After the 12-week program, students have the option to apply for a 4-month apprenticeship where Actualize provides structure and support for students to develop their programming skills through team projects and career mentorship.
To apply, students can submit an application via the website, then go through a series of two interviews with an admissions advisor. There are no coding challenges, but students must complete 4 weeks of prework before the program starts.
Both in-person and online classes follow the same 12-week part-time schedule on Sundays and weeknights. The apprenticeship meets on Monday and Thursday evenings.
Recent Actualize News
- How Coding Bootcamps Can Change the Face of Tech in 2018
- Curriculum Spotlight: The New Part-Time Online Program at Actualize
- How to Get Work Experience Before You Graduate from Coding Bootcamp
Recent Actualize Reviews: Rating 4.84
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Doing the Actualize Coding bootcamp was one of the most rewarding experiences of my adult life. If I could go back, 100/100 times I would choose to do it again, even if a career as a developer were to never end up panning out. Over the course of the last 3 months, I learned a great deal about myself, my ability to grapple with and ultimately learn varied new subjects, and the factors that help me boost my productivity. Of course, as you might expect, I also learned a tremendous deal about web development.
Actualize changed that for me. After learning more about the technologies defined above, I am now able to craft a fully-fledged web application that can pull in dynamic database data or data from external sources by making API calls. That leap in knowledge cannot be underestimated.
I also feel that, although I would not be considered an expert in any languages or frameworks, I now possess the skills to learn other languages and frameworks. In other words, I have learned a great deal about the fundamentals that permeate the field in general, despite knowing the absolute specifics. That knowledge is enough to get me the rest of the way.
I really cannot say enough good things about this program. From the course curriculum to the structured classes, you can tell that everyone involved in this program legitimately cares about the students. The CEO of Actualize actually interfaced with us a few times throughout the course, and was present when we all presented our final capstone projects. He also provided helpful job placement advice and expertise, and it is clear that the man does his research on topics that will help you get placed. That investment and presence from someone as busy and accomplished as Jay Wengrow really meant a lot to me and made it clear that Actualize was not just in it for the money or to kick students to the curb as soon as they graduated. In fact, an optional 17-month internship helps develop skills and build portfolio pieces even after the course has finished.
The quality of care does not stop there; it flows from the top down. The main instructor for our class, Brian Rice, was truly excellent. He never let us sleep on our exercises or on our faith in ourselves. He was bluntly honest about the sort of trials and tribulations we would experience as fledgling developers, and was there to help push us past those feelings of uncertainty to achieve greater levels of learning. He never held our hand or fed us answers, but was there to provide support if we felt like we were drowning in code or concepts. He expected a great amount from us, but we often rose to meet his expectations, surprising even ourselves. He was incredibly approachable and available, and he and the TAs really made an effort to assist students in their journey through the course. Brian was also able to explain complex topics in relatable ways and help us break down daunting errors bit by bit. Finally, he listened to student feedback and shifted the course accordingly, which really indicated a desire on his part to learn, grow, and meet the students’ needs.
All in all, I am incredibly grateful for the experience. It is not something to take lightly. It will tax you, exhaust you, and challenge you in ways you’ve never been challenged. But if you’re up to the task and want to learn a great deal about this field, then I can’t imagine a better program than Actualize for doing so.
That said, do I feel as though I could step into a dev job right away and be successful? I’m not sure. I know MUCH more than I did, but there is also an infinite amount of knowledge to know. The instructors at Actualize utilize every second of class time moving you toward the goal of becoming a full stack developer, but there are so many things that 3 months cannot cover, no matter how rigorous. However, a few more weeks of independent study learning more about computer science topics, sound software design principles, the nuances of certain languages, and the finer workings of the DOM should get me to where I need to be.
Regardless, I am forever grateful to Actualize for providing the experience and look forward to a future career in the field of web development.
I was introduced to Actualize through the Women Who Code monthly newsletter. They were offering a diversity scholarship, and as a single mom and someone who had been interested in pursuing Software Engineering but did not have the funds to do so, I reached out and applied. The application process and interview were organized and thorough which gave me the sense that the program would be similar. I received the partial scholarship and Actualize worked with me so that I could pay off the remainder on a monthly basis so as to not break the bank before the classes begun.
The prep work in the month leading up to the course prepared me well for the first month of class. I was apprehensive about what the online environment would look like and whether it would be as structured as the in person environment that I had grown accustomed to in college. Utilizing Zoom software, it ended up being just like you were in class, except you could take class from the comfort of your own home and in your own pajamas.
Brian, our instructor, had a few rules. 1) Be on time - class started promptly at 6 pm CST. There are no exceptions to this, so if you take this course you need to make sure that you coodinate your schedule so that you can be on time and ready for class. I definitely had to do some work as my normal workday went until 5:30 pm CST - there were a few days where because of the weather and traffic I would have to leave work as much as two hours before class just to make sure I could get to class on time. 2) Try - there were a lot of situations where I hit a mental wall and wanted to be rescued. In those cases, I needed to take a break and look through my material and retrace my steps and once I did all of that, if I still couldn't find the answer, then and only then could I ask for help. This sounds harsh but it prepares you for what it will be like in the work environment.
Overall, I feel like I learned a lot from the course and I feel that it gave me a solid foundation from which to go forward and build upon. In terms of what I would change - I definitely feel like there needs to be far more of "I do, We do, You do" instructional process. Often times, Brian would demo what we were about to do and then tell us to go do it, without supplemental documents. Then he would demo and at that point, I could do the work along with him to figure out where I went wrong. It would be more helpful, in my opinion, if he demoed first, then did the exercise with us and then gave us a similar exercise to practice on our own to reiterate what we just learned with supplemental documents to refer to along the way. Additionally, more supplemental documents- just like a textbook for a college course, it would be nice if we had documents that reemphasized our tutorials that we could refer to over time until we master the processes.
I recommend this program highly. In terms of cost and content, this is a program that's overall value beats out most of the rest. Best of luck to you!
Great curriculmum and we moved at a good pace learning everything. The instructor brian did such a good job helping you understand how to solve problems rather then just giving you a simple answer to move past it. The TA's were great as well helping out as much as they could with our large online cohort. For anyone who is looking for an in class kind of setting with out having to meet at a central location this is the best option in my opinion. Classmates were super cool and we offered help to each other often. You can tell the company has "growth mindset" for their students at all times....thanks
My bootcamp experience was awesome. The class sizes are perfect, and you get the sense that the teachers genuinely care about the success of the students. The one month pre-work (at home) was a good introduction to the material, and you really hit the ground running once the night classes begin. The environment was friendly, and the exercises were challenging, and pushed me to become a better developer.
One of the more overlooked aspects of bootcamps is "job hacking" and I think this is really what sets Actualize apart. We took time every week to talk about how to get a job, and how to prepare for interviews. They had exercises in class that made us get over our fears of reaching out and meeting people in the industry. Having just presented my final project, I can honestly say I'd recommend this experience to anyone looking to start a bootcamp. Regardless of your level going in, you're going to get a lot out of this class!
One of the things I love about Actualize is the immediate feeling you get that the educators here are looking out for you, the student, and will guide you until you reach the goal set for yourself. The bootcamp environment quickly becomes a second home and the atmosphere is wonderful.
Don't hesitate to get in contact with Actualize, all of the people here are super down to earth. Suffice to say this bootcamp has exceeded my expectations and is well worth the cost!
The program was a great experience. I really enjoyed going to class and learning something new. The instructor was real awesome (Josh). He was very knowledgeable on each subject and made it fun as much as possible. Had so many great laughs while learning. The TA's very awesome as well. Everyone was friendly and tried to help you out as much as possible so they can help you succeed in the course. I had very little experience when it came to coding but after this program, I feel confident in my skills to create a web app. If you are looking for a place to start your web development career then go with Actualize. It is worth the investment. Great environment, great people, and a great experience.
