As of July 17, 2017, Dev Bootcamp is no longer accepting applications. Founded in 2012, Dev Bootcamp is a short-term, immersive 18-week software development program (9 weeks part-time remote, 9 weeks onsite immersive, with career prep integrated throughout). Dev Bootcamp’s mission is to transform lives by teaching people of all backgrounds the technical, cognitive, and interpersonal skills used in software development through a responsive instructional model.
Graduates work for a range of companies from startups, to mid-size and Fortune 500 companies in industries including tech, fashion, finance, education, travel, and media. Dev Bootcamp currently has six campuses operating in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, San Diego, Seattle, and Austin.
Recent Dev Bootcamp News
- 2017 End of Year News Roundup + Podcast
- September 2017 Coding Bootcamp News + Podcast
- August 2017 Coding Bootcamp News + Podcast
Recent Dev Bootcamp Reviews: Rating 4.32
Dev Bootcamp Reviews
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DBC gives you the skill that you need to succeed in the Tech industry. There is an emphasis on Social Learning and self-discovery, you will not only learn how to program but, you will learn how to interact and adapt to your surroundings quickly.
Instructors: The instructors are very knowledgeable and are always willing to lend a hand when needed. They also have a Coaches who are their daily to help you along your journey (they are invaluable)
Job Assistance: They have a career coach on staff; their primary job is helping you find a job.
Overall Experience: I loved it, it was the best fit for my personality, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone!
If you're looking for a bootcamp, I would highly recommend DevBootcamp for a few reasons. I loved the focus on empathetic engineering, pair program, best Object Oriented practices and TDD. They are constantly changing and adapting the program to make it better. If you do go to DBC, you'll have to be prepared to be adaptable yourself, because it's a pretty agile/ever-changing environment. Other than that it by far the best investment of you time and money for your Developer career.
If you're looking for a bootcamp, I would highly recommend DevBootcamp for a few reasons. I loved the focus on empathetic engineering, pair program, best Object Oriented practices and TDD. They are constantly changing and adapting the program to make it better. If you do go to DBC, you'll have to be prepared to be adaptable yourself, because it's a pretty agile/ever-changing environment. Other than that it by far the best investment of you time and money for your Developer career.
Dev Bootcamp changed my life. I had previously worked in the finance and banking industry for seven years before I grew tired and needed a change. I am now gainfully employed as a junior developer in the Chicago area and am, for the first time in my life, happy with my job, where I work, and the people I work with.
Do not attend Dev Bootcamp unless you are willing to put in 100%. I believe that anyone who attends and gives it their all will get what they desire out of the program. The only people I know of who had unsatisfactory results (and they are few) were those who barely tried and complained the whole way through.
I went to into DBC with no experience other than the required interview prep. As of this week, one month out of DBC, I got my first job. Just some proof that the program actually works!
They do a great job of making sure everyone is learning. They let you repeat each phase once if that's something you could benefit from.
DBC was one of the best things I could have done with any 18 weeks.
DBC is truly a life-changing experience. The staff has worked hard to develop a program that teaches technical skills and also emphasizes increasingly necessary "soft skills" like effective teamwork, feedback, and self-awareness. I chose to attend DBC over other bootcamps because it's been around the longest and I consider things like engineering empathy to be signs that a curriculum has evolved beyond the basics, and I was not disappointed.
In addition to getting a good start as a developer, I think I've also made some lifelong friends from DBC. The Chicago campus has a very friendly midwestern vibe and the atmosphere is extremely supportive rather than competitive. The kind of people that are attracted to this program are mostly smart and ambitious, but come from varied educational and professional backgrounds; I think this made it interesting to get to know everyone.
The curriculum is a very thorough overview of ruby and rails (i.e. explains the concepts in depth and teaches from the bottom up), but I think many people leave without a great understanding of more classical computer science concepts because they're not covered deeply and many may not have natural interest. I think DBC could do a better job of either teaching or recommending resources on topics like algorithms, managing computing resources, etc.
I found everyone I worked with to be intelligent and helpful - particularly during final projects, the instructors all get very excited and were extremely willing to offer help in whatever field they had expertise. I think instructors can vary somewhat in how much they "coddle" their cohort - generally it seems people learn more when they have an instructor that emphasizes self-learning instead of providing answers quickly.
The career team at DBC Chicago is stellar. They ran a week-long career counseling event after graduation to help us with our online presence and resumes. We also received helpful instructions and practice (not to mention great discussions) on how to best network to find opportunities. Beyond this week, the career team was committed to continuing to help graduates with interviews and deciding whether offers are good.
DBC not only teached you how to code, but also how to think, approach, and solve problems while communicating and working with team members as efficiently and pleastantly as possible. At the end of the day, software engineering is a team effort on many different levels.
Most importantly, in the world of computer science where things evolve and update constantly, the most valuable skill I picked up from DBC is how to learn quickly and have the confidence and the drive to accomplish tasks my rational mind thought were impossible. It's absolutely a very empowering experience that I'd highly recommend anyone to attend.
Overall the experience was excellent. All of the instructors were top-notch and the structure of the curriculum hit an excellent balance of tech understanding with best practices for development (equally important). They were still going through some noticable teething pains, because they've only been in NY for less than a year, although nothing too dramatic. It was really impressive to see how everyone in my cohort progressed over the course of the program.
Curriculum: I’ve got a Masters in education, secondary education. Coming from a teaching perspective and knowing that they don’t have the teaching background, there’s room for improvement. They’ve been really receptive to changes they could make to the curriculum or how it’s being taught. If you’re not sure you understand something, and there are gaps because everybody’s coming from a different place than I know that I can go to pretty much anyone and ask them to explain it to me.
Instructors: I think they’ve been pretty good after the fact of incorporating improvements or suggestions. I’ve written a lot of feedback and they’ve listened to it. They’re all pretty knowledgeable. If they don’t know something, they’re not afraid to say “I’ll look into it and get back to you.” They’re all nice people, too.
Job Assistance: Engineering Empathy has been good. It makes sense for people who don’t have as much of a reflective background. I’ve talked in a general manner with the careers people about the tech scene in DC where I’m from. We just got a new careers person and she’s talked to me informally about what I was expecting from her.
Overall: It hasn’t been perfect, but nothing is ever perfect. A big reason why I chose DBC was that they might not have all the answers, but they’re asking the right questions. Maybe something went wrong or we didn’t cover something enough, but they’re genuinely interested in your feedback and making it work for you. They might have an explanation for the way that they’re doing it, but they’ll explain it to you. It’s not some big secret. You have to ask the question. As much as I want to go home back to DC to my house and my comfortable bed, I’m going to miss being here. I think that’s pretty indicative of the great experience here.
It’s very much a sink-or-swim environment. There’s a lot of structure here that will support you, but you have to get over the fear of asking questions. That’s what initially held me back here. I didn’t want to be the person asking the dumb question. Don’t be afraid to ask for support. There’s not formal office hours, but don’t let it linger if you’re struggling. Get over your fear of asking questions early.
