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. The first 9 weeks of the course are focused on learning web development skills in multiple languages, and the following 3 weeks are a robust job-search curriculum focusing on algorithms, interview skills, and other technical interview focused skill sets. Upon graduation, students will have a portfolio of real-world projects to show to prospective employers.
Perhaps the most interesting part of App Academy is their innovative deferred payment plan. Students are only required to pay tuition if they secure a job upon graduation. Students pay a $5,000 deposit for the deferred pricing model, which is refundable provided they attend class and complete the course. Students are only required to pay a placement fee if they secure a job upon graduation. App Academy also has two other pricing models for students — an completely upfront model and a hybrid model that is a combination of the deferred and upfront models.
Interested applicants should expect to submit an application, complete 2 coding challenges, complete an interview and receive an admission decision a few days after the interview. Prospective applicants can also enroll in AppAcademy’s Bootcamp Prep programs to increase their chances of admission from 2% to more than 40%.
Recent App Academy News
- April 2018 Coding Bootcamp News Podcast
- New Year, New Career? Learning to Code in 2018
- Alumni Spotlight: Timur Meyster of App Academy
Recent App Academy Reviews: Rating 4.71
New York City
Bootcamp Prep (New York City)
Full Stack Web Development
- Only applicable for the Deferred Plan, a deposit of $5k will be required.
- Payment Plan
- $17,000 Upfront Plan $23,000 Hybrid Plan ($9k upfront, $13k deferred) $28,000 Deferred Plan (Fully deferred with a $5k deposit)
- Minimum Skill Level
- Basic computer knowledge
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- Provided at each step by App Academy.
Bootcamp Prep (San Francisco)
Full Stack Web Development
- Only applicable to the Deferred Plan, a fully-refundable deposit of $5k is required.
- Payment Plan
- $17,000 Upfront Plan $23,000 Hybrid Plan ($9k upfront, $13k deferred) $28,000 Deferred Plan (Fully deferred with a $5k deposit)
- Minimum Skill Level
- Basic computer knowledge.
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- Provided at each step by App Academy.
$500 App Academy Scholarship
- Offer is only valid for new applicants. Applicants who have already submitted an application cannot claim this scholarship.
- Full Stack Web Development (San Francisco)
$500 App Academy Scholarship
- Offer is only valid for new applicants. Applicants who have already submitted an application cannot claim this scholarship.
- Full Stack Web Development (New York City)
App Academy Reviews
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I enjoyed the program overall. It was stressful though dealing with the tests and the daily checkin times. After completing the code intensive part of the curriculum I felt like I had a good understand of the materials, but I would need more time to cement the knowledge within me. The teachers were very helpful and a good support system to have when things got stressful. It was a worth while program.
App Academy was a very structured program that I learned a lot from. It keeps you motivated to work hard through having assessments every Monday and practice assessments prior to the main ones. This helps to constantly let you know what you need to do to stay on track. If you're looking to become proficient in ruby on rails and react App Academy is a great way to go! The program also gives you the tools that you will need to pick up new skills as well and continue learning on your own even after the program is completed.
App Academy is an incredible coding bootcamp. I came into the bootcamp with many expectations of what it might be like but I never could have imagined what I have experienced so far.
To start, the learning environment is positive, supportive, and encouraging. App Academy constantly reinforces a culture of collaboration, pair programming, and sharing knowledge. The best example (and my favorite aspect of the program as a whole) are the TAs and instructional staff. These are mainly past graduates who have decided to help new students find their way through the intense 9 week curriculum. Because they have been through the program themselves they know what the students are going through, and do an amazing job of providing support when needed - be it technical help on a tough coding problem, or providing some much needed reassurance when the grind becomes real - they really do care and will spend hours (literally) with you until you understand a concept comfortably.
Speaking of the grind, App Academy will test you. But that’s what a bootcamp is meant to do. Sleepless nights, hours of homework reading and problems (after 9 hours of coding), and weekly assessments will push you to your mental and physical limits. You will experience moments where the last thing you want to do is write another line of code, or spend another hour trying to debug your program. The most important thing is to keep on trying, and ask for help when you need it. The support system is there for you to take advantage of, and everyone is happy to help.
But it’s not all bad. In fact, there is so much more that is good about this bootcamp. For as much stress and frustration you will go through, you will experience twice the amount of achievement, learning, and moments of triumph. You will learn to build so many cool things and come away with the confidence to continue learning on your own afterward. You will build new and deep friendships with classmates going through the same struggle and grind. The alumni community at App Academy is healthy, growing, and super friendly.
If you are thinking about App Academy, I highly recommend it. This bootcamp is has not only been an opportunity for me to step into the tech industry as a software developer, it has been a challenging experience that I can look back on with gratitude and pride.