I applied for Actualize just coming out of college with a bachelor's in philosophy and a minor in computer science. After a few months of applying to software engineering jobs and getting nowhere, I was worried I was underqualified for a position in the industry but also felt like signing up for a bootcamp or going back to school for a Computer Science degree would be mostly redundant. I told all this to Jay, the CEO of Actualize, when he called me right after I submitted my application. He was personable and seemed to know exactly where I was coming from, and so I decided to follow through and join the online cohort.
Within a week or so of the class starting it was apparent that though the course starts assuming no knowledge of CS or programming, it's ultimately open-ended and allows for people with a variety of skill levels to feel challenged and rewarded for putting in the effort to learn something new to them. More than just learning the technology and programming languages, this course has made me feel way more confident in my ability to learn any concepts a new project might require. The best part is that this is the explicit purpose of Actualize's course, and something I think any bootcamp should emphasize in their curiculum.
Everyone I've interacted with at Actualize, from Jay to the my instructors are all great people who genuinely care about teaching you and giving you the opportunity to teach yourself. I highly recommend taking Actualize's course if you are someone who is passionate about learning new things and wants to break into the software industry!
I was in the midst of a medical career that had nothing to do with coding. My only experience with coding prior to Actualize was trying out a few online tutorials. Like anyone who has ever considered a career change, I wanted to make sure I was making the right decision. Sure, there were other bootcamps to choose from, but Actualize set itself apart with some major perks.
There was an emphasis on keeping the teaching level at a high quality. The instructors had degrees and professional experience in software engineering AND teaching. My instructor, Peter Jang, kept the environment fun and relaxed, and was great at explaining difficult concepts in ways that students could easily understand. The instructor, the TAs, and even the CEO, were always ready to assist if any student needed it. With a small class size of 17, one-on-one interaction with an instructor or TA was easily accessible.
Upon completing the bootcamp, students are not just kicked to the curb to fend for themselves. Actualize gives an amazing opportunity to enter into The Difference Engine, an apprenticeship that allows students to create apps for actual clients. It is very similar to a junior engineer role, and it prepared me immensely for my first engineering job, which I landed at the conclusion of the apprenticeship. The career advisor at Actualize did a great job at providing connections to companies in the area that often led to many onsite interviews.
At Actualize, I got more than just an exciting new job as a software engineer. I also made several friends who are now following a similar journey starting their coding careers. I now have a network of people I can reach out to at anytime. I also gained the skills to persevere through any new challenge. If you want to switch careers into a well-paying field and have a memorable experience, Actualize is the best program for it!
Bootcamp is great. Instructors are very helpful and are willing to help students. The CEO also really cares about the business and the students within it. He definitley goes the extra mile to help students as much as he can. Quality education and touches on a lot of subjects that help students dive right in to the web development world. Coming in with previous development experience, Actualize helped solidify my knowledge and made me a much more confident programmer. I actually scored a job a couple weeks after graduation and I probably wouldn't have landed the job without the skills and confidence that I had received from Actualize.
This truly is an amazing program. Starting with the pre-work, the instructors go in-depth and are able to explain the fundamentals of coding. During the in-class course, the instructors are able to walk us through the lesson topics and help us understand it. There was also a section where the instructors, and Jay (the CEO/ founder) came in to help us improve our resume, expand our network, spruce up our LinkedIn profile, along with many other things.Personally, the instructors at Actualize are what made Actualize the best decision I have made in a long time. They really do care with how you do before, during, and after the course. I even had a few "Touch Base" e-mails just to see how I was doing. They invest so much in all of their students, which makes the experience much more personable and unique to an individual. Which was everything I could have asked for and more in a coding bootcamp.
Like many bootcamp graduates, I began my coding journey in the world of online learning (via Codecademy and Treehouse), and was immediately hooked. While these online resources proved to be excellent introductions into the world of software and web development, and served to affirm my interest in potentially pursuing my new passion as a career, their medium was inherently limiting. I realized after a short while of online tutorials that I would have to look more seriously into a comprehensive learning platform that would provide the tools for me to become a developer. After an extensive search and application process to many “bootcamps” throughout the US, I decided to attend Actualize, and couldn’t be happier with my decision.
What sets Actualize apart is their commitment to teaching excellence, and, as a corollary, the curriculum that emphasizes deep conceptual learning of web development topics. While many bootcamps promote their teaching, Actualize sets the standard in pedagogy with its instructors, all of whom have backgrounds in both education and computer science. The instructors are, accordingly, excellent: Peter Jang made learning web development engaging and fun, and his teaching style provided clarity and insight on difficult concepts and topics. The curriculum, which comprehensively covers and introduces an invaluable set of topics- data structures and algorithms, APIs, databases, web frameworks, authentication and authorization, to name a few- prepared me extremely well for my new career as developer. If you have made the decision to attend a bootcamp and understand what it takes to become a successful developer, then I recommend Actualize without hesitation.
Great curriculum and instructors! I really enjoyed my experience, and have been able to successfully switch careers in less than 6 months.
I had been considering doing a coding bootcamp for about a year, but had never pulled the trigger because it seemed like such a large and overwhelming decision. I decided to take the plunge with Actualize because it was a part-time program, so I was able to keep my job while taking the course in the evenings.
I also liked that they placed a strong emphasis on hiring instructors and TAs with a teaching background, so I wasn't worried about not being able to understand the concepts. The instructor (Peter) taught the course in a very easy to digest manner, and each new concept built on what we'd learned previously. He also took the time to meet with students before class if they needed extra help understanding the concepts we learned in class. By the end of the program, I was able to build a fully-functioning web app, read and understand code that others have written, and apply my knowledge to learn new concepts with ease.
There was also a "job-hacking" portion of the curriculum in which we learned how to network our way into a job offer. Additionally, we had a career advisor, Taylor, who was available to answer any job-related questions we had. With his help (and the help of all the job-hacking skills Jay taught us), I was able to secure a job offer about a month after finishing the program. I highly recommend Actualize to anyone interested in switching to a career in software development!
I started to play with coding a little bit a few years back, and about 6 months ago I had a moment of inspiration to jump into it full time. After researching every bootcamp in Chicago, I determined Actualize was the right choice for me.
WOW sooooooooo much information to learn to get started in this field, so so much information and yet Josh taught it to us in such a way that I was able to retain it, and reimplement everything when I needed to. I highly recommend anyone to at a minimum come and check it out and meet everyone so you can get a good feel for if this is the right school for you.
I am a graduate of the first online cohort at Actualize. What's unique about their online course is that it is actually live. I had the full live experience from the comfort of my home (read garage), complete with pair programming and team collaboration. The tech team had it all running smoothly with screen sharing and video all seamlessly recreating the in-classroom experience.
One reason I chose Actualize was because their instuctors, besides being experienced engineers, are also experienced teachers. My instructor Brian was great. He understood what the students were confused about and really knew how to explain things. He also pushed us to debug our code on our own and discover thing ourselves which is half of what being a developer is about.
Overall my experience was great and anyone looking for a real live class with quality instruction but doesn't want to spend an hour and a half traveling downtown in name-your-city should certainly check out Actualize.
Originally, leaving my review right after I completed the course, I didn't give Actualize five stars for Job assistance. However, I landed a paying internship less than a week after graduating and as I continued searching for a regular entry level position I was really impressed with how the team at actualize made themselves available with help in improving my personal brand and navigating different situations that came up whether it was dealing with recruiters or how to prepare for an interview with a particular company. I think they deserve an A+ for job assistance and that's even for a student like me who took the online course and is easy to forget about after the course is over.
Prior to attending Actualize, I was a project manager in the construction management industry, with no coding experience. While my job was stable, I was feeling stuck because I have a heart for technology and I yearned for a chance to get my foot in the door to the tech world. If you are working full-time, cannot afford to quit your job to attend classes, and like me, have a heart for technology and want to make a change in your life, I would absolutely recommend Actualize without reservation.
At Actualize, in addition to teaching you the core skills to become a full stack web developer, they made coding fun! Attending coding bootcamp is no magic pill of transformation, you have to stay committed and constently put in the work and research. It could easily become overwhelming and intimidating. Jay, Josh, and the TAs, are coding professionals who are empathic, funny, and engaging, and are on a mission to help you understand and to discover the most of your learning potential! These four months of classes has been the most challenging yet rewarding learning experience of my life, and I am very thankful for it.
