Coder Foundry is a training program that teaches three-month courses to a variety of skill levels and assists with finding students their dream jobs. For students who already know how to program but want to strengthen their skills and get a promotion, the Master Class will teach the skills needed to be an expert. Students at Coder Foundry will learn the .NET stack, HTML5, and AngularJS. Students will also be mentored by current IT professionals.
Recent Coder Foundry News
- Alumni Spotlight: Shane Overby of Coder Foundry
- Why Should I Learn C# and.Net? Q&A with Coder Foundry
- November Coding Bootcamp News Roundup
Recent Coder Foundry Reviews: Rating 4.66
Full Stack Immersive
Full Stack Accelerated
- Financing available through Skills Fund
- Minimum Skill Level
- Professional programming experience
- Prep Work
- "Intro to Web Programming" online course
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week
New York City
Full Stack Accelerated
New York's only only coding bootcamp that teaches the .NET stack. Learn front-end and backend web development using C# and Visual Studio.
- Minimum Skill Level
- Professional programming experience
- Prep Work
- "Intro to Web Programming" online course
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week
Mobile App Development
Full Stack Immersive
New York's only only coding bootcamp that teaches the .NET stack. Learn front-end and backend web development using C# and Visual Studio.
Mobile App Development
Full Stack Accelerated
- Minimum Skill Level
- Professional programming experience
- Prep Work
- "Intro to Web Programming" online course
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week
Coder Foundry Reviews
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I enjoyed the hands on training. I had a very positive experience.
Slightly unorganized in curriculum at times. At the onset very directed but lost direction in the fourth project probably intentionally in some respect, but still needed a more pointed experience. Media issues were distracting at times setting up streaming and so forth.
Bobby and Antonio were great presenters and instructors for this one day immersion into Microsoft Xamarin tool for cross-platform mobile application development.
This was my first time in the Coder Foundry facilities and I was totally impressed. I can see how comfortable it would be to attend one of their longer Full-stack development courses. I left feeling confident that any training time spent with the Coder Foundry team and at the their facilities would be time and money well spent.
As an added bonus, the Coder Foundry team conveys a passion for software development that is infectious and encouraging. They appear to take genuine joy from helping you to reach your full potential by helping you learn the skills that will grow your career and your success as a software developer.
I look forward to the next DevDays or similar event that Coder Foundry decides to host.
This was a great course for a one day event. Antonio did a great job with the Xamarain Forms portion of the presentation. I liked the format of leaving a good amount of time for completing the lab. There were also plenty of assistants available to answer questions during the lab. Everyone on Code Foundry staff was nice and knowledgeable. I would have no hesitation about doing another course here.
I attended the Masters Course at Coder Foundry (Kernersville, NC) in 2015, from July to September. Before attending I had very little knowledge of and experience with the technologies taught in the course and practically no knowledge or skill in web development. Coder Foundry's teaching methodology, along with great instructors, is what makes this program work. The intensity of the course, being designed to mimic a real-world software development work place, coupled with the fact that the student is having to learn and absorb the material as they are "working", makes this course work. The hands-on approach at Coder Foundry proves to be the best way to forge developers from people that have only a basic understanding of what programming, in general, is.
Along with learning the most relevant web development technologies in the marketplace, Coder Foundry offers their job placement services to students upon, and sometimes before, completion of the course. This service is invaluable to under-experienced developers coming out of the course. Throughout the course, every Monday, each student has to attend a mock interview session where they present their current projects, explain their code and answer technical development and web technologies questions. The preparation that each student receives to assist them in landing a job after the course is amazing. I had three interviews within four weeks after completing the Masters Course. Even for that first real interview, I felt calm and in control, using the training and techniques taught by the Coder Foundry team. I landed my first development job only twenty-seven days after graduating from Coder Foundry.
With my first job, I increased my salary by 95.3%. Obviously, the ROI from Coder Foundry is not an issue. There is enough demand in the marketplace for developers with the skills taught at Coder Foundry that finding a job after the course should be the least of a student's worries.
The course is not easy. I don't want to make it sound like it is. It demands a lot of time, in the classroom and outside of it, but if a student puts in the time, uses the resources available to them, asks a lot of questions and has a passion for coding, they can begin a successful career in software/web development with the help of Coder Foundry.
I am a more fulfilled individual in my new career. I enjoy the culture and attitude of the development community and with my new schedule and salary am able to spend more time with my family, enjoying the things we like to do.
As for curriculum, I think it was fine. The first 10 weeks definitely build upon each other in a logical order. By the time you reach the Financial App yo should have a pretty solid foundation.
I was not a fan of the Angular JS segment at the very end. At that point I was burned out and it was a bit much to absorb.
The good new is that I understand the basics and see that it was modeled after MVC. I am sure I can figure it out. I do appreciate the opportunity and experience overall. The 12 week accelerated did meet my expectations.
Coder Foundry's curriculum covers full stack web development, staying current with new technologies. Instruction is well led at the with Antonio and Mark both extremely helpful to students with their learning. I was lined up for two interviews before the course ended but havent landed a job yet, so cant speak fully to the placement services but Coder Foundry does seem to be doing what they can to help me get a job as a developer.
After my 12 weeks at Coder Foundry, I feel that their curriculum and instruction deserve ratings of 5 out of 5. Everything was superb and put into a format that was easy to understand and well taught.
By coming into this with a job already, I did not experience their job placement services, and therefore can not fairly rate this aspect.
Overall very satisfied. The focus on .Net was the right choice for me. The demand is there. Ultimately the projects I built landed me a job as in the industry as a developer. I finished the curriculum and Natosha lined me up with interviews. I am working as a .Net developer now in financial services. Basically, you build a series of projects and then use that portfolio to interview/leverage your knowledge for jobs as a developer.
Ria and Antonio know their (coding) stuff and the other students that I got to know.
The Kernersville facility works well (not sure how it is now that 2 classes are in session).
I would have liked more/better suggestions for "pre-work" to be better prepared for the huge amount of information that a new student is expected to "digest".
Ria was an excellent instructor. She maintained a consistent balance between letting us work through our own frustrations and stepping in to direct us towards solutions. Her patience was unending. The weekly interview presentations were also very helpful, as well as the strict deadline structure.
Our latest on Coder Foundry
Shane Overby was working in manufacturing in North Carolina, but started to see automation creep in and threaten his job security. He decided that he needed to be the one coding the automation software, so when Shane’s brother (who is also a developer) recommended Coder Foundry, he enrolled at the Kernersville campus. Shane tells us how the hands-on approach suited his learning style, how useful the Coder Foundry mock interviews were to landing his first job, and all about his career progression (Shane is at his second job now!) since he graduated in 2015.
What is your pre-bootcamp story? Your educational background? Your last career path?
Before I got into web development, I worked in the manufacturing industry for about 10 years as a machinist and engineering technician. I had been programming CNC machines and training other technicians. I really enjoyed that work and I had fully intended to stay on that career path for the rest of my life.
But as I started seeing robotics taking over jobs, that made me worry about my job security a bit. I thought it would be a good idea to get on the other side of that and be the person writing the code to control the robots. Between starting a family, wanting better hours, and more job security, I started seriously considering coding.
Do you think your previous background has been useful in your new career in tech?
When I began learning to code, I thought that the programming experience I had in CNC machining would be beneficial, but it’s actually a completely different style of programming. There were certain benefits from CNC programming that carried over, like attention to detail in the code. You have to be very focused, both in machining and in software development. A bug in your software code could cause hours of headache, whereas a bug in a CNC program could cause you to crash the machine, potentially damage thousands of dollars of equipment, and maybe even harm someone. So I took that attention to the detail and trying to produce an efficient program into programming.
There were a lot of differences too. It was odd for me, stepping out of a machine shop floor, into working in an office, sitting down at a desk. It’s a totally different environment.
Did you try to learn on your own before you looked into a coding bootcamp?
My brother, who has been in software and development for about 10 years, guided me towards some resources to get started on my own. I spent about five months learning ASP.NET C# on my own with a Head First C# book.
Did you research any other coding bootcamps in North Carolina?
I did. I looked into The Iron Yard, but there wasn’t one close enough to me to make that a real option. Coder Foundry was only 30 miles away and commutable for me, so that was a big part of my decision. Also, their price points were better than anything else I’d found. They laid out their research about the local job market and explained how they were trying to tailor the course to meet the needs North Carolina companies. I thought that was a good approach. I did my own research and saw that the material in the course was desirable in the market locally.
Bootcamps can be expensive – did you use a financing partner?
Coder Foundry worked with Climb Credit, which is geared towards institutions like Coder Foundry. I made a $1000 down payment as a deposit, and financed the class. While I was in the three-month course, my payments were around $40-$50 per month, and then the full payments kicked in about three months after the course. Considering the salary of the job that I was able to get after the course through Coder Foundry’s placement services, the return on investment was absolutely great. I didn’t really have any worries about financing.
How many people were in your cohort? Was your class diverse in terms of gender, race, life and career backgrounds?
There were six of us, so it was pretty small. Coder Foundry tries to keep class sizes down to 12 to 15 students per class. Now they have a class in New York, two classrooms in Kernersville, and one in Charlotte. It was pretty racially diverse. We had three caucasian men, two African American men, and one African American woman. I’m now a Coder Foundry mentor and see a lot of students, and it’s consistently diverse, both racially and gender-wise. It’s always great to see a lot of diversity in the tech community.
What was the learning experience like at Coder Foundry?
It’s very hands on. Before I attended they said there would be 45 minutes to an hour of lecture, then the remaining seven hours of the day would be spent working on our projects. That was pretty close to accurate.
Coder Foundry tries to have a couple of instructors available per class for assistance, but in development, it’s pretty normal for most developers to understand that you have to try to figure out as much as you can on your own before you ask somebody how to do something. They get you to do that in the classroom so that you’re ready for it and not shocked when you get into the workforce.
Coder Foundry teaches you how to be resourceful, how to find the answers on your own, and how to interpret framework documentation. During lectures, they hit the basics, and give a small example in a powerpoint presentation, and then you go out, explore the topic, and try to implement it into your project.
What is your favorite project that you built at Coder Foundry?
The second project we worked on was my favorite. It was a bug/feature tracker. We got to learn about more methods and technologies to implement in that system. For somebody who hasn’t worked in the tech field at all, it was very interesting for me to learn about bug trackers in general. It was especially cool knowing that I could present the project to potential employers at the end of the course, and I would be able to explain how I built it, my decision making, and return a positive response. We worked within the MVC architecture, which is a main focus in Coder Foundry’s material.
How did Coder Foundry prepare you for job hunting?
Coder Foundry instructors hold mock interviews every Monday. Early in the course, they gave us a packet of technical interview questions, and assigned us to go out, research them, and find good answers. They wanted us to build a richer understanding of those questions, so that if we were confronted with that question in an interview we would be able to discuss it in depth, with a very personal experience from our projects. During the mock interviews, they would ask technical questions, ask me to explain how I built certain features or views in my project, evaluate my answers, and give me feedback. Their approach was really great. After the course, when I was doing actual job interviews, those mock interviews were really helpful.
Coder Foundry would also have networking opportunities from time to time where employers could meet with students. Outside of that, Coder Foundry’s placement team does a great job of matching students to jobs that they’re looking for, and an environment that fits.
How did you find your first job after Coder Foundry?
I did three interviews with three different companies. The first two jobs weren’t what I was looking for, with a lot of mandatory travel, and not as much remote time as I wanted. At the third company, I did a screen sharing interview, where I demoed my Coder Foundry projects, talked through code, and answered some technical questions. They asked me back for a personality interview to see how I fit with the team. I met with them, they gave me a tour of the facility, and showed me what they were working with. I received my offer letter from SouthData about three weeks after completing the course at Coder Foundry.
What was your role at that first company?
The company is called SouthData in Mt Airy, NC. It’s a document management company, which works with healthcare, government, education, and HOAs. I thought that role would offer me a lot of really good experience, as they were moving away from an older technology for their online services. They had a Web Forms web app and wanted me to help port that over to MVC, which is what I had just spent weeks learning. So it was a really good fit technically and culturally, plus it met my needs as far as ROI on the course.
