Tino Espinoza was a student in his freshman year at the University of Denver, but he hadn’t yet decided on his major. Having seen his friends with coding skills get great jobs, Tino decided that coding was the path for him, and Turing’s 7-month structure in Colorado stood out. As Tino heads into the end of his first module, we talk to him about convincing his parents of the bootcamp model, avoiding stress when it comes to assessments, and the benefits of a rolling start date at Turing.
What were you up to before you started Turing?
I had graduated high school and was a freshman at the University of Denver. I hadn’t declared a major; I was just taking my basic classes.
Did you ever take a computer science class in high school?
Not in high school. I took a typing class and a computer class in middle school. Other than that, I did some Codecademy but I didn’t finish it.
Did you drop out of college or put it on hold in order to do Turing?
College is on hold right now. I started going to Turing the Monday that I got out of school. Right now I’m taking the semester off.
What was your goal in doing a bootcamp?
I saw friends who were getting jobs with their coding skills. One in particular had dropped out of school and got a job. I figured it would be best if I sat down for seven months and just put time to learn to code.
Did you research schools other than Turing?
I looked at gSchool, but I just had heard really good things about Turing. I just snuck into a class one day, checked out the school and it seemed like something I really liked.
I was looking at three-month schools, but I figured that in the course of seven months I’d probably learn more. I wanted to get really good and in-depth. I ended up only applying to Turing.
What was the application process like for you?
There was a resume, a writing sample, a test and a video. The writing sample was kind of hard for me because you had to explain a complex topic or something in your area of expertise and I didn’t have what I thought was expertise.
After that I did an in-person interview. At the end of the interview, Jorge, my interviewer, told me I was accepted and I was at Turing a week later.
Did you feel like you needed a technical background in order to get through the interview at all?
Not really. There was never a time when I was actually tested on how much code I knew. There was a logic test that tested if I have that kind of a skillset, but it wasn’t based on any prior knowledge that I had about coding.
If you were already enrolled in your undergrad, why not just be a Computer Science major and go through the next three years of computer science?
I was interested in a lot of different topics. I really liked coding and computers but I also liked math. It just made more sense to learn the skills now and after seven months, be able to work in the field, as opposed to going through four years of education and then working. Turing just seemed like a faster track that was more suited for me.
What have you learned in just the first module of Turing?
We’re about to finish the first module. The time just flew by. I didn’t realize how much I knew until the other day I looked at someone who had been here longer than me and I looked at all their stuff and realized how much I’d learned as opposed to two months ago. Mostly, we’ve been learning the fundamentals of Ruby and how everything works. Surprisingly, I felt that I could do a lot more than I thought I’d be able to at the beginning.
Have you done projects and built things yet in this first module?
Yeah, and I think we’ve started doing more projects than the past students have done. We’re starting to do multiple projects at once and we always have something going on which I really like, because when I talk to friends or family I can show them stuff I’ve done.
What did your friends and family think when you put college on hold to do Turing?
My dad trusted that I knew what I was doing but my mom was pushing a computer science degree. Once I got in, they were a bit uneasy about it but once they saw that I was learning a lot, they pretty much supported me all the way.
How many people are in your cohort right now?
I think it’s a little bit over 20.
Do you see a lot of diversity in your cohort?
I think it’s diverse in every way. There’s a lot of different skill levels- people who pick up on everything quicker and some people who have to work longer. There are men and women from all locations and different backgrounds.
Who is your instructor now?
Right now it’s mostly Jeff Casimir.
What is Jeff’s teaching style like?
He’ll present us with a problem and he’ll let us struggle with it. Then a day or two later, he’ll show us how to solve it, which could be frustrating at first but once you get used to it, it trains you to solve problems better. Instead of just being taught something and shown how to do it, we’re working it out ourselves and getting help from him afterwards.
Just asking a lot of questions helps me; getting really in depth and asking why a lot is what helps me. You can ask Jeff anything and he could explain it to you and how everything works. At the same time when we’re trying to figure it out on our own, it gives us room to explore and experience it for ourselves.