As a recent graduate (July of 2017), I'd recommend Actualize to anyone who is thinking about atttending coding bootcamp.
I became interested on coding back in middle school on a TI-85. It wasn't until I met Jay and Peter almost 20 years later the I realized that I could and would make programming my career. Jay, Peter, and Josh have constructed a great program here in Chicago and I wouldn't be where I am today without the deconstruction of explanation of web app frameworks that I recieved. I cannot express enough how much this program and the support within has meant to changing my life.
If you spend your days tinkering and surfing online coding resources, please look into one of Jay's tutorials at 1871 here in Chicago
I know it sounds lame, but you can do this. If you just need the classroom experience to kick it into full gear, please investigate this program.
After spending a couple years in college, I found that the traditional way of learning material wasn't the best the fit for me. I was two years away from graduating in electrical engineering and minoir in computer programming. That's when I decided to make a switch to full time computer programming, figure out if I was wanted to spend 3-4 more years in college or to join an accelerated program that will teach me the tools to become successful in this caraer. Actualize was the first one on the list to check out and see if this was the place to do that. After seeing the place and going through the interview progress, I decide yes this is the place. It was a great place for people who had no programming background and people who had some background too. My bootcamp class size was 15 students, which I felt was the perfect size. The class wasn't big enough where it was impossible to get help from the instructor or the TA's nor to small where you felt secluded from learning this new material. After going through this bootcamp, I would recommend this bootcamp to anyone who is looking to get into web development.
Actualize boasts that it’s a part-time bootcamp with an apprenticeship. It is part time, but compared to other part-time bootcamps, the curriculum is light. It’s hard work, if you’re working full time. A lot of students quit their jobs, or are working part-time. There aren’t any tests, and no one gets kicked out, which is nice. The apprenticeship is misleading. It’s also part-time, and isn’t very well run. Some of the projects are iffy and are never actually used, the team leads only have a few years experience and receive no direction, and the product owner is part-time and shared amongst all teams. Morale ends up very low, because you’re with other graduates and you compare who got jobs and who didn’t, how long it takes to get a job, how hard it is to get that first job, and how low the starting salaries are. And that’s the apprenticeship. So I wouldn’t consider the apprenticeship as a differentiator from other bootcamps. The job assistance isn’t very helpful.
After researching and speaking with a few different bootcamps I decided to enroll at Actualize because of the way they were set up and because of what they offer. The classes were conducted online via zoom chat, which to be honest, was a bit disappointing to me when I first found out. However, even after the first class I realized that I would not be missing out on anything that I might have gained from an in-person-type class.
I found the structure of the classes very helpful.. the lead instructor and the TA's were very intentional in what they taught and how they taught it. It wasn't just about heavy loading us with a bunch of material, but the instructors made sure to explain why something was important and how it was applicable in other instances. Also, in situations where we might've been confused or had questions, rather than simply giving us direct answers, they would coach us in problem solving for ourselves. In my opinion, the best thing that Actualize does is that it creates an enviornment that promotes growth above all else.
When I decided to sign up for Actualize I had two primary concerns:
Will the skills I learn be outdated in a year?
Will I actually learn what it takes to start a new career in a more technical field?
Actualize was able to qualm these fears by doing one thing that I believe is the greatest part about Actualize: teaching you how to think like a developer. Now I am a fairly skeptical person so if someone told this to me I would laugh and say thank you for your time. After all, I would never accept such a vague statement about a program that is supposed to teach a technical field. In the spirit of computer science logic, I will provide a few examples to support this claim:
I finished my Capstone a tad early and Brian (the teacher) suggested I scan the internet and find some additional functionality that could be cool. I started looking around GitHub, reading some documentation, finding some samples of the function and it hit me! I was learning about all these new things I had never heard about and wasn’t really struggling to understand. I feel like that last sentence doesn’t really portray the message here: I READ A DEVELOPER’S DOCUMENTATION AND UNDERSTOOD IT. Further, I implemented it!
Whatever your reason is for looking into the world of development and development bootcamps, Actualize can make a massive difference. Actualize taught me that development is not just about computer languages and scary sounding frameworks but is a thought process and a way of learning. I am not concerned that Rails may one day be obsolete, I no longer scrounge the internet looking for an article that will tell me what the most popular language in 3-5 years will be, I no longer worry that the way we look at Web Development today will be completely different in 5 years. Actualize made me excited for these changes and gave me the skills to succeed when everything inevitable changes. I am very excited for my future and can attribute a lot to Actualize (and Brian!).
I'm just finishing up the online class portion of my time with Actualize and getting ready to start my apprenticeship with the school and as many before me has said, this really was a life-changing experience that went beyond learning how to become a software developer.
The Classroom Environment:
One of the main reasons I chose Actualize is because of the live teaching envrironment. For me, this was key. I have worked with other bootcamps that didn't offer any kind of teaching and a minimal amount of recorded videos, and I truly do not know how I could properly learn software development without an actual teacher. I can wholeheartedly say that a full program without actual instruction doesn't even compare to a day of online classroom experience with Actualize. Additionally, our class might have been spread throughout the country, but we were still able to become a close-knit group and everyday I looked forward to meeting and working with all of them.
Our class had Brian as an instructor and he was beyond awesome. He always came to class prepared, full of information, an ability to constantly answer questions that were thrown at him, and patience for when we struggled. I've had college professors that couldn't offer this level of professionalism and assistance. He was also able to make what could be a dry subject one that was interesting and an atmosphere that welcoming, lively and fun.
We covered A LOT in 12 weeks. From Ruby to building an actual app. This isn't a course to half-ass through. You need to be aware that you're learning a lot in a certain amount of time and you HAVE to stay on top of things. Studying outside of class is a must. If you really enjoy programming, this level of work and committment won't be painful and totally worth it. I do, however, wish we had more time to go further in-depth and focus on some of the concepts.
We had days devoted to working on "career-hacking" and developing skills to assist with finding work. This included creating a personal website, networking, blogging, and even white-boarding. All of which were helpful. We're going to continue focusing on career development during our apprenticeship too, which I'm looking forward to.
We are about to head into the apprenticeship portion of our time with Actualize and although I can't review it yet, it sounds like a further extension of our learning experience, but with the ability to put everything we have learned into actual hands-on experience.
Last, If you're willing to put in the time and effort, Actualize gives you the information and skills you need to become a full-stack developer. I completely recommend this program.
I shopped around and looked at many of the other online programming bootcamps and found that (at best) most of them basically gave me a portal that I could log into to see my assignments and then I was able to meet an instructor twice per week for an hour. I ended up going with Actualize because each class was online and live with full access to the instructor and the other students.
Think of Actualize as being in a classroom, but instead, it's online. You raise your hand during class and you get an answer. This was exactly the type of learning I knew would be essential for me to learn to program.
I would say that Actualize is not for you if you're looking for some fancy startup. It's more of a school that's run by a team that really gets excited by watching people learn to code.
The Actualize Online-Live Bootcamp has been one of the best decisions I've made in a professional career. This bootcamp provided me the foundational skill and ability to code, de-bug and question with confidence.
If you're considering a career change or simply looking to develop an in-demand and marketable skill, Actualize is for you!
After deciding I wanted to learn to code and reviewing the options of coding bootcamps in Chicago, I am so happy that Actualize Coding Bootcamp had everything to offer that would fit my life. I loved the availability of a part-time bootcamp held during evening hours. I don't know of any other bootcamp that has this schedule. Even though it's part-time, the option is there to come in early and spend more time working if needed.
I also loved the fact that the instructors are skilled teachers and know teaching methods and how people think while learning. You will learn a lot during your 12-weeks here. As a beginner with no experience, it seemed overwhelming at times, but, it all falls into place eventually. Just take a few deep breaths and all will be good! All classes are recorded, so, if you missed anything or are unsure, you have the availability to review the screencasts at anytime at your own pace. These are lifesavers!
I truly enjoyed my experience here at Actualize and am so glad I took the leap and followed through on the program! If you are unsure, do not hesitate to enroll!
