Recent Code Union News
Fundamentals of Web Development
We designed this workshop for busy professionals and aspiring developers who want to learn how to code, build basic web applications & prototypes, and work more effectively with engineering teams. You'll learn the building blocks of web software, including computer networking, HTTP, object-oriented software design, database architecture, HTML & CSS, and the DOM.
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Rails, TDD, and Professional Engineering
This workshop dives deep into the professional aspects of software development, with an emphasis on group projects, teamwork, automated testing & TDD, maintainability, and other skills one traditionally learns on the job. We'll use Ruby and Rails as our core framework.
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SQL Deep-Dive & Metrics
We designed this workshop for professionals who want to dive deep into SQL, the language that powers relational databases like MySQL and PostgreSQL. We assume no prior knowledge, but be warned — we're going deep into SQL-land! By the end, students will be able to translate product, operational, and marketing questions directly into SQL. In addition, we'll cover the basic principles of statistics, analytics, and data science so that students can ask better questions and meaningfully interpret the answers.
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Topics in Computer Science
This workshop covers core topics in pure computer science, with an emphasis on data structures and analysis of algorithms. You'll learn all about lists, trees, graphs, and the algorithms associated with them. The workshop is still hands-on, so expect to be implementing these data structures and algorithms by hand. We'll implement each structure in multiple languages, to see how different languages make it easier or harder to express certain computational ideas.
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Our latest on Code Union
Sagar received his Bachelor’s degree in business finance and worked in the financial industry prior to attending law school. After trying several online learning platforms and even completing the early stages of Dev Bootcamp’s Phase 0, Sagar shifted gears and started at CodeUnion, the online programming bootcamp run by Jesse Farmer, John Davidson and Tanner Welsh. Sagar is currently a practicing attorney and tells us about his experience at CodeUnion’s remote Fundamentals of Web Development workshop.
Tell us what you were up to before you started CodeUnion.
After working in the financial industry for about a year and a half, I’ve been a practicing attorney for a little over five years now. My career path over the last five years has been focused heavily on the technology space. I’ve gotten to work with CTOs and technology implementations and that attracted me to programming.
What is your motivation for doing a bootcamp?
I’ve always enjoyed building basic web applications using Wordpress or other platforms so the next logical step was to learn programming so I could build from the ground up. I’d tried a few online resources but in order to take what I had learned to the next level, I needed a support group (i.e., teachers and students) that I could bounce ideas and questions off of to really solidify what I had learned.
Did you have a technical background before you started looking for bootcamps?
I had novice-level experience in both HTML and CSS and prior to CodeUnion, I’d completed Tealeaf Academy’s introductory course and dabbled in a few classes provided by both Codecademy and Treehouse.
What was your experience with Tealeaf?
I enjoyed Tealeaf and it was a great introduction into Ruby. The reason I didn’t continue on was because the model wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Tealeaf is geared towards working professionals who want a part-time option to learn basic web development skills. The flow of the workshop was a bit too quick for me (introductory course was 4 weeks long) and I realized I needed more teacher and student interaction to really internalize what I was learning.
Since you have experience with Tealeaf and now CodeUnion, what are the main differences between the two?
If I had to compare the two programs, I would say Tealeaf is similar to Bloc or a more interactive version of Treehouse, whereas CodeUnion is similar to an in-class bootcamp (e.g., Dev Bootcamp).
Why did you decide to do a part-time, online program instead of a full-time, in-person boot camp?
My decision didn’t necessarily come down to full-time vs. part-time. It was more about where I thought I would learn the most from experienced teachers who were passionate about teaching. I eventually landed on CodeUnion because of the quality of their teachers. Jesse Farmer is a co-founder of Dev Bootcamp and Tanner Welsh co-founded Dev Bootcamp New York. There are relatively few bootcamps where students have the ability to learn straight from those people passionate enough to start their own schools. Jesse has a vested interest in the success of CodeUnion and it’s apparent how much he enjoys teaching. The enthusiasm Jesse, Tanner, and Zee Spencer have for teaching is what keeps students motivated.
