Founded in 2012 by Ned Ruggeri and Kush Patel, App Academy is an immersive 12-week Ruby-focused web development course with campuses in San Francisco and New York City. Students interested in this intense program should expect to put in 90-100 hours per week. Upon graduation, students will have a portfolio of real-world projects to show to prospective employers. On the last day of the program, App Academy hosts an interview day to match employers with prospective candidates.
Perhaps the most interesting part of App Academy is their innovative deferred payment plan. Students pay a $5,000 deposit, which is refundable provided they attend class and stay on task. Students are only required to pay a placement fee if they secure a job upon graduation. In some cases, students may be able to pay a lower deposit in exchange for a higher placement fee.
Interested applicants should expect to submit an application, complete 1 or 2 coding challenges, complete an interview and receive an admission decision two days after the interview. Prospective applicants can also enroll in App Academy Tutoring to improve their understanding of Ruby concepts.
Recent App Academy News
- Episode 10: January 2017 News Roundup + Podcast
- Coding Bootcamp Prep Programs: The Ultimate Guide
- Coding Bootcamp Cost Comparison: Full Stack Immersives
Recent App Academy Reviews: Rating 4.64
Full Stack Web Development
- Contingency Fee
- 18% of year 1 salary post completion if tuition is deferred
- Payment Plan
- $15,000 payment plan available
- $5,000 if placed through the school's job placement program (if tuition is deferred)
- Minimum Skill Level
- Basic computer knowledge
- Placement Test
Bootcamp Prep (San Francisco)
New York City
Full Stack Web Development
- Contingency Fee
- 18% of year 1 salary post completion if tuition is deferred
- Payment Plan
- $15,000 payment plan available
- $5,000 if placed through the school's job placement program (if tuition is deferred)
- Minimum Skill Level
- Basic computer knowledge
- Placement Test
Bootcamp Prep (New York City)
App Academy Reviews
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I come from a background working as a QA Engineer in the kind of start-up I believe App Academy prepares you to develop for. The day-to-day curriculum is set up in such a way that students who are brand new to the material have a manageable and well thought out roadmap, and people who are familiar with the concepts can explore more in depth material after finishing their daily tasks. In this way I believe that the curriculum is beautifully geared towards giving students the full reward of their hard work and providing people who have a good work ethic and genuine interest in technology all of the tools they need to succeed.
The career counseling is also extremely valuable for prospective job seekers. The amount of emphasis put on knowing the material well enough to have conversations about it, as well as interviewing techniques to set you apart from other bootcampers, is critical to opening up opportunities for jobs that are denied graduates of other bootcamps. I have seen graduates from coder-mills come out of their bootcamps and spend 2-3x longer than the average App Academy graduate before finding employment, due to the fact that they were not set up for success.
In summary, I'd recommend App Academy for people who are not only capable of working hard, but are extremely passionate about software engineering/app development. It is an unbelievably intensive curriculum where doing the minimum should not be enough to satisfy you, because you don't attend this bootcamp with the expectation of getting a degree or good grades, you do it out of a love and passion for the trade you're training for.
Among the sea of bootcamps, most are coder mills that don't teach their students how to problem solve or think critically. App Academy is different and it provides a perfect platform for motivated, smart, and driven people who will take the intense program by the horns and get the most out of it.
I'm a little over a month out of the program and I received three job offers with salaries I never dreamed I'd be making, and I can confidently say that I put in the work to get these offers, with the great curriculum and instruction at App Academy.
While this bootcamp, like almost all others, focuses on a specific tech stack, they emphasize problem-solving and provide a platform for those who want a deeper dive into CS. Showing up, doing the projects and homework, and applying for jobs will help you get a job. But if you want to get a stellar job, you have to have the grit to get through the difficulty of the problem, often with a lot of self-motivation to learn more on the side.
I had some experience with coding (nothing professional), so it wasn't a steep learning curve, but I still felt challenged every day and it all fell into place during the job search when I started to do well at interviews.
This program is NOT for you if you're expecting a magic bullet or if you think just graduating will land you a job. It's hard work, but the rewards are there for those who will put in the time.
I am now celebrating my one year anniversary as a software developer and this would not have been possible without App Academy. After four years in a field that was not everything I expected it to be, I decided that I wanted to make a change; and I assume since you are reading this review, you are thinking the same thing. Once I decided that I was invested in making this transition, and a bootcamp was the best way for me to make the change, I began to compare various programs and the main thing that differed App Academy from the others was their payment plan. Due to the time requirements for all these programs (80+ hours a week) it is pretty unrealistic to expect to keep any resemblance of a job/income and living in NYC without one is pretty tough to do. App Academy helps remedy this by not requiring any payment (other than a security deposit) until you land that first job. Not only did this make living in an expensive city with no job more do-able but also gives them a "horse in the race” when you start your job hunt. This includes continuous interview prep of white boarding, alumni Q&A, review/critique of your portfolio (resume, cover letter, GitHub/coding projects, personal website, and LinkedIn profile) as well as an in-house job fair at the end of your cohort.
TL:DR - App Academy offers a comparable stack/curriculum to other bootcamps with everything you need to succeed if you are really 100% committed to the program. It WILL be 80+ hours a week to get by and pass their weekly progress exams and 100+ if you want to really excel at everything. That being said, I would not be at my current company without it and the payment plan they offer allowed me to even think this transition would be possible.
App Academy is highly recommended! They provided me with the tools I needed to build full-stack web applications that are on par with the industry standard. I learned what it's like to work alongside people of varying skillsets and alone, which further prepared me for a job. I feel fully confident that App Academy will result in landing me a quality job with a great tech company.
App Academy is difficult. Extremely difficult. You will be challenged quite possibly more than you ever have been before. You will fail, often. All of that being said, it is one of the best educations in the field given the timeframe you go through it and if you have the discipline and gumption to see it through. I went from someone with no prior coding experience to one of the top students in my class, able to make a fully functional (and if I say so myself, pretty damn cool) web app in the span of two weeks: from initial conceptualization to adding in final easter eggs. App Academy gave me the tools to accomplish this through both it's curriculum and it's great support network of both instructors and fellow students. We're all in the same boat and eager to help each other out where we can. If you can put three months of your life aside for App Academy, and only App Academy, you will succeed.
I thought that program was great overall. It provides directed learning, and many examples to draw from for understanding and study purposes. Much of the learning is done during paired programming and on your own in homework or your own projects. Be prepared to study a lot and focus intensely. I would have liked to have seen more use of popular libraries into the curriculum, but I suppose it makes sense to cover the fundamentals that would prepare one to learn any libraries on the job. I would highly recommend the program; it more than satisfactorily gives you the skills you need to get a job.
I enjoyed my time at App Academy and would recommend it to anyone considering a career in software development. As long as you are willing to put in the hours & effort, the outcome will be worth the stress. It sets you up with the skills to get a job as a developer, and since you don't pay until you're employed, the job assistance they offer at the end of the program is pretty good. I finished the course in the fall of 2015 and got a job within a few weeks, so it definitely works!
