Dave Nelson attended DevPoint Labs, the 11-week coding and entrepreneur bootcamp in Silicon Slopes, Utah, and now works as a Junior Developer at Crowd Engine. He tells us about his journey to become a developer, the teaching style at DevPoint Labs, and how to avoid burnout in an intensive coding bootcamp!
Tell us what you were doing before you started at DevPoint Labs!
I had finished a couple semesters of college but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do so I worked at various call center jobs. I worked in customer support with the technical aspects of the site, things like that.
How did you acquaint yourself with coding to begin with?
Why did you choose DevPoint Labs and did you look at any other boot camps when you were doing your research?
There are a couple of bootcamps in Utah and DevPoint Labs seemed the most successful. Plus, they were teaching Ruby and Rails and that’s extremely useful. I only applied to DevPoint.
What was the application process like for you? Was there a technical interview or was it more like a culture interview?
The interview was just for culture-fit. Ty Skyped with me and asked me some questions about why I wanted to do DevPoint. Just very soft questions, no technical interviewing.
He did ask me about my history and asked me what I had done as far as coding but I think I probably would have been accepted without having done Codecademy. We had to do that as a prerequisite, learning HTML and CSS before we started.
Is that in formalized pre-work?
Yes, they give you assignments on Code School; on Code School they do these courses. It. took me 15-20 hours to complete.
What was your cohort like? Did you feel like people were on the same level learning together or did you feel like you were the most advanced?
I only felt more advanced because I had done more before the class. I picked up things easier because I had a bigger foundation to build on. There were a few of us who were at that level. So there was quite a wide range there but it worked out fine.
How large was your cohort?
Did you find diversity in that class in terms of age, race, gender?
Yes, definitely. I think the oldest student in our cohort was 45 and the youngest was probably 21. There were three women and the rest were guys.
Did everyone graduate who started with you or did people drop out?
Only one person dropped out.
How did you actually pay for the course?
DevPoint was $8500. There are definitely financing options. I took out a line of credit through my bank.
Who were the instructors in this course?
The instructor was Jeremy Woertink and Jason Carter was the co-instructor.
Jeremy wanted us to learn how to do things at the basic level and not just use the easy way, so that was the teaching style.
As far as lecture vs. projects, for the first several weeks we’d do a lecture throughout the morning from 9 to 12:30 and then we’d spend the afternoon after lunch practicing what we learned that day. After 7 weeks we actually started our final projects where we got into groups, as we were still using the mornings to learn new concepts.
Were you were working on your project in a group?
There were groups of 2 to 4. Mine was the biggest – we had four people. For our project, we made MobileNoms, a food truck locator. It depends on actual food trucks to sign up for the application. You would jump on your food truck and you could either tap a button and it would locate you just using geo-location or you could type in the address and then anybody nearby could bring it up to see you on the map and navigate to you.
Were you satisfied with the curriculum and the material that you were taught?
I feel like Jeremy at least brushed on everything I needed to know so I knew where to go and where to look for it. I’m very satisfied on that level. He covered a large spectrum and at least touched on everything that you need.
Did you ever experience burnout throughout the course? It’s 11 weeks long; it sounds pretty intensive.
A little bit. I’m not arrogant at all but I probably experienced it less than most just because the experience I’d had before the class really helped. But there was one day when we were doing Code Kata, which is a coding exercise; you get a really hard problem and you solve it. It’s something that’s not ever going to come up in your career as a developer really, it’s just a really complex puzzle, basically, it just makes you a better programmer. So I was doing that and I had a headache. But other than that, I was okay.
Do you have any advice to somebody who’s going to do DevPoint, like how to avoid that inevitable headache?
What are you up to today?
I’m a Junior Ruby Developer at a startup called Crowd Engine. They develop crowd-funding apps like Kickstarter. It’s a very complex app and there’s a lot to cover. I find myself touching a new part of the app every day; it’s a struggle but I’m learning a ton. It’s a Rails app.
Are there people who are more senior on your team? Do you feel like you’ve had support since you started?
Oh, absolutely. There’s two senior developers and the rest of us are junior.
How did you get that job?
I emailed the president, Jim. He liked my enthusiasm in the email so he gave me an interview. First they gave me a little Ruby test to see my knowledge in Ruby and Web development; I did well on that and they brought me in the next day, interviewed me and hired me on the spot after a coding exercise.
Did DevPoint do a hiring day or put an emphasis on job placement?
We had three mock interviews. One was just with Jeremy, the other was with Jeremy and Ty’s wife, who has a lot of experience hiring people. For the last interview, we had a company come in and somebody interview us from there; so there was a lot of that.
There were no promises of job placement but there were people who came to launch day and watched our presentations, companies that have a good relationship with DevPoint so we made connections there and I interviewed with one of those companies.
Is there anything else that you wanted to add about your experience with DevPoint?
Absolutely. When I was month and a half, almost two months in, I knew that I had done the right thing going to DevPoint because they really boosted my ability; they made me a hirable junior developer. I learned a ton there. They were great at emphasizing learning how to be a good web developer and programmer rather than just a Rails developer.
Would you have been able to get to this point without a bootcamp?
Yes but to get to the level I was at when I left DevPoint, with my fulltime job, it would have taken me a couple of years.