Codesmith offers an extensive hiring support program that guides Residents through whiteboarding, advanced technical interview practice, resume and profile development, and interview and networking strategies. Support continues upon graduation with bi-weekly check-ins and, after offers, negotiation support. Overall, 25% of graduates receive offers for Senior Engineer positions and above, and about 70% receive offers for Mid-level Engineer roles.
Recent Codesmith Reviews: Rating 4.86
Recent Codesmith News
- What is AWS? A Guide to Amazon Web Services for Beginners
- New Year, New Career? Learning to Code in 2019!
- What I Built at A Coding Bootcamp: Reynolds of Codesmith
- Start Date
- April 29, 2019
- Class size
- No deposit
- We offer tuition payment plans and many scholarships for the course.
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- We offer case by case payment plans, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with questions!
- Refund / Guarantee
- If you pass the CS Prep assessment you are guaranteed a technical interview with our full time Codesmith Program. Refunds for the course are available and distributed on a case by case basis.
- We offer multiple scholarships to CS Prep, with many students paying no tuition at all. You can apply for the women in software engineering scholarship, Dean's scholarship, or minorities in tech scholarship.
- Minimum Skill Level
- Suitable for beginners who are ready to level up to intermediate and advanced material.
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- We recommend some familiarity with the content in the Precourse Unit on CSX - our free online learning platform - https://csx.codesmith.io/.
- Placement Test
More Start DatesApril 29, 2019 - OnlineApply by April 29, 2019May 27, 2019 - OnlineApply by May 27, 2019June 24, 2019 - OnlineApply by June 24, 2019
CSX is Codesmith's free online learning platform, providing 100+ hours of curriculum and challenges, workshops and pair programming, video solutions for exercises, and an active Slack community.
- Start Date
- Rolling Start Date
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- Start Date
- Rolling Start Date
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- Online, New York City, Los Angeles
- Minimum Skill Level
- Beginner - Intermediate
- Placement Test
In PersonFull Time60 Hours/week12 Weeks
- Start Date
- May 13, 2019
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- New York City, Los Angeles
- We have financing partnerships available as well as case by case payment plans! Please email email@example.com with questions.
- Refund / Guarantee
- Refunds are distributed on a case by case basis but are available.
- Codesmith offers 4 types of scholarships -those to students underrepresented in the technology community, women in software engineering scholarship, Dean's scholarships, as well as scholarships to prior bootcamp grads.
- Minimum Skill Level
- Prior computer science and programming skills necessary - many applicants are self taught through our free weekly JS workshops/online prep course.
- Prep Work
- 4 weeks
- Placement Test
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The last thing I'll call out is the team that runs Codesmith - they're all so incredibly knowledgeable and kind and patient and somehow ALWAYS in a good mood. They're the absolute best, so all I can say is - if you can get into Codesmith, then you absolutely should attend Codesmith. You'll thank yourself every day.
I ended up doing a lot of things that really challenged me and helped me improve as a software engineer. Their pedagogy is all about teaching you how to learn and you're not told to do things tutorial style. You're able to become immersed into an environment of software engineering. You will learn a lot when you start building a tool that other developers will use and it shows a sense of maturity that recruiters like to see.
Job Assistance is the greatest part of the program especially after the program, where you still have access to all their resources. The advice you get on job searching and interviewing is incredibly useful.
As a graduate of Codesmith, I can tell you with 100% confidence that if I were to do it all over again, I would not pick Codesmith. I think Codesmith makes money way too easily from the students for the level and quality of services that they provide (or rather, don’t). Codesmith and its CEO would love to tell you that their instructions are purposefully bad because they’re meant to be cursory in order to promote “autonomous learning” and “independence”. To me that just sounds like a poor excuse for not having quality lesson plans and not employing high-quality, well-compensated, non-student instructors like some competing bootcamps do.
I take bigger issue with how Codesmith promotes and markets itself. Codesmith wants you to think that it’s for their short 4 weeks of superficial instructions and 8 weeks of scattered group projects that the graduates are getting the jobs that they claim. Did you know that you can’t even tell your interviewers that you graduated from Codesmith because of the negative stereotypes associated with it? Codesmith and its CEO swear that their program works because of their often anecdotal and unsubstantiated claims about student outcomes that are sourced from some “internally gathered data”. The thing is they even take credit for students’ job placements that happen well after their graduation when, more so, it was actually the students’ own hard work, struggle, and months and sometimes years of self-studying that got them the jobs in the end. I ultimately landed a job that I’m fairy happy with for now, but I spent considerably more time outside of Codesmith before and after, studying and preparing myself in order to successfully transition into the industry. I find it less than genuine that Codesmith would unabashedly try to take all the credit for student outcomes and make it sound like their 3-month program is all that’s needed to achieve a successful outcome just so it can continue to promote itself and make more money from unsuspecting and often, desperate students.
$17K for 3 months.
I know some prospective students justify paying or taking out a loan for the high tuition by telling themselves that if the program can help you get the kind of jobs that Codesmith is claiming, then it’s worth it. I did too. But that’s assuming that it does and there’s no better use of your hard-earned money. What if it doesn’t? What if it’s not?
Response From: Will Sentance of Codesmith
Traditionally coding bootcamps teach you by walkthroughs of frameworks etc - they don’t go ‘under the hood’ of the language, they don’t make you struggle through blocks to build autonomy (actually Hack Reactor does) and they don’t have you refine your technical communication for months on end to make you an enhancing member of any team.
This means grads of those coding bootcamps take entry/junior jobs for $50-$80k in NY/LA/SF and that’s maybe great. It’s based on the fact that they have learned how to do specific tasks but not how to learn - because learning how to learn is not always pleasant and people don’t always recognize where they learned how to learn - so it’s understandable that bootcamps would rather just teach walkthroughs. It then typically takes a further 3 years to get to the mid level roles that 90%+ of codesmith grads receive.
It would be infinitely easier for us to offer a program that hand held people through in a classroom style tutorial ‘learning’ React, ‘learning’ Node. But this is the antithesis of the Codesmith model (And again shout out to Hack Reactor for following this approach too). It can cause frustration - “why can’t I just have the answer” - but it works.
The attention to detail in the program is so huge - from Eric personally working with every grad to help you negotiate up your salary, to the workshops with me iterating on your approach to interviews, to Schno, Samantha and Phil instructing with years of experience.
Normally reviews on coursereport have some thoughtful lessons about polish around the program or things that can be improved. This review I firmly stand against - including the explicit false claims it makes about interviews and data. I proudly stand by the approach of codesmith that has got 100s of graduates straight to mid level roles requiring 3+ years experience but with no prior coding background. How? Because these engineers have learned how to solve any new task as fast as someone who has been doing it for 3 years. Reading the 150 reviews here that celebrate that approach makes me proud and reinforces why we do this - to build a network of people who are truly autonomous learners for the rest of their careers - it’s worth it for that.
There are so many technologies propping up the web as we know it. It can be difficult to wrap your mind around all of them, much less be productive in a work environment with them. Having done CS in college, I can attest that academic topics rarely translate cleanly into the current state of web development. Codesmith takes these academic topics are really projects them onto the modern software development landscape, providing context as well as industry best practices. It's an iterative process, building from the core fundamentals to cutting edge technology.
Not only will you be fluent in modern tech but you will add your own library to the open source community; pushing yourself as a developer in ways that most devs never will. This enviornment of pushing the envelope and constant learning is fostered and facilitated by a phenomenal staff of amazing engineers. They are the secret sauce that allows for such a rigorouse program and I can't laud them enough.
Switching gears to the job finding process; Codesmith, in my opinion, really shines here. The industry can be very difficult to break into. Notriously so. The team makes sure to not only break the process down into manageable chunks but to hold you accountable to you employement goals.
All in all, Codesmith is really a once in a lifetime experience and an amazing way to become a top-tier software engineer.
As someone who attended a bootcamp prior to attending codesmith, I found the difference was tremendous. Easily one of the best programs out there, when they say "our graduates get mid-senior level positions" they really mean it. I know, its pretty crazy, I remember reading that and thinking: theres no way thats possible, yet here I am 2 months from graduating, accepting a senior level position. They will tell you to trust the process, and I know, we're not really programmed to just blindly trust something and expect it to work; but seriously, trust the process and put in your best effort and it will take you very far. My advice would be, if you're stuck, you have an entire network of people that are willing to help you get unstuck use them to your advantage.
I had heard about coding camps prior to Codesmith but I never really had the intention of signing up for one. I figured I could learn web development on my own and apply to junior positions with that knowledge. I didn’t realize how difficult the industry was to break into though, even for a junior developer. It was near impossible to even get an interview.
Then I attended a Hard Parts class Will was teaching. I was impressed with his knowledge and how engaging the class was. Then I explored the Codesmith campus and saw the current students working and talked to a couple of them, and it seemed like such a great and inclusive atmosphere. My positive impression along with my disappointment in finding a job pushed me to apply for Codesmith where I ended up being accepted.