Enrolling in AppAcademy was a chance for me to switch careers and I do not regret it. At the end of the day, it really is what you make of it. I did a lot of research on web-development and delved around in multiple free curriculums such as freeCodeCamp and TheOdinProject prior but it was hard to keep myself accountable. Due to the massive amounts of tutorials and references available through open source, I found it hard to make serious progress as I would jump from language to language, not sure of what I should learn with the limited time that I had. AppAcademy provided me structure and forced me to be disciplined and I was able to make massive progress in 3 months, much more than I ever did when I was self-studying and not fully immersing myself.
I would say that most of the knowledge is picked up through pair programming. Having to work with another partner daily during the curriculum really sharpened my understanding of not only the material but my ability to articulate it to other people. You'll also learn a lot when you help your cohort mates debug and vice versa. The curriculum is very fast-paced and it is amazing how fast you feel that you can fall behind in only a day. The React/Redux portion was probably the most challenging week in the curriculum as new material is just piled onto you.
Our cohort is currently in the job search curriculum so I cannot comment at the moment regarding the job search. Needless to say, I am looking forward to opening up this new chapter in my career.
To answer some questions that I had when I was making the decision to enroll:
- The language you learn doesn't matter. Once you are familiar with how web-development works, you realize that there are similar patterns/conventions that are fundamental to each language. Different programming languages can all achieve the same means.
- I did a good amount of problems on CodeWars and CodeFights and LeetCode during my preparation for the application. While it helped me learn how to problem solve, web development is actually a totally different beast! Don't get discouraged if you struggle at these tricky word problems because it doesn't mean that you can't build killer apps.
BTW: Hawaiian shirts on Fridays. Learn it. Live it. Love it.
App Academy is awesome! The curriculum is fantastic and the Job Search portion teaches developers how to network, apply to openings, negotiate salary, and so much more. The TA's are all very talented and very knowledgeable. Spending upwards of 9 hours a day including weekends has created a pseudo-family between classmates. Everyone is super supportive of each other in the learning experience as well. Like Dave Meltzer, I'm going to break the 5-star system and give a/A a solid 6 stars.
It will not come easy but it's all about time and perseverence and eventually you will become a software developer and see the rewards of your effort.
I can't imagine having better TAs for the curriculum. Some of the brightest people have come through these halls. I encourage everyone to take a chance and make that step towards a better career.
The learning culture at App Academy is pretty much as far as it gets from university. They value a very collaborative culture through pair programming every day, and value understanding the material over just completing it. There were only a couple days where we managed to get through all of the days projects, but it's expected.
The curriculum as a whole is fantastic and reinforces your understanding through a variety of methods: readings, videos, homework, lectures, group discussions, and most importantly actually putting into practice your new skills throughout each day.
I can't speak to those without technical backgrounds. But even though I had some previous programming experience, it didn't really matter since everything was new to me after the second week. You will definitely be spending at least 80-90 hours a week, but it won't feel like it if you love to code and learn about new technologies.
Attending App Academy has been one of the best decisions I've made in my career. You could argue that you could teach yourself or maybe even try to go back to traditional school, but I believe nothing is as cost or time-efficient as attending the best bootcamp in the industry. There is plenty of free knowledge and alternatives out there to learn the skills of a software engineer, but for most people starting out it is incredibly difficult to know what to focus on. App Academy will offer you a well thought out roadmap that has been proven to work for thousands of students. You're guaranteed to learn the most in-demand technologies and skills in the industry thanks to its rapid-iteration teaching approach, which provides frequent experimentation and rapid re-investment of findings back into the class. One of my favorite thing about the program is that is practical in nature, so be prepared to experience a non-traditional yet more efficient approach to education in which you'll learn by doing and collaborating with others. By the end of the program, you'll have an amazing portfolio of projects that will impress any hiring manager. And even after you are done as a student, you'll still benefit from the amazing career support App Academy provides and you'll have access to the incredible network of App Academy alumni. Be aware that attending this immersive program will be challenging, but I promise it'll be a fun and rewarding experience.
Going through App Academy's program has truly been a remarkable experience. No matter what your background is and if you're serious about starting a new career in Software Development, be prepared to be challenged 7 days a week during the main portion of the curriculum. At the end, it was all worth it!
The instructional staff are very professional and are diligent about student success. They will teach you everything you need to know in short amount of time. Because of the amount of information you'll learn, it will actually FEEL like you've been in the program much longer than 3 months.
App Academy is just as difficult as they claim. You really will need to spend upward of 85 hours a week on your studies if you want to be successful, but if you have the time and the discipline then don't be scared away. I've had very, very little free-time over the past months, but in exchange I've gained an extremely valuable skill in less time than I could have imagined before beginning the program.
