Written By Liz Eggleston
Christine Oskison had a degree in counseling psychology before taking on the role of stay-at-home mom to raise her children outside of Philadelphia. She became interested in web design and development as a creative pursuit, and Christine found Skillcrush when she searched for coding programs tailored to women. Now having completed the Skillcrush Web Development Blueprint, and in the middle of the Wordpress Developer Blueprint, Christine tells us about the benefits of using MightyBell to form a community with other students, Skillcrush’s unique online model, and her goals for using her newfound developer skills.
What were you up to before you started the Skillcrush Blueprints?
My education background is in counseling psychology; I earned an MA in counseling about 16 years ago. I held some administrative and counseling jobs, then for the last 10 years I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, raising my children.
Now that my kids are a little bit older, I wanted to figure out what I wanted to do with my career and I became interested in web design.
What prompted you to look into web design and web development?
I wanted a career that was creative and that fit my logical skillset- web design offers a lot of that. I had always been interested in product packaging and understanding why a consumer wants to buy one product over another. I started getting more interested how that interest translated to websites; why somebody would want to hire a business that had a more attractive, user-friendly website than another and how I could get involved in creating more attractive websites.
Last year, I volunteered with my church in a technical arts committee and designed slides and keynotes for them and I really loved that. I got to play in design and be creative and actually created a pretty cool finished product.
Did you start learning web design and development with Skillcrush or did you use other resources before?
When I Googled “web design program tailored to women” I found Codecademy and Dash. Those were really good simple tutorials, but I was looking for something more interactive. I’ll probably use their tutorials to practice and brush up on my skills once I finished the Blueprints, but they didn’t have the same level of interactivity that Skillcrush offers with the videos and the interaction with the instructors and the classmates on MightyBell. The whole program with Skillcrush is a complete package – it’s fantastic.
Which Blueprints have you taken on Skillcrush?
I started in September with the Web Design Blueprint and I completed it at the end of November. Now I’m in the Wordpress Developer Blueprint and I’m in the last month of that.
What was the motivation for doing an online web bootcamp instead of an in-person bootcamp or even a part-time in-person bootcamp?
I could have gone back to school to get another degree but that would taken a lot more time and I would need childcare. The fact that Skillcrush is online really fit the flexibility of being able to do the lessons whenever you can.
Cost is a big factor as well. Some intensive, in-person bootcamps are thousands of dollars. So when you’re not earning money yet, cost is a factor.
Did you look at any other online bootcamps like Bloc, Tealeaf, Thinkful?
I did look at another online program, Girls Guide to Web Design, but they were only working with the Thesis framework. When I researched Skillcrush, I saw we would build our own site from scratch and and I wouldn’t have to have a certain framework to work with.
I was definitely looking for a program oriented to women. I also wanted something that was attractively presented, which I found in Skillcrush. To learn how to design engaging websites, I want to learn from somebody who can design an engaging website- some of the other coding tutorials aren’t interesting or engaging. They might be more geared toward men; women and men have different personality styles, and I guess I wanted a more personal touch and more attractive quality.
Were there requirements to be accepted into the Blueprints?
There is no application process for Skillcrush - but some of the blueprints have requirements. For the WordPress Developer Blueprint, you need to have had experience with HTML and CSS. Either Web Design or Web Developer Blueprints lend themselves well to moving on to WordPress Developer Blueprint afterward.
So you started with the Web Designer Blueprint in September.
Right. But before that, what really hooked me was Skillcrush’s 10-day bootcamp. That’s free and I would definitely recommend that you try that first because you can get a feel for the style, the teaching videos, and the course content. Skillcrush has a very interactive, engaging writing style. The 10-day bootcamp gives you guides and gazillions of cheat sheets so you can always refer to those when you’re working on your own.
Did you feel like you were part of a community? Did you interact with other students?
A hundred percent! Skillcrush sends you daily emails with your assignments and at the end of every email, they prompt us to post questions on MightyBell, or if you’re stuck, to email directly at email@example.com. The instructors are open to hearing your questions and helping, whether it be career questions or an issue you’re having with the content.
MightyBell itself is a fantastic community. You take your daily lessons, which consist of videos, activities and coding work, but a lot of your time is spent on MightyBell. I enjoyed helping others troubleshoot because it helped them and I learned a lot in the process. Each Blueprint class has about 100 students, but I'd say there are closer to 15-20 who are frequently active on our Mightybell group for our Blueprint.
When you had something you needed to troubleshoot logistically on MightyBell, could you upload code and have someone review it?
Which technologies did you earn in the Web Design and Wordpress Blueprints?
In the Wordpress Developer class, in addition to brushing up on our HTML CSS, we’re learning some PHP, command line and Git.
It’s very comprehensive. I think it’s really given me a great foundation.
How much time did you spend on the Blueprints each week?
I really put my all into it. It’s been more like a part-time job. I spend 20+ hours on these Blueprints each week.
