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
- Alumni Spotlight: Timur Meyster of App Academy
- October 2017 Coding Bootcamp News + Podcast
- September 2017 Coding Bootcamp News + Podcast
Recent App Academy Reviews: Rating 4.67
Full Stack Web Development
Application Deadline:December 18, 2017
- Contingency Fee
- 18% of year 1 salary post completion if tuition is deferred
- Payment Plan
- $15,000 payment plan available
- $5,000 if placed through the school's job placement program (if tuition is deferred)
- Minimum Skill Level
- Basic computer knowledge
- Placement Test
Bootcamp Prep (San Francisco)
New York City
Full Stack Web Development
Application Deadline:November 15, 2017
- Contingency Fee
- 18% of year 1 salary post completion if tuition is deferred
- Payment Plan
- $15,000 payment plan available
- $5,000 if placed through the school's job placement program (if tuition is deferred)
- Minimum Skill Level
- Basic computer knowledge
- Placement Test
Bootcamp Prep (New York City)
$500 App Academy Scholarship
- Full Stack Web Development (San Francisco)
$500 App Academy Scholarship
- Full Stack Web Development (New York City)
App Academy Reviews
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When I was conducting my search for bootcamps - One thing I did not see alot of were reviews by students that might have not completed the course (like myself). Esentially anybody who made it through any boot camp gave the course 5 stars just about every time. I'm writing this review for the persons who want to make the investment but are also beginners.
App Academy says that anybody can be a software engineer and I do believe that is true. What is important to keep in mind if you are a beginner though, is if your wanting to learn can keep up with the pace you will be required to learn. I got into the program because I am dedicated, I studied my butt off and I am absolutely passionate about web dev and that showed in my interview process and during my code tests (the entry tests are not very hard at all - If you could handle medium level coderbyte problems you will be more than prepared).
I feel the biggest issue for a person that is completely new to the field of web dev and starts to learn on their own is which way to go and what to study. I prepped for app academy strictly by solving problems that would help me pass the entry tests - however doing that is only the very tip of the tip of the smallest tip of the iceberg once you actually get in. The tests to get in are like easy crawls but the work immediately becomes a marathon sprint from there.
I will repeat this again, if you are just about a complete newbie, the prep work can be a bit overwhelming and once the classes start, if you are still struggling with the basics you will be in trouble very early. You will need to build games every day with a partner and not being comfortable with the foundations can lead to some uncomfortable pair programming where you might defer nearly all the code ideas to your partner. I struggled in this manner and while my partners were helpful - not having a solid foundation will kill you in the course because the challenges are a bit harder every single day. I will also say that at least in my short time there, a good amount of students had some type of comp sci background or at least programmed in some capacity in their jobs or schools. Being a complete beginner isnt a dealbreaker but I cannot stress enough that feeling secure in the foundations is very important.
a/A is very performance based so flunking two assessments will get you kicked out. I didn't make it through the course because I couldnt keep up with that pace. Did I decide to quit web dev? Absolutely not - everybody falls and you have to get back up and try again - a/A was also very helpful at the end of the day when my time terminated.
If I had to begin the process over, i'd say it's incredibly important to understand the preparatory materials as well as possible at the onset. You cannot go in and expect people to hold your hand because the pace of work is very very fast. I'd also say that you should not be afraid to ask questions if you need help. Lastly you need to assess your ability to process information. If you need longer time to grasp things, you might need to consider whether boot camp is the right move for you. It was unfortunate to not finish a/A but I am happy for the experience because it has tested my resolve to march on and I expect to work in web dev soon enough - if not in 3 months :)
If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. App academy is no exception.
Getting into app academy is not as hard as they make it seem. A few basic ruby programming problems and you are in.
Their curriculum is nothing special. It's all open source which you can find online for free or low cost.
After quitting my job and investing a ton of time and energy, I was "asked" to leave after 9 days into the program.
