In addition to its core curriculum, 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.
Graduates of Codesmith typically earn between $95k and $120k (average salary $103k), build projects that have been featured at Google I/O earning 20,000+ Github stars and are advised by top engineers from Netflix, Facebook, and Google. Graduates are transforming healthcare at Heal and Impact Health, mental health at UCLA, and drone technology at Airmap, while others work on large systems at the top technology companies in the country including Amazon, Microsoft, and LinkedIn.
Recent Codesmith Reviews: Rating 4.83
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CSX is Codesmith's free online learning platform, providing 100+ hours of curriculum and challenges, workshops and pair programming, video solutions for exercises, office hours and an active Slack community.
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When I was choosing which bootcamp to sign up for, the first thing I did was to come here and read people's reviews about Codesmith. Visiting this site again after having graduated, I feel like maybe I'd been seriously duped…
I just realized that most, if not all, of the reviews that are written by people from my cohort and the one before mine are posted by Fellows. For those of you who don't know, Fellows are paid student instructors who decided to stay and work for Codesmith after completing the program. Codesmith hires about 4~5 fellows from each cohort. It did with mine and the one prior. Considering that there are now over 20+ cohorts and if this pattern were practiced consistently, it means that there are at least 100 such reviews written by Fellows on behalf of their employer.
I am not suggesting that they couldn’t all have had positive experiences at Codesmith, but it’s one thing to do it voluntarily; it’s quite another when you’re asked by your employer during your employment to do so on their behalf, fully knowing that the business relies heavily on them and that any negative review might invite a rebuke. Just like how Codesmith would tell its students to star each other's senior project on gitHub to make them look more popular or legit, same thing is happening here. I won't name names but heck I am seeing A LOT of them here!
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.
This review has been preempted as apparently Codesmith (Eric) called ME thinking that one of the unsatisfactory reviews were written as it "sounded like you" and reassuring me that their job statistic placements will be verified soon which left me in a HUGE confusion until I realized they still have not verified that since I inquired about it since October 2017. If it takes more than a year to verify statistics where your early LA cohorts have already been published before, it just means that they areWAITING on people to get hired to boost their statistics up more. A third party verification is easy to do, you give them your data and it does not take that long as they do not have many students EMPLOYED. Apparently that is why some people cannot even leave honest feedback as Codesmith keeps calling them to change their minds.
Which leaves me to my next point that most of these 5 star reviews are done by Fellows who are "employed" by Codesmith as esentially teaching assistants, to help answer "help desk" requests when student submits a ticket. However, most of these tickets do get ignored as these TAs are not meant to help students but rebuild the website for Codesmith. All in all a huge marketing and low laboring scam setup here.
This is a going to be a LONG, well in depth REVIEW with some personal anecdotes and feedback I was given personally, and experienced through these 3 months at Codesmith. While I appreciate the staff for being nice, the overrall value into going Codesmith was absolutely wasted and there was not even WiFi working well during my April/May-July 2018 time and I have tracked it back to NY Cohort #2's time as well. There are a lot of excuses for things they need to address and NOTHING IS PERFECT, but they sure act as if they are and are not open to suggestions and shut down anyone who does not follow their "Codesmith ways" which just inherently means being a sheep in thoughts and actions.
There were precoursework that were given and not really reviewed in depth. Pair programming was a huge pain in NYC's Cohort 4 as Codesmith has internal politics that HUGELY affects their students' even though that is what they should be focusing on and not other aspects to promote an invalid hostile environment. Their COO Victoria left which gave a huge amount of work to the staffs apparently, and no one boetherd to check up in our cohort if ANY of us were even pair programmed efficiently. My seniors did not face this problem as they had Victoria's presence and apparently she didn't "leave to attend Business School" as Will Sentenace's own explanation was for her departure, but she was FIRED for being young in a COO position for Codesmith due to "lack of experience" even though she did a lot of work behind the scenes apparently at Codesmith.(she was also the one passive aggresively ensuring everyone was coding well with one another). Her absence made the staff ignore a lot of risk factors in our cohort which made MOST OF US MISERABLE.I do not think any one of us actually enjoyed the time at Codesmith except knowing one another.
The funny part is for a bootcamp to advertise learning of "deep diving" by facing "engineering blocks" through "pair programming" of units, I TOLD them myself in a feedback at Week 2 that they conducted to their outreach coordinator Jenny, that pair programming is not being efficiently done. She told me herself, "Well! We cannot enforce pair programming." ??????? WHAT DID I HEAR. Yes, I relayed this to Will himself and his own magical PR words of his marketing schematic self was, "she is not a representative of Codesmith's staff so what she said did not represent Codesmith at all. We even had an extra 30 minute PP of effective pair programming for your cohort and I even pulled people aside personally to let them know about it."
Another Fellow mentioned that she has tried to get the women's nnegotiation/ hiring workshop in before but Will has not even responded to her about it. I pushed for it to happen for my cohort and my juniors as there were a lot of people who needed to know. I slacked him a lot, did not see a date as it was nearing the end of my curriculum. I had to ask a FEMALE staff of Codesmith just so I can relay how infuriating and frustrating it is to try to get something done when they claim to be "FORWARD THINKING AND RESPECTIVE TO EVERYONE".
Half of my cohort has failed their weekly "checkings" which are assessments of that week's topics/units. The funny part is that the React portion in Codesmith is similar to React's OWN documentation tutorial so while I am not saying that Codesmith got lazy in TEACHING React but they just had a similar guide to React's own starting process tutorial guide ....
1:1 tutoring was not available in our cohort and instead we had a group review done as it was more "time efficient" but still "time wasted" as it was not individualized, and not personalized. They just reviewed code semantics without really explaining what was going on between components, which I learned well AFTER the program ended.
I am the bottom knowledge % wise in my cohort and I did not mind since I just started out and it was fine. But the lack of support of materials and just being thrown in haphazardly because this is "how engineers learn" as Will personally told me himself, just means I never got proper foundations to even make projects work. My whole cohort still did not even know how to use React well despite having ALL of our projects in React which is funny. Our resumes are well spoken and FAKE which makes it seem legit, which they're not.
I was also one of the people who got tutoting by Stephen and even some of the tutorings from him and Fellows have mentioned that Codesmith has taught their units in such an unnecesary way of learning that no one grasps it until wayyyyy later or until they learn it a more effiecient way to understand it. I was told I was also not a hard working because my brain quits after a while since you are there Monday-Fri from 9:-8pm and Sat 9am-4pm. It's not a matter of how long it takes to learn but how efficiently can you get it, that's how you can work smarter not harder. Which is the oppoiste of Codesmith's values apparently.There are multiple ways of learning (and teaching it as I was told) it but if its more complicated than it should be, that in itself is against programming itself.
Lie #2 - Will told me himself he was paying tutors out of pocket at $200/hr and as a FAVOR for me and others to get extra tutoring at 10 hours a week for 4 weeks. He personally told me himself, "Anonymous, even YOU cannot contest these rates I am paying here." I was offered a refund of around $4k or tutoring which at the end of the day I am more interelsted in LEARNING, which I had to fight for a lot. I can contest these rates because Will wasn't even paying that much to begin with, he even said "THESE TUTORS ARE TOP OF THE INDUSTRY SO THEY ARE WORTH $200/HR I AM PAYING OUT OF MY OWN." He didn't yell this, but was very affirmative hence the CAPS. Turns out the tutor was just one of my Seniors in the previous cohort so thanks! Thank you Will for such TOP OF THE INDUSTRY TUTORS@!@! I do appreiate Stephen's tutoring -- just being lied continously again face to face by Will Sentance, Codesmith's own CEO is infuriating and frustrating.
