Michael Miller-Hairston found a passion for coding during his degree in digital culture, then taught himself to code while waiting tables. He almost went back to college to study computer science, then came across Coder Camps and enrolled at their Phoenix, Arizona campus. Michael tells us about O Source, the project his Coder Camps team of three built in just three weeks. He shares his screen to demo the project and explains how he hopes it will help new coders build up their experience and portfolios. Watch the video or read the interview!
Tell me about your pre-bootcamp story. What was your educational or career background before you decided to go to Coder Camps.
Before Coder Camps, I went to Arizona State University and graduated with a degree in digital culture. I did some programming, but it was more so for media, so I used Max/MSP, and Processing. Then I took a course for programming using Objective-C and Swift for Apple products. That's when I really found a passion for it, picked it up, and started to pursue it.
After that, I was teaching myself while waiting tables. I found Coder Camps, and I figured it would expedite the process so that I could actually pursue a career in programming. And that's how I ended up here.
Did you research any other coding bootcamps? Were there any specific factors that made you choose Coder Camps?
Did you consider going back to college to study computer science?
I did actually. I was about a day away from going back to Arizona State University. The deciding factor really was the fact that I could do Coder Camps in 12 weeks or I could do another degree in two years.
Once you decided that you're going to go to Coder Camps, what was the application and interview process like?
My admissions rep Jason called me, and we did most of the interview over the phone. They have a coding from scratch course that you have to pass before the course starts which is like an introduction to programming. During that course, Jason would call me at least once a week and check up on me, make sure I was okay, and to see if I needed any help. Once that was over, they signed me up for the next available class.
Once you started, what was your cohort like? How many people were there and was it quite diverse in terms of gender and race and background?
Yeah. We had nine people, and it was three girls and six guys, and two of them were remote. We had one guy who was calling in from Oregon and then a girl who was calling in from Houston.
The majority of the class had no programming experience. There was one lady who had a master's degree from ASU in computer hardware, but she had no experience actually programming. Then there was a girl who was actually a front end developer for a while. Other than me, nobody really had any experience.
What was the learning experience like at Coder Camps? Give me an example of a typical day and the teaching style.
A typical day would start with an assignment from the night before. We would each go over our assignments, show what we had done, and talk about where we had problems. If we couldn't complete it because of the problem, the instructor would help us through that.
From there, we jumped into the instruction, and the instructors live coded while we followed along. That was a great way to solidify our skills. After lunch, we did some more lessons and then worked on an assignment until class was over. Most of us would stay on campus afterward and work on the assignment until we finished it.
I'm interested in the project that you're going to show me. What kind of assignment were you given for this project and how long did you have to build it?
There were no real guidelines. It was essentially “Make something with the stuff that you've learned.” We originally had six weeks to work on our final project, but halfway through that, the guy whose idea we were working on left, so we basically started over.
So we had just three weeks to build the app that we have now. We were always told to contribute to open source projects because that's a good way for employers to see that you're actually pursuing the knowledge and using it. So we wanted to do that, but we didn't know how, so our app helps you with that issue.
Can you show me a demo of what the app looks like?
Our project is called O Source. There is a landing page where it gives you some general information about the website and what it does. Then there's an “About” page that talks about the three of us who worked on it. You can log in with GitHub or LinkedIn, but to access all the features at this point, you need to log in with GitHub.
From there, you can see your GitHub repositories. It pulls those so that you can add them to the open source project. You can fill out a form describing what your project is and what language and frameworks it uses, then it’s all added to our system so that people can search for your project based on what they're good at, and their skill level. Then they can contribute to your project, and you can also search and contribute to other people’s projects.
Who is this app aimed at? Is it people who are new to coding?
It's aimed at all developers. So essentially if you're a new developer and you want to find a project to contribute to, you can use it for that. Or if you're an established developer, and you have an open source project that you need help with, you can also use the site to find help.
How big was your team and what technologies did you use to build that?
There were three of us. We used the MEAN Stack; MongoDB for the database, Express, and Node on the back end for the queries, and then Angular for the front end.
How do you divide up tasks amongst you and your team members?
We basically laid everything out that we had to do, and then ranked the tasks by the difficulty level. Then we each picked the easier ones so that we can knock them out real quick and focus more on the difficult task. After that, we just grabbed whichever tasks everyone thought we would be good at, and worked on it until we finished. Then we grabbed a new one.
Were there any particular technologies that you had to learn how to use especially for this project?
For the login service, we used a third party login service so I had to tinker with that quite a bit. It came pre-built so you can use GitHub, LinkedIn, Facebook, and basically any social media that you needed. But it had some issues, so we had to work through those and learn those as we went along.
What would you say was the biggest challenge you had while building this project?
I would say the time span because we had already been working on a project for three weeks, then we had to start over. Not only from concept and the idea, but we had to do it all the way through to what you see now.
So what are your plans for the future of this project? Are you going to continue working on it and launch it live?
We are. Right now it's almost ready. We have a few tweaks, but we're focusing our energy on starting careers, and then once we get established in that part, we've all agreed to come back to it and work on it.
What have you been doing since you graduated from Coder Camps?
I've actually been learning a new technology – React. I've also been looking for a job. I had an interview the other day with Red Ventures, which is in North Carolina.
What kind of job, in particular, are you hoping to get?
What kind of career advice or job help did Coder Camps give you?
Oh, they've given us a lot. Everything from resumes, your LinkedIn, and your social media presence. But they've also given us mock interviews, so we've done whiteboarding, and technical interview practice. They have people here looking for positions that they think you'd be a fit for and they set you up for interviews and phone calls. They've helped me basically every step along the way.
Now that you’ve graduated are you still keeping in touch with staff and alumni from Coder Camps?
Yeah. I talk to the guys from my project group all the time, and then they check on me every now and then to see if I'm doing okay. It's almost like a big family here at Coder Camps.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge overall going through Coder Camps?
I would say the dedication because it is a lot to learn within 12 weeks. Six of those weeks is the actual learning process, so it's a lot of information in a short amount of time. You have to really be sure that this is what you want to do because if you get left behind or if you get stuck, there are people who can help you, but it's only going to hurt yourself in the end if you don't put the time in.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking about going through a coding bootcamp?
My main piece of advice is to make sure this is something that you want to do because I don't think it is for everybody. If it is for you, but you're not sure, there are people who can help you do it, but that dedication definitely makes it easier. There are going to be times where you run into problems that you're not going to be able to fix immediately, and if this isn't for you, you're not going to want to put that time in to fix it.