employee-spotlight-jeff-michael-galvanize

Since changing their name from gSchool to Galvanize, the bootcamp has implemented some pretty big changes. We talk with Jeff Dean and Michael Herman, both at Galvanize Denver, about their transition from Ruby to full-stack JavaScript (the MEAN Stack), opportunities for Galvanize graduates and what a student needs to succeed at a bootcamp.

Liz:  How have things changed at Galvanize (other than the name)?

Jeff:  The biggest thing is that we switched from a Rails curriculum to a MEAN stack curriculum. It’s amazing to see how much earlier students are progressing using our JavaScript and MEAN stack curriculum.

Also, we have nearly doubled in size since we last spoke. We now have classes in Seattle, two in San Francisco, another in Denver, one in Boulder and most recently, Fort Collins.

Liz: We’ve seen a few other bootcamps transition to JavaScript/MEAN stack. Having so many students and campuses, how do you change the curriculum across the board? Has it been difficult?

Jeff: We have a mix of instructors and developers working on the curriculum. Our ideal model for a classroom is a lead instructor, an instructor and an associate instructor. Our lead instructors have either deep industry experience or experience in other code schools, and they help with the curriculum.

We did have a curriculum director for a while and now we’re thinking about bringing that role back.

Liz: What are your roles?

Michael: Lead instructor.

Jeff: I’m the Full Stack Director. I’ve been teaching more or less full-time since I got here up until a couple of weeks ago.

Liz: How do you balance being an instructor while also staying abreast of the latest technologies in the industry?

Michael:  People ask me that question a lot. I’ve been in tech education for a long time; I actually started at Dev Bootcamp in one of their first cohorts with Jessie.  I’ve been working 80 hour weeks for the past 6 years, and, at times, I don’t know how I do things. I don’t really have the answer to that but I definitely don’t encourage people to work as much as I do.

Jeff: Generally speaking, instructors love technology. I’m creating Angular 2 apps on the bus and it never stops.

I don’t think the question is how do instructors stay abreast of technology? The question is how do you find a work-life balance? One is making sure that the company is dedicated to giving instructors the right amount of time away from class.

We just launched a called Galvanize Experts where instructors actually work on consulting projects. One of our instructors here in Denver has been working on a project for the last few months. First she was taking two days and now she’s taking a day a week to write code for an actual client. She’s gaining industry experience that will allow her to move up in her career.

At Galvanize we say you’ll never become a lead instructor without having experience.  We’re really optimistic that the Galvanize Experts program will provide an avenue for instructors to hone their skills while also working a regular work week. Our staff maintain employable skills. For us, it’s not about staying current, but learning to maintain a balance.

Liz: What are your standards for hiring a Galvanize graduate? What positions do they get hired into and how do you decide who’s going to be a TA or instructor?

Jeff:  There are two ways Galvanize students can come into the program. The first one is as an associate instructor, and a number of previous graduates have gone into those positions. We advertise those positions publicly and we take students through the same interview process an external associate instructor candidate would go through. They would interview with an instructor from a different campus for the technical interview, just to remove some bias from the process. Our graduates that have become associate instructors are amazing and we’re excited to have them.

A lot of students want to be here, but still work as a developer.  Our resident program offers contract positions for a fixed length of three or six months. It’s a way for students to say solidify their knowledge and remain in the community.

It’s been working really well. We made a full-time offer to our first fullstack resident. I anticipate that our associate instructor roles will be filled less by students, because the competition is getting steeper and because we still have alumni present in the fulltime resident program.

Michael: I definitely agree with that. Sometimes I forget the struggle I went through while learning how to code, so having a recent graduate keeps me accountable. After I finish a lecture that is either too advanced or full of jargon - or both, for that matter -, the resident can let me know and also help students better understand the main points from the lecture. It’s really good to have that balance between instructors that have a lot of industry experience and residents that just graduated.

Liz: I get a lot of questions about what type of person should do a bootcamp. You’ve been through Dev Bootcamp, RefactorU and now, Galvanize. Is there a particular type of student that does really well at Galvanize or is there a typical bootcamp profile that  you’ve seen?

Michael: Those that are passionate, driven and excellent problem solvers.. Many think that they can do a bootcamp without first trying something like Codecademy.  I always tell people that are interested to try Codecademy or even Thinkful, which only costs $1,500 to see if they even like coding!

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to come out of it and make a lot of money, but you still need to understand that it is a struggle and very difficult.