Our latest on Actualize
Yes, we get it – most high-salary industries need more diverse workers, and tech is no exception. But while the conversation about diversity in tech usually focuses on gender, diversity encompasses racial, socioeconomic, cognitive, and experiential differences. Think pieces and diversity reports show large tech companies admitting they have a problem and beginning to address the diversity in tech crisis, but do we really believe change is coming? Even if companies make public commitments to hiring more diverse candidates for technical positions, is the pipeline strong enough to fuel those hiring commitments? As we track non-traditional routes to tech at Course Report, it’s clear that talented, diverse coding bootcamp grads can fill that pipeline and play a role in shifting the demographics of the US tech industry.Continue Reading →
Jay Wengrow founded part-time web development bootcamp and apprenticeship program Actualize in Chicago in 2014 to make learning to code efficient and accessible. Now the coding bootcamp has campuses in New York and San Francisco, and in June 2017 they are launching their new online part-time program to further reduce barriers to entry into tech. We asked Jay about the format of the new online course (+ photos) compared with the in-person course, why no programming experience is required, and how Actualize prepares students to land new careers in tech.
What is your education and career background? What inspired you to start Actualize?
I’ve always known that I wanted to be a teacher – even since I was in high school. I pursued my Master’s in Education and taught at various venues, but I needed a higher salary to support my family. I was fortunate that I did some basic computer programming as a kid, so I decided to go back to school and get my Master’s in Software Engineering.
After working as a software developer for a number of years, I found that my favorite aspect of my job was teaching and mentoring junior developers. I decided to meld my skills in both education and computer science to develop a program that would teach people to code in the most efficient way possible according to educational best practices.
What were some of the educational problems you were trying to solve?
Having received a traditional Master’s in Software Engineering, I knew that while CS professors might be subject matter experts, they had little idea on how to actually teach. I watched many of my classmates drop out of CS altogether because they assumed they weren’t smart enough to understand, while the truth was they simply weren’t being taught well. I was also aware of the coding bootcamp phenomena that began burgeoning in 2012, but found that many of these programs were not run by people with an educational background, and were structured so that the students would essentially have to teach themselves. While this latter approach can work for some students, it requires at least a full-time schedule and is long and arduous. I knew that I could create a school that could teach everything in a fraction of the time – by having an expert educator teach every concept, clearly, and in the right order.
One of my favorite anecdotes is when I was teaching a cohort which had one student who had transferred out of a full-time bootcamp. It was the second day of class, and he was shaking his head as I was teaching – which is pretty disconcerting, frankly! During the break, I asked him, “Why were you shaking your head?” He said, “You don’t understand. We had to learn the same concept in the previous bootcamp – but they gave us material to read on the topic, and it took me 5 hours to try to figure it out – and I still didn’t get it. And here you explain it in 30 minutes and it makes perfect sense!”
You’ve been teaching for a few years now – what’s been the biggest change at Actualize since starting the first campus in Chicago? Has the curriculum changed to adapt to new technologies?
I don’t get the chance to teach or code much anymore, but I only hire Lead Instructors who have a similar background to myself. They must have professional experience in both education and software engineering. I still try to find the opportunity to teach code in other ways – I host a weekly meetup teaching introductory coding concepts, and I recently published a book on computer science that explains data structures and algorithms in a simple, easy-to-understand way, without any math.
Actualize has been teaching in-person, part-time bootcamps in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco for a while now – what was the motivation to create the online bootcamp?
We felt that an online program was the best way to reach the audience of potential developers who don’t live in a big city. Educational accessibility is very important to us, which is why we offer a part-time program. This helps us reach people who can’t afford to quit their full-time job to enroll in a coding bootcamp. An online program provides even greater reach, as there are a tremendous amount of people who don’t live in a major city and will never have access to any coding bootcamp education.
What was the curriculum development process for the online course? Did you start from scratch or will online students experience the same curriculum as in-person students?
Our approach is to use the exact same curriculum as our in-person course. We don’t want the online program to compromise in quality in any way – our goal is for it to be as close to an in-person experience as possible. That means students in our online program will learn from the exact same curriculum, lead instructors, and format as our in-person bootcamp.
The online course is completely different than other online offerings – this isn’t a set of exercises that students log into and complete on their own time. Our program is an “in-person online” experience and there are set class times identical to our 12-week in-person program (Monday through Thursday evenings and all day Sunday) where a lead instructor is teaching and providing exercises throughout. Nothing is pre-recorded – students are able to communicate with other students and ask questions during each live class session. Everyone can see the lead instructor and all their classmates at all times even during the exercises.
Describe the new Actualize online learning portal and online student experience.
The student learning experience centers around video conferencing into each class session using software similar to Skype or Google Hangouts. Each student will be using both their laptop as well as an external monitor attached to it. With an in-person class, a student works on their laptop and looks upward to see their lead instructor, lead instructor’s screen, and classmates – the same happens here as well. The student does their actual work on their laptop, and the video conferencing platform remains on the external monitor, where the students can see both their lead instructor and classmates like in the image below:
Like our in-person format, we constantly flip back and forth between instruction and exercises. During both instruction and exercises, the lead instructor can see each student, and all students can see each other.
During instruction, the lead instructor’s face is the main focus on the external monitor while introducing the new lesson, with the classmates off to the side. Below is what the student will see on their external monitor:
While demoing code, the lead instructor shares their screen while the classmates’ faces are off to the side, and the student’s external monitor will look like this:
The lead instructor and all the students remain in the virtual classroom as they tackle the exercises, just like an in-person class. When students need help, they can send a chat message to the Lead Instructor and the Lead Instructor jumps into a one-on-one video conference to privately answer student questions. At this time, the students can share their screen with the lead instructor, and can even grant access to the lead instructor to remotely type into the student’s computer. This means students can ask instructors or each other for help and get the immediate feedback that is critical to learning.
By designing our program as an in-person-style online experience, we eliminate the need for specialized learning management systems, which can be a barrier to optimal learning. Having classes nearly every day with a high-quality instructor is what helps students stay organized and be held accountable, and provides the formative assessment opportunities that get lost in typical asynchronous online experiences. In this way, our online offering maintains the high level of educational quality that embodies Actualize.
What type of student is an ideal student for the online course? Are you looking for someone with experience, a certain background, a certain culture fit?
The ideal student for the online course is the same for the in-person course – we don’t require any specific programming related experience, but we do look for people who have the right mindset. An ideal student is someone who is excited to change careers to become a web developer and is determined to put in the work. Like all coding bootcamps, Actualize is not easy – so we specifically look for students who will give it their all.
Has the admissions process for the online course changed? What can applicants expect?
Our admissions process for the online course is identical, except that you meet with our Admissions Advisor over video conferencing instead of in a physical location. The process is to apply on our website, then an Admissions Advisor will reach out to schedule a series of two interviews to make sure that we’re the right fit for the student, and that the student is the right fit for us. We do not conduct any coding challenges during the interview – after all – that’s precisely what the student is coming to us to learn! Instead, we look for people who are ambitious and committed.
How do you attract a diverse applicant pool? Do you have diverse cohorts? Is that important to you?
Diversity is important to us, and in addition to diversity scholarships, we always try to have a diverse set of lead instructors and teaching assistants so that all students can feel like they fit right in. We also hope that we can increase the diversity by offering our course to people outside of our original three metro areas.
Let’s talk about getting students placed in jobs. What will Actualize’s job prep curriculum look like for online students?
Our job prep curriculum for the online program is the same for the in-person program. It is integrated into the 12-week program, where we teach students both soft and technical skills necessary to get a job. We feel that the soft skills, which consist of networking and personal branding, are just as critical and teachable as the technical skills. Students leave the 12-week program with a complete understanding of how to land a job and be successful in an interview, and they will have begun the networking process before they graduate.
Online students are also able to take part in the apprenticeship at The Difference Engine once they complete the 12-week program. They will join remotely and meet with their teams twice a week. In this way, the online students get the same advantages as our in-person students, where they build their development skills and ability to work in a team on real-world projects for nonprofits.
What is your advice for students embarking on an online bootcamp course? Any tips for getting the most out of a course, especially if they are trying to change their careers?
