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Student Spotlight: Zoe Adelman of Galvanize

By Liz Eggleston
Last Updated October 22, 2015


Zoe Adelman was working as an eCommerce Manager when she discovered her interest in web development. Now she’s  6 months into the Galvanize Full Stack Program. Zoe talks with Course Report about learning to code without prior experience, choosing a bootcamp and funding. Zoe breaks down the components of the MEAN stack and has some great advice if you aren’t sure you have what it takes to attend a bootcamp.


What is your pre-boot camp story?

When I graduated from the University of Colorado, I went out to Los Angeles and worked for a small eCommerce company. I was the eCommerce Manager and worked with developers constantly tweaking things on our website. And I thought, “Hmm, I think I could do this.” So I started to see websites in a different way, more from the development standpoint and less from a consumer standpoint, which was really interesting for me.

Did you try to learn on your own before you thought about a boot camp or did you just dive into the camp?

I just dove in. I’m very impulsive and I hated L.A. and was ready to move again; I missed Colorado. I started looking at boot camps pretty much on a whim, and within a week I decided on Galvanize. It was set - that’s what I wanted to do.

Did you look at other boot camps or just Galvanize?

I looked at a lot of different bootcamps. It was really Galvanize or Turing for me. What really ended up swaying my decision at the end was the space.  At Galvanize, you’re interacting with other companies on a regular basis. Because of my background working in an incubator space that was very similar to this, it was a no-brainer that I could get an amazing education and be immediately immersed into the Denver startup community at Galvanize.

Did you look at other boot camps that were shorter than 6 months?

I looked into it, but for me I wanted the longest possible experience. I felt that since I had no previous coding experience, in order to really feel that I’d be a valuable employee coming out of this program, I wanted the most intensive long program that I could find without getting a 4-year CS degree.

Did you think about doing a 4-year CS degree?

No! I have a BA in Anthropology and Spanish, nothing related whatsoever.

Is your class right now diverse; is it a good mix of people?

Yes and no. From what I’ve heard about previous classes, almost every Galvanize class has been 50% female and 50% male. We are a very unique class in that it’s about a quarter female and that’s not the norm.  Galvanize is really great in that they offer scholarships for women, LGBT low-income, and minorities. They do push that and make it a point during the application process.

I get this question all the time – how did you pay for it?

I took out a loan with Earnest. There’s two main lending partners that Galvanize uses and most people can get a loan through one of those two partners. If you can’t, they’ll actually fully fund you. There are a couple of people in my class who are funded by Galvanize.

Was it difficult to get approved?

No. I got approved by two companies. Another company offered an 11% interest rate, but Earnest offered a 5% interest rate if I paid the loan back within a year. I'm a little stressed out about making sure I get a job right out of the gate so I can pay it back, but I think it’ll be fine.

Does Earnest take into account that you're going to be in school for 6 months when setting your repayment terms?

Yes. With Earnest I’m not paying anything for 6 months, and I have a month after that before the payments start.

Did you get a scholarship from Galvanize?

I didn't, but women usually get a partial scholarship, between $1000 and $5000.

Was it a big deal for you that Galvanize was teaching full stack JavaScript?

Now that I have a better understanding of programming languages, I'm so glad we're doing JavaScript because there really are so many Ruby developers coming out of those programs that I think it's harder to differentiate yourself. Learning JavaScript first is making it easier for me to conceptually understand other languages.

I've heard from people in previous cohorts that  it's more difficult to learn Ruby before JavaScript because there're a lot of things built into Ruby that you have to write out in JavaScript. I'm very happy that we're doing JavaScript.

So you're halfway through, what have you learned so far?

We’ve covered the MEAN stack. Being a Full Stack developer you have the full knowledge necessary, languages and frameworks, to create the front-end (client-side) and back-end (server-side) of an application. The MEAN Stack is MongoDB, Express, AngularJS and NodeJS which together provide the necessary tools to create a full stack Javascript app.

I think that during the second half of the bootcamp, in addition to learning some additional programming languages or frameworks that can help us, we're going to delve deeper into each component of the stack. We have a base knowledge of all of them, but I think we're really going to build it out.

Are you able to retake a section of the course if you feel like you’re falling behind?

Very quickly you see that there are different people moving at different speeds because some people come in with previous experience. In my case I had no previous coding experience.

The assessments allow everyone to work at their own pace. At any given time there are 12 different things you can work on. In the beginning it was very much “Here’s an assignment, everyone’s gonna do it then we’ll talk about it.” That was when we were getting used to JavaScript.

Now it’s more of an open dialogue. I can choose to work on what I feel I need the most help with or am struggling with the most.

Have you done a project yet?

I've done 3 on my own right now and I jump back and forth between them, adding new features, fixing bugs, etc. We’ve had one formal project so far. Every 6 weeks, we get something new. We're starting another one next week.

What has been your favorite project? Do you get to use your own ideas?

In the first few weeks of school, we have to make certain types of projects. Our first or second project was making some kind of game.

I built a sign language learning application for my first project so you can practice learning the alphabet. And now I'm working on a job tracking site so as I apply I can keep all the information on my own database so it looks aesthetically pleasing. So I really enjoy the front end.

Do you prefer front-end or back-end?

I love both. I think we're at the point now where some people are leaning towards back-end, some are leaning towards front-end. So when I start looking for jobs I want to be a full stack developer that has a heavier focus on front end.

What's been the biggest challenge?

The first few weeks were a real struggle for me. I was the overachiever type at school that didn't really try hard.  I could memorize and get A’s on all of my exams, but a few weeks later, I probably couldn't remember most of it. The toughest part was learning how to learn.

At bootcamp it's "Here's a 15-20 minute overview of this framework, now here's more exercises and you go teach yourself how to do it.” It's been the most rewarding experience because I feel like I actually know how to learn now.

Do you want to stay in Denver when you graduate?

For a little while, because I just moved back in May. I love Denver and the fact that the tech scene is just about to burst here is really exciting. I'd like to get in before it gets too crazy.

Do you have an idea of what type of job or company you want to work for?

I'd like to be in a team with less than 20 people just because of my startup background. I don't see myself in a big corporation. Finding something in the branding/social media marketing/advertising space, that's my dream  - but I'm open to anything, it's more about the team and the culture.

What advice do you have for people considering a bootcamp?

Don't think that you're not the right person for a bootcamp. If you're willing to work hard and to learn, anyone can do it - my dad's actually applying for the next cohort and he's in his 50s. He’s thinking about moving out here for 6 months just for bootcamp. Anyone can do it if they commit the dedication and energy.

Interested in Learning more about Galvanize Full Stack? Visit their Course Report page.

About The Author

Liz pic

Liz is the cofounder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students researching coding bootcamps. Her research has been cited in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and more. She loves breakfast tacos and spending time getting to know bootcamp alumni and founders all over the world. Check out Liz & Course Report on Twitter, Quora, and YouTube!

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