The instructors are top-notch. Everything in general is conducted extremely professionally, from the location and the building/amenities (I attended the NY branch), to the assessments and the projects. Before joining the program I was under the impression that I could have learned all of the same skills on my own, using free resources online. Looking back now, this miiiiight be possible, but it honestly would have taken me more than 10 times as long to do alone. Having the instructors on call, and the other students as pair-programmers was indispensable for me. Again, the program is totally worth it for those who are serious about becoming full-stack developers. I just recently accepted an offer as a frontend developer thanks to App Academy. But remember, there is no hand-holding. If you think you can give it anything less than 90% of your time and attention, you will likely fail out.
App academy requires you to study for a minimum of 90 hours per week excluding commute. That said, you learn a ton of stuff in 3 months. Coming from a non-technical background, it was astounding how much I could pick up in such a short time. The TAs are very helpful and go above and beyond to help you. The assessments can be stressful, as there is a threat of getting kicked out. But it motivated me to take the assessments seriously and study hard.
Throughout my entire life, I have gone through accelerated courses whether it be the military or my undergrad. App Academy was no joke and it definitely gave me the whooping I deserved to make me humble to the vast amount of knowledge I was about to face and understand that I'll be a lifelong student in the world of tech. The reason why I decided on App Academy were their tuition model and reputation for being one of the best.
Needless to stay, they delivered. The curriculum consistently got more difficult and ranged from technical to soft skills. Both of which I receive valuable training in but I believe the soft skills are where I improved the most. I have always been the type of person to work alone. It was fine up until the halfway mark in which I realized I couldn't be in the world of tech working alone as there will never be enough time to learn and keep up with the lastest trends in technologies.
App Academy taught me:
1. Technical skills to get through the door
2. Soft skills to land the job
3. How to learn and do my own research
4. To strive to become a mentor
I graduated my bachelors in CS but I felt that what was taught to me is not enough for the industry right now. App Academy taught me what I hadn't learnt in 4 years in 12 weeks. It was really really intense, no kidding. The pacing is ultra high speed. But at the start of the eighth week began doing our full stack project. The end result is what was the most satisfying. I was proud of what I made and my friends and family were amazed on how practical the teaching was, enough to make a full stack app. The course is super rewarding. I am currently on the 10th week and our job search curriculum is about to begin and am super excited to start working soon!
I went into App Academy hoping I would get a job as a software developer. I was skeptical I would actually be able to get a job. It took a ton of work in the job search but I landed a role as a Frontend Developer. In meetings at work it is quite apparent that App Academy's curriculum is solid because I often know more than some of my co-workers, especially about new technolgoies like React/Redux. It makes me feel pretty good.
If you have a liberal arts background like me I definitely recommend preparing for the course. Learn some programming language fundamentals beforehand. The curriculum is really stressful but very worth it.
The job search is the hardest part, you need to put in a lot of your own work but the resources are there. You just have to sometimes reach out to people that work at a/A and continue to show up and study and apply for jobs in the office. I found showing up even after it was no longer required very beneficial. It took me 6+ months after graduating to find a job. That is not everyone's situation as I am a bit of a slacker, but be prepared financially or just hit the ground running once the curriculum is over and find a job faster like a lot of my cohort mates.
Here's the breakdown:
- You'll be working a lot. When they say 80-120 hours a week, they mean it. But it's really not as bad as you think. You get used to it *very* quickly and learn to love it.
- There's constant support. Your fellow cohort-mates are going to become your best friends during this, and the TAs and staff are always around to help.
App Academy is definitely a great opportunity to learn a great deal of material in a short amount of time. There's a reason it has a great reputation among bootcamps - the instructors are knowledgeable and helpful, the curriculum is definitely relevant to what is necessary for actual tech positions, and they have alumni placed in dozens of companys and start-ups. All of that being said, here are some questions I would ask yourself before applying:
1. Do you handle pressure well? The courseload itself is very intense (9-6 M-F with homework every night and near-weekly assessments) and the tests are very much point-blank "can you pound this out in 30-40 minutes or not". None of this is ever unexpected or unreasonable, but be prepared for a good deal of stress and make sure you have ways to cope with it and stay healthy.
2. How long can you go without having a job? While the course itself only takes 3 months, it is unlikely that you will find a job immediately after graduating. Many students take up to 3 months after AA to find a job, and some take as long as 6. You sign an agreement saying you won't take on any full-time employment during that time, so make sure you are financially stable enough to commit completely to finding an engineering position.
3. Do you actually like coding? If you already know that you're just looking for a quick path to a high-paying job, you'll probably get burnt out very quickly. Obviously you don't have to live and breathe code all the time, but make sure you're doing it at least in part because you find it genuinely interesting.
As long as you've thought through these possible difficulties, App Academy is ultimately a rewarding experience that will leave you impressed with the incredible progress you can make in such little time. It's a lot of work, but in the end it definitely pays off.