The best advice I can offer is – don’t doubt yourself. We truly believe that anyone can learn to code, and we have worked with many students with all different types of backgrounds to help them successfully transition to a career in web development. We hope that our online program opens doors for people who would never have had access to a high-quality coding bootcamp experience. For some people, the final barrier is self-doubt – they believe that they aren’t capable of learning web development and changing careers. We have a track record that proves otherwise, and we are truly looking forward to helping a whole new audience on their journey to a new and exciting career!
How do you get a job after coding bootcamp if you have no relevant, real-world work experience? Only 1.4% of bootcampers have worked as developers in the past, but most career-changers have little – if any– client experience when they start looking for a developer job. Some bootcamps help students overcome this hurdle by offering opportunities to work for the bootcamp itself, or with real clients through projects, internships, and apprenticeships. These opportunities can give students substantial experience to add to their portfolios and resumes, and kickstart the job hunt.Continue Reading →
Luke was ready to make the transition from chemical engineer to software engineer, but wasn’t ready to quit his full-time job. He found part-time coding bootcamp Anyone Can Learn to Code in San Francisco, learned to code while working full-time, then got real-world experience in his apprenticeship with The Difference Engine- an opportunity that ACLTC guarantees all its grads. Luke tells us the secrets to managing his time, the immense benefits of doing an apprenticeship, and his new job as a junior software engineer!
What is your pre-bootcamp story? What is your educational background? Your last career path?
I have a degree in biology and chemistry from California State University Long Beach. My first job was doing wet titrations in a chemical analysis lab, then I got a job as a chemical engineer with OM Group in San Francisco. I work with customers to provide support to internal engineers who are using the chemistry that our company provides.
I actually really like my job, but the manufacturing industry is tapering off in the U.S. because of increasing building and labor costs, and stricter environmental regulations. If I wanted to continue in this career, I would have to spend a lot of time in China where it’s cheaper to build the same products. So that’s what prompted me to learn to code, and living in a tech city like San Francisco I already have a lot of friends in the industry.
So you’ve been able to continue working full time while studying at Anyone Can Learn to Code?
My boss is awesome and really accommodating, so I was able to keep my job. He let me leave by 4pm so I could get to Anyone Can Learn to Code’s 6:30pm start time. I also work in a remote position, so I already have a lot of freedom in my job. They don’t micro-manage me as long as I get the job done.
What hours did you commit to studying at ACLTC?
The mandatory hours at Anyone Can Learn to Code were 6 pm to 9:30 pm Monday through Thursday, then 9 am to 5 pm on Sundays. I usually spent additional two hours a day studying, and on Fridays and Saturdays I worked on my capstone project. There is so much to learn, so you get out of the bootcamp what you put in. Some people get the impression that you just pay X amount of money for a coding bootcamp and get a job. But that’s not the case – this industry is highly competitive, so you have to put in the time if you want to get a job after a coding bootcamp.
Did you try to learn to code on your own before you thought about a coding bootcamp? What types of resources did you use?
I did some tutorials online that were super basic, then I realized it was something I was really interested in. I took one semester of courses through the City College of San Francisco. I did courses in PHP, HTML, CSS, MySQL, internet theory, and UNIX. It was a full-time course and I really liked it. I had to decide whether to continue studying at community college, or do a coding bootcamp. The bootcamp was more expensive than City College, and at City College you could get a certificate in web development. But after considering how long it would take to complete the college curriculum, I decided on a bootcamp because it was accelerated and the investment would pay off in the long run by saving so much time.
Did you research other coding bootcamps or just Anyone Can Learn to Code?
I looked at Hack Reactor and App Academy first. Then I found Anyone Can Learn to Code, which was appealing because it was part time, so I could keep my current job. It was a way to minimize the risk because even if I took the bootcamp and for some reason it didn’t work out, I’d still have a job in an established career.
I also liked that ACLTC was offering the apprenticeship where you get real-world experience. When I speak to other bootcampers at meetups and hiring events, some are finding it difficult to get real experience, so doing an apprenticeship is really helpful and appealing to employers.
Was your class diverse in terms of gender, race, life and career backgrounds?
There were 14 people total, plus the instructor Mark, two full-time TAs, and one part time TA. It was pretty diverse as far as race. I believe there were three women. People had a variety of different backgrounds; some from finance with MBAs, others worked more in the social aspect of the community. There was a mechanical engineer, people working in retail, and other people were medical assistants so it was very diverse. And most of them were working full time like me. There were a few just working part time, and one or two who had quit their jobs.
How did you pay for it? Did you use a financing partner? Did you get a scholarship?
I paid for it out of savings, I had the available capital. They split it into three portions – $1000 to hold my spot, then half of the remainder at the start and the other half in the middle. And I believe there was a financing partner I could have used. This one is a lot less expensive than some of the other ones. Some others run about $16,000, or take 18% of your first job salary like App Academy.
Was it important for you to learn a specific programming language or stack?
What was the learning experience like at Anyone Can Learn to Code? What’s a typical day and teaching style?
We had a calendar outlining what we were going to be doing throughout the semester on different days, but it shifted if we were ahead or behind schedule. Mostly we were ahead of schedule so we were learning topics faster than expected. In each session the teacher introduced the topic for the day, showed us a working example we could watch or follow along with, then we’d do an exercise where we implemented what we just learned. If you completed those early there were harder bonus challenges you could do where you’d have to Google search how to complete it.
What was your favorite project?
The favorite project I did was my capstone project, Ride4less.us. It compares the cost of Uber vs buses and BART in the Bay Area. But it can work anywhere because it uses Google Maps API and the Uber API, so anywhere those services are available it would work.
How did you transition from being in class to being in Anyone Can Learn to Code’s apprenticeship, The Difference Engine?
It was easy because you go from 25 or more hours including class time and outside study, to 20 hours a week. Now you’re working on a live project and you’re already pretty familiar with writing code every day. The hard part for some people is that the apprenticeship is all remote; we weren’t going to class so we had to manage our own time. I know that could be a challenge for some people, but ACLTC is changing the apprenticeship format soon to include some face time each week.
Tell us about the apprenticeship. How long was it?
We started Anyone Can Learn to Code on site on November 1, 2015; finished on Thursday January 16, 2016, then started the apprenticeship the following Monday. We had our first group meeting, set up our first two-week sprint, then started working immediately. Ours was six weeks, but they’ve changed it now so it’s 17 weeks with the flexibility to commit to six-, four-, or three-week segments.
How did the projects work in the apprenticeship? How were you assigned work?
We were placed in groups of two or three and each had a project. We used Trello and Slack to communicate and assign tasks. Instead of stand-ups in the morning we did Slack ups. My group usually met up in person on weekends or once a week for five or six hours to work together, then if anybody was stuck somewhere we could help find a solution.
How did you interact with staff from Anyone Can Learn to Code throughout the apprenticeship?
We had a project manager from ACLTC Chicago who was doing client communication. We would have a meeting every couple of weeks and demo the project with our project manager and client, to hear feedback and give our input. We also had a senior developer, Mark our teacher, and if we were stuck we could reach out for help. But we didn’t really need that much because at that point we knew how to solve problems on our own with the help of Google.
What sort of projects have you worked on in your apprenticeship - can you give us an example?
We were working for the nonprofit Women Who Code to add some features to their website and build out an API for them. My team was on the web client, and the other team was working on the API. We worked very closely together because the web client needed to communicate with the API. We were working on building the section for people creating new accounts. When people logged in it would send the info to the API, save it, then you would be logged in. It was pretty challenging and had some real world applications, so it was really cool to work on a live project like that.
Were you using the languages and technologies you learned at Anyone Can Learn to Code or have you had to learn new material?
Why did you decide to do the apprenticeship rather than immediately start applying for jobs?
One of the main reasons I chose this bootcamp was to get real world experience, because you may have worked on a personal project, but now you’ve experienced working in Agile environment, working with a real client, and meeting deadlines. Employers like to see that. To me it’s a no-brainer to do the apprenticeship.
What are you doing now? Have you started looking for a job?