Have you kept your job as a lawyer while you do CodeUnion?
I’ve kept my full-time job as an attorney while attending CodeUnion. After a 10 hour work day, I dedicate a few hours every night to CodeUnion and then most of my weekend hours. It’s not easy but it’s doable and enjoyable.
What was the application process like at CodeUnion? Were there technical requirements to being accepted?
The interview process was a bit more relaxed than I expected and it was more Q&A from both sides of the table.
Round one was an introduction with one of CodeUnion’s teachers and I suspect topics vary from interviewee to interviewee. It was a chance for me to ask any questions I had about CodeUnion.
In Round two, Jesse answered any additional questions I had, he asked me about my long-term goals and he set expectations. There was a small technical portion to the interview, primarily designed to give interviewees a picture of how CodeUnion approaches teaching and whether CodeUnion believes that the interviewee can have a productive back-and-forth with the teacher.
The interview was a great way for me to feel comfortable with CodeUnion and get a glimpse into how I would be learning. It wasn’t as formal as Dev Bootcamp or Hack Reactor but it also wasn’t as easy as simply signing up like Tealeaf or Bloc.
Was there a job guarantee or job support promised?
CodeUnion’s approach is a bit different from the usual developer bootcamp suspects. The school doesn’t set incredibly high expectations by promising six figure salaries and an exorbitant placement rate, which I suspect a lot of bootcamp attendees get mesmerized by. I’m not sure whether that might be a product of CodeUnion’s newness, but I don’t get the feeling that CodeUnion is just trying to collect a check and then not care where their students landed (as I did with other developer bootcamps).
How many people are in your cohort?
I believe there are about 9 or 10 students in the fundamentals workshop and more students in the other workshops. We use an application called Slack to communicate when not attending a live web-conference session and there’s a lot of opportunity for one-on-one time with teachers and students.
You’re in the first course- how many are there in total?
I’m in the fourth week of the fundamentals workshop. There are three workshops that last 8 weeks each:
- Fundamentals of Web Development
- Rails, TDD, and Professional Engineering
- Topics in Computer Science
In addition to the above, there is a 4-week SQL Deep-Dive & Metrics workshop.
What are you learning in this Fundamentals workshop?
That’s the high-level view of what we’ve done to date but there are so many topics that we’ve covered in addition to those mentioned that just four weeks in, I already feel comfortable in deploying a basic web application.
Jesse and the team focus on teaching topics that help a student’s long-term success. In addition to learning code, they do a great job of teaching students how to orient themselves in real-world situations.
What are the CodeUnion the instructors like?
Tanner is the official teacher of the Fundamentals workshop. He conducts the three weekly web-conference sessions and he has a real knack for teaching complex topics to novice learners. In addition to Tanner, we’re given regular answers to any questions we may have through Slack from either Jesse or Zee (or anyone else who is in the community).
For every sprint, we have a set number of exercises and projects we’re required to finish. Once we’ve made small iterations to each of the projects, we’re encouraged to submit those projects to GitHub for feedback requests. Feedback is provided by either Jesse or Tanner in the form of suggestions on best practices, fixing bugs, or any other questions we have.
The teachers have a quick response time and there hasn’t been a time where I felt stuck and no one was around to answer my question. The experience thus far has been excellent.
You said that he does three webcasts each week. What are those webcasts like?
The webcasts are typically 2 hours long but can go longer depending on the topic. They’re absolutely interactive and students have the opportunity to not only ask questions but also screen share so we can collectively conduct code reviews (we use an application called Zoom for webcasts, not Google Hangouts).
Last week Tanner taught us about classes and objects during the Tuesday session; there was an optional Q&A session on Thursday; and during our Saturday session, we built an application of the cohorts choosing.