The experience of Codesmith itself was amazing. I met so many motivated people that motivated me more, and I met a lot of good friends from my cohort and other cohorts that I still hang out with. It really does feel like a family there. The course content was also great and they taught us a lot of difficult and advanced topics in detail. That’s one of the biggest differences with Codesmith compared to other schools: You will struggle. But you come out at the end of it very knowledgeable in a lot of areas and you have projects that are genuinely impressive, even to experienced developers. Many other schools will have you make generic, junior-level projects that you see a million times on inexperienced programmers’ resumes. That won’t make you stand out.
Keep in mind, even by the end of my time there, I was still skeptical about finding a job because I remembered how difficult it was before Codesmith. We went through a lot of job preparation like resume reviews and mock interviews, but I was still unsure. The key here is you have to follow what Codesmith tells you to do to a T. It’s very easy to get lazy when job searching after your graduation. But I followed exactly what they taught me and I ended up getting interviews left and right. Some of them didn’t go well, but most did.
I ended up getting two offers and went with a company that currently pays me a six figure salary doing something I love. Before Codesmith, I would have been surprised to get an offer of even half that. I’m still in disbelief that I was able to get to where I am now in such a short time.
Everything about Codesmith was life changing, from the friends I met to the experience of being there to my new career now. If you’re on the fence about this school just because you think it might be too good to be true, know that I felt the exact same way. I just pulled the trigger on it and it was the best decision I ever made.
There are very supportive engineering fellows that assist you in times of frustration or in times where you might feel a lack of complete understanding due to the exponential growth in the field of software and information technology, but the environment is conducive to helping each other learn. It is apparent that with the abundance of projects you build throughout your time, the engineers graduating from Codesmith are of an exceptional quality as they learn mostly through doing and not only from the instructors, who have a very solid understanding of the material that is taught in the program.
People from very diverse backgrounds, both technical and non-technical, decide to transition to a career in software engineering and all walks of life have an equal opportunity to excel because of the cooperative atmosphere that Codesmith maintains. If you are considering a engineering residency program, strongly consider Codesmith.
CodeSmith is remarkable. It transforms experienced (and less experienced) developers to senior engineers who are able to architect complex applications that scale. Perhaps its secret is teaching the ability to learn itself – engineers are taught how rapidly to pick-up new technologies and swiftly become experts.
After reading the positive reviews here before taking the course, I was skeptical since it sounded too good to be true, but it simply isn’t. I’m beyond glad that I took the dive.
In terms of my background, I attended Williams College, and recently graduated in 2016; I’m from New York. What I particularly appreciated about CodeSmith is the culture instilled from the top-down by its impressive CEO and founder, Will Sentance. Will is an Oxford and Harvard grad and has built a culture of critical thinking, hard work, and innovation, alongside fantastic collaboration and fun.
We were there 11hours a day and then once every two weeks they had "optional" hackathons after. I never stayed because I was tired and at the end they didn't let me graduate because as they told me I wasn't passionate enough. It was more like "we did a poor job teaching you by leaning on the Socratic method as an excuse to force you to figure out 95% yourself, and we aren't prepared to share the responsibility of failing you so well just blame you for not staying at our hackathons". They kicked out half of the cohort to boost their job placement numbers, yea maybe I wasn't ready to be a dev just yet, but you weren't ready to start a bootcamp.
Response From: Will Sentance of Codesmith
The goal of the program even then was to instill the ability to push through blocks and that struggle is often tough - but it’s what gives you the ability to learn any new technology for the rest of your career - and that’s always been the goal.
3% of graduates (10 out of 300) have not graduated from the program - and 3 of those that didn’t graduate were in that early cohort (out of a cohort of ~14)
I had no intention of joining but I was on the market for a code school and once I mentioned that, I was targeted via email by the CEO of the program who also teaches the Thursday night courses. I was convinced that even though it was billed for experienced engineers, I would do well in the program as I learned quickly and was a great culture fit.
I joined and am very unhappy with the results. Here's why.
1) Teaching Style - The program claims to abide by the "Oxford University" style of teaching. This seems to be code for 'very little teaching with problem sets for you to figure concepts out on your own.' You work through problem sets and follow the instructions which include reading documentation for a product you've never heard of and figure out it's purpose and how to use it. To an experienced programmer, this is somehwat normal. You are introduced to new technologies all the time, and therefore, for experienced programmers, this style of teaching makes sense. But for people brand new to the space, this is not only frustrating but time consuming - a luxury which one simply does not have in this 3 month intense environment.
- Come in and code for an hour (practice algorithm problems that are common for job interviews)
- After that, you either go to a 30-45 min lecture OR you jump into the work for the day for about 2 hours
- If you started with lecture, you work on the work for the day. If you started with work on a new subject, you go to a 30-45 min lecture. You spend the first 10 minutes talking about how difficult it was and the rest of the time rushing through what the heck you just did and a high level overview of how it works.
- back to work until lunch
- lunch break
- another 30-45 min lecture OR you continue working on what you did that morning
- Stay until at least 11pm, but usually closer to 1am trying to figure things out on your own or with some friends in your cohort
2) Trust the Process Mentality - When things weren't going well, I made it a point to request feedback on my work and find out where I stood because there was no formal feedback along the way. When I expressed my doubts about my fit for the program, I was brought into a room to speak with the COO and a teacher. They gave me two options, defer to a later cohort or stick it out because I was "doing just fine" I just needed to 'trust the process'. The idea of letting me leave beacuse this was not the place for me was something I had to bring up and the conversation was diverted away from that. I have training in sales and this is a classic sales mentality which, looking back, is really sad. I genuinely believed my best interest was in mind at the time, but I am very skeptical now. In terms of my learning, I was not doing well at all - they just had no accurate way of scoring or measuring my progress.
I went through this side discusison, 'trust the process' loop 3 times throughout my time there (the latter 2 meetings included the CEO) and I never felt good about the outcome. I should have left early on but there really is a serious level of coersion, intimidation and manipulation that goes on in these meetings.
3) Senior Project - During the latter 6 weeks of the course you work on an open source developer tool. You're assigned to a group of your peers (usually 3-4 people), you all ideate on something that will be impactful and relevant for developers to use, you pitch your ideas to the CEO. If you're interested in VR, your project likely will not be accepted - they don't like VR projects. Very few have gotten through but they believe the technology isn't impressive enough right now. It's all about how your project will look to potential employers -- and potential partners of Codesmith. This process is about you but it's also very much about the school.
My group of 3 had a slew of issues but the biggest was that we were of vastly differing skill levels and some other members did not feel it was their job to teach me things - which I can agree with. They paid just as much as I did and did not deserve to have to spend hours every day teaching me things I should've learned in the weeks prior. The staff was not very helpful, in fact, my partners were more knowledgeable than most of them. This made asking for help seem futile and no project group really worked very closely with their assigned staff mentors.
4) What I have to offer now - I left Codesmith feeling really bad about the investment but willing to work on my own to get my skills to a point where I could get hired. Unfortunately, I've found that not only am I extremely stressed but I also just don't have much to show for the massive amount of time and money I spent on this.
I'm considering legal action due to the misrepresentation of the product and the manipulation involved during my time there.
- The culture is fun, they like to party and play ping pong
- The staff are generally very nice people
- They tend to find really nice, smart and driven students. If I left with anything, it's a solid group of friends. I only saw one person asked to leave and it was definitely warranted. Strange situation.
- Teaching style is poor. It's barely teaching.
Ex. The machine learning/python section basically did not happen. The teacher literally rambled and sped through slideshows of both basic and complex machine learning concepts, asking every 3rd slide "got it?" to which we all just remained silent because we were so lost, we couldn't formulate relevant questions other than "no. don't got it. what are you talking about?".
- Misleading/Manipulating - The CEO is a great guy but comes off as super salesy. You can't help but feel like you're being conned, and, like any good con artist, you also feel bad about questioning the transaction. This is standard manipulation and it's being practiced at a large scale here. Be careful.
There are quite a few students who had a negative experience and the common denominator among them is that they had 0 or very little programming experience prior to joining.
Response From: Will Sentance of Codesmith
It would be much easier to do traditional lecturing/tutoring through the program but it wouldn’t work. The ‘secret’ of Codesmith student outcomes (they’re all individually logged here http://bit.ly/codesmith-outcomes) is that grads have learned how to problem solve and communicate complex technical concepts autonomously - so they’re able to handle any new framework/language/feature for the rest of their careers - not just the exact process they learned in a class. And it works - the average outcomes in LA and NY is $100k+ http://bit.ly/codesmith-outcomes
For some people this may not be their preferred learning style - it isn’t ideal for everyone. When someone has discovered that it’s not a good fit while in the program we’ve worked with that person to go above and beyond with one-on-one mentorship - getting you off the ground on a new concept with the help of an engineer on the team.
It can be stressful but if you have a super supportive community of fellow learners around you, it can be really powerful. Around 2/3rds of Codesmith students join without without prior professional software engineering experience. Around 1/3rd have attended a coding bootcamp, been a software engineer or have a computer science degree.