App academy's PC culture of diversity, inclusiveness, ass kissing, and bureaucracy did not click with me. They are big on pair programming which is a complete waste of time and a hindrance to learning. Facilities are filthy and men can't even get their own restroom. Every day there was some diversity, women in tech, gay pride, sensitive training type thing going on. That crap doesn't belong in the workplace.
App academy's claim to fame is "no tuition until hired". This is complete bullshit. I paid a $5000 deposit which was inconvenient but I didn't think too hard about. I thought it would be similar to a security deposit on rent. When I was asked to leave they only gave me back $2300 when I expected my full refund.
Based on their model, they are incentivized to take as many students as they can, cull the ones that don't work and make a ton of money. I like most people would think "no tuition until hired" means they do everything they can to get you hirable. Turns out they don't give a shit because they keep your money.
I don't mind being "asked" to leave. What I have an issue with is claiming "no tuition until hired" and then turning around and keeping my money.
If they had refunded my amount completely they would have kept their promise and I would have been fine with that.
This is false and deceptive adverting. This is fraud. This is coercion.
The reason why they have perfect reviews on yelp is because they stick a non-disbarment clause to students who are asked to leave.
This is illegal in California. Shows the length of what these scam artists do for money. Suppression of free speech. This review will probably get down voted until no one sees it.
I talked to a lawyer and he said since I signed the termination contract I have accepted their "refund" and there's nothing I can do. I was coerced into signing it because I would get nothing if I didn't.
Bear in mind this is hailing from the personal perspective of a student who felt somewhat out of place at App Academy. Pretty much everything that you read up on App Academy is true, and so your general expectations of the course will be met. For me, the below things weren't what I expected going into the course. Also, some of these are more encompassing and not specific to App Academy.
-Pair programming (and this is true of probably of all the bootcamps that use pair programming): there's a natural human dynamic that comes into play when pair programming, and that dynamic is going to vary tremendously based on personality. In general, if you are outgoing, patient, and a fast coder, then you will probably breeze right through pair programming; however, most people don't have the full combination of those qualities, so for example, if a fast but impatient coder--who just wants to finish the project--is paired up with a slower programmer, the slower programmer can have a rough time. As a slower programmer myself, I experienced this often (but had great experiences as well with a few partners who were willing to lessen the pace and actually collaborate). And for these days, I often felt like I learned next to nothing, and that was exceedingly frustrating. The frustration dragged me down mentally, and my attitude totally shifted, even though the vast majority of App Academites improved at their "teamwork" and collaborative abilities through the duration of the course. Needless to say, I didn't particularly enjoy my time there socially (I take responsibility for this though). But if you're the kind of person who can weather these sorts of things and keep your head up, then don't worry.
-Fast learning and raw logical-thinking speed: tying in with my previous point, I'm not that fast of a learner (more of a deep learner), and I get super nervous when I'm trying to think with a pair programming partner right next to me waiting and often interjecting with comments or ideas. These things dampened my performance and experience a lot.
-The general "techy" culture: now, I've only recently been in tech, but there's a certain techy culture (or maybe it's just NYC) that I realized doesn't really suit my particular personality. Tech is dominated heavily by the "TJ" type by myers-briggs classification. I am not a "TJ", and in a working environment, I'm still learning how to work with them.
-The TA teaching: I wish there were more one-on-one instruction. The vast majority of your time will be spent coding, and I'd venture to guess that each day, each student interacts with the TA maybe a maximum of 5 times? This may be wildly off, but understand that coding is a primarily self-driven activity, and questions shouldn't be asked until you've thoroughly researched something yourself, so in reality TA's are there to help you through your most pressing issues. This is extremely valuable and necessary, but it felt weird to be spending just 5-10% (again a rough estimate) actually interacting with TA's.
In general, from what I've observed, App Academy students have an awesome time there. Though overworked and mentally drained, they bond closely and learn from each other. App Academy is definitely a fantastic choice for a bootcamp, and you can't go wrong with it. Hopefully, the issues that I had will help you in preparing for App Academy.
