To pursue a career in web development (without quitting his full-time job), Harry Levine enrolled in the Fullstack Web Development Bootcamp at Bloc, the online, mentored bootcamp. We talk with Harry about his mentor experience, how he continues to learn after graduating, and his new career as a contract Rails developer.
What were you up to before you started at Bloc?
I went to college at the University of Colorado, and studied Kinesiology and Molecular Biology. After graduating I taught English in Italy and quickly realized I wanted to focus on education. I went back to school and got a Master’s degree in Education and started teaching at a local high school, and then transitioned into adult education. Prior to Bloc, I was the director of training for a software company.
Did you quit your job or were you employed while you did Bloc?
I decided on Bloc because I was able to keep my job. I wanted to accomplish my goals while still being able to put food on the table. Towards the end of program my wife and I decided that I would “go back to school” full time, so I quit my job and focussed 100% of my time on Bloc and learning, and made the transition from education into coding.
Did you have a technical background before you applied? Did you need a technical background or programming experience to get in?
I taught myself the basics through Codecadamy and Lynda.com, but they only got me to a certain point. It was at that point where I realized I wanted to pursue web development as a career.
What were your motivations for doing an online bootcamp?
As the the director of training at my previous company I made friends with a lot of the developers and they felt I would enjoy programming. I decided to take their advice and started teaching myself using different resources I found online.
Why did you decide to do an online program instead of an in-person bootcamp or other forms of education?
Once I realized I wanted to pursue web dev as a career I looked to formal education. I started a masters program, and soon found out that it wasn’t in step. I was aware that traditional education could be out of date for this discipline but I didn’t realize how out of date. My first class was using a textbook and a syllabus that had not been revised in five years. I realized that I needed hands on experience and real skills so I dropped out and looked into alternative.
Bloc appealed to me because it allowed me to keep my day job and gain the applicable skills I needed to make a career change.
How many hours/week did you spend on Bloc and how did you balance that with your job?
I put in between 25-30 hours a week while still working full time.
What advice do you have for someone who is planning to balance a job with learning to code?
Do as much learning as you can, upfront, prior to enrolling. This will give you a good foundation and allow you to get the most out of your bootcamp experience.
Can you tell us about the projects you worked on while you were at Bloc?
During Bloc you get to make a capstone project. Basically you create the concept, the user stories, and your mentor acts as a guide so you stay on track.
The idea came from my personal experience. When you are learning to code you need to realize that you aren’t going to remember everything, you just can’t. As a result I created Mind on Rails so that you could quickly access information you need when building a rails app.
I found that when I was learning new concepts about programming I would write down notes here or there, but I never had one place to store my notes. Mind on Rails alleviates the need for sticky notes or Evernote because it is one central hub to capture all these integral pieces of all the information. I wanted to have all my information accessible for me moving forward. It also has an added a mechanism that allows you to share your notes with others that are in this specific niche.
Did you work with a mentor? Who was your mentor and how did you communicate?
Yes, I worked with a fantastic mentor named Eliot Sykes. He was so intuned with what I needed to do. Mentorship was the most integral part of me being successful in transitioning careers.
I chose my mentor based on his skills and experience.
You meet on a regular basis, and in between sessions I emailed him. Elliot really let me drive our meetings. Meetings were focused around how he could help me. I could ask questions and pair program if I wanted to. Elliot also helped me after Bloc practice for interviews and work on side projects. I can’t say enough good things about him or the mentorship experience.
What surprised you the most while learning to code? How did you handle it?
I learned a lot, but programming is a lot harder than you think it is. It takes more time than you think it might. You have to train yourself to think differently. The key to being successful is to seek out other ways to learn and resources. I sought out videos and tutorials and user groups. I didn’t limit myself to only Bloc. Make sure you write down things you don’t know so you can find out the answers later.
What are you doing now?
I am now a contract Rails developer, and just wrapped up a contract with Brandfolder. It’s awesome and I am so satisfied in my job. You get to see all your hard work and it’s really rewarding.
Do you feel like your education is over, now that you're a professional developer?
No. I will never know everything. You have to constantly be learning, which is why I love development. I am a lifelong learner which is what I found so attractive about this field. It is very fulfilling.
Was Bloc worth the money? Would you recommend it to a friend?
I think it was totally worth it and I have recommended to many people. I like to poke around the curriculum every so often to check out the changes.
Now that I have gone through this course I feel like I would take another. I think now I would be able to learn a new topic much faster and more efficiently because I have such a solid base of coding knowledge and experience from which to build upon.