Does Turing have TAs helping out?
Yeah. Mostly, you get help from the other students, especially ones in the older cohorts. We could basically go to any of them and ask them questions; everybody is happy to help you.
One of the coolest parts for me is how the community all just comes together in that way. There are always people who were recently in your shoes. It’s really easy to get help.
Can you tell us what a typical day has looked like in this first module?
In the morning we have warm-ups for half an hour and we gather with our “posses.” Our posses are two to three other students kind of randomly selected across different cohorts. In mine, I’m with people in the third and fourth module, so we get together and solve problems together; usually problems we haven’t seen before. We collaborate with our different levels of experience and solve problems. Sometimes they’re code-related and sometimes they’re brainteaser-type questions.
After that half hour, we’ll probably learn about some new topic or how to do something. Maybe we’ll talk about a project that was due that day. Then we’ll have work time.
In the afternoon we turn in our projects and go over them. There’s a structure to it but Turing looks different every day.
For example, right now I’m in “work time.” I’m working on a project right now with a partner, and we’re trying to fix it. The project is a sales engine. It accesses databases and you can look up which vendors made the most sales or look up all the items sold. We’re taking data and making it all work together.
So you’re almost done with your first module; do you have an assessment or an exam at the end of this?
Next week is the last week of the module, on Tuesday we have our assessment or diagnostic. If we don’t quite get it, we can redo it on Thursday. Then they decide if we’re going to redo the first module or not.
There’s a halfway mark in the first module when we do an assessment/diagnostic to make sure we’re on the right track. I think that was really helpful because it lets me see what the assessment is going to be like even though it won’t be on the same exact things. It gave me a chance to see where I was at, where I was supposed to be, and how I could prepare myself.
There are two or three people who are in my cohort, repeating Module 1. I think it’s good to have them in the cohort because they ask the questions that newer folks are scared to ask. Even though they seem to understand it all, they’re always asking really clear and distinct questions that probably tripped them up the first time around.
After this module is over, what is your plan for the one-week “intermission?”
After each module we have a week to take a break so that we don’t burn out. When I got here I asked a lot of people what they did in their spare time when they’re not coding and they all said... coding. Every single one.
How many hours a week would you say you’ve been spending on Turing?
I get here at 8:00am; I usually don’t leave till around 4:00 or maybe 5:00, so I think that’s around eight hours a day. I think it’s definitely something that takes a lot of time but it’s not forced on you. There are a lot of people who put in a lot more time than I do!
Do you feel like you have experienced burnout at all or has it been pretty manageable?
I think it’s been manageable but there are times when I feel super tired but I don’t feel like stopping. There are so many people here who are dreaming in code! Even if you take a break, it’s still in your mind. I haven’t felt too burnt out, just tired, but it’s not unmanageable.
Do you think you will go back to college after Turing or will you go through the job search?
I think I’ll go through the job search and see where that takes me. If I feel that I need to know more then I’ll probably go back to school because I do like learning a lot. I think I’m just playing it by ear right now.
At the same time, I’d like to get a job and keep learning on my own because from what it seems like, I’ll never stop learning about programming because it’s always changing.
Would you recommend that other college students take the same route?
I think it was a better decision to come here. I think if I had stayed in school, I would regret it because I wasn’t totally sure what my major was anyway. Since I came here, I feel like it’s a community and we’re all learning together as opposed to going to college, where I was being taught. I’d recommend Turing to anybody who wanted to code.
Have they started talking about job placement in the first module yet at all?
I think we start thinking about it in the third module. I know some people that are towards the end of the third Module right now. They’re talking about jobs and starting the job search now.
It sounds like you’re having a great experience, but is there anything you'd change about Turing?
I don’t think there’s anything I’d change. Right now I feel like I’m learning a lot. We’re doing a lot and working really hard but I think that’s what I need to be doing right now.