Jeff Adelman worked in the television industry in L.A. for over 10 years doing video editing, and his work exposed him to the tech world and furthered his interest in programming. He attended meetups around L.A. and studied basic web development with Codecademy, but eventually Jeff realized that it was time to make a full career change, and he chose a Code Fellows Development Accelerator in Seattle. Now a developer at Expedia, Jeff shares about deciding when he was ready for Code Fellows, working with TAs (and then becoming one), and how Code Fellows helped him find his new career.
What were you up to before you started at Code Fellows?
I graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Telecommunication Arts (a fancy word for television production). I worked in the television industry for over 10 years; for the past 7 years I was in L.A working freelance in the television industry.
In 2009 I got hired at a large website producing streaming video.
That gave me my first glimpse into the tech world and I’d always been interested in computers. I kept freelancing in television, but this interest in tech grew and I started attending meetups and workshops in the L.A area.
What kind of meetups did you go to?
General tech meetups. I remember I went to a tech meetup specifically for people who wanted to transition from entertainment into tech. I was going to workshops at General Assembly in L.A.
Had you tried online learning at all?
What was the impetus, after doing those workshops and online learning, to take it offline and learn to code fulltime?
It was a combination of a few things, the most important being that my roommate in L.A. was a UX designer who worked for a firm in Santa Monica. One day I overheard him talking about a magical place where you could go to learn and it would give you a $60,000 a year job-offer guarantee.
He was talking about Code Fellows. I had been teaching myself and it was a slow process, even with the help of Codecademy. There are so many resources online right now, and I needed focus and direction. That was what Code Fellows gave me.
Did you research any other coding bootcamps on the West Coast or beyond?
I did. After I heard about Code Fellows, I started to look at the other bootcamps. I looked into Coding Dojo in Seattle and a little bit at General Assembly. I needed to get out of L.A. so I made that decision and the decision to go to Code Fellows at the same time.
What pushed me over the edge was Code Fellows itself, along with the job-offer guarantee. It was reassuring to me that Code Fellows was that confident in their ability to teach that they could put a guarantee on the line.
Code Fellows was also just very professional and seemed to have their act together.
I liked the format of Code Fellows. Coding Dojo at the time—I don’t know what they’re doing now—was giving you a broad overview of many languages. I actually liked that Code Fellows gave us a broad overview as far as data structures and algorithms and computer science fundamentals but then they focus on one stack and you get a little more expertise on that stack.
Tell us about the application process for you.
I started applying in 2013. I actually applied once and didn’t get in. At the time, the first step in the application was a video submission application and then we did a short 10-minute Skype interview. I did the interview and they sent me three coding challenges. When I got those coding challenges, I knew I was in a little over my head. I continued to learn on my own and when I got up to Seattle I enrolled in some of the introductory classes at Code Fellows.
Were the coding challenges technical?
I think they give the coding challenges to applicants specifically to challenge them and see how much they know. When I got those I had a really hard time with them and I realized I needed to keep learning.
They expect you to come in with a certain level of experience—you should have done your homework and have been working on your own; you’re not just looking for Code Fellows to teach you everything about coding so you can get a job. They want people who are motivated ahead of time.
Which intro classes did you take at Code Fellows?
What did you think of the application the second time around?
The second time around I was ready to go! I already had a relationship with Code Fellows so they looked at the work I had done in the Foundations II class and took that into consideration. I did another in-person interview with them where they gave me some whiteboarding questions, and I got in.
15 or 16, I believe.
Did you find that it was a diverse cohort in terms of age, gender, race?
Yeah. I would say the age was generally on the younger side but we had some women and diverse backgrounds.
Did you feel like everyone was on a similar technical level?
There was definitely a diversity. There were some of us who had learned on our own and there were some who had professional experience. There were a few students who were taking a class in the local community college while they were going through Code Fellows.
I think it was good to have that diversity. I started out as one of the less experienced developers in my cohort and it was nice to have classmates with more experience so that they could share knowledge and help us with questions.
Who were the instructors for your class?
My instructors were Ivan Storck and Tyler Morgan.
What was their teaching style like?
I think they try to keep an open style; there’s room for people with different learning styles. We had lab times in the mornings where we worked on projects and could work in pair programming. If we had questions we could go to the instructors. Every afternoon we had lecture, which consisted of live coding on the screen and lots of questions.
Were there TAs in the class also?
What was it like to TA for the class you graduated from?
It’s good for the students to have a TA who has been through the course and understands the experience. I tell the students that, for me, there was a point during the first week where I completely felt overwhelmed and I thought there was no way I would ever finish.
