Lisa Bunch saw serious value in the hard skills her college friends were graduating with, so she attended DevPoint Labs in Salt Lake City to learn a new technical skillset. We talk with Lisa about the teaching style at DevPoint Labs, her new job as a front-end developer, and how DevPoint provides support to students in their community long after graduation.
What were you up to before you started at DevPoint Labs?
I graduated from college with a degree in Agricultural Business Management in 2012 and then I was an au pair for a year in Germany. After that I came home and began looking into bootcamps like DevPoint. I was mainly searching to find a way to get into something I’d find personally rewarding. I was home about six months before I got into DevPoint.
Did you take a Computer Science class or any technical courses in your undergrad?
Not too much. Most of the technical work I did was in Excel. But I had a lot of CS friends and engineering friends and I looked up to them. I felt like that the skills I learned were mostly soft skills…I wasn’t really proud of it.
How did you find out about bootcamps and decide it was the type of education you needed?
I just came across it Googling. But I had thought of possibly going back to school or getting an associates degree in Computer Science. When I stumbled across these bootcamps, I thought it would be a quick way to start down another path. I didn’t want another bachelors- I didn’t have the time or money to spare. I just wanted a fast way to learn a different skill.
Why did you choose DevPoint in particular? Did you look at other bootcamps?
Actually, at first I was looking for longer programs. I applied to two 6-month schools: gSchool and Nashville Software School.
The location (Salt Lake City, UT) and vibe of DevPoint appealed to me. I’m from Virginia and was living there at the time. I ruled out several from the feel I got from their website or simply being located in a city or state I didn’t care to go to.
What was the application like for you with DevPoint?
On the application they have basic questions, then they contacted me for a Skype interview. There weren’t any particularly technical questions. They ask about your background, expectations, and what you know in the field already. Then they let me know I was accepted about a week after that.
Had you done Code Academy or another sort of self-guided learning before you applied?
Yeah; before that I was working on Treehouse. I had basically just gotten through HTML and CSS lessons of the Web Development track.
The DevPoint Labs program is advertised for beginners who have little experience but I think they want you to have looked into programming on your own some. They want to see that you’re serious about it and determined. I think that’s important.
So once you started, how many people were in your cohort?
12, but they’re averaging a few more than that now.
Did you find that it was diverse cohort in terms of age, gender and race?
I believe so. There were three more middle-aged people but most people were in their mid to late twenties. I was one of the youngest and I was 24 then. One guy was 21 I think, he was the youngest by several years. There were three females.
Did you feel like everyone was on a similar technical level when they started?
The majority of us were pretty much complete beginners but there were a few who had more experience coming in, so they were ahead. There’s always a few people ahead of the curve in any class though.
Who were the instructors?
Jeremy Woertink was the instructor, and Jason Carter was the TA. The class was structured around a morning lecture. He would walk us through what we were learning as we shadowed him and then the afternoon was our project time. We’d basically review what we learned and the instructors would hang around to help us as needed.
Did you feel like your learning style meshed with his teaching style?
For the most part. I understand why it makes sense to have a morning lecture and afternoon project, but sometimes for retention sake, it would have been nice to have more frequent lectures and project times.
How many hours per week were you spending on the program?
Fulltime, 9am to 5pm.
Did you do a final project?
We had one major capstone project and spent the last month or so on it. We worked in teams, but I only had one partner. My cohort picked our own teams, but I think they might be assigning teams now to keep them more even.
For our project, we made an environmental tracker that’s like a task list to reduce environmental impact. You can view it at http://www.eco-mojo.net/. Users create an account, with the option of using Facebook instead, that creates your dashboard where you have your tasks and can assign how many you want to do in a week, and then you can track the goal. You have a nice visual that shows your goal vs. actual in a progress wheel. The badges’ point values were set really low so it is easier to demo.
Did DevPoint do a lot of job prep with your class? Did you do interview practice and things like that?
Yeah, we did. We had two or three mock interviews and we went over resumes. We didn’t have an official job placement day per se, but the day we presented our projects, DevPoint invited potential employers – although they can’t control who shows up so it might be hit or miss. Still, they did try.
Once you’re a DevPoint student they’re not going to abandon you. You can always go to them for more help – and they’re trying to grow a dev shop for students to get more experience. If you need time, you’re welcome to sit in on any future lessons in another cohort you think might help you. A handful of students have really taken to mentoring future cohorts, which keeps them in the learning environment as well.
What are you up to now, Lisa?
I found a job at a marketing firm about 30 minutes north of Salt Lake. I am more of a front end developer now and my days vary a lot but I mostly work in Rails and Wordpress sites. I’m very happy with my new career path but I’m nowhere near done learning! (Not that I’ll ever be, but you know what I mean.)
How did you find that job?
Indeed.com. I was one of the first to find a job and I believe it took me 3 weeks.
Did you learn everything you needed in order to succeed in that interview?
Yes; I do think our mock interviews helped. The first one was really awkward but by the second or third one it was a lot better. So I think that did help me for real interviews because it got rid of the initial jitters.
Would you recommend Dev Point to a friend who was looking for a boot camp?
I would and actually I did. My friend back home is going to come out and start the February cohort.
I really liked Dev Point because the guys running it are great people. They’re really interested in growing a community. It’s not just like you’re in and out; they really want you to stay around and be part of everything.