Job Assistance: The job assistance is really good. It’s even better than I expected it to be. You wait to do things like interview prep and resume building until after the program is over. There’s a thing called career week right after the 9 weeks.
Overall: The atmosphere can be completely different between programs, so you have to kind of figure it out when you get there. The students really determine the atmosphere. I would absolutely recommend it.
Aside from coding, I think Dev Bootcamp did a great job in teaching me about compassion and being aware of myself and others. That’s a really great skill to have when pairing with different people and being aware of things that they’re going through and being conscious of that. That can be with things like meditating or yoga. Those are great things that people don’t really think about when they think about coding. Coding is a side part, and awareness is the networking part. It’s about being a good person and a good teammate.
I didn’t give other bootcamps a hard look. I knew Dev Bootcamp did yoga and stuff like that and I’m really into physical fitness and sports and dancing, so when I saw yoga I thought that was cool.
Come with an open mind. Be prepared to not know a lot. They really emphasize that. You’re going to have your mind blown for the next 9 weeks that you’re here. Be prepared for that and open to changes because a lot of stuff you’re doing here you haven’t done before.
Instructors: It can be very hit or miss with instructors. My cohort got very lucky, but I knew people who repeated phases and told us that we lucked out not having a couple of instructors. Everyone that we got was great, but some of them have a style of teaching that may not work for everyone.
Job Assistance: I feel like the job assistance would be good preparation, but I can’t say for sure. It seems like they’re teaching us everything the right way and it seems like people are getting jobs. I don’t necessarily have a frame of reference right now. I enjoyed the extra-curricular stuff. Some of my friends didn’t like it as much because they were here to just code. That’s the thing, a lot of things here are feedback based, so whatever you want if you ask for it enough they’ll give it to you. Some people don’t like Engineering Empathy, but I think it’s unique to DBC and I think it’s very useful. It makes you more comfortable with the other people you work with. It makes a lot of sense to me.
Overall: I liked that they tried to build a soft skillset here. I think the progression of the curriculum was really good. They asked us to build a basic version of Active Record, which is a dev database, before even using it. We actually understood the basics behind it. Same thing happened before we used rails. I really liked the multiple step approach. The stuff they threw at us we had to struggle with, but they made sure we understood it.
Even though things are constantly changing, some things are set in stone. Everything is ruby-based, even with the move towards java-script. We ended up working with it while we were here, but half or two thirds of the course was still ruby. The other portion is just how they manage students. Our cohort was pretty cool. There are just very different dynamics between the cohorts. The rolling admissions thing works out well here because you can talk to people who have been here for different amounts of time.
They give you the resources and the opportunity, but the rest of it is up to you.
I actually ended up doing 12 weeks at Dev Bootcamp. At the end of phase 1 and phase 2 they do an evaluation of your skills. They do a coding test and stuff like that and based on how you perform in those they tell you whether you’re on track to repeat. Whether you should repeat, or whether you have a few things that you need to tighten up but you should be fine. Or green light you’re good to go. I got that middle one so it’s “like you have a few things that you could tighten up over the weekend, but we think you might benefit if you repeat.”
I didn’t have anything to lose. I don’t have kids or anything. So I was like “you know what, three more weeks of free instruction. I get a better grasp of all these concepts. So why not? It’s not going to cost me any extra.” So it was kind of an easy decision really, and it was the best decision. I got to really grasp a lot of things that I missed the first time around. The second time I was doing it, I knew a lot of things so I was teaching a lot of the new students.
Right now I’m a part-time coach. I’m coaching new students. I’m also doing the job search. Some weeks go by with no action, and some weeks it’s one after another getting calls. It’s definitely picking up.
Curriculum: I felt like there were some parts where the instruction could have been a bit clearer. I wasn’t sure if they had done this on purpose because in the technical world you have to learn specifications that aren’t always clear. Maybe they just wanted us to be in the confused state where you have to figure things out. There were some parts where I felt like the instructions could have been a little bit clearer.
Instructors: The instructors were definitely awesome. They flew in an instructor from San Francisco for all of my phases. The instructor for phase 1 was Sharif Abushadi. He is very opinionated on how things should be done. He’s very methodical about things. It was great to learn from him especially like in the first phase where you’re building your foundation, to have an instructor like that.
Phase 2 was Nate from Chicago. He was good. I think what tripped me up a little bit was maybe his teaching style. Sometimes he would do a lot of coding and I would lose him. He was a very laid-back soft-spoken person and sometimes I would end up tuning him out during the lecture. I was also tired from staying up and pulling all nighters and stuff like that.
The second time, when I repeated phase 2, there was an awesome guy, Tanner, who actually doesn’t work here anymore, but he was really great. He was very lively, jumping around and using his hands a lot. It was definitely easier to follow during lectures.
The last phase we had Steven Harms who also flew in from San Fran. Again, just like Sharif, he’s a veteran from the industry. He’s very methodical about things.
Job Preparation: I think it’s really different based on which interview you go to. I’ve had some interviews where they’ve thrown like computer science. They knew that I didn’t have a computer science degree. Some of them I struggled with, but some of them I was able to figure out. Then there’s other ones where I felt like Dev Bootcamp prepared me for the interview.
During the phases they didn’t really bug us about any job preparation because they didn’t want us to get distracted. As far as preparing for them, they taught us how to solve problems and even if you didn’t get the answer immediately, how to work through it.Even if you don’t end up getting the right answer, in the interview they’re looking at how you solve the problem, they’re looking for how you approach the problem, and not necessarily getting the right answer all the time. Just getting the idea and your frame of mind that’s what they focused on.
Afterwards, I mean they do have the employer network and I’ve had some hits with that, but I’ve seen a lot more action outside that network. I know they’re still working on getting people on board with that. I’ve just had better luck with people outside their network.
Erin the career advisor is awesome. As far as reviewing my resume, giving pointers, helping me prepare for interviews, I’d give her a 5. I give her a 6 really. As far as getting interviews out of the network they have, I can’t really rate it so highly. I’m not sure if that’s me or if I’m being unfair from my perspective. From my perspective I’d give it like 2.5 stars. I’ve gotten interviews out of it, but nothing solid. I’ve actually had better luck on my own.
I would say definitely before you make a commitment to go to the bootcamp or put down any kind of money, the first thing I would do is take some time to see if this is something you enjoy doing. So, for example, I tried to learn how to code about three or four times on my own and I got stuck, I got frustrated. I never came back to it for a while, and I thought maybe coding isn’t for me. Maybe I don’t like it. I just left it like that. Then the 5th time around, I was following some video tutorials. The instruction made a difference, having someone guide you through it, at least in the beginning. That’s when I was like “This is great. I love it. I’m getting it finally.” If people can just try it on their own for a little while. Maybe do something like Code Academy, just to see if this is something that they find to be fun. If you don’t find it fun, you’re not going to want to do it. You can’t expect Dev Bootcamp to hand you these things. You can’t go in without a passion for it.
