Actualize (formerly Anyone Can Learn To Code) is a part-time, 3-month web development bootcamp and apprenticeship with cohorts in Chicago, NYC, San Francisco, and online. The program consists of three months of in-class training followed by guaranteed placement in their web development agency, The Difference Engine. The team at Actualize considers themselves educators before all else, and their commitment to educational best practices and pedagogy allows students to become web developers while keeping their day jobs. After the Sundays-and-weeknights training program, graduates spend up to four months as part-time developers with The Difference Engine building projects for clients, gaining real-world experience and creating portfolios that will be impressive to prospective employers. Actualize graduates are trained to develop the mindset and skills to transition to full-time software engineering, empowering them to launch rewarding lives and careers.
Recent Actualize News
- Curriculum Spotlight: The New Part-time Online Program at Actualize
- How to Get Work Experience Before You Graduate from Coding Bootcamp
- Apprentice Spotlight: Luke of Anyone Can Learn to Code
Recent Actualize Reviews: Rating 4.79
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It's important to consider that although there are many software engineering positions that need to be filled in the U.S, the vast majority of these jobs are for Mid to Senior level engineers. Entry-level positions are truly rare by comparison and as an ACLTC graduate you are competing for these precious positions against full-time coding bootcamp graduates who have spent 60-80 hours per week studying and job-seekers with computer science degrees.
The ACLTC is run by good people and talented teachers/developers but in the end the program only provides a basic foundation for becoming a full-stack engineer. Students who did not have any background in programming prior to the course will need months of additional study after the program concludes before they are ready to pass most technical screenings.
Another disappointment was the lack of job support. Only the last day of class is dedicated to finding a job and after graduation they send you a few links to job boards and leads but that's it. ACLTC is a small organization and their efforts outside of class are directed more towards expanding into new cities (growing the business) than with helping students find jobs.
Would I attend the course today, knowing what I know now? Hard to say because I did enjoy it, but I lean towards "no" because I was expecting to be able to land a full-time entry-level position and I don't think the program prepares you for that because of its brevity. If getting a job isn't that important to you, you just like to learn new skills, and you have a few grand to spare then I think you'll probably be happy with the program.
This was awesome! I held my full time job and attended classes on nights and weekends. Jay is a fantastic teacher and know his material very well. He did not just teach us how to code, but taught us the ins-and-outs of everything in the profession. I feel very prepared to get a job. Great atmosphere too!
I attended ACLTC in hopes to make a career pivot and become a Junior Developer. The course was well structured, covered a TON of different stuff with just enough depth to be dangerous, and the teaching staff is clearly passionate about the success of their students.
By the end of the course you have tons of new skills and tools under your belt, and you spend the last few weeks of class building a capstone project to show off your new knowledge. There's a showcase for the final projects to show them off to potential employers, which was an extremely effective way to get introduced to local companies for potential jobs and internships. The team at ACLTC works diligently to get everyone in the program into a postiiton they're happy with. I actually moved away from Chicago after attending the bootcamp and landed a Junior Developer position on my own based on my capstone project and a test exercise that I was well prepared for solely because of the quality of instruction I receieved at ACLTC.
After attending the course, you are competent for entry level developer positions, but expect to continue to learn for your entire career as a developer - it's the nature of the business!
Deciding to attend ACLTC was the best career decision I have made.
I finished up the Summer 2014 cohort and it was awesome. I finally built the soccer app I've been wanting to build and feel so empowered. I had a job interview lined up right after the camp as a result of the showcase and I'm starting an internship now! This comes highly recommended!
Attending this boot camp has been one of the best decisions I've made in my entire life. Here are the main reasons why this boot camp was perfect for me:
-I didn't have to quit my day job while attending this boot camp, so financially it made the most sense compared to other boot camps
-The classes taught the concepts very clearly so I was able to learn and code very quickly (I had about two months of experience coding prior to this boot camp and I learned so much so fast)
-The classes are taught at a good pace and class time is split up nicely. First, you learn a new concept. Then, you apply it and practice. Also, there are knowledgeable TA's that can help you in and out of class. With smaller class sizes, this was extremely valuable. I was able to meet with my teacher and the TA's a lot and it helped so much!