I have also failed my finals assessment and I was told I had to retake it. I asked why since I did the backend pretty well and I was told I can do it in any format I want but the test itself restricted you not to use React since it had a longer setup and their testing for the assessments were not setup for React but specific file locations and such. I was told I could have asked to restructure the file formats myself even though the test ittself said not to and I even asked a Fellow for help and they told me to stick with the testing environment. If I had the flexibility to do so but have no actual instructions and flexibility given initially, why tell me after? Absolutely ridiculus. I also asked them why do they need me to retake it and they said, "oh well its for us to know where you are and how to benchmark you to get the help you need." I mean I already know what I am struggling with which was basically almost everything so I did not have the optio2n to repeat the course just "extra help". Basically their motto is letting YOU know where YOU are behind, so YOU can learn yourself and catch up yourself. Absolutely no support as promised.
Lies #3 - was given Will's and Eric's own number for after graduation but it seems that Will is ghosting a lot of my messages plust other people in my cohort. Yet when I was interested in joining, I had a 4am e-mail and constant text messages and phone calls about joining. He said emails were best to reach him but I wasn't even given his email.
I did manage to get a senior software position but I completely ignored all of Codesmith's guidelines. I applied to over 200 job applications and only got 2 onsites out of those. Apparently I am supposed to get 1-2 onsite interviews out of every 20 applications but that is another lie. Most are outright rejections and I only got placed luckily through a very kind and pushy recruiter (which I am always kind to even recruiters even though Codesmith says not to pay them much value). If anyone is jobless still after 6 months and applied to every position, be warned that you may be blacklisted as recruiters tend to notice why you are till job searching after some time "your startup which is a project has disintegrated over a few months ago."
I completely started over after the program ended since it was disappointing, frustrating and tiresome to have to "fight" for a way that I can learn best since I could not even take a single project to break it down much simpler for me to understand and piece together. Instead you are jumbled up all through each different projects to use the frameworks and knowledge you have supposedly obtained which is 10% for a semblance of something that works.
The completely ridiculous thing at the end I was asked on how I can improve learning/teaching for their future cohorts at the END of my cohort despite my numerous complaints of the lack of Fellows helping and (1) hour PP slides that are not even great starting course materials to learn off. If I repeatedly have told them during learning that we are not learning the right way we won't ever "cement" our knowledge during projects as that is the known "Codesmith's way" which is all convoluted shenanigans. I paid to learn, not to be your consultant on fixing your problems even though Codesmith at this time had 20+ classes already and 3 for NYC. So again that means their curriculum still needs to be changed and improved as most of Codesmith's graduates STILL have to learn the curriculum after their time spent of 3 months.
This review may make me sound like a bitter person but no I was more determined to get a job on my own despite knowing nothing at the end of the bootcamp. I have spoken to several friends who have done Fullstack academy and App Academy and they have not had buyer's remorse as I have had. I recommend Fullstack Academy more as App Academy is more stressful than needed. If you have any questions you can reach out to me at email@example.com.I would love to leave a verified review but like many others, have to mask our actual profiles to not damage our own reputation and jobs / potential jobs. I recommend Udemy for courses as low as $10 to each a particular language/ framework.
It's really hard to work with anyone especially a CEO (Will Sentance) who lies to students' faces and has the guts to tell me I cannot contest his claims. I sure am and can, and will because most of them are FALSE. A lot of other reviews have also labeled him as "markety" Will, which is true. A business who keeps contesting every "negative" review left so often and does not even address the main focal points but skirts around points made to again self promote their "program" that "dives deep under the hood" while trying to foster a "community" but lies to their students is truly atrocious. I wouldn't mind if their program did not work out for me, but to be belittled every step of the way to ensure I had proper guidance is definitely something one should not experience.
I would rather take out all 4 of mmy wisdom teeth again on the same day, without any painkillers if I can go back in time to prevent myself from even entering this bootcamp. Oh and Codesmith does take credit for students' long work after they completed the program. Most of them didn't even understand the subjects taught and instead learned them well afterwards. Ask to speak to their graduates if possible, the ones with NO technical experience at all. If you do the math if there are about 10-15 people and LA had about 20 cohorts and each cohort had 2-3 fellows... which ammounts to about the same 5 star reviews left behind, which reviews are actually real? Again, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions.
Response From: Codesmith of Codesmith
I am posting this to let people know how I got tricked into thinking I can be job ready for the tech industry with only 3 months of classes, which is EXACTLY what Codesmith advertised...
Let me just start by saying that you will learn a good amount of knowledge from this program, I don't want to take away how rigorous this 12 week bootcamp actually is, and I actually learned a lot about programming and made a lot of friends at Codesmith.
That said, I am extremely disappointed in Codesmith, and felt like they scammed me out of 17k in tuition. I'll just go right ahead and say it:
Codesmith tells you to LIE when looking for jobs! They want you to put your so called "production project" in your resume as WORK EXPERIENCE!!!! They ask you to NOT put Codesmith in your resume, create a website and make it look really really nice so employers can be fooled that your project is a company, and reach out to random developers to "star" your repository to get a lot of stars in an attempt to pass as a legitamte professional project! They NEVER told us this in the beginning, and I felt duped and unsatisfied after close to a year of trying to follow their "Marketing" and "need-to-know-info" strategy to find jobs!
I graduated in October, and to this day, I am still struggling to even get phone interviews, I did have several interviews, but I had several recruiters and HR managers tell me that I'm trying to dupe them in my resume...I don't blame them, I mean, it LITERALLY is lying, we WERE trying to trick them into thinking we had PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE, what Codesmith told us to do, it is so shady and wrong!!! I didn't have the guts to come out and say it earlier, partly because I didn't want to believe that I paid 17k to get scammed, I wanted to believe that I chose the right program, so do some other students in my cohort as well as the cohort before us, but we're in so deep in commitment and money that we were in denial of the obvious.
For those of you wanting to change career, stick to a 4 year college! For those that are considering bootcamps, stick to the well known, proven bootcamps, like App Academy, Hack Reactor, or Full Stack Acad, those that acutally publish job outcomes and will not asking you to sell your soul and trick your interviewers, even if you do consider ANY bootcamp, ask them outcomes questions, the job search process, ASK them for outcomes numbers, ASK them a lot of questions, if they're being standoffish, it's usually a big telltale sign. If it's too good to be true, it often is!
I will still try to find a software engineer job, but I am going back to the drawing board and learn more on my own, for free, there are many resources online for anyone to teach themselves how to code. the program did teach me a lot, but not enough to be job ready, I mean, its so laughable that Codesmith will tell you to market yourself as a react engineer witthout even teach you REDUX.
I felt scammed, I felt duped, and I felt that I HAD to say something so other people looking for bootcamps or potential attendees won't fall into the same predictament that I did.