Having some kind of a pre-work basically. I think that’s really helpful. I think the biggest thing that helped was being comfortable being confused. It was almost like a buzzword in the beginning, but it became reality towards the end. It became clearer towards the end. You’re going to be confused all the time. It’s fine. I think not knowing that the first few times is why I gave up. Maybe I’m not meant to be a programmer, but being told that it’s okay to be confused. That helped.
Curriculum: They just give you so much stuff. I couldn’t even get through it all. At the beginning of each phase actually we had the entire 3 weeks of curriculum. Rarely did I go too much further ahead of time than that week, but you could if you wanted to. The content is almost all original, if not all of it. Some of them you can tell were a little dated like written by the original people who started it. Jesse Farmer is one of the ones who started it and you’ll see his name on a lot of the different challenges or integrated into it.
Instructors: It’s an interesting thing since I’ve been here. They’ve gone through some instructors and I guess were short staffed for a little bit of my time while I was here. The ones that were here were amazing. All of them are so great. They’re inspiring. I found out one of my favorite instructors was a year younger than me. They’re all really good at what they do and really good at communicating ideas. They don’t look down on you. They know how to be a peer.
That said, one of the downsides of being short staffed is that our cohort actually didn’t have a cohort lead. Usually they have an instructor who goes through the cohort through the entire thing along with the people who teach each phase. We didn’t get that this time because two went onto do other things while I was in the first phase. They’ve been trying to hire people on in the meantime, but the time was still ticking.
Job Assistance: They’re really trying to step things up because I’ve seen some of the other people in cohorts above me and some of them are getting jobs really quickly. Some of them it’s taking a while. I know a few people, a couple cohorts above, who still haven’t found a job. That was worrying me at first, coming into career week, but they brought everybody from all the locations out here. They’re doing this new thing called DevConnect. It’s specific to Dev Bootcamp with other companies. We’re getting to try that.
The things that we did throughout the program that would help the most with job prep would be things called EEs. Engineering empathy sessions. In phase 1 we did one every week and then we did one in each of the other phases. It’s bringing up difficult topics and making people talk about them. People drop any front they’re putting up. They just be real for a little while and understand how other people think.
Overall Experience: The reason I chose Dev Bootcamp was just because I thought that it was better known or in the news, so I thought it would be a better network. I had no idea about any of the intricacies of it. I just saw the numbers that they put on their site about the percentage of people who get jobs or average salary. It was a lot more than just learning to code. It did serve its purpose for that, but I got to meet a bunch of cool people. I feel better for going through something that I didn’t think I was going to be able to do. Going through that I think made me a better person in general. There’s a lot more to it than just learning to code. It’s fun. I was originally only looking at startups. I wanted to learn to code to get into the startup scene. I didn’t want to work at a big corporation. I think I just didn’t like what I was doing in terms of the job. Now I’m more open, as long as I’m getting something from my work rather than just a paycheck every two weeks.
They stress culture just as much as coding. I was expecting to get here and just work for like 12-15 hours straight at the computer. Everyone told us to chill out. You’re here for 9 weeks. Don’t burn out. You want to meet people and have a good time too. That would be something. I could see how if someone only wanted to learn to code that that could be a put-off.
Dev Bootcamp is one of the most meaningful experiences I've ever gone through. I learned so much and made connections with so many inspiring, innovative and creative individuals. The NY branch is constantly getting better and always looking for feedback. The staff is very impressive, attentive and always available to help. Also, having the support system of the campus and staff post graduation has been very helpful in my learning and growth.
I chose this bootcamp based on the atmosphere and values that it promotes - Inclusion, continuous learning at any rate/age/speed, etc., empathy, friendships, working together, and creativity. You could go to any place to learn the skills, but paying to learn anywhere else I felt was cutting myself short. DBC not only teaches you the skills, but teaches you how to teach yourself new skills moving forward. It has become my home in terms of where I go to find comfort and hang out with people in my free time. I could not be more happy or proud from graduating from somewhere that genuinely cares.
Almost one year later and I still don't have a job as a developer. The market is flooded with junior developers and even as I build up my skill set, learn new frameworks and libraries, do more projects, actively attend meetups and apply online, it just seems as though I'm not making any progress from the lack of responses I receive. Dev Bootcamp is very good at soliciting feedback from the small percentage of students who do get jobs as developers. They'll magnify their successes on social media, but the bigger picture is most of their cohort members still don't have jobs. The careers team genuinely cares about your success, but they seem powerless to do anything about it. They're able to give you general career advice, but they're not specialized in understanding how to break into the software industry as a developer. They've always kept sending me potential jobs I could've got without spending 14k attending Dev Bootcamp. It feels less about the students success post graduation and more about pumping and dumping students as a business.
Dev Bootcamp was a great option from 2012-2014, when recruiters were desperate for developers, but in 2017, it's not worth 14k to spend on. I DON'T RECOMMEND DEV BOOTCAMP. Choose a bootcamp such as App Academy or Flatiron because they'll put their business on the line for your success. At least you'll have the insurance of receiving your money back if you don't get a job as a developer. I've attended a meetup where I met someone from App Academy who received a full refund of their deposit and no deduction of their annual salary after a year of being unemployed and unable to get a job as a developer. Dev Bootcamp will just shrug their shoulders and treat you as more of a statistic as they're piling up more unemployed graduates to support without any insurance of giving their money back. No bootcamp can guarantee you a job with the a saturated market of junior developers, but they can guarantee your money back if you put in the work and still didn't get a job as a developer. I will update this review once I land a job as a developer. If I don't, just know I'm still unemployed or gave up and took a different route.
I heavily relied on Course Report reviews when I chose to be part of one of Dev Bootcamp's first cohorts, so I feel obligated to share my own experience. First, there are components of the Austin Dev Bootcamp curriculum of which I was unaware, and when I was aware, I didn't take seriously. I wish in retrospect that I had.
At the time I attended, the following was all true:
Dev Bootcamp has three assessments throughout the curriculum. If you fail the assessment, you are obligated to repeat. DBC campuses have rolling cohorts that allow students to immediately repeat each phase, but Austin does not. There is an assessment that happens two weeks before the end of Phase 0, an assessment after the first three weeks of Phase 1, and again at the end of Phase 2. There were a handful of people in our cohort who either chose or were forced by the staff to repeat at the end of Phase 0 or at the end of Phase 2. The students who repeated Phase 0 had to repeat the nine-week curriculum and wait for the next cohort to start their on-site portion. The students who repeated Phase 2 were forced to drop out of the current cohort, wait a month and half gap period before the next cohort, and instead of simply repeating Phase 2, were forced to start all over again at the beginning of Phase 1. The staff said this was so that all the students could "bond".
This is necessary information because you may be a student who passes the assessments and feels confident in their knowledge, but if you do not, I would advise planning now whether you can afford the financial and logistical repercussions of voluntarily or forcibly being held back.