-The classes are also taught with a pragmatic approach, and you learn that everything has trade-offs. I really appreciated this.
-You get seminars on interviews, landing jobs, writing resume's and cover letters, and other useful things that helped me land a job
-I got to work on a capstone project that I was passionate about, which added to my portfolio to display to potential employers
-The boot camp continues to grow its connections with companies in the area. This means during the showcase at the end of the class where you present your capstone, more and more employers will be there to see what you've built, giving you a good chance at landing an interview and a job. This is how I landed my first interview and got a job offer within two weeks of ending the course!
To summarize the pro's, the boot camp was great because it made the most financial sense, the class sizes/support/curriculum was great, I was given an incredible opportunity to show my project to many employers, and ultimately it helped me land a job!
-Evening classes can be tough. Working a full day to learn entirely new subject matter can be difficult.
-There is greater competition to get in, so it will probably get harder to get accepted
-The reputation of boot camps are mixed. To some degree, boot camp graduates may have a chip on their shoulder compared to their CS degree counterparts. This can be overcome by showing solid code and KEEP LEARNING!
-The curriculum leans more towards the back-end than the front-end. Back-end developers are highly sought after, however as someone who enjoys the front end more, I wish the class spent more time on the front end. Still, I was able to land a job with a focus on front-end development.
The ACLTC boot camp is a very valuable and worthwhile opportunity to gain the confidence needed to become a full stack web developer. The instructor and assistants are patient, thorough and supportive during the entire process. I've also made a network of friends that I hope to stay in contact with for many years. This boot camp is just what one needs to boost their confidence and really go for it!
Attending Anyone Can Learn to Code has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. The staff has developed an excellent curriculum that makes learning to develop using an MVC framework a fun and rewarding experience. The coursework is intensive and challenging but never overwhelming. When making a decision on which bootcamp to choose, ACLTC has a lot going for it:
- An excellent staff that really and truly cares about your development and growth
- The ability to keep your full time job while you learn
- Job search support and guidance. They even have a full time employee dedicated to helping students get jobs after graduation
- A fun and challenging curriculum that will teach you how to build a functioning, responsive web application
As a result of ACLTC, I have now begun a new and exciting career in web development. If you are looking to make a career change into the world of development, you can do no better than Anyone Can Learn to Code. Highly recommended.
I signed up for ACLTC to completely change careers and hopefully become a web developer. ACLTC has a challenging but fun curriculum that taught me HTML, CSS, JS, Ruby, Rails and so much more. Jay the lead instructor was extremely knowledgeable about the material and so were all of the TA’s. Aside from the instruction, ACLTC also provides great job search support from helping with your resume to putting you in contact with potential employers. Because of the great instruction and support I was able to land a web developer position and couldn’t be happier with it. ACLTC ended up being a perfect fit for me and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to start a career in web development.
This was one of the the best decisions of my life. I was very nervous about it going in, but once I met our instructor (Peter) I felt a lot better about it. Some people came in to the bootcamp with more experience than others, and he really made an effort to leave no man behind, as well as provide some extra challenges for people who were more advanced.
ACLTC advertised that you don't need to do anything outside of class, which I think is not exactly true. Some people had full time jobs while others didn't, but it quickly became obvious who was putting in work outside of class. I personally needed to study a fair amout on my own to keep up, and I think most of my classmates did as well. It moves rather quickly, and a LOT is covered.
They also have excelent support for helping you with your job search, as well as helping with your resume and interview prep. After graduating I applied myself 100% to job hunting, and was able to land a job as a software developer after 2 months. I start my job next week, and I couldn't be more happy with the entire experience!
My advice in order to succeed in this program is to do work and study even outside of class. It really shows who put in the work even in the off hours.