You’ve actually moved on to your second job now – could you tell us about that transition?
I left SouthData about 5 months ago and went to work for Core Techs, which is co-owned by the co-founder of Coder Foundry, Bobby Davis. The biggest motivation for me to join Core Techs was that they take on a lot of different projects, and work in a lot of different technologies. This was initially the job that I was aiming for when I graduated from Coder Foundry, and I’m really enjoying my time here so far.
What technologies are you now using at Core Techs?
In the software field, you should always want to be learning new stuff and advancing your skills. So far, Core Techs has been a really good place for me to do that.
I still work within MVC, and I’m also working on Web Forms projects and ReactJS projects. I’ve been able to move out of the Microsoft SQL world, and mess around with MySQL, and Postgres. Instead of using ASP.NET, I’ve got to work with ASP.NET Core, and we’ve got some projects utilizing Entity Framework Core. At Coder Foundry two of the projects were MVC, and the last two projects were Angular and they all used SQL server and Entity framework 6, so it’s been really cool to step outside of those and learn about other technologies.
What’s been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to becoming a developer?
My biggest challenge is getting started in a new technology, and trying to ramp up my knowledge and skills. I think this is quite common for new developers in their first couple of years. It takes some time to get used to reading documentation, understanding terminology, understanding networking systems, and how to create something on your machine that will work well and scale well across platforms. So it’s tough at first, but now I’ve been working as a programmer for almost two years, and coding for almost three years, I feel like I’m starting to get a better handle on that.
Do you think it’s been important to stay involved with Coder Foundry after graduation?
I’ve been very involved with Coder Foundry since I graduated from the course. At Coder Foundry, we utilized Slack for communication. When I left and started my first job I still had access to the Slack channel, and I would help out new students who were running into issues. I knew how hard the class was, so I wanted to make myself available when they needed help.
In November 2016, Coder Foundry asked me if I was interested in mentoring students in their new four-week pre-requisite course, and get paid for the work. Each mentor works with a maximum of four students, and those students can schedule one session with me per week. We screen share so that they can walk through what they’ve been working on, and I can provide insight or help. I’m constantly available on Slack for them to reach out. That’s been beneficial for students, but also beneficial for me as a mentor. I love it.
What’s the tech scene like in the areas around Winston-Salem and Charlotte, North Carolina?
There are a lot of big businesses here with a need for development, engineering, and software talent. Since they are big businesses, the Microsoft .NET stack is pretty desirable and widely used. There are a lot of startups here too, so you see a lot of companies working with Ruby on Rails and PHP. For me personally, a startup wasn’t really where I wanted to be. I wanted something more secure. With a family, I didn’t want to be in a position where the bottom falls out of a company and I’m out of work. Since starting to work here, I’m not as worried about working for a startup; because the demand for developers and engineers is so high, you would get back on your feet pretty quickly if the startup fell through.
What advice do you have for people making a career change and getting into coding?
Some of the best advice I’ve received from experienced developers is that when you hit a wall, the best thing is to just keep coding and the answer will come to you. When I started working professionally in the field I would encounter things that I didn’t know how to approach, and my first instinct was to sit there and think and think on the problem. But I found that if I get my hands on the keyboard, and start working, it will all work out.
I got another good piece of advice from the head instructor at Coder Foundry when I was working on my bug tracker project. I found it very intimidating and had to learn a lot of new concepts, but he told me to think about development in very simple terms. Coding is essentially passing data from one place to another. If you remove the complexity and grandeur of the system you’re trying to build, then you’ll get a better feel of the foundation of what you’re doing and take off a lot of the stress.
In Coder Foundry’s Master Programming Class, students learn .NET, C#, Angular JS and HTML5. T.J. Jones is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at full-stack coding bootcamp Coder Foundry in North Carolina. He tells us why the school has a focus on .NET and C# courses, and what sorts of enterprise companies are looking for people with those skills.
Q&AContinue Reading →
Course Report has some exciting things rolling out in 2016, but for now, here's what you may have missed in November! Remember to email me with noteworthy news to include in next month's roundup.Continue Reading →
Today we’re diving into the.NET interview. Our guest today is Bobby Davis. Bobby ran into trouble finding fresh talent for his companies so he decided to start training developers himself, which is how Coder Foundry was formed. Bobby helps students win the technical interview because Coder Foundry does a lot of work on job placement and technical interview training as well.
Hi, Bobby. I gave a little overview but tell us what you were up to before you started Coder Foundry and also about the companies you're running.
I'm running two software companies; one is a standard .NET consultant shop where we write custom code for developers or for other projects. We also launched a product company, Advanced Fraud Solutions. We do check and credit card fraud and work for 500 customers in about 48 states.
For all of these things we needed technical talent. We started interviewing people and we realized that there's a dearth of talent, but a lot of people didn't have great interview skills.
So from that we launched Coder Foundry so that we could better train people for jobs, and hopefully place them into work and bring some of that talent into our other companies.
And you've hired some Coder Foundry graduates?
Absolutely. I think Bill Gates said it best, “Eat your own dog food.” We put them through the paces for 12 weeks and then find out if they're a good fit for either Core Techs or Advanced Fraud.
In general do they do as well as people who have a ton of experience or as well as CS graduates at least?
There's a myth I think. When you say “I'm looking for a junior or mid-level or a senior developer.” A lot of times in the small companies you need people that code and really the mid-level is how much you want to pay for someone.
Here at CoreTechs and Advanced Fraud Solutions, once they come on board they're expected to perform their duties. Everyone we've hired out of Coder Foundry is still with us, we haven’t fired anyone so that means that Coder Foundry is working for us and it's working for them.
Tell us a little bit about the roles that you have hired developers for when you are hiring for your other two companies.
What we're trying to do is get the classic mid-level to senior level .NET developer. Deeper than that, we're looking for people that have actually built things before and that means they can build things for us. So the pure CS graduate that’s coming out with zero real world development experience, we're not too interested in.
We need people that have come out of a bootcamp or something like that, that have actually built applications from the ground up.
Does it mean that you have to have had a job as a developer before you apply?
No. The six people we hired out of Coder Foundry before didn't have any previous development experience.
On a more general high level view, what types of companies typically hire .NET developers?
.NET is what we call “in the enterprise” so you're looking at large corporations all the way down to medium-size businesses. They're typically running .NET to build a web application or sometimes what we call an internal line of business apps or even their products that are facing customers. When we help people on the solution side, they’re building our products that we sell to customers.
What is the culture at a company like that? Is it similar or different than other dev shops?
I don't think there's any difference between the cultures. I think that all of the companies are different, but we do know and you could probably talk to a lot of development managers, you do have to have a culture that's conducive to development.
A lot of developers want to work from home or have some flexibility in their schedule. No .NET developers, or any developers, ever want to have to be in the office at 8:01 or “you're in trouble.” They want have flexible schedules, things like free lunch Fridays, which we do here, free soda; there's just a lot of things.
So the culture, regardless of where you're at, what everyone's doing is similar because we need to attract them.
All development jobs are highly sought after but .NET is a particularly highly sought after skill. Why do you think there's that talent gap right now?
Colleges typically don't teach .NET; they don't do it.
What do they teach? If you get access to a programming language in a CS undergraduate program, what are you learning?
Usually Java. You may see some other scripting things like PHP or Perl. That's what they're learning and it's not that you can't transition over to C #. But if I can pick between the two, I'll pick a person who knows C # versus "Hey I know Java but I can transition to it."
Let’s dive into some specific interview tips. Tell us first about some of the top mistakes that you've seen developers make during a technical interview in your experience.
The biggest thing from the technical interview, apart from obviously being on time and all those kinds of things that are standard interview fare, is that they don't talk about things they have built. We train them at Coder Foundry to talk about their code. What interviewers do - and we all do it because we don't have a lot of time – we’ll go to the internet and say "give me the top 50 C # interview questions." We print that off and walk in a room with it and we start going down what I call “code trivia.” And you're testing, “Can he remember the answers to all of these questions?”
What happens to a lot of developers is the interviewer may ask a question that is completely obvious to them but it's not obvious to a developer or maybe it’s asked wrong and because they miss one of the code trivia questions, they can't work there. The interviewer says, “I can’t recommend them to work here, he didn’t know this…”
What we teach them to do is take control of the interview by saying "Hey that's a great question, let me tell you how I solved that with an application I wrote and let's talk about the application I built."
What are some of the more theoretical topics that someone could expect to see in a .NET interview?
I can guarantee you, you can go to any .NET interview, they're going to ask you "Give me the four access modifiers in an object" and so the answers are Private, Public, etc. So while some may be able to answer that, it still doesn't demonstrate whether you can code or not. The better answer would be "You know, I was creating an object last week and I had to make this Public because I wanted the person that’s consuming this to be able to call the function. And I made it Private because I didn't want people to call this when they consume that function." That way you demonstrate a knowledge about the topics instead of just answering them with an academic answer.
Have you noticed that a technical interview will change with the company? Does a company usually ask about the technologies that they specifically use? How can you predict what subset of questions you're going to be asked?
Our goal, what we teach our students, is that you're going to run into what I call code trivia; that's what's going to happen. Your job is to not answer all of those questions by making them talk about the application that you’ve created. So when they ask "Tell us about date-time value types…" what they're really looking for is "Do you understand that date-times can’t be null and if they are null, how do you make them nullable in .NET?"
That's what we're asking, and a lot of times a junior guy may know the answer to that but he doesn't know how to relate his experience to that question. What he can say is "Well, I wrote this bug tracker application and we had date-times. Let me show you how I handled date-times in that application and maybe that will answer your question." So that’s how you answer it, but also you should demonstrate better knowledge.
What if you get stuck in a situation where the interviewer is asking you about a specific .NET skill that you do not have or you don't even know the word that they're talking about?
What you can do is you still point him back to your applications and say "That's a great question. I don't know the answer to that directly." And then hopefully you can somehow relate the answer to something you've already done. Because really what we're looking for is can you build an application? And a lot of times, the short term memory of the 50 .NET interview questions doesn't really demonstrate if you can build an app or not. Maybe we can say that's a good determiner. Most interviewers walk out of the interview and say "Hey, I think he can do it. I’m pretty sure he can, he seems smart, let's hire him," but you don't know for sure. It'd be better to say "Hey, you know what? He built this application, I like it."
What should a new developer bring to their first interview? Do you bring a resume? Do you bring your portfolio? What's important?
The biggest thing is if you're coming out of a coding bootcamp whether it’s Coder Foundry or anywhere else and you've never had a development job, your resume isn't going to help you a whole lot. But you definitely have to bring it because that's what we do; we interview people with their resumes.
But you need to have a portfolio that you can show them and typically the best way to do that is to bring a laptop or say, “Can I show you my portfolio online and show you these apps that I've built?" If you did that before they even asked you a C# interview question, you might circumvent the whole process and get them talking about your app and talking about your code.
How long have you been in this industry?
In Coder Foundry we've only done this about 18 months but with .NET I've been interviewing people since we opened up in 2002, so it's been a long time.
Have you noticed that the interview has changed over the last 10 years, like gone from being more whiteboarding to maybe more practical like taking people through your portfolio?
A lot of times what they're doing with the whiteboarding is they're trying to get you to talk about code. If they want you to whiteboard a particular solution, you can do that; a lot of times you have to do that. We teach our people here that you have to learn how to draw a database diagram on a whiteboard. You have to learn how to diagram an object and those types of things. So you need to be able to do that.
The other thing that we’re seeing our employers do is give out code tests which is again a way to understand, can you code or not.
When you bring your portfolio, what types of projects should you start with? Are there things that you shouldn't show an employer? Are there types of projects that you should make sure that you show a future employer?
I think anything that demonstrates what I call “the three phases of an app,” which is something that's secured, something that uses a database and something that's displayed on a web application.
So you have all three phases of the application development - and that could be anything. You could secure your movie collection or you could secure anything like that. What you shouldn't show is someone's system that you built that’s proprietary. That's like "Hey, we're looking at this other person's system.” That's not cool. I would show my own things that I have built.
