Ryan Choi was looking for a career path that allowed him to be creative when he found LearningFuze in Irvine, California. We catch up with Ryan about his experience at LearningFuze: how he learned to build breaks into his schedule, the PHP curriculum, and LearningFuze's committment to job and interview preparation.
What were you up to before you started at LearningFuze?
I graduated in with a degree in Biology and I worked in science for three years. Studying biology was interesting to me and I really enjoyed it but felt like working in the field was very different from what I was expecting. I thought that science would be a bit more creative than it turned out to be. I had creativity in mind and I had to use that.
I was looking back on my childhood and I remembered creating a web app during middle school winning an award for it. That motivated me to try building a website.
How were you teaching yourself?
I had just found out about Code Academy so I used that; it was okay but it was inefficient and it wasn’t enough for me to actually build a website.
I was looking into bootcamp programs but most were too far away (I live in Southern California), they were too expensive, and too long; I would have had to sacrifice a lot of things.
Why did you choose LearningFuze? What factors did you consider in your decision?
I found out about LearningFuze from a Facebook ad, and I contacted Fabian and started talking to their team. I considered it for about two months before I signed up.
Which other bootcamps did you consider?
I looked at Dev Bootcamp and Hack Reactor but Hack Reactor was looking for more experienced people so I looked in more detail into Dev Bootcamp.
LearningFuze was number one in my mind just because of the location. It was very close to my home and the money was right, especially considering what I would have to spend for living expenses in North California which is much more expensive than South Cal.
Did you quit your job and start LearningFuze?
Yes. My last job only required me for a day shift; I asked them if I could switch to night shift or part-time but they refused so I had to sacrifice that in order to do the bootcamp.
What was the application like for you?
First they did a phone interview to see where I came from and what my motivations were. Then they invited me to their location in Irvine so I could see the environment and also get the vibe of the facility and talk to the team. Then they set up a person-to-person interview- we did a cultural interview and a technical interview.
Once you were accepted, can you talk a little bit about the pre-work? How long did it take you and what was it like?
So I concentrated on typing those basic symbols without looking at the keyboard. I’m from Korea, so even typing in English is kind of hard without looking at the keyboard. That a crucial part of the prep-work.
Once you started the class, how many people were in your cohort?
Including me there were six. One had to drop out before class started because she had a problem with her company. She’s now in the second class but we started out with six and ended up with five on the first day of class.
Did you think that it was a diverse cohort in terms of age, gender and race?
I was the only Asian man, but there were really young people and there were a couple who were in their thirties. For the first class, gender-wise I don’t think it was diverse because it was all men but the second class I heard there were more women.
Did you feel everyone was on the same technical level? Was everyone able to learn together?
Oh, yeah. I think ⅗ of us had tried Codecademy or something like that before they came in but I think we were pretty much on the same beginner level. The prep work was made to get us onto the same page when we started first day of class.
Who were the instructors or instructor during the course?
Aside from Fabian there was another senior instructor/engineer, Thi. He has over 15 years of experience, so he was really great from the front-end material to the back-end material. And since then they have brought on additional experienced instructors to the team to maintain their ratio and grow the program.
What was his teaching style like? Was he very hands-on or did sort of let you get stuck?
Well, they were pushing us hard, but in the good sense. For example we would have a sample project, and then we were tasked to try and build it in only 2-3 hours to simulate real world development. After working on specific tasks or assignments we would do Q&A instructor led walk throughs to review code and discuss places we got stuck on.
Throughout non-assessment assignments they often jumped in and lead us through the process, giving us hints instead of just giving us a solution.
After that we would do another session of hands-on coding, it was very persistent. Then at the end of the day we reviewed where everyone was at, whether you’re stuck, or what has been completed. The next day, we would start with instructor led reviews and start the whole process again.
What technology stack did you learn?
Were you satisfied with that curriculum and with the actual material that was taught? Did you feel like you covered enough?
Yes. I was looking at Northern California bootcamps initially where I’d heard a lot about Ruby on Rails, but in Orange County and Socal in general, PHP is huge! Every single job I searched on Craigslist, they were looking for PHP developers. I was pretty satisfied with that curriculum.
How many hours a week were you spending on LearningFuze?
The team at LearningFuze wanted us to arrive at 8:00am and leave at 5:00pm. But everyone is so concentrated on what they’re doing, they couldn’t stop so they stayed until 6:00 or 7:00 and later, then we went home and ate dinner.
After dinner, I was free to do anything I wanted if I was done with my tasks but I usually put in another 3-4 hours of coding after that.
Wow; so probably between 40 and 60 hours a week. Did you ever feel burned out or get off track throughout the course?
Yeah, of course. I got off track many times. Just think about it- you’re learning a different language. You’re learning all that new syntax, new grammar and new words, new processes and using a lot of brain power.
One by one, we all experienced periods when we felt we got off track or got lost; we had times we got stuck and were really pissed off and felt like our brains were about to explode!
Did you take a break or how did you get over that?
The first few weeks of LearningFuze, I guess we didn’t know how to take breaks properly. That was a huge thing they taught us- learning how to get away from the work and take breaks. After a couple weeks we started getting up from the desk periodically, going to a space where we can play a game on the Xbox or just lay down, relax and chat in the lounge area. We had to practice taking breaks consciously, though.
Did your class work on a final capstone project?
Yes. The last two weeks of the course, we started building our own personal project without any help from the instructors aside from guidance and encouragement.
Were you working on it as a group or individually?
Individually. We did pair program; we had one project that we had to work on together – but the personal project we had to work on ourselves. Most of us got done, some are finishing up, but mine is a really ambitious project so I’m still working on it and adding features.
What is the project? Can you tell us about it?
It’s a personal sized task management system. You put your task in the program, create a project and invite people to collaborate on all the tasks or the project together.
What are you up to now?
So far I’ve got three interviews from three companies. I did the onsite interviews but I’m waiting for the response right now. One company just sent me a coding test so I need to complete that and send it to them. They are looking for an intermediate position and I am junior level so far so it’s pretty challenging. I have confidence that I can finish it in time although I do have concurrent projects so we’ll see.
How did you get those interviews? Was it through your own networking or through LearningFuze?
A couple of them were through LearningFuze as I followed through with employers they brought in. For one company, the CEO actually came in as a guest speaker so that was a great contact. We probably had a guest speaker every week or two, sometimes twice in one week. Through that we developed connections on LinkedIn and we would also go to meetups. From that particular company I got an interview. Another one was personally from just reaching out connecting on LinkedIn.
Did you feel like LearningFuze put a lot put a lot of emphasis on job placement and preparing you for getting interviews?
Yeah, absolutely. For two weeks they not only focused on technical interview skill but they did a lot of resume reviews and mock interviews, which touches more on soft skills like how to react to a certain situation or how to approach solving problems and communicate during the interview, and interacting with co-workers and people in general.
Is there anything we didn’t touch on about LearningFuze? Would you recommend it to a friend?
I was the first cohort at LearningFuze. Honestly, I was a bit skeptical about it at first because I was going to be in the first cohort, their pilot class.
I was asking them a lot of questions about the course and they were pretty straightforward and responsive about it. They’ve also been really great about helping with finding me a job. So I’m pretty satisfied with it; I don’t regret it. I know I spent money on it but that’s just taking a risk to get the reward!