With the amazing instruction from Mark, the helpful TA's, the fast paced curriculum, and the support from the job placement manager, I was able to land a new career as a System Administrator for a large data company working on their automation engineering team. I can't thank ACLTC enough, in just a few months time I went from working at a job I wasn't enjoying anymore, to more than doubling my salary and working in an exciting field. If you are pondering whether or not to apply, I say you should have applied already!
With the technical skills, job placement assistance and infectious passion for programming from ACLTC I was able to successfully shift careers from accounting to a dream job in web development. The program was challenging, but surmountable. The lead-instructor and TAs are incredibly knowledgeable and supportive. The subject-matter is relevant to the job-market, and the capstone project was an excellent challenge and example project for potential employers.
The class schedule and classroom environment were important distinctions for me personally, from other bootcamps (which are often all-day, all-week and more self or other student taught).
Looking back on the experience, the people (instructor, TAs, job-placement helpers, etc.) and learning the mind-set to become a programmer were the most valuable aspects of the experience. It was difficult, but also so much fun. Subsequent to the bootcamp, I continued to learn more in-depth knowledge for certain languages which I’m now utilizing in my employment, which was not unexpected, and I could not have done so without the mindset garnered at ACLTC. I would highly recommend ACLTC.
Two things set Anyone Can Learn to Code apart from other bootcamps: the time commitment and instruction. ACLTC is the only programming bootcamp I found that allowed me to keep my job while attending. That was huge. I couldn't have afforded it otherwise. And whereas most bootcamps throw you straight into the deep end of dev, providing an environment where you can teach yourself how to code with little directed instruction, ACLTC gives direct, in-class lessons alongside practical exercises to help guide you through the beginning dev world. There is so much to learn that you can easily get overwhelmed, but Jay makes sure that doesn't happen, guiding you through the technologies and tools you need, building a solid dev foundation that will take you from start to finish on any project.
Prior to ACLTC, I spent six months trying to teach myself to code. I ran through Codecademy lessons, purchased Udemy courses, and muddled my way through Michael Hartl's Rails Tutorial. I learned a little, but I lacked a clear workflow, an understanding of what even basic apps needed, and a road map to learn more. When you're just starting to learn programming, it can feel like each new tool you learn leads to five more new things to learn, and without a guiding hand you can quickly get lost. That's where I was, feeling foolish and frustrated, when I found Jay through a meetup. In three oh-so-short months, I learned far more than I had in the previous six. Now I'm humming with app ideas and the skills to build them. Where once I was proud of a single file JS calculator, now I have fully dynamic Rails web applications, my own gems and APIs, and robust Angular front-ends.
I cannot recommend ACLTC highly enough. It changed my life, taking my dev career dreams from some-day-maybe to right now, introducing me to Chicago-based dev recruiters with a portfolio of apps I am proud of. If you have any interest in starting a dev career, apply to ACLTC. You will not regret it.
Finding a good developer to help you is easy. Finding a good developer who is also a good teacher is much, much harder. Jay (the lead instructor) takes teaching seriously, and that's where his passion lies. I think most coding schools, especially bootcamps have a sink or swim attitude, where learning is your responsibility, and they're only there to push you along.
But Jay really cares. He wants you to learn, and will put in the time to make sure not only that everyone is on board, but that you're comfortable with what you're trying to learn.
I couldn't ask for a better instructor or program.
They provide quality perspectives about web development including TDD (which, again, we had hands-on exercise for), open-source, API's (tying many different apps to one back-end), and agile, often having guest speakers come in to talk about them.
I came from a background that had absolutely NOTHING to do with computers. I didn't even know what a command terminal was. Much less how to use it. Very quickly, I began to learn more and more about these concepts, and, very shortly, it became an experience that I woke up in the morning looking forward to. They break everything down into very small steps so it's a very easy transition from what you knew yesterday to what they teach you today. They also guide you on your journey. It's not like they throw a whole bunch of work at you and be like, "Think about this stuff. Do it. Then come back next week and we'll throw some more stuff at you. Bye." They show you what to do and what not to do, and why not to do what not to do. Everything is smooth sailing (not that it's not a lot of work - it is. but, all the hard work is really clear. You know what you gotta do. It's just a matter of doing it) right till the very end.