If you're going into a .NET interview and you have an application in a different language, is it still worth showing off?
But demonstrating your code definitely is what you need to do; just talk about your code.
That was one of my questions because I hear a lot, especially in the boot camp world, if you go to a Ruby on Rails bootcamp, you can still get a job in Python or a different object-oriented programming language. Is .NET similar in that way or will it take a little bit longer?
I don't think so. You can move around, there's a ton of opportunities. The ecosystem for .NET right now is big anyway that you're not going to usually have to make those decisions. But if you do, in a project you're going to look at Java, so C # and Java are very similar, I think you can make the transition easily.
How does Coder Foundry specifically prepare students for those technical interviews? Are you doing constant whiteboarding or do you reserve it to a part of the week?
Every Monday is an interview session so we interview every student every Monday. We've broken our curriculum into 1-week sprints and not only do they have to technical interview, they also have to demonstrate and show us what they've built during the last week; and that's like a check in with the development manager, so we teach them how their job’s going to be. That allows them to get used to demonstrating software, talking about code and then answering tough and technical questions.
Then we grade them every Monday and say how they did, what they missed. We get increasingly harder and more technical with the interviews as we go through the 12 weeks.
When do they start interviewing? When are they ready to start going on to their first interviews? Or should you start before if you think you're ready?
What we try to do is in week 9, we've already engaged some students in interviews. We try to line up - and it doesn't always work out this way depending on who's hiring or not - but we try to have interviews before they graduate.
What are some of the companies that Coder Foundry students have gone on to work at?
There have been a lot of them, just all over the board. In North Carolina we have a lot of companies you may not know the name of but they're in manufacturing, they're in medical services, also we’ve hired a bunch. We've worked at financial companies, financial institutions have hired them so they're all over the board, and we’re actively engaged with companies trying to find them opportunities.
If somebody wants to learn more interview tips from you, I see the link of your profile below, where should they go?
CoderFoundry.com/newjob gives them all the tips and the things that we're doing in the 12-week class to help them pass a technical interview. The main thing we teach them is talk about your code, you've got to have a portfolio. Then we also go into things like how you should dress.
How should you dress?
A kid came into an interview and he's wearing flip-flops. That's casual, and it's a little too casual for an interview setting. What we counsel students on is that you can't over dress for an interview, really, except maybe if you’re in a tuxedo. A suit and tie works, a blazer and a tie works and if you don’t know how to pick an ensemble, just go with a white shirt or ask someone in your circle and say "Hey, what should I wear?" Ties work, even if the organization's innovative, to be casual.
Before becoming Director of Education and Lead Instructor at Coder Foundry, Andrew was a university professor, so he’s been on both sides of the fence. In addition, Andrew had a 12-year background as a software developer, technical writer and corporate trainer. Course Report recently caught up with Andrew to discuss his thoughts about recent developments with the College Scorecard and how computer science degrees and coding bootcamps compare.
Can you tell us a little more about your background?
For the last 10+ years I’ve been teaching computer science classes at both UNC Charlotte and UNC Greensboro. Prior to that I spent a lot of time as a corporate trainer and technical writer working for software companies. I traveled all over the world teaching computer classes on proprietary software systems.
The US Department of Education released the College Scorecard (collegescorecard.ed.gov) in September that tracks university student outcomes. Given that you’ve had experience in the industry, in higher education and now at a boot camp, can you tell us a little about your first impression?
Honestly, I wasn’t terribly surprised with what I saw.
The one thing that did surprise me was graduation rates. They were lower than I expected. But in terms of the other data - the cost to attend universities, job salaries coming out - those really weren’t surprising. While university costs are relatively high across the board I think, the salaries coming out are relatively low.
The one thing that I want to find out that I’m going to have to spend quite a bit of time digging into myself is the number of students that are actually graduating and obtaining jobs because you’re not going to include zero income individuals in those salary figures. I believe it’s going to be pretty low.
I think we get the gist of that college scorecard when we look at specific schools and universities in general. A lot of students aren’t achieving the career outcomes that they were hoping for. With your experience in traditional higher education, why do you think that some schools are failing to meet those CS graduates’ expectations?
There are a number of reasons. I think the biggest reason, however, is the fact that a student comes out of a university with absolutely nothing in their portfolio. They don’t have applications they can actually demonstrate to anyone. And the reason they don’t have applications is because they don’t spend enough time actually writing code.
The amount of time they have to write code is very limited. About 90% of the time is spent studying theory, not actually the practical application of that theory.
We do a great job at universities of teaching people how to do things that have already been done. It’s great to teach someone how to write a link list, but we can use those things that have already been written; we don’t have to keep doing it over and over again.
There are a lot of things that we could be doing for our students to prepare them for the business world which we’re not doing. We’re failing in that department.
In a computer science program, what does that 10% of coding experience usually consist of?
We had small homework assignments and it’s not geared towards the type of application that you would actually be building at a job. You’re writing really simple programs to demonstrate concepts, but you’re not doing anything that a business would require.
We hear this argument all the time that there’s this trade-off between bootcamps and CS degrees; CS degrees aren’t giving people the practice and that portfolio that they need. If we know that then why aren’t traditional colleges doing it? Why haven’t they changed their curriculum to incorporate new technologies?
Quite frankly because change is really difficult to accomplish at that level.
The universities are really handcuffed by the accreditation system, in my opinion. I think that works great for certain subjects. But computer science doesn’t fit that model. It’s a field that changes too quickly and evolves so rapidly that it’s impossible for an accreditation system to keep up with the rapid state of change.
And as a result we wind up teaching archaic things; we teach our students things that are completely irrelevant in the business world today.
We don’t need to be teaching them technologies that they’re never going to use. But that’s precisely what we do because that’s what it takes to receive accreditation in the CS department.
Did you ever get to teach a class in which students could build an actual project?
I taught an intelligent tutoring systems class which I was able to create exclusively as a project-based class, so students were finally able to build something that they could get their hands in.
Students had a lot of fun building those projects. But most of the classes you take in a CS program just don’t lend themselves to that - you don’t have the opportunity. And it’s really unfortunate.
How does it work for CS students who do get a job after graduation? Are they learning on their own in addition to their CS degree? Are companies assuming that because they have a CS degree, they’re ready to start a job as a software engineer?
I think in a lot of cases the assumption is made that they’re ready to start. However, I think that most companies are aware of the fact that these students may have a great foundation in terms of Computer Science theory. They may have the ability to learn but they don’t have the practical experience to be able to build what’s expected of them coming out of the gate.
What winds up happening is you have a lot of on the job learning. In fact, we get emails from employers that are interested in our students and one of the consistent complaints they have is the amount of time they have to invest in training new employees because people coming out of school just don’t have the skills they need.
Why and how did you switch to Coder Foundry and the boot camp model? Were you wary of it?
I knew nothing about coding bootcamps. I’d never been exposed to it at all. I was fortunate to have our CTO Bobby Davis walk into one of my classes at UNC Greensboro. He came in to give an entrepreneurial presentation to my students and he won me over.
He talked about this idea that he had for Coder Foundry thing and I thought, “You know, that’s exactly what I wish I could be doing.” I want to be teaching people things that matter. I want to be able to bridge this gap between what a Computer Science program is teaching and what a business is looking for.
So I asked him to stick around, we talked and he said, “You want a job?”
Obviously you’re qualified to teach Computer Science but how did you learn to be a boot camp instructor?
I really had to learn some new things. Prior to coming here I didn’t have a lot of exposure to C# and the .NET platform. As a professor at a university,most of the student projects were in Java. And most of the work that I had done before in the industry was C++.
Fortunately C# is really similar to Java so if you can write and teach in Java, you can probably handle C#. Learning the .NET platform was exciting.
What these folks asked me to do was come in and build a curriculum for this school that was built upon these principles. There was a bit of ramp-up time, a lot of hours spent in personal study and figuring out exactly how I wanted to design this program.
We built this system on tried and true educational science rather than our current university model. In the university setting, we bestow the greatest amount of credit on hours spent sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture. But it takes three times more hours in a lab environment actually building something and actively learning to receive the same amount of credit.
That really surprises me! I don’t know why we do that when the educational science tells us that the greatest learning comes through doing and through teaching. Applying what you have learned and teaching it to others provides the greatest amount of retention.
The least effective is sitting and listening to somebody lecture and reading a textbook.
Have you kept any of the techniques or lectures or even concept in the curriculum that you were teaching computer science students? Do you still do some lecture at Coder Foundry?
Absolutely, we do. But we don’t believe in long lectures. I’ve sat through many 3 hour long night class sessions at the university. I’ve taught many of those. And it’s really tough to keep the students’ attention in that environment.
We don't do things like that at Coder Foundry. We really try to keep our lectures short. If we’re going beyond 30 – 45 minutes in a particular lecture period, that’s way too long.
We want to give our students concepts, things that they can work with immediately, and then put them to work. “Here’s a little bit of information. Now get busy with it.”
Then we come back and say, “Here’s a little bit more, now get busy with that.” We teach them something, get them to work with it. Teach them something that builds on what they’ve done, get them to work with that.
How long is the Coder Foundry program?
Our program is 12 weeks long. After all is said and done, on top of the hours that they spend listening to us, they spend more than 600 hours writing code.
Wow. How does that compare to a CS degree?
I estimated that they get about 100 hours of coding during a computer science program in a 4-year school. We’re asking for more than 600 hours in 12 weeks.
On top of that, we’ve just recently finished some work for the state in terms of calculating credit hours. Our program covers the equivalent of 30 total credit hours based upon university calculations. That’s two full semesters at a full load of 15 credits. That’s 5 classes a semester.
We’re covering 10 classes worth of information based upon university calculations. That’s a lot of work in 12 weeks.
What outcomes are you seeing when you compare the outcomes of Coder Foundry as a boot camp – or just bootcamps in general – to the college graduates that you were working with?
The outcome is that these students are prepared to receive employment. Quite honestly, that’s it.
I’ve had hundreds of students in the university setting and a handful of those that I know of received jobs upon graduation. Most of those jobs were a result of extending an internship that they worked on.
Our primary focus is to put students in jobs. We’re not interested in “educating” them, we’re interested in putting them in a job. The means to do so is to educate them and give them the skills that they need.
But our primary goal is to actually make a difference. We want to make a difference in these people’s lives. We want to put them to work.
That’s why I left the university setting to come here. I got into academia for me. I really liked the idea of summers off, that was really cool. I don’t get that anymore. But I left that environment and came here because I was tired of not being able to give my students what they really needed. And here I get to do exactly that.
Have you adapted the curriculum at Coder Foundry in response to employer feedback?
We consider what employers are looking for in our network very heavily. And yes, as a result I have modified the curriculum. In fact, I’ve changed a little bit each class.
But we have not done any staggering modifications. We’ve added focus on certain elements. For example, we may have spent a little more time on SQL.
Mostly what we do is evaluate each student and see how those students are progressing through the course and say, “How can we best make this work for the student?” If a student is struggling how can we improve the curriculum so that student doesn’t struggle so much? How can we make it so that the greatest number of our students are employable at the end of this course? Those are the types of things we focus on when it comes to curriculum changes.
There are still jobs that require a computer science degree or a 4-year degree. What types of jobs can a bootcamper with no prior experience expect in comparison to a person with a CS degree?
Any way you look at it, the degree has very little bearing on the quality of job you can get because in this industry what matters is what you can do.
If you can write code, build an application front to back for an employer then you can get a job. It doesn’t matter if you started doing that three months ago or 13 years ago.
What matters is can you do the job today. I think that’s a lot more important and a lot more relevant these days than a degree is, and I think the businesses in this industry are starting to figure that out.
In fact, a really interesting article came out the other day. Ernst & Young, a UK accounting firm conducted their own independent research and discovered that there was absolutely no correlation between university success and professional success in their company. And as a result, they’re removing their degree requirement from job descriptions.
“If you can do the job, then you can get the job”, is basically what they’re saying.
Why can’t we do that on the programming side?
