Herman wasn’t quite sure which career path he wanted to pursue – until he discovered he wanted to build iPhone apps! With eyes on the future, and some Bitcoin to sell, he invested in DevMountain’s iOS immersive coding bootcamp to jump start his mobile development career. Herman told us why DevMountain’s bootcamp plus housing package was great value for someone with no formal coding experience, how his background has helped in his new career, and how he landed his new iOS developer role at startup Tapcart!
What is your background and how did it lead you to DevMountain?
I studied biology for two years at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. I switched to business, and then realized school wasn’t for me. I figured I could get more experience in the real world so I left after my junior year to try different career paths. I first tried real estate, and then worked in architecture for a couple of years. A Chinese company was expanding into the US so I had my own office in Las Vegas doing sales, planning, and drawing up designs in CAD programs.
I left college because I wanted to find where my passions aligned. I didn’t find that in real estate or architecture, so I looked into coding, specifically apps for iOS because I had an iPhone. It was new and exciting, and something I’d always wanted to do. I didn’t come from a coding background or computer science education, but I found DevMountain which builds up people who have zero experience to a level where you’re comfortable building apps or applying for junior position jobs.
Why did you choose DevMountain over other bootcamps?
I was also impressed with what the DevMountain tuition included compared to other bootcamps. At other bootcamps in major cities, you’re paying $20,000 and that doesn’t include housing. DevMountain costs $10,000 and includes 3.5 months of housing. It was great for people who don’t have money saved up or – like me – had to move to Utah to attend the bootcamp. I signed up, flew to Salt Lake City, and they set me up with housing right away. Everything was easy. There was a metro station right outside our housing, and the bootcamp was conveniently located four or five stops away. They house cohort students together so you get to know each other, most apartments had three to five people (I had two roommates), and were furnished with everything you need. At the bootcamp, they offered free breakfast every Friday, unlimited coffee, and we had access to the campus at any time.
It’s a scary process to start a bootcamp but DevMountain’s offer was amazing compared to other bootcamps and was a major reason why I chose it.
How did you pay for your DevMountain bootcamp?
Interestingly, Bitcoin was doing really well when I signed up for DevMountain, so I actually sold some Bitcoin and paid for the tuition! I had bought some not too long before and it was a perfect opportunity. If I hadn’t been fortunate to have had that, I would probably have borrowed money because it was something I really wanted to do.
What was the DevMountain application process like?
To be accepted, you had to fill out an application and do a coding challenge, but it wasn’t very difficult. If you studied iOS development for a week, you could probably pass. It was mostly about syntax – it was about the language, but nothing about iOS development itself, because they want to help people who don’t have a lot of coding background.
The communication with the admissions team was very tactical. They contacted us if we passed the application and challenge, helped coordinate our start times, organized housing if needed, and sent us a list of pre-course work ahead of the bootcamp. We had to read the Big Nerd Ranch Guide to iOS development and Swift, and had to take a Team Tree House course which was half Swift, half iOS development. The final part of the pre-work was building an iOS project following one of Apple’s development tutorials, like a food menu app. Getting in was easy, but the pre-course work took a couple months, so it’s important to apply a few months before you want to begin so you have enough time to prepare.
What was your DevMountain cohort like?
Our class had one of the larger cohorts, around 19 people, one girl and the rest were guys. More than half had never done any iOS development before, perhaps two or three had a CS background, and I don’t think anyone had job experience in development. The youngest person was probably 21 years old and someone was in their 40s, but a majority were in their 20s. Everyone was nice and hard-working – people stayed until after 5 or 7 pm to get things done, and we all got along really well.
What was the learning experience like at the mobile development bootcamp?
We woke up early, grabbed some coffee, and took the metro to DevMountain for a 9am start. From 9am to 10am, we did an individual coding challenge and discussion. From 10am to 12:30pm there was a lecture guiding us through a feature or a framework from start to finish. We followed the instructor’s lead – as he was walking through the lesson and typing, we were typing along and asking questions.
For the hour-long lunch break, we would go out to eat as a group and talk about the lecture. It’s located in the heart of Salt Lake City so there were plenty of restaurant options.
After lunch, we had time from 1:30pm to 5pm to work on our “homework” projects, sometimes individually or in teams and the mentors are there to help you if needed. After 5pm, you can go home or stay late if you want. This is the main schedule from Monday to Thursday. On Friday, you have a quiz on everything you’ve learned that week.
Every cohort has two instructors. We had Joe and Riccardo, and later Frank replaced Riccardo. The instructors would switch out every other day for the lecture. While one mentor is teaching, the other is walking around and making sure everyone is following along and helping anyone who falls behind.
What did the iOS bootcamp curriculum cover?
The bootcamp is 12-weeks. The first half of the course is lectures. Five of the six lecture weeks covered Swift, because that’s the language Apple is pushing for future iOS development, then we had one week of fundamentals on Objective-C. One of the biggest frameworks we worked on was Core Data which saves information locally on your phone, and we learned the CloudKit framework as well. We didn’t do a lot with third-party frameworks, but we were always welcome to learn other things on our own.
What was your favorite project at DevMountain?
