Coding Dojo is a unique coding bootcamp that teaches three full technology stacks in a single 14-week program. Coding Dojo has campuses in Berkeley, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Orange County, Seattle, Silicon Valley and Washington DC. Since 2012, Coding Dojo has helped individuals from a variety of backgrounds and skill levels transform into professional developers who go on to be hired by start-ups and world-class companies like Amazon, Apple, Expedia, Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, DocuSign and Skytap. To land these jobs, Coding Dojo promises one-on-one sessions with a career advisor, open forums with industry leaders, and comprehensive job-hunting workshops.
With industry-leading curriculum across the board, students can choose to learn three out of six of the industry’s most in-demand web and mobile development languages: Ruby on Rails, LAMP, MEAN, Python, .NET Core and Swift/iOS. An online option is also available for students who don’t have access to campuses. In addition to an extensive curriculum, students receive 15 hours/day of mentored guidance, quick feedback in the evening from remote Teacher Assistants and tailored course content that accommodates both beginners and experienced developers. Students experience building advanced web applications, solving job-relevant problems and learning to think like true software engineers. Coding Dojo also provides up to $2,000 in various scholarship opportunities for qualified students.
Recent Coding Dojo News
- January 2018 Coding Bootcamp News + Podcast
- October 2017 Coding Bootcamp News + Podcast
- August 2017 Coding Bootcamp News + Podcast
Recent Coding Dojo Reviews: Rating 4.13
Expect to dive right in! You'll spend at least 50-70 hours a week coding with dedicated peers and expert mentors at your side to guide you. With every full stack that is tackled in our curriculum – LAMP, Python, MEAN, Swift/iOS, Ruby on Rails and .NET Core – the fundamental concepts you learn and continue to master will be applied to several projects of your choosing. Be prepared for the most extensive curriculum in the industry, where in 14 weeks you will learn 3 full stacks of web development.
The online curriculum is hands-on, in-depth and perfectly designed to accommodate our remote students. Within 20 weeks, you will learn 2 full stacks of web software development: the Python Stack and your choice of either the MEAN stack or the .NET Core stack – depending on your personal preference.
- Payment Plan
- $1,000 deposit followed by five monthly payments of $1,000
- Up to $500 for Women, Career Changers, Veterans, Recent College Grads, etc.
- Minimum Skill Level
- Prep Work
- Yes, 100 hours of coding before class
Expect to dive right in! You'll spend at least 50-70 hours a week coding with dedicated peers and expert mentors at your side to guide you. With every full stack that is tackled in our curriculum – LAMP, Python, MEAN, Swift/iOS, Ruby on Rails and .NET Core – the fundamental concepts you learn and continue to master will be applied to several projects of your choosing. Be prepared for the most extensive curriculum in the industry, where in 14 weeks you will learn 3 full stacks of web development.
Expect to dive right in! You'll spend at least 50-70 hours a week coding with dedicated peers and expert mentors at your side to guide you. With every full stack that is tackled in our curriculum – LAMP, Python, MEAN, Swift/iOS, Ruby on Rails and .NET Core – the fundamental concepts you learn and continue to master will be applied to several projects of your choosing. Be prepared for the most extensive curriculum in the industry, where in 14 weeks you will learn 3 full stacks of web development.
Expect to dive right in! You'll spend at least 50-70 hours a week coding with dedicated peers and expert mentors at your side to guide you. With every full stack that is tackled in our curriculum – Python, MEAN, and Java – the fundamental concepts you learn and continue to master will be applied to several projects of your choosing. Be prepared for the most extensive curriculum in the industry, where in 14 weeks you will learn 3 full stacks of web development.
Coding Dojo Reviews
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I had a college degree and 2 years of work experience in technical sales before going to Coding Dojo to make a career change.
I was extremely impressed with Coding Dojo. They had a good online learning suite as well as good instructors. I was also very impressed with my classmates, as they were all dedicated and wanted to work hard and learn.
Coding Dojo is not easy. It will require long days and a lot of effort to learn everything in so short a time. They also intentionally leave some things out of the instruction to force you to learn how to learn on your own (like you will in the real world).
You'll get out of it what you put in. There is a career advisor that helps you with your resume, interviewing, etc, but a job isn't going to just land in your lap. There were some companies that came to codign dojo specifically looking for people to hire, but not so many that everyone gets hired by them. I didn't have too hard a time finding interviews since a lot of recruiters reached out to me on linkedin, but I did have to do a lot of work on my own to prepare for interviews and get my resume and linkedin profiles to look good. They are there to help you, but you need to be proactive about it. Overall they did a good job and I did end up with a job that I'm really happy with. I would definitely recommend coding dojo.
Coding Dojo provides you with the tools to go from 0 to qualified Full Stack Developer; PERIOD. I am not going to bore you with the details as many here have gone into details about their own experience. Yes, I invested 60+ hours per week. Yes, the material was highly challenging. Click here if you want that story. Two important points to highlight that blew me away:
- At the conclusion of the program, I was able to attend the career readiness week at the DC location, which was within a reasonable drive for me. This comprehensive program prepared me for the rigors of the actual job hunt. It made a huge difference in confidently approaching the job marketplace.
- When I logged into the platform a few months after completing the program a decent amount of material was completely different. I cannot emphasize how important this is as they are updating the content to ensure bootcampers are learning skills and tools that are being used professionally. Compare that to some CS programs at colleges that haven’t changed their curriculum in more than 5 years and you see why that is a big deal. Many employers are seeing the value and versatility of hiring people that attended a solid coding bootcamp such as Coding Dojo.
Please keep in mind that you will not know everything when you complete the bootcamp AND THAT IS OKAY. Coding Dojo gets you to the front door of the job marketplace and prepares you to be an effective Junior Full Stack Developer. Employers are looking for (and hiring) Coding Dojo graduates. I had my first offer within 3 weeks of completing the bootcamp. My experience is not abnormal for those that put in the work. You 100% get out of it what you put into it. I would recommend investing time learning some programming basics before coming to Coding Dojo. No need to spend thousands of dollars to find out that you hate it. If you truly want to get a solid foundation and start a new career as a full stack developer then invest in yourself and attend Coding Dojo.
Joining Coding Dojo was one of the best decisions of my life. I can't say enough great things about it.
I walked into the onsite boot camp with no more than vague recollections of an "Introduction to Computer Science" course I took in high school over 20 years ago, and I have now been working as a full-stack developer for 6 months...and I LOVE it!
Shameless promotion of my alma mater, aside, here's the stuff you're probably looking for if you're reading these reviews:
Q: Is a boot camp right for you?
A: That really depends on you. I found it extremely helpful to be a semi-structured learning environment that kept me focused on the task at hand. Could I have learned the basics of three stacks on my own? Probably, but it would have taken me a lot longer than 14 weeks.
Q: Here's a question that I get often: Can I get anything out of it if I attend 40 hours a week?
A: My short answer is: probably not. I took it to the extreme and easily spent at least 80+ hours a week there (sometimes 100+) and I loved every minute of it. Remember, (for most of you) you're trying to pick up skills that will launch you into a career as a software developer...in 14 weeks. That's not a lot of time, folks. 3.5 months is over before you know it and, trust me, the more you put into it during your time at the Dojo, the gladder you will be when it comes time to start looking for your first position in your new career.
Q: Which segues nicely into the next question: Does Coding Dojo help you get a job after you graduate?
A: Coding Dojo does have advisors dedicated to helping you launch your new career as a developer. They help you build your resume and online presence, counsel and prepare you mentally for the job search process (Imposter Syndrome can be a big one) and put you in touch with prospective employers. They do so much more than that, and if you're really interested, I recommend getting in touch with your local branch and scheduling a tour. In the end, though, it all comes down to how much work you put into it during the program and how much you work you put into it during the job search. (Seeing a trend yet?)
Q: Okay, I'm sold. I want to join a boot camp, but why should I choose Coding Dojo over the other ones?
A: I can't speak to any of the other boot camps from personal experience, but I visited another boot camp in the area and spoken to some of their graduates and I am rather confident I made the right choice. If you're looking for a practical, hands-on way to learn how to program, I found Coding Dojo to be very effective. It's not a substitute for a Computer Science degree, but in 14 short weeks (and trust me, it's over before you know it), it can be a pathway to get your foot in the door of one of the most exciting and lucrative industries for the foreseeable future. The instructors are knowledgeable, friendly and helpful. The platform is designed to give you lots of hands-on experience, gradually introducing new concepts as you build on your foundations. The course is designed in such a way for you to become a self-reliant developer, able to solve problems on your own, but the instructors are there to provide assistance if you truly get stuck. Finally, I hadn't realized it at the time, but the algorithms that Coding Dojo builds into their morning routine can be a game changer both during and after the course. Not a lot of boot camps focus on them as much which can be a hindrance during the interview process.
Bottomline: If you're willing to put the work into it, Coding Dojo's onsite boot camp is an amazing program that will provide you with the tools you need to create an opportunity for yourself to work in software development. But learning how to program isn't easy and you have to really want it. Or better still, if you're really lucky, love it.
I came into coding dojo with no programming experience. I am a current university student who just wanted to learn how to code in python, and I didn't even know if I would like coding. However, Coding Dojo made me fall in love completely with programming and the skills I learned have opened me up to opportunities that most university students are unable to participate in.
The instructors are phenomenal and the experience is really yours to create. While no one is forcing you to come into the dojo, watching my cohort push through tough assignments and working together really motivated me to perform at my best. The onsite bootcamp is fantastic for getting help and being taught from experienced coders and for using your cohort as a support group.
I came out of coding dojo confident in my coding skills and more marketable when looking for summer internships in a wide variety of industries -- not just tech!
I highly recommend coding dojo to anyone who wants to learn how to code and is hungry for knowledge. The environment and the people make it the incredible program that it is.
Everyone says it and that's because it is so true; you get out of Coding Dojo what you put into it. I began the program with little coding background but decided I wanted to make a major change. I'm use to school coming fairly easily to me but that was not the case at the Dojo. Long hours and hard work are required. Daily algorithms and challenges check for understanding and the pace is very fast. There were several times when I really considered throwing in the towel but fortunately my cohort, instructors, and career advisor were incredibly supportive and convinced me to continue. I learned a ton during my time at the Dojo and got support when I needed it. I received a job offer prior to graduating so I did not have the chance to go through Career Week but have heard it was fantastic from my classmates. The platform did have some areas that needed attention but this is something that was being worked on. If you are serious about wanting to learn computer programming and willing to put in the time, I would definitely recommend Coding Dojo.
Out of all the bootcamps in the area, I decided to go with Coding Dojo and I definitely made the right desicion. Unlike most, the curriculum trained you on 3 stacks and (if you put in the due dilligence) you come out with a portfolio in hand. The project-oriented coursework helped accelerate my learning and all the instructors were both helpful and know the materials by heart.
If you are looking for a bootcamp with a great value, network, and personnels - Coding Dojo is it.
My stacks(Frameworks): Python(Django/Flask) / MEAN (Angular 2+) / Java (Spring Boot)
To me, the most important thing to know about Coding Dojo, and perhaps any bootcamp or training program out there, is that you're only going to get out as much as you put in. Coding Dojo places a large emphasis on not just training people who can code, but people who can learn to code in any language they desire. They like to say that they don't train just programmers, they train self sufficient programmers.
A big tennant of the program is the idea of "Strength through struggle" - meaning that often times, if you're stuck on something, they want you to spend 20 minutes trying to find a solution online, then 20 mintues working with your fellow students before going to your instructor. That doesn't mean they won't help, I've seen the instructors sit down for half an hour or more to help solve especially difficult or uncommon problems. They care, and they will help you whenever you need it, but they are also trying to prepare you for the day that you're on your own, a deadline looming, and for some reason your AWS instance keeps coming up 404 when you try to deploy the site you've been developing for the last month.
They also place a large emphasis on learning the foundations of programming. This is why they take you through three full tech stacks over the course of three months. Not because you can actually become an expert in three stacks in three months, but becauseby learning three stacks from top to bottom in three months, you walk away with an understanding of programming concepts that range from simple conditionals and iteratives, to Object Oriented Programming and Database Management (SQL and NOSQL).
Additionally, they run you through a 14 week Algorithm program to teach the basics of Computer Science and data structures. This also served as a great time to work with your cohort-mates and build relationships that will last beyond the dojo, when you're all graduated and you find support in the people you went through the program with.
At the end of my program, I participated in the month long residency designed to help make the transition from student to job-hunting developer. It's been great for helping me re-tool my resume, get a sense of what employers look for in cover letters, and how to best take advantage of my personal network, and how to effectively utilize online sites like Linkedin and AngelList. The only drawback was that the career counselor who was there for most of my time, left after the first week of residency to begin her new job. Obviously not ideal, but the majority of my residency was spent finalizing projects and getting them into my portfolio, so aside from the week dedicated to job hunting, I don't know how much of a difference it makes that our career counselor left before it was over.
I want to re-iterate what I said at the beginning, that you will get out of this what you put in. I put in something like 70 hours a week combined between time at the dojo and time coding at home. Most of my weekends were spent coding. I walked away with confidence in my ability to learn any programming language or related skill that will be asked of me in the future, a solid sense of Computer Science fundamentals, and a belief that I can find a successful career in this field.
I decided to attend Coding Dojo for two reason: the people and the variety of technologies I would learn. A coding bootcamp is a huge time commitment and I wanted to learn in an environment where I enjoyed the people around me. I attended open houses and a Saturday workshop to get a feel for the environment, the people and the teaching style. There are a lot of good boot camps available and I believe that a large part of success is not finding the best, but finding the best personal fit for you.
Trying to learn three stacks in 14 weeks is a daunting task, and I knew that I would not have the same depth of knowledge as someone who may have spent that same amount of time focused on one technology. However, I saw several advantages to this approach. By learning several technologies I was also learning how to learn and use other new technologies in the future. It also gave me a chance to work under several frameworks with different advantages and disadvantages in order to better understand how and where to apply the technologies I was learning. With these skills I knew that I could always continue to grow my knowledge base as time went on and continue to improve myself.
The Coding Dojo was a place that transformed my career and I would certainly recommend it to anyone interested in learning how to code. That said, it is a lot of hard work, and requires a lot of preparation to be truly successful. Remember that this isn’t a traditional school and it doesn’t function like one. The onus is on the student to drive motivation and success. Be proactive in your learning, be curious and ask questions, don’t be afraid to fail.
If you are looking for a place with core resources to learn the foundation of web dev languages and also grow as a self-sufficient programmer then Coding Dojo is a right fit. I personally don't believe boot camps are for everyone because they are very intensive. But I also believe anyone with no prior experience that is patient enough to struggle through and self-motivated to put in the work will do excellently well.
I came into Coding Dojo with no prior CS/programming experience. I recently graduated with no just above 95% score on all my exams taken for 3 different courses but most importantly the confidence in building things on my own. I also had a lovely time at Coding Dojo because I didn't just connect with my classmates but also with the instructors and previous graduates. It's like a family there.
Counterintuitively, what you might find odd is that the instructors don't lecture as much, we were made to go through the notes on our own in most cases but obviously, ask for help if we got stuck. This I believe was a major key to my success. Struggling through the material and learning to figure things out on my own quickly shaped me into developer I'm today. For me, this was the most rewarding experience I got from the Dojo.
Again, boot camps aren't for anyone but anyone willing to put in the work and that understands the art of patience will be a perfect fit for Coding Dojo. I came all the way from Nigeria and everyone made me feel most welcome.
I had a fantastic experience at Coding Dojo. It is definitely a full-on immersive course and the ~70 hour weekly expectation is very real. It is an expectation and not a firm requirement as the instructors/staff will not chase you if you choose not to put in the time. You'll get what you put into this, so I would highly recommend giving it your all. There were certain times where I felt very comfortable with the material (more toward the beginning) and didn't feel the need to put in 70 hours and other times where I felt I was struggling or falling behind and put in more than 70.
Your typical day will begin with an hour of algorithm white-board practice which is a key skill not only for programming but for upcoming technical interviews when you'll be searching for a job. I would recommend being sure to attend these and pay full attention. I do think that the brevity of these sessions and the group nature did leave a few people behind in understanding that may have relied on their stronger group members, but this is a great example of where those individuals could put in more time to catch up. You'll then receive a lecture on a given topic before essentially moving into an open lab period where you will proceed on the Dojo's online platform. Your cohort-mates and instructors will be available to help you if you're stuck, and I highly recommend taking advantage of this. Many times working on difficult assignments in a group was highly beneficial to me.
Generally the platform is excellent, clearly explains the given concepts and moves at a quick pace. I will say that some of the platforms were better done than others, especially towards the beginning. I took MEAN as a third stack and I believe it had just been revised and contained some typos and grammatical errors. While not at all game-breaking, it was frustrating at times as coding requires a very precise attention to detail. Those are also simply typographical errors that did not really affect the quality of the actual material. Overall it was fantastic and perhaps my favorite element of the course as it let me proceed in the material at my own pace.
The instructors are also excellent, coming from a wide variety of backgrounds. They are generally very supportive and helpful and made themselves available throughout the day.
Just a few minor nitpicks - the actual building the Dojo is located in isn't the best - it's facilities are a bit outdated and it had some internet connectivity issues while I was attending there. I do believe the Dojo is planning to move at some point and this certainly should not deter you from attending as the camp itself far outweighs any negatives. Just pointing it out as it was a bit annoying on some rare occasions.
I would overall highly recommend Coding Dojo. I reviewed quite a few coding boot camps before deciding on Coding Dojo and maintain that I made the correct choice. Good luck!
I graduated with a major in Health Services Administration in 2016 and worked as an IT technician through out my college career. I wanted to change my major to computer science and by the time when i developed my interest to learn coding I was already a senior so I didn't had the confidence to change my major and re-do my undergrad over-again. Shortly after my graduation I worked for a global company as a service desk analyst. Here I got to work along with the Business Analysts and programmers. One fine day at work, few of the new delopelopers stopped by and I was responsible to show them the applications we use at the service desk. So i started talking to them and asked them about their programming experience. Those progarmmers lerarned to code from some coding bootcamps with no previous coding experience. This huge inspired me to look for the coding bootcamps. I started comparing multuple coding bootcamps and Coding Dojo stoodout for me. I applied for the program did the general interview. Once i was confirmed that I got into the program without even thinking for a second I gave two weeks notice to my manager and moved from Minneapolis to Seattle. Learning to code in only 14 weeks was the kind of opportunity i couldn't pass on.
I have learned so much from coding dojo and from my cohort. Its been a month since I graduated from here and still looking for job. I have been able to create multiple projects on my own and I am glad I choose Coding Dojo over other bootcamps.
For some background, got my bachelors in Political Science about a decade ago, and coding was something I always wanted to do, but could never find the time in my previous job. After looking around and coding by myself for awhile, I eventually found coding boot camps in Chicago that might help me get over the coding hump. Went to the open house at the Coding Dojo, and I knew it was the place for me. I applied shortly thereafter, quit my job, and devoted the next 14 weeks to coding. The faculty was incredible, the material was great, and I managed to learn 3 full stacks in a short period of time. Just a month after graduation, I was offered a dev ops role in a great young company, and I couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out. Excellent resource for anyone looking to reinvent their career.
I tried to learn programming languages on my own through online resources like Coursera, Codecademy, and other online tools, and while they helped, I still couldn't piece so many different concepts together well enough to feel confident developing on my own. I also maybe didn't have the self-discipline to push myself to research things I didn't understand, often because I was just overwhelmed by the amount of information to sift through and was uncertain which things were actually relevant.
I had learned Java about 10 years ago, so to be fair, I did have some experience going into the bootcamp, which helped me get through the material relatively quickly compared to some, but I still learned so much, and those concepts that had seemed so disparate previously now all make sense and I feel much more comfortable reading documentation, understanding the big picture of all the different layers of technology, and learning new concepts and placing them coherently into my overall mental map.
I like structure, so it was a bit of an adjustment at first because the Dojo, while curriculum-intensive, also maintains a very laid-back culture. The lectures are short (and more valuable if you're staying on pace) and the instructors deliberately don't tell you the answers to your questions immediately. Many of them will answer in the form of a question to try to help you reach your own conclusion. It may feel frustrating initially, but eventually you realize how rewarding it is to learn how to find your answers. The learning platform itself provides a solid foundation for knowing the right terminology, distinguishing between language-specific/framework-specific and general ideas, etc. Now I know how to ask (i.e. google) more educated questions, sift through and find relevant solutions, and actually understand the documentation I read!
I can only second so many of the others' comments--you get out of it what you put into it!