Second is the Engineering Empathy "EE" sessions. I deeply wish I had taken seriously some of the earlier Course Report reviews on Dev Bootcamp, which cautioned that both students and facilitators were not prepared to handle the serious nature and depth of the EE topics. Now that I experienced the sessions, I agree that they are great in theory, but counterproductive in practice, especially if you are a marginalized person in tech. As a woman, I found the way in which some were handled, particularly the discussion on microaggressions, distressing in a way that distracted me from learning to code. The discussions inevitably had the predominantly white, male members of our cohort questioning the two women about their experiences and asking them to justify their experiences. This also led to another big issue, the fact that we didn't address intersectionality or discuss anything besides straight white women in our microagressions discussion. I left feedback for the campus to start having the licensed counselor on staff facilitate these discussion and be in charge of creating safe spaces, as opposed to having a teacher wantonly naming "safe spaces" and facilitating off-the-cuff discussions.
In terms of teaching methodologies, I appreciated the idea behind having little instruction and prompting students to directly jump into new challenges and figure them out, as that's what we'll be doing in our careers. However, as a beginner coder I felt like I spun my wheels more than was necessary. I know that DBC prides itself in a vetted curriculum, but I learned more skills when I finally gave myself permission to stray from some daily solo and team challenges to do what I needed to learn. Once I started doing what I had to do for myself and not relying on last-minute DBC breakout sessions, I felt I gained a lot more tools in my coding tool belt with which to work. I also felt I gained a deeper understanding of the code I was writing.
Job placement does not exist at DBC. The staff will help you with professional preparation, but I barely utilized these tools or found them helpful when I got my full-time development job. I had other resources to work with, such as my alma matter and local mentors, so I'm not sure what it would be like to only rely on DBC for help getting jobs.
There were great perks to the curriculum, such as an on-site counselor and weekly yoga classes. I took advantage of both and greatly appreciated them. The EE sessions on communication with senior developers were helpful when it came time for me in my work to pair with seniors or ask for feedback during code reviews. The curriculum is as extensive as it can be in the little amount of time that you are there, and Ruby on Rails is a very accessible language to beginners.
I feel DISCRIMINATED AGAINST at DEV BOOTCAMP, SF. I was asked to leave the program because I was not learning fast enough, according the the staff.
At about 5:30pm in the afternoon, I was advised by Walker (dev bootcamp director) and witness by Stan (instructor/mentor) that I will no longer be with dev bootcamp and they are kicking me out of the program. They had made a decision that I will not be able to repeat and says that I will not keep up with the rest of the students if I refactor. So therefore I will not be offered a refactor chance at phase 2. This is after my first attempt at Phase 2 of the program. All students were advise that each one of us would have at least one chance to refactor (redo) on each of the Phase in the program. I have pleaded to the director and stated that I deserved another chance at this, I feel real good about the material and that I do have test anxiety and I don’t do well under pressure. I stressed that I have not had a second chance at phase 2 and asked why I was singled out in the program and prohibited from a 2nd chance while the nearly half of my classmates were given another opportunity. Mr. Walker kept on stressing that my gap was too far and I will not make it on the repeat. I plead and plead for another opportunity, and had mention that there are other 19-25 year olds in my class didn’t try at all and had done worst than me on the assessment, why are they allow to repeat and not me? I’m currently 43 years old. What have I done wrong to deserve this? Is it because of my age? My looks? My ethnicity? What is it?
I could not figure it out, he just kept saying I was not a good fit for dev bootcamp. I don’t believe they have ever dismissed someone after the first attempt at a phase and I was the first one to do so. I have also stressed to him that I have stayed late, and nearly came in 7 days a week during the whole phase 2 studies. There was a lot of material to be covered and I kept on telling him that I have a good grasp on the concepts and all I have to do is work on the implementation a bit and I’m right on pace. He would not listen to me at all and ask for my key back. So I left.
During that whole entire evening, I was extremely upset. I have started to smoke again after quitting for about 3 months, snapping at my children for no reason and could not focus on anything. While trying to get some rest, I popped up at around 2-3am and could not sleep for a few hours and woke my wife up to say, “I’m gonna fight them to get me back into the program”.
That same evening, I have wrote the director an email:
I really think it's unfair for you to give others a chance at phase 2 and not me. I have done nothing wrong, DBC is a learning institution and you are suppose to teach us as students. I was promised an adviser that will track my process during my phase 2 and advise on the items and the areas that I need to improve on and I was not provided that. Everyone that I know of has a second chance at phase 2 and I was denied the opportunity to do so. I might not have been great at explaining the codes, but I do believe and know for a fact that I have more knowledge than some of my cohort mates and they were given another opportunity to learn more.
You can actually randomly select anyone in phase 2 and ask them if I was the worst coder in the phase. Why am I getting dismissed? Learning institutions are suppose to provide and assist students in their learning process. I might have misunderstood the questions of my code reviewer or might have forgotten what the term of the variable or function that she has asked me about. So teach me, give me a chance to understand better.
Thank you for your consideration.
At about 9am, I went to dev bootcamp to speak to Walker. Again, I stressed I deserve a 2nd chance and I would like to prove it to everyone that I can still learn the material. I told him, dev bootcamp is like family, you and the staff are like parents, us students are like children. I asked him, if your child is having problems learning a subject or a lesson you are trying to teach her, would you just kick her out the door after the first try? Or would find another way to teach her, maybe try a different angle or just give her a little bit more time. At this point he was still stressing that the gap was too big and that I will not succeed on the second try. Yet again, I mention the other 2 younger students who didn’t do or understand anything at all was given a 2nd chance and not me. I asked, why are you discriminating against me? After pleading my case for another 10-15 minutes, he decided to reopen my case for the staff/instructors review to see if another chance would be awarded to me. He said he will get back to me in the afternoon with the outcome of the meeting. After that, I went home to wait for the decision.
At around 4:58pm, I received an email from Walker:
Thank you again for reaching out regarding your assessment results.
As promised, the staff has reviewed your case and we've determined that you will be allowed to repeat Phase 2. The decision was largely based on new information related to cultural components (e.g the 3 agreements) with no alteration of our concerns regarding your technical performance.
It's important to convey that you will still have a significant gap to close on your technical skills and this may prove to be insurmountable over the next few weeks. That said, we expect you to bring 100% to the effort to succeed. In that sense, I can tell you that we'll bring 100% as well and will offer you the same support that we offer all of our students in their efforts to succeed. We will also hold you to the same standards culturally and technically.
We look forward to seeing you on Monday morning and hope that this news will brighten your weekend.