All in all, if you're looking to have a solid understanding and mastery of web development, and you're nowhere near that point right now,, go to ACLTC. I think that's such good advice so I'm going to say it again. Go to ACLTC. You won't be disappointed. It's the ultimate web-development boot camp.
What a great experience. The curriculum is broad enough to get a birds-eye view of building web applications. From the basics, through typical application constructs from scratch (like to-do lists, shopping carts, contact apps), data modeling and database building, building and consuming APIs, and exposure to the front end like working with front end frameworks and building dynamically loading pages using Angular JS. Being challenged through the final process of building an app of our own choosing was a great way to cap off and reconnect our lessons throughout the course. The instructors are exceptionally prepared, passionate, and encouraging. The TAs were great, too. Beyond the classroom, the ACLTC team did many value-adds like coaching on interviewing and helping put our resume together. Not to mention the great group of classmates I got to meet through this experience. Highly recommended!
I attended the Anyone Can Learn To Code Web Development Bootcamp (Sept. 2014-Dec.2014) and I must say it was a rewarding experience that has paid off dividends already. ACLTC provided me with the skill set and confidence necessary to become a future developer. Jay Wengrow was an extremely knowledgeable and patient teacher that converted complicated concepts into plain english. Even before finishing the cohert, I've had several interviews with several companies looking for developers with the skills I learned at ACLTC. To anyone looking for a bootcamp with the flexibilty to keep their job while training to become a web developer on a part-time basis, ACLTC is the option to choose.
I attended the Actualize coding bootcamp in early 2017. The part time structure made it perfect for me as I worked a full time job during the course of the bootcamp. After sitting in on a class and meeting an instructor it was an easy decision to apply to Actualize. The instructor did a great job keeping us engaged even late into the evening after a long week. Actualize really gives you the tools to continue your education after you have completed the course. We learned a variety of languages and frameworks, but were also encouraged to pursure our own interests and incorporate them into our personal projects, even if those technologies weren't part of the curriculum. The job assistance is also top notch. Several interviews were set up immediately after the end of the course and I received an employment offer within 6 weeks. I would highly recommend Actualize to anyone looking to attend a bootcamp, regardless of skill level.
I spent most of 2016 debating whether or not I should quit my job to pursue a bootcamp. My interest in changing careers was strong, but the financial commitment and the extended loss of full-time income I would have had to undertake held me back for a long time. I was excited to learn about Actualize in summer 2016 because it allows applicants to keep a M-F day job, since classes are all day Sundays and 6-9:30 M-Th. This schedule allowed me to keep working and pursue development. I started in fall 2016 and finished in late January 2017. Then I started the apprenticeship portion in February 2017 and completed it in June 2017. I had a job offer in development in early June 2017, and I was able to talk about my experience in the apprenticeship during the interview for that job. All in all, Actualize allowed me to develop skills that led me to my new career, without having to go without the security of my full-time job.
Before coming to Actualize, I studied Psychology and Spanish in San Diego State University, and I was on track for a career as a social service professional. I also have a knack for implementing new ideas, and startups fascinated me during that time. I didn't pay attention to it much as I was busy pursuing my degrees then. I held a Public Relations Manager position at a startup during my last semester in college, but left because I was moving back to San Francisco Bay Area.
After moving back, I was blessed with the opportunity to work as a Behavioral Therapist for children who had autism and developmental disabilities. It was a greatly rewarding job and this is where I nurtured my passion to helping others.
In addition, I did a lot of volunteer work for nonprofit organizations in San Francisco and was able to collaborate with seasoned professionals in strategizing how to outreach to corporations and get them involved. This eventually lead me to change jobs and work closely with nonprofit organizations and the clients they serve.
I was then working as a bilingual case manager/social worker. I provided intense case management for 35-40 homelessness families per caseload and helped them achieve their goals of self-sufficiency, family well-being and independence. We provided resources for shelters, employment, education, health services, childcare, transitional and permanent housing.
