Tim Hise moved from Oklahoma to Seattle when he was accepted to the Code Fellows iOS course and now works as an apprentice at Liffft. We talk to Tim about his experience at Code Fellows and how the connections he's made have helped propel him into a new career!
Tell us about what you were doing before you started at Code Fellows.
Before Code Fellows I was managing a skating rink in Oklahoma. My wife’s parents actually own four locations in Oklahoma. My wife ran one, I ran another and her brother and his fiancée ran the other two. We were all in the skating rink business.
Did you have any computer background or technical background? Had you tried to teach yourself to code before?
Before you start at Code Fellows, they do require a basic proficiency so you should not be a complete beginner. When I was 15 years old, I learned to do a little bit of HTML and did some website design. I also built computers so I would take the hardware components and just put them together. In July, I started thinking that I wanted to learn programming and that’s when I started doing classes online like Udacity.com, Coursera, and Code Academy.
Which class did you take on Coursera?
I took the Intro to Programming class which focused on Python.
What did you think about those online courses?
I think they are amazing. I think the fact that they are free and high quality, especially Udacity, the one that was founded by Sebastian Thrun, the VP of Google, is amazing. For someone like him to make this available for free is fantastic. The hardest part with online courses, honestly, is knowing how to go from one course to the next. So you get done with the intro level programming and then what? It’s really difficult sometimes to figure out where to go next.
Did you get your undergraduate degree in Oklahoma?
I did, in Psychology.
Did you apply to any other bootcamps or just Code Fellows?
No, just Code Fellows for me. I got fixated on moving into Seattle; I really wanted to make that particular move happen. I would’ve considered others had I not been accepted.
Which course did you apply to and ended up taking?
The iOS bootcamp (now referred to as the iOS Development Accelerator). I first started learning Python on my own at the beginning, but I quickly switched to iOS and started learning that.
Have you worked with Swift at all?
Yeah, a little bit. I’ve learned a few very basic things in it so far.
Tell us about the application process. What technical level did you feel you were at when you were applying and did you feel like you were prepared for the application?
Barely; in fact, when I was doing my interviewing, the CEO at the time was Will. Will had told me basically, “You’re barely there but I like your style.”
The environment was what made me really ramp up. I worked beyond our classroom schedule quite a bit with my other friends who were in that class. The first few weeks were really difficult because I wasn’t as prepared maybe as I could’ve been. But having that motivation and mindset—and having a lot of money on the line—got me up to speed.
Did you feel like everybody was at the same level or did you feel like there was a variety of experience in your class?
I’d say I felt right at the bottom third, experience-wise, going in. But most of us were about on the same level. There were 2 people who had quite a bit more experience and maybe even knew other languages. Some guys had more design experience.
Did you feel like your learning style synced with the teaching style of the class?
Yeah, for the most part. It’s a new class—ours was only the second one taught at that time so they were still developing material and changing. My friend actually attended the following class and the improved instruction was fairly plain to see, so they’re still making improvements. I would say there were gaps that needed to get handled and they’ve been developing it.
For me, it wasn’t the instruction itself; it was the environment of coming together with other people who are driven and working really hard all day, every day and getting a few of us together and pushing forward every day. That’s what made the biggest difference.
Did anyone not graduate with your cohort?
One person did because they basically quit. As long as you’re trying, you’re going to make it through. I think that’s part of the selection process, too; they don’t let people in here who don’t really care. When you put $10,000 into something, you’re probably passionate about doing it!
Did you end up doing a final project or a group project?
Yeah, we did. The goal was by the end of week 4 to have our personal app and by the end of week 8 to have a group app. Although I’m not sure that was the most valuable use of our time, especially the personal app in week 4. For week 4, we had a whole week of non-instruction so you could work on your app. Of course, you can go to the instructors to get feedback and help, but I feel like maybe a real world experience would have been more helpful. My idea was to have something like a real life work experience where we use things like Jira and other tools to keep track of projects. If they had set those sorts of things up and had people work together to accomplish it, as if you’re doing a real job, I feel that would’ve been a better use of our week. But you do get that app in the App Store so you can show other people, which has value.
What was the app that you built?
I built an app that was for tracking social relationships. I was from Oklahoma so I kept thinking I’d really like to make sure I maintain these friendships with people that I don’t see very often. The app showed you how long it’s been since you last talked to people in your network.
You ended up getting an interview and a job with Liffft, right?
Yeah; Liffft was my mentor’s company. We had spent some time together and things went well so instead of doing an interview process, it was more of an apprenticeship. I’m working with them for 3 months at a reduced salary, and then the sky’s the limit.
It sounds like the apprenticeship program at Liffft works well for you and for them.
I totally agree with you there. You know, the interview process is sometimes archaic in the tech world—really deep computer science questions that aren’t really relevant anymore and don’t really show a candidate’s aptitude or skill. It makes you nervous and it’s wrong in so many ways.
Even if I don’t get accepted at the end of my 3 months, I still would have this experience on the resume and a lot of learning at Liffft.
Tell us about your position and what you’re doing now. What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
We try to do almost all pair programming so I usually will synch up with one of the other team members. We work with a team in San Francisco as well, so I might remotely sync up with one of them.
We have a screen-sharing app that’s great, which lets us work together on the same program. We use Jira to grab stories and we just try to solve each one as they come through.
Everyone is an equal member of the team and everyone’s voice is heard. Pair programming is great because you get to watch and learn from somebody without feeling that you’re taking up their time or making them do something that they wouldn’t be doing otherwise.
On Wednesdays, we get unstructured time so you can do anything you want, really; learn about something or maybe build something, work for yourself, for the company—whatever you want, as long as you’re improving.
Do you feel like there are things that you’ve learned in your apprenticeship that you couldn’t have learned at a bootcamp?
There are a lot of things—workflow, using Jira, getting acquainted with an unfamiliar code base, working with more experienced devs. We did a group project at Code Fellows, but that was us coming up with whatever we wanted to make from scratch. It’s not the same as working as a team on a larger project that is already in flight.
Do you feel that you use the skills that you learned at Code Fellows every day?
The most vital thing I got from Code Fellows is all the people I now know for support, whether that is my instructor, who I am pretty good friends with, or other classmates I can ask for support. Meeting my mentor and the other people at Code Fellows—that has been by far the most valuable portion of it.
My buddy, who did the class right after me, and I discussed the value of him paying another $10,000 to do this course that I’d just done. It came down to the fact that the first learning curve is so difficult in programming that having that motivation given to you makes the class worth it; it’s going to make you buckle down and work that much harder.
What has been your experience with the alumni? Do you stay in touch?
Yeah, definitely. In fact, for the first month after it ended, there were about 6 of us who would just go and work from the Code Fellows space. There are places like WeWork popping up and you can pay $500 a month to work with other people, but Code Fellows provides an environment like that for free. I’m not sure if they’ll be able to continue that as they get more and more alums but for us, we were able to show up, use the internet and sit there literally 24 hours a day if we needed a work space.
I feel like I could definitely email almost anybody there, even the marketing director, for example. So if I needed to market my own app, I could probably call him. I feel I can definitely reach out.
I love hearing about how the alumni networks are developing in individual schools and across the entire bootcamp industry.
That’s definitely one of the most valuable aspects of the program.