I went to the coding dojo from March 15th to June 30th, 2017. It was hard. We had some tough times as a cohort and many of my classmates would say the same. The difference is, I didn't let it phase me and I also didn't complain. Coding Dojo puts you through 3 Full Stacks of technologies, mine was Python, Mean, and Ruby (in that order). They're currently working on getting Java up and will soon add it. The instructors are helpful but stern. Chill but they make you do your assignments. And the algorithms, well, I don't like them but they are definitely needed in this field.
Probably the hardest thing that hit my cohort was our career advisor leaving. We had her for about a month and a half and she got an amazing job opportunity she couldn't pass up. Before that, I had already been in her office twice and went in a third time to get every ounce of knowledge out of her before she left. That's what YOU have to do. You go to any boot camp you have to be in it to win it. You can't just sit back and think it'll happen because it won't. Literally, I bugged her so much and asked probably stupid questions, same with coding and so on. I push myself and my teachers.
Once I got through Python things got like 5% easier. you've gone through flask and Django, so you know what a framework does but the MEAN stack kicks your butt. Like hard. Really hard. You stress so bad about it unless you're a JS king/queen and nail it down week 2. Getting all the parts together was stressful and I didn't know if I would pass my tests. It took me 4 tries but I finally got my black belt and bam, I was on to stack 3.
Ruby is Ruby, there's a lot of built ins you have to learn and rails make it a dream to get something going fast. The hardest part is the quires. They literally know it's so easy so they made the tests harder. But, come on, it's ruby.
Overall I'd give it a 4 out of 5 purely because I don't like giving 5 stars, no one is perfect and you shouldn't look for perfection. Look for the people who will tell you if this coding life is for you. Maybe it isn't and that ok. Maybe you should do something else in a tech company. My biased advice is to GO TO CODING DOJO, my unbiased advice is to research the competition. Only thing is most won't teach you 3 high in demand stacks. So do you but be 100% if you go to the Dojo.
Oh yea, I got a Job 3 months after the program as well.
I attended Coding Dojo with very little programming experience and a background in Finance. 14 weeks isn’t enough time to learn 3 different programming languages. However, it’s plenty of time to build self-doubt and unreasonable expectations that can sway your experience and results.
Coding Dojo has the resources to help you with your goal of being a developer but it’s up to you to take advantage of your resources. If you don’t plan on taking advantage of the resources provided by Coding Dojo, you would be better off learning to program by yourself at home.
You are surrounded by highly intelligent and motivated people. Become friends with your cohort mates they are your support system during and after the bootcamp. If you’re struggling with a topic, ask your cohort mates. On the other hand, if you overhear one of your cohort mates struggling to grasp a concept, offer your help. Some days your cohort mates will be frustrated and it can create a negative environment. It’s up to you to motivate everyone and be positive because your cohort mates will do the same for you.
Your instructors were once in your position and understand your struggle. They are successful developers themselves, they have friends that are developers, and most importantly they know the industry.
My instructor had qualities of a developer that I admired and after graduating, I asked her to be my mentor. She encouraged me to pursue my career as a developer when I had my doubts. She helped me communicate my new developer identity and until this day challenges me and holds me accountable for results. Additionally, I often met with the Coding Dojo career counselor and gained valuable advice which helped me to build my developer brand and attract employers with my old and newly acquired skills.
At Coding Dojo, I built a foundation for future learning that eventually lead to becoming a self-sufficient programmer. I learned the key is accepting you will not understand everything right away, quickly moving forward, and not being afraid to ask for help.
My experience might be different than others but Coding Dojo is a contributor to my success because I took advantage of opportunities outside of just learning curriculum.
I loved my time at Coding Dojo Chicago. The instructors are very knowledgeable and care deeply about student success. Their learning platform is great at providing a number of assignments in order to practice a new skill (as opposed to just being slide after slide of information). Students practice algorithms every morning, which allows exposure to computer science fundamentals like big O notation and data structures. After learning each stack (At the time of my attendance - Python/Django, Ruby on Rails, and MEAN), students can participate in a project week, which was my favorite part of the experience. It was great working on a longer-term project, putting our skills to use, and working on a team (practicing a loose agile methodology and collaborating over Github).
The fact that they teach three full stacks is a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, it allows students to get a wide berth of exposure to different languages and frameworks and potentially find a favorite or one they want to target in their job search. It also teaches you to learn new languages and frameworks quickly, as you'll have experience starting from zero at least three times. On the other hand, you can come out of it with experience that looks a bit shallow compared to someone who went to a bootcamp and studied one stack consistently for three months. My advice is to find your favorite and continue expanding your knowledge in that after graduating. (And overall, I prefer the idea of learning multiple stacks.)
I found the career services to be solid. There's a week after graduating devoted to coaching students on resumes, LinkedIn, etc. They also do a good job of bringing job openings and events to students' attention. The one problem with that is that it becomes a bit of a feeding frenzy toward the posted jobs and connections made at events, but I'm not really sure there's a good solution to that problem. I was able to find a job within a couple of months after graduating, as were my other cohort-mates who were in the top of our class. With that said, it wasn't an easy process. There's still a huge stigma around hiring bootcamp grads, and job searching (while simultaneously trying to continue coding) was more than a full-time job. If you plan on attending, definitely plan on not having a job for more than just the three and a half months of the bootcamp (and budget accordingly).
Like everyone says, it's all about what you put into it. Most of my cohort-mates and I put in 10-12 hour days everyday and worked at least one day out of the weekend. I'd say if you're not ready to do that or don't want to, then this probably isn't the route for you. Additionally, I highly recommend putting significant time into programing before you come (at least a month or so of self-study) - not just html and css, but actual programming fundamentals (try taking some of CS50 or getting a good way through freeCodeCamp). While the program is designed to accommodate everyone, in my experience, those who had at least a decent amount of prior experience were able to hit the ground running and not struggle so much early on. Overall, I loved my time at Coding Dojo, and strongly recommend it.
I went into the 14 week full time program with minimal at most programming experience. I came out of the program be very knowledgeable in 3 stacks. The online platform that they use can be improved in some sections but they are very prompted and helpful in correcting any errors you may find. I'd say the most valuable part of the bootcamp would be the teachers. They are very knowledgeable and ride the thin line between giving you all the answers and not really helping you at all. But riding this line is allows the students to better learn problem solving techniques and explore alternative option to fix an issue.
I came out of the program and found work as a Microsoft contractor a few months later. It worked. It was hard. That said, this program and most other bootcamps are not for everyone. The program tries it's best to be inclusive and fun and all that, but the sad hard truth is most people who attend shouldn't waste their time and money.
There are really only 3 types of candidates:
1) People with no exp whatsoever, who are just chasing that mythic job for dollars, often with no higher education experience
2) Mid 20's people who got degrees in something they don't use, are tired of their current jobs.
3) Seasoned tech professionals who just don't know modern web stacks/languages.
The people who will be successful are group #3 and people from group #2 who are driven/hard working enough. The rest are the types who are probably the naysayers leaving negative reviews. Most of the time it's not an issue of ability, but one of expectation. People who haven't been through college often don't understand the hours/effort required to truly learn something. A lot of people who did go to college don't understand what it actually takes to get hired, and just assume (incorrectly) that showing up and getting a piece of paper is enough to get a job.
The building is crappy - but you don't go to have a nice building. You go here to learn. People who judge a program based on anything else are just acting spoiled.
The instructors are great, each one has a different angle. Jack has an amazing ability to communicate algorithms/time complexity. Ray is very caring and patient, and can explain things to people with no technical background in ways which make sense to them, if it still doesn't, he'll find a way.
All that being said - the program is getting too greedy. They keep expanding class sizes with each cohort - and it's gotten out of control. Last I checked, their new class had 50 students. Ideally, 15-20 quality students is about right per instructor. The bootcamp needs to do a far better job with 'vetting' candidates to their bootcamp.
Had I known about this practice I probably should have went to Galvanize or something like that - they actually require real tests/assignments before being accepted, and a friend in the current cohort only has 15 people in it - although their price tag is far less affordable.
The Job assisstance was actually better than I expected, it definitely got rid of a lot of erroneous assumptions I had about finding jobs/the hiring process, and I say this as someone with an Engineering degree with professional experience.
The coding experience itself is enough to get you going - it provides enough tools that you can go and learn on your own afterwards, but the program is by no means enough on it's own to snag you a job - it's up to you after that.
After working 6+ years in the IT consulting, I decided I wanted to take a different direction in my career. I earn a degree in computer science but never got into the web technologies. After doing research about the different web dev accelerators, I decided on Coding Dojo.
The variety of content offered via the three stacks platform. The instructors are constantly adjusting their teaching styles to better suit every individual student's needs. The small cohort size allowed me to get the attention and coaching I needed to succeed.
My cohort was the third group of students to study at the Chicago location, there were changes during my time there. There were instructors from the Seattle location on loan until they could find Chicago-based instructors. All the instructors were great, though some were a bit rigid in their teaching style. The community manager has been active in helping students find employment after graduation.
The learning is done via an in-house platform that allows students to apply self-paced learning. That style of learning works for me, but some might want more of a lecture-centric environment. The typical day starts off with a short lecture covering the previous night's reading assignment, followed by white-boarding algorithm solutions, the remainder of the day involves working on coding assignments and perhaps a demo from the instructor for the stack.
I attended Coding Dojo, with virtually no development experience. As the program moves fast, I learned a great deal within that relatively short time span. Learning 3 Full stacks allows for you to understand development principles much better, as well as how they can compare to each other. As someone who always learned best through comparison, this really benefitted my learning. In addition, I find myself much more able to learn new technologies over someone who learned only one stack.
This bootcamp is by far the best learning experience that I have ever had, including attending a 4 year university, and could not recommend it more.
As I am still looking for a job, the Coding Dojo staff are active in the process trying to place it's students into Chicago companies. Their active approach I believe maximizes success, as I feel that I will land a desired role soon.
I recently graduated and am freshly entering the tech world, so I don't know how the tech industry is as a whole, but I really enjoyed the environment at Coding Dojo. The instructors and my fellow students were all very friendly, and the vibe was generally very relaxed and easy going. There is a biegarten literally a 1 minute walk away and that also made the experience extra fun. With that said, learning to code requires dedication and persistance. One of the rules at the Coding Dojo is that when you are coding, you need to first struggle for 20 minutes before asking help from an instructor or TA. You can ask a fellow student, but you guys must also struggle for 20 minutes first. This may seem counter intuitive too many at first, but in my opinion this is a great policy. This really teaches you to become more self reliant, creative in searching for solutions, and a better problem solver. This is also a simulation of the coding environment in the real world. BUT with that said, if you're completely stuck on something and you gave your best effort, definitely ask for help after 20 minutes. There's no point in being stuck for longer than that. The TAs and instructors that I've worked with have all been very intelligent and helpful. They can find the problems in your code no problem, but they want you to try by yourself first. When you actively engage your obstacles, that's how you really internalize what your doing. If someone just handed you all the answers, it may feel good at first but it would be hindering your long-term growth.
Ok I feel like I've started rambling a bit. My take home message is the Coding Dojo provides a great environment to learn. You have to embrace struggling because coding is hard. Help is always around the corner, but try try try by yourself first. And just like anything in life, the more you put in the more you get out.
Before I came to the Coding Dojo, I had a background in biotech. I graduated college with a degree in Biochemistry, and then worked in that industry for a bit before realizing it wasn't a good fit for me. I had a feeling that would be the case before I even graduated college, but I decided to play it out a bit and see how it went. While I was still in college, I was starting to look into coding, but I didn't do so very seriously until after I started working and realized it wasn't going to work out. I did a lot of research on the bootcamps in the area, and after talking to some graduates from the Coding Dojo that had jobs right out of the program, I decided to go with it.
The experience there was almost overwhelmingly positive. The environment was great, super laid back, and working together to solve problems was encouraged. All the instructors seemed like they really wanted you to succeed, and between them and the TAs there, there is always someone you can ask for help, even to things unrelated to assignments. The amount of work you have to put in to be successful is no joke, when people say 60-70 hours a week they mean it. More would help. There are a LOT of concepts to cover, and between learning the basics of algorithms, frameworks, and different languages, there is no shortage of things to learn. Keeping on schedule with assignments can be pretty tough sometimes, a lot of people tend to fall behind by a day or so by the end of each stack.
The general layout of the program is as follows. The first 2 weeks are spent learning the basics of algorithms, HTML, and CSS, and touching a bit upon Ajax, jQuery, and Git/GitHub. Then everyone moves to the first stack, which is always Python, since it is a great starting language for most people for a variety of reasons. The layout of the stacks is the same. The first week is spent learning the language, and beginning to integrate it into HTML. The second and 3rd weeks then cover either the single framework you are using, broken into its component pieces, or initially a simpler framework (to teach basic concepts) and then the actual framework you will learn. At the end of the 3rd week, you have a test called the Belt exam, where if you score higher than a 9.5/10 you get a "Black Belt." It's very challenging to do this, because it is timed, and you build a project from scratch. Definitely doable, but most don't get it on their first try (you can retake it several times). Then the last week is spent working on a project, usually in a team, before presenting it at the end of the week. The project can be anything of your choosing, preferentially in the framework you just learned but that isn't required.
After the 3 stacks, there is a month of the residency program. When I went there, that had just changed to a new format, one that I found very helpful. The first week is spent going over the job hunting process, interviews, technical questions, and LinkedIn stuff. Just overall career outreach and what your next steps should entail. The remaining 3 weeks is time to touch up portfolios, finish projects/stacks/belt exams, and learn about some more advanced concepts that people vote on every day. These will range from computer science concepts to more job-related things, depending on what is on everyone's mind that day. There is also some more technical question practice during this time, and getting that down is very important.
In terms of honest criticism, there are a few holes in the experience, though I felt like they were being addressed fairly and in a reasonable amount of time. The platform occasionally had some outdated/incorrect info, but reporting this had it dealt with fairly quickly, and frameworks change pretty often so it can be hard to keep up with every last detail the exact moment it happens. Parking was a nightmare, and the solution was to just not have people park on site anymore, which should start soon if it hasn't already. This is actually better than having 150 people fight over 10 parking spots by seeing who can get there first, so this also seems fair in my book. You will not get feedback on assignments by just turning them in, as there is way too much for a few instructors to go over every day. However, you can get feedback on anything if you ask for a code review with an instructor. You just have to be proactive about asking questions.
Overall, the experience was fantastic, and you will get out what you put into it. It's not a degree, so you don't get a piece of paper that entails you to easy access to the interview process. You have to prove yourself to recruiters and employers with code you have written via projects you worked on, so take that seriously. I know some people complained about this program, but honestly I can say that I know these kind of people (we had a few in our cohort). They would only occasionally show up and didn't really seem like they wanted to learn, just that they wanted a job in a field that pays well. If you decide to go this route, make sure it is actually what you want to do, and you will have fun even in the midst of 70+ hours of coding a week. I had a ton of fun, met a lot of amazing people, and made quite a few new friends. I am 2 weeks out of the program and interviewing at 4 different places already. I am moving faster than most of the other people from my graduating section, but it's definitely doable, especially if you are proactive about this process.
My decision to come here was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and if you honestly want to get into this field and learn how to code, this is the place to do it.
I first heard about programming boot camps on the radio and I always wondered how much someone can actually learn if they immerse themselves in a subject for a full three months. My previous programming experience was limited to a compulsory CS course from back in college in Matlab, so I had the advantage of already being familiar with concepts like if/else statements, for/while loops, arrays (often treated as matrices in Matlab), and nightmares about recursion. When I decided to enroll in Coding Dojo, I showed my friend who is a web developer a list of all the technologies I would be learning and he seemed incredulous that it would be possible to learn all of it. So I initially approached the boot camp with a bit of skepticism and the goal to get as much out of the experience as I could.
I soon found that both the coursework and the instruction was superb. I feel you really get exposed to a good cross section of web development. I cannot understate the time commitment that is expected however. I spent 70+ hours a week programming, and I did not witness anyone who was successful in the program that didn't dedicate a similar amount of time. The pace was grueling, but I somehow found myself waking every morning re-energized and excited to learn new things and interact with my classmates and the instructors who are genuinely fun to be around. Ultimately, three months had passed and in the process I had learned three full stacks, developed the ability to self-learn new languages, and made life-long friends.
My overall experience at Coding Dojo was an excellent one. If I had to describe the journey, I would have to say it was "frustratingly rewarding." The curriculum is designed with gaps (this was the frustrating part) for students to actually engage in the completion of the work. This aspect of the program was difficult but the instructors do a great job in guiding you in the right direction. I can't stress enough how essential personal time management comes into play and how many times I've witnessed a student give up on their goal or find and alternative. If you 're looking to make your way into becoming a software developer in the shortest amount of time, I implore you to sacrifice the 14 weeks they ask of you, expect it to be rough, and most importantly, go HAM! Now an alumni of the dojo, I can say with confidence that getting through it was easily one of the best decisions I've made for myself.
I am currently a UW student who was sponsored last summer ’16 through the WSOS to take the Coding Dojo bootcamp. My greatest take away from the dojo was the ‘coding acumen’ I developed that has allowed me to independently write, work with other people’s code, and comprehend language documentation. I will admit, In the beginning, I was highly frustrated because I couldn’t always understand how to go about writing an algorithm or even how to navigate through my computer. But the beauty about dedicating yourself to working on software for a few months, is that overtime you begin to develop an ability to decompose problems at a higher level than you could before. I have been using this skillset of decomposing problems to understand machine learning, as well as ethical hacking. Simply put, being at the Coding Dojo community and environment will give you useful skillsets that can be applied to more than just web development! (P.S. I study Neurobiology, and understanding how to use code has been extremely useful for me in a biological field).
Our latest on Coding Dojo
Welcome to the first News Roundup of 2018! We’re already having a busy 2018 – we published our latest outcomes and demographics report, and we’re seeing a promising focus on diversity in tech! In January we saw a significant fundraising announcement from an online bootcamp, we saw journalists exploring why employers should hire bootcamp and apprenticeship graduates, we read about community colleges versus bootcamps and how bootcamps are helping to grow tech ecosystems. Plus, we’ll talk about the newest campuses and schools on the scene, and our favorite blog posts. Read below or listen to the podcast!Continue Reading →
October 2017 was a busy month for the coding bootcamp industry with news about growing pains in bootcamp outcomes, mergers, acquisitions, investments, a trend towards bootcamp B2B training, and diversity initiatives. To help you out, we’ve collected all the most important news in this blog post and podcast. Plus, we added 12 new schools from around the world to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
Why do journalists and industry leaders think that two coding bootcamps are closing? And despite these “shutdowns,” why do companies like IBM still want to hire coding bootcamp graduates? We’re covering all of the industry news from August. Plus, a $3 billion GI Bill that covers coding bootcamps for veterans, why Google and Amazon are partnering with bootcamps, and diversity initiatives. Listen to our podcast or read the full August 2017 News Roundup below.Continue Reading →
Need a summary of news about coding bootcamps from July 2017? Course Report has just what you need! We’ve put together the most important news and developments in this blog post and podcast. In July, we read about the closure of two major coding bootcamps, we dived into a number of new industry reports, we heard some student success stories, we read about new investments in bootcamps, and we were excited to hear about more diversity initiatives. Plus we round up all the new campuses and new coding bootcamps around the world.Continue Reading →
With the closing of Dev Bootcamp (slated for December 8, 2017), you’re probably wondering what other coding bootcamp options are out there. Dev Bootcamp changed thousands of lives, and built a great reputation with employers, so we are sad to see it go. Fortunately, there are still plenty of quality coding bootcamps in the cities where Dev Bootcamp operated. Here is a list of coding bootcamps with similar lengths, time commitments, and curriculums in the six cities where Dev Bootcamp had campuses: Austin, Chicago, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle.Continue Reading →
Missed any news about coding bootcamps from June 2017? Course Report is here for you! We’ve compiled the most important news and developments in this blog post and podcast. In June, we heard John Oliver and Megyn Kelly talk about bootcamps, we read about new investments in bootcamps, a number of newspapers wrote about the impact bootcamps are having at a local level, and we were excited to hear about more diversity initiatives and scholarships. Plus we round up all the new campuses and new coding bootcamps around the world.Continue Reading →
Need an overview of coding bootcamp news in May? You’re in the right place! We’ve collected all the most important news in this blog post and podcast. This month, we read about a number of insightful surveys about employers, programming languages, and learners. We read advice about choosing a bootcamp, learned about efforts to encourage women and veterans to learn to code, and heard about student experiences at bootcamp. Plus, we added a bunch of interesting new schools to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
Missed out on coding bootcamp news in April? Never fear, Course Report is here! We’ve collected everything in this handy blog post and podcast. This month, we read about why outcomes reporting is useful for students, how a number of schools are working to boost their diversity with scholarships, we heard about student experiences at bootcamp, plus we added a bunch of interesting new schools to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
Haven’t had time to keep up with all the coding bootcamp news this March? Not to worry– we’ve compiled it for you in a handy blog post and podcast. This month, we read a lot about CIRR and student outcomes reporting, we heard from reporters and coding bootcamp students about getting hired after coding bootcamp, a number of schools announced exciting diversity initiatives, and we added a handful of new schools to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
Here’s what we found ourselves reading and discussing in the Course Report office in February 2017! We found out the three most in-demand programming languages, we read about how coding could be the new blue collar job, and looked at how new schools are tweaking the bootcamp model to fit their communities. Plus, we hear about a cool app for NBA fans built by coding bootcamp graduates! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
Welcome to our last monthly coding bootcamp news roundup of 2016! Each month, we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to fundraising announcements, to interesting trends we’re talking about in the office. This December, we heard about a bootcamp scholarship from Uber, employers who are happily hiring bootcamp grads, investments from New York State and a Tokyo-based staffing firm, diversity in tech, and as usual, new coding schools, courses, and campuses!Continue Reading →
There are many reasons to attend a bootcamp- maybe you’re ready to take the plunge into a coding career or you want to update your current programming skills. Or maybe you’re part of a rising generation of aspiring technical founders and you’re ready to launch your own startup…you just need tech skills. Should you go to a coding bootcamp to start a company? Many bootcamp alumni are enjoying the fruits of their intensive bootcamp labor by choosing the path of entrepreneurship and launching their own app or website. In fact, Course Report’s latest outcomes and demographics study found that 4.3% of bootcampers attend to learn the skills necessary to start their own company. Our team loves an inspiring success story, so we’re highlighting those bootcampers who took the road less traveled, and managed to strike it big.Continue Reading →
Michael is a veteran programmer who loves working with people and helping change their lives. He joined Coding Dojo’s new Chicago campus as the lead instructor and captain in June 2016, and has already found his own unique teaching style. Michael tells us why teaching three stacks at Coding Dojo mimics his own career learning multiple languages, why Python is an ideal first language to learn, and why he believes anyone can learn to code.