App academy is a rigorous and rewarding experience. You will feel lost and behind a lot but when things start clicking for you it is so rewarding. I learned so much and having finished my fullstack i am feeling very good. You will get as much as you put into the experience.
I applied to App Academy in December 2016 and attended the May 2017 cohort. I graduated in August 2017, worked at App Academy for a few months, and accepted a job offer in January 2018. Similar to you, I read lots of reviews beforehand and stressed about many details before deciding on taking the risk, moving to San Francisco, and spending 80-100 hours a week at this place.
I read these reviews and my basic impression was that it would be really, really hard. Like a year of college crammed into 3 months. While this is kind of true, I underestimated how much the family and community aspect of App Academy would help. There are weeks where you have to essentially code from morning until night with not much time for anything else. After you learn everything you need to build apps, you learn how to get a job. That entails applying to dozens of postings every week, and it could take months. Throughout this entire process, I felt like a freak, but had 70 friends right alongside doing it with me. They helped me when I was stuck, and more importantly, brought me up when I was down. I don't know if I could've ever pushed myself that hard to get a job on my own, but with my cohort, the process was streamlined and almost (dare I say it) fun.
App Academy teaches a really diverse range of topics so the constant work you're doing is never boring. It's hardly even repetitive, and in fact, you will likely not fully understand most topics until you get to practice them again after the curriculum is over. In the end, App Academy didn't just teach me how to use React and Ruby on Rails. They taught me how to program, how to binge-learn any framework or language, how to speak to others in the field, and how to value myself, find a job, and negotiate as a Software Engineer. It was an absolute life changer in the best way. After going through it, I'm convinced anyone can do it, not just those technically inclined, and have been pushing the idea on all of my old friends who are stuck in a post-college rut with debts to pay.
Summed up, if you're the type of person that looks at anything and wonders "How does that work?", then coding is for you. If the idea of coding makes you think "Where do I even start?", then App Academy is for you.
ok here's the TL;DR. App academy is one of the hardest things you're likely to do in your life, but if you get in, you can do it. I'm writing this review because I want a hoodie, but I want the hoodie because it says App Academy on it, and I'm proud of that so, you know, that's something.
Specifically, understand that there isn't really time to play catch up. If you stay home sick with a fever, you still have to do the work. If you fall behind, you have to leave whatever you drop and keep moving, there's no time to look back. For me personally? There wasn't even time to do everything I had to do. My journey through app academy is a trail of unfinished assignments and near dismissals. But yo, I STILL loved my time there.
If you want to get into coding and don't know where to stop, app academy will give you the start and take you much much further. I believe my review is now detailed enough to not violate any coursereport rules but still brief enough that I can get back to sending out resumes, secure in the knowledge that come monday, I will have my sweet sweet hoodie.
Choosing App Academy was one of the best decisions of my career. After being a post graduate with a degree in film, I was not sure with what to do to progress my career in the direction I want to go - job security and financial stability. That is when I decided to join App Academy. This program is one of, if not the best, coding bootcamps. With that being said, the course is rigorous and extremely fast paced. But, if you are dedicated and have the drive to pursue becoming a software developer, then you will definitely be able to do it. This is coming from a person with zero software developing experience prior to this program. I did not finish because I was the smartest, I was able to stay in the program because I had enough work ethic and will. You can do it!
Within 2 months I went from zero programming experience to being able to create an entire website from scratch. I think it's incredible what App Academy has taught me in such a short time span.
Of course, given such a short window, it's impossible for them to teach you everything there is to know. The real value of the program is they teach you how to think and to learn programatically.
App Academy promises only one thing, to be able to make anyone into an entry level software developer. It will not be the end of your learning experience but it provides a hell of a start.
I love the program, but it is not for everyone. These last 8 weeks have been the hardest of my life. You can't afford to fall behind because there is a very real possibility of failing out.
If you've read all of that and you still think App Academy is for you, then I could not recommend it more. It has been an excellent experience and I'm genuinely excited to change the course of y life.
App Academy is everything they say it is. It is demanding, rigorous, rewarding, all-consuming, high-stress, hysterical, difficult, very fast, and transformative. I’m in the last couple weeks of the program, and it’s just now sinking in how wild a ride this has been.
Like most things worth doing, it takes all day. I worked on code from 9a until midnight most nights during the program. This level of commitment is really non-optional for most people-- maybe really fast folks can turn in around 10:00. There is no coasting. You will be confronted with high-pressure, timed assessments at 9am on Mondays. You will pair almost every day for months, which means you will be communicating constantly about things you don’t understand yet. You will switch languages every two weeks, and App Academy will often introduce new material before old has had a chance to sink in. A majority of the class has literally had dreams about code. I had one just last night about launching an ICO to finish a non-existent interactive blue screen of death app. They know how to get you fully committed here, and they do it very well.