I was extremely excited on receiving the news that I get to continue my education at DBC. I appreciated all my classmates that had pull for me during the all school standups and personally going into Walker’s office to tell him that I deserve another chance. I was so grateful that all my friends had pull for me. They had told me that students from all phases (1,2,3) had spoke about me and don’t believe I deserve to be kicked out of the program. That same evening I went to the graduation celebration of the phase 3 students and was just thanking everyone I can see for the 2nd chance. When I shook one of the instructor’s hand at the celebration, my friend told me what he had said in the all school standup in the morning when they were telling walker to give me another chance at phase 2. This instructor made comments like “Why are you guys standing up for someone that plays ping pong and lays on the couch all the time? They don’t deserve to be here.” This really crushed my heart and soul. I had thought that all the staff/instructors really feel like I deserve another chance to learn and would be there to help me on this journey. At that point, I knew it was all the pressure from the students that had brought me back to DBC. I was so grateful and really don’t know how to repay them. I know I have made friends for life. On the other hand, I have a great amount of anger towards all the instructors and staff. I felt betrayed, hated and seems to be public enemy number 1 in the staffs/instructors eyes, because they wanted me to be out of the program and forced to keep me in due to the pressure from all students who supported me. We had went to an after party that evening, and things did not sit well with me at all, I was torn up inside again.
Over the weekend (3/4/17 - 3/5/17)
I was feeling of angry, disappointed, and distorted. I couldn’t believe what had just happened, how can one of the instructors make such an accusation about me. Saying that I’m lazy and did not put in the effort and tried my best. I had truly believe and lived the entire culture of DBC, to be kind to one another, learn at your own pace, we are all here to support you at any given time. I got to say, most of the student were sold on the idea of the culture. Over the whole entire weekend, I had mixed feelings about the entire program, do I still want to be part of this learning environment? Are these people really willing to teach me? Will they prejudge me and my abilities? Will they be fair to me on my assessments? Am I just allowed a 2nd chance because I deserve it or because of the pressure from all the other students who supported me? My feelings of anger had grew in such a way that I couldn’t have imagined. I had found myself yelling and screaming at my children for no reason and the constant depressed state was taking over me. I could not focus on anything.
At my distressed state, I went back to the program and tried to focus once again on my studies. My feeling of abandonment, stress, depression, and hatred had grew. I knew I need to get this out of my system if I want to refocus and be successful in the program. So I had booked the earliest appointment to see the in house counselor. I told *rianna, the counselor what I was feeling and what was going on with me. She had encourage me to let it out and think of the positive points and not be negative. She told me I should think about all the people in the school who believes in me and try to move forward. I stress to her that the negative feeling toward the whole situation and the staff was disappointed. After breaking down to her in the private session, I went back to the sessions to give it another try. Every time I walked by any of the instructors, the thought of them trying to kick me out pops up into my head. Before this had happen, I’m one of the most cheerful person in the school. I felt like I still have to be nice and put on a fake grin whenever I cross anyone’s path. Inside, it was really hurting me. The instructor for my new phase was actually the instructor who made the accusation that I was always playing ping pong and lounging in the couches. In his open floor talks, he stressed that he will stand up to anyone who works hard help them as much as he can. In back of my mine, I call ‘bullshit’. All day, I was dreading being in the place.
The night before, I could not focus at all on my studies or anything at all. Much like the previous few days. I had decided to confront the instructor about his allegations on me. When I confronted him in his office, he tried to play it off and says the statement wasn’t pointing towards me. I didn’t not believe him for a minute, he looks to be the type that will throw you in the fire and let you burn. Actually, I can’t say that because I have just met the guy, but I do not believe a word he says. Once again, I kept trying to focus and was not very successful at it. At this point, my distraction had really grown to a point where I couldn’t concentrate at all. There was not an ounce of happiness in my soul that I can conjure up to be in this space with all these instructors that are suppose to help me learn. I have stayed and tried once again to find the positive energy in my cohort mates so I can move forward with the program. Once more, I was dreading the place. When I got home, I found myself yelling and screaming at my 8 year old because she didn’t practice his piano lessons. Lecturing my teenager about finding his career focus earlier in life and not turning out to be like myself.
The feeling had not changed so I wanted to see the in house counselor again and try to submerge these negative feelings and get back into focus so I can hopefully achieve my goals of becoming a software developer one day. During this 2nd session with *rianna, the counselor, I had explained to her that the feelings towards the staff had not gotten better. I explained to her that the feeling had gotten worst. I told her what I was feeling. It felt like all the instructors had surrounded me in a circle, with all of them lifting their feet and try to crush me while I’m right in the middle of it. I had also told her how it was affecting my life at home as well. Once again, she told me to lean on my cohort mates for support. After the meeting, I talked to a few of my closer cohort mates to explain my situation and feelings. They told me to just drop the ill feelings towards the instructors and do this for myself and for my family. It felt good to have the support of all my friends. I power through the day with their amazing support.
Going back to class had been a challenge all week. Especially difficult with the instructor who had accused me of my actions and trying to listen to him do talks. Constant rushes going through in my head that these instructors don’t really care and I not even sure if they even like being there in the first place. It felt like they were all trying to put on a show themselves. They all try to say how good it felt when the students get a concept and the lights go off in their head when they get it. I was asking myself, what about the students who didn’t get it, have you thought about why they don’t get it? Is it maybe because you are not showing them in a way that they can’t comprehend? I had compared it to myself when I try to show my children something new. If they don’t get it the first time, I don’t think they are stupid, I just think to myself, how can I present it in a way that they can comprehend better. That’s just how I think being a teacher should handle the situation. Instead, these so call teachers are trying to kick me out after one try at it and not have to bother with me while I had paid over $10,000 for them to teach me. At the end of Thursday, all my energy trying to put my feeling aside and keep learning from the institution had taken a toll on me. After the EE (engineering empathy) session, I had told some of my cohort mates that I might not be able to stay in this institution any longer.
After Thursday, I need some time to think and reassess my stay with DBC. So I took the day off from the program to figure out and weight the situation. All week, I was not able to focus and it was having a toll on me and my well being. I took the day to think about how I can possibly make this work or just leave the program.
After thinking about how I had felt for the week and what my feelings towards the staff, I had booked one final session with the counselor (*rianna). I wanted to say farewell to her and thank her for the support during my previous week’s sessions. At the session, I stress to her that there’s no way that I can stay in this environment, get discriminated against, and be focus at the same time. Every time I walked by any instructor, there’s was still that hatred towards them. The thought of them wanting to kick me out of the program stuck to my head. I just can’t shake it off. So after the session with the counselor, I gave the card key back to the director and said I just can’t trust that the staff will dedicate themselves to support me.
I FEEL BETRAYED, DESERTED, AND DISCRIMINATED AGAINST. If there’s any out there that can help me, please drop me a line.
Dev Bootcamp is good for beginners wanting to learn how to code. I liked the environment, very friendly towards diversity and soft skills. The curriculum is good, but the instructors do not do as many lectures as they could have. We had to ask for lectures, which was odd for me because I expected there would be lectures on almost every new topic. They have a "hands-off" approach style of curriculum, which is good for some with previous experience, but as a beginner I would like to have lectures prior to doing assignments. They are very accommodating, as they change the curriculum and get feedback every week on how to improve. The mentors are sometimes more knowledgeable than the instructors which was kinda weird. Most of the instructors are very knowledgeable, but they need to hire more people who worked in the industry for a longer time. The engineering empathy was fantastic, I like the emphasis of people skills especially when working on teams. I liked that they promoted agile methodologies. They have events in the space a lot which was great. Overall experience was okay, but if you're looking for a job right now I'd recommend learning the MEAN stack and to choose a school using JS for front end and back end, if you are looking for a great intro to Web Dev + programming using Ruby I'd recommend Dev Bootcamp.
