Although Fehim Hatipoglu studied electrical engineering at Purdue, he was interested in an iOS coding bootcamp to get a job in mobile development. Since he always wanted to live in Amsterdam, The App Academy was the perfect fit. Having recently finished 9 weeks at The App Academy, we talked to Fehim about the growing Amsterdam tech scene, some of the projects he worked on over the course of the 9 weeks, and why he’s confident in getting hired the next few months.
You studied electrical engineering at Purdue. What kind of computer science classes did that degree require?
I took a course on C in college, so I mostly knew Matlab and Python simulations programs. I had no background with Objective-C or iOS developing whatsoever.
Before I came to The App Academy, I wanted to learn as much as I could, so I used websites like Treehouse, Udemy and Codecademy, and I read some articles and did some tutorials in iOS but I wouldn’t say I learned that much while I was doing that.
Were you only looking at iOS bootcamps?
I was really interested in iOS. I looked at a couple of bootcamps in London like Makers Academy. But I’ve always wanted to live in Amsterdam and when I found The App Academy, I would say my search ended after I met Martijn, the founder. They offered a really well thought-out curriculum. They take you from no knowledge whatsoever and help you to become an all-around app developer, instead of just a coder.
The main reason I chose The App Academy is that they told us we would be working with a real client at the end of the program.
What was your career goal in doing a coding bootcamp?
In the short run, it will be better to work as a developer so I can gain experience and get to know about the developer scene in Amsterdam. Eventually I want to have my own company and work on my own ideas.
What was The App Academy application process like for you?
They invite everyone for open houses and private interviews. I sent my resume at the beginning and filled out the online application form and I got a reply from the founder. We set up an interview and I traveled to Amsterdam to meet the guys.
In the interview, they asked me what I’d done, and I explained my projects and overall knowledge. After the interview, I got accepted. There were no real code challenges.
What technical level were your classmates on at the beginning of the course?
I did the Senior Bootcamp, so everyone had some technical background (though not necessarily in Objective-C or iOS). We had four people in our cohort- one of the students was a former .NET developer, one was a manager for a software development company and my friend (also from Purdue) is an industrial engineer. While there were four students in our class, the last cohort had classes of 18.
Did you have one instructor for the four people in your cohort?
Actually, we had two coding instructors, Axel and Stijn; they’re both really experienced. Axel has been working for Mac OS since 1991 and with OS X since 1998, Stijn has been a researcher for Ohio State and MIT. He’s been coding since 2009. We also had a UX teacher, Niels.
What was the teaching style like?
It was more hands-on. We had a book for the first couple of weeks- Big Nerd Ranch’s Programming Guide, 4th edition. We followed the tutorials in the book and we’d always ask questions. In the mornings we had lectures and in the afternoon we kept on doing the tutorials.
After 3 - 4 weeks, we paired up with another student and started an application. They asked us to use the Map kits and some-back end to come up with an idea and try to show what we learned so far.
The teachers are always there and they have good knowledge in different areas. For example, Stijn, Martijn and Axel are always bringing in some new tools for us to look at which can be controlled by iPhones and iOS devices. So they always try to bring something new and interesting.
Can you take us through the technologies you learned in 9 weeks?
As I said, I knew nothing about iOS programming so at the beginning it was kind of tough to learn all the new frameworks. For example, I started with basic controllers then went on to connect a couple of things. Then we went on to implementing the networks, the servers, and the back end.
After the boot camp, I would say that I’m confident about being able to create a complete, functioning app with basic UI, obviously.
Did you deploy an app to the App Store as you did those projects?
No, we didn’t deploy it to the App Store but we all have functioning apps. And since we were always working with real partners, it was their choice to deploy it externally.
What did you make for that first project?
We made a forwarding app where you can take pictures and add those pictures to a new location. That went on for two weeks. After that, we got assigned to our employer partners, so each of us had a partner company and we started working on our individual projects and spent three weeks to a month on those projects.
After the bootcamp ended, I got offered an interview to keep on developing that project that I’ve been working on for a month.
Which company did you work with for your real-world project?
A startup company called Nine Connections. They offer tools to increase the turnover with social networks by sharing the right content with the right people. An engine that goes through your activity on Facebook and helps publishers and news agencies share content with you through social media.
What was the project you did for Nine Connections while you were at App Academy?
They’re trying to develop a new app and I’m working on that. It should be around in a couple months’ time hopefully. I can’t disclose much about it, but I’m working on document reviewal.
It was almost as if I’m a freelance and I’m offering my services. They explained the idea and I had to ask some questions to understand what the real problem is. After that, I started to develop my solution, which includes data models, the use, the UI, the UX etc.
I met with them almost every week over Skype.
What did you do when you didn’t know something? Was Nine Connections mentoring you or did you ask an App Academy instructor?
The instructors from App Academy are always there. Throughout the bootcamp I remember having Skype calls at 11 p.m. with one of my instructors, trying to solve a problem. Whenever we’d face a problem they’d just sit with us and pair program until we understand the concept.
Did App Academy do job prep like interview practice and resume building?
Yes. For example, we had a demo day in the last week of the bootcamp, which we had been preparing for a long time. We practiced the demo day with the instructors and Martijn, and they tried to help us in how to present, how to introduce ourselves, how to ask questions properly, how to approach a client, and what a client needs.
Is there a chance to be hired at Nine Connections after you’re done with the internship?
This is a three-month, paid internship but it will be decided based on how the project goes. I would say I have a pretty good chance of getting hired if I’m able to keep the workload at this level. I feel pretty confident about getting a job after my internship whether at this company or another.
What’s the tech scene like in Amsterdam?
Amsterdam has a lot of startups, which are mostly supported by government and private organizations. From what I hear and see, they’re trying to make Amsterdam one of the startup centers in Europe alongside Berlin and London. They’re finding funding for the startups and they’re also promoting coding bootcamps and coding schools to train new developers.
I would say the scene is getting bigger and bigger and there’s a good developers’ community in Amsterdam as well. I go to meetups at an organization called Cocoaheads Netherlands. We have a big and growing developers’ community here and people tend to help each other out.
Have you been involved with App Academy since you graduated?
I’m at one of their offices right now. I come here a couple days a week still to keep working.
Is the The App Academy classroom in a coworking space?
The building has a corridor with lots of small offices. The App Academy rented a bunch of rooms: one for Martijn himself, one for the programmers, there’s a kitchen area, and a classroom for the students.
Was it worth the tuition?
Yeah, definitely. I’d just like to say that I’m glad I joined this one over the other bootcamps I looked at. I’m happy with the opportunities they provided me with – and not just me, everybody in the bootcamp. The App Academy team are just fun people and they’re friendly. I can recommend that anyone join.