Are there any time zone issues? You’re based in New York, but CodeUnion is in San Francisco.
I’m probably the luckiest because, being on the East Coast, I can do later times. But we do have students in San Francisco and I believe a student in the Midwest. We haven’t had any issues in regards to scheduling. Classes usually start between 7:00 and 9:00 pm East Coast time but times vary by cohort.
Session times are pre-determined based on the collective cohort’s schedule. At the outset, a document is distributed where students have the opportunity to choose times that work for them and based on that, Tanner selects the times that work for the group.
How many hours a week are you spending on CodeUnion?
Personally I would say I spend somewhere between 20 and 30 hours a week dedicated to learning to code but hours vary by student.
That’s a lot of hours! Would you recommend that people keep a full-time job when they do CodeUnion?
It really depends on each student’s individual circumstances. Obviously, the types of student that attend CodeUnion are those that want to work full-time or don’t want to put their lives on hold. I’m probably pushing the limits but I haven’t really been burned out. I really enjoy programming so I think it comes down to your passion for it. If you really enjoy it, you’re not going to get burned out. My plan is to tackle the first workshop on a part-time basis, then revisit how I want to proceed for the next workshop.
How much interaction do you have with other students?
The only face time that I get with students is in our three web-conference sessions each week; however, students communicate regularly through Slack. The opportunity for so much teacher and student interaction is what makes it similar to an in-person bootcamp, rather than an online course.
I believe the second workshop relies more on team projects and teamwork.
Do you feel like the curriculum is personalized to your needs?
CodeUnion obviously has a set curriculum like any other school. We’re required to learn the fundamentals; however, to the extent that there’s something that I want to explore outside the curriculum, all the teachers have been open to it.
Like I said, the Saturday session is a time for us to build one application of the cohort’s choosing. That’s given us the chance to really explore topics that may not have been covered previously.
Is there anything we didn’t touch on that you wanted to add about CodeUnion?
If you’re choosing between bootcamps, your decision shouldn’t be motivated by the bootcamp’s statistics and placement rates. I firmly believe that, as with anything in life, you get what you put in. Your choice should come down to what motivates you and which school has the teachers that will support you throughout the process.
Online, mentored coding bootcamps offer convenience and structure without forcing you to quit your job or move to a new city. But not all online programs were created equally, so which one is right for you? We'll learn from alumni at each online coding bootcamp, ready to answer your questions about their experience during class, how they found mentorship and community online, and how their careers have skyrocketed afterwards.Continue Reading →
Jesse Farmer, former cofounder of Dev Bootcamp, and John Davison, Dev Bootcamp alum, have teamed up to create an online, fully-mentored coding school called Code Union. Currently in their first cohort, Code Union offers several courses to help their students change careers, learn the basics, or upskill for their current jobs. We talk with Jesse and John about their experiences with Dev Bootcamp, why they decided to build their school online, and the types of outcomes a Code Union student can expect!
Jesse, what were you doing before starting Code Union?
Jesse: I’ve been involved in the coding bootcamp space since the start, having co-founded Dev Bootcamp. Before that, I co-founded an online retailer called Everlane, which sells premium basics online. Everlane is doing really well; in fact, some of their marketing team will be taking the Code Union SQL workshop. I’ve been in the San Francisco Bay Area for 8 years now.
Did you have education or engineering experience before starting Everlane and Dev Bootcamp?
Jesse: Both. I’m a mathematician by training, a software engineer by profession, and an educator by passion. I grew up in Northern Michigan, in the middle of nowhere, in a village of 1500 people. I’m a self-taught programmer; I’ve never taken a CS class in my life.
Most people in the Bay Area don’t quite understand what the level of access is like when you live in a village of 1500 people. Growing up in the 90s, most people in my hometown didn’t have a real conception of what “computer programming” was.