My cohort finished about a year ago, and everyone I've spoken with is super happy with the jobs they got afterward. I would recommend this bootcamp to anyone who is a self-starter. I was self-taught for over a year before the course started and that helped me out a lot. Even though we covered nearly everything I'd taught myself in the first 3 weeks, I came in with the confidence that this was something I would want to do as a career. At a/A there are no grades, nobody holding your hand or giving you constant praise. The staff is supportive of course, but they are there to teach you the skills and traits to become great at this trade, and that includes self-sufficiency.
I was planning to go to grad school for comp sci before my friend introduced me to App Academy. I was skeptical at first of programming bootcamps, but App Academy seemed really legit so I gave it a shot. Coming from a programming background, I was surprised by how challenging and how much I learned in just the first week. The curriculum is very challenging and keeps you on your toes the whole way through. By pairing with a new student every day, you tend to pick up in each other's good programming practices. At the end of the program you know how to create a website from the ground up and build it well. The curriculum is constantly evolving as new web frameworks and best practices emerge, and as an alumni I still have access to all the materials. App Academy turbo charged my career in the best and most competitive city in the world. App Academy was the best decision of my life.
App Academy is definitely not for the faint of heart- from the application process, to the prep work, to the course itself and ultimately the job search, you will be challenged and pushed to your limit. That being said, I met some of the most intelligent people I've ever known here (my classmates) who were supportive and helpful, and the curriculum is top-notch. In the end, it took me exactly one month after graduation to find a job, and I am loving my new career. If you want to make a change, a/A is the place to do it.
This program will become your life for 3 months. It's really immersive. But it does it right. The instructors are enthusiastic and intelligent, the curriculum is amazing, and the community is an ideal catalyst. You not only learn today's top tech, but you learn how to keep up with the times so that you can learn tomorrow's tech. Everyone looks back and is in awe of how much he/she has learned in just one season.
App Academy is super tough -- but also super effective. I graduated in April 2016 and landed my first dev job in under a month.
The pros: This course really goes in-depth. I had taken a lot of classes before (introductory classes to one language or another, some online tutorials to front-end, etc) but anything that dove into the real nuts and bolts of how websites and apps go together left me with more questions than answers. App Academy forces you to dig into the subject matter and come out with the tools to move forward. You'll be surrounded by people as passionate about learning as you are, and the TAs are always on-hand to get you past whatever is blocking your understanding. If you can graduate from a/A, you can get a job in development (and succeed in it!)
The cons: This course is not a fun time. App Academy is grueling and, frankly, pretty miserable most of the time. If doing all code every day sounds like a negative, this might not be the course for you. If you aren't excited enough about code to put your life on hold for 12 weeks, you should probably look for a different bootcamp. Most people have to put in a lot of hours to keep up with the curriculum, and if you fall behind -- you're out.
That being said: if you aren't discouraged by the workload -- go for it. The curriculum is rock-solid, the instructors are committed to helping you succeed, and the statistics are there to prove it. The fact that I only had to pay after getting hired made this bootcamp affordable for me when others weren't, and the job-hunting portion of the curriculum is thorough and effective. If you're looking to change your career path and can take 12 weeks to do nothing but write code (and I do mean nothing), this is a sure bet.
I immigrated from China to US recently and I was thinking make a choice between a regular CS degree and App academy from one of my friends' suggestion. App academy gives me an opportunity that I never could have in China to pursue my passion in programming and now I am working in the field I love.
It is best learning experience I have ever had. The TAs are very helpful and knowledgable and the students are very smart that I learned a lot from the people I worked with.
App Academy was definitely a life changing experience. And I'm glad it was my first real exposure to code. But honestly having gone through several Udacity courses and Flatiron's immersive, it was the least helpful in me acquiring my position.
The curriculum seemed oversimplified in comparison to the learning platforms I approached (including the other boot camp). But in all fairness. App academy will work for you if you've really struggled with programming before. The resources are all there to help you succeed. As long as you use them.
My only complaint is with job placement. Although you do get an opportunity to attend the job fair, if you're not perfectly prepared to deal with the pressures of technical interviewing right away, it seems like nobody believes in you afterwards.
Again, it is hard but it is also very rewarding. If you dedicate your best effort into this program, you should not fail.
I signed up in July 2016 for the online bootcamp. The initial lessons were easy to grasp but as the course progressed I could not keep up.
The latter lessons were confusing and too fast-paced. I have a biology degree and could barely understand what the instructors were talking about.
I tried the online tutoring, but in the time alloted, only got 1 or 2 questons answered. In addition to having the tutor flirting with me.
By November 2016, I had tried the mock interview twice, and failed miserably. I reached out to them in December 2016, in regards to retaking the course in person. I was even willing to pay another $2000. They said they would reach back to me, and to this day I have never received a reply....
I am dissapointed I spent $2000, in good faith, and did not even get a response. They took my money and left me to my own devices, essentially.
I would not recommend the bootcamp to anyone. It was a very negative experience overall, and one of the most unprofessional situations I have encountered in my adult life.
I have since given up becoming a software engineer, due to feeling duped and mislead, and will likely never pursue it again. I am now leery of anything promising such and such, but then asking for thousands of dollars upfront.
Anyone not already in Computer Programing, save your time and money and learn on your own or go to an actual university!
App academy creates a pretty miserable culture in which all of the students are afraid of getting kicked out. I was substantially anxious every single day of this program, and it honestly did not make me more productive. In addition to high pressure assessments, they have an absurd and unnecessary strike system that just adds a little extra daily misery to your life. The physical space of their New York location is overcrowded, and they seem to have not adjusted their teaching style while recently doubling their cohort size. When you are in the project phase of the curriculum, a new cohort will have started, and almost all of the instructors' attention will be on the new cohort, so plenty of students finish the exhausting curriculum only to find that they aren't even satisfied with the portfolio projects that will be central to their job hunt.
I learned a lot, but as someone who has taught at the college level before, I know that there is no justification for treating students in this manner. It doesn't improve results. It brings out bad student behavior, and when combined with all of the social forces already shaping the tech industry, contributes to creating a hostile environment for women and minorities.
I think that their tuition model helps them justify treating their students poorly. Everyone thinks at first "App Academy isn't charging me tuition, so I'm lucky to be here no matter what!" But then you rememer that you paid a $5k deposit, and you will eventually pay many thousands more, and that maybe, just maybe, we should expect to be treated like humans by educational institutions.
The curriculum here really pushes you. There is a good blend of core CS concepts with practical applications. The daily flow involves pair programming, working on one- or two-day projects, starting off with console games and moving into web-based applications. The full-stack capstone project really pushes you to synthesize everything you have learned and present it in a visually appealing way. There is a good spirit of camaraderie among the students and the TA's are ready to help and share their experience. I sometimes thought I wouldn't be able to do it, but by the end, I found myself succeeding beyond my own expectations.
App Academy doesn't teach you anything you couldn't learn on your own, and you will come out not knowing a lot. However, if you're like me and you TRIED to learn it all on your own but found yourself struggling to deal with what to go deeper into and what to gloss over a little quicker, app academy is for you. I constantly found myself stuck in my programming journey because I would feel like my knowledge was never complete on any one thing. App academy's fast pace forces you through the lesser topics while still making sure you know enough to move on. At the end of it you may feel like you still don't know anything but if I've learned anything while I was here it's that just because something has become easy for you doesn't mean that it's easy in general.
