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 News
- How Pair Programming with Codesmith CSX can Prepare you for Bootcamp
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- New Year, New Career? Learning to Code in 2018
Recent Codesmith Reviews: Rating 4.93
- Minimum Skill Level
- Beginner - Intermediate
Machine Learning Alumni Program
The Codesmith Machine Learning Alumni Program is an intensive part-time program for Codesmith Alumni focused on in-depth learning of the theory, algorithms, and libraries used by machine learning engineers in the field, with a focus on developing real-world machine learning portfolio projects. Topics include: Data visualization, Data introspection and manipulation techniques, Python data science libraries, Classification, Regression, and clustering machine learning algorithms, Artificial Neural Networks, and more. This program is currently only for Codesmith Alumni.
- Minimum Skill Level
- Completion of Codesmith Software Engineering Immersive
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- Precourse covering Python and Introduction to Machine Learning
Software Engineering Immersive Program
- Codesmith offers scholarships for talented people from underrepresented backgrounds. Codesmith also offers a small number of Dean's scholarships where Codesmith will contribute 25% of fees to candidates in need
- Minimum Skill Level
- Prior Computer science and programming skills necessary
- Prep Work
- 4 weeks
New York City
Software Engineering Immersive Program
- Codesmith offers scholarships for talented people from underrepresented backgrounds. Codesmith also offers a small number of Dean's scholarships where Codesmith will contribute 25% of fees to candidates in need
- Minimum Skill Level
- Prior Computer science and programming skills necessary
- Prep Work
- 4 weeks
CS Prep - Live Online
- Minimum Skill Level
- Suitable for beginners who are ready to level up to intermediate and advanced material.
CS Prep - Self Directed
- Minimum Skill Level
- Suitable for beginners who are ready to level up to intermediate and advanced material.
CSX - Codesmith Prep
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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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!
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.
- 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.
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.
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!
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 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!
TL;DR - There's no TL;DR version of my review. Those who have what it takes to get into Codesmith are hungry for information, and are not put off by reading to gain insight.
Before you begin with my review, you deserve to know that my review will be of a different perspective than most reviews you'll read, as upon graduation I did not follow through with my original plan of searching for a software engineering position at various companies that I originally had my eye on. I instead found that my fondness and infatuation with Codesmith's community had grown to a fully-blossomed love-affair that prompted me to apply to the fellowship. Being fortunate enough to be chosen not only as fellow but later on as Technical Lead, I am now still at Codesmith holding the latter position. I impart upon you the perspective of a former student and current staff member.
In every metric by which it can be judged, the engineering hub known as Codesmith performs with outstanding results. I hold this as a fact, after receiving feedback from various alumni--including my cohort-mates, who have embarked on career-paths that most of them did not think were possible only a few months ago. But metrics can be easily obtained from other sources, so I'll assume that the circumstances that led to your eyes absorbing my review involve a desire to gain a sense of the immeasurable. Thus, I will omit the statistics and contents of the curriculum, in favor of conveying the intangible aspects of my journey that began more than six months ago.
Throughout more Meetup events at the residency, I would eventually meet even more faces that would become part of my cohort, and thus part of a group of friends that I cannot see as anything less than life-long. After a second Hard Parts attendance and applying to the program (with encouragement from a then-junior during drinks after the Meetup), I gained acceptance to the September 2016 cohort. There was still more than a month before our start date, and I planned on taking advantage of the time to prepare myself for the upcoming immersive experience.
During this month prior to the first day, I invited four others who were part of my cohort to sleep over at my place to watch an 8-hour Kyle Simpson live broadcast that began at 7am the next day. I did not anticipate the readiness with which they accepted the offer. They were as dedicated to learn as anyone I had met my entire life, and I had already been through college with people who fell asleep with their heads on keyboards and books.
As atypical as this dedication to growth is among most people, it was strikingly commonplace among the characters I would meet once school began at Codesmith. In fact, not a single person lacked this trait. Throughout the many unit modules and projects of the curriculum, it had become clear that the interview process was marked with such selectiveness that no one was accepted unless they exhibited the grit and commitment that would often persist well beyond the daily schedule, and into the late hours of the night.