Liz: What does a student accomplish in a six-month bootcamp like this one as opposed to the shorter 10 week programs?

Michael: I can teach them another language. We can go into SQL, advanced data structures and other CS fundamentals; there’s so many different avenues we could take.  It’s exciting because now they can start solving higher level problems and getting – not quite midlevel—  but a bit beyond junior level positions.

Liz: Do you think that you can get a job as a developer after 12 weeks?

Michael: Yes, but it is quite absurd thinking that anyone could become a developer in 12 or even 24 weeks. I talked to Shereef (founder of Dev Bootcamp) about this when I was studying at Dev Bootcamp. You could redo certain modules, and I remember thinking, “why wouldn’t I redo all of the modules?”There’s so much more to learn.

Jeff: In the beginning we were able to take students with much less experience than other bootcamps because we had a longer format.

What we’re seeing now is that we can still take students who are beginners, but as an organization we’ve learned that they get so much more when they come in with experience.  We’ve introduced a significant portion of first year algorithm practice into our curriculum that students would get while earning a CS degree. A higher percentage of our students are leaving with knowledge of two or more languages.  We have about a third of the class in one Denver cohort learning technologies in addition to JavaScript and Rails.

We’ve leveled up our interview prep program quite a bit.

Liz: What does that entail?

Jeff: We’ve increased algorithms, timed practice, and tutorials on how to turn interviews into conversations, rather than answering unrelated questions and waiting for a Q&A at the end. I believe strongly that as an industry, tech companies are in their infancy in terms of being able to identify talent. I see students who I would hire for a developer job rejected from multiple interviews that are poorly designed.

We're seeing students do better than before. The companies are surprised by how fantastic they are, and they’re sending the students back to our hiring days to hire more students.

Liz: Those alumni networks are probably one of the biggest value additions to any bootcamp.

Jeff: Our alumni network happens to be in the building in a lot of cases. We’re not just thinking of it as an alumni network, but as deep, sustainable relationships with companies that are going to influence the curriculum and the decisions we make. The alumni networks help pave the way.

Liz: Do you still see companies that refuse to hire bootcamp graduates?

Jeff:  Absolutely.

Liz: How has that changed since you’ve been in the industry?

Jeff: Companies who have already hired a graduate are particularly open to bootcamp graduates. In markets like New York, San Francisco and places where there are a lot of options, getting interviews is really tough. Especially in a lot of the shorter programs and remote programs, students don’t have the skills to get through more complicated challenges.

I have friends who are hiring managers that say, “When we see a code school on a resume we don’t do it.” I don’t worry about that because ultimately, it’s their loss.

These are amazing developers! People who are fixing their mind about this are losing out on big talent. Pretty soon, companies that hire bootcamp grads will have thriving 

These are amazing developers! People who are fixing their mind about this are losing out on big talent. Pretty soon, companies that hire bootcamp grads will have thriving development cultures. Eventually, experienced bootcamp graduates will work at more companies and will be instrumental in recognizing and hiring bootcamp talent.

Liz: I agree. Bootcamp grads know how to learn and have interesting different backgrounds too.

Jeff: When I was on the hiring side interviewing graduates of middle-tier CS programs, I can’t remember one that I hired out of the dozens I interviewed.

Maybe this was an experiment a couple of years ago, but in a year people are going to take for granted that this is the way to become a software developer. We’re starting to see that.

Liz: Have you graduated the first Galvanize U cohort yet?  I’m really excited  to see the results. A lot of 4-year colleges are thinking about how to partner with bootcamps and how to offer the same kind of thing.

Jeff: I believe that’s in a couple of months. But we’ve started our second cohort.

Michael:  For my undergrad, I started in CS and ended up with a Business degree with a minor in Philosophy. I value the critical thinking skills that I got. it’s all about balance. Undergrad students could really use this to their advantage. By coupling the practical education from a bootcamp with the theoretical from undergrad, you can really come out of school with a strong foundation while also being able to contribute practically. CS programs should partner with bootcamps, allowing students to take a semester off to gain those much-needed practical skills.

Interested in learning more about Galvanize? Check out their CourseReport page!

About The Author

Liz pic

Liz is the cofounder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students considering a coding bootcamp. She loves breakfast tacos and spending time getting to know bootcamp alumni and founders all over the world. Check out Liz & Course Report on Twitter, Quora, and YouTube

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