Many reviews fixate on the assessment structure. The people who failed the high-pressure, closed-book, timed assessments generally had severe test anxiety or attempted to party a lot or tend too much to other responsibilities during the cohort. It was much more rare for them to not be smart enough, the admissions process is selective enough to filter out those who lack the raw talent to succeed. It is up to you to do enough self-care, including healthy food, sleep, and exercise, to keep from psyching yourself out of the program, and it’s largely a matter of personal style about whether engaging with deliberately induced stress motivates you to try harder vs makes you unproductive.
While being demanding and highly structured, App Academy also asks for a lot of independence and initiative. Much of the curriculum is written in a relatively terse style that demands the reader both be able to read closely through dense instructions and to be comfortable doing more and more independent research as the curriculum goes on, just like a real dev. The teachers are available to get you unstuck, but you’re encouraged to learn more about solving your own problems every day, and when coding in pairs, you will do tons of mutual troubleshooting, basically proving to each other that you can both teach and learn-- it is very normal to just engage with whoever’s closest to you about whatever bug you’re in the middle of, and people uniformly treat that as an opportunity to practice teaching and cement knowledge than as an interruption. The job search requires you to have a lot of discipline and follow-through, with strict requirements for volume of applications and development of portfolio materials without a ton of hand-holding. Ultimately, it becomes very clear that you are ultimately responsible for your own education, relationships with others, and destiny, which is both empowering and scary.
App Academy isn’t for everybody. But if it’s for you, it is one of the best things you can do for yourself. :)
I personally thought App Academy was incredibly fun precisely because of how challenging it was and it really was challenging. You are surrounded with incredibly bright people, with very interesting backgrounds, and you will push each other to get better everyday.
The curriculum is easily the strongest part of App Academy. It is truly incredible how much knowledge you will walk away with if you are able to pace yourself and be consistent in doing all of the readings and preparing for the lectures everyday. They offer a lot, but they also require a lot out of you and it is difficult to keep up unless you are able to motivate yourself everyday.
Luckily they provide intrinsic motivation due to pair programming and assessments. Knowing that you have to work with a different person everyday helps you make sure to try to get a good understanding of the subject matter so that you don't slow your partner down. Most importantly knowing that you could be kicked out by failing too many assessments will also motivate you to keep up. This was a main motivator for me attending, because I knew it would always keep me on my toes.
At the end of the main curriculum you will be able to build a fullstack web application that is dynamic, complex, and impressive. That ten day project will be one of the most tiring experiences of your life, but you will be quite proud when you are done. Be sure to celebrate with your cohort mates when it's over.
I added this category because I think it's important to note that App Academy is below average when it comes to racial/gender diversity. My cohort was about 5% women and 10-15% non white/asian. This did not affect my experience at all, as someone from an under-represented group, but I cannot speak for everyone and thought it should be noted for others considering App Academy.
The instructors are usually App Academy grads. There is a question button during pair programming, which calls over a TA to assist you when you and your partner are stuck. They are all very cool, helpful, and the lectures are incredibly informative. The lectures will usually go over the reading and assignments for the night before and introduce some new material for the day ahead, so make sure you come prepared.
The Job Search Curriculum in the last three weeks can feel a bit anticlimactic. You've just spent 9 weeks going 100mph and then all of the sudden things slow down quite a bit. It can be a good thing because everyone is a bit burnt out from the fullstack project, but I wish there was a way to keep a similar pace going. Here you will work on your portfolio, build a nice online presence, learn how to approach networking, applying, negotiating etc.
Don't come in thinking App Academy is going to provide you with all kinds of contacts and connections. I don't think they have any more ability to get you a job than any other bootcamp. However, they have a great reputation with companies in NYC and SF and a huge alumni network in those respective cities. I attended App Academy in NYC and I can tell you there are companies that only hire App Academy grads because the curriculum is more in depth and the projects are more impressive.
Personally, I applied to 305 jobs, had 6 phone screens, 3 on-sites, 2 offers, and landed an awesome job at a startup in NYC 3 months after graduating and I couldn't be happier.
The job search is an absolute grind, but don't get discouraged. Just stick with it, apply everywhere, and don't say no to yourself! You never know who will get a job, even if everyone applies to the same one. There is a lot of luck involved and each person is unique even though you all graduated from the same course.
Be financially responsible, make sure you have enough of a safety net so that you can focus, and it'll all come together in the end.
App Academy was definitely the hardest 3 months of my life. At times it was a bit brutal, with 10% of our cohort getting kicked out before the end of the program. The program is certainly not for everyone, but if you are a fast learner AND can dedicate pretty much your entire life to the program, you can get a job as a Software Engineer after this program. You certainly are expected to work as much as you everyday. Everyone is incredibly smart and motivated; I went to a top school in the United States, but found my peers here to be heads and tails above my university peers.