Do you think we’re getting to a place where a high school graduate can graduate high school and go straight into a boot camp instead of going to college?
I have one right now. I have a recent high school graduate in our class right here. He is one of the best developers that we’ve seen come through.
He’s fantastic. He’s doing a great job and he’s going to have a great career. If you can do the work, apply yourself and work hard then yes, I think so.
What type of student have you seen really thrive at a boot camp like Coder Foundry and are they for everyone?
Those students who are willing to do whatever it takes to succeed will succeed every time. The students that think that this is just a quick trip to a job, they don’t do well.
I have a student in Charlotte right now, he recently got a fantastic job offer. This guy was willing to put in 80 hours a week starting from day one. He’s worked like crazy to make sure he learned everything he could possibly learn. Not just what we were teaching but a lot on top of it. He’s gone above and beyond what our expectations were. He was willing to do whatever it took to get the job that he wanted and he got exactly that - he got the perfect job for him.
Do you think there’s room for bootcamps to partner with universities?
I think that there is room but it’s going to require a change of thinking in our university system. Like I said, the model that is there works great for certain topics. It doesn’t work great for this industry. We’re doing our university students a disservice in the way that we approach computer science education.
Here at Coder Foundry we follow a “Montessori” way of doing things. We have a Montessori school for adults. We bring our students in and we give them the exact same model as Montessori preschools.
And I think most bootcamps do that - a little bit of instruction, a lot of experimenting and practical application, a lot of learning by doing rather than sitting in a lecture and hoping you absorb what’s needed to do the job.
What’s next for Coder Foundry?
Our next cohort starts Monday, September 28th. Our second location is In Charlotte and Kernersville. We have other locations coming soon in DC and Atlanta as well.
How can students get more information?
Visit our website. We have lots of information there that’s helpful for students. They have easy access to the personnel at Coder Foundry and we’re really good at getting back to people right away.
In this Live Bootcamp Q&A, we are joined by Philip Weiser who graduated from Coder Foundry, a .NET bootcamp in North Carolina, in March 2015. Philip is now a developer at RIA Solutions Group and is about to start a full-time job at CaptiveAire, so we’re talking all about life after Coder Foundry in addition to his experience at Coder Foundry. See the full transcript below!
Philip, tell us what you were up to before Coder Foundry.
Before I started at Coder Foundry I was working at a rug and African antique store. I had graduated from Duke University with a degree in geology and then I found out that about 95% of those jobs are only in oil and gas, and that wasn’t really my cup of tea.
I’d always been interested in programming. I took classes during high school and during college. Whenever I was working on something I always thought it would be so much simpler if somebody programmed it a certain way. So I always found myself interested in the logic and the little questions that kept me up at night.
Which classes did you take at Duke? Were they Intro to Computer Science classes or were they more advanced?
I took Advanced Data Structures and Java. It fit best into my schedule. I made mistakes, but I had qualified for it because I took the computer science AP test and scored a 4 in high school.
So you had some background in terms of a theoretical technical background. Had you built anything before you went to Coder Foundry?
I made a small Facebook game during college; I just wrote it in Action Script.
How were you exposed to coding bootcamps and why did you start doing research about them?
I was considering going to grad school for a Masters in Comp Sci but that required a one-year certificate program, so I was doing that certificate at NC State. I aced the courses; I took discreet math and Intro to Java. It was really easy and it just wasn’t the pace I wanted. I talked to one of the heads of the department and asked if I could a job with a certificate. I knew it would take me a minimum 2-3 years for a Masters if I really worked at it.
I wanted to make the career change before my wedding and move on with my wife so that kind of time scale just wasn’t realistic for me.
How did you find out about Coder Foundry?
I found a list of Top 10 Coding Schools in the South. I found Coder Foundry in Kernersville and it was suggested to me by one of my friends so I looked into it. I ended up going and talking to Andrew who was the head instructor there at the time. I think he’s now helping them start a campus in Charlotte.
I really liked the team when I met them. They seemed very business oriented; the coding school was opened by Bobby, who has two companies at the same building. Those companies are essentially what I was looking for; they do development and they do security applications development as well.
That was one of the big differences between Coder Foundry and other coding schools. Coder Foundry is run by a businessman and he opened up a coding school to help teach people what they need to succeed in tech and to hire the top candidates.
Yeah, you were seeing the actual business application of what you were learning.
From a guy who basically could be your boss if you impress him.
Was it important to you that Coder Foundry teaches .NET?
Yeah, .NET just seems like a nice, stable platform that’s always going to be used. So I decided to do that instead of Ruby, which just seems more trendy.
How deep did that curriculum end up going?
It was kind of like being thrown into the deep end or like holding onto the bumper of an 18-wheeler. You’re focused on holding onto it the whole time and when it’s over, you look back and see how far you’ve gone.
So we did a little bit of everything of the full stack as we were going, and it was definitely a ride.
You have a cool perspective as someone who started this certificate in computer science and took some CS classes in an undergrad traditional education classroom. What was the difference between the teaching style in those classrooms and the teaching style at Coder Foundry?
I always found CS classes in college settings very boring. I would fall asleep because when you have a professor just droning on, it’s really not that useful if you’re still tested on it.
When you go to Coder Foundry, instead you’re assigned a project and given the tools you need to create it, and you have to figure out what you can do with those tools.Whenever you run into hiccoughs or you’re stuck on something you can talk to an instructor.
There were two different teachers- Andrew and Thomas- and they had different teaching styles. So Andrew would say, “Here’s what you need to know to do your next step.” Thomas would instead say, “Well, where’s your long goal? What steps do you need to go to get to that really long goal?”
Then you’d talk through the logic; not low level logic but you’d talk high level logic with Thomas and kind of figure out your path then when you ran into small technical things, the square peg into this round hole data, then you’d go talk to Andrew and he would help guide you through that. Having that two-teacher approach was really interesting and much more effective, too.
I really never was bored. I think on one day we had three hours of lecture; that’s usually once every three weeks initially, when we start on a new product. They give us a spec sheet for the project then then help us set up everything needed to start the project.
So there was lecture once every three weeks or were there more frequent lectures?
We only had super-long lectures every once in a while. Usually there’s probably 2 – 4 hours of lecture a week at most; it really was very sparse. It was usually when the class collectively would start running into the same type of problem. It would essentially be like an impromptu lecture.
Also, it wasn’t just the teachers teaching. On the first day of class, Andrew and Thomas told everybody to scoot in- in every class, people sit with a seat between each other. By the time the class is over, everybody’s going to be right next to each other so you can use each other as resources, which truly happened.
We had 10 people in our class so whenever someone found a solution to a problem, they shared with the class. What I really liked was the collaborative atmosphere. It wasn’t competitive at all just because everyone’s there to get through the program. It was a very positive atmosphere too.
Teaching your classmate about a topic can be a really great way to learn too.
Was there a curriculum in place to the point where you knew what was going to be happening the next day or was it more impromptu?
It was more freeform. We know what our goal is for the three week lessons. They usually give you goals like: connect your database, write your front end and integrate your back-end and tie everything together. They let us do projects however we wanted to so I would usually tackle some problems from the front end, figure out the front end a bit then figure out what I wanted to actually have to connect.
Then there were some other people who would completely start at the back end, which is not how I would think at that point. We would each run into our different problems, which is fine because problems is how we learn.
Then we’d be shifting away from that and making it more like one-week sprints towards a project.
What was the hardest part of Coder Foundry for you?
Learning SQL was the hardest part, especially because in the previous cohort, a lot of students had around 10 years of experience with SQL, so they didn’t have a dedicated lesson. Luckily, I had taken discreet math so working with sets wasn’t that new of a concept to me. That made SQL a little bit easier for me but a lot of the people in the class were confused. The instructors ended up doing a lecture on SQL. They were very responsive to what we asked for.
What are you up to now? Where are you working? Tell us about RIA Solutions.
This is my first position and it’s a 3-month contract. I’m working with a team in Winston, Salem. They have a large coding house in Romania but are expanding to the US so they need a couple of developers in the U.S. as well. For the first two months, I worked for one of their clients in Texas. It’s funny because I didn’t know a thing about ASP.Net web forms because we only learned MVC and beyond. It gave me a framework for understanding the older technology, so I was working with websites that were 9 or 10 years old and hadn’t been touched by a developer in 5 years.
It was a very interesting transition but then I also started to appreciate what I’d learned more- MVC wasn’t as clunky as I thought.
Tell us about the projects you work on for RIA Solutions.
A lot of what I worked on was for a client in Texas; that’s about as much as I can say about it. They ran rewards websites, and I added functionality to pages and made sure that data was being passed around correctly.
They usually need me to go optimize SQL to help with load time or reporting requests; so it’s printing out packing slips and making sure they’re correct, making sure that people can order products properly, and then also so you can add customers to the database, a lot of stuff like that.
What’s funny is that in the third month of my employment at RIA, I’m actually moving to assisting in developing a very large project on telematics for the oil and gas industry.
You get to use your geology background!
Yes, a truck driver will carry around a computer with him and I’m helping work on Windows compact edition, software that runs on their helper computer so that they can then say “I picked up a bunch of oil here, this is how much I picked, this is what my measurements said…” then it sends the cellular data. I’m helping work on the software that’s actually on those devices.
So you’re working with a team based largely in Romania- is that an interesting challenge?
Yeah; I’ve actually only gone into the Winston Salem offices two times in those first two months. I’ve gone twice so that I could learn firsthand from their chief technical officer, which is pretty awesome. My direct superior is in Romania so I’d have a stand-up meeting with him every morning and tell him what I’m working on, the challenges that I expect to face and any blockers I see. Then he’d help me with any problems I had. It was pretty cool. I was effectively 98% remote.
What do you do when you run into something that you don’t know?
A large part of what I learned at Coder Foundry is when you start, you don’t know much of anything. So it’s going through the process of okay, we’re going to start working with Angular. You start with no knowledge of what Angular is, and you have to learn it. That was similar to my experience learning ASP web forms at RIA. I’ve heard of them, but I had no clue how the worked. Once I can start digging into the files and look at them I can figure out things like data binding and how they access the database.
A lot of the skill is in figuring out code because I’m not going to know everything, so I have to know how to learn everything. That’s a lot of what I worked on when I was at Coder Foundry.
How did you get connected to RIA Solutions? Was it through your own networking or through Coder Foundry directly?
It was through TJ, the lead recruiter at Coder Foundry. He’s my boy, TJ. I talk to him every once in a while. He said, “Philip, I got this opportunity, can you come in and interview for it?” I had two interviews before I left Coder Foundry. The first interview was with a very nice company, CaptiveAire, in Raleigh and they usually only hire mid-level and senior level developers. He said that I was really impressive in the interview and that I should come back and apply when I have around a year of experience. In less than three weeks from now, I’m going to be working at CaptiveAire!
I had an interview about a week and a half ago and talked to their developers, talked about what I learned at RIA, and they’re very impressed.
How large is that dev team?
I don’t think I’ve met all of them, but it’s probably 8 on the development side and they also have an embedded C team, which is where one of my classmates ended up getting hired as well.
Alumni networks at bootcamps can be a huge resource- was that your experience?
CaptiveAire really likes Coder Foundry. I’m going to be the third person that they hire. I did call up Satya (another Coder Foundry hire)- our class has kept in touch quite a bit.
What does CaptiveAire do?
They create industrial heating and cooling solutions. It’s like the big steel vents in restaurants that have fire suppression systems. You can program an entire building and then there’s a web interface to control them.
Since you graduated in March, you’ve gone through two technical interviews. How did those technical interviews go?
First of all, I know that I’m not the strongest in C#. That’s something that companies already knew because I’m coming out of a coding school, so I haven’t spent four years learning all of the little nuances of those languages.
We meet with Bobby once a week on Monday. It’s kind of like an interview. They give feedback and advice for real interviews. Those meeting are not really mock interviews; it was more of like a technical catch-up; here’s what I’ve been working on, here’s what it does, I really liked the code that I wrote for this part; I had trouble here, I had trouble there and I’m looking for a solution for this other problem I’ve been working on. Then they would give you some really helpful advice on that.
