Jeff was working in sales, but looking for a career change. He started using online resources like Codecademy to learn the basics, but he hit a wall in his learning and was looking for an immersive experience. LearningFuze was the closest bootcamp to Jeff’s home in Orange County and after talking to founders Fabian and Bill, he was convinced. Having now graduated and landed a job as a Front-End Developer at Digital River, Jeff tells us about LearningFuze’s realistic work environment, the “Fail Fast” mentality, and why he’s loving his new job.
What you were up to before you started at LearningFuze?
This was a total career change for me and it’s completely different from what I’ve done before. Up until now, web development was more of a hobby that I was doing in the evenings. Before that, I was in sales.
I do have an automotive background, which is what put me in college. I ended up working in sales, then lost my position and wanted to find a job that I was more passionate about, something that I enjoyed. That’s why I made the actual career change to get into coding.
How were you learning when you were coding as a hobby?
I used Learning Tree and Codecademy. Those are great online courses; they’re phenomenal, but what it was lacking was the direction once you finished that section of learning. You use their code editor so I wasn’t even aware of other code editors out there. I didn’t know how to go forward or about any of the local meetups.
Was your motivation to get a job as a developer in a company or to start your own business?
My goal was to get a job as a developer. Of course, I think every developer has something in in mind that they want to develop themselves so it’s kind of a hobby that I think all developers do on the side.
It was a full career change and I wanted to become a developer at a company that I could see myself growing with and expanding my knowledge of the development field.
Why did you end up choosing LearningFuze and what were the factors that you were considering?
I was in the Orange County area, which is about 30 miles south of L.A. County, so there weren’t a ton of coding schools. I researched MakerSquare and Hack Reactor in San Francisco, which both looked awesome. They are well-established courses, and I was totally amazed by it and blown away.
Once I found these bootcamps, I started searching locally and came across LearningFuze. I looked at the language they taught and the courses they had available. I then took that information and went on Craigslist local job boards to see what the local market an industry was really looking for.
I found that they were right on point with about 75% of the job postings out there for my area. When I went in and talked to Bill and Fabian and started talking to people in the industry, it was clear that employers are looking for teachable employees, not necessarily only applicants who know everything already.
If you can learn some of these fundamental languages, they carry over to other languages; the syntax changes and so on but the formulas are relatively the same. They just want to make sure that you’re teachable.
What was the LearningFuze application like for you?
We had a phone interview and then an in-person interview. We didn’t have any testing although they did ask some basic coding questions.
Did you feel you could answer those with your Codecademy skills?
Yes, I could. I was part of the first cohort, which was a bit like a trial run because they were just being established. Since then, LearningFuze has become more strict with admissions and asking qualifying questions.
In the beginning, they interviewed me and the reason why they took me was because I was personable. They saw that I was more focused on exactly what I wanted and I was pretty persistent. I kept in touch with them, I followed up with them, they followed up with me.
You’re not just given a job. You still have to work for it. You’re still in the industry and there are still people out there fighting for jobs. They look for that type of commitment that you’re willing to bring in addition to the knowledge.
In that first cohort how many people were in your class?
There were five.
Did you feel like everyone was on a similar technical level when they started?
We weren’t all on the same technical level. For me, that didn’t matter. I sought out the people that were more advanced than me and picked their brains as much as I could.
Tell us a little bit about the instructors and teaching style at LearningFuze.
My instructor was Thi and he’s the lead instructor. Fabian is the director of LearningFuze and he would sit in on the sessions.
For us it was a one to five ratio and they ended up hiring a new instructor, but they still have the one to five ratio.
Their teaching style was really designed for us to fail. It was for us to learn proper coding but they really let us go and make mistakes and we really had to troubleshoot and find those mistakes and how we’re making those mistakes and fix it. It was a lot of repetitiveness and learning by failing. There were no manuals that we needed to read up on but they had a list of well-known authors and books that are out there that they found they liked to read and reference.
One important thing we learned was how to search Google correctly. Now if I search something I find it really quickly, and my returns are really specific. So even their teaching of how to correctly search was huge because I do that continuously even in my job now.
Was the curriculum project based? What did a typical day look like?
A typical day started with a little bit of lecture in the morning and we would follow along.
They would hit us with the whole project. We’d wireframe the project as a group. It was almost like a timed training because they want to put a little bit of pressure on you. The instructor would work on the projector overhead so we could see it live on his device.
It would change daily. Sometimes we’d come in and they’d say “Okay, we need to build this calculator within four, five hours. Get to work on it.” So we’d come in and start doing a project. The instructors also acted like a project manager would. So they were introducing us to the water flow management type system of organization and then agile development project management. They try to mimic actual real environments, and now that I’m working, it’s right on point with what I actually do every day.
Did you feel like those projects were the way you were evaluated or did you ever do exams or assessments at the end of a lesson?
They did an assessment every Friday. We would review with the instructor and the director of LearningFuze and we would touch base on your progress, any frustrations or anxiety.
As an individual making a career change, your finances are being depleted quickly and because this is a full immersion you really don’t have time to work. You can stress out with all these things. They were really on point with addressing those issues with you. They wanted to make sure that you were staying focused, that your emotions and anxieties are being addressed and worked through. So you’re not just left there wondering, getting stressed out; they’re actually coaching you through it as you do the course.
They were awesome in that they listened to what we had to say and they addressed every concern that we had to really make the most of it for us.
How much time were you spending on LearningFuze?
Our hours were 9:00 to 5:00 but they kept the doors open till 7:00. I would say 75% of the time, I was there from 9:00 to 7:00. If I wasn’t there, I was still going home and practicing because it is a full immersion. You have to be doing something 12 hours a day if you want to be successful.
Since your goal doing LearningFuze was to get a job, was there a job guarantee?
They did have a job guarantee at first when they got started because they had no record. To tell you the truth, I didn’t focus on it because I was determined to get a job no matter what.
Coming into the last phase of the program, they started doing resume reviews. We issued our reviews and they critiqued them, made changes and adjustments to it. We had projects that we were working on for our portfolio that were personal. If you looked at everybody’s portfolio from that class, everybody has a unique one. It wasn’t the cookie cutter projects that we did, everybody had their own projects that we did ourselves.
Did you all do interview prep?
We did. We did role-playing interviews and that was handled by Bill. We went over soft interview questions about personality, and then we had a whiteboard interview where we had to code out the response and role play with each other back and forth, asking clarifying questions.
What are you doing now?
I work for a company called Digital River based in Minnesota. I work at their office in Irvine. We have clients that range from your Fortune 100 companies all the way down to Mom & Pop’s. We handle all their website purchasing and their stores that they have on their websites.
What’s your role there?
I am a front-end web developer so my main focus is on the front end. It’s constant troubleshooting at this moment because I came into a company that’s established, so we have projects that are constantly on the board that are coming along continuously. But until those projects actually get the okay, we have to maintain any changes.
If there’s a new sale item going on or if you want to change a dropdown to a different style, those come through the agile project management team and we make the changes.
Did you get that job through networking or through a connection with LearningFuze?
It was all the above. You have to have drive in order to get a job. They were constantly working with me to maintain my skills as I was searching for a job. Once you finish the program you’re still on a rollercoaster because you don’t have a job.
LearningFuze does meetups at their location and works with a lot of social groups. Part of the requirement for the class was we needed to attend meetups. I reached out to every single person that came to speak at LearningFuze with an email and I tried to keep in contact with them somewhat. I’ve even met with them to pick their brain a little bit more. I was always out looking for a mentor-like person to point me in the direction, give me what things they thought I should read or what my next step should be.
Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs online, also. I would submit my information and more often than not, I would get the phone calls and they would have a soft interview with some technical questions. Once I started getting those, LearningFuze prepared me enough to where I was able to land in-person interviews. I landed in-person interviews with Experian and Digital River.
How did the technical interviews at Digital River and Experian go?
I was totally prepared for the technical questions; all of the role playing that we did at LearningFuze was right on point.
Did you find that your age was ever a factor during LearningFuze or in interviews?
It’s a huge deal. It’s not just a commitment to yourself, it’s a financial commitment to yourself. You are investing in yourself and your future. But you need to be honest with yourself.
Like I said, it’s always been a passion of mine to be in computers, I just never went down that road for whatever life circumstances that I had. I had to make money now so I never got into a field that I was passionate about. For me, it wasn’t just making a change into another job, it was making a change into something that I absolutely love to do. For the first time in my life since working in high school, I’ve felt like a kid again when it was time to go to work.
Is there anything that you would have changed about the program?
That’s a great question. During the process, they listened to their students. We were a full-stack training program but in that first cohort, all of us were more front-end focused. They really adjusted their teaching and training to meet the needs of that class.
What type of person would you recommend LearningFuze to and who would you not recommend it to?
I’d recommend LearningFuze to anybody with a technical background; anybody that likes change or is in a dead-end job. If you like change, I’d recommend getting into web development, because every single day is completely different than the day before. The issues and the problems are totally different.
The last thing I would say that I didn’t mention, I would say LearningFuze stands behind their product really well because I have gone back to the school and have taken another class or have sat in on another class on a subject that I wanted to familiarize myself with.
I went in and sat on a segment of the second cohort and reworked some of the issues and some of the projects that they had. I did this while I was looking for a job so I would stay sharp on my job. When we were done with that, they made sure that we all knew that just because we finished a program doesn’t mean their doors are shut. So we are all welcome to come back and continue the education and sit in on the second cohort’s classes and use their facility for searching for jobs. If I wanted to role play further, I could have; you just have to schedule it with them.
The instructor is still available. We have an instant messaging thing that I’m still a part of that I can shoot him a question and he gets back to me. I’m still welcome on their Google Docs. Sometimes on a weekend, the instructor will show how to bring a website and make it go live.
There’s all these little things that the instructors are constantly doing that I still get emails and invitations to.
That was the greatest thing. I feel like I finished the program and they didn’t abandon me. They’ve stuck by me and still are willing to have me come back and relearn something.