That being said, they do deliberately pace the course so that you can keep up -- pushing you to the brink and then giving you a few days for the material to sink in. I was also able to take a small handful of days off, but some are unable to do so.
I had absolutely NO computer science background before attending, and ended up getting a job within the first month following the program, so this program DEFINITELY fulfills its promises.
Our latest on App Academy
In our April 2018 technology bootcamp news roundup we saw four overarching trends – bootcamp acquisitions, employers putting their own employees through bootcamp, a continued debate between college vs bootcamp, and efforts to expand accessibility to coding education for underrepresented groups in tech. We also look at apprenticeships, the evolution of bootcamp curricula, life after bootcamp, and new bootcamps! Read the roundup below or listen to the podcast!Continue Reading →
Is learning to code on your 2018 New Year’s Resolutions List? It should be! There will be 1 million more computing jobs than applicants who can fill them by 2020. And a coding bootcamp could be just what you need to make a fresh start in 2018 as a developer. We’ve compiled a list of 16 full-time, part-time, in-person and online coding bootcamps which have upcoming cohorts starting in January and February 2018. Most of these have approaching application deadlines, so submit yours quickly if you want to get a head start in 2018!Continue Reading →
Timur Meyster always dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur. When he realized his finance degree wasn’t going to help him actually launch his own business, Timur decided to build his technical skillset to create his own products. Since graduating from App Academy in 2015, Timur has flourished as a developer, working as a Full-Stack Engineer at augmented reality company Blippar. Timur explains how App Academy prepared him for the constant learning process that comes with being an engineer and how he’s carved out a niche on his team. Plus, Timur gives back to the bootcamp world with a podcast he co-hosts called Breaking Into Startups!
Tell us about your education/career background and what led you to App Academy?
I was born in Ukraine and came to the US in middle school. Growing up, I saw how hard my parents worked and I’ve always dreamed of starting my own company. My parents encouraged me to go into a traditional profession like finance, medicine, or law. I studied Finance at Emory University thinking that I could eventually start my own company, but I realized that a lot of the stuff you learn in school, like accounting and management, doesn't translate to building and launching a product or managing a team. That was a big disappointment because I thought I would graduate with those skills.
I did two internships in investment banking, and realized I could make good money on that career path, but that I would be working long hours in PowerPoint and Excel. I wanted to exercise more creativity, and build something. I was following startups coming out of YCombinator and had the strongest urge to start something. But the one thing that stood in my way was that I didn't know how to code.
How did you start transitioning into tech?
Right after college, I worked as a Project Manager/SCRUM Master, leading iOS and Android mobile teams at Autotrader.com. But I didn't know how to code, so my job was more like a facilitator. It was very frustrating to be in meetings with engineers giving me reasons for why a project was late, but I didn’t understand enough code to push back.
I started to learn some Ruby on the side and built tools to streamline my job as a SCRUM master. At that point, I started understanding what the engineers were doing on daily basis. Having seen the code base and the types of problems they solve, I realized this was definitely something I could do as well. That's when I started looking at different coding bootcamps and came across App Academy.
What made you decide to take the next step and go to a coding bootcamp?
I took some Codecademy classes, and took the Python and Java Coursera MOOCs, but I didn’t learn enough to actually build an app. My twin brother was working in investment banking and told me how his colleague quit his job, went to Flatiron School, and got a job as a developer six months later. Hearing his story inspired me to think, "Hey, if he can do it with a similar background to me, then I can do it too."
I also considered going to Georgia Tech to get a Masters in Engineering. But I wouldn’t be able to do that because I hadn’t studied Computer Science in undergrad. On top of that, I wanted a quicker option that would get me a job.
So I decided to quit my job, learn how to code at a bootcamp, and become an engineer. My goal was to see what it takes to release apps into production, and learn enough to build my own apps and launch my own company.
What made you choose App Academy over other bootcamps?
In early 2014, I had a lot of different options. For me, I wanted to attend a bootcamp that was difficult to get accepted to, so App Academy was certainly one of my top choices. I went on LinkedIn and looked up where App Academy alumni worked – they were working at amazing companies like Dropbox, Google, and Airbnb.
The biggest selling point for me was the App Academy deferred tuition model. After college, I worked in Atlanta for two years. I wanted to move to San Francisco, but I knew it would be expensive. Most other bootcamps required you to pay tuition up front, and financing options that are available today like Skills Fund and Pave were not available then. So App Academy was the most logical option because as long as I had enough savings for my living expenses, I could do the bootcamp, get a job, pay them back, and become an engineer.
What was the App Academy interview and application process like?