They’ll invite companies to come to Coder Foundry and interview a lot of us at a time, so it’s kind of a home court advantage - because we’re in our house and you’re comfortable.
Also, they were good at giving us information about how and why technical interviews go on like they do. That was probably some of the most valuable advice because Bobby hires technical people; he’s been doing this for 10 or 15 years.
Do you have other advice for people who are making the transition from a boot camp into a new job?
Ask for help. That’s pretty much it. It’s pretty easy if you describe the problem you’re having. That’s another thing I learned, is you could learn how to describe problems. Now I know how to look certain things up on Google, I know what things are called and that helps me locate that information. If I can describe my problem, I can solve my problem.
Have you stayed involved in the Coder Foundry community?
I’ve been back to Coder Foundry maybe once because I’ve been working and it’s about an hour away.
In my last interview with Bobby and Andrew and Thomas, we talk about future plans. You don’t want to just go home, sit down and watch TV. My plan was to do all those little things on my projects that always annoyed me but I didn’t have enough time to finish and they weren’t on the specs. I wanted to brush up my resume, keep my website up to date, and make things as impressive as I can for my new interviews which will happen at some point. There was about a month where I wasn’t hired.
Do you go to meetups in North Carolina?
Is there anything about Coder Foundry or your transition into your new career that we totally skipped over that you want to make sure people know?
When I started I was obviously very skeptical because if it seems too good to be true, usually it is. I think for my class, the last one that they guaranteed a job paying $60,000 a year within 9 months of your graduation or your money back. For me it was no risk. All I did was pay tuition and I was guaranteed to get that back if I didn’t make a salaried job. I’ve paid back my tuition within the first two months of working and I’m going to be looking at a nice job that I can probably retire at. That’s the type of company CaptiveAire is – I’ve landed the big fish! I’m looking forward to working there a lot.
That is really exciting. Congratulations on the job that you’re doing now and your future job. Sounds like you have a very promising career.
Thank you so much, Philip. I think you’ve had a really cool perspective. I love that you had a background in computer science before and did this boot camp and now are really breaking into the tech scene - that’s awesome. You also gave us really cool tips for people who are making that transition into a tech career. To find out more about Coder Foundry, check out their website!
Welcome to the March News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Want your bootcamp's news to be included in the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
(updated August 2016)
Slide across the roof of the General Lee, we’re heading south of the Mason-Dixon to check out the best coding bootcamps in the southern United States. There are some fantastic code schools from the Carolinas to Georgia and all the way to Texas, and we’re covering them all. Talk about Southern Hospitality!Continue Reading →
Thomas Parrish started programming in high school, then attended UNC Greensboro where he pursued a degree in Mathematics, but also rediscovered his love for computer science. When one of his instructors at UNCG, Andrew Jensen, told him about an opportunity at Coder Foundry, Thomas got involved first as a student and then as an instructor. After teaching a few cohorts, Thomas tells us about the advantages of the bootcamp model, discovering his teaching style, and his plans at Coder Foundry going forward.
Tell us what you were up to before you started as an instructor at Coder Foundry.
I first discovered programming during my sophomore year of High school. I was lucky enough be able to attend a vocational high school that offered several technology courses, including computer science and graphic design. I spent the remainder of my high school career immersed in my computer science courses, learning C++ with Windows API ( so it was very old technology). When I graduated in 2001, and I went to a local community college for about a year before I started working in customer service.
In 2010, I was a shipping & receiving manager for a local toy company and I decided I need a career; I was tired of having little job stability in jobs that did not stimulate me intellectually. Because I had a little bit of background in community college, I transferred to University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where I pursued a degree in mathematics. During my tenure at UNCG, I was lucky to receive an NSF funded Math-Biology research fellowship which heavily involved computer science. Our study involved using automated video processing to study animal behavior.
It was through that research experience that I realized that, while I loved mathematics, my real passion was computer science. Unfortunately, by the time I realized that, I was a senior a semester away from graduation, so changing degrees wasn’t practical. Instead, I decided to stay one extra semester, and get a minor in Computer Science. It was during that time that I had the pleasure of taking several of Andrew Jensen’s courses. It was through him that I found out about Coder Foundry.
Coder Foundry was exactly what I needed. I felt very comfortable with my skills in programming and my ability to solve problems, but I had little formal training and no insight into what a career in computer science was like. In short, I felt terribly unprepared for a job. I’d never heard of a programming bootcamp before, but the description fit my needs exactly. Paired with the tremendous amount of respect I had for Andrew, well, for me there was never really any choice. I had to go. I called Lawrence Reeves the afternoon I discovered Coder Foundry, and three months later I sat down for my first day of the course.
So you actually did the course before you started mentoring and instructing?
Yes. I was hired as an instructor a week before the bootcamp ended.
Once you found out about Coder Foundry, did you look at any other bootcamps?
I felt confident enough with Andrew and at the time, they were doing all of their own financing and the terms were really good. There was zero risk for me, and I was sold from the beginning.
What was the difference between taking Computer Science undergrad classes and the bootcamp?
They can’t compare! I learned more in the three months that I was at Coder Foundry than I did taking CS courses for a year in the institute.
At a university, you don’t have the focus of being there 8 hours a day, so there’s the immersion aspect of it. The whole time I was at UNCG, I found courses I really loved that I’d spend 20 hours a week working on, but there was always another course I had to take that was distracting me. I was always juggling a course load.
Just having the focus on programming and the structure was a huge benefit for me. At Coder Foundry, our work is entirely much project-driven. Each student is given the same project specifications, but the products are clearly individual. You have this experience of building an application from the conceptual and design stages all the way through deployment on Windows Azure. That was something I’d never done before.
What was the process of getting hired as a mentor and instructor?
Prior to making this transition into CS, I had planned to get a PhD in mathematics with an emphasis on undergraduate mathematics education. I’ve always been interested in teaching, and I’m particularly interested in how people learn very conceptually difficult, abstract topics; whether or not there are different ways to approach teaching so that subjects that are traditionally difficult for the majority of students can be made more approachable to the average person. When I came to Coder Foundry, I told both Lawrence and Bobby that a teaching position would be really appealing to me.
Did you do additional training to become an instructor?
Since I went through the course myself, I already had first-hand knowledge of the course materials and pedagogy. Being a cohort of the inaugural class, I was able discover a lot of what works and what doesn’t before I ever accepted the position as an instructor. The students in my class played an active role in helping to refine the curriculum. We also spent a lot of time teaching each other. All of the students in my class were independently motivated, and actively explored topics that extended beyond the prescribed course materials. Often times, one of us would come across a solution to a problem or discover a new feature of one of the two frameworks we teach, and come in the next day and teach it to everyone in the class. Of course, I also had several years of experience tutoring at UNCG while I was a TA, so I had a lot of the skills already.
I have spent the last two courses working during the day split between an active software development position and a mentor, and teaching a class at night. I’m really excited to take over teaching of the March 30th class as Andrew prepares for our coming expansion to Charlotte.
Can you give us a couple of examples of what you’ve changed since that original curriculum?
A month and a half into our course, Microsoft released an update to Visual Studio that included the release of ASP.Net Identity 2.0. We finished a project up on Monday, and started a new project Wednesday. Only the scaffolding that was included with the Identity 2.0 update was quite different. All of the sudden we had to learn the Identity models all over again. This is the kind of experience that accredited educational institutions aren’t equipped to handle. You can’t just alter the scope of a university course halfway through the course.
Another example is in how we’ve refined the resume and professional portfolio website projects, which is the first project the students do. We use this project to teach HTML5, CSS3, and Bootstrap, but it also serves as a potent marketing tool that helps us pitch our students to potential employers. During our curriculum review of the last class, I came up with the idea of teaching the students how to build their own blog, and incorporate it with their personal sites. This servers as our introduction to code first database design and implementation. It’s a very small-scale project but it also is real world example of something that’s useful that you might have to do.
We’re constantly tweaking the assignments for the students so that they can optimize their time here. We’re trying to make it so that every project or assignment that they work on and every bit of time spent coding is going to end up with a final deliverable product that they can use to market themselves.
That’s really smart to have them build their blog into their personal portfolio site.
We also ask the students to make a blog post once a week. This helps provide the students with an outlet to review their learning experiences, and it gives the opportunity for for potential employers to discover how our education model works, and how much it benefits the students.
Do you have an idea of your ideal student at Coder Foundry? Is there a type of person that you found really excels in the class?
Coder Foundry is definitely not for anyone who isn’t highly motivated and hard-working. It’s also not for beginning programmers who are still learning the foundations of software development. We’ve had people come from the very procedural mainframe background and most of them have struggles. The material is challenging, especially when it comes to AngularJS, and the pace is breakneck. If you fall behind in week one or week two, it’s almost impossible to catch up. You really have to be prepared to commit all of your time and energy, during the course and outside of it, for the duration of the twelve weeks.
When it comes to preparation, I think a good general rule of thumb is to have the equivalent knowledge of the first two to three semesters of a computer science degree. A typical degree path will have an introductory course that covers basics of syntax, compilers, working with an IDE, etc. The second semester is typically an abstract data type that covers how to construct and use many of the advanced data structures we use, but don’t really discuss in detail (like Lists, Dictionaries, Hash Tables, Stacks, Queues, etc.) A third semester usually covers more advanced data structures, like Graphs and Trees, and algorithms.
That’s not to say a formal education is mandatory. We have a couple of people right now who are self-taught and are doing really well in the course. However, they tend to have more difficulty with technical interviews, because their foundation tends to be a bit weaker. When you’re self-taught, you’re motivated to learn how to solve problems, not necessarily the theory behind how everything works, and so there tends to be gaps in that knowledge. That’s one of the things that we’re working now to address: students who are capable of taking the course but missing some of the fundamental stuff they need to really excel and get the job afterwards, how can we provide them with the individual resources they need to improve that.
What is your personal teaching style? How much do you let a student struggle before stepping in?
I think it’s really important to let students struggle a little bit, and then I try very hard to direct the student’s thought. If a student asks me a question, I might ask them 4 or 5 questions that lead them to the answer, rather than just telling them.
Learning this material for me was an exercise in self-discovery. A large part of the learning process was actually making connections and linking what I just learned to what I already know.
Are you still thinking about a degree in education?
I hope I won’t have to, since Coder Foundry really is the ideal job for me. It’s a very exciting opportunity to pursue both my passion teaching, and my passion for developing software. We’re moving to a two-instructor model, in which one instructor teaches while the other one acts as the mentor and then the next class they’ll switch places. During their time as mentor, our instructors actively work as a developer. That gives all of our instructors 6 months of development experience each year, in order to continue expanding their skill set and learning the emerging technologies.
I think that’s really important because technologies, particularly web technologies, are evolving at an incredible rate. In order for our curriculum to keep pace, our instructors have to be experts in the latest technologies. It’s very important to our students, too. We’re taking students that have master’s degrees in CS, students that are very, very intelligent. If we don’t know what we’re talking about, they see right through us. So it’s great that we have the opportunity to improve our skills and keep up with the growing marketplace without having to spend a ridiculous amount of time outside of class doing continuing education-type activities.
Is job placement emphasized in the Coder Foundry curriculum?
About 25% of our class time is dedicated to helping students to cultivate great job-seeking skills. Each Monday, we have mock interviews where the students demonstrate their work to our instructors. This gives us an opportunity to provide the students with feedback on how to interview; how to talk to a potential employer, how to direct and interview, how to respond to technical questions, how to redirect questions back to their personal experiences and work. nce. That’s something that’s not really mentioned heavily on our website and in our marketing but that is a big part of the skillset that you learn, and that’s hugely valuable for getting a job.
Is there anything that you’d like to add about your experience at Coder Foundry or bootcamps in general?
Every student tends to ask some version of the same question: most of this information is available for free online; why pay to learn at Coder Foundry? What we offer is the structure of a directed program combined with the expertise of people who are actively developing in the field.