App Academy undoubtedly has a solid coding curriculum, and it's clear that the staff has a finger on the pulse of the industry to keep the curriculum updated. That does result in parts of the curriculum seeming unfinished, but I think that's a tradeoff I'm happy to make. The pair programming approach to learning was actually way more enjoyable than anticipated. It also provides motivation and keeps you accountable to the work. Job Search curriculum also seems to be solid, with an Algorithms mini-course. I've yet to apply to jobs so I can't speak for how it all stacks up in the industry.
The program seems to be struggling with upkeeping the inclusive culture they advertise, however. One of my female cohortmates left due to the casual sexism and racism she faced. I've definitely felt similarly as a female. There have been more serious offences in the past year. A lot of the effort from a/A seem to be pretty superficial, with mimimial follow-up after the diversity training type lecture the first week. With this course being mainly centered around pair programming (a pretty intimate experience) your experience is pretty dependent on the relationship you build with pairs.
On the whole, I've learned way more in the last 9 weeks than I possibly could have on my own. Expect a bit of disorganization on the way, but also expect to be surrounded by some of the brightest people you've encountered. The TAs and Staff are intelligent and pationate about your success. Most cohortmates have also been aweome, with most willing to put down what they're working on to answer your question or provide debugging assistance.
App academy was worth all the stress and hardwork I have put in. Having not completed my undergraduate degree, making the decision to drop everything and sign up was difficult. However upon day 1 I have not looked back and am excited for what is to come. The staff was nothing short of spectacular. They are around constantly to help you understand concepts you WILL struggle with just because of the pace you are learning information at. My favorite part of the program would have to be the constant hands on experience of coding with a different partner everyday. Being able to collaberate and experience how another mind solves a problem is rare and app academy implements it so well. If you get the chance to do something really special you have to take that opportunity, and this is it!
* Accountability through tests, peers, and assignments causes you to code a ton during the bootcamp
* Questions are answered quickly by TA's which speeds up learning process
* Pair programing with the cohort allows you to meet and see the thinking process of many smart people
* Great connections and support during job search
* Location is great in SF with a nice view
* Learn multiple languages and technologies
* Not much freedom in the curriculum - assignments are same for everyone
* Forced to apply to X number of companies of week after applying
* Emphasizes specific knowledge of Ruby on Rails and React over more general full stack knowledge
Enjoyed the program, job search took a little longer than I hoped, but ended with a job at one of my top choices =)
App Academy was crucial to me getting my start. I'd been exploring coding for awhile but App Academy put the fire under me to really get moving. Yes, the pace is fast. Yes, it is possible to fall behind. Yes, it is very stressful and difficult. However, I found that it push me forward when otherwise I would have lingered. There were plenty of topics that I wish I could have spent more time on, but I became a capable engineer within a few months and you can go back and solidify those sections whenever. Mostly, what sold me was the pricing structure. They are invested in you, which helped with my own confidence level and meant they would really help me find a job. 4/5 because I would have liked to see more daily projects to completion rather than switching contexts, as well as a broader introduction to all the materials in the prepwork given how fast we breezed by them in the curriculum.
App Academy has been a wild ride, and I only just finished Week 9. I know the purpose of App Academy was to find a job, but I felt like I got so much more. While I am shooting for a job, and I do believe I won’t have any issues finding one, I felt that the experiences and knowledge I’ve gained from the previous “9” weeks at App Academy have been so much more valuable. There’s quotations there because there was significant prep work before starting the program.
The past nine weeks have absolutely flown by. I’ve learned Ruby on Rails, jQuery, SQL, HTML, CSS, React.js, Redux and so much more. I’ve gotten the opportunity to build a full-stack, single-page web application from scratch with as little or as much guidance as I needed, and this, in and of itself was the best part of the program.
I would highly recommend App Academy to everyone who wants to start with a new and rewarding career. And I’ll highly recommend App Academy even more when I get a job. But for the value I just received in 9 weeks, it’s worth what they charge.
Believe the hype. I had read up a LOT on App Academy and other boot camps and ended up putting all my eggs in on basket - App Academy - it was the right basket!
I figured that out at the end of the day 1. They really had their act together right off the bat. From there, I would just continue to be impressed at how well designed and executed the curriculum delivery was. It comes at you fast and furious and you pretty much have no life, but the immersion (plus very well timed concept reinforcements) starts to pay dividends quickly.
You are moving at a very fast clip from topic to topic, first doing mostly pair programming single-day projects that focus on one or two competencies at a time, but then you're doing more comprehensive multi-day projects where if you haven't been keeping up, you're spending a lot of time in your Evernote or on Stack Overflow. Finally, you're on your own doing full stack and it's then you realize just how much you've learned. No more training wheels.
Ultimately you're exposed to just about the whole breadth of the field, enough to know where to start when you want to go deep and leverage a different technology. You know how to team problem solve, pair program, and along the way get a firm grasp on algorithms, data structures, databases, and different architectural frameworks to tackle whatever comes next.
Staff is TOP NOTCH. Culture (SF campus at least) is exceptional. Support is fantastic. Entry process does have a lot of wickets, interviews, tests, etc. but stick with it, it's worth it.
Our latest on App Academy
Welcome to the January 2017 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month, we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. This month we applaud initiatives that bring technology to underserved communities, we look at employment trends, and new coding schools and campuses. Plus, we hear a funny story about an honest taxi driver. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
Many competitive coding bootcamps require a certain level of coding knowledge or background in order to be accepted into their programs- whether they’re looking for past experience on your resume or require that you pass a coding challenge. For a beginner, it can be tough to get the experience that a selective bootcamp looks for in the application process. There are many ways to learn basic coding (including teaching yourself) but if you want to make sure you’re covering the right material and quickly, then a bootcamp prep program may be for you.Continue Reading →
(updated August 2016)
At Course Report, we field a lot of questions about coding bootcamp cost. From students looking for free coding bootcamps to those wondering if an $18,000 bootcamp is worth it, we understand that cost is important to future bootcampers! While the average full-time programming bootcamp in the US costs $11,451, bootcamp tuition can range from $5,000 to $21,000. So how do you decide what to budget for? Today, we're breaking down the costs of several popular coding bootcamps.Continue Reading →
Getting into an elite coding bootcamp is hard. You take a bunch of coding tests and technical interviews and it’s easy to get stressed out during the process. Top coding schools are also extremely selective. App Academy (where I'm an instructor) has an acceptance rate of 3% - that’s lower than Harvard.Continue Reading →
We explore the differences and similarities between App Academy and Flatiron School, two of the best coding bootcamps in the US. What type of student is each bootcamp best for? What's the culture like at each school? How does job placement compare? All of these questions answered and more!Continue Reading →
Thinking about applying to App Academy? With locations in San Francisco and New York, and their well-known option of deferred payment (until you get a job), App Academy is a great option for future bootcampers. But the App Academy acceptance rate is less than 5%- so applicants need to ace the coding challenges to be admitted. We're covering the App Academy interview and application process with input from our Q&As with App Academy alumni and founder, Kush Patel.