Did you feel there’s enough content in the Blueprints to spend 20 hours a week?
Skillcrush says to budget about one hour per day so they expect 7 hours a week. For me, I do my lessons but I’m also thinking about my own website and what I want it to look like. It’s a lot of creative thinking and time and processing, in addition to coding it. I’m a full time mom and I can manage a part-time course experience but for people who are working full time, you may be able to work on Skillcrush on nights or weekends.
For people working full-time or who have a part-time job out of the home, my advice is not to feel bad about getting behind because there’s no time limit on this class. That’s another benefit of working with Skillcrush: it’s self-paced. Once you pay, you have access to these courses for your lifetime.
On MightyBell, the instructors will constantly give us resources; if you’re interested in learning more about a concept, they recommend links, books and videos.
Do you have access to MightyBell for longer than three months?
You do and you can always be a part of your group. For example, I’m in the “Web Designer January 15” group on MightyBell, so I can always talk to that group. There is also a Skillcrush alumni group and a Skillcrush community group on MightyBell. Thankfully, we always have access to this community, which is great.
While it’s fine to be self-paced, I’ve appreciated staying current is that I could always follow along with everybody’s discussion on MightyBell. I think it can be harder sometimes for people who are going at a different pace to come back after a discussion 10 or 15 days ago and it’s not as fresh in our minds.
What kinds of projects you were able to build with the Web Designer and Wordpress blueprint?
In the web design blueprint, you’re not using a content management system. You’re coding a portfolio site from scratch, using your own CSS and HTML. The idea is that you are walking away with a page where you can showcase any future projects. The portfolio site looks really different for different people, depending on what colors you like, what fonts you like, whether you want a fun, serious, or minimalist style.
One thing the instructors always encouraged us about was that our websites will constantly evolve and change - that helped those of us who were concerned about our site being perfect right away (very reassuring!). They explained that the field of web design and development is constantly evolving and we'll always be learning - which I find very exciting!
What is your goal once you’ve finished this Wordpress Blueprint?
After this Blueprint is over, I’d like to brush up on some of my skills then market my services as a freelance web designer and Wordpress developer.
Skillcrush is fantastic with encouraging us to take our first freelancing jobs. I think the Wordpress developer blueprint is particularly good at preparing us for the post-bootcamp life. As part of the class, we have a fake client whose website we develop in Wordpress. Skillcrush instructors walk alongside us as we do each and every step needed for this client. Following that, we’re going to have an apprenticeship where we do take on our first real client. Skillcrush teaches how to price your work, how to market your services, and those practical career-oriented skills. With regard to the career content in the Wordpress developer blueprint, they have guides and videos on resume writing and interviewing.
One idea for an apprenticeship is to work with someone you know well to start off with and have a comfortable, safe experience first, then get your bearings and branch out. Maybe that friend who’s a fitness coach needs a blog site? Skillcrush will really help you get a jump start on working with real clients. The more involved you are, I think the more you benefit from each course.
Are there specific instructors for each class?
For this class, our instructors are Adda Birnir and Rachel. In my other class it was Dee and Sara. There are a few key people managing these classes. I believe there are approximately 100 people per blueprint, so they’re managing a lot of people.
It’s neat for an online bootcamp to still organize students into cohorts, so you always feel like you’re part of a class.
It’s really fantastic and a lot of times, students are helping each other on MightyBell. Skillcrush also offers webinars and Master Classes. In one of the webinars, the instructor had given me the advice to reach out and find a code buddy within our class. And I’ve done that in both my Web Designer and Wordpress Developer Blueprints. It’s just a matter of reaching out and saying, “Hey, do you want to be able to troubleshoot problems together?” I’ve developed a code buddy relationship and friendships that way.
Does Skillcrush recommend that you go to meetups?
They do recommend that we get involved with meetups. Logistically, I haven’t been able to make it to one in Philadelphia, but I did actually consider hosting a few people online and have an online meetup instead of an in-person.
Skillcrush does have office hours which have been great. Every week they’ve been meeting with us online, usually two instructors to troubleshoot. Anybody who wants to come can hop on this Google hangout and troubleshoot issues.
Do you have any advice to other stay-at-home moms learning to code?
You can do your coursework during nap-time or school, or when the kids go to bed at night and the house is finally quiet! Or sometimes even just read an article for 5 minutes, or watch a 10 minute video when you can. I found my children were very interested and supportive of what I was doing. They would sometimes want to code or create moodboards with me!
Would you recommend Skillcrush Blueprints to a friend or someone learning web development?
Absolutely, 100% hands-down, no questions, I would highly recommend Skillcrush to anybody who’s interested. I don’t currently have any friends looking to pursue web design or coding but I would 100% recommend it to women who want to learn to code and who are interested in pursuing a career in web design and development. I think the value is incredible. I don’t think there’s anything like it that’s offered this much value for this price!
Liz Eggleston is co-founder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students choosing a coding bootcamp.
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