When I went to school at University of Chicago, I realized that there was a whole other world out there. Those are the experiences that informed my personal interest and passion, first starting Dev Bootcamp, and now Code Union. There are a lot of people out there who haven’t been served by the technology revolution over the last 15 years, and they’ll be left in the dust if they don’t get on board, so we should help them get on board.
When did you start teaching yourself to code?
Jesse: I got my first computer when I was 16, in 1999. It was an old Intel 486 that my mother's boss was going to toss in the garbage. The first "code" I wrote was HTML because I wanted to create my own "AOL Page."
When I learned more about how software was made, I decided to learn how to program on a computer. I picked C as my first language and it took me about a year to get "Hello, World!" to compile.
The web was a different place back then: no Google, no StackOverflow, not many beginner-friendly tutorials. Looking back now, it's amazing how much time I spent spinning my wheels and how valuable even the smallest amount of feedback would have been.
John, what’s your story?
John: I graduated in 2000 in Environmental Science. I had gotten into Internet SEO, so I knew HTML and CSS. I was also studying photography, so I knew some front-end layout stuff, but no back-end programming. As I was finishing my MBA in 2009, I had a ton of experience as a naval officer, I had a top MBA, and I felt mostly unemployable. The fact that I have mostly continuously been working since business school is amazing- most of the people I went to b-school with have not been able to work continuously. Ultimately, I wanted to go in a different direction. When I got to San Francisco, I started thinking more about Software products, and made my first software product in 2011- PitchKlub. A friend of mine built what was at the time an idea I really cared about, getting feedback on interpersonal communication. I realized that I enjoyed the process of making products; that naturally pushed me down the road to software development.
And you actually went to Dev Bootcamp!
John: As far as going to Dev Bootcamp, it just happened. Once I paid Dev Bootcamp, it was intentional, but the week leading up to me signing up for Dev Bootcamp, I wasn’t intentionally thinking I would be a programmer. I Googled coding bootcamps and Dev Bootcamp appeared. That was the first week of May. This was the second DBC cohort ever.
Jesse, were you instructing at Dev Bootcamp when John started?
Jesse: At that point, everyone was involved in the classroom. I was a frontline teacher, and I was especially present in that cohort. I wrote about 80% of Dev Bootcamp’s curriculum, and I was really involved.
That summer, we had a help request system that students could use from their workstations. I spent most of my day running from help request to help request. We would joke that I was the “chief flight attendant.”
John, when you graduated from DBC, what were your thoughts? Were you satisfied?
John: I thought Dev Bootcamp was one of the more transformational things I’ve done with my life. That being said, it wasn’t a cakewalk. It’s hard to get a job as a software engineer, and I’m not an ideal candidate for these companies. I had a lot of experience and an MBA, and I had really clear expectations. If you look at my background, it screams, “I’m looking to do something on my own.” I had to work pretty hard to get traction with companies, but I feel like the educational process was sound at DBC and they made me feel confident during the interview process. I think it took three weeks after finishing DBC for someone to say they would pay me to write code for them.
Jesse: John, it's funny you say that. Many students have an expectation coming out of a coding bootcamp that there's a job buffet waiting for them. I would say bootcamps vary even more in their ability to help students find jobs than they do in their curricular and pedagogical approaches.
I've heard stories from plenty of students from every bootcamp who didn't find work or struggled for months to find work. You don't hear these stories often for many reasons, and not just because bootcamps might want to sweep them under the rug. Who wants to come forward and announce, "I can't find a job!" In my opinion, the best bootcamps are transparent about these outcomes and, regardless, students should feel absolutely entitled to this information.
John, tell us about Ruby on Rails Tutors and why you were motivated to start teaching in that format after Dev Bootcamp?
