Chung Kim tried web development 15 years ago and had a real aptitude for it, but he didn’t put those skills to the test until he recently decided to move to the Bay Area to join Coding Dojo and attend their 12-week coding bootcamp. He was referred to Coding Dojo by a friend that had recently completed their bootcamp. Having recently completed the course himself, Chung tells us about choosing programing languages to focus on, ways to avoid burnout, and working at his new company Roost.
Tell us what you were doing before you started at Coding Dojo.
I worked in government contracting before Coding Dojo- I spent one year as an HR analyst, then I spent the following year as an IT analyst. That’s when I started getting into code. In that job, I was like an extension of our development team. I had to be the middleman between developers and non-technical teams.
What inspired you to make the switch, quit your job and go to boot camp?
I did web development back in ’98, ’99. I didn’t really think much of it because I was still a kid and no one was really into that type of stuff at the time, but I knew I had a knack for it. Eventually, one of the applications in our company in my previous job was on the web and that’s when I had to recall all these skills that I had learned 15 years ago and I realized I really enjoyed that work.
Did you take a Computer Science class during your undergrad?
I double majored in Accounting and Information Systems. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a CS class, and I kind of regret that. I got through my undergrad but I didn’t really enjoy it.
Why did you choose Coding Dojo and what factors did you consider?
I was living in Northern Virginia, but I’ve wanted to move to the Bay area for a long time. I was doing some self-study on web development but I just didn’t feel I was making enough progress with it so I started looking around. I tried Codecademy, Udemy and Coursera and I just got really frustrated because things were moving so slowly.
I talked to a friend who had just finished Coding Dojo and asked him about his experience. He and I both looked at Dev Bootcamp, which was pretty big at that time and General Assembly. I eventually went with Coding Dojo because it was the only recommendation I got from a reliable source, my friend.
Did you end up applying to any other bootcamps or only Coding Dojo?
I applied to Dev Bootcamp and Hack Reactor also. Hack Reactor’s application process was really extensive. And even though I was accepted to Dev Bootcamp, I wouldn’t have been able to start for another few months. I just didn’t want to wait that long.
I also thought that Coding Dojo had a really good price point at that time. I think it was somewhere around $9,000 and meals were provided (meals are no longer provided at Coding Dojo).
What was the time commitment at Coding Dojo?
It was at least 40 hours per week. I realized that you need to do a lot of self-study to really stay up to pace with the course material. Going to the classroom on the weekends wasn’t unusual for me or for most of us that did really well on the course.
How many people were in your cohort?
We started with 12.
Did everybody start on the same technical level?
I definitely had an edge on most of the class, along with a couple of other classmates. One classmate actually had a CS background and was just generally a bright guy. We had another guy who also came from a technical background and myself, where I actually had some experience with web development.
A lot of the other students didn’t have that foundation to help with the course material, especially when they got stuck.
Did you think it was a diverse cohort in terms of age, gender and race?
It was definitely a diverse group. We had women, international students; every major group was represented. The age ranges were between early twenties to early thirties.
Who were the instructors for your cohort?
The first half of the course was taught by India and Dexter. The second half we had India and Trey. They were all former students but they graduated at the top of their cohorts.
Dexter was the lead instructor for our cohort, and he was the strongest student of his cohort so he knew the course material really well and knew how to answer questions that were outside the course material.
If he didn’t know the answer he would be quick to research into it and be able to teach what he found out and it was a very quick turnaround.
What is the teaching style like?
For the first three-fourths of the course, we had lecture in the morning, lab throughout the day and then a reinforcement lecture where we summarized the lessons or answered questions people were having.
Which technologies did you learn during the course? Coding Dojo teaches Ruby on Rails, Lamp Stack and Mean Stack. Did you learn all three of those?
We touched on Ruby on Rails, LAMP stack, and they just started doing some Mean stack with us. The MEAN stack curriculum was a test in a way because we were the first cohort they were teaching it to. They did the best that they could and I think that it was good but eventually in the end we covered all three stacks. I just specialized in two of the three just to feel like I wasn’t spread too thin.
Were you satisfied with the actual material and curriculum that they taught?
Yes. At times it felt a bit underwhelming or overwhelming. Overall, the content was challenging and appropriate.
Did you all work on a capstone or final project and can you tell us about that?
I did two projects. I had a role on a group project called Dognate. It’s a marketplace for dog owners to share supplies or get supplies. It was decently done but it needed more work.
My own personal project at the end of the course was a real-time chat application. I built it using Node. It was really cool and it’s still out there.
At the end of the class, Coding Dojo gives a final “Black Belt” exam. If a student didn’t pass final evaluation, what did Coding Dojo do?
If you passed the final evaluation or what they call the black belt exams, the staff is very proactive in trying to get you placed and getting you a job. They’ll walk you through the interview processes and show you how the interview process works. But if you’re not quite there then they’ll just tell you to keep working on getting through your final evaluation.
What are you up to now? Do you have a new job?
I actually work with two of the other alumni from Coding Dojo for a company called Roost. We’re like AirBnB for storage. Right now we’re working on our beta.
How did you decide on that job? Did you interview for other positions?
I actually interviewed with a couple of places in the Bay area. I was in the interview pipeline with Paypal and others but I ended up going with Roost because it was the offer I had live on the table. I also knew the team; I knew what everyone was capable of so it just seemed like it was going to be a smooth transition.
Do you feel like you learned everything that you needed from Coding Dojo to start this role?
I think what we learned at Coding Dojo was enough to get us into the tech industry as junior developers. I wouldn’t say that Coding Dojo prepared me for everything that I needed to know but it prepared me at least to know what I needed to know.
Tell us about how you avoided getting burnt out and overworking.
I ran in the morning every once in a while and I worked out midday after a lecture for a half hour or took a short walk to refresh myself. I tried to remain competitive. I knew I wasn’t the best coder and I knew I didn’t have the talent or the skillset to compete with the top students, but I still tried to stay relevant with him and a couple of other students as well, so it was always like a long drawn out competition.
Another thing I did was celebrate all the smaller victories. If my code works, I’d literally celebrate like I’d won the lottery and that would keep me motivated and excited.
Would you recommend Coding Dojo to a friend?
I actually recommended Coding Dojo to a couple of friends but only because I felt they had the aptitude to make it through the coursework. As of my time at Coding Dojo, there were partially overlapping cohorts so I’ve seen enough students from my own observation and I believe I know what the model Coding Dojo student looks like.
Describe that person; who do you think would be the ideal student?
They have to have tenacity and remain inspired. They would have the right mix of curiosity and fascination at the same time. And they would have to have a really good grip on their emotions. I really feel like the students that had a harder time with Coding Dojo were the students who got really frustrated and let their emotions take over if their code didn’t work. They just didn’t choose the right attitude when faced with difficulties.
Is there anything you’d like to add about Coding Dojo or bootcamps in general?
I’m actually jealous of the current cohort. My friends are in it and they got Michael as their instructor. I had Michael as a part-time instructor for two weeks and he was phenomenal. Dexter and Trey are great but Michael is just super good at teaching. He knows his stuff but he knows how to teach it and convey it clearly.