How did you get through that overwhelmed feeling?
Take it one day at a time. When you take it one day at a time and learn what you have to learn that day then move on to the next day, I think that’s the key.
And you have to know that you will get through it and that everyone feels in over their head at first.
How many hours were you spending at Code Fellows when you did the Development Accelerator?
I would guess around 60 to 70 total, including studying at home. I was actually on campus probably about 35-40 hours a week.
Were you satisfied with the actual curriculum you learned in those eight weeks?
Yeah, for sure. One thing Code Fellows really does—and I know the bootcamp world in general tries to do this—is tailor their curriculum to what the market needs.
Did you give feedback throughout the course?
Oh yeah, for sure. We had a questionnaire that was sent out every Friday asking us how we felt about this week and our struggles—what did we like, what would we change, etc.
Did your class have final exams or assessments or final projects that you were graded on?
We had two projects; a midterm project and a final project that were a large part of our grade. In order to graduate, we also had to pass a whiteboarding exam.
Part of the curriculum is actually specifically tailored towards giving you a foundation in data structures and algorithms, and how to use them in a whiteboarding interview. We did white boarding sessions once a week where you’re up at the board and you have to solve problems. You have to pass a whiteboard exam just like a job interview where you go into the room and they give you a problem, and you have to work through it on the board.
Did you pass that whiteboard exam?
I did—with flying colors!
Tell us about the two projects you worked on at Code Fellows.
The midterm project was assigned. I liked that because each group was doing their own version of the same project, so you got to see how people took the assignment and made it their own. Each group came up with a subtly different version of the assignment.
I thought that was pretty cool because you get the experience of collaborating with developers who aren’t writing the same language as you because that’s a whole other difficulty. Once you graduate, you’ll be working with developers who are building a different part of the app than you’re building—it’s great real-world experience.
Our project was called Go Outside and it was an app for outdoor activities. Basically it geolocates you and gives suggestions based on the day and activity. If it’s Saturday and you type ‘hiking,’ it tells you hiking spots within a certain distance of where you are.
I think so, for sure. People are always commenting on what a big career change I made. In a lot of ways, that’s true, but to me, I’m still building and making a product for people. That’s the thing that appeals to me about web development and software engineering; it’s building a product that people actually use.
How did Code Fellows incorporate Job Placement into the curriculum?
Mitch, who runs Business Development at Code Fellows, is really doing a great job of increasing the profile of Code Fellows among the companies here in Seattle, and making sure that more companies know about Code Fellows.
I keep hearing from companies who hire from Code Fellows who say, “Oh man, that’s the fastest onboard we’ve ever had, they’re so great. We hardly have to do anything and they’re up to speed…”
Halfway through the course you have to submit a resume and Code Fellows reviews it and goes over areas where you can improve your resume and things you could do to make yourself more marketable. They work on LinkedIn profiles and they tell you how to be confident in your interviews.
Did you have a final science fair/job hiring day with hiring partners?
We didn’t. We had a final presentation day but it was just for our classmates and the instructors. As far as I know, the process at Code Fellows is that our resumes go out a few weeks before graduation to preferred partners, so they get our resumes directly. Then when we graduate the other partners get our resumes.
Tell us what you are up to now. Did you get a new job?
I did. I am an Associate Software Development Engineer at Expedia. I am working on a team that builds the APIs for flight search—the main part of the website. I am working in Java and C-Sharp.
The fact that Expedia works in an entirely different language is actually a testament to Code Fellows because Expedia had the confidence in my education that I could learn new technologies quickly.
How did you get that job? Was it through your own networking or Code Fellows?
Code Fellows has a really good relationship with Expedia so that didn’t hurt. But I still had to build relationships and show what value I could bring to the company.
And you were a TA with Code Fellows before taking that job?
I was TAing while I was looking for work. It took me about six months but I think it was because when I first graduated, I was trying to target specific companies and they weren’t necessarily companies that had hired people out of Code Fellows before. Code Fellows’ reputation is growing but not everyone knows about it yet.
Do you feel like there are more senior developers who are helping you ramp up?
Oh yeah, for sure. I’m still learning C#, and I learn mostly on the job but I’m teaching myself and reading a lot of books.
How did Code Fellows help you with the job search? Was there support for alumni?
They continue to give you a questionnaire to fill out every week to tell them about your job applications and interviews and how things are going.
Since I was still at Code Fellows as a TA, it helped a lot to keep coming back and to stay involved. Helping teach other students kept me fresh and kept me up to date on my skills.