The time at App Academy was a HORRIBLE experience, BUT WAIT! before I continue I just want to say, I graduated App Academy and got a job as a developer immediately. So to continure with this review, I will continue to that getting through App Academy was literally the hardest thing I have ever done in life. I went through engineering school as an undergrad and never have I been through more stress and worked harder for anything. Although this is coming from someone with absolutely no coding experience before app academy so some of my cohort mates had it much easier than I did. But anyways, after it was all over, I must declare it to be the BEST DECISION I HAVE EVER MADE. I was so amazed at how much I was able to learn in just a little bit of time. App Academy gave me everything I needed to start my first job as a web developer. It actually gave me confidence in myself after I saw how much knowledge I was able to gain so quickly, which is something college never did for me. So, to anyone looking to apply, study hard! because they are hard to get an acceptance from, and prepare to work hard. How ever hard you worked to prepare for the interview process, be prepared to work 50 times as hard once you're in.
p.s. Jonathan, the instructor at NYC is an awesome teacher. I don't know about SF but I would recommend the NYC office just because Jonathan was such a good instructor and he really knew how to help with all the issues you might have, and make the learning more interesting and fun for everyone.
- they taught a lot really quickly and really well -- they're the reason I'm employed now
- lots of opportunities to ask for help from smart TAs
- information was delivered really well in manageable chunks
- wasn't clear at the time that they asked for a deposit up front
- when I took the course, the backbone curriculum was a little weak (but that's probably changed)
- mostly left alone during the job search period -- I think they could have been a little more supportive
For 26 years prior to App Academy I held a latent disdain for my generic fellow man because he was just dumb and me discussing the truth with him would probably offend or shock him.
App Academy is the only time in my life where I've felt legitimately overmatched and fighting for my life. Where I felt dumber and seriously fighting to just stay there. Every day I had to decide to get up and fucking fight and even then I lost a lot.
The best thing about App Academy is not the curriculum. It is the opportunity to spend time with the humble folks with whom you will be walking on coals. I have poor character so I had to cheat to not get expelled, but now 9 months removed I am making $130k/year and my superior colleagues are surely making more. Don't cheat though.
If you are driven, you should quit your job, then get the curriculum from an alum and devote 80 hours per week to the correct delivery of their daily exercises. This can save you a lot of money.
Try get a job by applying with scripts. Their job search is way too manual of a process for people who just learned to try to automate everything.
App Academy gets the best people because they charge nothing up front. Don't settle for a lesser school that just wants your money and kicks you on your way. App Academy does not get paid until you get employed, AND they only get max money if you get $100k.
If you do not like to work hard, then you should not attend this bootcamp. My cohort put in the 80-90 hours per week. Other bootcamps offer services like counseling, group exercise, and off-topic workshops. App Academy is not like that. It is a no-frills immersive program.
HOWEVER, if you are prepared to earn your stripes, then this is the best bootcamp around. It's thorough and hands-on. Honestly, their business model says it all. You owe no tuition unless you get a job, and the amount that you pay them is based on your starting salary.
While I stand by the fact that this place will kick your ass, Jonathan is the most nuturing instructor one could ever dream of. He pours his heart into his work and each of his students. He wants you to succeed. While you spend most of your classroom hours working with another student, the TAs and Jonathan are always available to help get you un-stuck.
As far as job placement, App Academy grads work at impressive companies, like Google, Pivotal, Thoughbot, Groupon, etc. Alum (including myself) attend hiring day for recruiting purposes. Companies in the city are 'repeat customers', hiring grads from a/A when they need new devs. There's also a mailing list for alum, so the cohorts continue to support each other even after graduation.
Bottom line - this program works. Whether you decide to become a dev or take the ops route like I did, App Academy will prepare you for a career in the tech world.
App Academy was an amazing experience. From learning the basics of Ruby through developing full stack web apps, the instructors are always extremely helpful and push you to be your best. I feel like my education at App Academy has set me up for success, not just right now, but also in the long run.