I am still working directly with Women Who Code as a volunteer because after the apprenticeship finished, in between getting a job as a full-time software engineer, I needed something to work on. So I reached out to the CEO, and she told anyone who was working on the project were most welcome to continue.
I was looking for jobs during the apprenticeship and I had one technical interview for a more senior position, which I struggled with. I realized I needed to spend more time learning about the type of things asked in technical interviews. So I studied the book “Cracking the Coding Interview”. After hearing of students struggling with technical interviews, ACLTC founder Jay Wengrow also wrote a book that looks at technical questions and computer science theory, and is now going to be part of the curriculum. So I was spending time doing that, and yesterday I verbally accepted a position as a full-stack web developer starting mid-April.
Congratulations on your new job! Can you tell me about the company you’ll be working at?
The company is an engineering firm that does engineering consulting, building out platforms for companies who need engineering support. I’m going to be starting with them in a three-month apprenticeship as a junior engineer, then transition into a full-time software engineer role. So I’ll have three months of training and mentorship, focusing on learning and levelling up my skills.
Do you think the fact you did the ACLTC apprenticeship made it easier to find a job?
Yes. It shows you've worked on a live project, and also sets you apart from other people who have graduated from a coding bootcamp, who don’t have the opportunity to do real-world work. Anything that can set you apart helps. As anyone will tell you, getting your first job or your foot in the door is very difficult.
How did you find the job?
A friend introduced me to the CEO via LinkedIn. I had a phone call with them, then went in for a technical interview. I’ve found networking through shared contacts is the best way to go if you’re looking for a job, especially an entry-level job where you don’t have the craziest resume or the most experience. Getting out there and networking face to face is a great way to get interviews because if you’re just applying on LinkedIn job boards, the chance of getting a response is pretty low. I’m pretty lucky because I didn’t have to search that hard, and you hear about some people who look for months before they get a job
What job and career advice did you get from ACLTC?
All the staff are really supportive and they want you to succeed, so it’s not like you pay the money, go through the course and once you’re done they kick you out. They are very much still in touch and willing to help in any way they can. Before one of my interviews I spoke to a TA who did technical interview prep with me just one on one. It was completely outside of the bootcamp.
What advice do you have for people making a career change after a coding bootcamp, who are maybe considering a post-bootcamp apprenticeship or internship?
I would say make sure it’s something you’re passionate about, because it takes a lot of time, and it’s not an easy transition. I know software engineers make good money, but if that’s your only reason for becoming a software engineer, that is probably not the right reason. There is going to be a lot of work and you need to have the passion and drive to get through it. I was highly skeptical of the whole situation before taking it and thought about it for a couple of months before making the decision to do it. I thought, can this be true that you can do a 15-week course and apprenticeship and then get a job in the industry? It goes against your usual idea of education – having to go through four years of college to get to an opportunity like this.
If you’re thinking about it and you’re going to choose a coding bootcamp I would highly recommend Anyone Can Learn to Code. The people who work there are great and very helpful and I was successful in changing careers pretty quickly after finishing the bootcamp, so I can’t speak highly enough of it.
If you’re determined to learn to code, there are a lot of factors you should consider when deciding how to accomplish your goal. What sort of budget do you have for the tools you might need? How much free time do you have, or are you willing to make? Do you want to quit your job and learn full-time? Another factor to consider is your own style of learning. Kassia Shishkoff of Anyone Can Learn to Code in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, outlines these learning styles for us!Continue Reading →
Thinking about applying to Anyone Can Learn to Code? The part-time Chicago programming bootcamp just opened a new campus in San Francisco and is a great option for career-oriented bootcampers who can't quit their day jobs quite yet. But not everyone is accepted into Anyone Can Learn to Code, so what can you do to ace the interview? We're covering the Anyone Can Learn to Code interview and application process with input from their admissions team and past students!
How long does the initial Anyone Can Learn to Code application typically take?
20-30 minutes, depending on depth of answers given
What goes into the written application? Does Anyone Can Learn to Code require a video submission?
The written application is a series of questions to determine whether or not the program is a good fit. We don’t require a video submission.
What types of backgrounds have successful Anyone Can Learn to Code students had? Does everyone come from a technical background?
Our students have extremely varied backgrounds; teaching, construction, consulting, engineering, and many others. You don’t need a tech background to join ACLTC, but all our students have done hours of online tutorials, reading, and exercises to ensure they enjoy the process of programming. A basic understanding of computers helps, too.
Can you give us a sample question from the “technical interview?”
“What has you interested at this point in your life to transition to a career in web development/software engineering?”
What are a few resources that you suggest applicants use to really ace the technical interview?
Applicants should have updated resumes and a clear idea of their goals for the bootcamp as well as why they would be successful in a web-development careers. We also suggest applicants check out free tutorials on sites like Udemy, Codecademy, Khan Academy, or Lynda, and talk to software developers they know to get a better understanding of what the job entails.
How do you evaluate an applicant’s future potential? What qualities are you looking for?
In addition to ensuring that potential students have gone out of their way to do enough coding/programming exercises and/or job-shadowing for programming; there are also a lot of soft skills like: perseverance, teamwork, analytical skills, problem-solving, ability to deal with tedious tasks, ability to help other students, creativity, and aspects of their characters/personalities to make sure they would fit in well with the rest of the classroom.
Can a student apply more than once?
Is there a technical coding challenge in the Anyone Can Learn to Code Application? How long should it take? Is there a time limit? Can an applicant complete the coding challenge in any programming language?
Yes, there is a coding challenge, to be submitted with a screencast. The challenge is in Ruby and typically takes several hours to complete (applicants have a week in which to complete and turn in the challenge).
What is the current acceptance rate at Anyone Can Learn to Code?
Are students accepted on a rolling basis?
We’re always interviewing and accepting students, but they are usually accepted for a specific cohort that works for their timeline/schedule.
Does Anyone Can Learn to Code accept international students? Do international students get student visas/tourist visas to do the program?
We do accept international students, but we do not assist with visas.
What other questions do YOU have about the application process? Let us know in the comments or visit the Anyone Can Learn to Code website and start your application today!
Welcome to the April News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Want your bootcamp's news to be included in the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
(updated August 2016)Continue Reading →
Oscar Cisneros was at a job with little opportunity for growth when he was encouraged to learn programming by a tech recruiter. After reading about Anyone Can Learn to Code in Chicago, Oscar decided to take the plunge. He's now working as a developer at startup CancerIQ and says "things couldn’t have worked out any better." We talk to Oscar about his experience and career change!
What were you doing before you started at Anyone Can Learn To Code?
I was working for a travel company, managing flights. It was a really demanding job with no growth opportunities and it was in Chicago so the traffic was horrendous.
Did you have a technical background?
I did a bit of IT for neighbors and friends- one of my neighbors owns a swimming pool maintenance company, and he hired me to be his computer guy; other than that, nothing major. I dropped out of college because I couldn’t figure out what to do. I had messed around with programming a bit but never really got into it - I thought it was something that only really smart people could do. I wish I would have started a long time ago; I’ve found something I love.
Did you quit your job or continue to work during Anyone Can Learn to Code?
For the first two weeks, I worked and did the course. After that it became incredibly difficult between work, traffic, and class.
How did you find the bootcamp? What pushed you to make that switch?
Last year, around this time, I was really starting to hate my job. I was trying to figure out the next step: going back to school and finishing my undergrad, finding a new job. I took a small, part-time job with a startup called Sidecar. I ended up driving a tech recruiter and we were talking about work and he filled me in. He told me to check out Codecademy and if I liked it, to apply to a bootcamp.
I signed up for Codecademy the next day and started reading books and playing around- it was freakin’ awesome. Bootcamps I looked at were crazy expensive and require you to quit your job. Then I found Jay in an article on Built in Chicago and contacted him.
Did you look at any bootcamps other than Anyone Can Learn to Code?
Not seriously. I looked at a few websites but the prices were out of reach.
During the couple of weeks that you were working and doing the program, what kind of time were you putting into each?
It was a full 8-hour day at my regular job. I was putting in about 3 hours’ worth of driving and then the full class from 6 to 9:30; it was really rough.
