A self-taught designer, Randy Oest is the Manager of Digital Design at an agency in Indianapolis. Wanting to add iOS development to his skillset and possibly even his company’s offerings, Randy turned to Eleven Fifty’s Introduction to iOS Development course. Randy tells us about the diversity in skill-level during his class, the scholarship he got to attend Eleven Fifty, and plans to incorporate his new skills into his current job.
Tell us about your background and how you found out about Eleven Fifty.
I’m the Manager of Digital Design at an agency in downtown Indianapolis called Williams Randall Marketing. I oversee all of our digital projects: landing pages, websites, display ads, etc.
Building mobile apps is not a service that we currently offer for our clients but it is something I was interested in. I figured that adding that to my skill set would be the first step to adding that to our business.
I had watched videos and taught myself a few things, but I was actually presented with a very interesting opportunity. I gave a talk at a convention in Indianapolis and Eleven Fifty was attending. They were giving away two scholarships and I actually got one of the scholarships.
The scholarship was a motivation for you?
I was very excited about that. The cost of the program had originally been out of reach for me, but they had lowered the prices for their classes to the point where the scholarship took care of the majority of the cost.
Once I got the scholarship, it was a matter of negotiating the time off with my current company.
It sounds like you had a pretty technical background before you went to Eleven Fifty, just not with iOS.
Yes, I definitely have a strong development background.
Were you self-taught in those technical skills?
I was completely self-taught. I actually went to the Art Institute in Pittsburgh after high school to do comic book design; while I was there, I fell in love with graphic design on the computer. I eventually became a designer, then realized that web design would be a necessary skill.
I learned through books, training videos, and even attended trainings.
Did you ever consider doing another bootcamp before Eleven Fifty?
The only other bootcamp I considered was the Starter League in Chicago. I’m fascinated by the Starter League and I think it would be really phenomenal but at the same time, I can’t afford to spend three-quarters of a year and $40K on that. That’s for people who don’t have little toddlers at home!
Honestly, a bootcamp is something that I would recommend to a lot of people. In the web design and development community, it’s not so much about degrees as it is about experience. As soon as you get that experience, you’re valuable. All you have to do is have enough in your portfolio to convince someone to hire you.
Was it easy to convince your employer to let you take a week off for Eleven Fifty?
A week doesn’t seem like a long time but it actually took a little bit of negotiating on my part. Working in an agency, I had to do a little bit of hand-wringing!
How many people were in your cohort?
More than 20.
Did you find it to be a diverse cohort in terms of age, gender and race?
Yes, I did. I found that there was a great deal of diversity, more than I expected. Indianapolis is fairly whitewashed so actually going into a class that had racial and gender diversity was great. I like situations like that because it makes me feel like I’m working in the “real world.”
Did you feel like everyone was on the same technical level when you started?
No, definitely not. I couldn’t break it down in percentages but I would put them into three rungs. There were experts, those who could follow along, and the group that should have taken the Intro to Programming class before this class. Our cohort was impacted a bit by the latter group..
Were you still able to all learn together or did it split off into groups of learners?
The diversity in technical skill had a tendency to slow things down a little bit, especially once we got further along in the class where there were certain basic assumptions that were being made. There were long gaps between information sometimes.
For instance, we would learn a new concept and some people would have trouble with it so we had to wait while everyone queued up with the TAs and the teacher to get things resolved.
Everybody who’s paid for the class deserves the right to ask questions and get their questions resolved so I’m not going to make a big deal about that. But I do think there were some people who could have benefitted from an intro programming class or prior experience.
What level did the curriculum start at? Did you start with beginner concepts or did you dive in to building products?
We started with the language and the syntax, which is the most difficult and boring part of learning any new language. We went over assigning variables, doing loops, etc. They all are basic concepts but you have to be introduced to them as part of the syntax that you’re using. I think a lot of people had a bit of difficulty with that because it can be very fatiguing.
Then we rolled into the application of those basics, which is the fun part.
How many instructors were there?
There was one instructor, Terrence, and between 2-4 TAs at any time.
What was Terrence’s teaching style like and did it work with your learning style?
He was very casual and very knowledgeable.
The only thing I would have changed (and he would have admitted it himself) was how he sent code to us. He would use Bit.ly to shorten a url and share it with us. If something changed he needed a new URL, which actually got a little bit confusing. He said he would fix that for the next class.
He’s obviously very self-aware as to what he’s doing and he’s making the class better every time.