Pros.... you don't have to pay until you get a job is good for some people. The office is nice and centrally located. The ratio of TAs to students is good. Some of the projects are very interesting and unique to A/A (you get to create your own object relational mapper for example). They do cover data structures and algorithms which are important for interviews.
Cons... Their "money-back" guarantee contract is actually ridiculous. You only don't have to pay tuition if you search for an entire year after the program is over and don't find a job (you aren't allowed to hold even part-time work in your previous position for that entire year).
They test their students every week and kick out the students who don't perform well, so this inflates their statistics on percentage of students who find a job vs other bootcamps who don't kick out students. Plus it makes everyone way stressed out. Even so, their time to placement is way too long (after 3 months, ~50% of grads are employed), compare that to Hack Reactor's stats of 80%!).
They have terrible post-graduation job support that mostly involves pushing students to bulk-spam companies. Basically, forget about picking where you want to work, just get an offer anywhere that will give you one because let's face it, we're in a coding bootcamp bubble. There are now way more bootcamp graduates than there are openings for junior-level software engineers in SF and most employers don't think A/A graduates are any better/different from Dev Bootcamp/General Assembly/Coding Dojo, etc grads. All students are required to submit 200+ applications to companies.
TAs are 99% recently graduated students who did well in the course but have no work experience as software engineers or experience finding jobs in this field.
-Their claimed information about percent of students placed and average salaries is absolutely right, even though it sounds too good to be true.
-You are not charged money up front, except for a $3,000 deposit. This distinguishes App Academy from most other programs, and it's much better to pay money when you have it than before you have it. This makes AA inherently more accessible to students with less of a financial cushion than some other programs.
-Jonathan (instructor in NYC) really knows what he's doing and is a very compassionate person.
-The students are quite intelligent and motivated.
-High-stakes weekly assessments with sometimes unclear information about consequences; makes the program somewhat more stressful than necessary. Also, some of the assessments are spelled out in advance too much, which favors type-A over-studiers over people really trying to understand the concepts. That said, nobody was actually kicked out in my group.
-At least in NYC, App Academy doesn't seem to be marketed as well, or have as many deep connections to employers, as some other bootcamps. Placement outcomes seem to still be good despite this.
-I felt like half of the advice I got about jobs seems wrong to me now that I know the industry better. Maybe it's overly tailored at SF?
-Application process is sketchy. Founder Kush Patel seems to have shown up late for pretty much everybody's interviews (mine included), and many people report being unnecessarily intimidated by his personality. They should probably get somebody else to handle this process. Also, the public-facing website being way out of date doesn't help.
-Sometimes felt like cramming lots of fancy technologies into a short period of time was valued more than building resilient products with the user in mind, and this sometimes shows in students' finished work (i.e. "let me tell you about my fancy AJAX thing! No, don't try that feature, you'll break it. Just let me demonstrate. Anyway, about that AJAX thing...) This may be a problem with pretty much every bootcamp.
-It would be nice if there were no $3,000 deposit; this would make App Academy really be able to brag about its no-strings-attached $0 upfront price and really distinguish itself from competitors.
Overall, despite the above rants, this is an excellent choice for a cash-strapped career changer (or even a non-cash-strapped career changer). It definitely got the job done.
TL;DR: App Academy is an extremely fast-paced deep dive intro for Ruby on Rails and Backbone.js. It's good for students who can drop everything to find junior developer positions.
I went through the App Academy bootcamp over a year ago.
- AA has very strong batches: Since AA is free until after you find a job, the application pool is huge and the selection pretty rigorous (I think the acceptance rate is < 5%). This means AA places you with with really strong batch mates and designs a curriculum that challenges you.
- Pros: You work with smart people. You mostly pair with peopel you can depend on to work at a quick pace and swap learnings and coding patterns with.
- Cons: You might have a hard time getting in. I know people who have applied and been accepted into multiple bootcamps but were turned down by AA. Make sure you really study Ruby on codeacademy.com, coderbyte.com, rubykoans.com, etc. AA will give you a similar list nof resources when you apply before you do your coding interview.
