Miriam Moser was an English major in college, but when she began coding HTML emails for a job in online fundraising, she realized how much she enjoyed coding. After trying out several online learning platforms and moving to Colorado, Miriam enrolled at 7-month software development school Turing. Now about one month into the course, Miriam tells us about learning under Jeff Casimir, what she looks forward to in upcoming learning modules, and support for women at Turing (hint: there’s no “mansplaining”!)
What did you study in college and how did you decide to start coding?
I was an English major in college, and after school, I had a lot of different jobs; I was even a chef at one point. At my last company, I started as the executive assistant but I was interested in marketing so I ended up moving into the creative department and copywriting emails and social media for digital campaigns.
My company needed somebody who could code mobile responsive emails so I taught myself how to do that and realized how much I enjoyed it. I began my journey learning to code from a variety of online platforms: Treehouse, Code School; I also started Tealeaf Academy which is an online bootcamp but that didn’t really work out.
What was your experience like with Tealeaf?
I made it about halfway through section one and then was totally lost so I asked for my money back and began looking at the in-person bootcamps. I would get stuck on something really simple like a syntax issue and post a question and it would take like an hour for a response. For every exercise at Tealeaf, we do about 10 exercises at Turing. The pace seems much better suited to non-geniuses.
Did you ever take a CS class in your undergrad?
No, I wasn’t interested in that at all at the time. I did take formal logic for fun, and that is applicable, despite being in the philosophy department, but in general I took as few math and science classes as possible.
Tell us about your research process once you decided that you needed an in-person bootcamp.
My husband and I moved from Massachusetts to Colorado in August. I started looking for programs that were local and it was just fortunate that Turing was here because there aren’t many programs like this in the country.
I was really choosing between Turing and gSchool. What sold me on Turing was the fact that it’s a nonprofit with a commitment to diversity.
I was originally looking at other bootcamps, but my husband is a software engineer and he was very skeptical that I could learn anything worthwhile in 9 to 12 weeks. His skepticism of the whole bootcamp idea made me look at more long term programs.
What was the application process like for you at Turing? Can you tell us about the interview?
I took a long time on the writing samples; It was kind of hard to know what they were looking for. I ended up writing about how to deal with certain email quirks in Google and Yahoo when you’re coding an email. I felt good about that but I’m also a perfectionist so that took me a while.
The logic problems were very much like the formal logic I took in college where you use diagrams and eliminate probabilities. I enjoy those kinds of puzzles so it was fun to do even though I was a little nervous.
During the in-person interview, I think the questions are geared more towards how willing you are to take feedback. I’m not sure exactly how they’re judging but I definitely couldn’t get through the problems perfectly in person without help. That didn’t matter as much as being willing to accept feedback.
How many people are in your cohort now?
There are 19 of us. We had 20 people at the start but then we had one person leave.
You mentioned that you were drawn to Turing because of the diversity. Do you feel like your cohort is diverse in terms of age, gender and race?
Compared to other cohorts at Turing we really aren’t. There are four women and we don’t really have many minorities. But the other cohorts are a lot more diverse so it’s not like a whitewashed environment. I think the next cohort is half women.
Do you feel particularly supported as a woman at Turing?
Yes! I’m treated like everybody else so I guess that’s the key. I feel like everybody solves problems and works with each other in the same way. I don’t get any mansplaining.
Who are your instructors right now?
Jeff just reworked the curriculum for module one so he’s doing a lot of the teaching now and he’s really awesome. Then we have Josh Mejia who is a more recent addition to the staff; and we occasionally get some of the other teachers coming in. It’s mostly Jeff and Josh right now.
What are you learning in Module One?
The first module is mostly about learning to work with logic. It’s not until the next module that we start building things normal people can interact with. We’ve been working a lot with figuring out how objects work with other objects, which is very challenging.
It’s mostly syntax and logic for the first three weeks, but it’s exciting to begin working with topics that you recognize - we’re beginning to interact with CSV files, which I used a lot in my nonprofit jobs.
What’s coming up in the next module?
In module two we begin learning Rails, and we actually build an interactive website. We’ll be doing a lot of CSS and web design.