That’s why I teach the weekly JS Hard Parts workshops still - to help people who are new get up to the level where they can get into Codesmith.
But also on the side of wellbeing - Circles each week to talk through the non-coding side of the program, Thursday evenings, relay race, beach days and the support of the team.
The projects you build at Codesmith are designed to impress the companies you interview with at Hiring day and beyond - to give you the best leg up in the job search process. The best way to do that is to build things in the core web technology stack and even better to do so in a way that solves the problems of other developers - this gets your interviewers excited by the level you’re working at.
The instruction team at Codesmith has 40+ years experience between it and speak at conferences and to audiences around the world. But codesmith is much more than teaching - for that I’d recommend the best youtube videos. Instead it’s about a community of people going above and beyond to learn and to build things together so they can do so for the rest of their careers.
I have a unique situation. When I applied to Codesmith, I had taken some online courses and applied to jobs, but wasn't getting results.
I did so well that many of the interviewers said they've interviewed developers with 5 or 6 years of experience, but never seen them get so many of the questions right.
A lot of that was due to Codesmith's great way of teaching Comp Sci fundamentals that many bootcamps don't teach.
A lot of my success in these interviews is due to Codesmith. Thanks!
The most intense part about the program, IMO, is the brainstorming week to come up with ideas for our senior project. This segment exposes us to vast amount of web technologies and trends. This gave us perspective on how big the web dev ecosystem is and what's possible.
Overall, I like the method and approach Codesmith is using, it trains people to be autonomous problem solving engineers, a skill employers value greatly.
I made a huge gamble to choose Codesmith over other coding programs in the Bay Area. Roughly 9 months later after "graduating", I'm in massive and crippling debt with very little to show for it. My portfolio can't even make it past any recruiter. I'm no longer even looking for a developer job and I'm working minimum wage to make ends meet.
The curriculum may have changed since I finished but at the time Redux was not taught; you absolutely can not call yourself a React developer unless you know either Redux or Flux architecture.
The little interview practice we had was not helpful because we gave it to eachother. How are we supposed to know what to ask for and what to avoid if we've never interviewed and hired actual candidates?
I'm in the Bay Area; companies, start-ups don't care about Codesmith and there is a non-existant network here. Will told me that 25% of hiring partners were from the Bay Area but they all seemed to have failed to show up for my hiring day. That career network and React was why I decided to study at Codesmith.
However, it took nagging and months until I was finally connected to 3 companies; 1 of which never called despite organizing a meeting and the other required that I have experience in RoR while keeping me on a thread for nearly 2 months.
I don't even qualify for Internships or jr. positions apparently and most of the advice I was given did not help me; in fact, it seemed to have done more harm than good because nearly all recruiters found my resume misleading and so I never made it past that round. Again, we were providing resume feedback to eachother and received little professional resume tailoring.
I think I actually only had 4 technical phone screens and 1 on-site in my entire search.
Take it with a grain of salt when you hear success stories of people who graduated from here. It's a good program only if you're looking to relocate to LA where the bar is significantly lower.
Response From: Will Sentance of Codesmith
Keep up the hard work and I’m looking forward to hearing back from you to my email
Codesmith to me was a very important learning experience, it doesn't just build you up as a tech-savvy Engineer it takes you into the rudiments of problem-solving, technical communication and project management. Most importantly handling new challenges without giving up, I was challenged to do more every day of the programme and the more challenges I overcame the more I knew and the more confidence I had in my understanding.
What set Codesmith out from the other similiar programs is that you had to be at least a junior level engineer before you entered the program. This process made sure you were prepared for the intense 12 week program that changes the way you approach coding and empowers you to be a mid to senior level engineer. The focus on communication was the missing block in my approach to becoming a great engineer and Codesmith fostered that approach in a very effective way.
I attended Codesmith at the end of 2017, and it's been the biggest game changer in my quest to switch careers. Codesmith offers a valuable, hands-on learning environment that focuses on teaching students how to become better pair-programmers, communicators and self learners -- something that's almost impossible to find if you're trying to learn software engineering on your own. But be forewarned that the program is difficult and will stretch your limits; there's minimal hand holding, and imposter syndrome can be a very real thing. With that said, if you attend with these expectations, you'll be able to graduate as a stronger researcher and problem solver. And while I needed more time to brush up on some core concepts after I had graduated, I found that I was better equipped to learn more efficiently because of Codesmith. Ultimately, I was able to land a software engineering job within three months of graduating -- so the entire experience was absolutely worth it. If you're looking for a software engineering residency that offers great culture and the opportunity to develop cutting-edge projects that you're passionate about, Codesmith is it.
On-Time Graduation Rate
180 Day Employment Breakdown:
Notes & Caveats:
For transparency, here are the starting salary breakdowns of our graduates from 1/01/2018 - 6/30/2018:
- $110,000 - 119,999: 26.9%
- $120,000 - 129,999: 23.1%
- $130,000 - 139,999: 7.7%
- $140,000 - 149,999: 0%
- $150,000+ : 11.5%
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Am I ready to apply to Codesmith? Do I need to have programming experience? What happens if I fail the technical interview? How do I improve my “technical communication?” Will Adamowicz just graduated from Codesmith’s 12-week Academy and spills the details about the application process (he’s now a Codesmith Fellow, so he knows the ins and outs). From basic steps to interview questions to preparation tips, Will answers all of your questions!
What are the steps of the Codesmith Application?
- Fill out an online application or attend a workshop at Codesmith to get a challenge code. That code sends you to a special application that guarantees you an interview.
- Attend a non-technical interview (can be done in person or over video call)
- Attend a technical interview (can be done in person of over video call)
How long does the Codesmith application process typically take? How long did it take you?
From the moment you apply to the moment you complete your non-technical and technical interviews can be as short as a one week. This is rare, though. Most students will plan several weeks – if not months – ahead to apply. In my case, I had a particular start date in mind and planned about two months ahead of that start date.
Codesmith accepts students on a rolling basis, though the process tends to depend on how much demand there is for a particular cohort. You’re definitely welcome to apply to a cohort several months in advance and you can also defer an acceptance up to three months.
What goes into the written application? Does Codesmith require a video submission?
The written application is fairly straightforward, just logistical info, a few essays about your background and passion for technology, and an optional coding challenge. There is no video submission required.
Can you give us a sample question from the non-technical interview?
One of the questions in my non-technical interview was: “What are your long term goals in software engineering? What do you want to do with it down the line?”
Is Codesmith looking for a specific technical background? What types of backgrounds have successful Codesmith students had?
About 50% of students at Codesmith come from engineering backgrounds and 50% come from non-technical backgrounds. Codesmith doesn’t look for any particular kind of background. I’ve seen everything from actors, school teachers, grad students, hotel managers, EMTs, and the list goes on. Having a technical background can help, of course, but there are so many factors that go into being a good engineer that it is not really a significant indicator of how successful you’ll be.
I had no coding background but studied logic and mathematics which definitely helped me in the admission process. Since I didn’t know anything about programming, I prepared for about three months before applying to Codesmith, doing three to four hours of study every single day. I had just come out of grad school writing long papers about analytic philosophy so I got accustomed to working alone and staying disciplined, but if this were a few years earlier I would have definitely signed myself up for a prep course to have some kind of accountability while studying.
Does every applicant get a Technical Interview?
Some candidates may not be a good fit for the program – in that case, they won’t get a technical interview. As a Codesmith Fellow, I interview candidates, and we generally look for excellent communicators who are also driven and passionate about wanting to become software engineers. We also want to accept team players. You’ll end up working very closely with a small team, so being able to work well with others is one of the biggest indicators of whether you’ll be a good candidate for Codesmith.
What can an applicant expect from the technical interview? Is there a coding challenge?
The technical interview involves answering a series of increasingly harder coding challenges. There is an endless list of challenges, so the goal is not to simply race through and try to get to the (imaginary) end. Much more important are things like technical communication and how you approach a problem that you don’t know how to do.
The engineer conducting the interview will stop after one hour and then send their notes off to the admissions team.
Can you give us a sample question from that technical interview?
Can I apply more than once if I fail the technical interview?
I think the current Codesmith acceptance is about 5% – I rarely see someone pass the technical interview on the first try. You can do the technical interview up to three times (if you fail the first and second). If you don’t pass, then the admissions team will give you feedback and resources to help get you up to speed. They’ll recommend a number of weeks for you to prepare until your next interview but you’re welcome to reinterview whenever you’re ready.
Most people fail the first interview, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t pass. Many people who fail their technical interview have even gone on to become Codesmith Fellows. More commonly than not, you’ll need to work on technical communication, so pair programming is one of the best ways to learn to talk through your ideas as you code them.
How do I get better at “technical communication?”
One thing that worked really well for me was recording myself doing algorithms and rewatching my problem solving. It was definitely painful at first but it helped me learn how to discuss a higher level strategy and talk about my implementation while going through a problem, which is an entirely separate skillset from the analytical thinking involved in solving a problem.
What resources do you suggest applicants use to really ace the technical interview?