What was your background and experience before you joined Coding Dojo?
I've been a developer since I graduated from college in 2000, so about 16 years. I've been primarily working with Microsoft technologies, .NET, C#, MVC, ASP.NET. And before that, Visual Basic 6, and VB.NET.
My career has gone from large Fortune 500 companies all the way down to startups with under 20 people. I did about five years of independent consulting, one-on-one with a few clients, so I've had a pretty wide variety of experiences in the IT world.
How did you first learn to code? Did you teach yourself or did you go to college to study computer science?
I started tinkering with computers in high school. I got a computer for my 16th birthday, and ripped it apart, rebuilt it, and upgraded it. When I was in college, I was a communications major and wanted to be a sports broadcaster. I had helped my English teacher with her email and she told me the computer center was hiring consultants to sit and moderate computers.
So I was working at the radio station and at the computer center. One day, I got promoted at the Computer Center and became a campus technician, and my manager said, "Mike, you're the only one who works here who isn't an engineering or MIS major. Why?" I said, "I was told to do what you love and I want to be a sports broadcaster." He responded, "Mike, change your major." Then that same week, the college cut the radio station from its budget.
I saw the writing on the wall, changed my major to MIS (management information systems), and I can pretty confidently say it was the best decision I've ever made.
What did you learn in the management information systems major?
Half of the degree is coding, database, and networking, then the other half was accounting, finance, and management. It was a very good degree. The languages I learned in college were COBOL, C++, PowerBuilder, and Visual Basic 6.
How did you become aware of the bootcamp model and what made you want to become part of that?
I used to play basketball with Coding Dojo’s current VP, Kevin, in Seattle about six or eight years ago. We kept in touch and when he joined Coding Dojo he reached out to me about this position. He knew me personally and he knew my background so it was a pretty natural fit.
What did you think of the bootcamp model at first? Did you have to be convinced of its effectiveness?
It seems like there is a stigma out there about bootcamps. Are they really producing a quality product? In comparison to a four-year CS degree, can you really learn in 14 weeks what universities are teaching in four years?
Once Kevin explained to me what the Coding Dojo was, and even the bootcamp industry, I instantly understood. Coding is one of the few occupations that: A, You don't need a big bag of heavy or expensive equipment other than a laptop. And B, You don't have to physically be anywhere. You're not required to be at a factory or a hospital or a courtroom to do your job. And C, most importantly, computer programmers are IT nerds. They have a utopian view of society. They think information should be freely available to the point where the software they write should be freely available, with Open Source licensing. It's a unique position to be in the world, so when I got my head around the bootcamp model, it made instant sense. I started in June 2016.
Was there anything specific about Coding Dojo that attracted you to that particular bootcamp?
I liked the three-stack model. I do believe that that's the best way to learn. It relates completely to my career in that in the 16 years I've been out of school, I've had to re-teach myself several times going from C++ to C#, going from VB 6 to VB.NET, going from ASP1 to ASP2, even iterations of the .NET framework and also teaching myself new languages on the fly, like PHP. So you're constantly retraining yourself. When the opportunity to become a bootcamp leader presented itself, it seemed like a natural fit for me.
Did you have any kind of mentoring or teaching experience before you started teaching at Coding Dojo?
Yes, unofficially. For a while, I coded when I was traveling and built software for this drilling company in LA. My contact there, Frank, was learning to code, taking night classes. He would ask me questions when we would talk about the product I was building for him. He even tried to contribute as a developer on the project. It wasn't a classroom experience, but it was one-on-one mentorship.
What stacks are you focused on teaching at Coding Dojo Chicago?
Here in Chicago, we started our second cohort on September 19th, so we have one cohort that's currently in Python, which I'm helping teach. Then next month when the next cohort starts, our first cohort will move on to Ruby or MEAN. One of our instructors will be teaching that and I will remain and teach Python to the next cohort.
So are you personally mainly teaching Python? What’s your background in Python?
For the first two or three months, yes, but in the long run, I’ll be teaching all of the stacks. We do a rotating schedule where instructors teach the same track for three or four iterations, become a master at it, then move to the next track, and become a master of teaching that.
I learned Python in my training at Coding Dojo’s Seattle campus. For me, coming into this job, I love the idea of working with students and helping change their lives, but at the same time, it's an excellent opportunity for my own career development. I’m going to learn two more stacks of technologies I didn't know previously, and know them well enough to teach them.
For two weeks I sat in the Python track as a student. I went through the entire platform and did all the group activities with the students. I then taught our web fundamentals course. So I got some experience as a teacher and a student. It was very valuable to put myself in the student's shoes and see through their eyes.
Why does Coding Dojo teach Python first?
We teach Python first because we find, from a student perspective, it's the easiest of the stacks that we teach. By easier, I mean the syntax is more like English. Python is very popular in the non computer science world. A lot of scientists and people who use their minds for things other than programming find Python to be very easy to work with.
Then once we get fully stacked here in Chicago and are learning at full steam, the students will have more choices. We require that Python is the first stack, and then you have a choice of what stack you would like to do afterwards. We teach iOS at the end, and we're going to bring that on as a primary offering starting next year.
In the three months you've been at Coding Dojo, what have you found is your personal teaching style?
I try to relate the subject matter to my own experiences. I try to come up with examples from situations I faced as a developer. I find that students hunger for that kind of knowledge. They want to know what it's like in the industry. And so I try to bring examples of problems I faced in my career into my teaching style. But I also like to make analogies, and references to situations that everybody can understand.
How do you help when students get stuck on a problem?
We teach with what we call a “20 Minute Rule”. If a student is stuck on a problem, we ask them to spend 20 minutes on it by themselves. If they can't fix it by themselves in 20 minutes, then we ask them to spend another 20 minutes with the people around them. And then if they still can't solve the problem, all of the students come up to the instructor and say, "We're having this problem." So it creates a teaching opportunity for the instructor to stop what everyone's doing and talk to the whole cohort about the problem.
Can you tell me in a little more detail about why you think it's important for Coding Dojo to be teaching three stacks?
In almost any situation, 20% of your effort is going to produce 80% of your result. And that's really a founding principle at Coding Dojo – we're going to teach you the 20% that you're going to need to know to get 80% of the job done, and we're going to do that through three different technologies. The byproduct of the three stack model is that you will then be prepared to learn a fourth stack or any other additional technology you will certainly, eventually need.
We're teaching you how to learn. We are teaching you a subject matter, and we are making you a subject matter expert, but we're also teaching you how to teach yourself. We are creating self-sufficient developers. You not only know how to write code, but when you come across a problem, you know how to solve it. You know how to go to Stack Exchange, Stack Overflow, or Google to find the information you're looking for. You know how to extract the necessary information from a blog post about a subject, and you distil it down into the information that you need to apply to your problem.
How does having three stacks help students in their career?
You're going to be a self-sufficient, full stack developer in each one of these technologies, which is what employers are looking for. When you're starting out in an industry, you want to have as many doors open to you as possible. The 80-20 rule gets you enough skills to get you in the door of your first job and with three stacks you have some choices as to which direction you want to go. A career progression is shaped like a pyramid. You’re a generalist when you’re starting out, and as you progress you gravitate to your preferred area and become an expert in that more specific subject.
How do you assess students?
At the end of the third week of each stack, we have belt exams. This is our evaluation model. We give students a set of requirements, wireframes, and written instructions, and we give them four hours to build a full stack application. And then we grade them on a scale of 1 to 10 based on a set of criteria. If you get 9.5 or better, we consider you a black belt. If you get from 8 to 9.5, we give you a red belt, and if you get below 8, we ask you to take it again. Even if you do get a red belt we encourage you to take it again. We find that students who achieve multiple black belts tend to be the most successful coming out of the program.
Have you been able to contribute to the bootcamp curriculum at all, and if so what's the Coding Dojo process around iterating on the curriculum?
We just had our semi-annual instructor retreat a couple of weeks ago in San Jose. One of the products of that meeting was a reformulation of our curriculum review board. Instructors who have taught for a long time, and some new instructors with fresh eyes were invited to work on the reviews board to revise a track. That involves updating the tools we're using, changing the way certain ideas are presented, or reworking the path through the track.
Personally, I am working on the curriculum for a one-day intro to Python here in Chicago. Because I started on Python here, it's a natural first step for me to get my hands on the curriculum, create a new product for the Dojo.
What do you think makes an ideal Coding Dojo student? Are there certain types of students who tend to do well in the class?
Yes. There are two aspects to what we deem an ideal student, and it's not technical background, nor prior experience. It's attitude and dedication. If you have the right attitude, and you dedicate yourself to this program, we find that you have a very high probability of success. And it's not about what you've done before. Having some technical background can maybe help students to consume new ideas a little bit quicker, but it's not necessary. Our motto is “We can teach anyone to code who has the right attitude and the right dedication.”
So do you actually think that anyone can learn to code no matter what their background?
Yes. I think our learning platform is excellent at allowing each and every student to learn at their own pace. The bootcamp follows a cadence, and has a very brisk pace. We have a lot of material to cover in a very short period of time, but that's where the attitude and dedication come into play. If you don't allow yourself to get frustrated, you’re good at working in groups of two or three, and you really put in the hours, we can teach anyone who meets that bar.
How many hours a week are you seeing students commit to Coding Dojo?
We're seeing about 70 hours a week per student. They usually get in at 8:30am at the latest and they're here until 6pm, 7pm at night, every night; so they are here 10 or 11 hours a day. Instructors are not in on the weekends, but the students have 24-hour access. We set a high expectation- we tell students they’ll probably utilize 70 to 80 hours a week, six days a week.
Are you involved with the career preparation or job placement aspect?
I do unofficially talk to students about what it's like as I've had a wide range of experiences in my career and have been on the job search quite a few times. It's not part of my official role, but it is something I feel comfortable advising students about.
Also, every day I do algorithms on the whiteboard with students to prepare them for job interviews because that's a very traditional tool used by employers.
What is the goal for a student who completes Coding Dojo? What sort of jobs are they prepared for?
A traditional role is a full-time position as a junior developer at a medium sized company. But I tell students that there are many different ways to earn a living. We have students who come to the Dojo with an app idea that they want to learn how to build. We have students who fancy themselves as entrepreneurs, and we have students who want to just be able to talk the tech talk. Maybe they're project managers who just need to be able to relate better to their developers.
The end game varies based on the student. For the majority of the program, we concentrate on the material. We wait until closer to the end of the bootcamp to work on career development because we don't want our students having to worry about the job search while they learn. In the Dojo, we create a learning environment that is somewhat isolated from the rest of the world to allow them to concentrate and really form that craft.
For our readers who are beginners and thinking about getting into coding or going to a bootcamp, can you recommend any resources or meetups for people in Chicago?
First of all, we have our Coding Dojo algorithm app. That is a very good litmus test for people to let them know whether or not programming is for them. Sometimes students want to do this to make a lot of money for instance, but don't know what they're getting into. Becoming a developer is getting easier, the tools have become easier to use, but the thought process you use to construct things, that doesn’t come naturally to everybody. So the algorithm app is a great way to try that out without any cost or investment.
At Coding Dojo we do Campus Tours every other week, and once a month we do intro to Code workshops. We teach HTML and CSS one-day classes, and as I mentioned, we're working on a one-day Python workshop as well. We're trying to create more short-term classes in that mold on different topics to open doors to other folks in the community. We also host events, for example, we recently hosted the Windy City Rails After Party.
Is there anything else that you want to make sure our readers know about you or the Chicago Coding Dojo in general?
I like to keep a very positive environment here in the Dojo. Developers don't always make good presenters so sometimes they can have dry personalities and lack social skills, but that's never been me. I like to keep a live spirit in the Dojo.
In Chicago right now, because we’re new, we've got a lot of nice discounts going on for the next couple of months. Our cohort sizes are a little bit smaller at this stage, so people who come in now are going to get much more personalized attention from the instructor.
Welcome to the September 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 big fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. Of course, we cover our 2016 Outcomes and Demographics Report (we spent a ton of time on this one and hope everyone gets a chance to read it)! Other trends include growth of the industry, increasing diversity in tech through bootcamps, plus news about successful bootcamp alumni, and new schools and campuses. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast!Continue Reading →
Welcome to the August 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 big fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. This month the biggest news is the Department of Education's EQUIP pilot program to provide federal financial aid to some bootcamp students. Other trends include job placement outcomes, the gender imbalance in tech, acquisitions and investments, and paying for bootcamp. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast!Continue Reading →
Coding Dojo is about to open a campus in Chicago – their sixth after Silicon Valley, Seattle, Los Angeles, Dallas and DC. Chicago community manager Jeremy Peters has been preparing for the opening and meeting local businesses. We spoke to Jeremy about why Chicago needs another coding bootcamp, the reason they are teaching Python, and the sorts of jobs he expects Coding Dojo grads to get in the area.
How’s it going so far in Chicago? When does the campus open and when do the first students arrive?
The campus opens in early August. We’ll hold our first events on August 3rd and 6th, and our first cohort starts on August 15th. I live in Chicago a couple of miles from the campus, so I’ve been monitoring the renovations. I’m really excited! We’ve had a lot of interest, so most of my days are occupied by admissions interviews, inbound questions, and campus tours.
What’s your role at Coding Dojo Chicago?
I’m the Chicago community manager, so I’ll be handling business operations and partnerships. Until we have a full-time career services person onsite, I’ll be helping with careers as well – getting employer partnerships in place.
What’s your background and how did you get involved with the bootcamp? What drew you to want to work with Coding Dojo?
My background is kind of interesting. I was a classroom teacher in a high school in Inglewood, Chicago for 10 years. It’s a high poverty, low income African American neighborhood. I taught new media literacy in a social studies environment, and I trained educators on how to use new technology in the classroom. I was fascinated by how the new generations are natively in sync with new technology in the world and the role it plays in society.
In 2013, I made the switch into tech. The tech startup scene here in Chicago really started to take off around 2012, 2013. I worked with some early stage edtech companies, then joined a company called MDR which does innovative marketing for companies in the edtech space. My role was working with tech companies to deliver integrated marketing campaigns directed at teachers and educators.
While I was there, I went through two coding bootcamps – Startup Institute and Anyone can Learn to Code. Those programs were kind of in their infancy, so since then I’ve been fascinated by the bootcamp space. The programs I did were part time,and they were all trying to figure out their models. I wanted exposure to Coding Dojo, because of the very unique three track curriculum design. At that time, Chicago was pretty much immersed in Ruby on Rails and that’s all you could find.
How did you first hear about or come across Coding Dojo?
I came across it on Course Report of all places. I had read about it in a review of bootcamps, about two years ago. Last year, I was working more specifically with early stage edtech companies who were delivering coding education, in the K12 space. I found that pretty interesting, and I know that Coding Dojo has a platform which could lend itself well to the K12 space. Also, most companies I worked with were based in Silicon Valley, where Coding Dojo is based. The three-stack curriculum is really unique so that drew me to the program. When they announced a Chicago location, I jumped at the chance to reach out and see if I could help get the site launched.
Why did Coding Dojo want to expand to Chicago? Why is Chicago a great place for a coding bootcamp?
As well as the language difference and tech platform, what else will make Coding Dojo stand out amongst the competition?
What’s awesome about Coding Dojo is they have this really unique tech platform which allows us to scale instruction in a more individualized way to maximize instructor contact.
Our careers services support post program is also strong. Coding Dojo’s multiple locations affords students the chance to move to a new market and still tap into that careers services support. Whereas more organic or locally based bootcamps can’t really offer the same level of support.
Furthermore, I think we have a very unique position. We can truly work with any student, no matter where they are in their development pathway or what their background is to help them learn those core fundamentals and land that first job as a developer.
What is the classroom like? What neighborhood is it in?
It’s a really beautiful space. It’s in River North, in the heart of the Chicago tech scene in a 7000 sq. ft. temporary space on the second floor of 213 West Institute Place. Then in December we are moving to a gorgeous 9000 sq. ft. space almost identical in appearance but on the 6th floor. The instruction space is going to be very open, modern and bright, and we’re excited to have a custom build out in both our temporary and permanent spaces. We’ll have a large open space with three or four conference rooms, and phone call rooms. Both are conveniently located above Headquarters Beercade, a vintage video game bar. So we are definitely excited about that!
How is your campus similar or different to the other Coding Dojo campuses?
It’s going to be similar in terms of curricular use of the space. When the programs are up and running at full capacity, we will have concurrent cohorts. So we’ll need a lot of open space; breakout space for conference rooms, interviews, and more group work-oriented spaces.
What tracks or languages are you teaching at the campus?
Why did you choose those? Are they particularly popular or relevant in Chicago?
How many instructors and/or mentors do you have in Chicago?
We’ll have 1 lead instructor and 2 resident instructors. Then we will have at least three TAs. We like to keep a student instructor ratio of 5 or 6 to 1.
How many students are you expecting for the first cohort? How many students do you usually have in a cohort? How many can you accommodate?
We’re anticipating a full cohort for the first cohort that should be between 15 and 20 students. We got an outpouring of interest in spring and now we are just finishing up the application and interview process. Everyone is really excited about the three stack option. We’ve already been accepting students for our second and third cohorts. The next cohorts start on September 19, October 17, and November 14.
What kind of hours do you expect students put in?
We generally run a 10 to 14 hour day. Instruction will officially take place between 9am and 4pm, but the space will be accessible on a 24 hour basis. There are long days because we’ve got to make the most of our time while the students are there. Every student has a different pace of learning, and ability to master new content and skills so we are pretty reactive to that. We want to make sure our space is accessible to people no matter their learning or background.
Can you tell us a bit more about what the tech scene is like in Chicago?
Chicago has a very unique, new, but fast-growing tech scene. We’ve got a few large fin-tech companies like Avant, and Innova. We’ve got some very large ecommerce type companies like Groupon. Those companies are right down the street from our campus. Then we’ve got the 1871 Center for Entrepreneurship, which is kind of the hub of the Chicago startup scene. We also have the whole River West area where Google’s new office is located, and everything is filling in around it.
What types of companies are hiring junior developers in Chicago?
We’re open to partnerships with any companies seeking developer talent. Most often that tends to be series A to D mid-size tech startups that aren’t really startups anymore. And then quite a few really small bootstrapped companies, that need someone who can hit the ground running and just figure it out. Although that is not the ideal setting for a new developer, we are primarily focusing on building relationships with middle-stage tech companies who can nurture junior talent, help them continue their learning process, and build great products.