Pros: The best thing about DBC was the teachers and mentors. They were well-qualified, friendly, and motivating. The second best thing was the curriculum. I felt that the exercises and projects that were required for us to complete were good at illustrating important concepts and building real skills relevant to web development. The third best thing was the environment set by my cohort. Many of them were my healthy competition, as well as fun and interesting people to be around.
Cons: They need to hire a really competent OM. Some times, events and the space in general seemed disorganized. Further, there needs to be more emphasis on data structures and algorithms while students are going through the program. It could be really simple - like just requiring that students solve one algorithm problem per day.
After graduating, the careers team really went above and beyond to help me. I was motivated by their hustle to work hard in my job search, and it paid off. BOOTCAMP =/= JOB. You CANNOT coast. You must, MUST bust your ass, but hopefully you already knew this.
What Dev Bootcamp does not tell you upfront is a large portion of the students don't complete the program because they get kicked out for not passing an assessment after 6 weeks. In fact, many do not even make it to the onsite portion of the course. Yes, they tell you in some fine print on the website and when you sign documents that some students may need to retake a section, but they do not make it clear what percentage of students actually get kicked out. If they were clear about that you might go to a different bootcamp and then they would not get to keep a portion of your tuition, something like $2500. You get an email saying "you've been removed from the program, effective immediately" and there's no further discussion about it.
The first 9 weeks is taught by TA's who have never taught before having just finished the course and are managing dozens of students online so the student to teacher ratio is really high. They do this to keep costs low and maximize profits. Your time to ask questions is over an online chat with a dozen other students asking different questions about the curriculum. It's a little chaotic and it's all wrapped up in this 'empathy' mask.
This is the real problem with Dev Bootcamp (an many bootcamps for that matter), a total lack of transparency. A 90% hiring rate sounds sexy, but that can mean a lot of different things. It means an internship after 6 months, working as a TA partime for the bootcamp, a job you get through your cousin's friend's company in a role other than programming, or freelancing here and there. It's very misleading. Yes, it may work out for a good number of people after perserverance, but I'm betting there's a lot more people it doesn't work out for. Its a very lucrative business without a lot of transparency or regulation. Be very careful what you think you're getting here. Keep your expectations in check.
This was one of the most mentally and emotionally challenging things I've done in my life, but also one of the most rewarding. I was ready to put myself on a new career path that would ensure that I was always challenged, and always growing. Dev Bootcamp's immersive program crams a TON of development fundamentals into your brain in a short amount of time. You're always being pushed beyond your comfort zone, which when you're able to look back and see how much you've learned, is an excellent approach to teaching. As you near the end of the curriculum, they'll take the training wheels off and much of your progress will be up to you in terms of area of focus (languages, frameworks, industry of focus, etc). While this was frustrating at first, it became apparent why that was the case as I began my job hunt. After recently landing a job as a software engineer, knowing how to research and continue learning seems as important as the basics they teach you. Overall, a great experience. If you decide to enroll, work as hard as you can and own your education.
I'd been in positions dabbling in code for 10 years or so, and I entered Dev Bootcamp wanting to learn more and change my career to focus on coding and development more seriously. It was an intense 9 weeks, but one of the most rewarding of my life. My cohort was small compared to many others, but we bonded tightly and took care of each other to make sure everyone made it and understood all the concepts. We invented extra projects, gave each other additional breakout sessions, and later helped each other through the tedious job search process. The instructors were incredibly passionate and engaged. The whole experience helped me break down a lot of my difficulty with asking for help and seeking feedback -- it's still difficult sometimes, but I've grown a lot as a person in general from being in a place with that emphasis.
Our latest on Dev Bootcamp
In our End of Year Podcast, we're rounding up the most interesting news of 2017 and covering all the trends, thought pieces, controversies and more. Many schools are hitting their 5 year anniversaries – a reminder that although there is a lot going on in this industry, it’s still nascent and there is still room for new innovative approaches to the bootcamp model. We’ve chosen the most defining stories, and it was a very eventful year – a couple of big bootcamps closed, a ton of new bootcamps launched, some schools were acquired, and other bootcamps raised money.Continue Reading →
Need a rundown of everything that happened in the coding bootcamp industry this September? You’re in luck! We’ve collected all the most important news in this blog post and podcast. This month, we kept up with the status of the bootcamp industry, learned about how bootcamps are thriving in smaller markets, and explored different ways to pay for bootcamp. Plus, we added 7 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 →
What is a technical job interview? What sort of questions are you likely to get asked by hiring managers when you’re applying for web developer or software engineering roles after coding bootcamp? Although Dev Bootcamp is no longer open, this is still great advice! Former instructors, Mark Siemers and Anil Kulkarni, join our panel to discuss what to expect in a technical job interview, examples of common technical interview questions, and how students can thoroughly prepare to succeed in a coding interview and get the job. Read the article or watch our video Q&A.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 →
Encouraging diversity in tech is an important part of Dev Bootcamp’s mission, and is a motivating force behind the new DBC Access Fund. As a middle school math teacher Arlene Perez had a similar goal – to encourage students to fall in love with STEM. While teaching math, robotics, and basic coding to her students, Arlene realized that she wanted to pursue a career in tech. She was awarded a full scholarship to Dev Bootcamp’s San Francisco campus, and landed a coveted apprenticeship at NBCUniversal in Los Angeles. Arlene explains how diversity scholarships help expose untapped communities to careers in tech and why she wants to be a role model for other Latina students.
What were you up to before Dev Bootcamp?
I studied political science and philosophy in college, and moved to Washington, DC after graduation because I was really interested in educational politics. I wanted to go into politics, change education, and bring more opportunities to students.
In DC, I worked as a middle school math teacher with Teach for America. I’ve always loved math, so I wanted to teach specifically middle school students to enjoy subjects like algebra and geometry, and fall in love with STEM before high school. I was a teacher for five years, teaching math, robotics and basic computer coding classes. My biggest passion was getting my students excited about STEM, help to increase the number of minorities and women in STEM, and push my students to do more.
What motivated you to change career paths and learn to code? Did you try to learn on your own?
Since I was a child, my favorite subject has always been math. My first language was Spanish, but math is universal, so when I was learning English, math was the only subject I understood. My high school didn’t offer computer science, so if you liked math they told you to be an accountant or an engineer, but they weren’t very helpful in terms of other opportunities. By the time I heard about computer science, and took some courses in college, it was too late for me to major in it. I’ve always loved computer science, but I never got a chance to pursue it.
When I became a teacher, I learned some basic coding on my own, and took my students through it. Because I was a full-time teacher, I never had time to fully focus on learning to code. However, the kind of logic and numbers involved in coding was a world I already knew and loved.
After doing some self-teaching, what made you think that a bootcamp was the best way to learn to code?
I considered going back to college and studying computer science, but I didn’t want to study the theoretical part of coding; I wanted practical, real-world skills. Because I had already taught some coding basics, the fact that a bootcamp is only a few months was appealing to me. I also thought that learning in an environment with other focused career-changers might make me feel more comfortable than just going back to school, and feeling like I’m too old. I also really liked that Dev Bootcamp focused on Engineering Empathy – teaching how to work as a team and other skills I wouldn’t have learned if I had majored in computer science in college.
Had you already applied to Dev Bootcamp when you found out about the F8 Scholarship? What motivated you to apply?
I’m originally from Los Angeles, so I was looking for coding bootcamps in LA. I knew about Dev Bootcamp but they don’t have a campus in LA, so I wasn’t considering them yet. One day, a friend’s Facebook post mentioned that Facebook was offering a full ride to Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco for women and minorities. I knew Dev Bootcamp was well-known, and had a great curriculum. The fact that I could use the scholarship to pay for it motivated me to apply.
Would you have been able to attend Dev Bootcamp without that scholarship?
No, absolutely not. The reason I took so long to consider coding bootcamps was because they cost so much. Between my teacher’s salary, high DC living expenses, and paying my college loans, it was too much. But with the F8 Scholarship, I got so lucky. It was perfect timing, and was exactly what I was looking for, so I applied and fortunately got in. I see that Dev Bootcamp is now offering more scholarships like DBC Access Fund, and I think that’s the best way to get people like me, who come from communities where computer science isn’t widely talked about, more interested in tech.
Without the scholarship, I would probably still be teaching right now, and saving money for Dev Bootcamp. I knew I wanted to do a coding bootcamp, but I couldn’t afford it and I didn’t want to take out a loan. I would have needed to save up for 4-5 years, so the scholarship made a huge difference.
Dev Bootcamp just announced the DBC Access Fund- how important do you think it is for coding bootcamps like Dev Bootcamp to offer diversity scholarships?
In my experience, outside of Dev Bootcamp there is barely any diversity in tech. I went to a conference and it was dominated by white men. I want more Latinos, I want more females, more African Americans, more people that look like me in the sector. Unfortunately, at least in my case and in communities like mine, finances are a huge reason why we don’t pursue technical roles or even get exposure to tech. If I’d have known about computer science in high school, maybe I would be in a different situation.
I think scholarships like Dev Bootcamp Access Fund and F8 Scholarship not only give a financial opportunity to people who need it, but also the opportunity to be exposed to a new world. Tech is definitely the future, and that’s what I’m constantly pushing for in my community; pushing for students to study STEM. These scholarships literally help people do important jobs.
What were the scholarship application and interview processes like for you?
First I had to apply to Dev Bootcamp just to get in, which involved essays about why I wanted to do Dev Bootcamp, and what empathy meant to me. Then I applied for the scholarship with an essay about why I deserved the scholarship, what I was going to bring, and do with it.They focused not so much on what you’re going to learn in the program, but what are you going to do with what you learned. Then after that you had to do a coding challenge.
What was your cohort like at Dev Bootcamp? Did you feel like it was a diverse place to learn?
It was very diverse, which I wasn’t expecting. I come from the teaching world, where it’s all female-dominated, and I worked in a school where a lot of the teachers were underrepresented minorities, and came from different cities. I had this image of the technology world – which is accurate outside of Dev Bootcamp – that it would be white male dominated. But when I went to Dev Bootcamp, I found that wasn’t true because of the diversity scholarships, and because the culture they’ve created is very diverse. There are students of different ages, different ethnicities, and when we started, 50% of us were female. It was good to see that diversity.
Every month Dev Bootcamp holds talks for women, Latinos, and for people of color. Building that community was really important to Dev Bootcamp, which I wasn’t expecting in the tech space.
Having graduated from a traditional 4-year degree, and being a teacher yourself, what did you think of Dev Bootcamp’s teaching style?
It was very different. I was used to working as a traditional teacher, where I would put notes on the board, and the students go and do an assignment, and we talk about it. Dev Bootcamp was similar in a sense, but it was more about hands-on learning and teaching yourself. It was uncomfortable in the beginning because you want the instructors to explain everything to you, rather than spend hours on something that they could have taught you in five minutes.
But I think the biggest lesson is that learning to be a developer is not so much about the language you use or the coding itself, it’s about learning how to learn. I didn’t really understand what that meant until I graduated. Now, in my job I’m learning something completely different than what I was taught at Dev Bootcamp, but I know how to teach myself. Dev Bootcamp teaches you how to teach yourself, how to be vulnerable, and how to debug code – all of those things are essential to being a developer. Technology is always going to be changing, so you need to know how to adapt.
How did Dev Bootcamp’s Engineering Empathy curriculum impact you?
At Dev Bootcamp, they put together 20+ individuals who are so smart, so driven, so ambitious, and it’s only natural that their competitive sides come out. As you learn to code, you feel like “I’m failing, they get it but I don’t get it, I must be dumb.” So that empathy, and taking the time to get to know each other to work as a team, was essential. There’s also the empathy of how to work with others, how to interact with others, and how to work through a difficult problem. When you have different personalities, and different skills, how do you work through that? That’s where the empathy, and teamwork curriculum at Dev Bootcamp really helped.
How did Dev Bootcamp prepare you for the job search?
They helped us create our LinkedIn profile, and they exposed us to algorithm interview questions. But I think the career prep is what you make of it. Our career coach, Sar, was amazing – I called her every week. She was also an emotional support coach; it’s difficult when you get rejected in an interview process, or when you’re going through negotiations with a company.
But at end of day, Dev Bootcamp can’t guarantee you job opportunities; you have to push on your own. Especially since I was moving back to LA, I had to find opportunities for myself. Dev Bootcamp’s career training was helpful in terms of how to talk to hiring managers, what to put on my resume, and how to act on the day of the interview.
Congrats on your role at NBC! What’s the role and how did you land it?
I was introduced to NBC through a Dev Bootcamp friend. She found it online and I applied through the NBCUniversal jobs website. I got so lucky. It’s an 18-month Full Stack Software Engineer Apprenticeship. The first 6 months are going through the different technologies to see where we want to work, then during the last 12 months, we focus on a project in one area for the rest of the year, whether that is iOS or tvOS, back end or front end.
What have you been working on so far? Have you had to learn new technologies?
The apprenticeship is really cool because you get to touch a little bit of everything and see the different technologies they work with at NBCUniversal, and then you get to decide what you want to continue and pursue. I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted to focus on in my career as a developer, so the apprenticeship is a great way to figure out what I really love.