Response From: Will Sentance of Codesmith
People put so much of themselves into their time at codesmith and the hundreds of reviews are so important for people who are taking this big step in their careers. It’s a real shame to present things that are evidently untrue - particularly the outcomes of your cohort which are fully captured in the doc: http://bit.ly/codesmith-outcomes
Around 2/3rds of Codesmith students come from a non-technical background and hundreds have received offers for $100k+ - it would be really unfortunate for folk who are from less experienced background to feel discouraged to aspire to codesmith because of your notes in the review
The program is designed to get you to a position to be able to get a mid level software engineering role or above and for 90% of graduates is does. We put together a more detailed outcomes report than any other program (http://bit.ly/codesmith-outcomes) - every single graduate’s outcome is listed (anonymized) with their salary and whether they found a role within 6 months - the average in LA is $105k (it’s worth working that out from the individual raw data in the report too if you’re interested)
We’d never encourage grads to lie about their experience - both as a matter of integrity and because it would be ineffective (as you would not succeed in the job). Instead grads often go in as mid level engineers and within a year are promoted to senior or even lead engineer (have a look at alumni at VideoAmp, Amazon and Stem) - because the point of Codesmith is to learn how to learn - and that allows grads to grow remarkably quickly after graduation
As you say, investing 3 months in immersing yourself in software engineering, stepping away from a prior career and going through the job search is a huge commitment and so it’s vital to understand the culture, community and outcomes. That’s what makes the Codesmith community so special - I’d recommend talking to as many alumni, reading reviews and going to the workshops to get a true understanding.
We will continue to support you in your job search - so let us know when you’re available to talk more about strategy
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 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
I was a student from cohort 1 for the 3-week Deep Learning course. I dropped out after two days because it wasn't worth the time investment. I had already spent my money by that point (no refund). Since leaving around a month ago, no one from the program has reached out to me for why I left. I was hoping the stellar reviews here would carry over for the new Deep Learning program, but that was not the case. My main concerns are in the structure of the curriculum (as of July 2018).
It’s a 3-week course, but taught at the pace of a 12 week course. Tensorflow is not covered in the first week, let alone the first day. We spent the first two days on a very basic NN with no backpropagation. No backpropagation means weights were decided manually as an exercise. That’s like becoming an animator by adjusting individual pixels. Like learning astronomy by counting the stars. Attacking someone by hurling a gun at them. Rubbing two matchsticks together to create a fire.
I will say there is nothing fundamentally wrong, it was just executed poorly. The idea of an online Deep Learning course is a great one and I hope Codesmith does not give up on this. Here are my suggestions.
- There are many excellent free resources like Andrew Ng's Machine Learning course, Stanford Computer Vision course, and Fast AI. The curriculum of Codesmith was similar, but at a lower quality and they charge money. This is my biggest concern. I wish Code Smith followed my next point.
- Leverage how young the field is. Advances happen so quickly that many resources aren't available on the cutting edge. What is posterior collapse or KL Divergence? Are Sigmoid's still useful or should I only use RELUs? Goodfellow just released his code for his latest paper, but I can’t understand a line of code.
- Use abstraction. There are many libraries in Python that can make an image classifier with over 90% accuracy in a few lines of code. I agree that a basic understanding of Neural Networks would help increase performance. However, a significant amount of our time was spent on coding functions that are included in Numpy.
- Math isn’t needed. It doesn't take advanced math to understand the basics of a GAN. Yet many resources teach it poorly with a lot of mathematics. Adam gradient descent can be explained with a momentum metaphor. Feature space can be visualized with Google Deep Dream. To explain matrix multiplication is a waste of time for both math background and no math background students (1 lesson is not so effective). I would suggest to either choose to not need advanced math or limit the audience somehow.
- The instructor did not seem extremely experienced. I don’t mind this, but if that’s the case I would prefer the fate of the course in more than one person's hands. It seemed to be hinted that the instructor was the sole creator of the course material. What?! Give him some help! Unless he got a degree in this field or has direct work experience, he can’t take on AI by himself.
- Create a big picture, work towards a project. The majority of people would be very satisfied if they create something cool. An AI that beats me at chess, a model that can classify music into genres, an RNN that can write Shakespeare-like prose. We coded a Neural Network from scratch in the course, but this is covered by so many resources and has been done by thousands of people.
- Furthermore, I would suggest the precourse include setting up cloud computing (like Paperspace) on a local device. A laptop is pretty limited in what it can do. Also, Cloud computing setup is not so straightforward and people may need help. Any course that does not teach this is seems behind the times and limited in scope.
Response From: Will Sentance of Codesmith
The curriculum was designed by both the instructor Ryan Smith and Alex Zai, a machine learning engineer at Amazon responsible for building out Amazon’s MXNet machine learning framework.
The approach of Codesmith is to go under-the-hood of frameworks like Tensorflow so that you can think as an engineer. This was the goal of the deep learning program too - focusing on a first principles understanding rather than a lightweight use of tools where there are helpful youtube getting started guides available for free.
Understanding from first principles the intuitions of deep learning and specifically neural networks is what distinguishes machine learning engineers who really understand and can optimize the tools they use.
The team reached out to you a number of times after you stopped attending class. I know Ryan enjoyed the brief time you had working together in that first day and I hope you can keep in touch and keep cultivating your interest in deep learning techniques.
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.
Before learning about Codesmith I was actively researching web development programs in NYC to see which seemed like the perfect fit for me. I applied and was admitted into some of the more familiar ones, but something about each didn’t quite fit what I was looking for.
While doing some research, I came across a comment on Quora that mentioned Codesmith. I wasn’t familiar so I did a quick Google search and read over their site. After going through the curriculum description, I was pulled in - it had everything the other programs seemed to be lacking. More so, the projects students were producing were tools made to solve real problems egineers face. Projects I could never fathom students producing in a 12-week bootcamp. I was hooked and decided to apply.
After going through two rounds of technical interviews, I was admitted to Codesmith’s April ’18 residency. It was challenging, but it was the best experience I could’ve asked for. I left with skills I never imagined myself having, and close friends I can’t imagine myself without. The curriculum is set up in a way to give you the training needed to hit the ground running day one on the job as a software engineer, and the community is built in a way so that you constantly feel surrounded by a group of peers who support you and, believe me when I say it, after a week together you'll consider some of your closest friends.
If you’re looking to accelerate your career from being a junior to mid/senior level engineer, or are coming from a different background entirely (like me), Codesmith is the place for you. In just 12 weeks you’ll leave with the experience qualifications of a seasoned engineer.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions regarding the program, its curriculum or my personal experience at Codesmith.
Response From: Phillip Troutman of Codesmith
Codesmith will be tough to get in to and tough to complete! You will be a mid-to-senior level software engineer by the time you graduate with a production-level project on your resume. The Codesmith team will go above and beyond to provide the highest quality education and help you find an amazing job with an amazing salary. The hours will be long, but the people you will spend your days with are amazing, both personally and professionally.
Acceptance to Codesmith is an educational journey in itself. You must already have some solid foundational programming knowledge just to make it through the interview process. The acceptance rate is lower than that of most Ivy Leagues (~4%). I attended a bootcamp long before I found Codesmith, which puts me in the rare position to be able to draw from actual experience in order to compare Codesmith to other programs. Looking back, I realize that all the knowledge I gained from that bootcamp really only prepared me to be eligible to interview with Codesmith. In addition to the substantive Codesmith interview, there is also a cultural interview. This ensures that the people you spend the next 3.5 months with are people that will facilitate your success as much as the staff and curriculum will.