The CSX platform (Codesmith’s online learning platform with instructional videos and coding challenges) is very good for preparing you to get in. Go to the Hard Parts weekly workshops or attend online – that’s one of the best ways to start working on technical communication. There is also a paid two week part-time online course called CS Prep that focuses on everything tested on the Codesmith technical interview and other qualities the admissions team looks for.
I would also recommend using websites like FreeCodeCamp or Codecademy to get the basics down, and to practice algorithms on coding challenge websites (Codewars, Leetcode, HackerRank). I’m also a big fan of this website, ReactiveX, for getting more accustomed to using higher order functions. It’s just a single tutorial but I found it very helpful in preparing me for the interview.
When do you think a Bootcamp Prep program is worth it?
Getting experience with pair programming is super helpful, so I would definitely recommend going to a prep program like Hard Parts or CS Prep if you think you’d have trouble sticking to a daily routine and want a little more guidance on the kinds of materials to study.
I was working in a kitchen in Kyoto in Japan when I started studying to get into Codesmith and soon realized I couldn’t get any productive work done after my shift, so I was getting up at 4:30am every day and practicing algorithms for a few hours every morning. I actually got my first opportunity to pair program by attending Hard Parts online and ended up being roommates during the program with my first pair programming partner. He was in China at the time while I was in Japan and next thing you know we were both in Venice, Los Angeles in the same cohort.
As a Codesmith Fellow, do you take part in the interviews? How do you evaluate an applicant’s future potential? What qualities are you looking for?
Does Codesmith accept international students? Do international students get student visas/tourist visas to do the program?
Yes, there have been several international students who have gone through the program with tourist/student visas.
Even after Brittany Miltenberger earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and worked professionally in software (QA, Release Engineering, and Front End Web Development), she felt she needed to go to coding bootcamp to learn more advanced, full-stack web development skills and technologies. She chose Codesmith in Los Angeles, because she thought it would be a challenge and enrolled in the two-week Live Online CS Prep course to prepare for the technical interview. Find out how Brittany enjoyed learning remotely with others before she moved to LA, how difficult the Codesmith technical interview was, and her plans for the future!
Walk us through your career and education background. What did you do before Codesmith?
I have a bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. My interest in coding actually stemmed from my original major – music and audio production. Recording music with computers piqued my interest in software and UI/UX design. I found that I enjoyed deconstructing and building the software more than recording the music, so I switched my major to computer science.
After college, I became a Quality Assurance Engineer for a music production software company in Boston. It was a perfect fit and I was so fortunate. I was so thrilled to blend my interests in music and software. As a QA Engineer I was primarily conducting test scripts, then I got promoted to a Builds Release Engineer, a more technical role maintaining automated software builds, scripts, and creating installers.
Recently, I've been working professionally in front end and interactive web development. Over the past four years, I've built software for many aspects of learning – creating, developing, designing eLearning courses.
You had those technical skills and a computer science degree –why go to a coding bootcamp?
What made you choose Codesmith over other coding bootcamps?
I began by searching on Google, and comparing and contrasting different programs. I came across Course Report and read different reviews. Codesmith had stellar reviews; in particular, I liked that Codesmith prepared students for mid-to-senior level programming careers, which was exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to enroll in a program that would be challenging for me, where I would learn a lot.
In my last job as a Front End Web Developer, I worked remotely, so I wanted to do something in-person with other classmates. The two-week CS Prep program was remote and was excellent, but for the actual bootcamp, I wanted to do something in-person (Codesmith is 12-weeks, in-person). I live in Washington, DC now, but the Codesmith classroom is in New York and Los Angeles, but I was really eager to pursue Codesmith and relocate. I chose Los Angeles because I lived there a few years back, and it’s a great tech hub, especially in the Venice area and Silicon Beach.
Why did you decide to do Codesmith’s CS Prep program before applying for the 12-week coding bootcamp?
I enrolled in CS Prep to prepare for the Codesmith technical interview and to boost my confidence. I was so set on going to Codesmith, but since I wasn't in LA, I figured that enrolling in a prep course like CS Prep would be a great introduction – I could meet some of the fellows at Codesmith and other applicants. I was 99.9% sure I was going to enroll in the full program and CS Prep helped me confirm that.
I attended CS Prep from April 16th to 29th from DC, then interviewed for the full-time program in May. I flew to Los Angeles to do my interview and I got accepted. I start the full-time academy in LA on July 23rd. Right now, I’m starting a lot of pre-work and I'm so excited!
How was the application and interview process for the Codesmith CS Prep?
CS Prep does have a selective admissions process. At first, I thought, "am I even going to get in?" But actually, I found it to be a wonderful interview process. It was pretty stress-free. There were two parts to the application process. First I participated in a non-technical interview, to discuss my coding background and software engineering goals.
After that, I had the option of submitting short essays about my coding ambitions or completing a coding challenge. I chose the coding challenge. I’d been working through a lot of Codesmith's free online resources and I figured the challenge would be a good indicator of my readiness.
How did you feel about the prep course remote learning experience?
I did the live online CS Prep course alongside a group of other students. It was really cool because we used the video conferencing software Zoom, so for each class I could sign on and say hello to everyone – it was like I was in an actual classroom, but virtual. It wasn't a passive lecture learning experience – everyone could see each other and talk to each other so it was interactive. I always had to make sure I was listening and staying on track because, like in a classroom, I could get called on to answer questions. I found the whole experience to be so immersive. It was really like we were all there in person – it was awesome.
How many instructors helped you during the Codesmith CS Prep program?
We had four different instructors over two weeks, which was really cool. Some of them were Codesmith Fellows and had been through the program, so they could give us great guidance. It was nice to have a variety of instructors because everyone has different teaching styles. It kept the learning fresh and made it a rich learning experience.
Did the prep course teaching style match your learning style? What did a typical day look like?
It definitely did. Each of the instructors taught differently, but each was really excellent. I got so much out of each class. The overall class structure was very consistent, so that helped. We would start each class with a 30-minute coding challenge. It was a great way to warm up and get our gears rolling. Then we would go into a lecture on a new topic where the instructor would share a PDF and go through slides.
Another really cool aspect, and excellent virtual learning tool, was that we used iPads as whiteboards. In a lot of coding classes in real life, you'll have a whiteboard where the teacher writes some code on the board, and you walk through it together. But during our class, they would switch to the iPad view, and they draw with the stylus and walk through the code that way.
How difficult was the CS Prep Program?
It was honestly right in the middle of my expectations. It definitely wasn't easy. I put in several hours each day before class to review material. Although that wasn't required, I did it to keep on track. But at the same time, it wasn't crazy difficult, I wasn't beyond stressed and staying up all night studying. I felt like it was a really good middle ground.
I consciously resigned from my job, so I had the luxury of having time to study. But several students in the class were working nine to five jobs. If you are working nine to five, they have evening and weekend classes as well – so there's definitely a balance. You could go to a job all day and then go to CS prep, and I don't think it would be too overwhelming.
Can you tell me about the project that you built during the prep program?
The game’s source code is currently stored on our REPL account, but my team members and I are creating a shared GitHub account so we can actually publish it and share it.
Did you feel ready to apply to the full-time program at the end of CS Prep?
After the CS Prep program, my confidence level was boosted. Learning remotely can be intimidating because you may miss that sense of community. But one of the reasons I felt so prepared for the technical interview was because of the other students in CS Prep. We did so much pair programming, and that experience helped me with my technical communication. It's one thing to be able to code something yourself, but to be able to explain it and talk someone through it is of equal or greater importance. That was a big takeaway.
After you finished CS Prep, what was the admissions process like for Codesmith’s 12-week coding bootcamp?
It was a two-part process. The first part was a non-technical interview to assess my background and goals and to see if I was a good culture fit. It was definitely a longer interview and more in-depth than the CS Prep interview. We talked more about coding, my experience, and pair programming.
Part one wasn't stressful, but the second part was a technical interview, and I was definitely nervous. I did not need to fly to Los Angeles for that interview, but I wanted to check out the Codesmith headquarters in LA, and I felt that I may perform better in-person.
I coded each day for several weeks before the technical interview to make sure I was ready. That interview was challenging, and at some point, I hit a wall where I didn't know the answer. I had to take a deep breath, use technical communication (which I learned in CS Prep) and break down that problem, piece by piece. I had to show my knowledge, even if I didn't perfectly answer the question. Even though interviews can be stressful, Codesmith is really welcoming so I still found it to be a positive experience.
Could you have gotten into Codesmith without doing the CS Prep course?
I think I could have been accepted, but I would not have been as prepared for the technical interview. I would’ve been way more nervous. My experience with technical communication and pair programming at CS Prep built a really good foundation for a technical interview because I hadn't done a technical interview for a job in several years. CS Prep got me motivated and improved my confidence.
What are your plans after you graduate from Codesmith?
My familiarity and interests still lie within front end web development and design. But that could change as I work through the Codesmith curriculum. I'm really eager to learn more about full stack development, which is something I’ve never done professionally. For now, I just want a challenging job in a mid-to-senior level position.
