Many coding bootcamps offer full-time and part-time programs, so how do you choose? Will you get the same education in either program? We asked two New York Code + Design Academy alumni to compare their experiences and explain how they chose between the 12-week full-time, and the 24-week part-time programs. David Bonaroti explains why he needed a flexible schedule with the part-time program, and Jeff Chui talks about his need to get qualified fast with the full-time program. They also contrast their learning experiences, and discuss the New York Code + Design Academy career services.
What were your backgrounds before you decided you wanted to learn to code?
David: Before New York Code + Design Academy, I completed an MBA at the University of Pittsburgh. I worked at a real estate company in Pittsburgh for a year, then moved to New York City, where I currently work full-time for an ad technology company called Light Reaction.
Jeff: I was a student at Wake Forest University, but I got really sick, and had to withdraw. I spent around six months just working to get myself back on my feet. After that I was searching for a coding bootcamp, which led me to New York Code + Design Academy. Now I work as a developer at the McCann Erickson Advertising Agency.
There are a few other coding bootcamps in New York, so why did you each choose New York Code + Design Academy?
David: The most important thing when I was evaluating bootcamps was flexibility. Since I was working full-time, I needed to find the right balance, knowing that it would be pretty difficult going to class three times a week after a full day at work. After speaking to the admissions department at New York Code + Design Academy, I realized the schedule for the part-time program really aligned with what I was looking for. It gave me a lot of flexibility with work; I was able to work late if needed, and could still attend class. One useful feature they have is they record all the classes. If I couldn’t attend because I was out of town for business, or something came up during the week, I could still get the full lecture later that day, which was a really great safety net.
As well as the flexibility, the tuition was really attractive. A lot of bootcamps I considered were $15,000 to $20,000. Since I'd already gone to grad school, I have enough student loans. New York Code + Design Academy was very affordable while still maintaining the quality of instruction.
Jeff: I agree with the financial part of it. It was one of the most affordable bootcamps when I was comparing all of my options. Also, I visited the campus and met with Julie Lee, one of the admissions officers. When I was walking around and seeing what people were doing and how people were learning, it just felt right. I didn't know much about bootcamps at the time, so I couldn't make many logical comparisons, but I went with what I could afford and what my schedule allowed.
I wasn't really doing anything else, which is why I went with the full-time course. I also wanted to be around human beings while learning a new skill. I wanted to get an education even if it wasn't a four-year institution. I wanted to do something and learn something, so I might as well go all in.
Did either of you think about going back to college and studying computer science rather than at a bootcamp?
Jeff: I was thinking a lot about whether to go back for a computer science education, but from my research and from what a lot of computer science grads I talked to, it sounded like these four-year institutions didn't really provide the skills needed to get into the job market. When I looked at a three-month bootcamp program that was tailored towards breaking into, and performing well, in the industry versus four years and more student loans, it just seemed to be the right choice for me.
David: After evaluating my options, and with so many years of professional experience under my belt, it didn't seem feasible to start back at square zero for an undergraduate degree. I needed something rapid, and the bootcamp was the vehicle for that. I needed to learn as much as I could right away, and the pace of a four-year institution would have really hindered me. That's why I really enjoyed the curriculum at New York Code + Design Academy because they prepared you to jump in day one and know what you're doing.
What was the New York Code + Design Academy application process like and did it differ for either of you?
Jeff: The application process was simple. The first part was three personal statement questions asking why I wanted to learn to code, my experience in coding, and a bit about myself. After that I did an interview, which was a really unique process. Instead of being required to know something or take a technical interview, the admissions officer actually gave me what I needed to know. She showed me a few concepts, then gave me problems to see how I would apply the knowledge. It wasn't about what I knew or what my experience was, it was about how I solved problems and whether or not I was a fit for a bootcamp. I really appreciated that.
David: My experience was similar. For the part-time program, I needed to demonstrate that I had the initiative to finish the program since I would be balancing working full-time while going to school. I filled out the online form, came in for an in-person interview, and two or three days later, I received an email letting me know I had received admission. I put down a deposit, and started the bootcamp the following week. It was a quick process, and that points to the flexibility of this program.
I'm interested in what your cohorts were like. Jeff, could you tell us about the cohort at the full-time program. How many people were there and was it a diverse group of people in terms of gender, race, and career backgrounds?