The application process was tough. App Academy makes it pretty transparent and shows you the bar that you need to meet and which concepts you need to understand and practice beforehand. They're looking for people who have an understanding of basic concepts like loops, arrays, and hashes. I spent four or five months on their practice problems and using websites like Codewars to practice different algorithm problems. Honestly, it didn't come to me very easily at first. A lot of times, I would have to do the same tutorial three times before I could understand it. Preparing for the App Academy application was all about the discipline of being okay with not knowing everything at first and working my way through each problem.
What’s your advice to other applicants who are trying to get accepted into App Academy?
In my experience, you need to mentally prepare yourself to fail. The first time you follow a tutorial you’ll have no idea why it works, then the second time you actually notice patterns, and the third time around, you'll start to make sense of it and it all comes together. At some point, if you do enough of those problems, you’ll be pretty ready to pass App Academy's exam.
App Academy may have changed slightly since you graduated, but tell us about the learning experience.
It's a very intense experience. But the time just flew by, it didn't feel like I was actually doing work; I was solving problems. It's like playing a game with your friend, except instead of playing it for an hour, you're playing it for eight hours a day for 12 weeks. By the end of it, you become really good at the game because you're pushing each other, you're holding each other accountable, and you don't feel like you're doing it on your own.
The biggest difference for me compared with university was that a lot of time was spent working in groups on projects. That was unexpected because I thought there would be more lectures. We would have one lecture each day for about an hour on a new topic, then we had the other seven or eight hours to work in pairs, talk with our partners about problems, and internalize those concepts.
How did App Academy prepare you for the job hunt?
After the final projects in week 10, App Academy provides two weeks of career development where hiring managers talk about the interview process. Every day we were also paired up with someone in class to work on whiteboarding problems. Based on the history of alumni who had gone through a lot of technical job interviews, App Academy had a good idea of the types of problems that would likely get asked during job interviews.
The job search is almost like a bootcamp in itself. You’ve learned the fundamental programming skills, but for the job search you have to learn how to go out and talk about the things you've learned and prove that you're capable of doing the job. My biggest challenge was figuring out how to tell my story in interviews, so that I could tie my previous experience in.
How did you find your job after graduating from App Academy?
My friends and I organized weekend hikes and invited people we met in San Francisco to go with us. On one of those hikes, I met an engineer at Blippar, which is a top Augmented Reality company. He put me in touch with the VP of Engineering when they were opening a San Francisco office. I showed that I'd done my research about the company, and I was committed to doing whatever it takes help out the team. They gave me that first shot and looking back now, I'm really grateful because I have learned so much since I've been with Blippar.
That's such a great example of how networking can pay off! Do you have advice for other bootcamp grads on the job search?
After App Academy, I applied to about 200 companies online. I did get some calls from recruiters, but the more effective strategy was going to meetups, happy hours, and work my way in through the back door. Applying online is the easiest way to apply for a job, but everyone else is doing that too. What I did was make a list of companies where I really wanted to work, then wrote a personalized cold email to the hiring manager or senior engineer to say, “I would love to pick your brain and ask questions about the company.” You're not asking for a job, just for a phone call or quick meeting where you can demonstrate the value that you can add. I connected with some of the biggest CEOs in the Valley, like Affirm CEO Max Levchin.
You’ve now been a Full-Stack Engineer at Blippar for two years- congrats! Tell us about Blippar’s mission.
In a nutshell, Blippar's vision is to bring augmented reality to the world. But we want to empower non-technical folks like teachers, advertisers, and business owners to create AR experiences and increase user engagement.
For example, wouldn't it be cool if a math teacher could take a picture of the page in a textbook and drop in 3D models of a triangle? Then a student can now point their phone at the textbook, and see this 3D model on their own phone screen and move it around, increase or decrease its size, and see how the area changes. Another example is a restaurant owner who might add links or videos for each dish that's on the menu. So a customer can point their phone at the menu and click around on the dish items and see videos or pictures of the final product.
We have three engineering teams across Blippar. The team I work on is doing the 3D editor web app, we have a mobile development team, and then a bunch of Ph.D. researchers who are working on object recognition. In total, Blippar is about 50 or 60 people; that includes QA testers, project managers and designers.
Could you give an example of something you’ve worked on at Blippar?
Over the last two years, we built this free 3D editor tool that anyone can check out. You can move things around in 3D, drop objects, and publish in the app so that anyone who points the app at that image can see the augmented reality experience. It allows someone with no technical experience to upload 3D models, animate objects, add videos, sounds, and explanations.
A lot of the experienced senior engineers had never built an app like this before. So, in the beginning, we were doing a lot of research, to see how similar systems were designed and implemented. It's been a super cool journey because I didn't just learn about engineering, I also saw how the whole design process happens. I've learned about graphics, 3D, and how to combine meshes and textures. All my knowledge will be applicable to VR and AR – I'm really happy I joined Blippar.