I've worked for startups as well as huge corporations. I really dig the startup vibe and I’d like a job where my work has a direct impact. I'm trying to keep my options open when it comes to the industry I’d like to work in. I still have interests in music so it would be cool to combine art and code together again. I'm also aiming to work LA.
Do you keep in touch with anybody from the prep program? Is anyone going to the full-time program with you?
I've definitely kept in touch with several students from CS Prep. Some are interviewing and some have been accepted, which is awesome. Once CS Prep completed, we still did study groups a few times a week, and that was so valuable. Fortunately, we kept in touch.
When I went to LA a few weeks back, I met up with some of my prep cohort in person, so that was really nice. A huge part of the value I found in CS Prep was networking with other students who were applying, so I didn't feel so alone in the process.
What advice do you have for people thinking about attending a coding bootcamp? Do you recommend attending a coding bootcamp prep course?
I had a technical background before Codesmith, but for those who don't and are curious, I highly recommend a coding bootcamp. I was amazed with the other students – when I was pair programming and chatting with them about their lives and backgrounds, students who I thought had been coding for years, had just picked it up a few months ago. They learned fast! Computer science and programming can sound intimidating, but I've seen students excel so quickly. So if you are motivated, organized, and ambitious, it's totally doable.
Also, for those new to coding, it might be difficult to know what area of coding you want to go into because there are so many different sectors – back end, front end, full stack, etc. But there's a wealth of online resources for tutorials, so see what areas pique your interest. If you're still not sure, enroll in a bootcamp that can teach you various technical skills so you can figure it out.
In terms of Codesmith’s CS Prep, I highly recommend it. It was such a fantastic way to be welcomed into the Codesmith community. And there’s a great incentive where students who complete CS Prep get the tuition cost credited towards the full-time Codesmith tuition.
The Codesmith team understands that the best way for people to learn is alongside a community. So when they launched Codesmith CSX, a free online learning platform to prepare people for coding bootcamps, user interaction was front and center. Codesmith Senior Product Manager Haley Godtfredsen tells us all about the CSX curriculum, how to navigate the online platform, how users can take part in weekly pair programming sessions, and she gives us a demo of a CSX coding challenge!
What's your background and your role at Codesmith?
I'm a Senior Product Manager at Codesmith and I’m taking the lead on our new product – the CSX online learning platform. I've also been a Codesmith coach for about two years.
Can you tell us exactly what CSX is and why you are working on it?
Is CSX just for students thinking about applying to Codesmith or can anyone do it?
How long does it take to graduate from the CSX program?
It's different depending on what background you're coming in with, and how much time per week you're going to be putting toward learning. It's a completely free online program, and people can take it at their own pace. For someone who is less experienced, it could take them up to 60 hours. For someone who is more experienced, it would take less time than that.
Can you give me an overview of the CSX curriculum?
For those students taking the free version of CSX, do they work with instructors or is it mainly solo learning?
We really wanted to bring a community to the online space with CSX. Our weekly in-person workshops are focused on community. We make sure everyone feels comfortable and able to really put their best foot forward with learning because they're not worried about being competitive or asking a silly question.
All of our CSX videos are taught by our CEO Will Sentance, who is one of the top Front End Masters instructors. If you have questions while you're going through the free program, we have weekly half-hour office hours to ask a mentor or the CSX staff questions about the program itself or about a specific challenge.
If you have any questions, you can just shoot that into the general Slack channel and one of the mentors usually answers within a couple of hours. Other students also answer questions and help each other out on Slack, which is really exciting to see.
In addition to prepping for the Codesmith application process, what is the overall goal of CSX? What will students be able to build or do when they finish?
CSX is structured around a core Codesmith value: teaching students how to teach themselves. In this world of technology, things are always changing. The next thing is always right around the corner, and it doesn't help to get yourself in a very small hole by just being an expert in one technology. You need to know how to learn new technologies and new concepts. And that's what we want to bring to CSX as well.
There’s a lot more to being a software engineer than just understanding the technology. We also focus on technical communication and problem-solving, student pair program on a weekly basis to interact with other programmers and work on those skills. One way to understand a concept is by explaining that concept to someone else. We expect students to come out of CSX with a refined ability to tackle any type of problem, whether they've seen that problem before on CSX or not.
It’s cool that CSX students actually build a real project.
Yeah. We also award scholarship opportunities based on submissions of that Chrome Extension project. Recently, students had two weeks to build a Chrome Extension and our team awarded a 25% scholarship to Codesmith to the winner.
Okay, Haley – share your screen and show us what CSX looks like!
The CSX layout:
- Every unit is represented as a card on the main page.
- You’ll get an overview of which units are available, then pick and choose where to dive in.
- It's not necessarily a chronological course. If you have an understanding of one concept and you want to dive into another one, that's totally fine.
- You can watch our newly-released, professionally-shot video content and view the slides.
- Students are able to test their work from console logs. In the future, Codesmith will implement unit testing, so that students know immediately if their entries are correct.
Where should users start?
- The Overview of CSX is a great place to start out.
- The Codesmith technical interview tests certain core fundamentals – you can learn about those in sections 1 through 4 (up to the Recursion unit).
- If you’re prepping for other coding bootcamps, focus on Units 1 through 3.
- Depending on what you're using CSX for, you can pick and choose which units to attack or which concepts you really want to understand better. Once you're familiar with a concept, you can move on.
- Codesmith has plans for more content and will be releasing more features.
Watch the video to see Haley walk through the CSX unit about Variables.
It's awesome for people to be able to connect and work through problems with people around the world. Online learning can often be very solitary and it's hard to keep motivated when it's just you in your room alone. We do a lot of pair programming in our full program and in our in-person events, so we wanted to bring that to the online space.
How can students pair program on CSX?
- First you need to sign up and verify your email address. Then you can RSVP to a weekly pair programming workshop.
- You’ll rate your comfortability with the concept that will be covered in the workshop
- You’ll get a link to the challenge for that week's pair programming session. The email includes some instructions and best practices for pair programming. You’ll both go into the session knowing who the “driver” is and who the “navigator” is.
- During the pair programming session, you can use video + audio to talk to your partner.
What are “navigators” and “drivers” in pair programming?
- The navigator does the problem solving, working through how to get to the solution, and using their technical communication to relay that information to the Driver. In a navigator position, technical communication is very important. You need to know where you want to go with the problem so you can explain the steps to get there.
- It’s up to the pair to decide who wants to be the driver and who is the navigator.
- We encourage students to switch roles every 20 minutes, or every challenge so they can both get experience using the different skills that come from each position.
How is CSX different from other free online resources like Codecademy?
I'm a huge fan of Codecademy, but what we wanted to bring to our CSX is really hard learning. Hard learning isn't done best by yourself. It's easy to stop, hit a block, and not want to continue. We wanted to supplement that with live workshops that complement each unit that we have filmed live, as well as videos on CSX, weekly pair programming, and weekly office hours to give people that actual push.
If you have questions and you're struggling, you have other people to work with and you have mentors to ask questions. We think that you learn from hitting a block and working through it, as opposed to being walked through a programming tutorial like Codecademy.
How often do students actually get accepted into Codesmith (or other coding bootcamps) after going through CSX.
Since CSX is relatively new, we don't have any hard data on this. We have a lot of students in our most recent cohort who have been using it. And talking to them, it sounds like it was really helpful. I do think that it's helping our students start off on the right foot.
How else can students prepare for Codesmith?
We're releasing two new programs in March that are more structured, paid versions of CSX. The Live Online program is two weeks long, and is a version of the free program condensed into a two-week program, with three weeknights and one weekend day per week, with live instructors and office hours, and a focus on problem solving and technical communication.
Then we have a self-directed four-week program, which you can take as long as you want to finish. There's no focus on how far you get through it, but there are weekly personalized office hours, assessments, and pair programming with a mentor who can help you through if you're struggling. That course ends with a mock interview for Codesmith, to prepare you for the real thing.
There will be scholarships available for these programs. And if you are accepted into Codesmith, that tuition comes out of the full bootcamp tuition.
What's your advice for students who are considering this CSX program?
Set yourself up with goals and the achievable tasks to get to those goals. Make a plan and commit a certain number of hours per week, making sure that your schedule allows for that. Pair programming is important, and using to those office hours is super important too.
It's easy to stop when you’re learning online, so remember that there is a real community to take part in. Ask questions on Slack, meet other students on Slack, come to in-person events, or attend a live stream. Set yourself up with the expectation that it's not going to be easy. The CSX program is a really great path with a lot of support.
My best advice: be ready to hit blocks and then be ready to solve them.
What will your salary be after coding bootcamp? Coding bootcamps are judged almost entirely by their ability to find students high-paying jobs as software developers. Some schools release data about alumni jobs, others offer money-back job guarantees or deferred tuition, but how much are students earning when they graduate and how does their earning potential change as they gain experience? Every year, Course Report surveys real coding bootcamp graduates to better understand who is graduating from coding bootcamps and how successful they are in the workforce. In our second post of this series, we explore the lucrative data about salaries after a coding bootcamp.Continue Reading →
Tell us about your career and education background. How did your path lead you to Codesmith?