John: In November of 2012, people in the coworking space I was working in started asking me to debug their code. I looked at a bunch of code and realized that they didn’t understand anything about Rails. I made a small Meetup group to teach all five people at once, so that I didn’t have to repeat myself. I randomly made a Meetup group called “Ruby Whitebelts” and 250 people joined it without any promotion in 3 weeks. That’s probably the single largest signal that I’ve gotten that the world needs something I’m doing. I tepidly started doing events, teaching people Ruby on Rails, throughout the Spring of 2013. Honestly, I didn’t have a huge affinity for it; there are a lot of people, expectations are weird, I didn’t have any free time, and I’m still struggling to establish myself as a junior dev. By May, I wind down my involvement with that Meetup group, but some people in the coworking space introduced me to a designer who wanted to learn to code and would pay me. We met, and it seemed like it actually made sense. It ended up being pretty a solid experience- I got him to the point where he was working on his own apps, and could pair program with other Senior Engineers. He understood the intersection between technical software and what it means to actually put that in front of people and solve their problems. In the process, I realized that I enjoyed teaching people and that I could be pretty good at it. It’s hard to make a lot of money in one-on-one teaching, and that’s what got me thinking about Ruby on Rails Tutor- small groups, online, remote pair programming. It also made me think a lot about what worked and what didn’t work at Dev Bootcamp. I had a good experience at Dev Bootcamp, but some attributes of DBC were not for me. The huge outlay of money at the beginning, not having any input into the education process. I felt relatively burned by business school, in terms of commitment and feedback cycle. That was a huge issue, to have zero input into the experience.
In this world of startups and technology, Dev Bootcamp was empowering. I gave it something and it gave me something of 10x greater value back. I wanted to deliver that kind of empowerment to other people, and if I could do that, then the format would be irrelevant. That would be a huge entrepreneurial success. If I could figure out how to do something like Dev Bootcamp and a fraction of the financial outlay, that might have massive scalability, I can deliver my own signal to people all over the world.
How many students did you end up teaching through Ruby on Rails Tutors?
John: About 10.
How did you both hook up to found Code Union?
John: Well, there I was, eating a falafel, and I saw Jesse walking down the street. When we talked about what we were doing, it was like two guys with blueprints that perfectly overlapped. We realized that we should be working together.
Jesse, what drove you towards online teaching? Once you left DBC, why not start an in-person bootcamp?
Jesse: I’ll give the business reason. One of the things that Everlane and Dev Bootcamp have is a brand. That brand was deliberately constructed, backed up by real quality. You have to understand the lens through which potential customers see what you’re doing, and you don’t have to be better, but you have to be different, than your competitors. There are 70 programming bootcamps now, and Dev Bootcamp was the first of it’s type. I don’t know how I would differentiate!
Because I spent so much time interacting with students and potential students, I knew that there were plenty of people who wanted to learn how to code but wouldn't be a great fit for a coding bootcamp. For example, I have a number of product manager friends I have who wanted to do a programming bootcamp. I’d tell them: You have to understand that this program is designed to train people to be professional software engineers. You’ll get a lot out of it as a product manager, but if you go into it expecting it to be 50% pure engineering, justified in terms of your job as a product manager, it won’t work that way. If you’re paying attention, it will be a really intense exercise in applied empathy. The next time you’re in a room full of engineers, you’ll have their respect in a way you didn’t have before. You’ll never say that thing PM’s always say, “How hard can this be? Is this a quick ask? Can we just slip this in to the current roadmap?” You’ll see and feel how the sausage gets made.
Are those the types of students you’re looking for? People who have touched technology, but haven’t been in technical roles?
Jesse: If people want to learn something, they should have an amazing educational experience available to them, and it shouldn’t require throwing their life into disarray to make it happen. If people want to make career change, it should be more transitional in nature as opposed to a line in the sand with significant risk.
The two biggest buckets for us are current employees who don’t want to become full-time software engineers and people for whom the opportunity cost of a bootcamp is simply too high. For example, a product manager who wants to become a technical product manager, or someone who has a full-time job and a family to support, so they can’t quit their job and uproot their life to learn how to code.
Tell us about your classes now.
