Since Galvanize acquired Hack Reactor, you may be wondering what’s new about the Software Engineering Immersive. We sat down with Teddi Maull, who actually graduated from Galvanize in 2015 and now works as an instructor, to learn about the changes to curriculum, time commitment, and focus in the new immersive bootcamp. Teddi shares why she was passionate about returning as an instructor to assist other students, the secret to success at Hack Reactor@Galvanize (it’s actually not technical skills!) and her favorite change to the curriculum in the past six months.
What was your background prior to taking the Galvanize bootcamp?
I started a computer science degree, but I didn’t complete it due to life circumstances. In the early 2000s, I was working for Agilent Technologies developing computer-based training and at that time, there were a lot of changes and layoffs in the tech industry (including myself) which prompted me to change everything and become a photographer! I worked as a photographer for about 14 years and eventually decided to take a bootcamp to switch careers back into computer science. After looking into Galvanize, I knew it was exactly what I needed. At the time, the program was 6 months long and would be a dedicated time for me to get back into the field and learn new skills.
Since you started a formal Computer Science degree, were you skeptical about the value of a bootcamp?
What I loved about Galvanize was that they taught practical knowledge and experience. College is great for many reasons, but I didn’t get the experience and the confidence to immediately use my skills – Galvanize gave that to me in a short period of time. It was more focused and compressed compared to a college degree program and that was best for my learning style.
Did your base knowledge from your CS classes help you excel at Galvanize?
My logic skills and ability to problem solve helped a lot and definitely made me stronger. I also had experience writing in a language and in algorithmic thinking, so I definitely had a leg up compared to my classmates. However, it had been over 13 years since I was in the tech industry, so I did feel like a newbie – imagine if you hadn’t ridden a bike in 13 years! I retained some inherent knowledge but it still felt very much like a struggle.
There are a lot of bootcamps now – what made you want to return to Galvanize and teach software engineering?
The day I graduated from Galvanize, I knew I wanted to return and work there – it was my dream job. I love teaching and I derive a lot of pleasure from seeing the lightbulb go off in students’ heads. I was always working my way back to Galvanize and knew I needed industry experience to make it a reality (Galvanize requires instructors to have real-world experience). One of my instructors gave me the advice that I needed to be able to teach any of the topics we had gone over in the bootcamp and to be able to jump in and break it down for a new person to easily understand. I already knew the course information and had helped my classmates throughout it, so it was really just a matter of gaining the practical knowledge and experience.
Did you have any prior teaching experience? How have you developed your personal teaching style?
I had tutored a bit and taught photography – I had lots of personal teaching experience, just not professional experience. I think I proved myself to the Galvanize instructors when I helped my classmates understand concepts based on their different learning styles, and would even listen to the instructor and think how different classmates would comprehend the topic.
When I considered homeschooling my daughter, I did a lot of research about how people learn, which tools were most effective, what worked for me as a young person, and what would have been more effective. Once I got back into Galvanize, I did more research and had an instructional coach. We dug into the book Teach Like a Champion to help inform how we teach.
Now that Galvanize and Hack Reactor have merged, what has changed? Tell us about the new Software Engineering Immersive program!
The biggest change – and my most favorite – is the pair programming. Especially in the first six weeks of the program, students spend a lot more time pair programming. Every two days, they get a new partner and work on a new sprint with that person. They learn how to learn with a new person and get through new challenges with them.
The Software Engineering Immersive is now 12 weeks long (versus the previous 6-month program) – how has the time commitment changed for students?
The on-site immersive course is 12 weeks long, Monday to Friday from 9am to 8pm and Saturday from 9am to 5:30pm. The program used to be 6 months long but fewer daily hours, so students are still spending the same amount of hours.
There’s a shift from learning the basics on site in the classroom to learning the basics online before the course begins. The students are now coming on campus as advanced beginners so I don’t have to introduce arrays, strings, or objects and we can dig into new topics.
What’s been the biggest curriculum change since you took the course in 2015?
Do students need to have previous experience to take the Software Engineering Immersive course?
How do you assess student progress throughout the program?
In our new curriculum, we have assessments every week through the Junior and Senior phase and have daily challenges. The instructional team gets the results and the students see their progress each day. We have one major assessment halfway through the program and the students don’t know what it will cover, only that it will pull from the previous five weeks. It’s “open book” in that they can use documentation, but can’t go back to previous code they’ve written.
We also look holistically at the student’s progress. We analyze the type of feedback they received during pair programming, what their checkpoints and problems looked like, and how it has been to work with them. It can be hard to quantify but ultimately, it’s about whether they’re ready to go on to the Senior phase, and whether we would want to hire them onto our team.
Are there specific concepts you focus on in the curriculum for the Boulder market?
Here in Boulder, we could see what was working for our local market and make tweaks. I spent a lot of time on lessons and delivery, trying to understand how to bring the concepts to the specific group of students to meet their learning styles. Now, we have a great curriculum developer, so now he develops the curriculum, we give feedback, and he iterates. The curriculum fits the Boulder market pretty well so we don’t have to change it much. We might tweak the way it’s delivered because of the people and the culture we’re speaking to, creating more hands-on approaches between our instructional team and the students. Boulder students enjoy hands-on learning and I do individual one-on-ones with all of my students to see how they’re progressing.
Who is the ideal Hack Reactor @ Galvanize student? What type of students succeed?
My favorite students are the ones that are willing to go all in and work hard. There are always students who doubt themselves from the start, but if you’re willing to learn, persevere, and have a growth mindset, then you can do it. There are students who are technically excellent, but might struggle with that growth mindset while some students didn’t have a tech background but have grit and will come out on top. With this new program, because there are so many avenues to prepare for the on-site course, today’s students are different than the students 6 months ago. They’re doing a lot of work in our remote programs before coming on site in my classroom.
Galvanize is about learning to learn. If you have a growth mindset when you enter Galvanize, you’re on the path already. If you have that, we’ll cover everything else.
Do you have a student success story that stands out to you?
(Just so everyone knows, I don’t like picking favorites!!)
We have a cumulative capstone project and one student was rocking through the program – he really challenged me on how to challenge him. But he needed to focus on working with a team and challenging himself in an effective way. When it came down to the capstone, he was struggling to figure out a challenging project for himself.
I learned about an internship with a company just down the street in Boulder that needed an intern who could pick up information quickly, work with them effectively, and be open to feedback. I thought of this student right away – it would be totally new for him, with high stakes by setting it as his capstone project. He got real world experience working with a team and got tons of feedback during a code review. It turned into a full-time job offer within a few weeks.
What is the expected job for a student who completes the Hack Reactor @ Galvanize bootcamp?
I think most students would be junior or advanced junior (industry titles are all over the place). I expect that students will come out with a certain level of autonomy when they come out of the programjob. They won’t need a lot of hand-holding and they know how to source the information they need. A senior role would only be attainable if a student started with prior experience.
For potential bootcampers interested in the Hack Reactor Software Engineering Immersive, are there any resources you recommend?
We have a bunch of Learn to Code events on campus in both Boulder and Denver, and that can help you get into the space and see the people involved.
I also love podcasts for learning, hearing the lingo, and getting a feel for the coding industry. Some great podcasts are:
Base.CS is a cool one because they go over a lot of computer science concepts and I think they do an excellent job making it approachable for someone who doesn’t know coding at all.