App Academy's Advice:
From founder Kush Patel:
"We are cool with complete beginners, and have seen complete beginners be extremely successful in the course, and go on to work for fantastic companies and make crazy salaries. Our application process is customized to the applicant. If someone comes to us with no experience, we’ll assign them some introductory exercises and give them a coding test that would be appropriate for them. We do multiple coding tests and interviews to really get a sense of the applicant." -Kush Patel, Founder
What to Expect during the App Academy Interview:
From their website:
The application process consists of a few steps. We try to customize the process for every candidate, but broadly it looks as follows:
- You submit an application.
- Within two days, we mail you a coding exercise (with resources to prepare).
- You complete the coding exercise when you're ready.
- You may be asked to complete a second coding exercise.
- We interview you.
- Within two days, we make a decision.
The most important parts of our process are the coding exercises and a live coding exercise we do together during the interview. We accept a very high percentage of applicants who do well on these exercises. For applicants who are new to programming, we provide materials to bring them up to speed and teach them what they need to know to complete our exercises.
The technical interview consists of one guaranteed coding challenge and a second coding test if App Academy decides you're ready to move forward. "After filling out the application, I received an invitation for a coding assessment. They sent me a second assessment shortly after I completed the first one, followed by a 15-question problem set. I spent about 20 hours on those exercises. I then had two live coding exercises." says Sarah Michaelson, an App Academy Alum.
"There were a couple of coding challenges which they provided prep material to study for." -TJ, alumni
Remember that in a code school interview, you should be asking a ton of questions too! Here are 10 questions we suggest asking in a coding bootcamp interview.
"The second [coding challenge] included a mini-interview with Kush, the founder of App Academy." -Sarah
"After the coding challenges I went on to interview with one of the cofounders and had a final live coding challenge. We did all of that over Skype." -TJ
How to Prepare for App Academy Interviews:
The App Academy Coding Challenge should be no mystery to applicants, because App Academy publishes all of their Coding Challenges and Prep Work on Github! The more prep work you can complete before starting the application, the better (it's unclear if rejected applicants can re-apply, but as a precaution, you should not expect a second chance). Start Here:
From App Academy students:
"After I applied, App Academy sent me a list of resources to help me prepare for the first coding challenge. They suggested Codecademy and Ruby Monk, but I also searched for beginning Ruby tutorials. There’s a lot of good material out there." -Sarah, Alum
"I was used to the concepts already because I had been teaching myself. I studied to program video games at DigiPen so when I dropped out, I continued coding for fun. I made lots of very simple games like Bejeweled and little shoot-em-ups." -TJ, Alum
- According to Sarah, an App Academy alum, the entire application process, from start-to-acceptance, took about 2 months.
- App Academy says that you'll have a decision within 2 days of the final interview, but this seems to vary.
- Coding Challenges are timed- you have up to 45 minutes to complete these.
This Wednesday, our friends at LiquidTalent hosted a spectacular panel of women who discussed their experience at New York coding bootcamps and transitioning into their first jobs. Course Report was lucky to moderate the panel- here are 12 things we learned from this rockstar panel of lady developers!Continue Reading →
While programming bootcamps can offer a high return on investment, the average tuition at code school is ~$10,000, which is no small sacrifice. Fortunately, a number of not-for-profit and well-organized programs are able to offer free coding bootcamps. Some of these bootcamps are funded by placement and referral fees; others are fueled by community support and volunteers. Expect rigorous application processes and competitively low acceptance rates, but for the right applicants, there is so much to gain at these free coding bootcamps.Continue Reading →
App Academy graduate Sarah Michaelson had a degree in Pre-Medical Nutrition Science before realizing that coding was in her future. After completing the 3-month bootcamp, Sarah got a job at Amplify through the alumni network, and talks to Course Report about challenging herself at App Academy, using their job prep and placement services, and settling into her Dev-Ops position at Amplify.
Tell us what you up to before you joined App Academy?
Before I started App Academy, I was working in marketing promotions - everything from serving beer at motorcycle races to costume acting at children’s events to demoing kitchen appliances at department stores. I also have a BS in Pre-Medical Nutrition Science from Purdue University, and I worked as a weight loss consultant for a little over a year.
Did you take any computer science classes during your undergrad?
I took one CS class as a graduation requirement. We learned a little bit of computer history and HTML.
When did you start thinking about web development as a career?
My two physicist roommates started looking for jobs as data scientists. They’d talk for hours on end about algorithms and natural language processing. I thought it was really cool and I wanted to participate, but I just didn’t know where to begin. I was irrationally intimidated by it.
How did you come across App Academy?
My roommates knew I wanted to learn to code, so one of them sent me a link to App Academy. I thought I couldn’t do it, but I saved the link to my Evernote account. Three or four months later, an ad popped up on my Facebook feed, I decided I was ready to give it a shot.
Did you use online resources or read books to prepare?
After I applied, App Academy sent me a list of resources to help me prepare for the first coding challenge. They suggested Codecademy and Ruby Monk, but I also searched for beginning Ruby tutorials. There’s a lot of good material out there.
Did you look at other bootcamps or did you only apply to App Academy?
I looked at other bootcamps, but I App Academy was my first choice because of their business model. I even said that to Kush (the founder of App Academy) during my final interview.
What was the App Academy application process like for you?
My application process was pretty long, but I think it’s different for everyone. After filling out the application, I received an invitation for a coding assessment. They sent me a second assessment shortly after I completed the first one, followed by a 15-question problem set. I spent about 20 hours on those exercises. I then had two live coding exercises. The second one included a mini-interview with Kush, the founder of App Academy. From start to finish, it took almost two months.
How many people were in your cohort?
There were 22 people when we started. One person dropped out on the first day, but everyone else finished the program.
Did you feel like it was a diverse cohort in terms of age, gender and race?
There were two women in the class so in terms of gender it wasn’t diverse. I was 29 and I was the oldest person in the cohort. Other cohorts had people in their 30’s, some people had kids.
There were different racial backgrounds and some international students. Overall, it wasn’t representative of the population at large, but I don’t think anyone ever felt excluded or uncomfortable or unwelcome.
Was there some overlap between different cohorts?
There was a 3-week overlap. The last 3 weeks of the program are dedicated to getting us hired. My cohort started during the previous cohort’s hiring phase.
Did your cohort start with pretty similar skill levels and technical backgrounds?
I feel like most people in my cohort had little or no technical background like myself. Before starting the class, we all did the completed tutorials, we all had the same “pre-flight assignment,” which gave us the same foundation.
How many instructors did you have for your cohort?
Jonathan, the lead instructor, was nurturing as a mentor, passionate about teaching, and cared very much about each and every one of us. We also had two TAs - Sid and Tommy. They were former students, and since they had been in our position not too long ago, they could relate to us really well. They pointed us in the right direction without just handing us the answers, which was great. I don't know if they still do this, but at the time, it was common for a/A to hire former students as TAs.
What did a typical App Academy day look like for you?
The night before class, we had a reading assignment to prep us for the next day’s project. In the morning, you’d be randomly assigned to a workstation with another student and spend the day pair programming and figuring out how to accomplish the tasks outlined in the project. If you got blocked or stuck, you would call one of the TAs or Jonathan over to help. We had brief lectures daily, but never more than an hour; this program was very hands-on. After class officially ended, we sometimes would stay to tie up loose ends on the project. At night, we’d do our reading assignments, and start the whole process over again.