When you have a question while you’re learning on your own, what do you do when you get stuck? Who do you ask? We have somebody right here that does this for a living. That’s a huge value and asset. We can teach you something it might take you a year to learn on your own, in just three months. When you factor in our job placement services, the interview skills you learn, and the personal portfolio we help you develop, I really do believe it’s an exceptional value.
T. J. Jones is the Director of Partnership Development at Coder Foundry in North Carolina. We talk to T. J. about the types of students who excel at Coder Foundry, the companies who hire from the school, and the value that Coder Foundry adds to the job placement process.
Tell us about what you were doing before you came to Coder Foundry.
I worked remotely for five years for a technology company in San Diego. Our CTO started a small coder academy/coding school in San Diego for a brief moment. That was the first time I heard about coding academies. That was five years ago.
Were you immediately convinced of the bootcamp model?
I saw the model cropping up, mostly online first, and it made sense to me. I've seen two privately funded schools close their doors in the past week. I think the market is responding to the type of education one gets that can prepare them for a software engineering job.
What is your position at Coder Foundry?
Director of Partnership Development. I do admissions and also student outcomes.
Can you describe what goes into partnership development?
Partnership development is just a fancy way to say that I do admissions and student outcomes. As our team grows we'll create new positions and focus on either admissions or outcomes. Right now I'm working with companies to consider using bootcamp style learning as another employment channel, especially if they have an under performing channel that they source candidates from.
Do your hiring partners tell you the types of students they want to hire?
Yes. Typically they have a certain skill set they're looking for and experience level (jr, mid, sr.). One of the benefits of working with a coding immersion school rather than a large recruiting agency is getting that personalized/boutique experience rather than sourcing resumes from keywords. We can vouch personally for the students we place because we know it's our reputation on the line as well. Our students are a reflection of our curriculum and process.
How many cohorts has Coder Foundry graduated?
We've had three cohorts and have graduated thirty students.
Would it be a red flag to you if an applicant wanted to start their own business and not get placed in a job?
No, we actually encourage it. Because we have chosen .NET most of the students coming to Coder Foundry are looking to build enterprise solutions. Some have no intention of getting placed and may want to spin off a consulting company. That's fine with us. We currently have a student going this route. Shout out to Hugh at LibreWorx.com!
Who are some of the hiring partners you’re working with?
We’re nine months old, so we’re still establishing those partnerships. A few that we work with right now are CaptiveAire, a consulting company called CoreTechs, and we just recently placed a graduate with a company called MoneyGuide Pro. They’re a financial services company and they build financial software for large financial institutions.
The partnership side is in its infancy really, as we’re just now starting to establish long-term partnerships. Silicon Valley has an ecosystem around which they can funnel candidates- that’s really what we’re trying to do here. Our largest markets are Charlotte and Raleigh, Atlanta.
Will you take a placement fee or recruiting fee from those companies?
I wouldn’t call myself a recruiter- we aim more for a partnership. There is a placement fee which will be typical to the industry. These companies will already paying a placement fee anyway, and they’re probably not getting the types of candidates they want because the recruiting industry is just simply looking at resumes, filtering keywords and putting candidates in front of employers. We feel like it’s a broken model, a broken way to source employment.
We’re trying to challenge that; we have a 12-week relationship with this candidate. We’re going to see their work, see what they can do, see their values, what they’re passionate about. So when we put the candidate in front of an employer, we feel like that’s a better potential hire and a service that you’ll pay a premium for than a recruiter who’s never met this person and who just went through a stack of resumes.
Is .NET the technology that your hiring partners are demanding now?
The feedback that we get from students, the reason they apply is that if they want to learn the .NET stack, ours is the most rigorous one out there. If you want to go work at a startup, then Python and Ruby are great. But we’re not really targeting those types of employers, we’re looking at large or mid-enterprise level companies and consulting companies.
How often are you iterating on the curriculum? Do students and hiring partners give you feedback?
We’re always looking for feedback from students and instructors. There’s something to be said for people who have had experience in the marketplace and in academia and can kind of weigh in on the curriculum.
Over the next year, I think we’ll see the employers start to weigh in with suggestions for the curriculum and we can definitely throw those in there, but in 12 weeks you can only cover so much and we try to hit the main points. The hope is, in terms of the partnership, that they will be able to send their employees back for corporate training. If you’re moving from Java to .NET or if you’re moving from one technology stack to the other, a coding academy like ours that focuses primarily on a particular technology can be a great resource for enterprise-level training.
Do you have a job guarantee?
What we say is, if you pass the class, you’ll get a job. Because what the employers are betting on is our curriculum and what we’re betting on is our students. The students really represent us in the marketplace so when the employer makes a good hire, that really reflects on us and what we’re doing and speaks for our curriculum. Our program is 12 weeks long and you're going to be building five web applications from the ground up using .NET and AngularJS. At the end of the course you'll have a portfolio of work you can showcase on a profile site. We feel like this gives students a head start on their peers because they're building applications that they can showcase instead of proprietary technology that prospective employers cannot access.
When we talked with Charles, a Coder Foundry alum, he said that he did 6 or 7 interviews once he graduated. That’s pretty impressive- is that typical?
Six or seven, yes. The hope is that we could narrow it down to three or four interviews. For instance, a student came in with a financial engineering background, so probably doesn’t want to work in the food industry, you know? He probably wants something in the financial services industry.
Johnny, who just got placed, was actually working on Wall Street for a few years, went to Columbia for financial engineering, actually moved from China here to North Carolina, came to Code Foundry and now he’s working in Virginia.
The hope is to line up our partnerships with our students’ backgrounds. The goal is to have types of partnerships in multiple cities and in multiple verticals with different employers.
Did Johnny get hired as a developer?
Yes, he got placed in February. He hasn’t started yet, but he signed his offer letter and was officially hired. He starts a little later in March.
Who is the ideal applicant at Coder Foundry?
A lot of people think that we’re taking students who have no idea what computer programming or computer science is and turning them into these rock star developers. That’s just not the case. So we’re really being selective in who we accept.
We’re seeing a lot of applicants who have 10–15 years’ work experience, maybe they’ve worked in older technologies, maybe not object oriented programming, and they want to learn .NET because that’s the enterprise-level solution that most companies are using.
We also see the occasional electrical engineering undergrad who didn’t do an internship and needs some work experience; they’ll use Coder Foundry and the 700 hours of experience that they put in at Coder Foundry will be that first notch in the resume.
So your ideal student is not a beginner?
Definitely not a beginner. We feel that it speaks less to the level of credibility of the program and curriculum when you just take beginners.
The individuals that are really attracted to Coder Foundry are looking to take their professionalism to the next level, not just do it as recreation or a side hobby with no background experience to work off of.
Antonio Raynor had a Computer Science degree from East Carolina and a career in software development; but he knew that the tech market was trending towards web development. He was excited to find out that Coder Foundry was a bootcamp right in the North Carolina area that could teach him the web skills he would need to advance in the industry. Still finishing up his master class, Antonio tells us about the importance of self-teaching in coding, interview prep help, and how his CS degree has helped him at Coder Foundry.
Update: Antonio’s experience as a software developer and updated web development skills from Coder Foundry helped him land a job as a Senior Software Engineer at Core Techs, located in Kernersville, NC. Congrats, Antonio!
What Coder Foundry course are you in?
I’m in the master’s course. I started January 5th.
Tell us what you were doing before you started at Coder Foundry.
Right before coming to Coder Foundry, I had been doing contracting software development for a little over 2 years. I have a computer science degree from East Carolina University.
After graduating from East Carolina, I worked fulltime for a couple of companies, mostly network maintenance work banks. I started contracting to get more real development work. I’m a coder at heart- that’s what I like to do.
What technologies were you working with as a contractor?
Most of my skills were in software development and Visual Basic, C#, Visual Studio, mostly Microsoft. I also have a Java background but I was more focused on Visual Studio.
Were you self-taught in those languages, or did you learn them in your undergrad?
If you don’t self-teach, you’re just not going to make it. A lot of the core of any computer science program is going to be you get the basics and that’s it. As far as programming and learning the techniques of programming, you do that on your own. You kind of create a relationship with the code and your own style, which comes from self-teaching.
How did you teach yourself? Did you do Codecademy or any other online programs?
Books! There’s a few websites that offer some really good tutorials but I learned early on with books and that’s what I’ve stuck with.
What was your motivation in doing a web development bootcamp? Were you interested in changing careers?
Not so much of a career change as taking another road and advancing my current career. I was so intrigued that a bootcamp like this existed.
In the interviews that I was doing for my contract work, they were looking for the skillset that Coder Foundry teaches. I couldn’t keep teaching myself this new web skillset while I was working because there was never enough time. That was one of the reasons I was so surprised that this existed right here in North Carolina. I felt like the direction of the industry was going definitely more towards the web and those were skills that I needed. I didn’t have real world experience using it at some of my jobs.
Did you research any other bootcamps or did you apply only to Coder Foundry?
I only applied to Coder Foundry, but I did a comparison of about three other schools. I was looking for a more advanced school, and it seemed like I would get the most out of Coder Foundry.
What was the application process like for you?
They gave me a phone call and did a phone screen with their whole team. I wasn’t expecting that from the first call. They shot me a few technical questions, nothing really hard, just to get a feel for me. They gave me a description of what the course was like and answered any questions I had.
They said that I would be a better fit for the Master course than for the beginner.
How many people are in your cohort?
There are 12.
Do you feel like there’s diversity in race, gender and age?
Yeah, we are quite diverse. We have students from South Africa, Puerto Rico, all over.
Did you feel like everyone was able to learn together or were some people more ahead than others?
Yes, everyone in my class has had some sort of technical background, so they can handle the material that’s taught. I think everybody’s moving at a good pace.
Who are your instructors at Code Foundry?
Andrew Jensen is our head instructor and then Thomas comes in and helps out during the day if we have problems – he’s awesome.
Is there a lot of lecture or is mostly project based?
No, because you learn from self-teaching and projects. You’ve got to put this information into practice if it’s going to stick with you. We get a lecture for about an hour each day. Once you get your hands into it, you run across questions once you start going and Andrew’s right there for us every day.
It’s definitely project based. We’re working on our project and we’ve had so far three major projects.
Are the projects assigned or are they projects that you come up with?
They’re assigned projects. We all work on the same project with the same specs or requirements. Right now we’re working on an issue tracking software. We all have a long list of specs and requirements and we have to meet them. Everyone’s projects look completely different but the same functionality is there.
Are you working alone or in groups?
I should say that all of our projects are individual. We do work as groups sometimes but everyone has their individual projects that we work on.
How far along are you? What have you learned so far?
We’re right in our midterm. This issue tracker is our midterm. We started with Bootstrap and being able to lay out things on the web page and place objects and design things because that’s the really big part of our projects because it takes time.
From there we went into model-view-controller design patterns. That’s pretty much the first half of the course, model-view-controllers, MVC.
It’s a totally new concept in my programming style. I’m used to Win-forms building a form that you double-click the icon and it comes up; those forms and those backgrounds and on top the database is there; so this is a different pattern of coding.
Do you think your Computer Science degree and background has helped you in the Coder Foundry course?
I think it helps me to have that as part of my experience. We have guys that are in there who were tech engineers and they never touched the software side at all. We’re all moving at about the same pace like I said. For example, when we’re talking about object-oriented programming, I had that pounded into my head in my undergrad.
Are the projects pass/fail? How are those assessed?
Well, you have the opportunity to present it again. If it does not meet the requirements then you get a temporary fail until you can correct it – but you have to continue to work with the course load.
How much time are you spending on the Coder Foundry course?
I dream in code, that’s the honest truth. We’re here eight hours a day and when you get home – I can’t say this for everyone -- but I know that I continue to work on it. I work on it a couple of hours more, so we’re doing 40 – 60 hours, plus the weekends too.
What kind of job are you looking for after you graduate?
Ultimately, I want to be in a permanent position that I just love to go to, instead of being a burden to go to every day. Immediately, I want to make myself more marketable. I want to have the skills from Coder Foundry on my resume and be confident in them.
Have you done any job preparation or interview preparation?