This position encouraged me to have a broader impact on underprivileged populations outside of the system -- to create something that can be used as a tool for social service agencies and the community in general. I wanted to create applications that accomplished this goal, which lead me to apply to Actualize.
I actually made the decision to apply right away. It was a Saturday morning, and I was looking through different bootcamps to enroll into. Actualize was the only part-time bootcamp that was being offered in San Francisco then. Because I was still working full-time and did not want to leave my job yet, I thought it was a great fit.
Actualize had a life-changing impact. Learning through Actualize helped me reach a goal: to learn how to code. With that simple accomplishment, I feel a lot more flexibility now with my career path. I see technology as a tool that you can pair with anything that you're interested in: from nonprofits, to startups, to medical, etc. I feel empowered learning these new skills.
When considering the specific features of Actualize I liked most, I definitely like that it was part-time. It gave people the opportunity to transition careers without having to lose their means of living. I also liked that our cohort had a small-size class. It really allowed the instructors and TA's to pay closer attention to your learning. Actualize can improve their program by implementing a strong career support team around the cohorts. They should also provide interview support where students can practice white boarding, technical questions, etc.
In regards to choosing Actualize over other bootcamps, when I saw the screencasts filled with humor, that jumped to me. As an educator in therapy, it was important to me that students love to learn. I felt that the founder of Actualize had the passion for teaching and giving space for fun while learning. That was key. I also checked reviews from their former students and they gave great reviews. They spoke about their values. A bootcamp with values is also very important.
I believe that every bootcamp is different and yes -- everyone has a different learning style. If you have a full-time job and need to keep it while you're transitioning careers, I would definitely recommend Actualize. If you are well supported and want to learn to code, I'd still recommend Actualize along with other options.
Thanks to Actualize, I'm now a software engineer.
And I'm not the only one. Everyone in my cohort who went for a new job got one. And that is pretty much the case in every cohort before and after mine as well.
I have so many good things to say about the bootcamp and the company as a whole, that I don't know where to start. I'll explain my background and how I found/decided on Actualize, and then break my review down into four categories: Instructors, Curriculum, career support, and community.
Before attending Actualize, I had a varied educational background. I got my undergraduate in Psychology and was in a masters program for Speech Language Pathology. During grad school, I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in software engineering instead of Speech therapy, and by chance, I heard about programming bootcamps from a friend of a friend. I researched a few different bootcamps that I found on Switchup.org's website and applied to a few of them. The process of applying to Actualize was great - the CEO, Jay Wengrow, interviewed me himself and invited me to tour the space. I observed Josh, one of the two lead instructors, and knew right away that I wanted to attend Actualize (then known as Anyone Can Learn to Code). I went to one of their showcases and talked to the other lead instructor, Peter, their admissions advisor, and some alumni that were there. I knew in my heart that Actualize had the highest quality education and best value of all the bootcamps I looked into in Chicago. And I was right. It was the best decision I've ever made.
The instructors at Actualize bootcamp are the absolute best. I had Peter as an instructor, but also worked a lot with Josh after graduating. They're both really funny and are great teachers. They had teaching experience before Actualize, and are both brilliant coders. Josh regularly stays very late after class to help his students to understand the material because he's highly dedicated to his students' learning. They're both very responsive to messages and make themselves available for office hours.
The way the bootcamp is structured is: about one month of online prework, three months of in-class instruction, a showcase where you show your capstone project to potential employers, and at least one month of apprenticeship, as well as white-boarding, lessons on computer-science fundamentals, and job-training. Class takes place in the evenings and on Sunday all day so that you can keep your full-time job, and the apprenticeship is where you work with actual clients to build their apps and websites. NO other bootcamp in Chicago does this. It's what makes Actualize so unique. Your capstone is individual, unlike some other bootcamps which have group capstone projects. Individual capstone projects are awesome because potential employers know that everything in your project was built by you.
We learned how to make apps from scratch and add features to them. And we were constantly reminded to push our apps to github as we developed them, so when I graduated, I already had a large amount of work on github to show employers.
