Rachel Logie was introduced to software development after working in healthcare and travelling- once she had completed some online courses, she knew it was time to take her education to the next level. So she applied to gSchool, the 6-month Rails-based course in Denver, Colorado. In this Q&A, Rachel tells us about why she decided to choose gSchool (hint: diversity is key!), what a typical day looks like, and how she deals with burnout at a coding school.
Tell us what you were doing before you went to gSchool.
I got a college degree in economics and then I started working in healthcare; I worked in healthcare for almost 4 years; I was conducting studies and after about 3 ½ years I quit and went travelling, My roommate out in the Bay area was a software engineer – no surprise, they’re all software engineers out there! He introduced me to coding.
Had you taken any computer science courses in your undergrad?
I took no computer science courses at all – nothing.
Did you do any online courses or anything like that before you applied to gSchool?
Yes, I did. I did this Stanford intro to programming course. It’s a massive open online course so anybody can take it and you can just follow along. It’s really well done, the teachers are good so that’s what I did. It’s not like doing a course, it’s following along with the others.
So I did that; that was really helpful I think, before I got into Ruby because Ruby’s kind of a more magical language. That one was in Java; I thought that was a good base. Then I started to do Chris Pine’s book; I did that before gSchool. Then there was Code Academy and that sort of thing but I didn’t find those to be very helpful.
Why did you decide to apply to gSchool?
I was looking at a bunch of different boot camps and I went on all their websites to do research. I think I looked at Hack Reactor and Dev Bootcamp closely.
What really made me feel like gSchool was a good fit was diversity. I would look at all these bootcamps and it was a bunch of 22-year old dudes… I could tell I wasn’t going to fit in there. Our cohort at gSchool is almost 50% women. For learning I think it’s good to be in an environment where you feel comfortable.
Do you see other types of diversity like age and race?
There is age diversity. I think the youngest person is 23 and it goes all the way up to I think 50 and then there’s people all round in the middle. It’s really good for age diversity and gender diversity.
I asked gSchool about how they keep their students’ lives balanced while they’re doing the boot camp. I don’t want to kill myself and sacrifice my health; I think my health is pretty important.
Did the fact that gSchool is 6 months long factor into your decision? How about the fact that gSchool teaches Rails?
Yeah; I think it was a good thing ultimately. At first I wondered what the point was. If people are getting jobs in 12 weeks what’s the point of doing 24 weeks? Now I think it’s good and it’s more balanced. You don’t have to be at Galvanize 80 hours a week. So ultimately, it was a really good thing.
What was the application like for you for gSchool? How many interviews were there, were they super technical?
You write your application; In your application you can link to any code you’ve already written or if you haven’t written any why you want to do it. Then they contact you if they want to interview you.
During the interview, it’s normal interview questions but then also there’s a logic portion to it so you have to pass both those portions then they decide.
How are you paying for gSchool?
My mom borrowed money from her home equity line of credit and then I borrowed that money from her. I’m paying the interest rates. That’s how I paid so I could pay it all upfront because then you save money by paying all upfront.
Did gSchool have pre-work for you to do this time before you started?
They did but it was pretty useless to me. We did some Code Academy and some typing practice, which I think is fine. You have to start somewhere, right? I don’t want to trash Code Academy because it’s great. It’s cool to go in and play it around but I personally did not find it useful for understanding programming concepts.
But basically, I wish it had been more like the Chris Pine book. I think they’re using that book now for pre-work.
My advice to potential students is to go out, find all the resources you can and just do them. You don’t have to wait for somebody to tell you what to do.
I would hope that you would have done a bunch even before you apply. I don’t feel like gSchool is somewhere you would go to find out if you like coding. You should probably already know that you like it before you apply. If you haven’t done any coding, how do you know that you want to do this as a career? This is really intense.
What’s the teaching style like for you? Does it mesh with your learning style?
There’s a heavy emphasis on pair programming because the instructors have connections to Pivotal Labs. There’s a heavy emphasis on Test Driven Development as well, which is awesome.
Pair programming is a harder way for me to learn personally because I really feel I need to do things on my own. While I’m at gSchool I’m doing a personal project, and I enjoy that. But the in-class group projects have mostly been pairing.
What does a typical day look like? Are you all doing lectures in the morning and projects in the afternoon?
That’s typically the structure. Right now it’s a little more free form because people are starting to apply for jobs, people are out for interviews. In the beginning it was a lot of lectures in the morning and pairing in the afternoon.
What was your personal project?
I’ve created an app that helps people with certain dietary preferences to find restaurants. I used to be a super paleo health nut, and I always had the worst time trying to find restaurants. I would always worry: Do they have gluten-free stuff, do they have dairy-free stuff, do they have this, do they have that? Where do they cook their French fries? That sort of thing. The app I created helps solve that for similar eaters.
How did you deal with burnout over the last six months?
I was going really hard for the first few months. I would just come home and work at home for till 10p.m. so it was every day and all the weekends, too. I would never take a day off, I would just keep going.
After a few months I realized that was not sustainable. I think breaks are really, really important. Maybe it is sustainable for 9 weeks. But for a 6-month school, you have to take better care of yourself because it’s almost three times as long.
Does gSchool do assessments? Do you ever take tests?
Yeah, we just had one this week.
What is it like?
It was 4 hours total; 2 hours for Ruby, 2 hours for Rails. It’s 2 hours Monday, 2 hours Tuesday.
Basically the idea was to turn requirements into working software. The instructors look at how you’re doing, and then they go into your Github and see if you finished, how good your code looks. They see if you were you being hacky, if you were you doing things right, and if you tested everything -- that sort of things.
We’ve also had an assessment where they kind of simulated an interview - where they give you a problem like that and sit over your shoulder with a clipboard and observe. That was pretty horrible.
Do you get graded? Has somebody failed it?
No, there’s not grading so much as they kind of put you in a bucket of telling you where you are and where you need to be.
I know you’re still 6 weeks away from this, but has gSchool started approaching job placement?
We mainly rely on our instructors’ connections and the connections of the larger Galvanize community.
Will you do a hiring day where you do demo your projects?
We have demo days but they’re not hiring days. We’ll do demos and they invite people from the community, but it’s not specifically to interview.