We started that from week one. We’ve interviewed every Monday, we present the work that we did the week prior. We’re taught interview techniques. That’s instilled in us from day one.
Charles Miller had studied computer science at a community college and was working in IT as a computer support technician when his mom told him about Coder Foundry (she saw it on the news). After visiting the campus and talking with founders, Charles completed Coder Foundry’s .NET bootcamp and has since been placed in a rewarding new job with Entrematic Amarr. Charles tells us about how seeing Coder Foundry in person was believing, the real-world assignments and projects, and who he would recommend for a Coder Foundry course.
Tell us what you were up to before you started at Coder Foundry.
When I graduated high school, I went straight to community college and worked part-time.
I originally started out doing IT, mainly computer technician support, as well as computer sales. I went on, working in retail for about two years until my mom told me about Coder Foundry; she saw it on Fox News.
I did some research and and contacted the Coder Foundry team. After I completed their program, they placed me in a job in less than a month and a half.
When you were taking classes at community college, were you taking any CS classes?
Yes, I was taking classes in computer programming and a little bit of game design. I started playing around with computer programming when I was about 14. I had also done some freelance work, but nothing too serious. So I did know quite a bit about computer programming and software development going into the Coder Foundry program.
Had you programmed in .NET before?
No, I had not; I had always worked with PHP and C++. I worked on some open source projects. I actually helped the KDE project and I worked on an online open source game called the Mana World online.
What was the application like for you?
To be honest, I was a little skeptical of a bootcamp at first because the course was expensive. I just wanted to make sure that this was something worth investing in because I had to borrow money to enroll. I actually went to see their facility before I accepted because I wanted to see if these guys were legit, and after meeting with the team in person, I felt really confident in them and the program. So I went ahead and applied and ended up joining their team.
How many people were in your class?
Our Master class started out with eight people, but Coder Foundry has two different programs: the Master Class and the Apprentice program. There was one person in my class that was smart, but was just not picking up .NET very well. He ended up moving into the Apprentice class.
Who was the instructor in your class?
Andrew Jensen. He had taught at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and was a PhD candidate.
The teaching style was completely hands-on. The school day was 9am to 5pm, so we were there for a good eight hours or so. We were assigned individual projects, and then we did a weekly update with Lawrence and Bobby where we had to present our work and they gave us constructive feedback.
Were you coming up with that project and executing on it, or was it assigned?
It depended. For some projects, Coder Foundry assigned it- for example, our first project was a Bug Tracker. We were free to expand on it however much we wanted to. The second and third projects were more strict in that they gave us very set guidelines. Honestly, since I’ve come back into the workforce, I really appreciate that method because it’s so similar to our work environment. It got me very used to taking criticism and using that feedback in a positive way.
Can you take us quickly through the actual technologies that you learned during the course?
We started with .NET, C-Sharp and from there we added SQL. Our next project we did WebAPI with AngularJS. Those were our three big projects that we did.
What was your favorite technology?
Can you tell us a little bit about Coder Foundry’s approach to job preparation?
The weekly presentations were done very interview-style. It was kind of like half presentation, half interview. They did go over interview questions with us and they gave us feedback. They also encouraged me to get a suit and tie!
Did they do a career day or a hiring day or anything like that with employers?
They set up the interviews for us. I actually went through six interviews in about a month and a half, it ended up being about one interview a week. Coder Foundry had connections in the local area, and all the way to Greenville. They tried to find good fits for different people.
Tell us about the company you work for today!
I’m working on a really cool project right now- a “door designer” that lets you preview your door on your house. You actually upload a photo and it uses image manipulation to show you what it will look like with a door on your house.
Do you feel supported by more senior developers at Amarr?
There are two other developers that I’m working under right now. I’m on my own a lot because they’re working on other projects, but when I do a presentation they’re both there.
They worked on the original door designer so their feedback is very important on this new one.
Is there anything that we didn’t touch on that you wanted to add about your time at Coder Foundry?
The only thing I can say is, it does what is says on the box. I am very happy with my experience with them; I couldn’t be any more satisfied.
Would you recommend Coder Foundry to somebody who is learning to code?
I would recommend Coder Foundry to someone who is having a hard time finding the job they want that also has a little bit of experience. You can’t go from zero to 100 with programming in three months. I came from the open source side of the internet, and this really geared me towards the business side of software development. So if you know your stuff but just need a push in the right direction to actually get a job doing what you love, then Coder Foundry is perfect for you.
Andrew Jensen is a university-trained software developer with degrees in English and Computer Science and more than 20 years of experience in education. When he met Bobby Davis, who was preparing to start Coder Foundry, the idea of a bootcamp made sense to Andrew, and he joined the Coder Foundry team. Now, after more than a year teaching the Coder Foundry Master Class, Andrew tells us what appeals to him about the bootcamp model compared to traditional academia, developing and updating the curriculum at Coder Foundry, and the role bootcamps can play when filling the needs of a job market.
Tell me about your background and your experience.
I worked in the software business for about 12 years before I went back to school. I worked as a corporate trainer, a technical writer and software developer at a number of software companies.
I discovered at that time that I loved teaching. In 2001, the tech market hit a bottom and I found myself out of work. I decided to go back to school, eventually making my way through a PhD program in Computer Science.
It’s neat that you come from an education and technology background.
I’ve spent a lot of time teaching, doing research, and building software projects.
I was teaching in the UNC Greensboro Computer Science department and Bobby Davis, one of the founders of Coder Foundry, walked into one of my classes one day; he was there for an “entrepreneur day.” The school invited local businesspeople to come and talk to students in various classes about what they do.
He showed up at my class one day and started talking to my students and I found myself awfully interested in what he had to say. He talked about the other two companies that he’s involved with, Advanced Fraud Solutions and Core Techs. Then he started talking about this new idea that he had called “Coder Foundry.” I met with Bobby and his business partner Lawrence Reaves and they offered me a job.
Coming from a Computer Science PhD and a fairly traditional education background, did you have to be convinced of the bootcamp model at all?
Actually, it made all the sense in the world to me. I had honestly become disenchanted with academia as a whole. I was discouraged by the fact that the curriculum I had to teach my students was dictated by accreditation and not by what the students needed. If the university wanted to be accredited through the Federal Department of Education then they had a certain criteria that they had to meet and it just happened to be that 85 - 90% of the curriculum is Computer Science theory.
Over a four-year period of time, Computer Science students have very little practical coding experience. The thing that I liked about Coder Foundry is that it’s based upon learning as a science. The science of learning has proven for the last 150 years that people learn best by doing. They don’t learn by sitting in a lecture. They learn by getting their hands dirty, and that’s the way Coder Foundry functions; that’s our business model.
We teach all of the students that come through our courses the skills they need to get their careers underway. They’re going to learn more by applying those skills than they will ever learn from me lecturing to them for eight hours a day.
How many cohorts have you taught now?
We’re on our third Master Class- that’s our full-time class, eight to ten hours a day. We also offer a part-time, evening class. It runs for 24 weeks and covers the same topics as the day time course, but it is targeted towards working professionals that want to further themselves without leaving their current jobs. I taught the first session of the part-time course, but now I focus on the Master Class. We brought on another instructor, Thomas Parrish to teach the evening class for us now.
Is there a difference in the expected outcomes between the evening class and the full-time class? Do you expect people to be at the same level when they graduate?
We do. Really, the only difference is the length of the program. Most people have jobs that they’re interested in keeping while they go through the part-time class.
Can you take us through the technologies that you cover in 12 weeks?
In the beginning of the course we introduce students to some basic web development skills. We assume at least a basic knowledge of HTML, but we do introduce them to the Twitter Bootstrap framework and CSS classes.
We also have students start a blog page on their personal website that allows them to journal while they’re going through Coder Foundry. At the end of each week they write about things they learned, questions they had, impressions and milestones.
By journaling, there is a written record of their thought processes. We can see areas where they’re struggling, things they’re excelling at; it gives us a better idea of how to work with each individual student.
It also lets potential employers look and see their progress from day one and see how quickly they move through our curriculum and how much they learn.
Do you assign pre-work before students start the class?
We do if we feel they need it. We want everyone to start our program having similar background knowledge so that no one struggles in the beginning, or so that our more experienced students don’t feel like their time is being wasted on the basics.
Do you expect the average student to start with some technical experience?
We really prefer that they have at least a basic understanding of coding. Specifically, we want a student to have experience with object oriented languages; if they’ve worked in C++ and Java, that’s fantastic.
Our curriculum is really rigorous, and with the amount of work that we’re covering between C-Sharp, AngularJS, and web API, we just don’t have time in 12 weeks to teach everyone object-oriented programming from the ground up.
Do you have resources for people to look at before they get there?
During the application process, students complete assessments and we evaluate their code and conduct personal interviews to assess their abilities to succeed in the course. We don’t want to take anyone’s time and money if they’re not going to pass.
What type of person have you found really excels in the Coder Foundry class? Sometimes it surprises me. It’s tough to make a judgment call during an interview. What I have found is that the people who do best never miss a class; they’re always there. We cover so much information so fast that if you miss a day, you’re going to have a really difficult time catching up.
A successful student also takes advantage of our Friday lab days, and they do work outside the classroom. We have regular instruction Monday-Thursday and Friday is optional. We have instructors and mentors here to answer questions and help with coding problems and we encourage all of our students to be here for those Friday lab days.
Do you all give assessments throughout the course?
I’m not a proponent of exams. I’ve given enough of them over the years to learn they are just not an accurate representation of somebody’s ability.
Instead, we evaluate our students’ work. We treat them like employees instead of students. We give them project specifications and deadlines. Each of their projects has to be complete according to the specification by the deadline or they simply don’t pass that project.
If they don’t “pass,” what happens?
If they don’t pass a project during the course, we’ll allow them to continue working on it with us. So at the end of 12 weeks, all projects have to be finished and we consider you to be a success.
We can absolutely get them a job at that point because they have demonstrated the ability to meet project deadlines, demonstrated the ability to do the projects that we’ve asked the to do them and stayed on top of things.
You’ve done this course three times; what have you iterated on?
That’s one of the great things about a bootcamp: we’re not tied to a set curriculum. The things that I’m teaching this third class are quite a bit different than what I taught our first class.
We’ve learned a lot with experience. We learned things that needed to be taught a little bit differently, elements we needed to add to the projects, and we’ve found that we could strike some unnecessary elements. Nothing huge- just little things here and there that we needed to do to modify the curriculum. We try to do that after each class.
Being a bootcamp, we have the flexibility to change, which is incredibly beneficial for our students in the long run.
How many students do you have in a class?
We’re steadily growing; right now, we have 11 students in the full-time Master Class, which is more than twice the size of the first Master Class. We have quite a large number of applicants waiting for the next one, which we’re very excited about.
Do you find that most of your students want to get placed in a job once they graduate or is anyone starting their own business?
I have one student right now who is doing Coder Foundry so that he can start his own business. He wants to hire developers, but he also wants to know how it all works.
Other than that student, everybody that we’ve taught has come to be placed in a job. That’s a big selling point- we do have staff on hand that actively work with companies in the area and across the state to get these students placed – and we’ve been very successful at doing so.
Do you have a role in job placement or is there another staff member who is placing students?
We have a full time, in house Placement Office that places our students. The guy in charge of it right now is T. J. Jones; he’s fantastic. He’s doing a great job for us, working on building relationships with coding houses across the country. He’s the primary liaison between Coder Foundry and these potential employers.
We work on making sure students have a portfolio of work to show in job interviews, and we coach them all along the way. Bobby and I meet with each student every Monday. They demo the work that they’ve done the previous week, we quiz them on possible interview questions and coach them on soft skills; how to conduct a great interview, how to succeed in interviewing for a job. Bobby is a master at that. It pays off- these students are a lot better at interviewing by the time they’re finished than they were during week one.
What does a typical day look like at Coder Foundry?
Typically, I will lecture in the morning- not for very long, though. What I’ve found is that if you give students too much information at once, they get lost or become less engaged. I strive to teach what is required to accomplish the next set of tasks. They’ll figure the details out on their own as they work their way through each project.