What sort of jobs do you expect to see graduates getting? WIll they stay in Chicago?
There are a lot of front-end opportunities in marketing tech. There are also a lot of back-end ecommerce roles where a lot of companies are looking to bring in new talent. There are also quite a few middle to small boutique software development firms in Chicago that we’d love to build partnerships with. These firms could offer opportunities our for grads to work on different projects, and build out a wide range of capabilities.
I think most will choose to stay in Chicago because of the sheer volume of opportunities here in the city. We have a very strong ecosystem here, which is why Coding Dojo came here in the first place. We anticipate that maybe one or two per cohort may want to move to Silicon Valley, Seattle or DC. That’s one of the flexibilities that we afford.
What meetups would you recommend for a complete beginner who wants to learn about coding bootcamps in Chicago?
Is there anything else you’d like to add about Coding Dojo Chicago?
I’d like to highlight our scholarship opportunities, which are really unique. Being a West Coast bootcamp originally, we see more diversity on the West Coast than here in Chicago specifically. That’s been an issue the tech scene in Chicago has been grappling with since six or seven months ago when a report came out about the 47.5% unemployment rate among African Americans in Chicago. So we have a lot of diversity scholarships. We have scholarships for women, career changers, new graduates, and veterans. That can be as much as a 50% discount if someone receives that scholarship.
Dan Oostra has been programming and working with computers for 30 years, and was a NASA applications developer when he decided to join Coding Dojo. Now he is Lead Instructor and Site Captain for the new Coding Dojo DC campus which opens on June 20th. Dan tells us how he first got into coding with the US Air Force, what the new Coding Dojo DC campus is like, and what sort of jobs programmers can look forward to in DC.
Tell me about your background and experience and how you ended up where you are now.
I started out working with Commodore 64s, TRS-80s, and Apple computers in 1983. Even before the internet, I was working with electronic bulletin board systems. After high school I joined the US Air Force and worked with satellite control at Space Command, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and after one term I moved to Bratislava, Slovakia in Eastern Europe. In Slovakia I worked for a number of different companies, including Softmedia, LLC where I developed interactive CDs and DVDs.
For the last six years, I've been working to further data science by creating data visualizations that provide real insights to audiences. My focus was to create "aha!" moments; I would consider myself today as an “aha”-aholic, which is one of the reasons I'm at Coding Dojo. Now I can help others create “aha” moments in their lives and in their futures on a daily basis.
Did you learn how to code in your CS degree or did you have to teach yourself some of those programming languages outside of class?
While in school I learned C++ and Java, but everything else I had to learn on my own – including all of the HTML5 frameworks and languages we use today.
How did you find out about Coding Dojo bootcamp?
I’m always on the lookout for new opportunities and was focusing on good things coming into my life and being ready to accept any opportunity out there. I came across the Coding Dojo web development instructor job posting on Indeed.com, and as soon as I saw the job listing, I knew it was for me. If I was going to choose any job title for myself, that was it. I was completely blown away that that job even existed. I submitted a resume that night. It was serendipity and good fortune that put me in touch with Michael Choi, Coding Dojo’s founder.
What made you want to take that step and move from NASA to teaching?
Working at NASA was probably the best job I've had in my life. It’s a really amazing environment to work in, being surrounded by cutting edge technologies and extremely smart people. It helped me develop my skills as a programmer and provided me the means to build a life and family. The move to Coding Dojo is huge, but it's something that I am ready for – I feel like I outgrew what I was doing at NASA. Today, I’ve been given the chance to open a new Coding Dojo in the DC area from the ground up. It's an exciting place.
What's does your role involve at Coding Dojo DC?
My role at the dojo encompasses all responsibilities for opening the facility, leading the instruction team, and managing the day-to-day operations at the DC dojo. It’s a big responsibility but I feel ready to take on this new challenge.
Why do you think DC is a good city for a coding bootcamp?
The DC Coding Dojo campus is in Tyson’s Corner. We're surrounded by government tech support offices, and there are a lot of people here looking to upgrade their skills or to learn how to code or maybe start a career in programming. With this, along with the White House’s TechHire initiative, I believe we are in the right place at the right time.
What is the technology scene like in DC?
The DC technology scene is pretty cool because there are a lot of tax advantages for opening a tech company here. In the last few years a lot more private software development companies have moved to the area, and there were a lot of technology companies here already. I'm looking across the street here and can see a number of tech companies who’ve made DC their home. Coding Dojo DC is near companies like Monster, Cvent, and Ironworks.
The scene here is pretty vibrant. There are a lot of millennials, and younger folks are moving into middle management and upper management roles right now. The DC technology footprint is growing and we are here to support that growth, and people making career transitions.
You said Coding Dojo DC is in Tyson’s Corner, what's the campus going to be like? What kind of feel is it going to have?
We’ve secured a modern and newly refurbished office space here. It's in a beautiful location and a professional environment. I think the DC campus environment is going to be very goal-oriented, to the point, and will match the attitude of the people living here.
How big is it? How many students do you think you can accommodate?
We have a pretty big space. Right now we are in a temporary space that can accommodate around 20-30 students. The total square footage is close to 20,000 square feet. We're going to have the largest dojo within the Coding Dojo family. We're pretty psyched about what we will be able to achieve here and the number of students we will be able to teach.
How do you think the campus will be unique or different from the other Coding Dojo campuses?
In terms of teaching approach, there isn't going to be a lot of difference. But in terms of the culture, we’ll adapt as much as we can to meet the needs of the folks here. The students are what makes a campus unique.. Having been a programmer for many years, and having gone through the bootcamp, I feel like the course itself is unique and we're going to try to maintain that as much as possible.
What sort of teaching experience do you have?
I actually have a lot of teaching experience. When I worked at NASA, I would lead workshops to teach teachers and educators how to use NASA data and the tools we developed. Throughout my career I've also taught graphic design, some light coding, and even rock climbing and whitewater rafting. I've always been a guide, and I love helping others reach their goals. I think that's why I'm perfectly suited to be a Coding Dojo instructor.
What sort of training did Coding Dojo give you?
Coding Dojo put me through a stack of the bootcamp at the Coding Dojo Seattle campus. It was really challenging to keep that balance between trying to learn the material, learning how to teach, and helping the students at the same time. They let the cat out the bag right away that I was an instructor, so that added some pressure. It was intense and I spent long nights learning the material and going over stuff, so that when I did lectures, I would be able to talk and teach using the methods that are taught by all the instructors at the Dojo.
In addition to the stack training, I also was exposed to the culture of Coding Dojo, probably one of the most important aspects of my time training. Finally, I spent time with the leads, and all the staff so I could understand their methodology for management and how to implement the new Dojo in DC. The Dojo training provided me with strategies for managing cohorts, setting up the new facility, and how to keep students challenged.
What is your personal teaching style?
My teaching style will be very interactive. I want to make sure our graduates leave our campus as truly independent developers. I hate using the cliché “if you teach a man to fish you can feed him forever,” but I think that touches on an important value, and that’s figuring things out on your own. Our students should be struggling, challenged, and making mistakes. That’s when the real learning begins. I've got a military background – I'm not going to make people do pushups – but I'm going to be very firm and to-the-point. My style will be stern but loving. My number one goal and mandate is to develop these skills in our students, so I'll make adjustments based on whatever is best for them.
How many students are you expecting for the first cohort? What will the student-instructor ratio be?
We're expecting at least 20 students. The ratio between students and instructors will be close to 6-to-1, but we’d like to think that as the students work together, they’ll be training each other during the time they spend with us. Currently, we have Minh Nguyen and myself as the instructors for DC, we are constantly looking for new talent to fill our ranks.
Which programming languages will students learn in DC? Will you teach all of the stacks Coding Dojo teaches or just start with one or two to begin with?
Students will learn Python, Ruby on Rails and MEAN. Eventually we’ll add iOS to the mix.
Why did you choose those languages specifically? Is there more demand for those in your area?
Yes. Those decisions are made based on what we think the demand will be and also our feeling of what we think we can teach the best. The business team has done a lot of work to figure out what we should start with. But it really comes down to, what are these folks signing up for? If they come in and they're looking for Python, I think that's definitely a language they can learn a lot from.
Have you worked with Python very much in your career?
I have, but I didn’t work with Python exclusively. I used Python to create a web scraping tool and some other content oriented tools with the language. Generally speaking, I’m learning more and more about Python each day as I learn from my students and colleagues.
Will you eventually be running simultaneous, multiple cohorts or are you going to stagger cohorts?
We'll start a new cohort every month. So yes, it looks like we will be working with a couple of staggered cohorts at the same time.
Who is the ideal student for the Coding Dojo DC campus?
The type of student who will be the most successful is someone who has clear career goals and knows what they want to do after the Dojo. If they can't see a future for themselves, I think it will be challenging to focus and stay motivated on the Coding Dojo curriculum.
People who will be successful are highly motivated to succeed, internally motivated to carry on, can persevere through challenges, are willing to be humble, can accept when they don't know something, and are willing to ask questions. People who ask questions and figure things out on their own will do well not only at the Dojo but in their careers.
It's not hard to learn something new but it's really hard to learn in an environment where you have to learn every day for your job. If that's not what you've been doing you may struggle a bit. That’s why I’m here, to help with that side of things.
What sort of jobs do you think you'll see students getting in DC? What kinds of jobs are being advertised in DC?
While working for NASA, I was looking at a domain list last month with over 3,800 websites. NASA alone has 3,800 websites. When we add up all the government websites and all the other industry websites based in DC, it's in the tens of thousands. First and foremost, there's a huge need for web designers and developers to manage existing websites. I also think there's going to be a big push for new products and apps. So you're going to have a lot of maintenance work and then you're going to also have a lot of new app development.
Will you be providing career support for those students to help them find these jobs?
Absolutely. Every Dojo has a career advisor who is stationed at that location. Along with having a dedicated person for that, I'm working one on one with students. We're also in the midst of connecting with some of my old contacts in government to create a pipeline for the demand they have for developers and application engineers. Not only are we throwing our own personal contacts into this, we are also doing meetups and finding different ways to provide opportunities for students. That's our number one goal, to help students transform their lives.
We're also working on another stack which is a post-Dojo careers stack. If you want to be an entrepreneur and learn how to start your own business, we will provide you with the tools and knowledge to help you make that choice.
There are a few other coding bootcamps in DC- what makes Coding Dojo unique?
There are a couple of other bootcamps. I think the biggest difference between us and our competition is our focus on the student experience. Michael Choi, the founder of Coding Dojo, said it best when he told me, "Just put the student first." We make all choices at the Dojo based on what we think will be best for students, and that's it. That kind of approach is unusual in the business community because it's not a business-minded approach. That really caught me off guard. One of the biggest reasons I joined the Dojo is because Michael told me it's not about the money or finances, or anything other than each individual that walks in looking for a path to the next phase of their lives.
What resources or meetups do you recommend for aspiring bootcampers in the DC area?
I think the best types are meetups are where they learn how to stay focused on stuff, or environments where they're learning something new. Learning how to program is a lot like learning math. If you don't do it for a number of years you're not going to be as good at it. The more you do it, the better you get. I think if students do some pre-training in an environment where they're actually computer programming on their own, with a team in a meetup situation, or just with friends, that's going to help them get their minds in the right place and ready to be really expanded when they get here.
There are also regular Coding Dojo meetups in DC, including intro to coding sessions and open days.
Authman was a game and web developer for 22 years before he joined Coding Dojo as an instructor at the Dallas, TX campus (it opened in March 2016). Originally from San Francisco, Authman loves the southern hospitality in Dallas and has made it his new home. He tells us about his previous teaching experience, his faith in the bootcamp model, and why he spent a month learning as a student at Coding Dojo before he started working as a teacher.
Tell us about your career/educational background and programming experience.
I started programming games at a very young age in 1994. Back then coding bootcamps didn’t exist, and the internet wasn’t popular, so I taught myself how to program through books. I continued programming until I started studying physics at the University of California Riverside, then switched to computer science. During university, I started taking web development side jobs, which helped pay the rent. After graduating I was hired as a web developer for a great company called Altura. It was easy for me to move around, grow my skills, and interact with lots of different teams. I continued working as a developer until I was hired by Coding Dojo Dallas in early 2016 to open new cohort here in Dallas.
Since you studied Computer Science in undergrad, did you need to be convinced of the effectiveness of the bootcamp model?
I never once doubted the bootcamp model. During college, people who have never programmed before learn to do so efficiently within 16 weeks, whereas that took me years to pick up without a dedicated teacher or professor. Observing this demonstrated that with proper mentorship, people can accomplish incredible things. Here at the bootcamp, that means learning three full stacks--programming languages and tools--in 14 weeks.
When did the Coding Dojo Dallas campus open? What are your first impressions?
Dallas is brand new; it opened in March 2016. I’m the lead instructor at this location, along with one other instructor. We’ve got our first cohort of 11 students now. The majority of students are very enthusiastic, and a couple of them have blogs documenting their experience. The students are very self-motivated which is awesome, particularly for a bootcamp instructor. It’s part of our job to keep them motivated so when you have a group of students who have internal motivation, it really synergizes the experience. We can’t always guarantee you’re going to have that kind of group, but when it does happen it’s a blessing.
Why do you think Dallas is a good place to learn to code and to be a developer?
I personally love Dallas and I am thrilled that we have a Coding Dojo campus here. I was born and raised in San Francisco, then moved to Southern California for college, but I’ve actually lived in Dallas for a year and I really like the community in the Dallas metroplex, as well as the mid cities and suburbs. People are very genuine, and the Southern hospitality is very refreshing.
Why is Dallas a great city for a programmer?
I believe if you have a solid coder who is self-sufficient, responsible, and a good communicator, they can work anywhere in the world. If you have a lot of businesses hiring in the area, that’s even better. When I was looking to switch jobs last year, I saw tons of postings for different types of coding jobs advertised in the Dallas area.
Did you have teaching experience prior to teaching at the bootcamp?
I had tutored at junior college for math, C++ and Java. At San Francisco State University I co-taught a summer course with a professor of computer science which was funded by the National Science Foundation. The intent was to channel women and people of color into STEM fields. I worked with the professor to design and teach the course, and also made it fun to catch students’ attention. I also have experience working in teams and doing onboarding training with new developers.
What have you done to become a better instructor at Coding Dojo?
I actually enrolled in a Coding Dojo cohort as a student to observe the student experience. I went to the Seattle headquarters, took off my programmer hat and acted as a regular student for a month. That was a very interesting experience, and helped me to understand the Coding Dojo mantra and the culture of the company. It’s a standard procedure for all new teachers. It’s critical for instructors to experience the program so we can replicate the experience for students. Just because someone is an awesome programmer, it doesn’t necessitate they will be a good teacher. I did that for one month, but some instructors did it for three or six months. The goal is to achieve a cultural transfer.
Why does Coding Dojo bootcamp teach multiple stacks - LAMP Stack, Python, MEAN, Ruby on Rails, and iOS?
Considering the limited time students have, the only real way to make sure they retain the information is by repetition. Whenever you learn new things, they must be cumulative. The first stacks we teach have a lot of rudimentary information, then the more advanced stacks assume things which were already taught in elementary stacks have been retained. The intent is that by teaching students three full stacks and having them rebuild similar assignments in each stack, we’re trying to teach them that you can learn anything, you’ve got the experience. If a company wants you to learn a new stack, you know you can pick it up in a week or two. Our goal is to bolster self-sufficiency of students.
What’s the structure of the Coding Dojo curriculum?
In the first two weeks, we have students from all backgrounds, including some who don’t know how to code, and some who have dabbled. So we start from barebones. Before they come on site, they complete the Coding Dojo Algorithm App - which helps beginners start thinking like a computer. Then they come on site and start with the web fundamentals track, including HTML5, CSS, JS, and code repositories. The students here in Dallas have already done that. The first stack they study is LAMP (Linux, Apache MySQL and PHP). At any point in a fully functioning Coding Dojo campus, there will be three levels of students learning a different stack. Next month the current Dallas cohort will be learning MEAN, and a new cohort will start learning Python.
How many instructors are there per class? Do you teach alongside other instructors? Are there TAs?
We have two instructors here, myself and Chris Tran, and we have another one joining in May when we will have 3 full cohorts. We both have the ability to teach any of the stacks, which is what we require of any Coding Dojo instructor – they have to be able to teach Ruby on Rails, LAMP Stack, MEAN Stack, Python and iOS.
How many hours a week do your students put in? What’s the schedule like?
In terms of hours, students are putting in 10 to 12 hours per day at the Dojo. We recommend students commit 70 to 90 hours per week to retain information.
The Dallas Dojo is in the heart of downtown Dallas, so students like to get in really late or really early to avoid rush hour. They come in around 7:30 am or 8 am. They start with algorithms in the morning, then we have lectures, and students start doing coding. We may have another lecture in the afternoon, then students continue coding for the rest of the day.
What have you found is your personal teaching style? Are you hands on, do you like to lecture, do you let people get stuck and figure things on their own?
All of the above; it depends on the students. There are always going to be more students than instructors so the instructor has to have a limit. You can’t dedicate four hours to one student – that would cause other students to suffer. But the way we teach is to start by having students sweat it out. They have to experience bootcamp life – it has to be tough, students have to put in effort. But at the same time, time is the currency of life so if we see students are struggling, we encourage them to talk with other students and work as a group to figure things out. This encourages students to teach each other – which helps prove you’ve mastered the material. If multiple students don’t understand something, they will come to us in groups of two or more and we readdress the disconnect.
Let’s talk about the Belt tests – what are these like and how do they assess students’ skills?
It is a Dojo, so we have them complete Belt tests which are designed to assess proficiency in the entire stack they are currently learning. We have five Belts – one per stack, with an additional ‘soft’ Belt potentially awarded at the end of the introductory Web Fundamentals track. They have to build an entire web app in a specific time period. Then instructors go through and assess aspects of the code. If students misused technologies or languages, points are deducted. If they score high enough, they are awarded the Belt. If they weren’t able to accomplish the task, they are asked to repeat the Belt and given list of areas to polish up on.
How many times can students repeat the Belt Tests?
Typically for each stack we will have six or seven permutations of the Belts. We don’t have an upper limit, they could take a Belt 1000 times if they want to. No one’s going to stop them, but typically students will pass on the first, second or third time. We prep them, they do Belt prep and a mock Belt, so students aren’t going into Belts blindsided. They take the Belt before the end of a module, however if a student doesn’t pass they don’t have to take the entire module again. Typically between the most advanced and most struggling student in a cohort, there’s only about three days of instruction material which needs to be mastered. So if someone doesn’t pass a Belt, rather than making them retake the entire stack, we focus on catching them up in the areas they need help with.
Can students take more than 14 weeks to finish Coding Dojo bootcamp?
Yes, it’s absolutely allowed. Interspersed within the 14 weeks there are three weeks where students are allotted time for working on their own projects. The goal of that is for students to have three complete projects in their portfolios to be in a good position for employment. Students who are behind or need to repeat a Belt can utilize these project weeks to catch up and get current.
What about attrition? If somebody fails a certain number of Belt tests, are they kicked out?
I’ve never seen a student being asked to leave for struggling with a Belt or something. If a student is asked to leave, it’s most likely due to behavior-type issue.
Are you involved with Coding Dojo job placement?
We have a dedicated career services team, and we will have someone on site for the Dallas campus. These people are trained and well-versed in that field and have more connections than I do. They help students polish their resumes, practice salary negotiation, and even perform mock interviews.
The career team will come onsite in Dallas in the last few weeks of the bootcamp.
What resources or meetups do you recommend for aspiring bootcampers in Dallas?
Coding Dojo has the free Coding Dojo Algorithm App which gets people from 0 to step 1 to prepare them for entering the bootcamp. For people interested in programming there are so many websites out there. They don’t teach self-sufficiency as well as we might, but they will give you an idea of what programming is all about.
We regularly have open houses at all Coding Dojo locations where prospective students can come ask questions and get information about the programs. And we also have an instructor meetup where students who have applied can meet with staff. Coding Dojo encourages instructors to have outside programming interests, to do research, and present at open tech forums, which are open to the public and broadcasted online. The last three were on data mining, scalability and another on internet security.
Is there anything else that you want our readers to know about Coding Dojo bootcamp?
At Coding Dojo we have a strong belief that anyone can learn how to code, if they want to. They need two things before they come onsite: patience, and perseverance. We can’t teach those things. They have to persevere through the struggle to become an excellent developer by the end of the program. It’s a huge commitment for 14 weeks of your life. Your classmates and instructors will replace your family and friends. Those are barebones requirements, so anyone who has those aspects will be able to learn how to code.