During Week 3, we had to do a Pokemon app. When you launch the app, there’s a list of all the Pokemon characters, you can click on each one to see their attributes, and you can search for specific Pokemon. It was everyone’s favorite because when you learn iOS, you’re learning offline development – you’re not grabbing data online, you’re not posting user accounts online. In the first few weeks, you learn how to build an app from scratch, then during Week 3, we grabbed that data from an online API. Once you learn how to grab data from one API, you can do it from any API. After the Pokemon project, some of us worked on stock or weather apps that had open API sources, so the Pokemon app opened the door to a lot of other ideas.
How did DevMountain prepare you for hunting for iOS developer jobs?
Towards the end of the bootcamp, the DevMountain team helped us set up our LinkedIn accounts with a photo, a description, and education and work history. Having a fleshed out profile was one of the required elements of receiving the bootcamp certificate. We also needed an online portfolio displaying the apps we’d built by using Squarespace or Wix to create and display our work. The third thing was to have an updated resume with our new development and project experience. Students have regular one-on-one check-ins with the job prep staff until those items are finished and you can graduate.
You’ve had a couple of development jobs since graduating from DevMountain. How did you land them and what have they been like?
Towards the end of my bootcamp, I did some freelance work to help build out my profile and gain some experience. I went to startup Facebook pages, looked for people who had app ideas, and discovered Parkarr, an app that helps you find parking in NYC. I connected with the business owner, asked her what they wanted to accomplish with the app, and offered to do the first feature for free to showcase my skills. After that, they gave me some remote work for a few months right out of DevMountain.
I wanted to stand out from other bootcamp grads when I eventually went for a full-time job. Job hunting is more than just having a resume – it’s networking, going to events, and putting yourself out there as a developer. Once you get some experience on your resume, companies will take you more seriously. Thanks to the freelance work, it worked out well and I have a job!
Yes, congrats on landing a job at Tapcart! How did you find and land the job?
I applied on Angel.co because I knew I wanted to work at a startup. I love the startup environment and you can get more experience working with the whole product versus just a smaller part of it. It’s a lot of work, but it’s exciting and new, and you get to see a company grow. Tapcart had an Angel posting but didn’t have a careers page on their website. I contacted their customer support on the Tapcart website letting them know I wanted to apply for the iOS position and asking for an email address for an interview. The CEO actually reached out to me on LinkedIn before I was able to email and invited me for a 30-minute phone interview. I spoke with him later that day! He walked me through the company, where they were at, and their future goals. He asked about my experience, what apps I worked on, and got to know more about me. I had an in-person interview a week later in Santa Monica.
What does Tapcart do and how does your role as a mobile app developer fit in?
We’re a SaaS company partnered with Shopify and Google, where you can click-and-drag to create, launch, and update a mobile app for your ecommerce store, and retain your customers who are shopping on their phones. When I joined, I was the fifth person and now there are about 20 of us, with seven of us as engineers, and a couple people on an outsourced Android team. The CEO is also an engineer, so it’s great to have someone who understands the technical challenges behind new features and deadlines. The CEO built the first version – he did the coding, the design, web, everything – so he knows what’s needed, how much time things take, and the difficulty of different tasks, so it’s pretty easy to set timelines.
I work on a lot of features. My first project was working on a new alert system for the app. I work on features, fix any reported bugs, maintain a good code base structure, and I was in charge of handling the build server. We have 500 apps on the app store and we need a good system on sending them updates and builds, so a couple of months into the job, the CEO taught me how to handle build servers, so that was another responsibility on top of my regular integration work.
Were you able to use your skills from DevMountain or have you learned new skills?
The skills from DevMountain were enough to get me started, dive in, and start building things. I’ve had to learn how the Tapcart app works and what the code base structure is. We didn’t learn anything on architecture in my bootcamp, so I had to learn and adapt on the job. But there isn’t a whole lot of difficulty in learning those new skills – it’s the same process, you’re building similar things but in a different way.
How does Tapcart ensure you and the other engineers continue to learn and grow?
Every week we have an Engineering Showcase. Someone from the web or iOS departments will present on a topic, like a new framework, to other engineers. We have weekly viewings where the engineering team will sit together and watch a video on better coding practices, we share articles, and give each other feedback on our coding. That’s been a great learning process.
How has your background been useful in your new career?
My previous experience gave me a lot of management and people skills. This translates to my new development career because you’re working with a team of people, there are conflicts, you need to discuss different problems, and find better ways to plan. I also did a number of presentations with the architecture company, so I’ve been doing those at my new job.
What’s been the biggest challenge in your journey to becoming an iOS developer?
The biggest challenge for me was getting started. It took me a few months before I realized I could do it. Can someone with no experience and no degree really become a developer in three months with a bootcamp? It’s a lot of money and it’s a bit crazy and scary. It was my first time really moving out on my own and going to a new city. However, once I started, DevMountain’s bootcamp and the job didn’t feel like work. I’m really enjoying it and am passionate about it.
What is your advice for other people who are considering making a career change with a coding bootcamp?
Plan ahead, make sure you can afford it, and that a career change is really what you want. If you have a family, there are additional considerations to take into account. If you have a full time job, are you going to quit? What if you have a mortgage or bills to pay for? Make sure you can not only attend the bootcamp, but also factor in the job hunt and landing the tech job. When you’re applying for jobs, network and think about how to set yourself apart from others. If it’s all in line, then take a leap of faith and just go for it!