Jesse: We have four workshops up, and we think of them like tracks. We have three in the Web Development sequence right now; fundamentals is the first class, then one dedicated to professional skills like test driven development and collaboration, and the final class is dedicated to topics in Computer Science.
At first, we were only doing the Fundamentals to Web Development course. But there are so many people who want to become hirable, and based on our skill sets, we should be giving people the opportunity to pursue that level.
Is the expected outcome for someone who has completed all three tracks to become a junior developer?
John: Without question. The third class in the series is also about job coaching, navigating the waters. We have a huge network in San Francisco, and we can make introductions.
Jesse: We have a range of students. One said that they like their job, and they do want to become a professional engineer, but they don’t hate their job and want to quit.
How many people will be in the first cohort?
John: 4 or 5. We really want to over serve with our time, because this is our first time.
Are you two both the instructors?
Yes, at least us. If an amazing instructor expresses interest to us, we’ll cross that bridge. People ask us what our student to teacher ratio is…it’s a pretty serious ratio now.
Do you see employers warming up to the bootcamp industry and seriously considering graduates in their hiring pool?
Jesse: The duration of a bootcamp, and this is definitely unfair, but employers will say things like- how can you learn this is such a short period of time? I had to study for Y years.” I think that’s bullshit, but that’s the reality.
John: I will counter that a bit. To be as effective as Hack Reactor and Dev Bootcamp have been in a 9-week span, is a non-trivial educational hurdle to jump over. It is difficult to deliver in 9 weeks, and I think there is evidence in the market that not all 9-week programs are delivering graduates at a level that is technically competent enough for all organizations to be interested in. There is some validity to the opinion that 9 weeks is not always feasible.
Jesse: Oh of course, I’m just saying that when the employer only knows that the applicant went through a bootcamp, it can be unfair. There is so much brand confusion on the employer’s side.
What’s the application process for Code Union?
Jesse: Students reach out to us and we’ll schedule an interview with them. Every student gets interviewed, and we structure the interview like we would structure a remote session: show and tell.
John: We put them in a simulated software environment and give them some technical challenges. We’re also seeing how well we communicate and learn together. We don’t want to see if they’re “good enough.” We want to see if their communication skills will allow us to be effective for them.
Jesse: We think of learning as a feedback loop. You have an idea in your head, you see or experience something that contradicts that idea, and then you have to update that picture in your head. A teacher’s job is to accelerate that process and explain how you’re confused more quickly and accurately than you could yourself, giving you the right feedback.
There’s a famous quote I love by Israel Gelfand: “Students don’t have any shortcomings, they only have peculiarities.” I would like to hope that if there’s a student with whom we can’t get that feedback loop going, with enough time and patience, we could figure it out. But there’s a point past which we’re not going to be able to service the student.
Do you consider Code Union in the same category as Thinkful or Bloc.io?
John: Only if that category is “non-programming-bootcamps run with mentors.” When you look at Thinkful and Bloc’s products, they’re actually quite different. If you take our three workshops, we will help you get placed in a job, and we’re even still offering financial incentives if you get hired through us.
Thinkful and Bloc aren’t, as far as I can see, really driven towards placing people as engineers. So from an outcomes perspective, that’s the difference. But there are similarities like small groups, mentorships, real-time, online interaction, and the ability to do this and maintain their lifestyle at the same time.
Jesse: The answer you expect is for us to explain the ways in which you’re different. On a superficial level, the lists of things we teach are probably similar. Of the students we’ve been talking to, though, very few have mentioned Thinkful or Bloc as alternatives. There are aspects of an in-person bootcamp that are better for them and they know it, but it would ultimately be a poor fit.
To us, the goal is that our students feel that they have a relationship with someone who is actively invested in their success. Code Union is about the quality of the teacher. At Bloc and Thinkful, you’ll learn with a mentor. At Code Union, you’ll learn from us- two teachers who will blow your mind.