- AA is extremely fast-paced: You're forced to learn a lot and are tested weekly on your progress. They know you're smart and design a curriculum assuming that will make your head hurt.
- Pros: You're really challenged. The course load and pace reminded me of the 'drink from the firehose' feeling I had in some of the harder courses I took while at MIT. You'll learn a ton if you apply yourself 100%.
- Cons: The pace was too quick for some - we ended up having to drop a few classmates that couldn't keep up and productively pair with us. There's a weekly test that can be difficult, and students were dropped if they failed 3 assessments in a row. This makes sense - you don't want to pair with someone way behind on material, as it would hamper your own learning. Still, don't attempt AA unless you can really commit your time to pairing during the day and studying at night and over the weekend.
- AA emphasises on working through problems: We were given the entire day to work through problems, with solutions made available only after a full 8-10 hours of work put in.
- Cons: We covered fewer overall algorithms and patterns. Example - I only learned the Rails conventional AJAX form method using remote: true at work. However, I had a pretty good understanding of making AJAX calls from in-class experimentation, so picking up the remote: true method wasn't too difficult.
- Pros: This approach taught away the 'magic' in lots of the libraries we were using and made debugging complicated issues easier, since we had a more intuitive feel for what was happening under the hood.
- Cons: We learned fewer libraries and covered their actual implementation/documentation in less depth. This made us read documentation on our own time for our more extensive final projects.
Perhaps the most important point is that I'm very happily employed now with the same company I started with immediately after AA (www.therealreal.com). So is a fellow batch mate - we work on standing desks right next to each other 18 months after having first paired together. We're both valued contributors with an above-average salary and are still learning constantly from more experienced developers. Both of us think AA really helps set of promising careers in web development / software engineering.
App Academy makes money when its graduates get good jobs, and the course reflects that. The quality of instruction isn't bad, exactly—I would rate it slightly below average. But if you are looking for one on one support, a vibrant community feel, or a thoughtful introduction to fundamentals, you will not get it there. What you will get is an extremely focused curriculum, a no-nonsense environment that motivates people who already have some natural ability, and a lot of very good advice about your job search. App Academy is changing so much and so fast that I hesitate to speak too much about its specific practices when I attended. We didn't get much immediate help with job placement. The partners they touted didn't materialize in NYC. But I got a very good job, essentially my dream job, by following their advice almost to the letter and working my ass off. The vast majority (though not all) of the people in my cohort also got good jobs. If you are smart and self motivated and you enjoy coding enough to do it on your own time before you go, App Academy will produce results.
Among the sea of bootcamps, most are coder mills that don't teach their students how to problem solve or think critically. App Academy is different and it provides a perfect platform for motivated, smart, and driven people who will take the intense program by the horns and get the most out of it.
I'm a little over a month out of the program and I received three job offers with salaries I never dreamed I'd be making, and I can confidently say that I put in the work to get these offers, with the great curriculum and instruction at App Academy.
While this bootcamp, like almost all others, focuses on a specific tech stack, they emphasize problem-solving and provide a platform for those who want a deeper dive into CS. Showing up, doing the projects and homework, and applying for jobs will help you get a job. But if you want to get a stellar job, you have to have the grit to get through the difficulty of the problem, often with a lot of self-motivation to learn more on the side.
I had some experience with coding (nothing professional), so it wasn't a steep learning curve, but I still felt challenged every day and it all fell into place during the job search when I started to do well at interviews.
This program is NOT for you if you're expecting a magic bullet or if you think just graduating will land you a job. It's hard work, but the rewards are there for those who will put in the time.
I took the A/a 4-week bootcamp prep course at their SF location. You can get a weekly rundown via my blog posts from that experience on my blog. If you're a woman, I suggest you take that jump and get in the reads about my experiences from that position.