My college degree is actually in math and physics because at the time I thought I wanted to go into research or a PhD program in either math or physics. I wasn't totally convinced, so I decided to take time off from being in school to evaluate that pathway.
While I was taking that time off, I started substitute teaching just to pay the bills and ended up really liking teaching. I ended up teaching high school physics for about six years. Teach for America brought me to Los Angeles, where I taught for four years at a public school.
How did you become interested in programming?
The last school I taught at wanted to pilot a computer science course and I was the only person at the school who had any inkling of experience with programming, so they asked me to teach it. I had never taken a computer science class, but in my physics degree, we learned a little bit of programming for number crunching, large physics calculations, and simulations. I remembered liking that work, so the idea of teaching that computer science course was exciting. In the process of lesson-planning, I found myself wanting to spend my free time diving more deeply into it.
That experience is what really got me interested in programming and making the career switch into being a software developer.
What made you take the next step from teaching computer science at a school to actually changing careers and becoming a software developer?
My background is in technical fields – math and physics – and I found myself missing doing technical work myself. Spending time learning about computer science in order to be able to teach that course gave me the itch to do more technical work myself. That's what initially got me thinking about making a full-time career in software development.
Why was a coding bootcamp the best way to achieve that goal?
When I first started thinking about transitioning into software development as a career, I wasn't necessarily going to go down the coding bootcamp route. I started to consider coding bootcamps because even though I was a classroom teacher myself, I actually found it really difficult to be a student in the traditional classroom. I knew that if I wanted to go into software development, it would be really helpful to have some coaching or mentorship as I learned.
I wanted a place to learn with other people who were interested in programming as well, but I also wanted the transition to be faster than going through a traditional, multi-year master's degree. I knew that even if a coding bootcamp was difficult in the moment, I would be able to get a lot out of it very quickly and be able to start my career as a software engineer in a really good place. To be perfectly frank, I guess I was a little bit impatient!
How did you find Codesmith?
Having been a teacher in the classroom myself, I was really impressed with how hard Codesmith worked to build community, both with the students who are currently studying there and with the beginners who were coming to that free workshop every week.
Did you research other coding bootcamps? What stood out about Codesmith?
I did look at a few other coding bootcamps, but to me, community building is really Codesmith’s secret sauce. They work hard to create the kind of environment where everyone wants to learn at a really high level, wants to push themselves to the limit, and is 100% there to support every other person who's going through the process. It really allows you to push yourself and learn as much as you can without fear that you might fall behind – you've got 20 other people who are there with you to support you along that journey.
Was it a competitive application and interview process to get into Codesmith?
As a former teacher, what did you think of the Codesmith teaching style? Did it work with your learning style?
There are so many things that Codesmith does right, pedagogically speaking. Most impressively, their entire focus is where it needs to be: on the students’ learning. Students work on projects that are intended to help them learn a certain topic, and these projects are large in scope and open-ended; they're typically too large to be completed within the allotted time. The ultimate example of this is the Production project, where students spend the last six weeks of the program working on large, cutting-edge software project of their choice. My team and I decided to create a library for testing WebRTC applications, and as far as we know, we were the first people in the world to do so.
Since the projects are so large and open-ended, the point is that students dig into it and work as hard as they can. It’s not about finishing the project because, in the real world, you're never finished. Instead, it’s about taking away an enduring lesson. At Codesmith, learning is the most important part of the process. Instead of telling you how to solve a tough problem, the instructors gently nudge you in the right direction. In the moment, that can be frustrating, but you're really learning the most when you struggle. It's by fighting through confusion and overcoming barriers that we become stronger as software engineers. That's really what engineers do in their day-to-day work.
This style of learning was definitely cultivated at Codesmith and it's something that they emphasize and articulate as much as possible. Going through the program helped me to articulate those principles to myself more clearly. Working in education for the past several years, I had some frustrations with aspects of the traditional educational system because I felt it was too task-oriented and focused on the solution instead of the learning itself.
How did Codesmith prepare you for the job hunt?
The job search mostly happens within the last few weeks of Codesmith, and then during the next couple of months after you graduate. Codesmith does mock interviews, whiteboarding sessions, resume writing workshops, coached us on negotiating salaries, and exercises to build our confidence as we go off into the job market and start applying for jobs. There’s also a Hiring Day where they invite companies from the Los Angeles area to do interview speed dating with the graduating class. It's not uncommon for many students to get called back for onsite interviews due to Hiring Day. After graduation day, once we’re in the actual job search, Codesmith did regular check-ins to see how we’re doing on the search.
Codesmith was always very open and receptive. If I wanted to talk one-on-one to the Codesmith staff, they were very open to that as well.
How did your first technical interviews go for you?
I thought doing technical interviews was fun. It was a little nerve-racking at the time, but I always find that once I'm actually in the middle of the interview, talking about a programming problem or some technology or something about the company, that the fear goes away and I just start enjoying the conversation.
One of the things that was interesting about interviewing with several companies in a short timeframe was getting to talk to various people working in different environments. It was good to hear about the company cultures, and really get a sense for the type of environment I wanted to work in since I was so new to the tech world.
What have you been up to since graduating? Tell us about getting your first job!
I found the Codesmith alumni community to be really helpful and supportive in the job search. Now that Codesmith has been around for about 2 years, there’s a pretty significant alumni network. We have a very active alumni Slack channel and people are pretty frequently posting jobs on that saying, "Hey, my company is looking to hire a full stack engineer. Private message me if you're interested." That’s how I ended up getting my first job at MedCircle. I went for the interview and I really enjoyed the company and the team.
MedCircle is an online health education company in LA. It's a very small startup company – less than 10 people on the whole staff.
I worked at MedCircle for about 10 months and got to build the team workflows from the ground up, which was pretty cool. About two weeks ago, I started a new job at Google in San Francisco.
Congrats! What are you now working on at Google?
My official title at Google is Web Solutions Engineer. I'm primarily working on internal software tools that the sales and marketing organization use to do their jobs better. It's pretty exciting because, at MedCircle I worked on a small, agile, flexible team. My team at Google is similarly small and flexible, but it's within the context of the Google organization, so I have access to all of these resources and incredible world-class software engineering.
How did you make the move from MedCircle to Google? What was that process like growing into your next job?
I actually interviewed with Google back in December 2016, during my first job search after I graduated from Codesmith and before I was hired by MedCircle. Evidently, if you interview and they don't hire you but still like you, then Google keeps your name on their short list. In August, I got a message from a recruiter at Google saying that they had a Web Solutions Engineer position open up and asked me if I'd be interested in applying for it.
How do you feel you've grown as a developer? Where do you feel you are in your learning experience?
No matter where I am in my career, I always want to push to learn and grow more. One of the things that Codesmith does really well, more than just emphasizing learning one particular technology stack, is that they emphasize learning how to be confident technical problem solvers and engineers. Even straight out of Codesmith, I was pretty confident in my ability to solve difficult software problems, even if I wasn't necessarily familiar with all of the technologies being used.
Now, having been in the industry for a year, it's given me a lot more depth of knowledge in the kinds of tools, best practices, and higher level problem-solving techniques that it takes to really write high-quality software that is robust, that lasts, and that does its job well.
I’m also growing in different contexts. Google is such a large company; in order to accomplish anything, I have to learn a lot about the infrastructure of the company as a whole. It’s been pretty exciting to see how software engineering can really work at a massive scale.
What's been the biggest challenge in your journey to becoming a software developer?
What’s most challenging about software engineering is also what’s most exciting: there’s basically an infinitely deep pool of things to learn. In order to really be able to perform at the highest levels, you need to be willing to put in the time and effort to keep learning, whether you're on the job or not.
I've put a lot of hours and energy into trying to improve my skills even outside of work hours. But as I said, there's always interesting problems to work on, always new technologies to learn, and always new products to imagine. Because with software, anything that you can imagine you can create as long as you're willing to stretch your imagination and embrace the possibilities.
Would you advise other bootcampers to go into a small startup first like you did?
I think it was the right decision for me, but it depends a lot on the person and on the company. What’s more important than the size of the company is really understanding the company's culture during that interview process. For me, I like having a lot of flexibility in what I work on and being able to work on different projects, so I knew that working at a small company like MedCircle would give me that. Being forced out of necessity to wear different hats really made me into a more well-rounded engineer. I’m more confident when I have to tackle problems in a variety of different domains.
For your first job after a bootcamp, choose a company that will bring out the best in you and a place where you can continue to learn at the same rate that you were learning while at bootcamp. That can really vary a lot from company to company whether it's small or big, so feel out their company culture and choose based on that.
You have a background in Math and Physics – is it true that you need to be “good at math” in order to be a great software engineer?
I took Codesmith’s Machine Learning class after I graduated, and that topic was exciting for me because machine learning does involve a lot of math. My background in math gave me a good foundation to learn more in that area.