I've been on this 3D Editor project the longest out of anyone now, so I know the codebase better than anyone else. Other developers might have a decade of experience over me, but in the context of this particular app, I'm the expert on debugging. That's a great feeling, to be seen as a valuable member of the team.
Did App Academy prepare you well for your first job as a software engineer?
Since you've graduated from App Academy and joined Blippar, how do you feel you've grown as a developer?
Coming out of App Academy I definitely felt prepared, but I've now internalized a lot of the concepts that I learned in App Academy by practicing them day-in and day-out. Looking back, I'm embarrassed about how I built my final App Academy project. There's so much depth to programming – that the deeper you go, the more you realize how much you don't know.
How has your previous experience in SCRUM and finance been useful in your new career?
My experience as a SCRUM master definitely helps me understand what other people on my team are looking for from me. You never work as an individual contributor when you’re on a team. You have conversations with a product manager who wants to create the best product and user experience. But from the engineer's perspective, your goal is to check off all the boxes for acceptance criteria. Having been a SCRUM master, I know that there are competing interests: QA will complain that engineers are writing bad code; designers will complain that they don't have enough requirements. I can relate and have empathy for various roles on my team.
Looking back, do you think you would have been able to transition into this career without App Academy?
App Academy also gives you strategies on how to negotiate your salary, and they teach you about data structures, algorithms and exactly what you need to pass the job interviews. All you have to do is absorb all that information. If your goal is to become an engineer, you should just do a coding bootcamp. Why teach yourself for a year if you can do it in three months?
How have you stayed in touch with App Academy or the bootcamp world?
Since I've graduated App Academy, my twin brother (who actually did a coding bootcamp too), my roommate, and I launched a podcast called "Breaking into Startups," where we feature stories of people from non-traditional backgrounds who broke into tech. Kush Patel, the founder of App Academy, is a friend of mine and we interviewed him on our podcast. We've also interviewed Haseeb Qureshi, who used to be a Teaching Assistant at App Academy, then wrote a blog post on how he was able to get a software engineering job at Airbnb making $250,000. We talked to Yousef Soomro who was a 19-year-old who went through App Academy and became an engineer.
I've definitely stayed in touch with my classmates, and via Facebook I'm able to see them get new jobs at companies like Uber, Facebook or Google, and how they are growing within their careers as well.
October 2017 was a busy month for the coding bootcamp industry with news about growing pains in bootcamp outcomes, mergers, acquisitions, investments, a trend towards bootcamp B2B training, and diversity initiatives. To help you out, we’ve collected all the most important news in this blog post and podcast. Plus, we added 12 new schools from around the world to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
Need a rundown of everything that happened in the coding bootcamp industry this September? You’re in luck! We’ve collected all the most important news in this blog post and podcast. This month, we kept up with the status of the bootcamp industry, learned about how bootcamps are thriving in smaller markets, and explored different ways to pay for bootcamp. Plus, we added 7 new schools from around the world to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
Just as they’ve developed disruptive education tools, technology bootcamps are also adopting payment plans which allow students to pay nothing or very little until they graduate and find a job. Deferred tuition and income sharing agreements (ISAs) are becoming more widely available, and give students who don’t have $20,000 in the bank, access to life-changing learning opportunities. This guide will help you sort through the details and differentiate between the terms; plus, we’ve even helped you start your research by compiling a list of coding and data science bootcamps that offer ISAs or Deferred Tuition.Continue Reading →
With the closing of Dev Bootcamp (slated for December 8, 2017), you’re probably wondering what other coding bootcamp options are out there. Dev Bootcamp changed thousands of lives, and built a great reputation with employers, so we are sad to see it go. Fortunately, there are still plenty of quality coding bootcamps in the cities where Dev Bootcamp operated. Here is a list of coding bootcamps with similar lengths, time commitments, and curriculums in the six cities where Dev Bootcamp had campuses: Austin, Chicago, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle.Continue Reading →
Need an overview of coding bootcamp news in May? You’re in the right place! We’ve collected all the most important news in this blog post and podcast. This month, we read about a number of insightful surveys about employers, programming languages, and learners. We read advice about choosing a bootcamp, learned about efforts to encourage women and veterans to learn to code, and heard about student experiences at bootcamp. Plus, we added a bunch of interesting new schools to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
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 →
How much do coding bootcamps 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 $11,400, bootcamp tuition can range from $9,000 to $21,000, and some coding bootcamps have deferred tuition. So how do you decide what to budget for? Here, we break down the costs of coding bootcamps from around the USA.
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 ~$11,400, which is no small sacrifice. A number of not-for-profit and well-organized programs offer free coding bootcamps. Some of these bootcamps are funded by job 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.
RSVP here to claim your spot- space is limited!Continue Reading →
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.