The curriculum that I experienced in my previous bootcamp provided me with a great coding foundation that made me a great junior developer; however, the knowledge that I acquired there was not sufficient to elevate me to the skill level necessary to join the highly competitive work force as a mid-to-senior level software engineer.
Codesmith residents are held to an extraordinarily high standard of technical excellence and communication. The curriculum is extremely challenging and vigorous. We learned the essentials of computer science (algorithms, design patterns, big O notation), as well as the latest technologies such as React and Redux. As challenging as the coursework is, however, you are not on your own. The one-on-one support from the resident fellows is incredible (think TAs, but they care a lot more). Each person on the staff at Codesmith does everything within their power to ensure success during and after the program.
During the second half of the program, we build production-level projects in small teams. These projects are the best projects coming out of immersive programs in both caliber and quality. Production projects from Codesmith have been acknowledged by the inventor of Redux, Dan Abramov (React Monocle), featured at the Google I/O developer conference (web-dsp) and, on more than one occasion, drawn enormous interest from the React community. My own team's project, Reactide, was the #1 trending app on Github and gained over 5,000 Github stars in the first week of its release. None of these projects were promoted in any significant way; they have all stood on their own merit and ingenuity.
Day to day
An average day at Codesmith consisted of a daily coding challenge, multiple lectures, a lot of pairing, more lectures, and the occasional game of nerf war! What surprised me most about Codesmith was the time commitment required to complete the program. At a minimum, we were there for about 10-14 hours per day, 6 days per week, which is far greater than the time commitment required at a traditional bootcamp. The extra time adds up to at least 2-3 weeks more than you will get anywhere else. The days passed rather quickly, however, given the high expectations and quantity of work required of each of us each day. As I said before: this program isn't for those on the fence about their engineering career!
My cohort was a really fun, hardworking, collaborative and supportive cast of characters. Completing a program consisting of over 1,000 hours together created a strong bond between us as a group. To this day, we continue to help and support one another by answering coding questions, giving one another job leads, or just solving interesting challenges together. We even go camping as a group, now and again.
Finding a job, no matter how substantively prepared you are, can be an arduous undertaking. During the last few weeks at Codesmith, there is a lot of focus on preparing for job interviews (including rigorous mock interviews and white-boarding), perfecting your resume, and developing job hunt strategies. This support does not stop when the program ends (as is the case with traditional bootcamps). After completing my previous bootcamp, I was grossly unprepared for the job hunt with absolutely no support from the staff after graduation. This is absolutely not the case at Codesmith. If anything, support in the job hunt increases post-graduation. Staff from Codesmith continued to help me research jobs, prepare for interviews, and keep my coding skills sharp long after graduation day. They even helped me negotiate my salary when I received my first offer. Codesmith students routinely receive offers right out of Codesmith that are $100,000 or more, which is anywhere from 1.5 to 2 times what you will receive as a junior developer coming out of other immersive programs. I can attest to both numbers from experience as my current salary is literally double the salary I was offered after my other bootcamp.
Not long after I graduated from Codesmith, I landed my dream job. I'm a software engineer (with a highly competitive salary) in New York City, building software to help cities and organizations provide coordinated public services for veterans, families, and low-income individuals.
If you are able to be accepted to Codesmith, go! Do not hesitate! It will be the best decision you can make for your career.
- Incredibly high standards for quality of achievement, work ethic, technical and non-technical communication as practiced by both their graduates and staff
- 3-4% acceptance rate
- Not scaled or franchised = total dedication to each student
- Recent grads are having the highest student outcomes for salary offers in the nation
- Cool workspace centered in "Silicon Beach" (just call it Playa Vista)
Compared to other programs
I was looking for the best program in terms of academic quality and hiring support. I open to move, but being a father, I also had a limited amount of time so a two-year masters program was not an option.
I narrowed down my search to App Academy, Hack Reactor, and Codesmith. Codesmith stood out for having the most modern stack of technologies covered, the enthusiasm their graduates had for the program, and the student production projects were far more advanced than any program including the universities including projects that have revieved media coverage and recognized by leaders in technology.
The application and interviewing process
The interview process is less about judging what you know and more about demonstrating your ability to communicate through tough challenges and your passion to push through. I was able to learn which areas I needed to work on in case I needed to try again. They always welcome retrying.
Work, life, culture
There were real sacrifices including a pause on work and social life and very limited time with my family. On the other hand, I could see no other way to have a career transformation than this. Also, it was all temporary and the internal support from Codesmith was always there for me.
Going through this journey with a community of like-minded individuals was beyond fun. You get the opportunity to work with talented, driven people who are on your same path and equally dedicated to reaching success. Everyday was filled with team wins and high-fives that kept us pushing forward to bigger challenges.
The regular ping-pong breaks and walks to nearby restaurants and bars in the tech-savvy Playa Vista area was also pretty vital in keeping us sane, too.
In addition to a highly selective hiring day, Codesmith has an entire team of entrepreneurs and hiring support staff that are a phone call away that help alumni with networking, negotiations, and interviews. Alumni also have access to office space and interview prep after graduating.
Recent graduates are finding themselves in senior level engineering positions at Microsoft, Amazon, LinkedIn, Nike, WalmartLabs, TBWA Chiat Day, NFL, etc. with salary offers well over six figures. When adjusting to costs-of-living, Codesmith’s recent grads boast the most successful salary offers in the nation.
This program is not for everyone. With a 3-4% acceptance rate, Codesmith diligently picks only the most passionate, driven, and valuable team-focused individuals who are willing to work towards aspirations beyond any other program. There was a lot of lost sleep, and even sometimes tears, but ultimately I feel truly honored to be a part of a industry leading community who I always plan on always contributing to. Though only two-years old, I’m looking forward to see them progress as they produce the future leaders of software engineering.
I graduated September 20, 2016 and was hired exactly one month later, on October 19. I make almost twice now what I made managing accounts at a PR/advertising firm and am immensely satisfied with where my career is and with my decision to attend Codesmith. Without the program I would never have been able to make it to where I am, hence the five star review.
That said, there are a few things I wish I had known going in. These points are meant to be helpful to potential students and are a reflection of my own experience.
Although the program lasts for three months, the time commitment that they tell you to prepare for is actually six months total -- three months of program plus three months post-graduation to find a job. So budget that in.
Throughout the course, I never felt 100% prepared or felt like I was able to complete any of the coursework to a level that totally satisfied me. The pace was incredibly fast and there was never enough time to learn everything thoroughly or in-depth enough to make me feel relieved, like ‘oh I got this’. I think the program could be more effective if it was longer.
When you come out, there is a huge gap in tech experience between the mid-level jobs you are going for and the years of experience you have. How to efficiently and effectively bridge this gap was never adequately answered, in my opinion, and depended a lot on the individual. In my case, I was able to get a mid-level salary due to the fact that the job I got specifically required agency experience, which I already had. That said, the Codesmith staff is super supportive and will be by your side through the entire process. Also, I know other graduates for whom this particular issue wasn’t a problem for them.