Learning your first programming language is a huge step in your journey to becoming a developer, but if the learning stops there it can dramatically impact your career prospects and income potential.
Technology is emerging at an unprecedented pace, with new coding languages created every year to keep up with this rapid innovation. Believe it or not, there are currently more than 500 programming languages, and that number continues to rise!Continue Reading →
How much do coding bootcamps cost? From students looking for free coding bootcamps to those wondering if an $18,000 bootcamp is worth it, we understand that cost is important to future bootcampers! While the average full-time programming bootcamp in the US costs $11,451, bootcamp tuition can range from $9,000 to $21,000, and some coding bootcamps have deferred tuition. So how do you decide what to budget for? Here, we break down the costs of coding bootcamps from around the USA.
When coding bootcamps started gaining popularity, we wondered if tension would arise between traditional universities and these alternative education providers. On the contrary, a trend arose and universities have now been partnering with coding bootcamps for a few years now. When the Department of Education announced the EQUIP Initiative in October 2015, these collaborations were formalized by the US government; but EQUIP is just one example amongst the myriad of strategic and independent partnerships between universities and coding bootcamps.
Updated April 27, 2017Continue Reading →
Elliott Hindman taught English in Japan for five years where he discovered his passion for code. He returned to the US and enrolled in Coding Dojo in Seattle. He tells us how his hard work and many frustrations paid off to land him a front end developer job at Metaps in Tokyo, Japan.Continue Reading →
Code Fellows and Coding Dojo both have several locations across the US that teach more than one tech stack, from Python to iOS to MEAN Stack. Whether you are looking for a structured classroom environment, job placement focus or project-based learning, both Code Fellows and Coding Dojo offer more than your average bootcamp. We break down the differences between Code Fellows vs Coding Dojo:Continue Reading →
I watch the clock as it hits 8pm - telling me it’s officially been 3 hours since I started debugging my assignment.Continue Reading →
Katie Bouwkamp, Director of Communications and Partnerships at Coding Dojo, discusses their new campus in Dallas and why it’s a great place for a bootcamp. Named one of the Best Cities for Jobs by Forbes in 2015, Dallas is in dire need of tech talent. Coding Dojo hopes to prepare a new wave of developers for the growing Dallas tech scene.
The most obvious question- why did you choose to expand to Dallas?
Dallas’ start-up and tech ecosystem are bursting at the seams. There’s been a steady rise in the number of startups, co-working spaces and meet-ups in Dallas, along with a tight-knit network of entrepreneurs. With that said, as the city evolves, so do its needs. Companies are ready to take off, but there’s a shortage of tech talent to fuel that growth. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas recently released a survey, which found that the majority of companies in Dallas were having trouble finding qualified talent, and the main reason is a lack of technical skills. There aren’t a lot of Dallas coding bootcamps, so we definitely saw an opportunity to jump in and help fill this gap.
When we think of "cool," tech-oriented cities in Texas, I think of Austin- why is Dallas a great place for future developers to live and work?
There’s no doubt about it – Austin is definitely Dallas’ “edgier” younger sister. However, there’s lots of reasons to love Dallas and it’s already established as a force to be reckoned with. Most people don’t realize that Dallas is home to the third-largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies, and leads the nation with the largest year-over-year increase in employment. In fact, in 2013 Dallas officially because the fourth largest employment center in the U.S. behind NYC, LA and Chicago. At the end of the day, Dallas is a good place to be if you want to launch your career. As I already mentioned, there’s a great startup network in place, so if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur you’ll find an incredible support system, and tons of resources, to build and grow your vision.
What's the Dallas job market like?
The hardest positions for most Dallas companies to fill right now are software developer roles. And, there’s been an uptick in companies moving or starting up in Dallas, so you have big, established companies like Southwest Airlines and IBM competing with start-ups for talent. This is a good thing for developers since it really puts the power in their hands. It also means that developer roles are really going to vary – so lots of opportunities to blaze your own path based on your preference for industry/technologies.
What are a few of your favorite Dallas tech meetups?
The next Dallas New Tech meetup, hosted by Launch DFW each month, is coming up on November 3rd. It’s a great event to attend since you get to learn about new and exciting companies and technologies, and also network with local tech companies. Launch DFW also hosts a rotating Happy Hour in Dallas, where you can stop by, have a drink and meet other people in the tech/startup community. There’s also more niche technology meetups in Dallas, ranging from Women Who Code to GeekMeet Dallas, which puts on happy hours and speaker events. Lots to choose from!
What type of background do the Dallas instructors have?
We’re currently interviewing potential Dallas instructors, so stay tuned!
Has the expansion to Dallas been different than, say, opening a campus in Seattle or LA?
In general, there have been a lot of “best practices” that we’ve learned from the openings of our previous campuses, so we know what to expect when expanding to Dallas.
Has Coding Dojo gone through accreditation in Texas?
We’re currently working with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) as we prepare to open our Dallas location. We will continue to be in close contact with the TWC throughout the licensing application and review period, to ensure our new location is fully vetted and prepared to best serve the interests of our future Dallas students!
Have you noticed differences in the people who are applying for the Dallas campus?
Since we just opened the application process last week, it’s a bit too early to tell. I wouldn’t say that anyone would be over or under-qualified, however. It really comes down to why they choose to go through the program, rather than their skill level. As with all of our locations, including our Dallas coding bootcamp, we accept students from all different levels of experience, but you need to show a passion for coding and learning – and the ability to hunker down and work hard!
Who are your competitors in Dallas and Texas in general and how does Coding Dojo differentiate and stand out?
Interested in being in Coding Dojo Dallas’ first cohort? Sign up by 2/15 to receive their Early Bird Discount.
Are you planning on attending a coding bootcamp? Deciding between two bootcamps? We’ve scoured the net for alumni blogs from top coding bootcamps including Fullstack Academy, Dev Bootcamp, The Iron Yard, Coding Dojo, MakerSquare and Hack Reactor. From a CS major to an event planner, these bootcamp graduates give you a snapshot of what makes each coding school and experience unique.Continue Reading →
A plethora of learning platforms are available online to learn how to code today. While lessons from online coding resources like Codecademy, Team Treehouse, Lynda, and CodeSchool can help increase students’ coding literacy, preparing for a coding bootcamp application requires a deep-dive into algorithms. Now you can get this algorithm training, for free, via Coding Dojo’s Algorithm Platform. Martin Puryear is a lead instructor and principal engineer at Coding Dojo and recently took the time to discuss with us the latest happenings with their learning app.
Could you give us a snapshot of Coding Dojo’s Algorithm Platform?
Coding Dojo’s Algorithm Platform is a tool that lets prospective bootcampers gauge their ability to succeed in the world of coding by practicing the fundamentals first. The application is designed to help prospective students gauge their aptitude as well as improve their skills with increasingly challenging levels.It’s also a great way to experiment with the basics of coding in a risk-free environment, rather than jumping right into a coding school and realizing that you really don’t like algorithms as much as you thought you would.
What’s great, is that our platform isn’t just for potential Coding Dojo students. It’s designed for anyone thinking about pursuing a career in programming or seeking to hone their fundamental coding skills. It’s completely free and open to all users.
We heard you recently updated your Algorithm Platform?
That’s right! We continue to add more capabilities to the platform since it’s original launch in March. Initially, the Algorithm Platform consisted of six different levels, each having 5-10 challenges. Since then, we’ve added more challenges the existing levels, along with additional levels that go deeper topics like loops, if/else statements and array manipulation, while also introducing new ones. Most importantly, we’ve added a new section that goes beyond simply predicting the output of code, and instead challenges our users to write their own!
Why did your team decide to make this platform, and make it open to everyone instead of for Coding Dojo students only?
As far as algorithms go, I’m really a true believer. Algorithms are so universal. They’re applicable in any language, they’re applicable in just about any different software that you might write, whether it’s software that’s working closely with the database or middle tier; there are algorithms all around us when we’re writing code.
With that in mind, the Algorithm Platform was originally created to be part of Coding Dojo’s admissions process. Applicants were required to complete the challenges on the algorithm platform, which served several purposes. First, it allowed the applicant to see if they enjoyed this type of thinking. Second, it allowed us to see how well they were grasping the concepts and, third, it gave students time to digest algorithms and hopefully have them become second nature before the course kicked off.
We started realizing that this is something that anyone would get value from, whether they choose to attend Coding Dojo, or an alternative bootcamp. So, we figured, why not make it accessible to everyone?
Is the algorithm platform still a requirement for people who are applying to Coding Dojo?
It’s no longer a requirement, although if someone is interested in applying to Coding Dojo, or another bootcamp, we highly encourage them to practice algorithms pre-bootcamp using the platform. Once they’re accepted we tell them, “Okay, this is the type of thing you’re going to be focusing on all day every day for three months so you may as well get started on it before hand to give yourself the best possible head start.”
Is the algorithm platform suitable for beginners?
Absolutely! There aren’t any pre-requisites for someone to jump in and get a start on some of the prediction challenges. The levels become increasingly harder, which is why we do start with very basic concepts.
For example, the very first challenge is to predict the output of two lines of code, one is declaring a variable with a value 5 and the next line is printing out the value of that variable. As you can see, it really does start with basic concepts. Over the course of the 11 levels in the prediction section, it covers if statements, arrays and loops. That’s as far as the prediction challenges go.
The other aspect of these prediction challenges is that they’re timed. This means you can re-visit these challenges even after you’ve gone through all of the levels once or twice, try to do better and better as far as how rapidly you can evaluate that code and get the right output entered. After each problem there is the opportunity, if you wanted, to see a video tutorial on how one of our instructors thinks about that problem and solves it.
Can you tell us more about the Coding Challenge section?
In the coding challenge section there are a set of 13 problems. They as well range from more straightforward such as, “print all the numbers from 1 to 255,” to something more evolved where you’re iterating through an array, looking at the values in an array, and outputting different things based on the values.
Just like the prediction challenges, coding challenges are timed and the platform provides video walkthroughs showing how our instructors think and solve each particular problem.
What’s next for the algorithm platform?
The realm of possibilities is wide open. It’s clear that we can continue to extend the prediction challenges into additional areas like associative arrays, dictionaries or linked lists since these are the next steps for students learning to code.
We have some things internally for our students, and I’m sure that over time we’ll add more and more to the algorithm app that’s accessible to the public, such as more interactivity with the code that you’re writing during the coding challenge, and having multiple test cases, which can help users learn how to make their code resilient to different types of inputs.
Platforms like ours also have a lot of potential for gamification. There are a few different things that we could do there to make it interesting, whether it’s different badges or having the ability for someone to help someone else that’s on the platform and get a few extra game points that way.
Who do you see using the algorithm platform?
The majority are people interested in our coding bootcamp, or students who already got accepted to our program. I definitely see that changing over time as we get the word out!
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 →
Los Angeles is the second largest city in the US and is most notably identified as the entertainment capital of the world. However, as of late, Los Angeles is witnessing a significant increase in its tech startup community. Startups focused on a diverse spectrum of tech related fields including ed-tech, animation, mobile applications, and game development are on the rise in LA. Some are even calling the current landscape “the second coming of the LA Tech Ecosystem,” as reported by Miguel Forbes.
Currently there are eleven coding bootcamps located in Los Angeles. The most recent addition to the field is Coding Dojo who already operates campuses in Silicon Valley and Seattle. “We sought out a location in LA because we see it as a growing tech sector,” said Coding Dojo CEO, Richard Wang. Los Angeles is also becoming a thriving ecosystem of entrepreneurs,” he added. Course Report recently had the opportunity to discuss Coding Dojo’s latest expansion with LA campus instructor, Speros Misirlakis.
What is your background? How were you introduced into the tech/web development scene?
I went to college at Northern Arizona University and received a degree in Business Administration. After college, my father really started to push me to pursue a MBA to start a career in Finance. I always had a passion for computers. During my six month hiatus between college and my MBA program, and I found myself coding – and loved it!
I graduated with my MBA in 2012 but still had that itch to pursue programming. I started looking into coding bootcamps. I stumbled upon Coding Dojo and decided to take the plunge and enroll. Turns out, I not only loved programming – but was also really good at it! After graduating from the Dojo I went on to be a TA, then an instructor-in-training, and now a full-time lead instructor.
I continue to push myself to learn and love that I get to share new discoveries with our students to help them become the best self-sufficient developers possible.
How do the instructors structure the day?
Coding Dojo students code – a lot! The instructors start out each day with morning algorithms from 9am – 10am. Each week we cover new algorithm topics, giving students the opportunity to learn and practice those algorithms in groups and individually on paper, on their computer as well as on the whiteboard. After algorithms, we give a morning lecture from 10am – 11am going over concepts ranging from object oriented programming to MVC frameworks.
The lecture is then followed by a group activity where students have a chance to explore concepts and get deeper into the subject matter. For example, after a lecture on MVC, we may have students work together on a simple MVC project to kick-start their learning by coding together. At that point, students can choose to continue working together in groups or solo for the rest of the day. By lunchtime, the class room resembles a large lab with a lot of collaboration between students. This makes a big difference in their learning.
Are you hands-on or hands-off? Should students struggle when they learn to code?
While the instructors are always there to provide hands-on support, we push our students to become self-sufficient developers by first trying to problem solve on their own. If a student is still struggling after 20 minutes we ask them to reach out to their peers for help. If they’re still not understanding a problem or concept we will address the question to a group of students – or possibly the entire class. If more than 3 students don’t know the answer, we probably have a disconnect and need to go back and refine our curriculum and learning platform to better illustrate the concept.
Coding Dojo teaches three full stacks throughout the 14 week program- which is most popular in the LA market?
The majority of our students come to Coding Dojo to become full-stack developers, which requires learning all three stacks – LAMP, Ruby on Rails and MEAN. However, I’ve noticed that the MEAN stack has really gained popularity in the last few years – especially with start-ups. It’s also a relatively new stack, so it has an added sense of excitement in learning it.
Tell us about "Silicon Beach"- what types of companies are hiring in LA?
Most people think LA is centered around the entertainment industry. However, LA is really coming into its own as a tech hub and accounts for more than 9 percent of all tech employment in the country. This is huge, considering this exceeds tech employment levels of even Silicon Valley!
It’s going to be exciting seeing how “Silicon Beach” evolves. Big tech companies like Google and Yahoo! are opening offices in the area, as well as a number of startup incubators and accelerators that are looking for junior devs. It’s certainly a great area to be in if you’re looking to launch or join a startup!
Who are the 30 students in this first class? Do most people have some experience in programming or are they beginners?
Our students range in background, but I think it would be safe to say that the majority have never coded before. For the ones who have prior coding experience, they’re looking to further understand the fundamentals and add more libraries and languages to their tool belt.
Have you changed the curriculum for the LA course or will students in the LA class get the exact same experience in Seattle or Silicon Valley?
Students between all locations of Coding Dojo will receive a very similar experience. Our core 3 programs will be taught with the same rigor as at our Silicon Valley and Seattle locations. The instructors in LA also keep close ties with the instructors in Silicon Valley and Seattle to ensure consistency. Students in LA will also receive career support as well as all the other benefits offered to all students in our other locations.
Angela Stugren has 15+ years of experience in the recruiting and consulting world and is currently VP of Career Development and Employer Partnerships at Coding Dojo. That means she is building out the Coding Dojo career development and core partner programs, and is also the perfect person to answer all of our questions about standing out as a bootcamp graduate in the job application process and negotiating your salary once you've landed a job.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 →
You've heard the title "Full-Stack Developer," but what exactly should you learn to make the leap into web? In this webinar, we'll focus on the three most popular languages taught at coding bootcamps: LAMP Stack, MEAN Stack, and Ruby on Rails. Join us for a lowdown on each programming language, explore the syntax with instructors from Coding Dojo, and learn what makes each unique.Continue Reading →
"Can I be a programmer if I'm not a math genius?"Continue Reading →
Lance Robertson is a passionate futurist and writer who wanted to build a technical skillset, so he enrolled at Coding Dojo, a full-stack web development bootcamp in Seattle. Now a teaching assistant at Coding Dojo, Lance took some time to chat with Course Report about his experience!
In this video Q&A, Lance talks to us about:
- How Coding Dojo teaches LAMP Stack, MEAN Stack, and Ruby on Rails in just 3 months.
- What you can do to prepare for the Coding Dojo Belt Tests.
- How a non-technical background can make you a more well-rounded developer.
- An example of a real project that Lance made while studying at Coding Dojo.
Have more questions for Lance? Ask us in the comments!
Read the full transcript here:
We’re joined for this Q&A by Lance Robertson, who was a student at Coding Dojo, which is a programming boot camp that teaches three different stacks on the West Coast. (Lance went to the Coding Dojo in Seattle but they also have one in San Jose). He’s now working as a teaching assistant at Coding Dojo and he’s also working on some of his own projects.
So Lance, introduce yourself first and tell us what you were up to before you started at Coding Dojo.
I’ve been an artist and a writer for a long time. I spent most of my twenties travelling around the country doing spoken word poetry and I self-published a book. Then I was trying to reinvent myself as a futurist commentator and author and I was going to do a podcast for a while about technology and futurism. Eventually I found my way to the bootcamp and I thought learning how to program would be a really good fit for all the things I wanted to do.
It sounds like you have a passion for technology but did you have a technical background? Had you done a CS class, had you tried Codecademy or online resources like that?
I’d done a little with web pages before. I knew enough HTML to make a link or an image tag. I’ve dabbled in graphic design so I knew some style sheets and HTML; I think I tried to string together some jQuery code once or twice but I never took any programming or computer science classes. I really enjoy technology and I’m fascinated by it but I didn’t really have much experience.
When I was a kid, I had an old Radio Shack computer you plugged into your TV and you could program it in Basics, so I would type in some basic programs that came with this book that was included with it.
How did you find out about Coding Dojo and when?
I found out about Coding Dojo at the end of last year or so. I had some people in my life that had become associated with the place so I got to check it out and go in and see what it was about. It looked like a pretty solid enterprise so I thought I’d want to see if I could do it.
You went to the Seattle campus; were you living in Seattle before you started?
Did you have a motivation before you started a Coding Dojo for what you wanted to do afterwards?
My basic feeling is that in the future people will mostly be replaced by robots so the only sensible thing to do is to learn how to program so that you can be one of the people that program the robots that replace other people – which is kind of a half-serious answer.
I wanted to be better able to talk about technology so I can further my interest in writing about technology. I also wanted to be able to make my own apps and programs. Other than that, I just wanted to develop a skillset that would take me places in the future; that I had room to grow.
It sounds like you had a connection to Coding Dojo before but did you look at other bootcamps when you were researching, and what factors did you consider when you were looking at them?
I looked around at some other things, just doing the research. The thing that drew me more so to Coding Dojo was the focus on the three different technology stacks, which I think in an intensive learning environment can be a really helpful way in learning how to be a self-sufficient programmer.
You learn how to see things done in different approaches for different technologies. I feel pretty confident about learning other technologies now that I’ve ploughed through three different ones.
What was the application process like for you? Did you fill out an application online, did you fill out an application or do a technical interview?
I pretty much came in right before they were about to start a cohort and talked to everybody there. I just jumped in at the last minute, which is kind of lucky I guess.
They have a new app on the site where you can practice your algorithms. They want to see more that you’re going to learn on your own and that you’re a self-starter – someone who’s tried to teach themselves already to some degree.
How did you pay for it? Were there options for financing or payment plans?
I’m a lucky guy. I got a lot of help from my family. They were seeing that I was trying to improve my life and make that kind of investment. But they do have merit-based scholarships. Some of the people in the class that I graduated with had gotten a couple thousand dollars off of the tuition.
What were the three stacks that Coding Dojo taught? Tell us about what you actually learned.
You learn the LAMP stack at first then the MEAN stack and then Ruby on Rails. You spend the first 6 weeks learning about basic HTML and CSS. You bring in the database with MySQL and you start running the server on your development machine, learning how to write in PHP and learning how to build basic server side scripts to generate content for your webpages. Once you learn how to make all these things then they teach you how to do it in the MVC framework the one CodeIgniter that we use for the PHP, for the LAMP stack, so you learn how to do it in CodeIgniter.
And then you do another test on that stack and in the last 3 weeks you do Ruby on Rails which has a lot of nice syntaxes and helper methods and stuff built into it that help you do a lot of the things you do when you’re doing web development very commonly. It’s a breath of a fresh air at the end because you feel like you climbed up a precipice and then you’re getting over the horizon.
Now that you have learned all three, do you think that it made sense to start with Lamp Stack and then go on to MEAN stack and then Ruby on Rails? Does that order make sense?