Jeff: It was probably the most diverse group of people I've ever been around. We had around 20 students. We had people with kids, and people going to grad school. But it was not an even split between women and men. In terms of racial diversity, it was spread around the board. It was like a microcosm of everyone who wants to learn how to code. I really appreciated that, instead of going to a school with one group of people and one perspective.
Because I was in a full-time program, we stuck with each other for around 8 to 10 hours a day, depending on how long we decided to stay after class. We all became super close and really good friends. We supported each other throughout this whole process from day one, from when we didn't get a certain concept in the language, to when we graduated. We helped each other with job searches and sent each other opportunities. We still keep in touch now.
David, what was your part-time cohort like?
David: Our cohort was much more intimate. There were only six of us. It was a great instructor:student ratio. We also had a TA who was available most of the time. If you ran into a hurdle, you had the TA or the teacher there immediately to help you circumvent that problem. In terms of diversity, it was extremely diverse. We had two women and four men. We were all from different backgrounds, which was really empowering – when you have that level of diversity you're less intimidated. If everybody came from a background in math or engineering, you might feel intimidated if you didn’t have that same experience. But no one had that problem. A few were entrepreneurs, some worked for civil jobs, one was a waiter.
Having that network of people who are all jumping in at the same time into an entirely new industry that they've never worked in before builds a great bond amongst you and your classmates. With diverse backgrounds, you're all working towards a common goal. It really was great to have those people as my peers and to help each other along the process.
David, did most of your classmates have full-time jobs like you?
David: Yes. I believe five out of the six had full-time jobs. The one who didn't was a stay at home mom. She was pregnant during our class and had a child at home, so she was very busy. She was one of the best people that we had in our class, she did extremely well.
I'm interested in the schedule and the structure of the full-time and part-time bootcamps – how are they different? Jeff, can you tell us about the structure of the full-time bootcamp and maybe give me an example of a typical day?
Jeff: On a typical day we would start with a lecture about a certain concept. Then we would immediately try to apply that concept. The instructor would give us prompts like, "Now that you've learned this, let's see if you can build this,” or, “What can you use from what you've previously learned and apply it to make what you're building better or more applicable to the real world?" We would alternate between theory and practice throughout the program.
Class was from 10am to 6pm. After that, we would stay to work with the teacher, have our own little study groups to complete our assignments, talk about what we didn't or did understand, and help out other students. A full day could have ranged from eight hours if you just went to class and then left, or it could be 10 to 12 hours if you decided to stay after, depending on how much effort you put in.
David, how was the part-time class structured?
David: Classes were on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:30pm to around 10pm, and Sundays from 10am to 2pm or 3pm. The curriculum was laid out in the same way as in the full-time class. For the first quarter, or half of the class, we’d learn about a topic or a framework and how we could use it in the type of program that we planned on building. The latter half of the class was where we worked on a hands-on project. At the end of class, we'd get an assignment to practice what we learned in the class that day. Then at the following class we’d talk about any problems or any discoveries we had, or something new that we wanted to add into the program.
Jeff, how many instructors or mentors did you have at the full-time program?
Jeff: We had one instructor, Orlando Caraballo, one teaching assistant, Horatio Rosa, and every student was assigned a mentor. I was assigned to the great John Wolfe. He was a really great guy.
Did the part-time and full-time students ever interact with each other at any point? Did you meet each other or work on projects together?
David: There was a common area in our campus where everyone sits before or after class, so there's a lot of interaction there between the students. There wasn't anything formal where they combine both of us, because I think we were operating on different schedules. By the time I arrived in the evening, most full-time students had already gone for the day. But on the weekend there were always a lot of people working on their own unique projects.
How did New York Code + Design Academy prepare you for job hunting?
Jeff: At the end of the program we had a meet and greet with employers. The staff worked really hard to show us off– show what we could do, and how we could contribute to their companies or the job market. Within two days of graduating, I had received three offers for interviews, and within a week I was already working at a startup.
Krystal Kaplan is the head of career services and is amazing. She really looked out for me in terms of the job market. A couple of months after I started my first coding job at the startup, the company went under and I was unemployed. I didn't have a degree or much work experience, but she put in the effort to find jobs that were a good fit for me. I was a hard sell, but she helped me get another job. That's a testament to how strong the career services are at New York Code + Design Academy.