What was the application process like for you?
There was an online application and then Jay got in contact with me and we talked in person. He told me about his teaching style and asked me about my learning style then he gave me some pre-work to do to see if I could handle it.
How long did that process take?
I think about a week. I’d contacted Jay when it was really close to when the class was starting so it was really quick.
What is Jay’s teaching style like? What did the class look like on a day to day?
He was great. He doesn’t leave anybody behind. If you’ve got a problem he’s going to help you figure it out but at the same time, he has this trust in people that he knows can handle it so there’s a really good trade-off. I picked things up really quickly and he would let me play around and get myself stuck and after a while, he’d check in on me and see if I was alright. He was really good about making sure everybody was picking up the material.
When did you go to class in-person?
The class went from Monday to Thursday from 6 to 9:30pm. And then Sunday all day from 9 to 5. It went for 12 weeks.
Most days we had projects we were working on during the class and since the class was only 3 hours we may not finish, so you’d work on them overnight if you could.
What was your cohort like? Did you interact with them a lot or were you working on your own?
We were actually pretty close because we worked together every day; everybody helped each other out. Towards the end of the class, we had our own projects to build and there were those who were good at certain things. For example, there was a guy who was good at front-end stuff, there was a guy who was good with APIs so we all helped each other out. It was pretty cool.
How many people were in your cohort?
We graduated with 7 students. There were a few women, quite a few men. The class was really diverse so that made it really cool.
As far as the curriculum goes, what technologies were you learning and were you happy with the materials?
We started off with Ruby on Rails, did some CSS front-end work using the Bootstrap library. Jay did give us the option of learning Bootstrap or Foundation. Most of the class did Bootstrap. It was really heavy on Rails, and then we ended up learning Angular towards the end of the class; that was my favorite part. Those were the main technologies that we worked with.
At the company I’m working for now, it’s really heavy back-end work but people get excited for the front end stuff. So if you know how to do really cool stuff with the least amount of effort, that’s gold.
Did you work on projects throughout the course? Were those individual projects or team projects?
We had our own individual project. From the beginning of the class, we started to think about what our project would be and to flesh it out. Then during the course of the class we had a few group projects; we built a puzzle app where we collaborated with the rest of the group. Then we worked with APIs where we built a web client to interact with each other. For my personal project, I built a business management program for small companies.
Can you tell us about that project? Is it live?
It is live but nobody uses it yet. I originally came up with the idea when I was working at this pool company. The owner had a program that was built for him and the developer disappeared so he couldn’t change anything. When he hired me, I had to hack into it and make changes.
My whole idea was born off of that; taking the program and putting it into the 21st century and on the web. It tracks customer services and then their service breakdown.
How much emphasis was there on job placement during Anyone Can Learn to Code?
They brought in some people to talk to us, give a little introduction to the agile training process, work environment and the culture at different companies. And for our final presentation, Jay brought a ton of recruiters and employers.
Anyone Can Learn To Code was really good at connecting students with employers. They actually ended up recommending me in the position I’m in now.
Did everyone in your cohort get a job?
It was 50-50. There were some people that didn’t start looking heavily, some people that were still trying to figure out what they were doing.
Tell us what you’re up to today. Where are you working and what’s your job?
I’m working for a startup called Cancer IQ to build a web tool for doctors to treat and recommend treatments for cancer patients.
When I got hired, I was the only developer on the team besides the CTO, which was a little bit intimidating. I was hired as an intern, and did a lot of front-end work that I wasn’t really comfortable doing at the time because I really was a back end guy. I ended up learning the front-end skills which is awesome and things just started cranking out after that. I just got hired full-time two weeks ago.
I think I was fortunate that I was able to pick things up as quickly as I did.
Where is Cancer IQ based?
CancerIQ is in 1871, which is where Anyone Can Learn to Code is as well. I’ve been able to hang out here for a while longer which has been awesome because I love this place.
The CTO heard about me from Jay, and asked me for an interview and asked me to do a test project. I did pretty well on it and ended up getting hired before the class even finished.
Last year at this time I was miserable because I hated my job so much; and now things couldn’t be better. I love my job.
Do you think that you could have gotten to this point where you are without a bootcamp?
No, no. I like to learn and figure things out myself but there are times when I get stuck. There was no way I could get stuck without having somebody there to help.
I would make silly, dumb mistakes that I would spend hours on. So somebody that knows the way that you’re thinking can tell you why this is not working or this is why you can’t figure it out.
Have you continued your education after you graduated?
Yeah, I learn a ton on the job but I still try to make time. I’ve been going to a Ruby meet-up ever since I got out of class. I did a hackathon a couple of months ago. I’m always trying to learn more. If you like programming, you want to know what the coolest new technology is and play with it.
It sounds like you were destined to be a programmer.
Definitely. This is exactly where I needed to be and things couldn’t have worked out any better. Even if you’d planned it, they couldn’t have worked out any better. I quit my job, did the class, landed a job, love the job, continued learning… it’s awesome.
Is there anything you want to add about ACLTC?
I always tell people if you don’t know what to do and are looking for something, think of programming, even at the basic level. It’s really cool stuff. There are so many things that haven’t been done and you could really change the way that people interact. That’s one of the things that really attracted me to programming in the first place.
Once you have those skills to give somebody a tool that changes their lives, that’s really gratifying. There‘s nothing like seeing somebody use a tool that you built. It’s incredible.
Chelsea Dommert moved to Chicago specifically to attend Anyone Can Learn to Code, a part-time, intensive web development bootcamp. The risk paid off- with her new skills, she is starting as a web developer at Pivotal Labs today! We talk to Chelsea about the teaching style at Anyone Can Learn to Code, how her past experience helped inspire her final project, and the importance of attending conferences and staying in touch with the dev community.
What you were doing before you started Anyone Can Learn to Code?
I was a copywriter and an editor. I got accepted into Anyone Can Learn to Code while I was doing an internship in Washington, D.C. and did the program in the summer after that internship ended. I moved to Chicago specifically for the boot camp.
Did you look at other bootcamps or just ACLTC?
No, I only looked at ACLTC. I took programming courses in college and I found it very difficult to find instructors who were both competent programmers and good teachers as well.
Often in the programming community, we have a tendency to guilt people for not being able to figure things out themselves rather than offering them any guidance. I had worked with Jay previously- he was my programming tutor for several months before the boot camp- and found that his method is very different from that.
What did you study in your undergrad?
I majored in international relations- I actually quit basic computer classes when the intermediate level computer programming professor informed me that I was not intelligent enough to be a computer programmer.
So you were writing after college- what got you interested again in programming?
After college I moved to Miami and my day job was as a blogger at a tech company in the finance space. I wasn’t a programmer, but the technology was really interesting and I knew that I liked programming. I asked the CTO if he knew anybody who good at programming and at teaching. He introduced me to Jay.
Why take this course?
There were three reasons. The first factor was knowing Jay’s teaching style and knowing that he was going to actually teach. The second factor was that it was a nights/weekend course so I would be able to keep a full-time job and continue to earn an income while I was taking the course. I didn’t have the luxury of living in Chicago without a job for several months, which is what most bootcamps require of you.
The third reason was that Jay explicitly covers both the consumption and the creation of APIs in this course, which is the direction I personally think development is headed. And it doesn’t get covered in nearly as much detail in many other bootcamps.
What were your intentions doing ACLTC? Did you expect to get a new job afterwards?
Yes, that was my intention. The company I worked for at the time was aware that I was going through a programming boot camp. I can’t speak for the decision that they made to hire me anyway. I was not hiding anything from them.
You mentioned being impressed with Jay’s teaching style. What is his teaching style? What about it is effective?
Mainly, he’s willing to break problems down and explain them and still give a bit of guidance to significantly reduce the amount of time it takes you to get the basics.
I find that it’s very easy to get frustrated in the beginning because you know absolutely nothing, and once you have some initial direction and foundation, you can then use your autodidactic skills to become more advanced. But when you’re going from zero to beginner, it’s very helpful to have a teacher. Many teachers I had in the past expected a person to be able to get from zero to beginner largely on their own and when it was difficult for that person, blamed it on the student rather than acknowledging that they just needed help.