The curriculum is pretty well designed because you learn on something that is easy to pick up. They tell you in the program it would be harder for somebody without any experience to start learning Ruby on Rails because there is a lot of stuff it does in the background for you. It’s more of a heavy framework than the LAMP Stack where you use CodeIgniter and it’s pretty easy to download a copy of it and clone a copy of it whenever you want to start a project and start going to town. It builds on the previous things that you learned and once you see it done one way and then you do it another way and by the time you’re doing it the third way, you start to get a good feel for what kind of ideas are transferrable across the different stacks.
Were you learning the same thing in 3 different ways to do that same thing or did you find that there were things that you could actually only do using one stack?
The main thing that you learn how to do across all of them is what they call the CRUD operations which are create, retrieve, update and delete or destroy, so anything that you make that talks to a database then you have to have these methods for all those things . You actually sometimes build the same assignment; like they’ll have you do it in one stack and then another stack and then another stack and you could see what’s easier about doing it in a stack that has more features, but there are some things like in the MEAN stack that it’s really good at, like you can use Socket IO to do web sockets for fast real time communication because it’s the newest set of technologies.
You could have certain kinds of applications that lend themselves better to that technology stack.
Did you find that you liked a certain technology stack more than the other two and were you able to focus more on that or was it pretty well evenly split between the three?
You spend the first few weeks focusing on fundamentals and learning the basic building blocks and how to do loops and learning about variables and arrays. Then you spend 3 weeks on CodeIgniter and the LAMP stack and then 3 weeks on the MEAN stack and 3 weeks on Ruby on Rails.
I kind of wish there was a bit more time spent on the MEAN stack and maybe on the Rails stack because there are more involved things you could do and it can take some time to get more familiar with. You learn how to do the basic things that you’re going to do 80-90% of the time for whatever apps you’re going to make, then you have to figure out the rest of the pieces on your own.
I enjoyed the MEAN stack a lot and Ruby on Rails the most, so both of those things I want to work with them more and I’ve been doing that.
Can you tell us about the belt tests how often you had assessments, what you did to pass them and if you needed to pass them. Give us an overview of what those were like.
There’s three of them, one for each stack, so at the end of the course track for that particular stack technology they have an exam day. You sit down and everybody gathers in the classroom and they put up this test for you. They give you a link to unlock it; they hand you a diagram with a wireframe for an app or a site and they’ll say, make this app with all these features in 4 ½ hours.
The best thing you could to prepare for it is to do all the assignments you can and get as far as you can and maybe do pair programming with other people so you can pick it up faster. You just need to be able to know how to do the CRUD operations on whatever it is that the app is asking you.
Actually, before you do the belt exam for the LAMP stack, the first one is the yellow belt and that one is just a HTML/CSS test that you do within the first few weeks of their program and you make a webpage. They give you a diagram of a page and they say, make a page that looks like this. That one was the one I was most nerve-wracked by even though it was the simplest one because I didn’t really know what I was doing. When I first started it took me a long time just to make the webpage and I ran out of time - but I still passed and I got a good grade on it.
Did you end up passing all of the belt tests?
I did actually, I passed every one of them the first time I took them which I was pretty happy about.
If you don’t pass a belt test, do you get another chance to take it?
Yeah, people will take the test again and sometimes they’ll take them right away, a few days later or maybe the next weekend. You want to do it while it’s still fresh in your head. But if not, you could also do it at the end of the program. They have a residency thing you can do after you graduate and come in and ask for help and get some career guidance. Those resources are there so people will come in and they’ll work on the ones they didn’t finish.
If somebody doesn’t pass one of the belt tests after they take it a couple of times, what does that mean? Are they asked to leave the program? What are the implications?
I think the implications are that you’re going to have to keep practicing. I don’t think people are really turned away for not being able to complete it. I think if you get as far as you get to even take the test then you’ve already learned a lot. You might need more help to try and pick it up and to figure out that it’s not your most favorite thing but you still learn a lot and those skills can be useful.
They’re not going to kick you out; they’re going to work with you.
Have you found ways that your background or what you were passionate about before you went to Coding Dojo have overlapped or helped you in your journey to learn to code? Do you have advice for people with less of a math/science background getting into programming?
Before I did this I never thought that I even could be a programmer. I always just thought that programming was something that only some magical class of elite wizard people could do and I just wasn’t smart enough to do that.
Going through the program was empowering to me because it expanded my conception of what I think is possible, things I could do. I would just say even if you don’t feel like you’re the most technical, having the passion for technology and ideas for things I wanted to make was really helpful to me. The more that you’re able to demonstrate that you have a focus or a passion, that’s going to be the way you’re going to get the most out of it.
That is wonderful advice. I think also when people have different backgrounds before they start it makes them better developers.
I think so; I think people want more well rounded characters; you have a lot more different experiences to bring to it or communication skills. I’m a good writer and I’ve got good reading/ comprehension skills and doing development is a lot of research and documentation and sometimes it can be pretty thick so a lot of it is about reading, comprehension and communication.
Tell us about a project that you worked on at Coding Dojo.
I’m putting together this web app where it’s a rhyme finder. It uses a pronunciation dictionary with machine-readable phonetic code to basically find words that rhyme with each other. What I wanted to be able to do was not just regular rhymes but what are called slant rhymes that are words that almost rhyme or they share similar vowel sounds but different consonance or similar consonance with different vowel sounds.
You can go to a word that rhymes and you can say that only 12 of these results are perfect rhymes, and this consonants here they share: rhymes, rimes, rams, reams, rims, roams, they have the same consonant sounds and then there are other words. If it’s a single syllable word then there’s going to be hundreds of results. it’s a little overwhelming.
Did you build the database or if not, what did you use?
It uses a data set that comes from Carnegie Mellon University that’s called CMUDICT and it’s a pronunciation dictionary. It actually uses a phonetic code way of tagging how to say stuff; I think it was developed by the Navy or the military in the 70s called the ARPAbet. They have it for their speech program and apparently they have a lot of applications in speech recognition and text-to-speech and speech-to-text.
I wanted to work with a linguistic data set and I also have some other plans to develop this app where you can type whole lines into it and it will try to build strings of text that rhyme with what you give it and match the phonetic stress pattern or the accenting of the cadence.
I think that is really cool, it solves a very specific problem. How did you come up with that idea?
It’s basically just something I made for myself and because there are other sites that have slant rhyme-finding and I wanted to build one myself and wanted to be able to have this sort of filtering where you can toggle different categories and rank them how closely the words are, the distance.
What technologies did you use to build it?
Originally, I wrote the first incarnation of this as a Ruby on Rails application because that’s what we were working on at the end of the program and when I was trying to build my final project, I was doing it solo; because we had other group projects earlier where I did some other things with linguistic information.
I wrote this other program that takes a text and chops it up and re-organizes it and prints it out on the screen. I’m going to eventually try to make it into an app where you’ll have a magnetic poetry interface and as you add words there’ll be a field that populates with suggested words and the words that are suggested to you will be based on the words you’ve already typed in, and they’ll either sound similar or they’ll be related or off the data set. I think of it like a poetic autocorrect.
Did everything that you used to build those two projects come from what you learned at Coding Dojo or were they things that you ran into that you didn’t know how to do?
There were definitely things I had to research on my own because they give you the foundation and then you’re going to build on top of that and you might have to do some research. There are these things that are called regular expressions or regex which is like a text parsing engine that a lot of programming languages and databases support. It allows you to write little query strings with wildcard characters to match certain things or not match things. I had to get really good at that and they don’t really teach you much about that.
You said you had worked on other group projects but this one you worked on alone, right?
In the last week of the program they have a demo day and you get up in front of everybody and show off your stuff. I wanted to be ready for demo day so I worked pretty hard on coming up with the rhyme finding app. I originally wrote this very Vanilla app in Ruby on Rails and it just gave you a list of results and there wasn’t really any rhyme or reason to it but now I converted this thing over to running as a Node server and its front end is all Angular, so you can do real live filtering of the text. There’s a lot going on the front end and it takes a lot of work off of the server side.
I spent a couple of weeks after the program was over, porting that over, rebuilding it in another technology stack again. I might reengineer the whole thing again.
You mentioned you spent a few weeks afterwards rebuilding it; what else have you been up to after graduating and when did you graduate?
I graduated about a month ago now. First I was hanging around then eventually they were looking for teaching assistants so they asked me if I would do a regular teaching assistant gig there and so I work with the next class that’s coming up behind us and I get to go through it all again.
I found out I’m pretty good at helping people and explaining things and I enjoy it a lot. Now I’m learning a lot more just from watching other people do it and seeing a lot of the common pitfalls, so I think I’m going to try to stay in the whole education scene for a while because I enjoy it a lot.
What has been the feedback loop at Coding Dojo? Were there things that you wanted to see change when you did the program and now you’re able to affect that as a teaching assistant?
I get to give some input; I get to put my two cents in. The lead instructors and I, we all depend on each other to carry the load and any kind of thoughts that I have about it are welcome to them; so I do give them a piece of my mind about things that we could polish it up and give a better experience.
I’m a writer guy so I want to be able to clean up some copy editing and stuff in the course where some of it is written with some kind of ‘English as the second language’ to it. I think for the sake of clarity I might help people out and clean things up a little bit.
Was Coding Dojo worth the money and would you recommend it to a friend?
Yeah, for me it was definitely worth it. It really gave me the tools and expanded my whole conception of what’s possible. I didn’t really know where I was headed, my 5-year plan or anything like that – I guess I still don’t really but there’s a lot more options available to me now, I feel like.
I would recommend it to people who are going to be able to keep up with the pace and who have the learning style that they like figuring things out for themselves and they’re self-motivated, they’re looking for an intensive learning experience. I think you get more out of it the more that you’re able to assimilate thing fast and keep moving. Ultimately, when you get out of it you’re going to be able to really move on to other things like other languages or technologies if you so desire.
That was perfect. Thank you so much, Lance. Is there anything else that you wanted to add that we didn’t touch on about your experience with Coding Dojo?
One of the things I think that adds a lot of value to the experience that maybe I didn't really touch on, is the relationships you develop with people. I’ve made some great friends who were in my class. Some of them didn’t even live around here so they moved back to where they’re from. I just feel like on the level of networking, you could start a company with one of these guys someday.
But on a social level, you keep making new friends and connecting with smart people who are interested in things you’re interested in. There’s a sense of camaraderie there that’s very compelling. I wouldn’t want to overlook that. It definitely added more value to the whole situation.
Lance, thank you so much for joining us, I really appreciate it. You've given such great insight, amazing advice on how to pass those belt tests, and it was really cool to see what you were actually able to build while at Coding Dojo. Best of luck to you, really appreciate it.
Thanks to everybody who has watched this live Q&A. Leave your comments if you have questions that we didn’t get to cover and let us know what you want to see in your next live Q&A with Course Report. Go to Course Report and sign up for our email list, you’ll get great updates about our live webinars and all the good stuff. We’ll see you next time.
Welcome to the March News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Want your bootcamp's news to be included in the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
Welcome to the March News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Want your bootcamp's news to be included in the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
(updated August 2016)
Slide across the roof of the General Lee, we’re heading south of the Mason-Dixon to check out the best coding bootcamps in the southern United States. There are some fantastic code schools from the Carolinas to Georgia and all the way to Texas, and we’re covering them all. Talk about Southern Hospitality!Continue Reading →
After working in education as a math teacher for years, Aaron Chung decided to try programming again and his research led him to programming bootcamps and Coding Dojo. Now graduated and with a new job at TouchCommerce, we sat down with Aaron to talk about learning three full technology stacks at Coding Dojo, how he passed the “Belt Tests,” and how his residency at Coding Dojo helped him find his job.
Tell me what you were up to before you started at Coding Dojo.
In my undergrad, I was a prospective engineering student, but I ended up jumping majors a lot. Eventually, I ended up as a cognitive science major, which has CS elements in it. Our most difficult course happened to be an upper-division artificial intelligence course, which is really tough if you haven’t had a lot of a CS background.
My last real step before Coding Dojo was as a math teacher in middle school and high school. I taught for about 3 years and, eventually, I realized that I loved teaching but it wasn’t for me.
Some of my friends from college suggested I give programming another shot and introduced me to coding bootcamps.
Before you applied to Coding Dojo, did you do Codecademy or other self-guided learning?
What was your goal or motivation for doing a bootcamp?
In my case, I just wanted to get a professional career in tech, and I didn’t know what exactly that would look like. Some of my cohort had clear ideas – that they wanted to start a business or get a job at a certain startup; I didn’t have any of those ideas.
Did you look at other bootcamps in your research?
I looked at Dev Bootcamp, Hack Reactor and App Academy, because they seemed to be the most stringent – they were certainly the most expensive – so I wanted to see what they offered.
Who were your instructors in Mountain View?
We had two instructors. The head instructor was Trey Villafane, and our cohort-specific instructor was India Meisner. India took care of us during the first half of the curriculum, and she handed us off to Trey for the second half.
What was their teaching style like and how did it work with your learning style?
India was very accommodating. She’s very gentle and really good about explaining things in a way we could understand. We had a short lesson in the morning and another in the afternoon, which gave us additional guidance through the curriculum. The curriculum was presented through videos and informative text via their online learning platform. The rest of the time, we worked on project-based learning assignments, building pieces of web apps with what we had learned.
Did you like that format of watching videos instead of live lectures?
There are definitely drawbacks, but there are also several advantages. One is that if I miss something, I can immediately pause and rewind. There was written material on the platform as well. What I usually did was watch the video once or twice, which would walk me through the topic, and I wouldn’t have to learn it by reading. Then I could use the text as a way to quickly refresh my memory or find a key piece that I needed afterwards.
Did it feel like your cohort was diverse in terms of age, gender, race?
Yes and no. Coding Dojo runs two cohorts simultaneously, and they stagger them, with the new cohort starting when the senior cohort is halfway through their program. The senior cohort can give help to the junior students when they get stuck, and they help perpetuate the Coding Dojo culture. Overall, we had 20+ people in there.
What I noticed is that it is very diverse in terms of cultural background, previous experiences, and age; however it’s socioeconomic diversity seems to be a little lacking as students who choose to pay for a pricey bootcamp are usually from similar economic backgrounds.
How did you pay for it?
I saved up, and then I borrowed from my family. If I didn’t have my family, I would have probably looked for private loans. Even then it’s difficult because you don’t qualify for student loans.
Coding Dojo is interesting because they teach three full technology stacks. Did you feel you were able to do them all in 12 weeks or did you feel that there was one you liked the most?
This is an allegory I use – when we learn a language and we learn to speak it fluently, or at least reasonably well, we probably only use about 10% of what’s out there. 10% of the language is used 90% of the time, and the rest of it is for obscure situations, like if you’re greeting a visiting dignitary or something like that; then you use more floral terms.
The idea is, if we can get the big picture of the structure, we know where all the pieces are and we can fill in the gaps later. They gave us the knowledge of the structure, they gave us the pieces. It was still very difficult, but it was doable.
What was the first technology you learned?
That was the LAMP stack and the PHP coding language. We used CodeIgniter as our framework, but LAMP can be used with several different frameworks.
Then we hit the MEAN stack, and we hit Node.js. It’s totally different in so many ways, but knowing how MVC frameworks worked made the MEAN stack easier to handle.
Lastly, we learned Ruby on Rails, and Rails works very differently. With the other frameworks, I code every piece. Rails is a tool that does everything for you, but you have to learn to use it their way.
Do you think that your background in teaching math ever helped you learn to program?
My previous programming experience helped me teach because I take complex processes and abstract them into just one idea, which is the lesson’s learning objective. That is just like how we write functions (abstracting complex behaviors in a singular idea), so that was easy in a way. Teaching experience helped because I could break down my own learning process, which helped me to better teach myself difficult skills.
It also helped me to help other people in my cohort – we would trade a lot of ideas.
Tell us about your experience with the Belt Tests at Coding Dojo.
I did very well on all of the Belt Tests, but frankly they were incredibly hard. We had four hours to build a web application according to a description that was provided. I spent the entire four hours for every single one of my tests. Almost always, halfway through the test, I would look at my work and then look at the time and think, “There’s no way I’m going to finish this.”
At that point, you can either give up or power through and use the experience as a learning opportunity. So I would power through. Then right about the three-hour mark, I realized that things were accelerating. I was able to pull it off each time and scored pretty well. But even if we didn’t pass, we’d have another opportunity. We have up to four separate tests we can attempt on our own time.
To be honest, I don’t think the number of tests are the limiting factor; it’s our belief in ourselves. If I fail three times, do I still have the fortitude to say, “I’m going to put myself through another 4-hour test? Do I believe I can really do this?”
Did all 11 people you were in the class with graduate with you or was there attrition?
Well, I started with that cohort but I didn’t finish with them because I’d moved to the Seattle campus. But I kept in touch. Our group struggled a little bit.
One of the people in our cohort moved to an online version so he worked at home. One of our other members didn’t get past week two and another went home early for family situations.
What was the process of getting into the Coding Dojo residency?
Basically near the end of our camp, we all had a one-on-one session, kind of like a debriefing with our instructor. At that point I was in Seattle, and Michael suggested that I would benefit from continuing as a Resident and working on more projects for my portfolio.
In the meantime, I served as a TA for the incoming cohort. I ended up staying 14 weeks.
Were you paid during that time?
No. I almost felt bad because I was using resources from the school! Michael was happy to say, “You’re pulling your own weight for sure, acting as a TA.”
What are you up to now? Did you get a job as a developer?
I got a job at a company called TouchCommerce. I’m in the product management department, so we’re not necessarily building new products. Instead, we’re introducing new features into existing products.
I’m a technical product manager, so I’m still programming, but I’m not doing web development specifically. Our company makes web-based products, so I’m applying the skills that I learned.
Did you get that job through your own networking or Coding Dojo connections?
It was a recruiter. In the Southern California market, you end up talking to a lot of recruiting firms.
When you are working in a technical role at work do you feel like you are supported by your company?
Yeah, definitely. Our team is small but everyone else on the team are seniors and leads, so they’re all help me. They report directly to the CTO, so in terms of hierarchy, our department is not very deep. We have a lot of access and direct interaction with the decision-makers.
Do you think that Coding Dojo was worth the money?
Yeah, definitely. It’s pretty amazing how Coding Dojo presents material and how effectively they can teach. It’s not for everyone, but I think the main determinant is how much fortitude, determination, and drive we bring.
People who just show up and go through the motions and think they’re going to make it are not going to do well. But people who come and work super hard and focus on their future will succeed, both at Coding Dojo and in other aspects of life.
Apple’s newest, beginner-oriented programming language Swift has made developing for the iPhone a possibility for new and experienced developers alike. iOS developers earn over $100,000 on average, so it's a perfect time to learn to program for the iPhone. With the help of one of these iOS bootcamps, you could find yourself developing mobile apps utilizing Objective-C, Cocoa Touch, and Swift.
Martin Puryear has been programming since he was in junior high. After studying Computer Systems at Stanford and working in software development at Microsoft, Martin decided he wanted to transition to web development. He graduated from Coding Dojo, and realized that his dream job opportunity was to be a bootcamp leader with the chance to lead teams and mentor others at the Dojo. We talk to Martin about his extensive history in tech, what he loves about Coding Dojo’s three full stack curriculum, and the best ways he’s found to keep students moving forward and passing Belt exams.
Tell us about your background before Coding Dojo.
I started programming at a pretty young age, in junior high. I went to Stanford, where I studied computer systems. After that I started at an industrial conglomerate writing software, then worked for 5 years at a Silicon Valley startup, before joining Microsoft.
After a long time at Microsoft across four different divisions, I still wanted to do something completely new. So I left Microsoft a couple of years ago, looked for the right type of opportunity and decided that I wanted to learn more about web software specifically. I’d been writing software for a long time but it was all inside Windows. So I became a student at the Coding Dojo.
What did you think of your experience as a student at Coding Dojo?
I was a student at the Dojo a little bit over a year ago and loved the program. I really enjoyed the discussions with Michael, our technical founder. After the bootcamp I looked for that perfect company to work for and eventually came to realize that the opportunity that was going to fulfill me the most was actually returning to the Dojo as a bootcamp leader.
I loved leading teams and mentoring people and helping them grow. More recently, I enjoyed understanding the business aspects of what goes into running a bootcamp. Being at the Dojo tickles both those pieces of my mind, as well as guarantees that I’m going to stay technically current, which had become increasingly important to me.
Before Coding Dojo it seems like you had a traditional education- a CS undergraduate degree and an MBA. Did you have to be convinced of the bootcamp model at all?
Not really. There are some things for which more traditional education is a good preparation but I really do feel like the bootcamp format is so much more focused and pragmatic – it’s practical and well-grounded.
