[As of September 2018, Thinkful no longer offers bootcamp prep courses for prospective applicants. A 2-week prep course is provided to accepted students.] Bhaumik Patel started his programming journey as one of Thinkful’s first students, and has now joined the team full-time as Community Manager where he worked directly with every student from their onboarding experience to graduation. Bhaumik talks to us about Thinkful’s newest partnership with in-person coding bootcamps and his role in it as Program Director!
Which schools do you have partnerships with (or plan to in the future)?
We’ve partnered with MakerSquare, App Academy, Iron Yard, DevPoint Labs, Byte Academy, and Wyncode and our pilot courses are live today with these schools. Our Bootcamp Prep Course page has all the details you'll need about these partnerships.
We’re excited to bring back our MakerSquare (Austin, SF & LA) prep course after great success with their pilot. All of those have a rolling admission policy so the course is suitable for students targeting different bootcamp cohort starts.
We’re finishing up the curriculum for App Academy (SF & NYC) to prepare for their coding challenges now so that will launch on May 11th. For Iron Yard (Durham & Tampa Bay), we’re training and onboarding in-person mentors in preparation for a June 1st launch. (If you’re interested in those courses, just send me a quick email and I’ll send you more info.)
What inspired the bootcamp prep courses?
Story time! Two years ago, I learned that I could become an engineer without a CS degree. My dad had forwarded me a marketing email from App Academy which got me excited. At that point, I couldn’t commit to moving to NYC or SF so I looked for online options and found Thinkful. A good friend and I joined one of the earliest cohorts of the Frontend course. I ended up joining Thinkful a couple of months later and have been here since.
Over the last year, we got to know Harsh, the founder of MakerSquare. They had a clear need: help make their applicants even more qualified for their cohorts. We ran a pilot program in January that went well. After the success of that pilot, we began working with other schools. We’re now working with Iron Yard in Durham & Tampa, as well as Devpoint Labs in Salt Lake City, Wyncode in Miami, Byte Academy in New York, and App Academy in San Francisco and New York. Fun fact: App Academy’s NYC class is one floor above our office.
Who is the ideal student for the bootcamp prep courses?
I’d break it down into two groups. The first includes students not yet qualified for a bootcamp. We’ve worked closely with each school to create a program that specifically prepares you to be a great student in their program. The second group includes people who are interested in programming but not yet committed to quitting their job to become a developer. These introductory courses give students a preview of what’s to come in the engineering world before quitting their jobs and taking on big financial risk.
In the beta/test with MakerSquare, did the students who took the prep course get in to MakerSquare? What were their outcomes?
Yup! Of the 7 students in our pilot, 5 were accepted into MakerSquare or Hack Reactor on their first try (and one of the others was strongly encouraged to reapply the next month). Two had to pause the course for a month but plan on applying, and the last one dropped. The accepted students are currently enrolled at MakerSquare, so we’ll so update you in a few months on hiring outcomes :) I also want to start publishing our acceptance rates into bootcamps once we have enough students enrolled!
Will the curricula change depending on the school?
How important is it to have a portfolio of work when you apply to a top bootcamp? How does Thinkful address this?
That depends on the bootcamp. Our partners with strict admission criteria have programming exercises + technical interviews in their application process, so our curriculum reflects that. We remove some projects in favor of smaller exercises.
For others with a more accessible program, it’s important to demonstrate some passion for programming. Building projects and adding to your portfolio is the best way to do that. For those programs, the project-driven approach in our Frontend course is perfect. We want to make sure that students have a portfolio and GitHub profile ready to go before starting the bootcamp.
Who are the mentors in the prep course? Bootcamp instructors or Thinkful mentors? Who is working with students on-site?
Except for Iron Yard, who will have their own instructors on-site, every mentor is from Thinkful. Many of them have also have personal experience with bootcamps. Patrick Ford and Brian Patterson graduated from Hack Reactor and MakerSquare, respectively, a year ago. Another Danielle Adams, graduated from Dev Bootcamp! The on-site mentors are also intertwined in the engineering culture of the bootcamp’s location so they can service as advisors when the student starts the job hunt :)
What’s your role in the course? Will students interact with you?
My most important job is to make sure student has an awesome experience. My goal is to onboard every student with a call and follow up every few weeks. I’m also onboarding the mentors for this course to make sure they’re aware of the student’s goal and any curriculum changes. I’ll also catch up with the admissions team of the bootcamps to make sure the curriculum is up to date. Once the pilots are launched and running smoothly, I’ll start working with other bootcamps who share the same values to expand our reach.
Anything else I left out?
Tuition reimbursement! Students who are accepted into the bootcamp will have a tuition credit applied to their in-person experience. MakerSquare, for example, will apply the $1500 of the $2000 price to the student’s bootcamp tuition! For most of these bootcamps, you can apply up anywhere from 50% to 100% of the price of the course to the tuition.