Those things aside, the program does work and I am immensely pleased to have gone through it. Like other reviews here, I’ll iterate that it’s not easy and that no one hands you a job once you graduate; the onus is really on the individual to maximize the tools they are given. But the staff is really supportive and they do a phenomenal job at proactively fostering and maintaining a positive and community-oriented learning environment. As one of three female students in a class of 17 I was a little apprehensive of a ‘bro-grammer’ culture but from day one Codesmith made it clear that there was a zero-tolerance policy for anything outside of a supportive and respectful atmosphere. I would absolutely recommend Codesmith, especially to other women. We need more females in tech!
If you're considering a bootcamp, do yourself a favor and don't mistake Codesmith for one. For the money, good bootcamps take in new comers, hobbyists, and amateurs and do wonders in preparing them for entry level junior roles. By contrast, Codesmith does this for free. If you want a junior role, start coming to Codesmith where they've cultivated a community created by and for engineers. Regular discussions and workshops expounding on topics from fundamentals to advanced software engineering topics are offered free of charge on a weekly basis. Free of charge. Several times a week. Every week. For free. Meet other like-minded people passionate about engineering. Learn from them and you can teach yourself how to code and probably get a job if you're keen.
If you want to take the next step in your career as a software engineer, as I did, prepare rigorously for the Codesmith admission process and submit an application. Prepare to fail the interview, study, and apply again. Even through failure, you've improved yourself ten-fold. But if you've truly dedicated yourself and committed to becoming the type of engineer who can solve any problem, you might get a chance of a life time.
To offer my own experience, which is shared by many, I was a self-taught programmer with a non-technical background (accounting and non-profit administration). In terms of academic performance, I was about average, something I take pride in given the level of ability among my peers, which included experienced engineers, recent cs graduates, and some 'non-technical' folks like me. In terms of projects, my team developed an application commissioned by a real company for its userbase. Afterward, I was lucky enough to earn a fellowship, where I had the opportunity to contribute as an engineer and mentor others. When my fellowship ended, I prepared myself to begin a full-fledged job search which I thought would last up to an additional three months. But instead, I received my first offer from a Codesmith hiring partner exactly one day after and I'm now happily employed as a full stack engineer earning a competitive salary.
Simply put, the program works and I changed my life by deciding to come here. Just do yourself a favor and check it out for yourself. See you there.
Who are you?
I’m an EMT, Berkeley grad, and returned Peace Corps volunteer that joined the Codesmith program at the end of my 2-year service in the highlands of Guatemala.
Did it work?
I’ll be starting as a front-end web developer with a Codesmith hiring partner in Santa Barbara next week. I received two other offers some time after I accepted my current position.
There are a number of reasons, but a lot of them are already covered in previous reviews. Rather than echo, I’ll pull a Steve Jobs, get obsessive and detail-oriented, and try to cover topics that are smaller in scope but provide insight to someone who hasn’t necessarily attended the school.
There are benefits to having a CEO that is a strong and constant presence. Besides frequently handling business at the school:
Will was there to set the cultural tone of our class on day 1 -- as a cohort, we succeed together or not at all.
He gave a variety of different lectures on topics like object-oriented programming, technical blogging, and interviewing expectations throughout the weeks.
Will was with us to give a kick-off presentation for our first hackathon together.
He was there halfway through the program for one-on-one sessions.
He was there on our Hiring Day to open the floor for our thesis project presentations.
Two weeks after the program concluded, Will was there personally answering questions when the school brought our cohort in for job hunt updates.
Granted he’s not there every single day, he is available to you. Will might be encouraging a tech firm to attend hiring day or interviewing with journalists to discuss Codesmith’s philosophies, but I won’t hesitate to say that if I were to email him now as a graduate 3 months out, he would respond within a day.
CULTURE & COMMUNITY
It’s that moment when the fellows have been gone for hours. It’s 1:30 AM. You’re hammering away at a chrome extension with a partner and neither of you know how to proceed. Or maybe, you’ve invested an hour and your map method still isn’t working in Cheerio (protip: read docs and check the parameters). You know everyone’s exhausted and short on time, but you need the help, and you have to ask for it. These stressful situations are when culture really comes into play.
The community is focused on unconditional support. Expect to have it here, and expect to give it here. Let me give you a few examples.
I was working on a module with the avid surfer / Boeing engineer of our group, and we nail another exercise together. It’s looking like we might be on track to finish early. Get home. Break from the 80ish hour weeks. The first thing he asks is, “How do you feel about checking up on everyone else and seeing if they need a hand? It won’t take long.”
For a hackathon, we’re given about 6 hours (including lunch) to ad-hoc something functional. An experienced software engineer in our cohort has his eureka moment, bypasses problems with CORS and network requests with some proxy workaround, and has an hour and a half to make his project work. He then gets peppered with questions by cohort-mates. “Hey, how’d you get that proxy to work?” “Could you give me a hand with flexbox?” He carves out even more of his time to help. So much so that he presents an unfinished project (which I know for a fact he could’ve completed).
I could go on and on about the small details that made the culture so magical, but it really is a matter of seeing it in action for yourself. Visit the campus. Have a conversation with a few current students. You’ll understand.
FEEDBACK ON FEEDBACK ON FEEDBACK
If you bring up a concern, it will be considered. During the first 6 weeks, feedback is given to Victoria, director of operations. Every two days as a group, you’ll review the recently completed core modules and lectures. “Please split the testing and build tools module into two separate days.” Lo and behold, the next cohort has two days for the two modules. “Can we get more cheez-its in the kitchen?” And like magic, it appears. “Reviewing our React module with ES6 syntax when we learned with ES5 syntax? BAD.” You get the idea.
The feedback doesn’t end when sessions end either. After graduating, when I saw staff at a tech fair, I started chatting with Victoria. We were talking about the implications of increasing class sizes, and she said, “It’s great that you care. What do you think we should do?” She and her coworkers are open to criticism and change not because their job tells them it’s important for company development from 9-5. They sincerely want what’s best for students.
With all of that in mind, obviously not all suggestions will be implemented (there are still parts of the curriculum in ES5 and parts in ES6, there still might be grammatical errors in exercises, etc.), but it will be for a combination of reasons -- other low-hanging fruit to take care of, impact of changes, etc.
It’s interesting that the website doesn’t immediately mention this, but there is a support network when the program finishes.
A week after graduation, the entire cohort is brought back to campus for school updates, discussions about job-search apprehensions, and personal meetings with Hira.
There are check-in calls with Hira every two weeks after the on-campus meeting. She reaches out to track your progress, mental well-being, and again, answer any lingering questions. And the best part? She always follows through. “You’ve got an offer? I’ll get you in touch with Eric.” And the day after, I’m having a conversation with Eric. “Ah! AngelList messages can be tricky. Send over some of your examples and I’ll check them out.” A day after I send them, she replies. Here’s part of the email.
No problem Jeremy, that's what I'm here for!
Some notes on your messages:
The personal touch is great. You're really highlighting your passion for what the company is doing, I wouldn't change anything there.