However, you definitely don't need to have a background in math in order to be good at software engineering. In order to be a strong software engineer, you need to be a strong problem solver. Being good at math is just one possible way to acquire those problem-solving skills. My background in math has definitely helped me, but I don't think it's the only way to get the skills needed for software engineering.
When you look back at the last two years, do you think you would have been able to get to this point by self-teaching or going back to a traditional school? What kind of role did Codesmith play in your journey?
I honestly doubt that I would’ve been able to make it to where I am today this quickly if I had gone down a different path. If I had done a master’s degree, I probably would’ve gone back to school in the evenings and continued teaching full-time, which would’ve drawn out the process and not allowed me to focus all of my attention on learning as much as I could. That would have made the career transition a lot more arduous.
When you teach yourself, it's easy to end up stuck in your own bad habits because you don't know best practices and how to get to the next level. Learning within a community of other people who are passionate about software engineering means that you can all help each other. You can push your thinking to the next level and get unstuck when you hit a roadblock in your learning. You always feel like the work that you're putting in is reaping benefits, because you can see the growth day by day and week by week. That rapid growth is really what allowed me to reach my goals so soon after deciding to make the transition into software engineering.
What advice do you have for our readers who are considering a coding bootcamp like Codesmith?
Your time at a coding bootcamp is very short, so it's important to really squeeze the most out of the experience that you possibly can. It's not enough to just go to class during the day and then go home. It's really important to get to know your classmates and help each other grow. It's rare that you're surrounded by so many other people who are this passionate about the same goals.
Codesmith works so hard to build community, not only between current students but also between professionals by hosting meetups for local software developers. If you can really take advantage of that community, then that's where you'll see the most incredible growth in yourself.
Everyone seems to be talking about Machine Learning. But what is Machine Learning, and do you really need a PhD in Math to master it? LA coding bootcamp Codesmith has recently added a machine learning unit to their core program, and will soon launch an entire Machine Learning Bootcamp. We asked Codesmith’s Director of Machine Learning, Weylin Wagnon, where to spot machine learning in everyday products, why knowledge of machine learning is useful for software developers, and what the job market is like for developers with machine learning skills.
- Machine learning is a subset of AI, where a computer uses data and previous experiences to predict outcomes
- Machine learning tasks include those which used to be done by humans such as fraud prediction and ad placement
- Any task that is currently tedious for humans but still requires some creative decision-making is a target for machine learning software.
- Codesmith is teaching machine learning with a code-first attitude, by introducing the concept to students as a new tool and a new library
- Software engineers who know how to interact with machine learning systems are future-proofing their skills
What’s your experience in machine learning?
I run a cryptocurrency mining farm, where we manage mining for our clients who want to invest in cryptocurrency. It’s very complicated to set up and do at scale, so we streamline the machine learning process.
What is machine learning?
In general, Machine Learning is equal parts math, statistics, computer science, and voodoo. Machine learning is very different from the traditional software engineering or programming paradigm. In computer science, you provide a set of rules and input data to make some kind of output. In machine learning, you switch that around. You input data and input the answer you want to see, and the machine figures out the rules required to get that answer. It is a little bit magical, it’s pretty challenging, but with a clear approach to understanding machine learning, it is possible to do extraordinary things with these tools.
How is machine learning different from artificial intelligence?
The standard general purpose computer is not intelligent. Artificial intelligence gives the machine some automated behavior that we consider “smart.” Machine learning is a subset of Artificial Intelligence and requires learning from previous data. As humans, we use our previous memories to influence our future behavior; machines can learn from previous data to do the same thing. Overall, AI doesn’t imply data alone, whereas machine learning is all about data.
Where do we see Machine Learning in the real world? Can you give us some examples?
Anything that is currently tedious to do for people but requires some kind of creative decision making is a target for machine learning software. Most of the cutting edge machine learning projects are coming from large companies that have huge data sets. For example:
- Google Photos and Apple Photos dynamically identifying faces in pictures and auto-tagging people.
- Shazam, which identifies songs, has been greatly enhanced through machine learning.
- Speech systems like Siri, Google Home, and Alexa, are all good examples of machine learning ability.
- Fraud reporting, which used to be done by humans perusing financial records, but is now accomplished with algorithms.
- Some core business uses have been around for a while – 10 years ago, machine learning was used to predict which advertisement a user would click on, and we still use advanced neural networks for the same task today.
How can machine learning be useful for a software developer?
Machine learning exists in an application ecosystem (like an API). So even if a developer doesn’t want to touch the whole backend of an application, they are still going to have to interact with some of these systems. Having at least an understanding of the concepts behind machine learning can be valuable in the long run when designing systems.
Any exposure to machine learning is a really good mark on your resume. Having interacted with such machine intelligence systems shows that you have a strong competency with current and future technologies.
Why has Codesmith decided to add Machine Learning to the curriculum?
Google I/O’s last conference (and every main stage) was fully focused on AI and machine learning at all times – it’s a significant trend.
You need to be able to work with large amounts of data, be a smart programmer, understand neural networks, and have machine learning skills if you want to build the next generation of tech products. And if you don’t, you’ll be left behind over the next 10 to 15 years. It’s hard to observe the future of jobs and not be scared of how machine learning is taking over; I think the best way to stem that tide is to get into the field yourself.
Tell us about the new machine learning unit at Codesmith and how you came up with the course.
We are now offering an entire unit within Codesmith’s core software engineering residency, plus a six-week stand-alone course for alumni and experienced coders. I just finished teaching the unit. It’s not a complete course, but it does give students all the tools they need to go forward in machine learning. We ran a beta-version of our six-week course for alumni, got a lot of feedback, and are iterating right now for our public course. It’s exciting to push software engineers on the right path. Machine learning is something that will be hard to avoid in the future so it’s really valuable to get into the space right now.
I spent a long time researching before writing the curriculum. I paired up with Kush Kumar, part of the USC Machine Learning Department, who is a stellar expert in the field. Combining his expertise with my teaching background, we forged the content together.
Can you really teach machine learning at a coding bootcamp? How do you fit such a vast topic into a short course?
We teach machine learning in the last quarter at Codesmith, so that students have the most experience and can gain the most from it. As we go through Codesmith, the pace of students’ comprehension accelerates, so they get used to picking up new information fast.
The core Codesmith unit is focused on teaching students about general machine learning ideas, providing a framework to think about machine learning, and defining terms that we’ll see a lot. We are focused on coding best practices first. Then, we’re fitting machine learning into the curriculum as a new tool and a new library, and not as a fundamentally alien concept.
We do a deep dive into re-engineering some machine learning algorithms so we can see it’s not just magic. But on this level, you don’t have to engineer everything yourself. We teach libraries like Pandas to enact a lot of complex behavior very quickly. The program is mainly project focused as we go through, and we also practice pair programming.
Students also learn some DevOps, neural networks, and Tensorflow. By the end of the unit, they’ll have covered the vast majority of the machine learning field and will be able to autonomously create projects.
What is the job demand like for machine learning skills?
In LA, job listings mentioning machine learning often offer salaries 10% to 30% higher than regular software engineering roles. The goal of our program is not to produce data scientists, data analysts, or data engineers – we’re aiming to graduate engineers who can build advanced programming products and meet the needs of a “machine learning software engineer” job listing. Companies are getting very competitive as the demand for machine learning engineers grows faster than the supply. The main source of machine learning talent comes from master’s degree or PhD programs, so it’s a challenge for companies to find enough engineers to rapidly prototype machine learning products. In addition to being in great demand, machine learning skills are a great accent to any software engineering role.
Is there anything you’ve had to leave out of the Codesmith machine learning curriculum?
We don’t cover neural network libraries in our Codesmith unit, but we can provide resources for students who are interested in learning more, and we highly encourage alumni to take the full machine learning course.
We always hear that you don’t have to be a math whiz to be a good programmer, but do you need math skills to do machine learning?
In the machine learning unit, we don’t focus a lot on math. People get the idea that machine learning is only about math because of Andrew Ng’s popular Machine Learning course from Stanford, which is all focused on the calculus derivation of different algorithms, and how to implement them. But that knowledge is not required to build machine learning projects – most of it is already wrapped up in libraries. So your math ability doesn’t impact your ability to implement machine learning systems.
However, at some point in your career, you may want to develop new machine learning processes, and then that math and algorithms research will help you. But in general, it’s not as big of a requirement as people think.
What’s an example of the sort of machine learning projects that students would work on at Codesmith?
At Codesmith, we mainly focus on portfolio projects. Having a significant portfolio of work is so important to getting hired in machine learning. Students work on projects which involve making graphs that convey information, getting insights from data, and then presenting the insights in a way that’s understandable for less technical people.
Who is teaching this new unit? How will you train your instructors to teach this new machine learning unit? Or will you hire new instructors?
So far I’ve been the sole instructor along with our advisory member Kushaan. I am hoping to continue contributing as long as I am able, plus we have some super talented engineers who have been studying machine learning on their own and have attended all of our machine learning courses. We like to take a multifaceted approach – we have really talented teachers, engineers, and people with math backgrounds, and it’s through all of us working together that we can make it work. It’s a community approach.
