoundry application process?
No, and that was really helpful to me. CareerFoundry teaches you the basics, from building your first web page, and then builds on your knowledge from there. I think anybody could do CareerFoundry with no coding experience and be pretty successful.
What was the learning experience like at CareerFoundry? What was a typical day like?
You log in with your ID, and you get materials for the lesson you're on that week. You build your website through the course material as you go. You always have a mentor or tutor who gives you feedback, who you can contact anytime. Everything is explained really simply, but also goes deep enough to dig a bit further if you want to.
Who were your tutors and were they on the same time zone as you?
At the beginning of the course, I had a mentor who was in NYC. Then I had another mentor straight after who was on the same timezone as me. The great thing is CareerFoundry has a time frame where you know you can contact your mentor and get a response. I always got a response back really quickly from my first and my second mentor. Sometimes they'd be online when I was online so it was rare that you couldn’t get hold of someone.
How often did you interact with your tutor?
At the end of each lesson, you submit your work to your tutor. You can submit it as a direct message to your tutor through CF, or you can send them a message on Slack, to let them know you’ve finished. Usually I would get an approval or reevaluation of the lesson from the tutor within 24 or 48 hours. Most of the time I was speaking to my tutor or mentor once a day. Halfway through my lesson, if I didn't understand something, I would contact my tutor straight away on Slack.
Do you ever have face to face conversations?
We didn't really need it. I have spoken to a couple of people in the CareerFoundry Slack channel who have done Skype one-on-one meetings. I think you can set up a call with them and go through what you've learned so far, and show them your code one-on-one.
How often did you interact with other CareerFoundry students?
CareerFoundry puts you in a Slack channel with other students, where there are at least 50 people online at any time. They all have questions, they've got their own ideas, and when you're stuck or another student is stuck, you can help each other. If I’ve already done a section in the past, then I can help answer a question and vice versa, or give general advice after you finish the course. You also have the option to network with each other.
How have you balanced your full-time job with your CareerFoundry studies?
Dog walking gives me a lot of flexibility. My hours are never 100% set, but I know I can get home at a relatively decent hour, and can study for at least three hours a day. Because CareerFoundry is so simple and flexible, it’s very easy to be able to juggle full-time work and put in the hours to study as well. That said, you do have to buckle down and commit. There was one instance where I had to take a few days off and I did get worried that I wouldn't finish the course in time. Just like studying anywhere, you have to put in the hours if you want to finish.
How many hours per week were you putting in?
About 20 to 25 hours. The great thing about CareerFoundry is they have general lessons, but they also provide links so you can study further by yourself as well. Once you get into a certain topic, and really like it, there is the option to research more by yourself.
Can you share your screen with me now so you can show me what the CareerFoundry platform looks like?
Tell us about the CareerFoundry dashboard.
This dashboard is where I working from every day. It has the courses available – Web Developer, UX Designer, UI Designer, and iOS Developer. Let's choose the Web Developer. This is your course plan down here, which you gives you an extensive overview of what you learn throughout the course. Overall you end up completing six achievements to build your portfolio. Here are the links to each lesson. So if I was to go on to HTML and CSS basics, this is pretty much what you're studying from every day.
As you progress through the course, it obviously gets a bit harder, but everything is laid out so you can navigate to different points of the lesson. When you come to the end of each lesson, you submit your progress to your mentor or tutor. You end up getting really familiar with GitHub and Heroku. Another great thing is at the end of each lesson you can see other students’ work as well. If you get stuck on code, you can always go over another student's code on GitHub and see where you're going wrong or how they've written it.
How do you check on your progress to see how far you are through the course?
The dashboard shows you your progress. During the course, it gives you achievements, it gives you the time spent on the course, and your percentage of completion of the course. Obviously, I finished in July, so I'm at 100%. If you click on an exercise or lesson, it will tell you how many lessons you've completed in the last seven days. Then it advises you on how many lessons to complete per week to finish the course on time. That was brilliant because it let me know how much I had to buckle down to finish.
Where do you actually build your projects that you're working on?
You use Sublime text for writing your code and you use Bit Balloon at first. We ended up using Heroku once we started the Rails project for production, but mostly it's on those two platforms.
What's your favorite project or exercise you worked on at CareerFoundry?
I see in the bottom right-hand corner of the dashboard that it says career progress. I was wondering how that career coaching is integrated into the learning platform?
Unfortunately, this bit was changed in my last lesson of study. They added in job readiness calls, but I didn't get to use it. I wish I did because it does look really helpful, especially if it's helping you be prepared for the job that you're aiming for.
How would you say your experience working in CareerFoundry was different from working through other online coding courses like Codecademy?
For me, what attracted me in the beginning and has helped me most was the fact that you had a tutor. To have the option to contact somebody who knows what you're working on and obviously can approve or reevaluate your code, is really helpful. In other courses, you don't get that sort of option, and you end up having to Google everything, especially if you're watching videos, you only have what you see in that one video. At CareerFoundry you have the option to ask somebody, someone who has the outline and knows what you should be getting from your code. That’s the most helpful thing that CareerFoundry does.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge you've had at CareerFoundry?
I jumped into it without too much experience. And it is challenging to get through the course, learn, and come away and understand everything. It does tell you during the course to research by yourself and it provides you great links for extra study. It can get very difficult, but again having a tutor on hand, they always help push you in the right direction. So even though it can get very tough, there's always somebody to dig you out of a hole.
And is there a place in the CareerFoundry platform where you can give feedback about the program?
Yes. After every lesson it always gives you a list of questions and you can give feedback at the bottom of each lesson as well. You can give a star rating on how easy you thought the lesson was. A question I thought was quite cool was, “if you were asked to perform this task in a job how confident would you feel?” They take your needs into consideration, and they can reformat their lessons by judging how the students rate it.
Is there anything else that you want to show me on this platform?
You can go directly to the Slack channel from the website, which is really handy when you need help. I feel like everything is so simple with the layout and the course in general.
What was your original goal when you decided you wanted to learn to code at a bootcamp? Are you looking get a job as a junior developer or start a business or what's your plan?
I originally wanted to do freelancing, but after diving right into the CareerFoundry Web Development course, I’ve realized that there's a lot to learn, and I think I should jump into a junior level developer position to continue learning with a team.
And have you started applying for jobs now that you've finished the program?
Was there any further advice that CareerFoundry team gave you for job hunting?
My tutor was my mentor when I finished the course. I had a ton of questions for him, on what he thought was best, how he got into coding, and ended up exchanging numbers. And the tutor’s advice is going to be one of the best pieces of information you’ll get from CareerFoundry. The courses are brilliantly laid out, but your tutor is a professional. So he's got a lot of advice for you, can push you in the right direction, and give you a lot more focus.
Is there a specific industry or type of developer role that you're hoping to find?
That's sounds like a good plan. What advice do you have for other people who are considering changing careers and doing an online coding bootcamp?
There's a wealth of information out there and way more than you expect there to be until you dive in. After the six-month course, I do feel like I'm much more confident now than I ever was. But it's a learning curve every day. It's hard to find a course for you that's going to work with your budget, your time frame, and the area you want to go into. For me, CareerFoundry checked the boxes on my list. It's not easy, but stick at it.
Is there anything else you'd like to add about CareerFoundry or your experience there?
It was a great platform and course to take. I’m thankful for CareerFoundry and for pushing me in the right direction. I'd recommend it to anyone, to be honest.