Past mid-December, when the applications for the fellowship were released, the staff announced that there were two positions open. There were twenty-five members of my cohort, and many of us applied to take on the position of the individuals who had chosen to dedicate themselves to helping students instead of immediately searching for six-figure salaries. Knowing how many well-qualified applicants there were, I was humbled to be one of the two chosen fellows.
In the ensuing three months, I came to grow much more than I had anticipated, like the previous three months. Being charged with many duties relating to the growth of the engineering hub and of the pupils, I came to gain a higher understanding of my thinking process through introspection. This enabled me to describe my problem-solving strategy to the student body much more effectively. I had not experienced such a literal and real incarnation of the phrase "Learn through teaching."
After becoming part of the staff, I now see how real the dedication to every student really is. I had caught of a glimpse of it when I applied to the program and subsequently heard (during the acceptance call) my own quotes that helped the staff know how I would fit into the community. I first thought it must have taken a lot of effort to keep up with the mental, emotional, and academic well-being of every student. But now as a mentor, I believe it would take a lot of effort not to watch over every student carefully, as they are all part of a community that I help shape and foster.
Throughout all of my years on this Earth, I have never seen such a marriage of dedication and community like that which has been exemplified in all of my previous six months, having been a student and a fellow at Codesmith. Having been graced with the opportunity to become Technical Lead, ending this review seems oddly inappropriate, as my time at Codesmith has not ended. But delaying the submission of this review would be just as inappropriate, as one of the many things that my experience with the Codesmith community has taught me is that there is no reason for delay.
So many life choices in the course of my forty-five years... some brilliant, others... not so brilliant.
Circumstances led to one not-so-brilliant move as I dropped out of school after the tenth grade. I then spent a couple of years living on and off the street (and the 'off' wasn't so very removed). From a little town in Alabama to Atlanta to New Orleans, I made my way on the kindness of strangers and by plying my questionable needle-and-thread tattooing expertise.
I remember listening to Pink Floyd a lot back then. There's a lovely song on 'Dark Side of the Moon' called Time. I'm sure you've heard it. There's a few lines from that song that haunted me as a young street urchin:
You are young and life is long / And there is time to kill today
And then one day you find / Ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run / You missed the starting gun
I certainly didn't want to miss the starting gun, but it felt like I'd just been dealt a bad hand in life. And then, a wise friend that I met during that time gave me some valuable advice. "Schno", he said, "there's two types of people in the world: those that are controlled by their environment and those that control their environment. It's your choice which of those you will be. All you have to do is make that choice and take action on it."
Such a simple thing to say. It worked. I decided to change my environment. This led to many adventures over many years that spanned the globe. I joined the Navy, then worked in movies, which brought me to LA. Then in 1996 I pivoted sharp to begin my career as a developer, first at NASDAQ, and then in the phone sex industry (of all things). An unfortunate lay-off in 2014 had me turning to acting, (and then quickly on to) VoIP, and finally... I came to CodeSmith.
I know that's what you've come here to read about. Before I leave my review, I just want to reiterate that profound and simple message to you, dear reader. If it feels like you've been dealt a bad hand and you're not sure what path to take to move forward: All you have to do is make that choice and take action on it.
I had always thought of coding as wizardry… you could take a thought, a concept, and then by applying an arcane language, you could manifest all manner of wondrous things that made people's lives better. Over the years I'd lost a bit of that perspective. Codesmith has re-ignited my intellectual curiosity and the passion to explore it.
The course is very challenging. They foster a very real standard for excellence and that resonates through each student. This isn't the kind of place to 'get by'. It's the kind of place that changes your life.
For a detailed accounting of my time there, please check out the weekly blog I kept while I was a student.
And if you find yourself in Los Angeles with a free Thursday night, do yourself a favor. It may just be the first step on a grand, new adventure.
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.
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.
In addition to the instruction the job placement was such a huge help. Within a month of finishing the program I had two job offers, one of which was through Codesmith's job fair. Although coders are high in demand right now, it always takes a lot of work to get a new job, and the job support from Codesmith (interview prep, resume iteration, job fair, weekly check-ins) made the process so much less difficult.
All that being said, if you are seriously considering attending Codesmith you need to be ready to bring it. I was no stranger to hard work and long hours before I attended but those were 12 of the most challenging weeks of my life. Getting through the program, and landing a job on the other side, takes a lof of grit, determination, and most importanly you have to love to code. Attending Codesmith, and being employed as a software engineer, is really hard work. The high saleries won't be enough to get you through the day. You must also have a passion for it.
If you do have that passion Codesmith will provide everything else you need.
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.
A bit of background about me. I graduated from UCLA with an Applied Mathematics B.S degree in December 2015, had a total of 2 C++ classes and that was the extent of my software engineering experience . I found Codesmith through a friend and visited JS The Hard Parts on a few Thursdays. I immediately felt the energy that people there had, I am not sure if this is just the software engineering culture but Codesmith just had that vibe that everyone wanted to be there. I now have my first job out of college as a software engineer. I graduated from Codesmith (August 2016) and I got hired two weeks after hiring day by one of the hiring day partners.
Before I go on about my experience at Codesmith I would like to add an exception. That is, this program is only for certain people and those people are the ones who are 110% dedicated to learning, growing, and giving it their all. This is not some ‘chill’ bootcamp where you can just hangout and mess around and then expect to get a job, if you put in the effort the results will come. Now saying that, I put my life on hold for 4 months (two weeks before and after the program) and dedicated more than 80 hours some weeks to my learning and my projects. You don’t need to do that but you do need to be motivated and completely bought in to what they are teaching you because if you don’t, you won’t get all that they have to offer.
Make sure to eat a decent breakfast before you get there because once you are there the hack hours starts after the 5 minute stand up at 9am. You don’t want to skip out on any of the hack hours. I was one of few that would bring their own lunch and dinner. I used my Sundays to get laundry done, make lunch and dinner for the week, and then relax a little bit. I would make sure to have some type of caffeine right before the lectures as most of the times your lectures could fall right after lunch, aka food coma. Besides that, I had a good flow and think everyone should be able to manage their time with only the one day off, like I said before you just have to be completely focused.
As a recent UCLA grad I learned from my math professors who were the genius people wanted for their research and were not the best teachers. This is not how codesmith is. The lead instructor was a very good teacher and he is also brilliant. Make sure to utilize him and any other people there, they literally are there for you so make sure to annoy them with as many questions as possible.
Also my experience from my math classes was that everything was based on a ranking and if you did better than your classmates you received a higher grade. The one thing that was so different and amazing was that there was still the competitive nature at codesmith, you always wanted to show the best projects or get as far as you could on all of the modules. But never was there a time where anyone wished a classmate wouldn’t do as well as them, but everyone was held accountable and we all pushed each other. This was by far one the the best aspects of Codesmith.
If you don’t know already, Codesmith hosts JS The Hard Parts on Thursdays and they are also becoming one of the biggest meet ups in LA for React and Node. There is great opportunity to meet a whole slew of different people with different experiences and endless amounts of networking. Definitely take advantage of this but do not make this your priority while in the program because you should be focusing on learning and retaining everything.
I can honestly say I would not have been able to get any decent job without Codesmith’s help with my job prep. The mock interviews and resume building were the best help I have ever received in terms of job prep. The job search process is just that, a process, and they did an incredible job prepping me for that process. As long as you’re a hard working, compassionate, empathic, and personable person, you won’t have a hard time getting a job even if your experience is low, i.e. I have never had a real job before, and now I am a software engineer making 6 figures. Incredible to be able to say that and I owe it all to Codesmith.
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)
Attended CodeSmith - August 2016 Cohort 9
Background - Chemical Engineering
Currently - Software Engineer (First Job landed after CodeSmith was Nike)
*Note* - One thing that Codesmith does well, is the support. I still get my resume reviewed from time to time and Codesmith does a great job in being responsive to their student needs in regards to Job Assistance.
I graduated in January from Codesmith. It was hard, and frustrating at times but the community that Codesmith has built makes the experience worth it. I accepted a position in a different state near family within 2 months of graduating. Their curriculum is fantastic, job assitance aka Eric and Hira was there every step when I had questions or needed help. Dan is an absolutely fantastic instructor, tons of experience and a pleasure to talk to all the time and run ideas by. Overall I met tons of great people that still talk in slack every day. Most of us i'd say are hired already or are getting interviews. I feel confident I can join an engineering team and make an impact.
Codesmith was everything I had expected it to be and more. I was very worried at first because there weren't as many reviews for Codesmith as there were for other schools, but I really liked the modern frameworks that Codesmith was teaching. I decided to check out one of their weekly Meetups just to get a feel about what it's like and immediately, I knew that this school was for me. The school is super super fast paced and overwhelming, but I can say without a doubt that I became a better engineer because of it. The community was great and very supportive. The people that I've met at Codesmith will continue to be life long friends even after the program. I couldn't have asked for a better school to accelerate my growth. :)
Engineering best practices are taught through building and diligent problem solving, not by the typical question and answer approach. For some people, this may be perceived as a downside, but for ambitious programmers, it's an amazing environment that comes very close to simulating a real work environment.
They have top-notch hiring support and place a ton of focus on the job search over the last half of the program, and also encourage alumni to use their facilities (including a dedicated alumni room) after graduating. I feel like I could go on and on about all the positives from my time at Codesmith, but instead, I'll conclude by saying that if you love coding and are serious about advancing your career (this means willing to put in the work and perservering through struggle), then you will not regret coming to Codesmith.
Codesmith is about people. People and code.
Before Joining Codesmith
In mid-2016, I found myself in the middle of coding hell. I was a junior-level dev working or projects that went live before they should have, in an environment that lacked engineering best practices, without the skills I needed to keep up or even understand fully what was going on. In short, I needed a change.
That change came about serendipitously, when I learned about Codesmith, a coding immersive program, from a an acquaintance at a mutual friend’s party. He was starting Codesmith just that next week and everything he said about it sounded exactly like what I was thirsting for. Full stack, Mongo, Postgres, Angular, ReactJs, Node, Fundamentals, Fundamentals, Fundamentals. Not only that, but the school was in Playa Vista, literally 15 minutes from where I worked in Culver City.
The double doors of the elevator opened up and I had an immediate “yes” feeling when I stepped onto the top floor. I signed in after a warm welcome and joined my fellow meetupers in the main lecture room.
The rest of the night was a series of “yeses.” Will Sentence, the CEO — “yes.” The community of developers — “yes.” The electricity of those in the program, and the knowledge they had — “yes.” But most importantly, I left that night with fundamentals — insights into programming — that I never had before. “Callbacks”, “Higher-order functions,” the “Closure (the closed over variable environment),” variable environment, the call-stack, hoisting, execution context, thread of execution, …, it goes on.
As I left, exhausted, I reflected on my wobbly coding ability and thought, “How can I con my way into Codesmith?” It felt like a matter of survival. I NEEDED this.
I didn’t make it into Codesmith after my first interview. I made it after the second one, after postponing it an additional week for some additional intense studying on the feedback I received from the first.
After waiting nervously by the phone one Thursday afternoon, my phone rang. It was Will Sentence. I was in.
The Codesmith Experience
If you want to truly learn a foreign language what do you do? You immerse yourself in it. You go to a country that speaks the language and you stay there until you know it — until it becomes so much apart of you that you think in it.
Codesmith is a software immersive program that turns junior devs into mid-level devs and mid-level devs into senior. It demands a level of intensity that only those passionate about problem solving in code are able to sustain. The average week was Monday through Friday, 9 am sharp to 10pm, and Saturday, 9am to 5pm.
Codesmith is the most selective coding program in the country. This means that your peers are not only scary smart, but also some of the best community-focused, supportive people you’ll meet in your life. This is a necessary part of the program. Just as if you are to learn a foreign language, you have to be able to “talk” code, internalize it. I only understood some of the nuances of coding because of the in-depth conversations I had with my peers. Everyone had an insight and a different way of explaining every concept. To learn to code you have to “boil the ocean,” but if a partner already boiled a concept, you’ll just need to boil a pond. These conversations are invaluable.
Codesmith hires seasoned battle-tested engineers as instructors. Our instructor was Dan Carr, a brilliant seasoned engineer with years of experience and relationships with some of the most prestigious companies on the planet. Not only did he have a vast coding instinct, but a “gut” ability to communicate his understanding in every lecture. On top of his innate teaching ability, he is truly one of the coolest, approachable dudes you will ever meet. He puts his students first and is always open to dialogue, even (maybe even especially) post-graduation.
In our feedback to Codesmith, our was response about Dan was always, “give him a raise.” He is truly one of the highlights of my experience at Codesmith.
Each lecture, as can be expected, is followed by a project to apply the concepts learned in a concrete way. This is where the “sweat and blood” goes. These projects are NOT easy.
It’s been said about Codesmith that not only does it teaches you to code, it teaches you to learn. It is here that concepts move beyond ideas and become emotions. If you and your partner spend 45 minutes of frustration on a problem and finally succeed, you will both remember the story of that problem. It will no longer be a transient concept, like one of those you memorized to pass a test, but an ingrained part of yourself that you “feel” in your gut. Each lecture is followed by a challenge that will make you an independent problem solver. This “sweat equity” turns knowledge into understanding.
The Final Project
The course ends with a final project. You are broken off into groups and together you come up with ideas to present to the staff and your peers. The criteria for an acceptable final project can be summed up as, “Is it impossible?” If the answer is yes, then you’ll be allowed to proceed. There is no such thing as a CRUD (a simple web app) app being allowed as a final project. To be an engineer is to approach problems that do not currently have a solution. These projects are of senior engineer level, and are tools that provide solutions to problems that engineers face out in the field.
My team’s project, for example, was deploying a library for developers to easily create a database on the distributed blockchain technology, Ethereum.
It was here that our knowledge was solidified and we became surgeons with code as our scalpel.
I entered Codesmith as a junior-level dev, having minor on-the-job experience in coding, and after three months (~1,000 hours later) was able to secure a mid-level (100K+) position shortly (about 3 weeks) after graduation.
Part of the job search was networking via meetups and speaking to graduates from other coding programs. I was politely silent as I listened to them vent about their “horrible, competitive, non-supportive peers” and how “we’re junior devs, there’s nothing we can do.”
Codesmith was genuinely a life changer for me. It helped me make one of the toughest transitions in my life. I went into Codesmith as a junior dev and came out a mid-level dev, as promised. I know for a fact, instinctually, that Codesmith was the best choice I could have made in a school. The other schools’ curriculums are either too soft or the culture is too cold.
Codesmith is about pain. To succeed, you have to be sincere about your intention to make a certain but drastic change in your life.
A few months after graduation, I find myself reflecting, “How do I measure up to my co-workers who may have a more traditional path to engineering? Am I on par with these other mid-level engineers that I work with.” The answer is a resounding “yes.” I am able to contribute to the team at the same or, often, better level than they can. Codesmith instilled an intuition in me that other developers may not have.
There are a lot of factors in success. If I could boil them down, I would name attitude, focus, and education. Codesmith provides the education element. The rest is up to you.
Nothing in life is guaranteed.
Codesmith is no different and they can't guarantee you a job, but they give you the best opportunity in trying to get one. They can only show you the door and show you opportunites, but it is up to you to take those opportunites, if you don't, then you miss your chance. If you think Codesmith is a program that will hold your hand the whole way, then stop now and dont apply to Codesmith. This program is only for the ones who really want to be great software engineers and make a difference in the community and to push themselves and others to be the best they can be. I will not sugar coat it, this program is tough and very intense, but what you get out of it are skills and techniques that are priceless. Having the ability to code, gives you the freedom to now take ideas and bring them to life with just your mind and a laptop (not many other skills you learn today can have that sort of benefit).
Codesmith isnt just teaching their students how to code for three months and get a job. They are trying to teach you a lifestyle of how to learn and keep learning. Since languages will always be changing and new technology will be discovered, software engineers have to learn to adapt and Codesmith helps you do just that. If you are applying to Codesmith here are some expectations that you need to keep in mind.
The Codesmith program is 3 months and budget in another 1- 3 months for looking for a job. Just because you finish the program DOES NOT mean you are finished. You have really only just begun! The job search starts once the program is done and it ends up being even more time intensive than the course because of all the jobs that Codesmith encourages you to apply to weekly. This work is all for your benefit though because the main reason most people will be doing the program is to get a software engineering job at the end. So, DO NOT take a vacation after the program, wait until you have SIGNED your offer! Like I said earlier, Codesmith can't guarantee you a job, you have to put in the work like everyone else to get a job. However, you havea benefit over the competition who didn't do Codesmith, the training and coaching for coding interviews and whiteboarding that Codsemith offers on top of many other things you will have learned once you have finished the program! I felt so prepared and confident going into interviews even though I had never had a software engineering job or even job experience in software until I started the program. On top of all the hours of practice interviews and whiteboarding sessions, Codesmith also has a Hiring Day event where 20-30 companies come and watch you showcase your final projects and go through lightning interviews with you. Some students even get onsite interviews from many of these companies! Just because you do get this event DOES NOT mean you stop applying for jobs outside of the hiring partners that come to the event. This is where many people might feel discouraged if they don't get an interview with one of the hiring partners but you CAN NOT give up! You have to keep pushing through and all of your classmates are supporting you and using their networks to help everyone get jobs. Everyone in my cohort was supportive and reached out to anyone they knew who were hiring software engineers. Codesmith creates THIS community and thats what sets it apart from many of the other bootcamps.
Codesmith is a program like nothing else I have ever experienced. Being surrounded by other students who wanted to learn how to code just as badly as I did, really pushed all of us to strive for success. Codesmith gives you the best learning environment and their curriculum is only getting better due to their iterative process from cohort to cohort. If you are willing to put everything you have into this program, then Codesmith is the right place for you and your life will forever be changed.
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.
- Moved from NY to LA to attend Codesmith
- Worked 5 years prior at home automation tech company as a software engineer
- Graduated as part of May '16 Cohort 7 class
- Accepted six figure salary job offer as frontend developer within 2 weeks of graduating Codesmith
Excellent Community & Culture
I think the two things that made my experience so great with Codesmith was the community and culture thriving there. From the very beginning, we were taught that our experience for the next 3 months wasn't going to be dictated simply by what we each of us could individually accomplish and learn. No, our experience was going to be heavily inspired by what we could accomplish and build together as a cohort. Codesmith did an outstanding job making sure that we were always thinking about how to "level up" each other via many different approaches such as pair programming to work on solving problems with a partner or simply creating a space where people could freely exchange ideas and dialogue with one another without fear of judgement.
Great Learning Environment
The academic knowledge that Codesmith teaches to get you up to speed with current technologies and more importantly their emphasis on honing your ability to think like an engineer, I think, are also what makes Codesmith a great program to quickly develop yourself into a great software engineer. The pace of learning is fast, but they also ensure that you succeed in the program. You'll become familiarized and well-equipped with the technologies and skills necessary to succeed as a developer today.
Exceptional Job Search & Hiring Support
Hiring Day was an exciting experience and a great way to conclude the program. There were many top tech companies present there including the company which I eventually joined. Codesmith was extremely supportive in this process by helping us prepare well in advance. And to top that off, Codesmith also provided post graduation support, doing regular weekly checkups of how we are doing in our job search process and providing helpful advice to guide us towards the job we're looking for.
Codesmith certainly exceeded my expectations of how much I could get out of such a short condensed program. I'm really happy to have been a part of it and to have had the fortune of meeting some really bright, like-minded, compassionate people, both the staff and cohortmates alike. If I had to do it all over again, I'd jump on it in a heartbeat.
Back in January 2015 I decided to move from NYC to LA. I was a consultant for the world's largest technology consulting firm and really wasn't feeling it. After struggling to learn Web Dev on my own for the longest time, I decided to quit my six-figure job, move across the country and enroll in Codesmith. I was part of Cohort 3 running from Oct '15 to Jan '16.
Our latest on Codesmith
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 require a certain level of coding knowledge or background in order to be accepted into their programs- whether they’re looking for past experience on your resume or require that you pass a coding challenge. For a beginner, it can be tough to get the experience that a selective bootcamp looks for in the application process. There are many ways to learn basic coding (including teaching yourself) but if you want to make sure you’re covering the right material and quickly, then a bootcamp prep program may be for you.Continue Reading →
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 →