How often does the Codesmith team update or add new units to the curriculum like this?
We reevaluate the curriculum after every graduating class and talk about whether topics are still relevant, and whether we can improve. We add content often, like new lectures, or individual focuses, but rarely whole units. So this is exciting!
Can students in both LA and NYC campuses learn machine learning?
So far, we’ve only taught machine learning at the LA campus. Our first NYC cohort starts in two weeks, and we hope to also offer machine learning there eventually. Stay tuned for our separate machine learning course, which we are hoping to launch in the near future.
Are there resources or meetups you recommend for machine learning beginners?
The best machine learning resource for beginners is a YouTube channel called Welch Labs. He’s a fantastic teacher and makes the subject really dynamic. You can learn about the field and the core concepts behind it, without requiring advanced math.
There are also plenty of online courses and interactive online portals. I don’t particularly like those, but some people benefit from them as an introduction to concepts. Those online courses can make you feel like you’ve accomplished and learned a lot, but you have no autonomy, and having to define a task for yourself afterward can be really challenging. I think an interactive course where you build projects is the best option.
It’s that time again! A time to reflect on the year that is coming to an end, and a time to plan for what the New Year has in store. While it may be easy to beat yourself up about certain unmet goals, one thing is for sure: you made it through another year! And we bet you accomplished more than you think. Maybe you finished your first Codecademy class, made a 30-day Github commit streak, or maybe you even took a bootcamp prep course – so let’s cheers to that! But if learning to code is still at the top of your Resolutions List, then taking the plunge into a coding bootcamp may be the best way to officially cross it off. We’ve compiled a list of stellar schools offering full-time, part-time, and online courses with start dates at the top of the year. Five of these bootcamps even have scholarship money ready to dish out to aspiring coders like you.Continue Reading →
Welcome to the October 2016 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month, we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. This month we are also covering our Women In Tech Snapchat takeover! Other trends include new developments in the industry, new outcomes reports and why those are important, new investments in bootcamps, and of course, new coding schools and campuses.Continue Reading →
Will Sentance is co-founder and CEO at Codesmith, a full stack coding bootcamp in Los Angeles that launched in fall 2015. Before that, he worked as a software engineer, and started his own e-commerce platform. Will says learning to code changed his life, and he wanted to pass that experience and knowledge on to others. Will explains the Codesmith curriculum, what Codesmith looks for in students, and how to prepare for the interview. Also find out what sort of jobs Codesmith graduates are getting!
What were you doing before you decided to found Codesmith bootcamp?
I worked as a Software Engineer at Gem, which is now a Hiring Partner at Codesmith. Before that, I was CEO and cofounder of Ownly, a social e-commerce platform I started while studying at Harvard. Gem is doing some really transformative work in the Bitcoin and Blockchain space for developers– we were finalists at Techcrunch Disrupt. It's a model for Codesmith graduates– exceptional technical talent yet great communicators. I loved the team there.
Why did you want to start a Los Angeles coding bootcamp?
Coding changed my life and the lives of significant people around me. It gave us the ability to build the ideas we dreamt up. People learn to code for many reasons from aspiring doctors who want to change medical document processes to people who love solving puzzles. I love getting to see all of these backgrounds come together to support each other in the program.
Many coding bootcamps these days have been founded by graduates of other bootcamps. After attending Hack Reactor, what did you think was important to keep about the bootcamp model and what did you iterate on?
There are distinct differences. At the end of the Codesmith program, we have our hiring event where companies from across the US come on site to interview graduates. This is very distinctive and is part of why the graduate outcomes are so strong.
The community of Codesmith Los Angeles is also extraordinarily tight-knit, with cohorts of 15 (two running at the same time) selected from over 300 applications. It plays out in the average leaving time each night– most people leave the campus close to midnight, six days a week!
What is the admission process like?
We look for people who have great potential in problem-solving and communication (both technical and non-technical). Before the admissions interview, there's a basic coding challenge online and special harder challenges given out at many of the free classes each week. If you complete these harder challenges, you're guaranteed to get an interview.
Your first interview looks at your interests and commitment to supporting others. This is followed by a technical interview. There you will work through various coding challenges, and we work with you as you navigate through. It's like a mini session of Codesmith.
How are graduates performing in the real world?
The graduates are doing remarkably well. They are doing everything from developing an organic grocery marketplace at Thrive Market, to a life-changing charitable platform at Omaze, to supporting 20m+ football fans at the NFL. By the end of the year, over 200 Codesmith grads will be out building great things with code. Graduates receive offers averaging $103.5k, with 92% hired within in 4 months– mostly in LA and SF. Companies like Whisper, Hautelook and others have hired multiple grads– that's a wonderful sign of the impact the grads are having at each company.
What types of final projects have Codesmith students built?
Students build a portfolio of four projects while at Codesmith– the final being the 'Production Project'. Students have built applications for clients including the Los Angeles School District and the University of Michigan Hospital.
Some of the most impactful projects have been tools and libraries for developers like React Monocle and React-D3 library. These developer projects have trended on Github and Hacker News and are now being used by thousands of developers including Hiring Partners of Codesmith.
Why is it so important for students to actually launch their apps in the real world?
Launching a project gives students production experience– handling user issues, bugs and requiring students to work as professional developers as opposed to working on artificial 'bootcamp' projects. It really makes the graduates stand out– it's a big part of why 95% of graduates join companies as mid-level developers or above.
What is the current class makeup in terms of gender, race, background? Is it diverse?
Students come from a wide range of backgrounds. While many have STEM experience or even Computer Science degrees, there are also students who were creative writing majors or didn't attend college at all!
We have scholarships for students from backgrounds that are underrepresented in technology, and we work closely with Girl Develop it and Women Who Code on free classes and curriculum to help show people that they can aspire to Codesmith whatever their background. But we have to do more.
How do you attract a diverse applicant pool to Codesmith– is that important to you as a founder?
It is crucial. In the coming years, more and more leaders of firms will come from a software engineering background. We have an opportunity to give people from all backgrounds that path to leadership. In November, we are starting a new Women in Technology Speaker Series and new scholarships in partnership with leading technology firms– to further attract a diversity of applications.
How should new students approach Codesmith?
We have high expectations for applicants in their interviews, but we also have an extraordinarily supportive community which is ready to help you reach your potential and prepare for your application. Join us for any of the classes in person or online– whether or not you end up at Codesmith, you'll find your partners in crime to code with.
How does the CodeSmith experience prepare students for job interviews?
Companies expect a lot from Codesmith graduates. They're going to be offering six-figure salaries so they expect people who are capable of solving problems without too much supervision.
The program is designed to prepare graduates for exactly these demands. To do this, the curriculum pushes you to perform at a level that impresses seasoned engineers, both through professional engineering best practices, and a structure that is heavily project-based. This makes you ready for deep technical discussions and challenges at interviews
The second half of the program moves into dedicated job-search preparation– through mock interviews, resume and online profile development– all culminating in Hiring Day.
Tell us about your employer partnerships.
We have a network of over 250 Hiring Partners who are required to have a strong engineering culture and who hire mid-level and above developers. A select group joins onsite for Hiring Day for multiple streamlined interviews. Nearly half of our graduates get offers from companies they met at Hiring Day.
Have you been through the regulatory process with the BPPE in California? Is it important that you become accredited?
The regulatory system is outdated for sure but efforts are being made to develop a new approach. In the meantime, we have begun the process of getting officially accredited by BPPE
What’s next for Codesmith? Are there plans to expand geographically, or to expand the curriculum?
I believe we've barely scratched the surface of the number of people we can bring the ability to code to, as well as the number of organizations and industries that can be transformed by engineers who can lead. I want our alumni to continue to develop as leaders in tech after they graduate. So we're working on new ways to give our alumni all the support they need to make that happen.
Many competitive coding bootcamps want you to have some programming knowledge in order to be accepted into their programs – whether they’re looking for past experience on your resume or require that you pass a coding challenge. For a beginner, it can be tough to get the experience that a selective bootcamp looks for in the application process. There are many ways to learn basic coding (including teaching yourself) but if you want to make sure you’re covering the right material and quickly, then a bootcamp prep program may be for you.Continue Reading →
How much do coding bootcamps cost? From students looking for free coding bootcamps to those wondering if an $18,000 bootcamp is worth it, we understand that cost is important to future bootcampers! While the average full-time programming bootcamp in the US costs $11,906, bootcamp tuition can range from $9,000 to $21,000, and some coding bootcamps have deferred tuition. So how do you decide what to budget for? Here, we break down the costs of coding bootcamps from around the USA.
Move over tinsel town and make some space in the greater Los Angeles area for some of the finest coding programs in the country. While LA once paled in comparison to San Francisco when it came to the sheer quantity of bootcamps, we've seen a surge in LA coding bootcamps this year. There is a wide choice of code schools with campuses in LA's "Silicon Beach" that all bring a unique take on web development training.Continue Reading →
Welcome to the June News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Do you want something considered for the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →