Halfway through his college degree in management information systems, Larry realized he wasn’t going to get the technical knowledge he needed for the job he wanted, so he started researching coding bootcamps. So as soon as Larry graduated, he enrolled in Coding Temple coding bootcamp in Chicago to study .NET web development. Now Larry is a junior developer at real estate listings website Exceleras. Larry tells us about the difference between studying at college vs. a bootcamp, how he found his job, and his ongoing relationship with Coding Temple.
What were you up to before you went to Coding Temple?
I recently graduated with a degree in management information systems (MIS) from DePaul University in Chicago. I studied the whole business side of developing applications, rather than the technical side. It covered how to manage the software testing life cycle instead of how to develop applications. Right after I graduated, I attended a bootcamp.
Had you tried to teach yourself to code at all?
I had pretty minimal exposure to programming before I entered the coding bootcamp. I dabbled with Treehouse for a little bit, and did general Googling.
Was your goal when you were thinking about a bootcamp to still go into management information systems, or was it to get a job as a software developer?
To be honest, going into my degree, I thought it would cover the technical aspects of information systems. When I realized I wasn’t going to get the technical skills I needed, it was too late for me to go back and start all over again.
Management comes from experience, so to manage a group of developers, it helps to be a developer. I think you can better manage someone if you’ve walked in their shoes before. Coming out of my degree, I didn’t get the technical skills that I wanted, which is why I looked into coding bootcamps to get those technical skills.
Did you look at coding bootcamps in Chicago other than Coding Temple? What was your research process like?
Course Report was a big part of my research process! I also considered Dev Bootcamp, but just the price and the amount of time required on campus was unrealistic for me. I narrowed it down to either Coding Temple or Anyone Can Learn to Code. Those were my final two options.
So time commitment was really important. Was Coding Temple a part-time program?
Did you ever consider leaving Chicago to do a coding bootcamp?
That would definitely escalate the expense of a bootcamp even more; we already lived in Chicago, so I didn’t want to worry about relocating expenses.
What was the application process like for Coding Temple? Did you have to do a coding challenge during the application?
I think they were pretty lenient on technical requirements for the first cohort. The application consisted of a Skype interview that quizzed me on basic HTML/CSS, and I knew most of the answers. Outside of that, there wasn’t a strict filtering process.
Then you did the 3-week remote Pre-Work for Coding Temple. What did that look like? How deep did it go in terms of programming skills?
It was object oriented fundamentals with C#. You learn loops, how to declare variables, how to create functions, what inheritance is, and other basic object oriented concepts. If you needed help, the instructors were able to Skype almost any time, and they took over your screen and explained everything. They were very accessible.
Tell us about your in-class experience. How many people were in that first cohort?
My class started out with 8 then 3 people dropped out for personal reasons, and joined Coding Temple winter course when I was a TA. So we had five people in our .NET course. When it comes to coding bootcamps like this, I think it’s a lot better to have a small class because you get to have a lot more one-on-one time with the teacher. He’s able to divide his attention more easily because there are so few students.
Who was your instructor and what was his teaching style?
His name was Hitesh Patel. He had a great style. He’s an absolute expert on all the topics being covered. No question was ever left unanswered. He went through the curriculum at a good pace, and helped us when we needed help. I couldn’t have asked for more. He has a CS degree and I think he’s been in the field for about nine years.
How different was Coding Temple from learning in college? Do you think that you learned more at Coding Temple or more in one semester of college?
It was different. It didn’t feel like it was an extension of college per se, but I was still learning. I would say I learned more in Coding Temple. Everything I learned there applies to my position that I’m currently in. In college you spend a lot of time on general education courses which you that don’t really apply in real life.
What are you up to now? Do you have a job as a developer?
In January 2016 I got a job as a junior developer at a real estate company called Exceleras.
What types of projects are you working on specifically?
Right now, I’m second-level support, so any technical issues that the help desk can’t handle, they take it over to my team of six people. I debug through the code and look for issues or make updates to the database to fix issues.
I’m learning the application piece by piece because I’m still a junior developer. I can’t really jump into the development cycle and projects yet since I don’t have full knowledge of what the application is doing.
Are you using the programming languages you learned at Coding Temple?
Yes, the application is in C#. Parts of it are written in Visual Basic but they’re moving towards C#. They’re also using .NET, and I’ll be using the SQL server every day, both of which I learned at Coding Temple.
Have you experienced a big learning curve after you graduated? How did Coding Temple prepare you for working as a developer?
I guess it depends on what type of industry you’re in because there’s always going to be different business processes. In terms of the technical standpoint, I think Coding Temple gives you a solid foundation to where you can jump into any industry and make an impact after you’ve learned the business processes.
How did you find that job?
Insperity reached out to me, which is one of the hundreds of staffing agencies in Chicago. Actually, a lot of staffing agencies reached out to me. I graduated in December 2016 and found the job a month later.
Amongst the other jobs that you were reached out to about, what stood out about Exceleras?
Their salary was competitive, I like their startup type of environment, and the commute wasn’t too bad. I guess those three things were the biggest deciding factors.
What were the interviews like? Did you have to do whiteboarding or technical challenges?
None of the interviews I went to had whiteboarding. It was just technical questions. There was one interview where they sent me coding tests via email to complete and send them back.
Was your interviewer ever concerned that you didn’t have a CS degree?
They didn’t really care if I had a CS degree. All my interviews were based on my responses to the technical questions – that you have a pretty solid grasp of what you know. I guess if you do well on the technical questions, they couldn’t care less about the degree.
How did Coding Temple facilitate the job placement and career process? Was there an emphasis on resumes, interview practice and networking?
They had a whole week dedicated to creating our resumes and having mock interviews for us, as well as whiteboard interviewing, in case that ever came up. The career coach was very proactive in marketing our resumes. He was the one applying to jobs and getting hold of recruiters for me to contact. All that effort helped.
Did you all do a hiring day where hiring partners came to see your final projects?
No, it was mostly done after I graduated but I know that has changed for the current cohorts. I know they’ve been having a lot of meetup events and they have partnered up with Robert Half. They actually come and collect the resumes of people who are interested in getting hired.
Have you stayed involved with Coding Temple at all as a mentor or anything like that?
Yes, I’m a teaching assistant, and I keep in touch with the founders on Slack. Even now, when I have any questions at work, I can reach out to them and ask for help. I have Ripal and Hitesh’s personal numbers and I think I’m going to have those contacts for life.
Is there anything that you would have liked to change about your experience? Were there things you suggested that they change for future cohorts?
Being that is was their first time, I would say that my experience met the value of what I paid for.
I know they are only going to get more organized with lessons and curriculum. In my class, some topics were just off the top of the instructor’s head. I didn’t mind that because he was just so smart, he was able to show us things along the way. In the beginning, he wanted to do a lot more than time allowed him to do. He didn’t realize that until we started and he had to make adjustments along the way.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking about a coding bootcamp, making a career change or who were in your shoes, having just graduated from college?
It’s a sector where the demand is really off the charts right now, at least in .NET. Since I did the bootcamp, I have had so many more calls back about jobs I’ve applied for, compared to when I applied for jobs straight out of college with just a degree.
To be successful at a bootcamp, you really need to have the interest and the desire to do it. You can’t just go in saying, “I’m gonna graduate making X amount of money.” If that’s your thought process then it’s not going to be a good experience. It is something you have to want to do.
You were saying that one of your big deciding factors in choosing a coding bootcamp was cost. Do you think that doing coding Temple was a good return on your investment?
Absolutely, I’m starting to get my return on it right now, so yes, without a doubt.