One thing I really like about Turing is our “posses.” Every morning we meet with our posse, which consists of people from across different modules, and we work on logic problems together. You get to know what they’re doing and what’s in the modules to come.
Turing starts a new cohort every seven weeks. Is the space pretty packed with students?
Yep. Most of the modules have about 20 people (although one class only has 8). So it’s really easy to find someone that knows more than you to help you out – at least when you’re in module one!
Tell us about Jeff Casimir’s teaching style. Is it hands-on or hands-off and does it work with your learning style?
Jeff has a lot of experience in education, and he tends to explain things from a broader perspective before diving into the technical aspect of a topic. Before getting to the actual code, he’ll use the whiteboard to break down a problem into more visual components. He’ll then go to live coding to show us how he would approach it.
Jeff is great at teaching to all different kinds of learning styles. Some students need visual lessons; others need to be more interactive. I feel like he’s able to break complex topics down into small parts and not overwhelm us with an impossible amount of syntax or a pile of obscure computer science trivia.
How many hours a week are you spending on Turing right now?
Basically all my free time. I live about an hour north of Turing so I’m spending a lot of time commuting. I work at Turing, drive home, eat dinner, then keep working until 10 p.m. which is when I have to go to bed if I want to function the next day. I spend about one full weekend day and evenings working.
When I read about bootcamps before I started, it sounded overwhelming to work so intensively, but it’s not like doing college homework 16 hours a day; it’s much more interactive than that. I’m enjoying it a lot.
Do you get breaks between each module?
Yes, we get a one-week break.
Have you felt burned out at all in this first month?
In this first module we had a week on and then we had a week off for Christmas and we had a couple days for New Year’s off. In general I don’t feel burned out – I might in two weeks and I think I’ll be ready for a break. It’s mostly just exciting.
I think I definitely benefitted from all the things I did in Code School and Codeacademy because I’m not struggling as much with the concept of something like a loop. It’s probably beneficial to anyone that’s doing any kind of bootcamp to work on their own and get the real basics down, because I think struggling with that and trying to solve logic problems at the same time is really challenging. It was nice to have a running start and feel confident that I can do it.
Turing is not cheap, and Course Report is always getting questions about how to pay for bootcamps. How are you managing it?
Turing is expensive but if you already have a Mac laptop, you basically have to put $3800 down upfront and pay the rest when you get a job. I had the savings to pay the $3800 and my husband pays for our living and food expenses while I’m doing this.
If you don’t have a laptop, Turing will get one for you- in that case, the deposit is $5000. That’s definitely more accessible than $18,000 upfront!
Has Turing started talking about job placement at all in this first month?
A lot of the logic problems that we solve with our posse each morning come from job interview questions. By the time we’ve finished we’ll have had seven month’s experience answering those questions.
We haven’t actively started talking about resumes and interviewing yet but they do encourage us to go to the Denver Ruby meet-up and other places where we’ll meet potential employers. Jeff actually postponed our homework the other night and encouraged people to go. Turing is very much integrated into the Ruby community.
Do you know what type of job you want when you graduate? Or maybe you want to start your own company?
I definitely don’t want to start my own company. I want to work somewhere I can grow and be challenged by other people for a while. I’m a bit tied to Boulder because my husband and I just bought a house in the area. Fortunately there are a lot of tech companies in Boulder.
I’d prefer to work for a smaller company just because it seems you tend to learn more and do a larger variety of things at smaller companies than in a bigger company. But I don’t have anything specific in mind.
Are there things that you didn’t expect a lot at Turing or that you would change about your experience?
I was surprised at how much fun I’m having, honestly. I knew it was going to be challenging and I knew I liked logic but I was surprised at how much I really like learning programming. A lot of times you feel like hitting your head against a wall but then you have a breakthrough.
I think especially when you’re studying humanities, it’s really unclear what you’ve learned. But with coding, it’s neat to have a checklist of my progress.
Do you have any other advice for potential students?
I think most people who are applying to longer-form schools like Turing have done some kind of coding before but I would really recommend checking it out and making sure it’s something you actually like spending time with before you enroll. My advice is to get exposure, through Codeacademy or Learn Ruby the Hard Way, and make sure you actually enjoy spending time programming because that’s what makes working all these hours fun.