As an aside: I've gone on to Hackbright Academy and am beyond thrilled with my experiences. My foray into A/a was supportive in some unusual ways. One of those ways was to highlight many of the masculinist and patriarchical cultural values in which the tech community and the App Academy bootcamp are rooted. I was genuinely sad to see so much sexism present in their cohort. I would often arrive early and be in earshot of the full-stack bootcampers and instructors for hours. There were some dicey moments, and a few that made me want to throw my computer out of the window.
Considering the prep course OR bootcamp?
Here are a few highlights from my experience:
- It's worth taking the time and spending the money to take a prep course if you are on the fence about diving into a coding camp, or you simply want to get some support jump starting into one. I am not entirely sure I would suggest paying the A/a price if it gives you pause, but if it’s totally manageable and the support will be of assistance: go for it! In many ways I’m thankful for spending my time there.
- I spent time with one of their tutors: that was extremely helpful, reviewing the problems that I struggled to break down into bite sized chunks. I recommend their services if you have the expendable cash, though it would be a LOT cheaper to find
- The instructors were supportive but I think it was painfully obvious they were coders teaching, and not teachers coding. I have mostly great things to say about their individual styles to teaching. However, their structure seems a bit hap-hazard and thrown together. I would venture a guess that they have filled in most of the curriculum on the fly — and if not, I suggest they take a step back and get organized.
- I know pair programming is a large part of the coding puzzle, yet this program is extremely individualized in a polarizing way. I had expected to be encouraged to work alongside one another, review code together, etc. Nada. If anything, I feel we were discouraged from doing so. I’m unsure whether this is indicative of the A/a culture, the bootcamp culture, or this particular instructor & student environment…
App Academy is unnecessarily stressful. Their weekly assessments don't really help you learn - they just make sure that you panic every weekend. They kick out about 10% of their students based on these assessments. About 90% is the cutoff for a passing score, so there are plenty of decent students who have been trying their best and who will become good professional programmers who get kicked out. Often times, students struggle because they panic or run out of time. This hurts group morale, and I honestly think its unethical for a school to structurally plan on about 10% of their students failing.
I don't know about you, but I thought that I was going to spend my weekends during the bootcamp making cool projects, not cramming the same algorithms or mini-projects again and again until I can rewrite them very quickly under stressful conditions.
FYI - I didn't get kicked out. I'm pretty sure that if you do, you sign some nondisclosure agreement to get your deposit back, and that's while this board isn't full of angry people.
I feel like I put myself through hell to get into the program and to get through the program, but it was absolutely worth it. I work at one of the best companies in the world and have an amazing salary.
They basically have all the resources you need to learn web development from scratch and find a great job. The biggest variable is not the school itself but how hard you work to take advantage of those resources and make the best of it.
After about 6 months at my new programming job, I can say I've been very impressed with how well the App Academy curriculum prepared me for this new career. I highly recommend this program for an intensive transition into programming and support getting a job in the field.
App academy creates a pretty miserable culture in which all of the students are afraid of getting kicked out. I was substantially anxious every single day of this program, and it honestly did not make me more productive. In addition to high pressure assessments, they have an absurd and unnecessary strike system that just adds a little extra daily misery to your life. The physical space of their New York location is overcrowded, and they seem to have not adjusted their teaching style while recently doubling their cohort size. When you are in the project phase of the curriculum, a new cohort will have started, and almost all of the instructors' attention will be on the new cohort, so plenty of students finish the exhausting curriculum only to find that they aren't even satisfied with the portfolio projects that will be central to their job hunt.
I learned a lot, but as someone who has taught at the college level before, I know that there is no justification for treating students in this manner. It doesn't improve results. It brings out bad student behavior, and when combined with all of the social forces already shaping the tech industry, contributes to creating a hostile environment for women and minorities.
I think that their tuition model helps them justify treating their students poorly. Everyone thinks at first "App Academy isn't charging me tuition, so I'm lucky to be here no matter what!" But then you rememer that you paid a $5k deposit, and you will eventually pay many thousands more, and that maybe, just maybe, we should expect to be treated like humans by educational institutions.
Our latest on App Academy
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 $11,451, 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.