Were the projects always assigned or did you get to create your own projects?
The first 7 or 8 weeks was assigned projects, but we did have a capstone project where we pitched our ideas. The goal was to clone another website, like Facebook, Reddit, or Twitter.
Can you tell us about your capstone project? What did you build?
I made a clone of My Fitness Pal. It was a Rails app with some CSS and HTML for the styling. I pulled the real USDA food database which has over 10,000 very poorly formatted entries, so I had to write a script to parse the data. I spent a lot of time on the back-end work.
Did you have assessments or exams during the course?
We had weekly assessments on everything covered during the previous week. App Academy would write specs and you had to write code to make the test pass. Test-driven development is a common practice at a lot of companies, so the exam format was a good simulation of what you might experience while working.
How many hours would you say you spent on App Academy?
Class was 9am to 6pm and we had daily reading assignments. There were plenty of times where I kept working till 7 or 8 then I would wake up at 5 or 6 in the morning to do the readings, so I guess I spent about 12 hours per day coding or studying on weekdays.
Is there anything you would change about App Academy??
I wish I had learned about the typical workflow for a company. “Agile” and “Scrum” and “Standup” are buzzwords in the industry and I didn’t learn about any of that at the time, so it was a little bit of a disadvantage when I was talking to recruiters.
Did your class do a lot of job prep like practice interviews or resume building?
After we finished our Capstone projects, we went through a 3-week hiring bootcamp. We received a lot of coaching about lectures about how to land an interview, what to put on your resume, and what you’re worth. We also had a hiring day to showcase our capstone projects. From the technical side, I never met a technical interview that I felt like I couldn’t handle because we did so many white board exercises. I felt really prepared.
Did App Academy support alumni in their job search?
Yes, we had a job tracker which contained a list of thousands of tech companies in both the New York and San Francisco Bay area. Alums who were hired by those companies often became points of contact for new grads.
Does App Academy have employer partnerships or a hiring network?
App Academy has informal relationships with many companies who want to continue hiring App Academy grads. It’s like having a degree from Harvard - people recognize the name and they want you to work for them.
Where are you working now?
I’m a DevOps engineer at Amplify. We handle tasks related to deployment, spinning up environments, automated testing, and continuous integration. The team I’m on is called Developer Services, and we build tools to make the lives of developers easier.
How did you get that position at Amplify?
Networking is so important. One of the alums who works at Amplify picked up my resume, and that’s how I landed an interview. After accepting their job offer, I worked as a Software Engineer in Test (which is a QA-like role) for about 8 months before moving to the DevOps team.
How long did it take you to get hired?
It was really fast - I finished the program at the end of March and signed my agreement in mid-April.
Do you feel like you have the support at Amplify to help you ramp up and keep growing?
Oh, absolutely. They’re incredibly supportive and flexible. Pair programming is really important at Amplify, so I have a lot of opportunities to pair with talented senior engineers. I also have a lot of autonomy. That’s how I moved from the developer track to the Ops team - I was tracking a bug, and I fell down the rabbit hole into our Continuous Integration process. My tech leads were supportive and allowed me the freedom to explore it.
How have you stayed involved in the community?
I’ve been going to the App Academy hiring days for both recruiting and networking with my old cohort. I also volunteered at CodeMontage and RailsBridge, two organizations that aim to introduce women and minority groups to Rails. I just wrote my first proposal to speak at a conference, but I haven’t heard back from them yet, so I don’t know if my talk has been accepted or not.
Is there anything you’d like to add about App Academy or your experience in general?
App Academy was a great decision, perhaps one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. I would recommend it to anyone, especially if you’re dissatisfied with your current position, scared or uncertain about your future. Going to bootcamp not only developed my technical skills, but it gave me confidence, which is exactly what I needed to be successful. If you’re hesitant or skeptical, that’s good! But you should go for it anyway. You’re worth it.
While TJ Hawbaker wasn’t a fan of the college experience (he dropped out of two undergraduate degrees in nuclear engineering and computer science), he knew he loved making games and programming. After travelling the United States and doing his research on coding bootcamps, TJ was impressed with App Academy’s unique deferred payment option. TJ met his current employer at App Academy’s Demo Day and now loves his job as a software engineer at social media news aggregator Banjo. We chat about the appeal of App Academy’s payment structure, the positive pressure of weekly assessments, and how he’s ramped up at his new job.
Tell us what you were up to before you started at App Academy.
I dropped out of school twice, each time after just one semester. I studied Nuclear Engineering at University of Tennessee and Computer Science at a small school called DigiPen in Seattle, then I spent three years traveling around the United States.
I was teaching myself programming but didn’t know how to make the jump from hobbyist to a career and that’s why I sought out App Academy.
After you dropped out of college and were travelling, were you teaching yourself to code were you using Codecademy or other online platforms?
I’m definitely the exception relative to others that went to App Academy. Most people have very little coding experience. I was used to the concepts already because I had been teaching myself. I studied to program video games at DigiPen so when I dropped out, I continued coding for fun.. I made lots of very simple games like Bejeweled and little shoot-em-ups.
When did you decide to do a coding bootcamp?
I decided a full year before attending. I realized that I really wanted to code for a career and I saw App Academy as a perfect opportunity for me. I’m not the kind of student who wants to sit in a classroom listening to lectures all day. At these bootcamps, you’re learning something new every single day that you’re actually putting to use.
Was your goal to get a job as a developer once you finished App Academy?
That was definitely my goal at the time. Ultimately, I wanted to get some professional experience under my belt, but in the near future, I want to be working as a cofounder.
Why did you choose App Academy? Did you look at other bootcamps?
I looked into Dev Bootcamp and Hack Reactor. They seemed to all have good track records, but I only applied to App Academy. A lot of it came down to the payment structure. App Academy is the only bootcamp that students can attend for free, because the school only gets paid if the student finds a job.
That made a big impact on me, first because I didn't have money to pay for an expensive bootcamp, but also because, I felt like if these guys wanted to get paid, they would have to get me prepared.
What was the application process like for you? Did you have to do a technical interview?
It started out as a simple application process; I sent in my resume and told them why I should be admitted to the school, then there were a couple of coding challenges which they provided prep material to study for.
After those coding challenges I went on to interview with one of the cofounders and had a final live coding challenge. We did all of that over Skype.
The tuition structure at App Academy is unique, and you chose the tuition deferment option- what was the agreement?
The job that you accept after App academy is your choice completely. You can get multiple offers and accept the one best for you. The payment structure for App Academy is that they take a percentage of your first annual salary. There are tons of companies out here that are hiring engineers so I think it’s more important to find a cultural fit than to choose the highest starting salary or accept the first job offer you get.
How many people were in your cohort?
I believe that we had about 45 of us. The size of the cohorts varies. From my understanding after speaking with some of the cofounders, App Academy accepts as many people as they feel are qualified for the class.
Was there enough space and instructors for 45 people?
Yeah, there was definitely enough space. They have a very good system where they hire TAs from the class that just graduated. These are people that just finished the class and know the material – usually some of the most talented people in the class. There was always someone available if you had questions!
How many head instructors did you have that weren’t TAs?