Since this was a part-time program, did you feel like you were interacting with your cohort a lot?
We did do group projects. We made an API and then we made an app that consumed an API as a class, then we also did a lot of projects in pairs and groups. I did interact with my cohort a lot.
Did you feel like everyone was on a similar level and people worked together effectively?
I wouldn’t say everyone was on the same level. In general, we were able to assign the various projects in a way that helped everyone develop.
For example, I, having done some programming in my leisure time, had the most experience going in. Clearly, I would be at a different level than somebody who had never written a semicolon in their lives.
Given that, we were able to find ways for everyone to contribute to each project.
How many hours each week were you putting into the course?
The actual time you spent inside the school was from 6-9:30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. That said, it very quickly became apparent who was putting in time outside of course hours and who wasn’t. Unsurprisingly to everyone, if you put in more work, you become better at a quicker rate.
So I would definitely say outside work is required to become a good developer.
How did you commit to doing work outside of those hours with a fulltime job?
I would study from when I got off work until the program started, which was maybe an hour. Then I would work on Fridays and Saturdays, and that was an extra 12 hours a week.
You had mentioned doing projects as a group and individually. Were those projects that were assigned or did you have a chance to work on your own project?
Those projects were assigned. We also had a capstone project that was our own idea, and everyone in my cohort chose to do theirs individually. We would help each other but we didn’t work in groups.
What was the project that you did?
Sure. I made an API for a data set selected by the Armed Conflict Location Event Data Project, which is a project based out of an academic institute in Texas to collect information about conflict events in Africa and then published in spreadsheets.
I made an API that would consume all of those spreadsheets and then I made an app that would take the data from that API and turn it into maps and other visualizations about who committed the violence and where the violence occurred, etc.
How did you come up with that idea?
My internship in Washington, D.C. was at a nonprofit that does research and investigation on issues of national and international security. During the course of one of our projects, we were trying to collect some data on conflicts in Africa. We found that although this particular project has the best data, it was not available in a highly accessible form and that made it much more difficult to research.
It was really a shame to me that good data would not be used by researchers because it wasn’t accessible enough.
That’s really cool because it was a specific problem that you faced and then developed a specific solution at ACLTC.
I found that to be the case among a lot of bootcampers because they generally came from a previous career and found that technology could solve the things that frustrated them. I can think of at least three other people in my bootcamp whose capstone project was based on problems they faced in their previous career.
Did you find that there was emphasis on job placement throughout the course?
I think we were prepared to a degree. Some resources were made available to us: we learned about interviewing, we learned how to showcase our portfolios, which would help us get a job, and go to conferences. Attending a conference after the bootcamp was ultimately what led to my employment.
What are you up to today?
I start my position at Pivotal Labs on Monday.
You got the connection through a conference, so it wasn’t directly from a hiring day or anything like that.
Was there a career fair or hiring day with ACLTC?
There was a day where we all showed off our apps in 1871 and employers came to us so that was actually pretty cool. I think there were a dozen companies that showed up.
Did you feel like ACLTC prepared you for that job application and interview process?
My situation is a bit of a special case because Pivotal is a polyglot consultancy; they work in a lot of different programming languages and none of the languages that I got interviewed in were languages that I learned in the bootcamp. But I think I had some of the basic programming principles they were looking for in the interview. And of course, I learned much of that through ACLTC.
Throughout the interview process, Pivotal told me what I needed to brush up on and learn. The interviewer gave me not only specific instructions at what I needed to be better at in order to merit a position but also he gave me the sources I would need, the books that would provide me with those skills.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about your experience?
When Jay is giving advice about how to get your career kick-started, that is advice people should take extremely seriously. They told me to blog and to attend conferences, which is ultimately how I met the folks at Pivotal.
I know people tend to think that they will learn to develop and automatically become a developer, but a developer has to be able to get out and talk to people just like anyone looking for a job.
Anyone Can Learn To Code, based in Chicago, launches in June 2014, and can turn you into a web developer in 12 weeks. The best news? You don't even have to quit your job.
We talk to founder Jay Wengrow about his background in tech and education, his choice to teach beyond "Vanilla" Rails, and how focused Chicago students can learn to code without leaving their jobs.
What is your background and how did you end up in the coding bootcamp space?
I come from a background in teaching, having a Masters in Education from Loyola in Chicago, and having taught various subjects for some time. But I was drawn to tech, having had some great experiences doing some computer programming as a child. So I went back to school for a Masters in Software Engineering and have been a web developer since then. I am currently a Rails dev at Apartments.com here in Chicago. I’ve had the opportunity to mentor people at work or even friends, and I’ve realized how much I enjoy teaching tech. So on Sundays I’ve started this ACLTC mentoring service- on a Sunday, I’ll tutor anyone remotely for an hour session and then give them enough homework to get them through the week, and I’d be available via email if they have questions. That went really well, but I decided that I want to reach more people by starting a bootcamp. I think a bootcamp will also be a more effective vehicle for learning, because I did find that some students learning on Sundays weren’t as motivated to do all the homework. If they’re in a bootcamp several days a week, it forces them to keep up the learning.
Which programming languages will students master in the 12 weeks at ACLTC?
When is your first cohort? What is your maximum cohort size?
The first cohort will start June 8th. We just launched the announcement of the first course a week ago, and I’m optimistic that we’ll fill up. My maximum cohort size is 20.
How much does the course cost?
$8000 for the 12 weeks, but if you apply by March 1st, tuition is only $7000. We do not offer scholarships at this time, but tuition includes our job placement services. We’re growing a network of tech recruiters and business that are interested in our graduates. Additionally, we’ll have experts in creating resumes and optimizing LinkedIn profiles, and we’ll also help students build out their GitHub portfolios, which is hugely important for employers. That will start in the second half of the course. We’re not offering refunds to students who do find jobs, but we’re also not charging recruiters.
Are you the primary instructor?
Yes, I am.
What are you looking for in potential students?
As I say, "anyone can learn to code." That means that I’m accepting students with no previous background in code (although it’s okay if they do)! What we need is people who are very dedicated to coding.
Is there an interview process? What can a potential student expect to see in the interview process?
It starts with users filling out a very brief application on the website. Then I’ll reach out to set up an interview, which will be questions about their background to see what experience they might have, in addition to their interests and motivations, and try to understand how dedicated they are to this course. There won’t be an exam, but we’ll give them a series of screencasts to watch, which are on the site now, and ask applicants to build something simple. Most importantly, we want everyone to be on the same page.
Once a student has been accepted, what type of pre-work is required?
Yes, there will be 2-3 weeks of prework, focusing on introductory Ruby and also introductory HTML.
Can you give us a quick run-down of the curriculum?
There will be two tracks going on at the same time. One is the in-class project that I’m demoing. As I’m instructing, I’ll be building a simple app (like a blog, twitter or a Facebook clone) and students will code along with that. But additionally, each student will choose a project that’s personal to them, which they’ll be coding. I’ll meet with them individually to determine the scope of that project, and they’ll be applying the concepts that they’ve seen in the in-class app to the app that they’re building. When students get to work on their own apps, that’s highly motivating and engaging.
Your classes are primarily on nights and weekends, can you explain that choice?
The course is 22 hours per week. But we’re doing something unique in that this is not a “drop your job and come to us” bootcamp. It’s an opportunity for people in the Chicago area to keep their jobs and come learn to code. We’ll be offering classes Monday thru Thursday in the evening, and eight hours on Sunday. We will encourage whatever time they can find to dedicate to practice.
Where will you be teaching?
It will depend on class size, but it will be somewhere easily accessed by public transportation, probably downtown Chicago.
What else sets Anyone Can Learn to Code apart?
One thing we’ll be focusing on is crystal-clear instruction. Many bootcamps will tell you that their instructors fulfill the role of a guide, not a teacher. In those bootcamps, the student is teaching him or herself. That’s great for some people, but we’re focusing on quality instruction. We’ll be switching back and forth between instruction and practice, so that students can grasp it more easily.