When there are big questions coming up, or universal confusion, we address them on the spot and do spontaneous lectures to help clear everything up. Everything we do is project based.
Do you find teaching full-time to be manageable and sustainable, or do you get breaks to take time for other projects?
My original employment contract includes three 12-week teaching sessions and a fourth 12-week session to work on anything of my choice, whether it’s additional projects for Coder Foundry or sharpening my skills and keeping them updated.
That’s for us because we pride ourselves in staying on the leading edge of the technology that we’re teaching. We don’t want to teach something that’s out of date.
Coming up this year is a new version of Entity framework and Visual Studio that is completely different, a complete change from what they’ve been doing in the past, and we need to be on board with that. We’ve got to take the time to train ourselves and reinvent the curriculum.
Why did Coder Foundry decide to teach .NET?
.NET is what businesses want. (include Indeed graph here). Businesses are looking for C-Sharp and .NET developers- and that is just not what is being taught in universities. If businesses are looking for it, we need and want to provide it. We teach .Net because we are working with companies that want to hire .Net; there is a huge demand for .Net coders.
Is there anything that you wanted to add about your experience at Coder Foundry?
I love being here! I honestly think this is the best company in the world. I think that we’re doing a fantastic thing for the industry as a whole and especially with our connections here locally in the Piedmont Triad.
There are a lot of businesses here looking for strong coders, so what we’re really filling a void in the market. It’s one thing to teach somebody how to write code; it’s great to teach people syntax, but if they can’t learn how to evaluate or solve a problem, then the code skills won’t do them any good. We really work hard at Coder Foundry to teach our students to be problem-solvers – and we feel that is a large part of what makes them great developers.
Andrew Jensen of Coder Foundry answers one of their most frequently asked questions: Why Should I Learn .NET?
A question that we get asked a LOT at Coder Foundry is: “Why do you choose to teach .NET when it seems like everyone else is teaching Ruby on Rails?”
What is .NET?
Microsoft .NET is the platform that drives the business technology of many of the top corporations in the United States, including Chase, 3M, Starbucks, and match.com. It is the predominant technology used to drive enterprise-scale business technology. Companies have chosen .NET because for its proven scalability, reliability, and support.
.NET is a framework rather than a language. The .NET language of choice to learn is C#, as it is among the most widely used languages today. It’s a general purpose programming language that can handle almost any problem, from desktop to mobile to dynamic web applications.
As such, there is a high demand across the United States (and certainly in the Southeast) for .NET developers in a variety of industries (computer systems design, electronic product manufacturing, finance, etc.), so that means that more jobs are available for candidates with a foundation built upon .NET technologies.
.Net can be used to build virtually any type of application: games, commercial software, mobile and web applications, personal websites. If you can imagine it, you can probably build it.
.NET Job Market
For us, the main point of learning .NET is helping to launch students into their next career opportunity.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a whopping 22.8 percent employment growth for software developers between 2012 and 2022, which is much faster than average for all occupations. In that period, an estimated 139,900 jobs will open up, which is great news for people looking to change paths or move up the ladder into a more senior position (as is the case with a lot of our students).
The job market for .NET is wide open, and in nearly every industry. In fact, there has never been a better time to learn .NET. These days, every company has an IT department. Everyone needs a website or in-house software. You can run a job search right now no matter where you are in the country and find hundreds of jobs for .NET developers.
The chart below from Indeed.com further illustrates how the boom in the .NET job market is a trend that is not going away any time soon. Between 2006 and 2014, the number of .NET job postings have far and away surpassed the number of job openings for any other specific coding language, with especially impressive spikes beginning around 2012 showing no signs of slowing down. Basically, we are training our students to be well-outfitted for the current job market, and we are providing a wonderful resource for employers seeking qualified .NET talent.
And that’s another great benefit for our students; we have working job placement relationships with hundreds of regional corporations that specifically hire .NET developers.
.NET Coding Bootcamp Graduates
Our graduates get jobs in all types and sizes of companies. Our job placement office works full time to nurture these relationships, which results in organizations often turning to us first before releasing job openings publically, or choosing to interview batches of our students at the end of each bootcamp, knowing that our students have the skills that they are looking for.
Getting a job is great, but getting a great-paying job is even better. The Labor Department reported that the national average salary for .NET Developers was at $92,660 for 2013, with salaries ranging from $72,660 to the top 10% earning $143,000. This range absolutely resonates as typical of what we see in North Carolina.
The Coder Foundry job placement office is a great resource for our students to connect with these companies and get the interviews and job offers that they might have been overlooked for had they not come to bootcamp.
In short, we really feel like there is a needs-gap in the .NET developer job market right now. There are tons of great positions with well-known, reputable companies, but there aren’t a lot of job seekers that trained in a way that will allow them to succeed in these jobs. Our mission is two-fold: to fill the market’s void, providing individuals with sought-after, marketable skills that will land them a well-paid job, and also to be a resource for employers that are seeking prospective hires that possess the talents they are looking for.
The .NET community is very large and well-established. It’s been around a long time. Pretty much every major company that has an IT department uses .NET. It is extremely widespread. It is used for commercial products to internal line of the business applications.
Microsoft officials say there are more than 6 million developers using .Net today, and that there are 1.8 billion installs of .Net across various devices. You could say that’s pretty widespread.
People say that because .NET has never been “open-source.” All that means is that Microsoft has not made all of their .NET source code publicly available to the average consumer. This is absolutely not a concern. For those who are very pro-“open-source,” Microsoft recently announced their plans to make significant portions of the .NET framework available to the open-source community at large.
Resources to Learn .NET
We typically shy away from recommending or endorsing most books, primarily because books of a technological nature are frequently outdated almost by the time they’re published. We stick to online Q&A resources like Stack Overflow when we need to find answers, and of course, the MSDN documentation is always helpful. As for learning .NET, we’d highly recommend coming to Coder Foundry. That’s your best place to get started.
Coder Foundry is a training program that teaches three-month courses to a variety of skill levels and assists with finding students their dream tech jobs. We talk to Bobby & Lawrence about their background in technology, the difference between their Apprentice Class and Master Class, and why they choose to teach .NET to their cohorts of aspiring software developers.
What is your background in technology?
Bobby: I own a software development consulting firm, and part of the impetus for Coder Foundry was that we couldn’t find talent with the skills we were looking for. Lawrence runs a software company and had the same problem. Lawrence and I decided that if we couldn’t find them, we should start building them. That was the genesis: it was born out of our software development shops. We have a lot of experience building all these web-based applications, and now we want to train and place our own talent.
How did you get into software development?
Bobby: I’ve been in this industry for 20 years. Core Techs, is one of the software company behind Coder Foundry, has been in business since ’02. I came up in the 80’s, learning Cobalt. So everything I know today is self-taught, because they just weren’t teaching it in the 80’s, and they’re really still not teaching it in college.
How many cohorts have you done?
Bobby: We started this year. We have a Masters Class for people with amateur or professional level coding skills. That’s made up of CS degree graduates and experienced professionals who want to refresh their toolset. We also have a Beginners Class for people with little to no background in coding. For both of these classes, we have a full-time job services placement director that is lining up jobs for the graduates.
When does the next cohort start?
Bobby: September 29th, immediately after this class graduates.
How many students are in this first cohort?
Bobby: We have a total of 15 in this cohort. We already have people signed up for the next course.
Why do you teach .NET and think it’s the most important language to learn?
Bobby: When we looked at the skillsets we needed, it was C# or .NET development. When you look at the companies in corporate America, those are still the predominant languages. We’re teaching the language that we can place people into jobs with.
Do you have any students in your class who have indicated they would want to work at a startup?
Bobby: The great thing about languages is that once you’ve learned one, you can learn others. If you only know Ruby, your options are more limited. If you know C#, you can work for a startup or a corporate company.
We love seeing bootcamps pop up in smaller markets. Why did you choose North Carolina?
Bobby: We chose this location because this is where our technology based business are and we are part of this tech community. We’re placing students into Charlotte, a huge Financial Services market. A lot of those banks use .NET. We’re also central to Greensboro and Raleigh, where there are hundreds of organizations using and hiring .NET developers.
Are you seeing students come to Coder Foundry mainly from North Carolina?
Lawrence: It’s been a mix. Most have been from North Carolina in this first cohort, but we’ve also had students from Boston and California already. Our curriculum is unique and our guaranteed job placement makes sense to students that are looking to invest 3 months and need to know it is going to payoff for them.
Your school offers a job guarantee?
Lawrence: True. We offer guarantee for our master class. You get a job or your money back. Here’s how: The master class starts with students that have some experience and we are able to fast track them with our curriculum in 12 weeks to a place where we can place them in a dev position. The reason we can do this is we have a solid curriculum based on Microsoft centric skills. One of the most sought after skill sets in our region right now. We have an instructor that is a professional teacher from the university level, he has a passion for teaching and is excellent. And we have a full time job placement director that personally puts our graduates into positions that are the best fit for employee and employer. Right now on our job placement side we have jobs available. The demand is the current state of the industry, but we have built a method for delivering and developing qualified dev talent into the marketplace.
What does a typical day look like at Coder Foundry?
Bobby: The Master class is intense. It’s 8:30-5:30 every day. Our apprentice class is at night, from 6-9pm. In the Master class, we have short lectures in the morning (about 1.5 hours), and then TAs monitor and help the students write code. They have a lecture in the afternoon, and then finish the day coding. We have a staff of developers TA-ing and monitoring the class to help the teacher. At any time, they can talk to a ten-year veteran to help them get through something they’re not understanding.
How many of those mentors do you have in a master class?
Bobby: Up to 6. This current class we have is exceptionally smart.
In the apprentice class, who are the instructors there?
Bobby: Andrew Jensen is our college level professor. He has been teaching Computer Science at the state university level. Andrew and I both teach that class. We will have mentors come in for particular topics as well.
Are you both doing admissions work?
Bobby: Absolutely. We’re meeting with applicants in person or via skype, understanding the students and where they are and what they want to accomplish. That’s the way we’re set up. Our placement director starts working with students right away, so we can get them lined up for success at the end of the twelve weeks.
Is the interview technical?
Bobby: For the Masters class, yes, it’s technical. We don’t give them a coding challenge per se, but we’re asking questions about their background, what they know about databases and coding languages.
Do you expect that there will be attrition? Or is your goal to graduate everyone in the class?
Bobby: We have not had attrition yet. I think it’s fair to say there will be some attrition, after all that is part of life. But we expect everyone to graduate and we have invested in the teacher, process and curriculum so that every student is set up for the best outcome. We did a great job of interviewing the Masters coming in, because we had to make sure they were employable and could make it through the program.
Do you expect that someone who completes the Apprentice course will be ready for a technical job?
Bobby: We’re very clear upfront that if you take the Apprentice course, it’s going to depend on the student themselves. They have to put in a ton of time outside of class. If they do that, we can get them into a Junior Developer job.
What are you doing to help students prepare for job placement?
Lawrence: All of our classes, both Apprentice and Master, are based on projects. We run the classes like you were a developer- you have deadlines that you have to meet by each Monday. Every Monday, the students meet with me and go through their progress. It’s time-consuming but it allows them to practice interview skills and pitch their software. On top of that, we’re rewriting their resumes, updating their LinkedIn profiles, and giving them a place to post their published work after Coder Foundry.
Will you have a Hiring Day at the end of the course?
Lawrence: We’re taking it one step further and actually lining up interviews for our students with companies that are current hiring and have open positions looking to grow their IT shops. We are working with about 100 companies in North Carolina- I know North Carolina is not the biggest market, but right now, there are 1700 open .NET positions that can’t be filled on job sites in NC. We already have companies calling in asking for our students looking for .Net developers.
What’s next? Any plans to expand to new locations or languages?
Lawrence: It is affordable for students to take temporary housing for 12 weeks to take our class here, we have students from outside NC now that are attracted to the .Net curriculum. We do think .NET is the right platform for job placement. We have the ability to react and put new programs in place, but we like .NET because of the market demand.. I’ve been running a national software company for the last 7 years and we use .NET in every install. We have a huge need for .NET developers.