Ultimately, the company wants to know what YOU can do for THEM. It's great that you have a learning mindset, and seek first to understand, but try to throw in a phrase about why you're qualified. Is there a particular stack they're working in that you're a boss at? Did you work on a technical project that is somewhat similar to what they're focused on?”
You aren’t the product of some easy-bake oven. Codesmith doesn’t “set it and forget it.” The job hunt was one of the more difficult parts of the journey, and it's genuinely nice to be able to rely on staff for solid guidance.
Bro. Now I have even more questions.
Feel free to get in touch!
Hired: Yes (In Los Angeles)
Salary: 100k+ and Equity
Graduated: June, 2016
I was hired by a company that Codesmith brought to hiring day. I make a salary equivalent to a mid-level developer in San Francisco because that's the kind of quality engineers that Codesmith makes. Prior to this I dropped out of graduate school for Landscape Architecture, and I worked in construction before that.
Codesmith teaches you the fundamentals in data structures, algorithms, and web technologies. You will learn the "whys" of how things work, which will make you a better engineer. Every day you're challenged with an algorithm(which is important because companies will test your problem solving abilities). You learn the current trending technologies that will assist you in getting a job. (I currently work with a front-end framework called React). Then you build a project that proves you are a capable engineer, and people will be like "Ooo" and "Ahhh"(that means they'yre impressed). Then they assist you in finding a job by throwing a huge party(well both an actual dinner party, but also a hirng event, which is pretty sweet). After graduation, you will have weekly meetings that checks your current progress on your hiring status.
It all sounds shiny, but it will take a lot of work to get you from an unemployable world of warcraft player into an employable professional software engineer. However it's a lot of fun, and Codesmith creates the culture and curriculum that gets you to that point. I'm glad I decided to go to Codesmith, now I can be an employed world of warcraft player(I kid, I work pretty hard at my job). On a serious note, Codesmith's curriculum and staff is top notch. I enjoyed my time there and I hope you do too.
Best of luck to anyone who's read this review, and you can do it!
If there is one thing that I can really say that I got from my 12-weeks at Codesmith, it is the fact that I had developed an engineering mindset. Having the ability to decompose a problem and break it down to chewable / understandable parts and then formulate a solution while knowing the pros and cons of that approach and on top of that being self-aware of when to ask for help is something that will always be relevant in software engineering.
Life Before Codesmith
Due to my wonderful experience at Codesmith's Hard Parts Session and the high level of technical communication that I observed plus my further research that indicated that Codesmith residents will be making a developer tool to contribute to Open Source, it didn't take me too long to decide that I really wanted to go to Codesmith. Long story short, I got in as part of the first cohort of Codesmith NY.
The immersive (12 weeks) was grueling and yet had a "chill" environment. It's like "a work hard, chill hard" feel. Lol
The first six weeks was all about learning Codesmith material. I had a difficult time grasping them as we were going by fast and had to context switch every two days. In addition, I kind of felt the Imposter Syndrome as I often compare myself to other cohort mates who were breezing the two day modules, but thanks to Codesmith's warm, supportive, and reaffirming culture I was able to bounce back and eventually diverted all my energy to the task at hand (Developer Tool creation).
The second and final six weeks were all about our production projects (creating a developer tool as per each team's vision and MVP requirements). In this period, Codesmith gave us one week to brainstorm before each team submits their list of ideas. Once that process was complete, we spent the remainder of the last 6 weeks coding the tool out and beat bugs and solved technical challenges on our own.
Life After Codesmith (Job Search)
After graduation, I wasn't confident about the things I learned in Codesmith as I felt like they went over my head. In spite of that, I just followed the Job Search tasks that Codesmith gave us to do and it helped me immensely. I soon realized that I knew more than what I thought I did. It was just a matter of choosing the right terms and phrases to accurately articulate the knowledge that is already in my head.
Having said that, the Job Search process was filled with its ups and downs. From my experience, it took me a while (~4 months) before I gained traction ( getting an offer) in my job search but Codesmith staff was there to check up on me and offer feedback. Also, I know for a fact that Codesmith will never leave you alone after you graduated. I had a first hand encounter with that because two months after graduation I was seriously contemplating to go back to my prior field and it was at this time when Will Sentance, the CEO, called me personally and asked me how I was doing and then gave me pointers regarding my job search moving forward. So I tweaked my approach a bit, and kept on keeping on and eventually got an offer about 2 and a half months after the call.
To sum it all up, even after graduation, you’ll never stop being a part of Codesmith. One way or another, they will try to assist you and you will always be welcome to hang out/ set a base camp for your job search. Lastly, you may hear that on average, grads typically get a job in about 3 months. It's a fair estimate BUT should you ever find yourself exceeding the 3 months, PLEASE DO NOT CONSIDER YOURSELF AS A FAILURE. Just keep applying and learn from each interview that you have. Turn the grey squares to green. You'll get there.
Response From: Will Sentance of Codesmith
Thanks also for coming back for the alumni panel - your insights were excellent - of course
Starting the journey
I first found Codesmith while looking for a great tech community in NYC. While there are many groups around and many people to meet, I found myself often dissapointed and frustrated for a variety of reasons. That is until I found Codesmith. The extended community around Codesmith is stellar and filled with people at all skill levels who are supportive of each other.
It was surprising, but I could see myself growing in Codesmith's residency, whereas the majority of schools on coursereport could offer me very little in terms of growth.
I found the application process very balanced, transparent, and fair. A person with little experience, but lots of aptitude can pass, while a person with lots of experience, but little aptitude would be challenged.
What drew me to Codesmith is their focus on excellence and quality. My first interaction with Codesmith staff was a message I received on meetup welcoming me to their meetup group. I replied with “This is probably a bot, but thank you for the welcome …”. The reply I received promptly summarizes my experience with Codesmith, “Alex, believe it or not, I’m not a bot. Here at Codesmtih, we do things right.”
The cohort sizes are smaller and the support from staff is tremendous. There is roughly 1 mentor for every 2 residents and the residents themselves are often quite astonishing in terms of technical ability, but also communication and working with team dynamics. The diversity of residents is a big plus and gives everyone a chance to struggle and learn. The teaching philosophy can be uncomfortable if you are not used to a strong focus on active learning, but, in my experience, is a phenomenal way to learn.
The experience is often uncomfortable and requires hard work and careful judgement in how you approach your growth and the growth of those around you. At the same time, the support is tremendous and the residents are carefully selected to thrive in such an environment. The general culture is one of “work hard, play hard” and does not get stifled by perfectionism.
Codesmith taught me new ways to communication, learn, present myself, problem solve, and put me in touch with an excellent growing community. I firmly believe that the trajectory of my growth has vastly improved for at least the next 5 years.
The hard parts
Every program has trade-offs. I think the major trade-off in Codesmith is that they put learning first and happiness as a close second. The people are wonderful and supportive, but the curriculum is not designed to make you happy. If anything, it’s designed to make you feel the stress and uncertainty of working in a production environment forcing you to develop consistent problem solving approaches with unfamiliar technologies. Watching your teammates struggle and figuring out how to constructively help can be difficult, but ultimately everyone seems to get through it.
On the other hand, it seems clear that this focus on real work is a key to Codesmith’s amazing outcomes.
