Brijesh Patel is an instructor at Sabio’s Full-Time Coding Bootcamp – a bootcamp he graduated from 4 years ago! We caught up with Brijesh to learn how (and why) he became an instructor at Sabio. He also shares how working with partners like the City of Los Angeles on real projects benefits Sabio students, the Sabio teaching philosophy, and the characteristics of the most successful Sabio bootcamp graduates.
How did you learn to code, Brijesh?
In 2011, I got my master's degree from the University of La Verne. Thinking that the world of finance was for me, I ventured into financial advising and from there I moved on to be a General Manager. I even used to sell life insurance – nothing felt right. So I set out on a journey to understand what I wanted to do and what I was best at. Finally, someone recommended I look into coding bootcamps and I found Sabio.
What made you choose Sabio as a student and then as a job?
I decided to go to Sabio because of the teaching style and because of the Sabio team, like Gregorio and Liliana. I went to one of the Sabio information sessions and then attended their Prework course. In terms of curriculum, Sabio is a bit different from other coding bootcamps. We teach you while we build an actual product Minimum Viable Prototype or a Proof of Concept for entrepreneurs. The students build the whole thing out, and then as their instructor, it's my job to guide them through the process while they get first-hand experience.
Why is it important that students at Sabio work with real clients rather than build their own projects?
The most important thing is that my students graduate understanding the moving parts of the application building process. They interact with the business owner on analyzing the project, understanding the scope of how and what is needed before they even get started coding. Their ability to ask questions and better understand is key here. Then they can go back to the computer and program it quickly. Simply telling them that they need to build an application to assigned specifications doesn't show them where and how they’ll be interacting with the client or how to scope out the requirements.
How would you describe your teaching style?
I want to teach a man to fish, that's my mentality. There are a lot of coding materials out there and they're all presented with a different methodology. At Sabio, our mission is to teach you how to learn. A major part of coding is problem-solving. You have to understand what didn't work to understand what will work. It's like a puzzle. The goal is for students to be self-sufficient when they leave. I want to impart a fearlessness in them so that they can learn while making mistakes and be proud of their mistakes that lead to what they accomplish after.
What is Sabio's curriculum covering today?
What’s something that’s changed in the curriculum over the years?
We started teaching AngularJS, but the industry was moving forward with React so we changed to React. We used to have students work on an MVC project, and now we're doing ASP.NET Core. We're having students build a lot of APIs and they connect to a stand-alone application. Now .NET 3.1 is out so we're going to be implementing that in a month or two. We try to keep up to date as much as possible both in teaching and our documents.
Tell us about the City of LA project you worked on last year with your students at Sabio!
The project was a program created for the City of Los Angeles to bridge the gap between business owners and resource providers. If you were a startup or business owner and you weren't sure what services you needed or where to find it, anything from funding to administrative services, you would take our survey and it would search all of the services and resources that the city has to offer and matches you with them. Our fellows created an algorithm that allows the user to seek services and information. Right now they have about 300 resource providers. In the future, there will hopefully be thousands. Our application is dynamic enough to handle any number of service providers.
Here's an example: If your business is providing consultancy geared toward startups, you can reach out to the city to get your business listed in the project. When a startup takes the survey and notes that they're interested in consultancy, we dynamically match them with your business.
As the instructor and team-leader of this project, did you encounter any challenges while you were working to create this?
Challenges are part of the process! When students start, they don't know how dynamic servers are built. We created a dashboard for the admin users where they can get live feedback in the form of charts. They can also see all of the resources and how connections were made through the dashboard. The challenge was to take what was given to us by the City of Los Angeles and scale it up to be dynamic enough to withstand future changes. Scaling the application was the biggest challenge.
Were your students intimidated by this project?
Nope! That's the whole mission of Sabio. The awesomeness about learning and implementing a project for an actual entity. We don't tell students to build a mock-up or clone of an already existing application like AirBnB. There's less excitement in cloning. This is challenging, but we are building this for a real client!
The students usually start out excited and then move into feeling overwhelmed. It's a big project. It's my job to delegate the work accordingly to the students. As an instructor, if I see that someone is struggling I'm not going to give them an extremely hard task. I want to make sure they've learned the basics before I give them a more challenging task. On the same principle, if someone built something out well, I'm not going to give them the same challenge over and over.
Do you find that there is a certain type of student who does really well in class?
Someone who is committed. They must have a clear picture of their end goal and be here for a reason. When I went to Sabio, I had a clear picture of where I wanted to work, how much money I wanted to make, and what I need to achieve. If there's something missing from that picture, it's my job as an instructor to understand what that student is trying to achieve. The ideal student is committed to their own success.
It's not easy to learn something new. People go to university for four years! You're coming to a bootcamp that is 13 weeks, but I'm teaching you everything from building an application to interviewing for your first coding job. We talk about algorithms and data structures and code challenges. There are a lot of moving parts. If you have a clear vision of who you want to be after the bootcamp working in this industry and you are committed to getting there, you will succeed at the end of the day.
How do you assess a student's progress?
We do mock interviews every three weeks for the duration of the bootcamp. They get feedback at the end of each interview and they have until the next interview to improve, usually about 3 weeks. In Week 3, the interview includes whiteboarding and technical questions. That interview is relatively laid back. In Week 7, there will be another interview which includes a three-hour coding challenge to build out an application. In Week 10, we do a final interview, like an exit interview. There will be a panel interview and an individual interview. Essentially, in the last interview, they're trying to get hired. We simulate the process that they would go through in the industry. The interview can last anywhere from an hour to three hours depending on the student's level.
The idea is that we can assess their progress while also giving them a lot of practice with interviewing so that they can get a job when they leave. We have three rounds of interviews like a company in the industry would have. The first interview simulates the first call you get with a company, when they want to get to know you. The second interview is what would happen if you were talking to someone from HR or a Developer who was trying to gauge where you are at. The third interview has an actual coding challenge. That's how the interview process is designed. From there, we work to help them learn better so that they can have the confidence to go out and get a job.
If you notice a student is struggling, what kind of guidance can you offer?
We try to take care of most of that in Prework. Our prework is the most intensive prework out there. You need to be able to pass the prework assessment to get into bootcamp. If the student doesn’t pass the prework assessment, they can retake the prework a month later, but if the student can't achieve that, then this bootcamp isn't a good fit for them. It helps us make sure we are accepting students who are committed. We don't have many people coming from computer science backgrounds.
If a student is struggling, we will do more 1:1 teaching. Sometimes it's personal. They're human beings! By Week 4, we usually know where they are exactly.
For students graduating from bootcamp, what's the goal for their careers?
Depending on the student, I'll encourage them to apply for anything from junior-level to mid-level development positions. That's how intense our program is. Some exceptional people get higher-level positions. We have two fellows who are about to graduate who could get senior-level positions. It depends on the student.
For readers who are just getting into coding, what resources or Meetups do you recommend for them?
I'm currently at the Irvine campus. There are a lot of meetups here. Before anyone tries coding bootcamp anywhere, I recommend getting your hands dirty with something like Free Code Camp or Codecademy. Codecademy holds your hand all the way through. I personally like Free Code Camp, though, because it has everything you need. If you're still not sure or you want to learn more, I recommend trying out Coffee and Code. Talking to industry people helps a lot.
Do you have any final advice for prospective students?
Be true to yourself. Be honest. Evaluate yourself against how much you know today versus how much you knew yesterday. You cannot evaluate yourself against other people. Evaluate yourself, keep failing better, and be true to yourself.