I had two head instructors. One of the cofounders, Ned, and CJ, who has been the head TA for two years now. They were both fantastic teachers and truly smart guys.
What did a typical day at App Academy look like?
A typical day usually started with a lecture on some of the more complex subjects. Sometimes they would run up to one hour but generally they were pretty short- 20 minutes or so.
Then we would start pair programming, where we would work on a project or set of problems for the whole day with a partner.
Were you assigned those projects?
That’s right. It was at least 90% hands-on training every single day. We were learning so much so quickly. We had to study for the material that night, so everyone came to the class prepared each day.
Was everybody in your cohort on a similar technical level? If not, did it even out over time?
Everyone starts App Academy with different expertise. You’re going to be pairing with people who know more than you about certain things or less than you about others, but you can learn from both experiences. If you don’t quite understand the concepts, having someone work through them with you is essential. On the other hand, if someone doesn’t understand a concept, you get to teach them and it reinforces those concepts in your own head.
Did you feel it was a diverse cohort in terms of age and gender and race?
Our cohort was diverse in terms of race and age, but less so in terms of gender. I think we had 6 women.
I think App Academy is very selective in the type of people that apply so that factors into the cohort makeup more than anything. All of my classmates who were able to go through the program successfully were all highly driven, highly motivated people, who were willing to take risks. I think that is the single most determining factor of who was actually in my class.
How many people graduated with you of the 45 who started? Did a lot of people drop out?
I want to say there were 4 or 5 people that didn’t complete the program. App Academy has a 10 – 15% attrition rate every cohort; and I think it’s for a good reason. It’s such a fast-paced environment, you can’t afford to be pairing with people who aren’t as motivated to keep up with the rest of the class.
Did you have exams or assessments?
Yes, we had an assessment every week. If you failed two of these assessments, you would be out of the program.
Was that a lot of pressure?
It was! It was a good pressure. It kept us motivated throughout the whole program. Every day you’re learning something brand new that is completely different than the day before – and the assessments kept you on track.
Were you tested on material from that week or tested cumulatively?
Each test was on material from just that week. Usually the assessments were on Monday mornings so you had the whole weekend to do some practice tests, reinforce the ideas in your head. You would be fine as long as you paid attention and studied the material. It sounds scary that you can get kicked out, but they actually made it very reasonable.
How many hours a week were you spending on App Academy in total?
It was pretty much all of my time. I moved in from out of town and I was living with a bunch of other people that were also going through the program.
Even though the classroom hours were 9 to 6, when I got done with class I was just coding more with people who were also in the class. I’d say at least 14 hours a day, 5+ days a week.
Aside from the teaching style and the environment, were you satisfied with the curriculum and the actual material that you were taught in the class?
Honestly, I feel like App Academy gave a very good overview of web development. You may be learning Ruby on Rails for two weeks in the program, but it’s not really about learning how to use that framework. It’s more about learning how to learn any framework.
They teach students how to teach themselves. In this industry, that is certainly a key to success. Since leaving App Academy I’ve picked up a few other languages and a ton of different frameworks; it’s a nonstop learning process.
Are there things that you didn’t expect or that you wanted to change about the experience? Were you able to give App Academy feedback?
Every student has access to the curriculum and could make suggestions and offer ways to change it. That’s how the curriculum has grown to be what it is today.
Was the curriculum changing as you were going through the class?
Yeah. Each cohort they’ve iterated on the curriculum to see what works and what doesn’t. The curriculum has changed since I went through it but it’s definitely moving in an even better direction than when I was there.
Besides pairing with individuals on assigned projects, did you also do a capstone project?
Yeah. We spent 7 weeks pair programming, then we had two weeks or so where we built projects from scratch.
Can you tell us about your final project?
Mine was like the game of Telephone but using drawing instead of whispering. A user would draw a picture, then the next user would have to describe that picture with words. The next user would have to draw that description without any context of the original drawing. This would continue for 10 - 15 users. It lead to some pretty hilarious chains!
What technologies did it use?
It used things we learned in class: Ruby on Rails for the back-end and Backbone for the front-end framework.
When did App Academy start prepping you for interviews and resume building?
That happened after week 9. Once we’d finished final projects, there was about three weeks of nonstop prep work. Every day you were updating your resume, creating your personal website, and fixing up projects to show employers. We also had daily algorithm lectures and practiced whiteboarding problems.
What are you up to now? Did you get a new job?
I’m working as a software engineer at a company called Banjo, which captures and organizes all the public social media data in the world that we can get our hands on. We do this in real time and by geo-location, so users find out about events as they happen all over the world. I love what I do.
How large is the team that you work with?
Our engineering department right now is about 20 engineers
Did you feel supported at your new company when you started at Banjo?
I wouldn’t say there was any hand-holding by any means, but there were senior team members who I could turn to if I had any questions.. The whole industry in general is very cooperative and because of that it’s very easy to grow once you start a job.
Did you get the job through your own networking or through App Academy?
App Academy does a demo day where employers come and check out your projects. I knew that because my resume was sparse, I would have to wow employers with my final project.
At Demo Day, the Banjo team loved my project, wanted me to come in for an interview and I eventually got a job.
How long did it take you to actually get hired after you graduated?
For me it was about 5 weeks. Compared to the industry that’s pretty good. But there were people in my class who got hired within a couple of weeks. There were also people who struggled a bit and didn’t get hired for a couple of months but eventually found a job that they really enjoyed.
What is App Academy’s approach to alumni support? Are they tracking your job search?
Simon, the COO, helps people find placement. Because App Academy is very selective in the sense that the only people who apply there are highly motivated, generally those kinds of people don’t have trouble getting jobs. Every once in a while people can struggle and that’s where Simon comes in. He’ll help you set up interviews or he’ll bring people in to interview.
What types of people do you recommend App Academy for?
I would say App Academy is for people who don’t like the traditional schooling system. It’s more like a trade school. You should be motivated to learn about something that you actually want to use.
App Academy gave me the opportunity to work in an industry that I love, doing awesome stuff every day, which is an opportunity that I would never have had otherwise.
If you're thinking about applying to a coding bootcamp in New York, then you must attend this paneled discussion with top coding schools! Join Course Report and Launch LM in the Hive at 55 downtown space for an evening with alumni from 8 bootcamps.
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If you're thinking about applying to a coding bootcamp in New York, then you must attend this paneled discussion with top coding schools! Join Course Report and Launch LM in the Hive at 55 downtown space for an evening with alumni from 8 bootcamps.
RSVP here to claim your spot- space is limited!Continue Reading →
After teaching himself to code through online resources and attending App Academy in San Francisco, Erik Trautman created The Odin Project, an online, open-source education program that teaches aspiring web developers to code and become job-ready. We talk to Erik about his views on education and technology, tactics to build online communities around education, and why The Odin Project can be the answer for students who aren't in a position to attend an in-person bootcamp.
Tell us your story and how you got involved in the learn-to-code movement.
I actually spent 5 years in finance. I was a West Coast Power and Gas market analyst and trader working for various banks, energy companies and hedge funds. It’s an incredibly interesting and intellectual career, but, at the end of the day, it wasn’t really a fulfilling career.
I'm ultimately driven by the desire to make an impact -- when I’m shriveled and done in my lifetime, I want to look back and say that I had a very strong, positive impact on the world around me. Thus I’ve always wanted to build a business or at least create something that was adding value in a more permanent way. So about 2 years ago I decided to move on and learn how to code. I wanted to get into tech because I think that it provides the highest degree of leverage in order to create impact and change.
Education too has a major impact and one that reverberates through generations – teach one person and you've potentially taught thousands of people down the line. When you combine education and technology, you have this incredibly interesting chance to provide a high-potential impact to a lot of people. That’s really cool to me.
I initially learned how to code mostly through online sources. I picked up a book and started pinging through all kinds of different online resources. I went through a Udemy course, “Become a Web Developer from Scratch.” It was one of the most successful courses on Udemy; kudos to them but I really didn’t like it. I thought it barely covered the surface of the material, the production value was terrible, the whole learning experience was just poor. Even though it was probably one of the best online courses out there at the time, is just gave me this thought that online education could be so much better.
So then how did you continue your education offline?
I started App Academy in 2013. I had been taking a lot of these courses online and, like many people, I didn’t feel like I had a clear path. I felt like I was learning a lot of things but none of them were bringing me necessarily closer to the ultimate goal of being a real web developer. I could take a course on Coursera and spend 200 hours working on the course material but, if I laid it all out on a timeline, I didn’t actually feel like I was 200 hours closer to being an effective web developer.
That search for a strong path was probably the main reason why I decided to go to a bootcamp in the first place. I had a really good experience with the program at App Academy. I was particularly fond of their tuition model, where you don’t pay until you get a job. That accountability for outcomes is something that’s really missing from education in general.
Since I had such a positive experience in the program, I worked there during the next cohort to help them grow the business. During that time I did a lot of admissions work -- I read at least a thousand applications and interviewed more than a hundred prospective students. I saw a lot of people out there who were looking for these kinds of solutions but for whom traditional bootcamps are actually not the appropriate solution; whether it’s monetary, time-commitment, life cycle… there are so many reasons why a bootcamp may not be appropriate.
So that’s how I turned to The Odin Project. I left App Academy and started the project with the mission of providing a free and open resource that gave people a clear path and lifted the curtain on being a web developer.
Tell us about The Odin Project and it’s goals.
I think that there are three major pillars in education: You need a path forward, you need access to help and you also would ideally like to interact with people around you. In-person education traditionally tends to provide these things well. Online education has tended to serve them very poorly.
The path forward for me was always the strongest because you have to know where you’re going before you even start, otherwise you’re just floundering around. So the number one goal was to create a curriculum.
The second most important for me is very much about the social aspect; giving people the opportunity to learn socially because it’s incredibly lonely to be learning this stuff if you’re staring at a computer screen. You could spend two days working through a bug that would take you 10 minutes to get past if you worked with someone else.
Once you have that community then you can start working on connecting them to make learning more of a social experience. That’s been the growing arc of the project as we go forward.
How do your students communicate with each other and operate as a community?
We have two types of students right now.
First off, we have a number of students who have gone through the curriculum and expressed an interest in building real projects and working on something together. I had an epiphany in December 2013 and asked a group of them if they wanted to work on the Odin project since it was, in fact, a "real" open source project. When they agreed, it began a cycle where these students were actually building the project they simultaneously used to learn.
We began by running weekly SCRUM meetings which have become daily SCRUMs. We have teams of students using agile methodologies to build the project that they’re using to learn. And that’s a great community. You have people who have just stuck with it for 6 or 8 months now. Maybe they’re not even using the Project anymore but they stick around as a part of the community; they’ll come to the SCRUM meetings and hang out and talk with their friends.
The other big community elements are the study groups. Another group of Odin Project students early this year said they wouldn’t be able to get through it without other people. I was still focusing on the curriculum during this time and just didn’t have the bandwidth to handle it so I gave them a corner of the website and told them if they wanted to lead their own study groups, they could as long as they coordinated the groups themselves.
So those are the two main community elements we have right now. Obviously building a community takes a lot of time, but we’ve started seeing it more and more since the project's launch.
How many people are in The Odin Project network?
I just published the last three courses about a month ago and we’ve got about 4,000 users right now. We’ve had about 200 pull requests from users on the curriculum submitting solutions and bug fixes and things like that. The community of people who have made meaningful contributions to the project is in the dozens. They're all listed on the Contributing page.
What kinds of struggles have you faced in starting The Odin Project?
We’ve learned a whole lot along the way in terms of how people consume content online, how you organize people online, how you teach people online and how you use industry methodologies and attach them to groups of learners. We’re working with people who are beginners, who are remote, who are part-time, and who are volunteers. You could not ask for a worse batch of factors but we’re able to wrangle that together into a process that actually works. That’s pretty cool.
You’ve chosen to keep The Odin Project free. Will it always be free?
Originally, the idea of the project was to monetize it through a premium services model -- if you’re interested in mentorship, we would give you access to mentorship, although something more affordable like a peer mentorship. At this point, my direction has definitely shifted a little bit, and I don’t really see The Project monetizing directly. It may be able to generate some leads to other projects or other helpful things that can be sustaining for it.
What are the expected outcomes for someone who has completed The Odin Project? Do you expect that somebody could get a job or get a promotion at work?
The project covers the entire gamut from zero to job. If you go through the entire project, then you should be job-ready. The very last course of the project is entirely based on how you can get hired as a web developer.
The whole point of this was to provide the entire spectrum, where everyone else had only focused on a little piece of it – which is why it took almost a year to actually build out the curriculum. The strongest and most difficult outcome is to go from zero to actually being hireable as a junior developer. If your goal is just to build websites, you don’t necessarily need to dive as deep into everything; you don’t need to cover the whole 1000+ hours of content that we have, but it's there if you need it.
Do you track those outcomes?
Not quantitatively. I keep in touch with the people who are going through the project and who take leadership roles or participate in the SCRUMs or study groups but the full curriculum hasn’t actually been available for long enough for people to finish it yet.
Do students create their own projects to build their portfolio?
Actually, the whole bent of the curriculum is to be project-based so there’s a project every lesson or two. They’re designed to be projects that are legitimate and immediate, not just scaffolded toys but real things.
Then at the end of the major courses, we have capstone projects. So at the end of the Rails course, your capstone project is to build Facebook. At the end of the whole course, your capstone project is much more of a free thing that says you should be able to demonstrate these skills and if you do so, that’ll help you if you’re ultimately looking for a job. The portfolio is more important than the credential in web development, or at least the balance is significantly shifted. We focus more on the portfolio because we can’t really offer a credential and seeking one might not be the best use of student resources.
Can you tell us about the Coding School Alumni site? What’s the motivation behind that?
The bootcamps themselves have strong identities about who they are and what they’re teaching, but ultimately when it comes down to it, they’re all teaching a very similar set of people. The students are all highly-motivated, geeky people from a really diverse and interesting set of backgrounds who are focused on technical things.
So that was the idea of setting up this group- I should be able to know the 17 people who are in my bootcamp cohort plus the 200 people who are in other bootcamps alongside me. You couldn’t possibly ask for a better group of people. Also, we’re acknowledging that there are challenges that occur after you’ve left the bootcamps. We’re all still suffering from “imposter syndrome.” None of us went through CS programs; and there’s a set of common challenges that don’t stop after Week 12. As one voice we can help each other a lot in terms of resources and learning and even, if necessary, as a strong group of people who can affect change needed in the industry itself down the road.