One of the best decisions I ever made in my life is going to Codesmith. Back in 2016, I actually got accepted into all the top 3 boot camps in CA: Hack Reactor at SF, App Academy and Codesmith. I didn't even consider others because all the other boot camps including Hack Reactor at LA (but in reality MarketSquare) are nowhere near those top boot camps.
App Academy could be as cheap as $5k if you don’t get a job. For me, not getting a job was never an option anyway.
Did I choose Codesmith because I think I would fail at Hack Reactor or App Academy? No, definitely not. Becoming a software engineer is a choice that I made and I knew that if I worked hard enough then no matter where I started from, I would become successful.
I knew at Codesmith I would have to work hard. But if you want to become a software engineer and don't want to work hard, that is impossible. Everyone at Codesmith, even the brightest (ESPECIALLY the brightest) worked super hard every night. To me and my cohort mate, 11 pm was too early to go home. (Definitely not for the parking police).
However, if you want your job search to be a much nicer experience, Codesmith has a strong support team who will go all the way just to make sure that all of your correspondences are written beautifully. Thank Haley, Hira and all the staff who have been making my job search process much easier.
Why did I choose Codesmith?
1. A graduate from Codesmith LA with an average of 100k compared to a 100k in San Francisco is very different. San Francisco has a higher cost of living.
2. Codesmith costs less than other two.
3. Codesmith projects have reached new height. Check out Reactide with 7k stars on GitHub or webDSP. Guess where those projects were made.
4. Codesmith class sizes are much smaller than the other two. Look at Hack Reactor's video and see if every student has a seat. On top of that, there isn’t enough support from the staff after graduation.
5. Codesmith really cares more about student success than other programs, and will do whatever they can to help you. I was an out-of-state student who wanted to change my life. Codesmithhelped me and continues to help me so much that I truly believe that there is no other program who would even consider doing the same thing.
# Course Report
Will is a passionate speaker and the community of people was very encouraging. I knew pretty much right away that I wanted to be part of this program. Even once the material of the lectures was less fruitful for me, I still loved attending for the pair-programming sessions and the random people I met.
One JSHP meetup night in particular that stuck out to me was when Schno stayed after with 3 of us as we were going through a coding challenge. We got as stuck as we could and when we reached out to him, instead of giving the answer right away, he subtly guided us down a path then sat back with a grin on his face. He could tell when we had figured out enough and just waited for us to put the dots together ourselves. You could tell that he really enjoyed "the a-ha moment" that comes from this type of work.
I ended up attending JSHP meetups about 10 times before attending the program.
Writing software never came easy for me, and it took me 3 attempts to even get into the program. Once in, the program was a struggle for me the entire time so, to keep up, I was coding all day and night ( minus ping-pong breaks of course :) ) and was practically sleeping at the computer. I expected the program to be intense, but just a warning... If you would prefer more hand-holding and a slower pace, this is NOT the program for you. If you like being pushed and going through intense growth as an engineer, then consider Codesmith.
1 month after the program I got a job offer in San Fransisco to work on Walmart's customer facing website. One of the biggest React apps in the wild and at $125k/year! I've made more than a few life-long friends, all of which are now working on exciting projects.
The Codesmith staff is a passionate and intelligent group of people. You really have all of the support you need to succeed as you got through their program. Erik Kirsten, Will Sentance, Haley, Shanda, Master Schno and all of the other instructors are incredible people.
There is no guarantee of success of course, but if you put in the dedication, Codesmith can be an incredible stepping stone in a software developer's journey.
Response From: Will Sentance of Codesmith
They said it best, but I’ll add what I can
As hundreds of these reviews attest, Codesmith is an amazing, demanding, aggressively worthwhile program that turns excitement and ambition into engineering success. I’ll echo the highlights – a lasting community, self-directed projects, passionate instructors, consistent job-search support – but rather than focus on what makes the experience awesome in general, I want to touch on the stuff that I didn’t expect while addressing the concerns that I initially had. My intent here is to answer the questions that I was asking – and the ones I should have been asking – when I was considering Codesmith.
The Codesmith family – more than a bonus?
I sought out Codesmith because of the community – a network of friends and professionals really appealed to me, and I felt like I might mesh better with people who were drawn to this sort of environment. I was surprised to discover just how necessary this culture was, both during the program and after it ended. It didn’t just make the process more enjoyable – it consistently kept me around and learning new things hours after I would have left for the day. During the job search it was invaluable to have folks to meet up with for interview practice or to swap resources and encouragement.
Two heads better than one?
Pair programming is heavily emphasized for the first few weeks, and to be honest I was skeptical that the system would work for me. I felt like it would be intimidating and uncomfortable to problem-solve aloud in front of a stranger. What if all I did was slow my partner down, or visa versa? Turns out I was dead wrong – pair programming was a huge reason why I was able to join Google as a software engineer straight out of Codesmith. It not only builds your technical communication skills and makes you more introspective of your own thinking process, but also teaches you new ways to approach problems and diagram out solutions.
A program for all coding backgrounds
I’ll join the chorus here and say that Codesmith is an obvious choice for anyone with minimal programming experience but a willingness to put in the extra effort and a genuine interest in software development. But what about those – like me – who have technical degrees, or those who already have a few years of development experience? I was hesitant to commit to the program because I wasn’t sure that I’d get as much out of it. Again, I was dead wrong. As a comp sci major, I was able to build up knowledge of real-world technologies that complemented my theoretical foundation and market myself as a problem-solving generalist with relevant development experience. To a current software engineer, Codesmith is a place to transition into a more in-demand tech stack while building the communication skills of a senior-level developer.
For those who are wondering whether they’d be better off trying to pick up the technologies on their own – I can personally tell you that you’re being dumb. It’s worth the investment to learn them faster, better, and in context. No matter your background, I cannot recommend Codesmith highly enough. You’ll stagger across the finish line but wish there were more.
Response From: Will Sentance of Codesmith
Response From: Olivia of Codesmith
The second half of the 3 months were dedicated to projects. The projects helped cement the concepts learned in the first half of the course. The final project was to build a developer tool. In other coding academies, teams are given free reign on what they build. I’ve seen some horrible ideas being implemented. At Codesmith they vet your ideas, making sure that they’ll be good enough, challenging enough to impress hiring managers and Senior Developers. My team had most of our project ideas rejected. At the end, our project ended up being a huge success. We were trending on Github for a whole month. When it came time to look for jobs, the engineers at some of the companies that I applied for knew about my project and have used it. That really helped in having something to talk about during these interviews.
Today I work at a Fortune 100 company, making a salary that is in line with the typical Codesmith graduate. I’ve been here since January 2018. I was hired on as a Mid-level Front End Engineer. When I first got there my coworkers gave kudos on how fast I was able to learn the codebase and create value.
Recently I’ve joined a new team within the company and I learned that there are several coding academy grads in my area. I found out that they’re making about half the salary that I am making. Two of my teammates have masters degrees in Computer Science and I’m keeping pace with them. I’m being trained in the J2EE stack and even though I had no experience in Java my teammates are surprised at how fast I was able to pick it up. This is all because I’ve developed solid programming fundamentals and the skills to learn new languages and concepts fast at Codesmith.