When I was writing software for a living, there weren’t that many situations that required a deep understanding of esoteric computer science data structures. Lists and arrays and trees were usually enough. That’s what brings me to believe that certainly for almost all front-end software jobs these days and in many cases for back-end or full-stack jobs as well, the bootcamp format is the perfect format. Sure, there can be times when more advanced data structures are needed, but for most projects, you can be productive without them.
Why did you decide to attend Coding Dojo as a student? Did you look at other coding bootcamps as well?
I was already established in the area with a wife and kids, so I looked for a bootcamp that was local or entirely online.
Previously I had tried to pace myself through materials, and I had a sense that an online bootcamp might work, but I wanted to look into the ones that were face-to-face first because of my personal learning style.
I’m in Redmond which is 10 miles from Seattle so I looked into the bootcamps that were here: Coding Dojo and Code Fellows. I wanted a broad exposure to web development because I didn’t want to decide before I had even started what I would focus on. There are a number of good bootcamps that are scoped more narrowly to a certain language or technology. That can be good if you’ve already decided that you’re going to be a specialist in one specific area.
I wanted to get really broad exposure, because I was hoping that the years I had spent doing lower-level software would be somewhat transferrable in many areas.
Did you find that it was an easy transition from software to web development?
It was not bad. The process of breaking problems down, writing software and building things from small pieces to larger pieces, all those skills are transferrable. My instructor at Coding Dojo was interested in my goals, and he was able to give me tips based on my background. That was so helpful. I’ve brought that into my approach of instruction over time as much as I can.
You learn the front-end -- that’s going to be universal -- then we learn the AMP back-end and turn that into a full-stack, then the same for Node.js and Mongo, then Ruby on Rails. It’s gratifying to see people who come in thinking they’ll specialize in front-end, eventually knowing back-end pretty well too. If they take a job as a front-end developer, they’ll still be better off being able to have cogent conversations with the back-end team.
After you graduated, what was the process like to become an instructor at Coding Dojo?
The process to become an instructor is evolving. When I joined in November, I had developed a relationship with Michael and the Coding Dojo team. I continued learning the materials that I didn’t feel 100% about. I also spent time in the classroom observing an established instructor and helping out like a TA. They did a really good job of making me feel supported but also pretty empowered to teach.
Maybe I’m biased but I feel like the instructors are really the engine of the company. In fact, we no longer refer to our role as instructor; we refer to our role as a bootcamp leader.
When did you start in your role as a bootcamp leader/instructor?
I started teaching my own cohort of students at the beginning of 2015. We’ve split the boot camp into two sections. The other master instructor is teaching the first half and I’m teaching the second half.
Are there things that you have changed or wanted to change about the curriculum after going through it as a student?
I remember feeling at the time that the material was fairly solid. Having said that, we’re always iterating on the content, pushing to improve things. Some of that change comes from the changing technologies. For example, PHP is stable but the MEAN stack is still evolving, so our course will continue to be updated.
One of the pieces of feedback I had when I went through the course is that I really wanted us to spend more time on deployment. These days, we do spend a little more energy on that.
Are you teaching full-time with Coding Dojo?
Yes. We are in the middle of adding another bootcamp leader to our team. At that point, if we have three bootcamp leaders and two cohorts to teach, we are fully intending to rotate our instructors. The intention is that once we have an additional instructor here in Seattle, one instructor can be working projects (either internal or external) or adding to our curriculum.
Are you involved at all with the online course?
No. We have a separate instructor that is in charge of the online course. He’s the other co-founder of the company and really impressive in his own right.
For the hybrid course, it is effectively online but we have students join an onsite location for two different two-week intervals. The material is the same between on site and hybrid and online.
Tell us about your personal teaching style.
First, let me describe the Dojo approach more generally. Because we’re trying to cover so much material in such a relatively short amount of time, we use an 80/20 approach. We’re covering the most essential basics and showing students how they can discover the rest of the idiosyncrasies of that specific programming language or technology.
Our curriculum is a fairly curated set of content. We’ve worked as hard as we can to create material so that our content is effective at leading students through, without tons of hand-holding.
One of our most important ingredients is the 20-minute rule.
What is the 20-minute rule?
We believe in strength through struggle. If you are hitting a bug, we want you do all you can to try and figure it out. Having said that, after 20 minutes your odds of solving it on your own are lower, and you probably need some type of nudge from elsewhere.
Your next step is to talk with the students around you, because the students who are in step with you are going to be the freshest, most able to help relate and fill in a missing piece.
If the people around you also can’t figure it out, that’s when we want those students as a group to come to the TA or the bootcamp leader. As the instructor, we’re still hoping to give just enough nudge so that the students discover the answer themselves.
At that point, the two things that would also be going through my mind are, “Okay, here’s something that I need to improve in our platform materials for next time around” and also “Gee, maybe I need to do a 10-minute special session right now on this topic for everybody.”
Do you have a daily lecture at Coding Dojo?
For me, the day does include a lecture. At 9:00 we start with a lightning challenge of sorts, a type of algorithm puzzle. The students work on this solo or in pairs. I’ve started having them do it either on paper or on the whiteboard instead of at their computer, to simulate the interview environment, because there are still so many whiteboard scenarios in interviews.
After the algorithm challenge, I start a lecture on the material. Generally, the lecture is not intended to be very long. It’s just intended to double check that the students understand the main points that have been covered in the platform materials; to make sure that they have watched the videos and have gone through the different tabs in our platform.
After morning lecture, often it waterwheels into a group activity where groups of two or three work on something related to the lecture or related to the material on our learning platform.
When that’s done, the students go back to working solo on either small assignments that build on the different topics that we’re talking about that day, or continuing through the learning materials. There are larger projects that we have as the last week of each three-week section, basically about a week of working on a project on AMP or MEAN or Ruby on Rails. The project teams are generally teams of two or three. Occasionally, a person wants to work solo and that’s okay but we do feel like the best learning is going to happen in groups of two.
Do you assign projects at the end of each lesson?
The syllabus of daily assignments is established upfront. Also, at the end of each of the three stacks, the students do two more significant things. One is the capstone project for that stack -- I mentioned that a second ago. The other is the “belt exam” at the end of that major section of the bootcamp. Once you’ve taken the first fundamentals unit, you can take the yellow belt exam. When you pass that, you’ve demonstrated your mastery of HTML, CSS, and front-end fundamentals. The next one is a full-stack belt test on AMP, the next one is a full stack exam on MEAN, and the final one is a full-stack exam on Ruby on Rails.
What do those Belt Tests look like?
For each of those tests, we give students the wireframe of a system that we want them to create in four hours. This includes the front-end views, the server, database, everything. They build it all themselves, zip it up and submit it inside the four hours.
What do you do when someone doesn’t pass a Belt Test?
I’d have to look into the exact percentage of students that pass exams the first time. My guess is it’s maybe about half. For the earlier exams, certainly much more than half pass the first time. We give students a few different opportunities to loop back and pass those exams.
In the cohort that I just finished with, there were a number of students that didn’t pass the second exam. They came back a week or two later, took the test again and passed.
What do you do when someone’s totally struggling or not passing those exams?
That does happen sometimes. At Coding Dojo, we’re selective about our students, but we are not specifically selective based on technical background. We pick based on their attitude and focus and their desire. I feel we’ve been pretty fortunate to have cohorts of students that are focused; they want to work hard, they have a good attitude. They’re willing to help each other and be helped. When a student starts to struggle, they pull together and we pull together with them. We really are trying to make it so that nobody’s left behind.
What do you do at Coding Dojo to prepare students for the job placement process?
Our approach is that while they’re in the bootcamp itself, they shouldn’t stress out about a job yet. They should think about learning the material really deeply and focus on their projects, passing the test and becoming a Double Black Belt Ninja.
The day after graduation is when we really swivel and start working on a plan to get a job.
At that point they are welcome to return and be a Dojo Resident, for resume proofing and other things. I spent time yesterday red-lining a bunch of resumes for our recent grads, working on LinkedIn profiles, making sure that their Github was up-to-date with all the projects they had done at the bootcamp, working with them on getting their projects deployed out to AWS or Heroku. We also have sessions on interview training, or specific tech topics they feel they need.
What do you like most about the Coding Dojo approach?
The thing that I love about the three-stack approach is that we try really hard to be intentional about the way that we teach the first stack so that once students get to the third stack, there are these universal ideas that keep recurring. It helps keep the student energized and moving forward even though the pace is relentless.
The first stack is the hardest and once you have those ideas, the other ones come more easily and that’s just something that I love about the Dojo. As we think about growing our offerings, I’m excited because I think it’ll continue to snowball from there.
(updated August 2016)Continue Reading →
What makes for the ideal coding bootcamp student? Experience? Perserverence? Natural Skill? We've compiled advice from instructors and founders at top programming bootcamps like gSchool, Dev Bootcamp, Wyncode, and Fullstack Academy- aka the folks making admissions decisions every day. Read on for the 8 qualities that bootcamps tell us they look for in potential applicants. [As of December 8, 2017, Dev Bootcamp will no longer be operating.]Continue Reading →
Coding Dojo provides an immersive 12-week onsite and online coding bootcamp for aspiring web developers in Seattle and Silicon Valley. The team recently hosted a Tech Talk for Coding Dojo students at their Silicon Valley bootcamp, featuring Mark Otto and Connor Sears, formerly of Zurb, Twitter, and now GitHub. Mark co-developed the open source front-end framework Bootstrap (any coding bootcamp graduate will be familiar with and grateful for Mark’s work)! Mark and Connor talked about their respective backgrounds and the pathways they took to become the designers they are today, their most gratifying projects over the years, and more.
Was there a specific time when you knew you wanted to be a designer and that you were good at it?
MO: My dad has been a data programmer in bank services for 40 years, so we always had computers around us. My brothers and I all know how to take apart and put together a computer. I was always into the hardware aspect, but you could only buy so many motherboards in middle school before it got boring. So I started to spend a lot of time on the internet, not only downloading music illegally, but also on forums like HardwareGeeks. I downloaded a copy of Photoshop 6, went through tutorials for text effects and happened upon DeviantArt, where I made horrible, angsty teenage wallpapers. From there, I was starting to make icons, porting those over into Windows, and learning HTML and CSS. I cracked open Notepad and GeoCities- I remember copy and pasting a snippet of CSS and it changed the link color for the text when the link was visited. That’s when I was sold!
I still write HTML/CSS from scratch now- that’s how I fell in love with it. Two years later, I was being paid to do it.
CS: I thought I wanted to work in video production, so I was working in After Effects, doing motion graphics (like making lightsabers). My two friends were running a company called HitSense, and they told me I could do similar things on the web using Flash. A graphic designer at HitSense was designing beautiful websites at the time. They let me take a stab at building a homepage for a client using her Photoshop files as a guide; the client gave it the thumbs up; I was thrown into the deep-end, and then over time, those skills became more solidified. Growing up, I also remember having an innate ability to tell what looked good and what looked local and cheap.
After college, I emailed Zurb about a designer job, got a reply within 10 minutes, and was hired quickly. Three weeks later, I was moving to California. At Zurb, we were learning specific skills- how to design, how to deliver on projects etc. Those lessons enabled the rest of my career. It was like a 2 ½ year bootcamp!
Is it possible to tell if someone has the raw potential to be a programmer or designer?
CS: I think so. There is a level of aptitude when you talk to someone; the scrappiness is evident. It’s not the end result that you’re looking at, like beautiful design or great code. That’s an obvious indicator; it’s all the other factors. Is somebody willing to do what it takes to get something done? If it’s in a hacky way, can they learn from that process? It’s being able to talk to somebody and understand how they think about design and how they think about doing a task, figuring out and dissecting a problem down to its core bits and solving it. That’s a lot of what coding is, right?
Even when I interview somebody for a senior-level developer or designer position, I still go back to how well they solve problems. I ask about some problems they’ve solved and how they went about it. The way someone articulates that problem-solving is how I know they’re going to be really good.
MO: I think we approach design a little bit differently. The term design can cover so many things: graphic design, visual design etc. There’s the most frequently used quote: “Design is how it works,” from Steve Jobs. For me though, design is pretty systemic. Being able to look at a series of things and think of them together. Working with individual pieces, but keeping in mind the larger picture and taking a holistic approach to things is important. The other part too is having a lot of passion for wanting to build something and solve a problem. You can really glean those skills pretty easily. I’m here because I just wanted to spend all of my time making things on the internet and that’s all that I do.
What are some of the roles you can have as a designer?
CS: These terms are kind of dumb. We just started calling ourselves designers. Graphic Designers are usually very visually focused. Graphic design is about communication, so posters, billboards, album design for music, etc. Some people work with web design and call themselves graphic designers, which is fine because it’s all sort of loose terminology.
The term Product Designer basically came out of Facebook. They were the ones that first started embracing that term. Product Design is just people thinking about a new product and how it works in a cohesive and holistic way and how that affects the target market. They’re thinking about how the product works and how it’s built.
An Interaction Designer is more focused on workflows. “What happens when I click this button?” That includes workflows and whiteboard sketches.
MO: Then you have roles like User Experience and User Interface design, UX/UI. That one by far is the most prolific term and by far the weirdest for me. I call myself an Experience Designer, not a user experience designer. As evidenced by Bootstrap, I care a lot about building systems and seeing how they come together. I love doing the wireframes, the workflow, seeing how a user, an individual or a group of people interact with your product and how you can poke and prod them to get them to do what you want.
When we talk about User Experience, a lot of that can be more focused on wanting your users to be happy. But of course you want them to be happy! You don’t want them to be pissed off. You’ve seen Office Space, with the example of the PC load letter. You don’t want people throwing their phones at the ground or taking a baseball bat to them in an open field. That’s not fun. In my mind, those terms don’t really have that much value.
Is it possible to be only a web developer, UX, UI, visual, or graphic designer these days?
MO: If you’re a designer you make things work. You take a problem and you solve it, working within constraints. There is a spectrum of design and development, and you can be at any point on that spectrum: a UX designer, UI designer, visual designer, graphic designer, a web developer or a product designer. I’m a product designer, but My title at GitHub is actually Lead Front End Engineer.
CS: At GitHub when we’re hiring designers, I don’t think we’ve ever said, “We need a UX designer, you’re not going to code and you’re not going to do visual design.” We need designers who are also familiar with aspects of other job roles titles. You need to think about that experience and how the flow of someone using your product is going to be and what their expectations are and delivering on their expectations on that workflow. You need to be able to visually work on it and even code a bit of that work.
What do you look for when hiring a designer?
MO: There are three areas of focus that I look for when hiring designers. There’s code, which I don’t expect designers to be experts at. You need to be able to work with code and be able to work with a developer and at least have some shared understanding of what you’re building with or what someone else is going to be building. Secondly, you need to have those sharp visual skills and be able to make something look and feel good and compelling. You need to design for a mood or an emotion. The final element is critical thinking about design. How you’re able to talk about and taking apart a problem.
At GitHub now, we do have product designers. That’s the main role for anyone working on github.com or its mobile apps or its desktop apps. We also have a creative team, made of full-time illustrators and animators who build marketing materials for us.
Could you take us through a project that you’ve worked on in the past years that gave you the most satisfaction?
MO: Conor and I spent 6 months together at Twitter in 2011, starting in June. The project was called New New Twitter. Internally it was just called Twitter1, or T1 for short. This was when Jack came back to the company after being out for a while and he was like, “Time to put my stamp on the product again.” A handful of us engineers and designers were pulled aside and given one month to design Twitter from scratch with these three things in mind: a home timeline, the @ sign, and the # sign. We spent a month in this tiny room called the Goldeneye Conference Room at the old office.
MO: We spent a month there just making Photoshop documents of the iPhone app and then the desktop. We started with mobile first and had a blast doing it. I took over the @ tab. Connor was working on everything discover and hashtag and eventually profiles. After a month, our manager said we needed to start coding the design and work on a prototype. Our reaction was, “Cool. I love prototypes, let’s throw away the code.” But our manager was like, “No, this is going straight to production.” A week later we have a shell of a prototype written in PHP because the Rails code base for Twitter was horrible to deal with as a designer without 3 years of context leading up to it. For the next 5 months, all we did was iterate on designs and Photoshop documents and build code. Maybe we have different reasons why we love this project so much. I love this project so much because I spent a month in Photoshop and then I went right to code and I got to make this idea come to reality. After that we got out of that little room and we started working with more people because you can’t make those decisions early on with so many people. I sat with a bunch of engineers and the designers took over the HTML and CSS. That is a theme that’s happened in the last 10 years- designers have gotten really interested in CSS because you can make an art out of it. Just look at the Homer Simpson in CSS or the Coke can in CSS. It’s interesting to be able to solve problems and designers have a unique ability to approach those things.
We leapfrogged our engineers, who were stuck working with a legacy code base trying to figure out how to adapt all this new design to it. We learned so much and we screwed up so many things early on. We were working in a big cyclical workflow with the developers. The designers were coding the front-end of the product and the developers were coding the back-end of the product. A couple of the designers were back in Photoshop trying to figure out what NewNewTwitter was going to actually look like it- the textures and the general aesthetics and stuff like that. There were three different stages and teams working on one idea.
In 6 months redesigning a massive service like this, I worked my ass off and I had so much fun doing it. I slept very little and we were in the office very late. But it was just so much fun to be able to work at that speed at those different levels and make those decisions and show that designing a browser, building a browser can be so damn useful, so powerful. That was by far my number one project.
CS: Same! I learned the biggest lesson in this cyclical workflow with the developers: We realized that while we’re in our little room drawing pictures of screens of the iPhone app and Android app. But you’re actually not seeing the bigger picture. Once you start to code, you realize that one of those updates can take another thousand lines of code. The system becomes way more clear in code.
Thanks so much to Mark, Conor, and the team at Coding Dojo for sharing this excellent talk with us! Our three takeaways from this Tech Talk?
- Young designers should follow their intuition when it comes to web design- if you have an opinion about what looks high-quality vs. low-quality (like Conor did from a young age), see where that can take you!
- Rarely will you operate in tech as a silo; designers work with web developers, product managers, and other stakeholders on every project. Getting used to working on a product with others in a cyclical workflow is important, as we learned with the NewNewTwitter.
- These days, the word “Designer” encompasses so many job descriptions. From Graphic Designer to Product Designer to UX/UI Design, be sure you know where you fit on the spectrum of design and expect to use skills from other roles!
Matt Tucker was attending a technical college in Phoenix for computer science, but he wanted to learn to apply his skills more directly. The Silicon Valley location and affordable price point at Coding Dojo appealed to Matt, and he moved to California, putting college on hold. He completed Coding Dojo’s Silicon Valley bootcamp, passing both of his “Black Belt” exams, and now works at a startup called Roost with other Coding Dojo grads. Matt explains what drew him to Coding Dojo’s varied approach and the key to avoiding burnout (hint: love what you do).
Tell us what you were up to before you started at Coding Dojo.
I was going to a technical college in Phoenix, studying Computer Science. I had finished predominantly all of my major courses and had gotten a lot of theoretical-based knowledge but hadn’t been able to apply that knowledge. I was working as a part-time valet on the side to pay for my education. I made the choice to go to the bootcamp to learn more practical skills.
Did you leave college in order to start Coding Dojo or did you just put it on hold?
I put it on hold for a couple of semesters and now I’m going back to finish it online.
Tell us why you chose Coding Dojo. Which factors did you consider in doing your research?
I found out about Coding Dojo by Googling for coding courses with no real intention. I was just looking for specialized programming courses that I could go through to enhance my own skills.
Once I found out about bootcamps, I thought it was a really cool concept. Bootcamps are actually giving you knowledge that you could apply directly to the workforce.
I ended up applying to Coding Dojo because I really liked that it was in Silicon Valley; all of my friends, people that had graduated from my college were saying it was the right place to be right now for this kind of work. After I decided on the location, Coding Dojo was the cheapest option. I was putting myself through college, moving to a new state, renting a new apartment- I needed an option I could afford.
Did you apply to any other bootcamps or just Coding Dojo?
I applied to Hack Reactor, Dev Boot Camp, General Assembly. I got into all of them. The other reason I chose Coding Dojo was because they offer a wider range of skills (they teach three programming languages). I’m really good with being thrown into the fire, really challenging situations, and picking up new skills really quickly. Switching to a different technology every few weeks was really effective in keeping my learning curve up.
How many people were in your cohort?
In mine there were ten.
Did you feel like everybody in your class was on the same technical level when they started?
I generally would say that I was a little bit further ahead in my particular cohort because I had a lot of previous experience. I’ve been coding since my sophomore year in high school.