Who were the TAs?
I don’t know exactly who the TAs were. I believe they were mostly Scott Jones’ family members, functioning as TAs and helping out. I didn’t really interact with them very often so I can’t say how effective they were. I can say that people would go to them with questions and they were very helpful, responsive and proactive. If it looked like somebody was struggling they would help out, so my assumption is that they did a good job.
What technologies did you actually learn over the seven days?
The class was an Introduction to iOS Development, which means building mobile applications for the iPhone and the iPad. In order to do that, there are a couple of components.
The first component is the Integrated Development Environment (IDE), which is XCode and that’s basically like your workstation area. We learned XCode and the underpinnings of that, the code itself that we were writing was Swift as the language. We learned Swift and how to use XCode to create these apps.
Were you satisfied with that curriculum? Did you feel like you learned the technologies that you wanted to when you set out to learn iOS?
Definitely. I got off to a very strong start. Obviously, one week, no matter how intensive it is, won’t make you an expert but it’s a skill that I consider to be in my toolbox now and I’m actually moving ahead with some personal projects to reinforce that before I roll it out professionally.
Which projects did your cohort complete?
We ended up building three apps over the course. The first one was a note-taking app which was a simple clone of Evernote. The second app that we built was a Snapchat clone, which allowed us to learn how to use the camera in a very sophisticated way. There are two ways to deal with the camera in iOS—a complicated method and an easy method. First, we were introduced to the difficult way to do it, then learned a couple days later that we could accomplish the same thing with a single line of code.
Did it help to learn the difficult way first?
Oh yeah, absolutely because then you appreciate the easy method. But it also opens up possibilities because when you do it the difficult way, you have more control over what happened.
The third app that we built was a Tinder clone, which was very interesting. It showed the age divide of the class—some people knew about Tinder, and others didn’t. We had a hilarious time learning what Tinder was.
Were you working on those together as a class or were you split up into groups or doing them individually?
We did them individually following along with the instructor.
How many hours a day would you say you were spending on the course?
Usually, 8am-9pm. 10pm was the cutoff. We usually finished class around 9pm then there was the Q&A time for people who had questions.
Were you pretty much on campus the whole time?
Everything was done together. I would leave campus periodically. They have an extended break in the afternoon where they do all sorts of crazy fun things – and I mean crazy fun things. I’ve seen some of the other cohorts do paintball; we went to Skyzone and played a lot of really lousy dodgeball—it was really nice.
What was the space like where you were learning?
The place where you’re learning is spectacular. I’ve visited a lot of college campuses; I used to work for the University of Pittsburgh and let me tell you, the learning environment at Eleven Fifty is amazing. You’re working inside of a mansion. I think it was voted MTV’s “Crib of the Year.”
You’re actually interacting with Scott Jones, in his home. Scott Jones is the man who invented voicemail, built and sold Gracenote, etc; you’re actually having lunch with him, interacting with him, and hearing stories from him. That’s inspiring too.
What are up to now? Have you started using iOS in your job?
As soon as I finished the class I ordered a Swift cookbook. My intention is to go through that and look for things that I didn’t learn in the class that are of interest to me to reinforce what I’ve done, then to go back through and rebuild the three apps that I did in the class.
Then I’ll see how comfortable I am rolling it out at my day job to offer iOS as a service. Anytime you offer something new like that, the best thing you can do is talk to your close clients and offer discounts to try out your new skills.
Would you recommend that other employees at your job also take this class?
I would definitely recommend taking the class, with no reservations. I think it’s well worth the cost. It’s a super intensive week, I think it’s a very scalable skill.
Do you think it’s worth the full price?
Yeah- the full price is $3500. I would have to consider that.
Was there anything that you gave feedback or anything that you would have changed?
The only thing I would change is to raise the bar a little for people to get into the class. The technical diversity can slow the class down so much if you’ve got a lot of basic questions being asked. At the same time, it’s an Introduction to iOS so where do you draw that line?
I would like to say unreservedly that I enjoyed my experience at Eleven Fifty and I do highly recommend it.
Is there anything else that you wanted to add about Eleven Fifty or bootcamps in general?
I definitely think the bootcamp really fits with my personality; I would definitely recommend that type of experience again. I’m considering future classes at Eleven Fifty. They have an advanced iOS development course so maybe after I’ve cut my teeth a little bit more, I’ll go back and see what that class has to offer. My wife is actually interested in the introduction to programming class so I’m trying to convince her to do that.