Other than students who are contributing to the open source project, do you have full-time employees helping you with The Odin Project?
No. It’s a group of part-time volunteers.
Any plans to do something in person?
The in-person model has never really been as interesting to me as the online model. Online education has so much more room for improvement and so much more opportunity for scale. It’s too cool to give up!
Thanks so much to Erik for chatting with us about his experience at App Academy, The Odin Project, and more!
You’ve decided that you’re ready to learn to code, and you can already see your career options swelling. But wait—how will you decide which coding school is right for you?
There are more than 65 coding “boot camps” in the U.S. alone, each boasting different tuition models, language specialties, and teaching styles. So, before you ceremoniously quit your job to be the next Zuck, ask yourself these six questions to guide your research... continue reading.Continue Reading →
Kush Patel graduated from the first cohort at Dev Bootcamp and saw some room for improvement, so he created App Academy in 2012 with Ned Ruggeri, a former Google engineer and fellow University of Chicago alum.
We talk to Kush about App Academy’s application process and why they charge students tuition only after they get a job that they want to accept.
What is your story and how did you end up in the Coding Bootcamp space? Do you have a background in education?
I graduated from the University of Chicago and went to work at a hedge fund in Bombay. I really enjoyed that, but I was looking for a change, so I decided to come back to San Francisco to get involved in the startup scene. I attended the first class at Dev Bootcamp, and I really enjoyed the experience, but also saw a few places where changes could be made. To be fair to them, it was their first class, and they’ve made significant changes. We were also excited to do a mobile version of the bootcamp. My cofounder, Ned, was working at Google on the Search Index Team and has been a developer for 10-15 years. I had actually met him in college, and he was always the person I went to for help with math, stats, computer science questions, just because he was a fantastic teacher. We decided to start the first iteration of App Academy- the first class we taught was an iOS course, so half web and half iOS. After that, our classes have all been purely web development.
Why did you switch from iOS to purely web development?
A couple reasons. First, our goal has always been to train software engineers to write quality code. To be a legit iOS developer, you want to be able to create backend web services that feed data into your iOS application. Unfortunately, teaching web as well as iOS in a 12-week course was just too much to ask. Our other goal is to find people jobs, and the market for junior web developers was as strong as the market for junior iOS developers, so we were covered there. It’s possible that we might have a two-week iOS course available to students who have completed the 12-week web development course, but by the time students are done with this course, they could learn iOS in a couple of weeks. At that point, they already understand the fundamentals and can apply those to learning iOS software development.
Which programming languages will students master in the 12 weeks at app academy?
We have equal emphasis on Ruby and JS. We want to train students across the stack, and introduce students to programming through Ruby. That said, we try to teach as much language and framework agnostic software development as we can.
What is your acceptance rate?
We have roughly a 5% acceptance rate into our program. The average San Francisco cycle is 40 students, and the average NY cycle is 20 students.
How does App Academy select instructors?
Ned is now the lead instructor in San Francisco. We’ve tried to hire externally, but we’ve always had a hard time doing that. Since our bar is set very high at App Academy for students, we recruit the top 5% of our students to be our Teaching Assistants. They are usually students that have come in with a few years of experience under the belts.
What are you looking for in potential students?
We are cool with complete beginners, and have seen complete beginners be extremely successful in the course, and go on to work for fantastic companies and make crazy salaries. Our application process is customized to the applicant. If someone comes to us with no experience, we’ll assign them some introductory exercises and give them a coding test that would be appropriate for them. We do multiple coding tests and interviews to really get a sense of the applicant.
Once a student has been accepted, what type of pre-work is required?
Everyone who shows up on the first day of class can write a non-trivial computer program. After we accept a student, we give them 50-100 hours of prework. We think it makes sense to just focus on Ruby in the prework. We believe very strongly that the best way to code is by doing. This was a major problem when I learned to code- I went about it in the same way that I learned math- by reading for 90% of the time an doing proofs for 10%. For coding, you have to flip that on it’s head.
Of your average 18 person cohort size, how many are typically male vs. female?
Last time I ran the numbers, we were ~20% female. We’ve been lucky, and we’ve tried to do outreach, especially since there are options like Hackbright Academy (an all women school) around the corner. But given the overall environment (an average CS program has 1 woman out of 10), I think we’re making progress towards the goal.
So there are a number of online boot camps and online classes that teach Ruby and other languages. Why do you think in-person classes are the most effective?
One of the main reasons that these courses succeed is the immersion aspect. You’re going to be living and breathing this, and one key aspect of immersion is community- we have 30-40% of students living on campus. It shows you how tightly knit these people are, and there’s a natural competitiveness as well. We’ve had many applicants who have graduated from Bloc or Tealeaf, and I’m not sure that they know anything more than another applicant. I’m not sure that we can ever get to that point.
App Academy is one of the only boot camps that we’ve seen that only takes tuition if the student gets a job offer. Why did you decide on that payment model?
This is one place where we saw that we could offer an alternative to Dev Bootcamp. I don’t think it’s a flaw to charge tuition up front- that’s business as usual. But we were confident that we could teach people a lot in 12 weeks and get our graduates jobs, so why not put our money where our mouths are and decrease risk to students.
How does App Academy help your graduates find jobs in tech once they've completed the program?
Since we only get paid when we help a graduate find a job, we basically don’t stop working with students until they find a job they’re happy with. It takes an average of 4 weeks in San Francisco for graduates to find a job and roughly 2 weeks in New York. It happens pretty quickly, but we do a ton to help make that happen during and after the course. During the course, we’re helping students build a portfolio and an online presence, doing a bunch of whiteboarding problems, resume polishing, interview practice, and making introductions to companies.
Can you explain the relationships that App Academy has with partner companies?
We have a good number of partner companies, and also a huge network of companies where our graduates are working now. So the App Academy alumni network is huge- a student can get introductions through current developers, which really increases their chances of interviewing. There are huge network effects with the alumni networks at these schools.
If a graduate chooses to take a job with one of your partner companies, does App Academy offer them a rebate on tuition? Do you get a fee if this happens?
We get a recruiting fee if we place a student at a company we have a placement agreement with, and in that case, the student gets a discount of $5000.
Are the recruiting fees the same for every company?
No, it varies from company to company.
The job placement stat on the site was "over 95%.” Have you seen the same success in recent months?
If I look at the past 8 months in San Francisco and New York, 100% of students that have had enough time to complete the job search have been placed 100%. The average salaries are $103k in San Francisco and $85K in New York, and have risen higher for recent cohorts.
Aside from your clearly unique approach with only charging students tuition if they get job offers, what else makes your boot camp different?
The course is not for everyone, but if job placement is important to you, look at our recent statistics and match them against other bootcamps. Also, we’re a full-immersion course, including living on campus, so that is an important aspect. And third, our tuition model goes beyond low risk, free housing. We have a different incentive structure from other schools. We’re focused on getting you a job that you’re happy with- we’re not just checking boxes when you get an offer. We want to find you a high-paying job that you want to take.