Codesmith was the best decision that I’ve made in my life. It literally transformed my life and career. The last time I checked, my cohort mates are all happily employed. Big Thanks to Will Sentence the CEO and the staff for creating a coding school that is so effective. I’m sure they can expand to every city rake in huge profits from their current reputation but they’re not because Will and his staff obsess over the quality of the program, making sure every student hit their potential.
Response From: Will Sentance of Codesmith
Webpack monitor was an outstanding project - I highly encourage people to use it http://webpackmonitor.com/
Keep up the good work at USAA
As a recent graduate of one of our nations leading liberal arts colleges, I can honestly say that codesmith, and not my undergraduate education, was the most invigorating and fulfilling learning experience of my life. Four things (listed in no particular order) make Codesmith great:
Codesmith's CEO, Will Sentance, heavily emphasizes the importance of building a warm and supportive learning community. The entire staff reflects this attitude. I moved from Chicago to enroll in Codesmith, and was initially worried about having a small support network in LA. My fears dissipated day one at family dinner, a weekly group dinner where everyone in the Codesmith community (alumni included!) are welcome to dine together and shoutout other community members for their successes and kind actions.
The engineering and teaching staff often stay beyond work hours because they enjoy helping Codesmith residents. The engineering staff have a strong and unified pedagogical approach - they subtly guide residents towards asking the right questions, but avoid directly providing residents with a specific approach to a problem. While this teaching style can be frustrating at times, it taught me to ask the right questions and is ultimately responsible for the tremendous growth I experienced in 12 weeks.
The core staff, who work on hiring support (I'll focus on this later), organize events and meetups, addmissions, and a variety of other behind-the-scenes work, are always happy to take time out of their day to talk with Codesmith residents about how they are doing both academically and emotionally. After all, such an intense program can be draining at times, and the support of the staff is instrumental in making sure every resident completes the program ready to be hired as a mid-senior level engineer.
Codesmith is highly selective. As a result, I was surrounded by smart and dedicated engineers with a diverse set of backgrounds. Codesmith doesn't only look for technical prowess, though. They are careful only to admit compassionate and thoughtful communicators - people that will be strong team members. After all, the majority of work in Codesmith is done in pairs or small groups. This exposed me to a variety of approaches to problem solving. I learned faster as a result of my peers, and gained invaluable experience as part of an engineering team. My fellow residents would often organize informal lectures or study groups outside of class time to help bring everyone up to speed in subjects they excelled in.
Curriculum / Production project
The Codesmith core staff have weekly checkins with alumni to ensure they are making good progress in their job searches. All students go through multiple drafts of their resumes, which are reviewed by Will's scrupulous eye. Residents go through rounds of practice whiteboarding sessions and interviews with both staff and other reseidents. And in the last week of the program, each resident has the opportunity to kick off their job search by interviewing with multiple hiring partners. Additionally, Codesmith has a hiring support team member, Eric, who is dedicated to providing students with interview and application strategies and giving residents advice in negotiating better packages once they have received job offers.
I was accepted to both Codesmith and Hack Reactor (LA). Hack Reactor certainly appears to be a strong program. Yet Codesmith's emphasis on creating a community of engineers and learners, the incredible quality of open source projects produced by Codesmith residents, and the teaching style of the engineering staff made Codesmith the clear option for me.
A few months prior to joining Codesmith I had quit my job with the goal of learning coding on my own in order to switch careers and create a few projects I've had in my head but never been able to act on. (I come from a technical background, but on the Electrical side - so I wanted to get SW skills in order to be more full stack.)
About 2 months into my self-learning journey, I realized I could solve problems but always felt I was "hacking" the answer together instead of just being able to immediately solve them, which I felt slowed me own drastically.
I received all of the skills that I was looking for and can now immediately reason in my head when solving problems on my projects, as-opposed to having to stack overflow every question and 'hack' together answers.
In addition, the two things I think really set Codesmith apart are 1) the culture and 2) the projects.
1) A majority of the people that join Codesmith are already solid programmers or problem solvers with technical backgrounds, and they want to take their skills to the next level. This was what was really worth the price of admission, to me. Working on my own I would sometimes hit a wall of frustration and need a break; with the community you're working with at Codesmith, if you hit a wall there is surely someone around who is happy to sit down and troubleshoot it with you. And you're on your way forward in no time. (Not to mention the network of driven people you are now a part of)
2) I don't like how some schools force boring projects on you - I don't think that helps promote true learning because you're not passionately solving through your problems and can just go through the motions. Codesmith lets you choose your own projects (pretty much whatever you choose, as long as the concept is challenging enough and clearly described). This phase was where I really solidified my knowledge because I was working on projects I cared about and that allowed me to spend the extra time to really push through difficult problems, willingly.
TLDR: I'm very happy I made this decision as I now have the skills I was looking for, in only 3 months. Now I can solve challenging problems without help.
Note: It's not easy - be ready to put in the work.
I'm a recent graduate of Codesmith, became a Codesmith engineering fellow, and am now getting ready to start a full-stack position with a wonderful company. I can say without a doubt that Codesmith is a transformative experience. I have honestly never worked harder in my life and it absolutely paid off.
The program is rigorous and designed to not only teach you core concepts, but also how to learn, find an answer, and problem solve. As a result, I felt prepared to enter the job market having learned in-demand skills while also feeling confident in my ability to continue learning and adapting throughout my career.
The projects you work on and community support are what really drew me to Codesmith - and I was not disappointed. The projects you build are technically challenging and are often directly addressing an issue in the developer community. I learned so much during the project period - not only about web development but also how to approach problems, debug, and coordinate with a team of engineers.
I also became extremely close with my cohort. These students were successful prior to Codesmith while also being caring and supportive, who I genuinely enjoyed spending time with (for 14 hours/day). The staff is also approachable and truly invested in your success - going out of their way to help however they can. They offer advice without hand holding through topics - forcing you think about concepts more deeply and giving you a personal sense of accomplish it when you figure it out.
I wouldn't be where I am today without Codesmith. It was a truly incredible experience.
Our latest on Codesmith
In the last week at Codesmith, students take part in Hiring Day, where employers visit the campus looking to hire new software engineers. Students interview with employers and show off their final projects. We visited Codesmith’s New York City campus and spoke to one student about his experience at Codesmith, what he built after 12 weeks, and how his ambitions have changed after Codesmith! Find out if Codesmith was worth it for Reynolds Colon.Continue Reading →
So you’re thinking about applying to a coding bootcamp. What should you expect in the application and interview process? And how do you ensure you get accepted to your dream coding bootcamp? We invited representatives from 7 coding bootcamps to ask all the tough questions about getting into coding school. In this live panel discussion, hear tips and advice about coding challenges, prep programs and more from Flatiron School, New York Code + Design Academy, Fullstack Academy, the Grace Hopper Program, Hack Reactor, Galvanize, and Codesmith! Watch the video, listen to the podcast, read the summary or transcript.Continue Reading →
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 →
Is learning to code on your 2018 New Year’s Resolutions List? It should be! There will be 1 million more computing jobs than applicants who can fill them by 2020. And a coding bootcamp could be just what you need to make a fresh start in 2018 as a developer. We’ve compiled a list of 16 full-time, part-time, in-person and online coding bootcamps which have upcoming cohorts starting in January and February 2018. Most of these have approaching application deadlines, so submit yours quickly if you want to get a head start in 2018!Continue Reading →
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 →