Actualize teaches programming fundamentals that can be applied to any language. Many of my classmates and also previous alumni got jobs coding in languages we never used in class, such as Swift and Java. That's because Actualize does an amazing job of preparing you to be an actual developer. You're taught how to get unstuck when you get errors in your code, and you're taught how to learn new technologies on your own. For example, we learned how to read documentation.
And you're not just left on your own after graduation. They have a dedicated career-management director, Taylor Dorsett, who has the #1 most-viewed profile in Chicago; he was one of the best recruiters in the country, so Actualize hired him to ensure that Actualize graduates are able to find jobs right out of bootcamp. After graduation, you'll get weekly trainings from him and Jay Wengrow, the CEO, to learn how to network, ace interviews, do whiteboarding exercises, and pass coding challenges. The value you will get from all of this training is worth the tuition in itself. Actually, the increase in my salary from finding a job in software engineering has already paid for my tuition.
I have made friends for life because of the awesome people I met at Actualize. They are now the people I spend the most time with. We grill together, have game nights all the time, and still participate in Actualize events and attend all of the showcases. It's a wonderful community of like-minded people who are all contributing positively to the tech community in Chicago. We attend meetups and continue to learn new technologies, either through our new jobs, or for our side projects. The network that Actualize provides is unbeatable. It not only changed my life, but it's changed my future. I would recommend Actualize to anyone interested in a career in tech. You will not regret it.
Anyone Can Learn To Code was a great experience for me. I found a software engineering job almost immediately after graduating.
The structure of the course, at the moment, is a few week period of pre-work with video lectures, office hours, and remote work. The remainder of the course is in person at nights. This was very helpful for me, as it allowed me to continue my day job. At the end of the program, there is a showcase for the personal capstone projects that we started work on in the middle of the course. Following the program, there is a multiple week apprenticeship program.
I came from an unrelated work background, but had taken some Computer Science courses in College. I ended up learning a lot from the course. The teaching staff was excellent and knowledgable and are directly responsible for this fact. They are always willing to help and are all around friendly people. The pacing of the course was just about right as well.
Anyone Can Learn To Code is directly responsible for my job placement. I landed an interview during the showcase with a small start up located in downtown San Francisco. I was hired a couple of weeks after. Two of my classmates were landed software development gigs within a couple of months from the course ending (three students of eleven).
I do have some concerns with how things were managed after the program ended however. The recruiting officer who is supposed to have connections within the industry was laid off during my time there. While they are actively looking to fill his role with a suitable candidate, this does not help my classmates who are still looking for work.
Additionally, the apprenticeship could use more structure. It is a new program for the school, and kinks are still being worked out of the system. The class is separated into groups, where they work alongside one another & a mentor (in our case a professional software dev & TA). Some of us are given additional roles, like project manager for example. I feel that while this provides exposure to other areas in the software development cycle, these are not the skills that we came to learn. It takes away from the time and effort of the actual development work. However, I do have to say that the apprenticeship is overall very helpful. Working in a team environment is very different from the work we did in class, and I have learned a lot from the few weeks I've spent with the apprenticeship.
Overall, I enjoyed my time at Anyone Can Learn To Code. I always looked forward to class, despite it being tough. I learned a lot, and I was able to find a job because of it.
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.
The course is tough, the pace is grueling, and the material...well if you are a newbie like I was, its all gibberish. The team at ACLTC realize this, and they do their best to make everything digestible. Mark Richardson and most of the other staff are teachers first, developers second, which sounds backwards but is very important.
These folks describe difficult concepts in ways that make sense, and their skills are only getting more honed with each class. I loved the TA's, Jay is the coolest CEO ever, and Mark, can't say enough about him. I would give the instructors a 6 if possible. The people made this course, and I would not have wanted to go anywhere else for my coding experience. I got a job 2 weeks after the course ended, so it works! Its all about what you put into it, and this program is great for the flexibility and the money.
Our latest on Actualize
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.