David: At the conclusion of our program, Krystal scheduled three professional developers to come in for a meet and greet where we could ask questions about their experiences, their career trajectories, and how they came to be where they were. NYCDA did a really great job of explaining the interview process so we would know what to expect when we started transitioning full-time programming roles.
Krystal really does do the best job possible to help you out with anything– even just meeting somebody in her network and trying to set you up for interviews. They really hammer home the importance of networking. They do their best to introduce you to people. And that's really the best opportunity to get the roles you're looking for.
So Jeff, that’s great you found another job after the startup! Can you tell me about it?
Jeff: I'm working as a junior developer at the McCann Erickson Agency. I work in their production department. So after all the creatives are done thinking of ideas, they give them to us to build it out in the digital world. It's extremely fast paced, and there are always new things coming in. The reason I've survived this long in the company is because of the infrastructure that was in place at the New York Code + Design Academy. They set me up to succeed in an environment like this. It was not only the theoretical and technical points that I learned, but other job tips from Orlando and Krystal.
David, I know you only just graduated last month, but what are your plans now?
David: I am beginning the job hunt after figuring things out at my current job, and making sure I can easily transition out of there. I'm starting to get in full ramp-up mode looking for a position. I want to make sure that it's the right role, where I'm able to bring my professional experience from working at the ad agency because I want to stay within that industry.
It's been very exciting. I've been in contact with a lot of recruiters. I met with one a few days ago who said, "Where do you want to work because there's no greater job in demand right now than a programmer." So it's really great to have that flexibility, where you can literally pick and choose where you want to work based on the skill set. I tell everyone I speak to that this will probably be the best decision that you will ever make at least in the next 10 or 20 years. It gives you so much leverage. Everyone should consider doing it.
What's been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to learning to code?
Jeff: It was just learning to code. It was just so different than anything I've ever done in my life. I was always a very liberal artsy, abstract thinker. I wasn't a very technical person. I didn't do very well in math or science classes. So just coming into a field of study that was so foreign from anything I'd ever seen before, that was my biggest challenge.
David: There were three big issues when it came to taking on this type of initiative. Number one is time, two is having discipline, and three is having the right mindset. For time, this might apply more to people in the part-time program who are working all day, and still have to go to class. It's fun to attend class three times a week, but then you have to spend time working on what you learned in class on three or four other days as well. You can't stop doing it. That’s the discipline part, you have to set time aside to practice. The only way you're going to learn to code, is to write code. You can watch as many tutorials, and read about it as much as you want, but you'll never learn more than when you try to build something, run into problems, and have to find solutions. When you can't turn to other people, your only real solution is trial and error, and there's no greater instructor than trial and error.
Mindset is probably the most important of those three. There'll be times during your class where you're filled with self-doubt; you're not understanding something, and you’ll want to give up. But that's such a common feeling. You have to power through it. Believe in yourself that you can get through it, and I promise you, you will get through. It'll constantly happen like that. It's a roller coaster where you feel you don't understand something and have to keep working at it. You have to believe in yourself and keep pushing forward.
What's the one piece of advice you would give to someone who's thinking about applying for a coding bootcamp?
Jeff: Keep in mind that it is a bootcamp and it is very, very intense. Whether you're doing full-time or part-time, that type of dedication is something that you need to be ready for. And also like David said, you do have to find a way to balance it, a way to effectively deal with the inevitable feeling of "I don't know what I'm doing," which is something that everyone is going to feel no matter what profession you're doing.
The other thing is to learn to learn by yourself. The reason I say that is these programs are only for a couple of months and no matter what you do or how intellectually gifted someone is, a couple of months is not going to teach you everything you need to know to succeed or everything you need to know to program.
David: The one piece of advice that I would give is, don't hesitate. If this is something you really think that you want to do, don't waste any time. Don't sit at your job and think "I'll apply in the next round or I'll apply next year when I'm ready.” You’ll never be fully ready. Just do it. I promise you won't regret this. Not only is it fulfilling, but professionally there will never be anything better that you do. Having worked in multiple industries, I can't tell you how different it is the way people evaluate you in the workplace when you have a coding background. You know how things work and how products work. Everything is becoming digitalized, and being able to speak that language will literally carry you across any industry that you want to work in, for almost any position that you would want to work in.