I really liked how they handled that. With the online platform you could work at your own pace. When I worked ahead, I was given harder assignments by the teachers. I would have more work put on me but it kept everyone with a different technical level at the same pace through the different types of content in each of the languages.
What did Coding Dojo look like day-to-day?
We used an online platform. There are things you do each day by yourself and you get personal instructions from each of the teachers. Then you’ll have group assignments or mini projects. You’ll break up into groups and work together. There are also some weeks when we’re all doing pair programming with different partners.
At the end of every day, we were actually doing algorithm challenges. Each day you’d find a different partner and you’d work on these algorithm challenges with each other.
What was the teaching style like at Coding Dojo?
The instructors would give one morning lecture and would go over some new content. Then we would break up and do our own thing for a while. After lunch, the instructors would go over any issues we had in the morning, and show us tips and tricks. In the afternoon, they would go over previous activities from the day before and show you how they would’ve approached the problem.
Did you feel like the instructors had a deep enough background to teach the class?
It affects them on a certain level in that it’s a lot of the things they were taught in the course, but the course is innately teaching you core skill requirements. So they were really good at teaching the content, they’re really in depth on the content but there were some disparities here and there where they had not worked that actual technical job before. But now while I was TA-ing at the Coding Dojo afterwards, there’s a lot of TAs and they’ve brought in other instructors that do have more core field experience.
How many hours each week were you spending on the course?
Personally, I was definitely in the classroom the longest. I’d show up at about 8:30am and I’d stay till about 10:00 or 11:00pm. That’s 14 hours a day and I was going pretty much every single day.
Did you ever feel burnout or did you find that was manageable.
I loved every second of it. Programming is my heart and I just want to do it. It’s fun for me but when I reflect on it, I think I was particularly committed because I had just came to California, dropped everything, and leveraged all this money to do the program. I just decided I was going to put all my time into this. I definitely see the payoff in spending the extra time there.
Did you do a final project or a capstone project at the end of the course?
In the last two weeks, we worked on a project; I spent those two weeks cracking the skills they went through, so I would build front ends to different projects and concepts like security that I knew were important for the workplace.
Then we also took our “double black belt” level exams. So they have a single black belt and a double black belt test.
The black belt exams are kind of structured as projects. You’re given four hours to put together a functioning site. So you’ll be assigned something like Facebook functionality or a message poking system. Yellow Belt was to test you on HTML and CSS, Red Belt was to test on PHP, Green Belt tests you on framework.
What happened if you didn’t pass one of those belt tests?
You had to wait another week to retake the test. You take a week to review what you might have done wrong and how you can make it better. You can go to the instructors and they can give you advice and you can take the test again one week later.
Predominantly, everyone got through the red belt exam but there were some people that just needed the extra time and the extra instructorship to get through the Black Belt exams.
Did you pass those?
Yeah, I did pass the double black belt.
Did you notice that there was support from the Coding Dojo instructors when people didn’t pass?
Definitely. Other schools may be pass/fail- if people do not pass certain levels throughout the course, they will in fact kick those students out of the course. Coding Dojo is not like that. At Coding Dojo you can even keep coming in for the next three months after the course is done and they will keep helping you.
How does Coding Dojo incorporate job preparation and job placement into the curriculum, if at all?
Throughout the course we were encouraged to do a blog to build our internet presence. We also worked on resume building. Coding Dojo had guest speakers from time to time who gave speeches on things like how to prep your resume.
Also, I mentioned that at the end of each day we were working on algorithm questions, which is a huge part of a job interview. We would have to get up in front of the class and draw it out on the whiteboard and do that.
What are you up to now? Have you interviewed for new job or have you found a new job since you graduated?
Two weeks before I finished my cohort, Coding Dojo hired me on as a teaching assistant. I worked at Coding Dojo for two months as a TA and for one month as a fulltime instructor. I now work at a startup called Roost in San Francisco as a software architect.
I’m working at Roost with other Coding Dojo graduates- Chung is a developer, and our CTO, Bonnie, was in the last cohort of Coding Dojo.
How did you decide to go down the startup path instead of working at a larger company?
I had done some job interviews and I had a couple of offers from Google and Facebook but I ended up going the startup route because I’m very challenge-oriented so I would be able to come in, build the app from scratch, be able to add my own creative spin on it. I would be able to have a bigger role in the project; so I could be the software engineer, the administrator, the IT manager. I could adopt all these different roles, and that’s what appealed to me.
Did you feel like you learned what you needed to know at Coding Dojo in order to get hired in this role?
Absolutely. They taught us how to build a product from the ground up, how to actually make it production ready. I feel like I got everything I needed from Coding Dojo.
What languages are you using for Roost?
Right now the server language is PHP for main application and Python and Node are integrated. Python was actually the first thing I learned in my first semester in college.
Is there anything you wanted to add about Coding Dojo or your experience with Bootcamps in general?
I think the most important thing for any of these bootcamps is the level of commitment coming into it. Of course, someone considering a bootcamp should decide which language they want to learn and if they want to go into web development or software or software applications. But in the end, it’s really going to be your commitment level; being able to leave everything else you have on the side; otherwise I don’t think it’s really worth it.
Would you recommend Coding Dojo to a friend?
While working in the startup world, Michael Choi was tasked with finding skilled web engineers. His difficulty finding qualified developers inspired him to start training smart people himself, and thus Coding Dojo was born. Michael talks to us about the importance of iteration for the Coding Dojo curriculum, expanding beyond Northern California by adding Seattle and Los Angeles coding bootcamps, and the diverse community of students that attend and excel at Coding Dojo.
Tell us about your background, Michael.
I was involved with a startup about four years ago and I was managing engineering teams, operations, and marketing. One of the biggest pain points we faced was finding good engineers. We interviewed a lot of CS grads who had theoretical knowledge but when it came to just jumping in and building things and adding value from day one, they lacked the practical knowledge of how to build enterprise-level web applications.
Because I knew how to code since I was a kid, and have been the CTO for many SASS startups, I could identify good engineers. I was thinking about starting another company and in all of those endeavors, I would need engineers. That’s how I got involved in trying to solve a problem in the space. We’ve been iterating and we’ve made a lot of improvements over the last four years. I started Coding Dojo as a founder and CEO; now I focus more on curriculum development, training the instructors, improving the curriculum and so forth.
You said that you have been programming since you were a kid. Were you largely self-taught or did you do a Computer Science degree also?
I am self-taught. I’ve been programming since I was 12. I had a friend who was really good with computers and he taught me.
I spent a lot of time learning the fundamentals of computer science and got really good. I took some CS courses in college and it was too easy for me because I had already spent a lot of time when I was a kid on building games and things like that. I don’t have a CS degree. I wanted to study math and science – although I did do a fair amount of programming.
When was the first official Coding Dojo class?
I started training my own employees four years ago. We didn’t call it Coding Dojo. It was an internal training program for my own engineers. Fall of 2012 is when we started Coding Dojo and it was initially a part-time program; evening courses. We transitioned it into a full-time program in January or February of the following year.
How has Coding Dojo changed since September 2012?
The curriculum today compared to the one we had three years ago is about 25 times more effective. In a way I do feel like our first cohorts didn’t learn as much as the people who are going through the course now.
What’s the secret? One is the power of iteration. As we teach the students over and over again, we find out what methods work best and what analogies work really well. A lot of those things we solved along the way; we iterated a lot and we learned a lot. Every single time that we learned something, we tried to incorporate that into our platform for the next cohort. If we make the boot camp 5% more effective for the next cohort, and we’ve been doing that for the last 2 ½ years, we can see how that 5% improvement can really add up.
How often do you start new cohorts? Do you do a rolling start?
Every 6 weeks.
So you’ve graduated quite a few students.
We have. We’ve trained over 300 people in our full-time bootcamp.
Where was the first campus?
We started the part-time bootcamp in Sunnyvale, then we started the fulltime bootcamp in Mountain View. And we just opened a larger location in San Jose (Silicon Valley) now.
We also expanded to Seattle and we’ve been running that branch for about a year and a half. We’re expanding to Los Angeles in two months and we plan to have two more locations opened next year.
How did you decide to open an office in Seattle and Los Angeles? What’s important about those markets?
There are a few factors we looked into. Right now Richard, our CEO, is the one that does the market research and decides which location we’re going to open up. We look for markets with a demand for a bootcamp like Coding Dojo. Markets with lot of jobs so that our students who graduate from the program can find a job if that’s what their goals are.
Tell me about the curriculum at Coding Dojo. How did you decide to include three technology stacks in the curriculum?
The curriculum is based on the topics I thought were important for engineers to know through my previous experience as the CTO for many startups.
That was why we chose LAMP Stack. It took us three months to train people to be at a certain level. We’ve been iterating until we got it down to six weeks. We just expounded on the curriculum as we’ve grown.
Do you find that people choose one of the languages to go deeper into?
Absolutely; towards the end, they do. They focus on the one that they like most and people like different things.
What types of students is Coding Dojo designed for? Is it for beginners or for people with more experience?
We have students at Coding Dojo who are fairly new to programming and as they go through the bootcamp, they get caught up really quickly. In Seattle, I also trained three former Microsoft executives with 15 to 20 years of experience, with Computer Science degrees. They went through the curriculum, found it really challenging, spent a lot of time on it, and they learned a lot.
We have assignments and challenges for people who get ahead. We also have mandatory assignments that everyone needs to complete. Regardless of whether you have done a lot of programming or not, we try to have something for everyone.
Have you found that a beginner can go through Coding Dojo and get a job as a developer at the end of it?
Absolutely. The fact is that the more time that you spend on coding, the better you will get. There is no question about that. We do have students who haven’t done a lot of coding; they work really hard, they spend a lot of time with the pre-boot camp material and they do extremely well. It really depends on how much time they’re willing to put in and how hard they work.
Just like learning a new language; you’ve got to put in the time. You hear that some people were just not born to be programmers. I would completely disagree with that. I say everyone can do this. Some people can do it better than others, but of course it’s only fair for people who pay their dues to do better. It’s about the attitude that they have.
Tell us about your instructors with Coding Dojo.
We have quite a few staff members and we’re always hiring and trying to expand. The student-teacher ratio varies. We have staff members who are experienced in different areas and we try to bring in the best people we can find.
I heard from talking with another student that you were the best instructor they had.
Well, I have been doing this for the longest time. Every instructor has a different style. If those students were taught by me four years ago, I don’t think they would have had as good of an experience. I try to pass down the things that I’ve learned to the new instructors we’re hiring. Over the years, we’ve done a better job of attracting talented instructors.
How did you come up with the assessments and exams at Coding Dojo and why do you think assessments are important in a bootcamp setting?
The assessments are really more of a goal. We give these tests, qualifying exams so that the students have a goal to work towards. By the end of the bootcamp we set the expectation that students need to be at a “black belt” level.
Black belt level students are those to whom we can assign a single app with login, registration, features like collecting messages etc. We expect students to set up their own framework from scratch, set up their database, write all the instructions and make it all functional in 4-5 hours. It’s very tough.
In fact, this is the same exam we will give to a lot of people who apply to be one of our instructors and 80% of them completely fail. If students can get that type of application done in a few hours, we know they’re job ready. It doesn’t mean that they know everything, it just means that they are at a certain level and they can learn something new in a short amount of time.
Those exams are there to help the students. We don’t kick any students out. If they are falling behind, we just work with them more.
Do people leave voluntarily after taking those if they fail? Have you had an experience with that?
No, not at all. Many of our very successful black belt students have to retake some of these exams. It’s really the attitude.
Are students getting placed in jobs even if they don’t pass the Black Belt test?
Yes. However, the mentality should be to master the material and skills first. Our students’ goal should be to become a black belt. Get your black belt to master the skills first, and afterward, we will start the career placement process. In fact, our goal is to help people become self-sufficient developers. We want them to learn how to build things. That’s ultimately what our goals are.
Does Coding Dojo have formal hiring partners?
We do have companies that we partner with and companies that ask for our students. We also work with an exclusive recruiting company to help with our students as well. Having said that, we also provide some tips on resumes and other things. If our students want to interview beyond the companies that we have a relationship with, that’s fine as well and we will help them with resources.
Do you make your job placement rate public?
I believe our last stat was a 92% placement rate for our black belt students getting jobs within 60 days. The stat is a lot better now.
Is there anything that we skipped over that you want to add about Coding Dojo or your experience with bootcamps in general?
I think one thing that makes Coding Dojo unique is that we embrace people from all different backgrounds. I think that’s something that’s quite unique and that’s something that we enjoy. I love working with entrepreneurs; I love working with people who are making a career switch.
I had some students who have started companies after they graduated from the bootcamp, or VCs coming to our boot camp because they wanted to better understand tech. I’ve had executives coming in because they wanted to learn how to work with their engineers and speak the same language. I tell the students that it’s not necessarily the staff members that make Coding Dojo great, it’s the students and the community that we’re trying to build.
Chung Kim tried web development 15 years ago and had a real aptitude for it, but he didn’t put those skills to the test until he recently decided to move to the Bay Area to join Coding Dojo and attend their 12-week coding bootcamp. He was referred to Coding Dojo by a friend that had recently completed their bootcamp. Having recently completed the course himself, Chung tells us about choosing programing languages to focus on, ways to avoid burnout, and working at his new company Roost.
Tell us what you were doing before you started at Coding Dojo.
I worked in government contracting before Coding Dojo- I spent one year as an HR analyst, then I spent the following year as an IT analyst. That’s when I started getting into code. In that job, I was like an extension of our development team. I had to be the middleman between developers and non-technical teams.
What inspired you to make the switch, quit your job and go to boot camp?
I did web development back in ’98, ’99. I didn’t really think much of it because I was still a kid and no one was really into that type of stuff at the time, but I knew I had a knack for it. Eventually, one of the applications in our company in my previous job was on the web and that’s when I had to recall all these skills that I had learned 15 years ago and I realized I really enjoyed that work.
Did you take a Computer Science class during your undergrad?
I double majored in Accounting and Information Systems. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a CS class, and I kind of regret that. I got through my undergrad but I didn’t really enjoy it.
Why did you choose Coding Dojo and what factors did you consider?
I was living in Northern Virginia, but I’ve wanted to move to the Bay area for a long time. I was doing some self-study on web development but I just didn’t feel I was making enough progress with it so I started looking around. I tried Codecademy, Udemy and Coursera and I just got really frustrated because things were moving so slowly.
I talked to a friend who had just finished Coding Dojo and asked him about his experience. He and I both looked at Dev Bootcamp, which was pretty big at that time and General Assembly. I eventually went with Coding Dojo because it was the only recommendation I got from a reliable source, my friend.
Did you end up applying to any other bootcamps or only Coding Dojo?
I applied to Dev Bootcamp and Hack Reactor also. Hack Reactor’s application process was really extensive. And even though I was accepted to Dev Bootcamp, I wouldn’t have been able to start for another few months. I just didn’t want to wait that long.
I also thought that Coding Dojo had a really good price point at that time. I think it was somewhere around $9,000 and meals were provided (meals are no longer provided at Coding Dojo).
What was the time commitment at Coding Dojo?
It was at least 40 hours per week. I realized that you need to do a lot of self-study to really stay up to pace with the course material. Going to the classroom on the weekends wasn’t unusual for me or for most of us that did really well on the course.
How many people were in your cohort?
We started with 12.
Did everybody start on the same technical level?
I definitely had an edge on most of the class, along with a couple of other classmates. One classmate actually had a CS background and was just generally a bright guy. We had another guy who also came from a technical background and myself, where I actually had some experience with web development.
A lot of the other students didn’t have that foundation to help with the course material, especially when they got stuck.
Did you think it was a diverse cohort in terms of age, gender and race?
It was definitely a diverse group. We had women, international students; every major group was represented. The age ranges were between early twenties to early thirties.
Who were the instructors for your cohort?
The first half of the course was taught by India and Dexter. The second half we had India and Trey. They were all former students but they graduated at the top of their cohorts.
Dexter was the lead instructor for our cohort, and he was the strongest student of his cohort so he knew the course material really well and knew how to answer questions that were outside the course material.
If he didn’t know the answer he would be quick to research into it and be able to teach what he found out and it was a very quick turnaround.
What is the teaching style like?
For the first three-fourths of the course, we had lecture in the morning, lab throughout the day and then a reinforcement lecture where we summarized the lessons or answered questions people were having.
Which technologies did you learn during the course? Coding Dojo teaches Ruby on Rails, Lamp Stack and Mean Stack. Did you learn all three of those?
We touched on Ruby on Rails, LAMP stack, and they just started doing some Mean stack with us. The MEAN stack curriculum was a test in a way because we were the first cohort they were teaching it to. They did the best that they could and I think that it was good but eventually in the end we covered all three stacks. I just specialized in two of the three just to feel like I wasn’t spread too thin.
Were you satisfied with the actual material and curriculum that they taught?
Yes. At times it felt a bit underwhelming or overwhelming. Overall, the content was challenging and appropriate.
Did you all work on a capstone or final project and can you tell us about that?
I did two projects. I had a role on a group project called Dognate. It’s a marketplace for dog owners to share supplies or get supplies. It was decently done but it needed more work.
My own personal project at the end of the course was a real-time chat application. I built it using Node. It was really cool and it’s still out there.
At the end of the class, Coding Dojo gives a final “Black Belt” exam. If a student didn’t pass final evaluation, what did Coding Dojo do?
If you passed the final evaluation or what they call the black belt exams, the staff is very proactive in trying to get you placed and getting you a job. They’ll walk you through the interview processes and show you how the interview process works. But if you’re not quite there then they’ll just tell you to keep working on getting through your final evaluation.
What are you up to now? Do you have a new job?
I actually work with two of the other alumni from Coding Dojo for a company called Roost. We’re like AirBnB for storage. Right now we’re working on our beta.
How did you decide on that job? Did you interview for other positions?
I actually interviewed with a couple of places in the Bay area. I was in the interview pipeline with Paypal and others but I ended up going with Roost because it was the offer I had live on the table. I also knew the team; I knew what everyone was capable of so it just seemed like it was going to be a smooth transition.
Do you feel like you learned everything that you needed from Coding Dojo to start this role?
I think what we learned at Coding Dojo was enough to get us into the tech industry as junior developers. I wouldn’t say that Coding Dojo prepared me for everything that I needed to know but it prepared me at least to know what I needed to know.
Tell us about how you avoided getting burnt out and overworking.
I ran in the morning every once in a while and I worked out midday after a lecture for a half hour or took a short walk to refresh myself. I tried to remain competitive. I knew I wasn’t the best coder and I knew I didn’t have the talent or the skillset to compete with the top students, but I still tried to stay relevant with him and a couple of other students as well, so it was always like a long drawn out competition.
Another thing I did was celebrate all the smaller victories. If my code works, I’d literally celebrate like I’d won the lottery and that would keep me motivated and excited.
Would you recommend Coding Dojo to a friend?
I actually recommended Coding Dojo to a couple of friends but only because I felt they had the aptitude to make it through the coursework. As of my time at Coding Dojo, there were partially overlapping cohorts so I’ve seen enough students from my own observation and I believe I know what the model Coding Dojo student looks like.
Describe that person; who do you think would be the ideal student?
They have to have tenacity and remain inspired. They would have the right mix of curiosity and fascination at the same time. And they would have to have a really good grip on their emotions. I really feel like the students that had a harder time with Coding Dojo were the students who got really frustrated and let their emotions take over if their code didn’t work. They just didn’t choose the right attitude when faced with difficulties.
Is there anything you’d like to add about Coding Dojo or bootcamps in general?
I’m actually jealous of the current cohort. My friends are in it and they got Michael as their instructor. I had Michael as a part-time instructor for two weeks and he was phenomenal. Dexter and Trey are great but Michael is just super good at teaching. He knows his stuff but he knows how to teach it and convey it clearly.
While coding bootcamps are designed to be cost-effective alternatives to a conventional education in Computer Programming, prospective students still need to carefully manage their finances. As many leave their full-time jobs to attend, money is often tight for the average coding bootcamp student, and given the full-time requirements of most programs, working part-time is simply not an option.Continue Reading →
So you enrolled in a reputable coding bootcamp, showed up every day, drank enough Red Bull to kill a real bull, and graduated with a solid understanding of OOP, MySQL, Heroku, and twenty other terms that are not, it turns out, foreign swear words. It’s smooth sailing from here on out, right? Wrong. Too many coding bootcamp alumni assume that graduation marks the end of their journey when, in truth, it marks the beginning. Here are 5 mistakes coding bootcamp grads make, and Coding Dojo contributor Justin Marshall's tips on how to avoid them.Continue Reading →