The NBCUniversal office is awesome and the team is great and I just feel like I’m learning so much. I was excited to work with women – the digital team has a higher percentage of women than the average tech company. The other apprentice is also female, so I love that we can feed off each other. This team is not as diverse as my Dev Bootcamp cohort, but they are getting there. I love my boss because he’s always looking for feedback and how to help us.
What’s been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to learn to code?
Because I’m a teacher, I needed to know the “why” behind everything I was learning. But sometimes in tech, you don’t have time for the “why” – if it works, it works. So those concepts took me a little bit longer to get my head around. I had to learn to focus on the “why” after I graduated.
How can you and other software developers encourage more women and Latino/as to get into STEM careers?
I feel like the best way to encourage other women and Latino/as in tech is by showing everyone that you’re working in tech. After Dev Bootcamp, I went back to visit my old classroom where I used to teach, and told my students about how I’m now a Software Engineer at NBCUniversal, and a lot of the students were shocked. Showing young students that people like you exist in tech is important, because students are used to seeing males and non-Latinos in those roles. They don’t see many females or Latinos in tech roles, so I wanted them to see a role model.
On top of exposing them to different roles, we have to show them it’s not as hard as they think, and that coding is not this magical thing. Before Dev Bootcamp, I got involved in organizations that focus on women in tech, and Latinos in tech, and for me, that was a good push. When I wasn’t sure that this was the right path, I would see others doing it, and felt like I could do it. I think that’s the biggest way to motivate others to get involved.
What advice do you have for people making a career change through a coding bootcamp?
Ask for help from your teammates, your cohort mates, the teachers, the mentors. We’d stay at Dev Bootcamp until 9pm or 10pm, so I got to know my mentors really well, and they are still my mentors today. My advice is to get as much help as you can!
Also, don’t compare yourself to anyone and remind yourself that this is your journey. You’re on your own, and if it takes you longer to learn a concept, then that’s okay. One of my hardest challenges was constantly comparing myself to others, and that definitely takes its toll in the first week. I wondered if Dev Bootcamp is not for me, or maybe I’m not smart enough. But I stuck to my own journey, at my own pace, stopped comparing myself, and asked for help.
Jeff Mendiola was a top salesperson at Enterprise Rent-A-Car when he decided to pursue a career in coding. He spent a year teaching himself, but when he couldn’t get a job, he realized he needed experience building projects in a team, so enrolled at Dev Bootcamp’s Seattle campus. Jeff tells us how his small class meant a great student:instructor ratio, how much he learned in his final project, and how the Dev Bootcamp careers team prepared him for getting accepted to Microsoft’s LEAP apprenticeship program!
Can you tell me about your background before you decided you wanted to go to Dev Bootcamp and learn to code?
I graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in sociology in 2012. My first job out of college was at Enterprise Rent-A-Car as a sales and customer service rep. I worked there for about a year and by that point, I felt like I wanted to pursue a career that would challenge me to use my creativity and skills in problem solving. That's when I decided to pursue a career as a software engineer. A lot of the influence came from my brother, who is a developer, because he told me about the projects he works on.
Do you think your background in sales was useful in learning to code or even in your career as a developer?
My past experience was very valuable. I used to be ashamed of not having a traditional engineering background, but through Dev Bootcamp I learned to embrace who I was and how I got to where I am. I'm proud to say that I used to be a salesperson at Enterprise, where I learned a lot about work ethic, running a business, working on a team, and how to deal with and work with different people.
From Dev Bootcamp, I learned how to have a growth mindset and feel like I could conquer the world. I'm not afraid to tackle any task at hand. I feel like there are a lot of stereotypes of what a developer should be or look like. But I think if you're interested in it, and you want to pursue it, you can put in the effort and find success.
Have you found a job as an engineer with a “non-traditional” background?
I’m working as a software design engineer apprentice at Microsoft through the LEAP apprenticeship, which is a 16-week Engineering Acceleration program to help promote diversity at Microsoft. It's a way of tapping into other talent pipelines and finding engineers who don't come from traditional pipelines like a college computer science program. The main goal is to get hired at Microsoft, so it's like a 10-week interview as opposed to a seven-hour interview.
We have a lot of talented people here from all walks of life. Some are women who are trying to return to the industry after taking time off to raise a family. Others come from coding academies like Dev Bootcamp, and are looking for their big break. It's crazy how diverse it is. I think it's 80% women and 20% men, and we come from everywhere– Egypt, Mexico, Venezuela, and the Philippines. We're not representative of what the tech field currently looks like. That's why I appreciate it so much, and why I appreciate Microsoft as well– they're really making an effort to promote diversity.
Did you try to learn on your own before considering a coding bootcamp?
In 2013, I decided to pursue a second degree in computer science, so I took an intro class to computer science programming in C++ at my local community college. But after doing my research, I realized it would cost too much money. A friend told me about coding bootcamps, so I did initial research on several bootcamps and saw a lot of mixed reviews. A lot of people had good experiences, but others were skeptical, which made me skeptical. So I decided to first go down the self-teaching route for about a year. However, I felt like I needed experience working with other engineers and putting myself in a situation more closely resembling working in the real world– communicating and doing product planning. One of the reasons I signed up for Dev Bootcamp was because I felt I could already do a front end job, but I wasn't getting any opportunities because I had no portfolio to show off my skills.
When I gave Dev Bootcamp a look, I asked someone about their experience, realized how awesome it was, and how well it worked for them. So on June 3rd 2016, I signed up.
What made you choose Dev Bootcamp in particular over other bootcamps?
There are several reasons. One reason was that I knew two people who did Dev Bootcamp; they graduated and found jobs. They had nothing but great things to say about it. It gave me a vote of confidence knowing that if it worked for them, it could work for me too. One of them attended Dev Bootcamp in New York and the other in San Francisco.
While I was researching Dev Bootcamp, I noticed that they emphasized developing skills outside of just coding– how to work with other people, how to communicate your thoughts clearly, and how to be an empathetic engineer. And I thought those were very valuable skills that I wanted to learn. Now I feel really strongly that those skills are part of why today I'm successful with working with other people. The curriculum didn’t just teach us how to code, it taught us how to become well-rounded and empathetic engineers.
Coding bootcamps can be expensive! How did you pay for the program?
I decided to go to the Seattle campus rather than NYC or San Francisco because it was a bit less expensive, due in part to the cost of living. At the time, tuition was about $1,000 less and at that moment every dollar counted. I also took a loan through Skills Fund. I went through the program with an attitude of focusing on getting better and moving forward every day; it was a lot of hard work and sacrifices. I went into it with zero expectations, but I knew it was an investment in myself and would be worthwhile.
What was your cohort like at Dev Bootcamp? How many people were there and how diverse was it in terms of gender, race, and backgrounds?
I was in the second cohort at the Seattle campus. We had two instructors with a cohort size of 10, so we had a lot of attention.
In terms of diversity, our cohort had about 30% from underrepresented groups in tech, which Dev Bootcamp provides scholarships for. We had two women, eight men, and one student from the LGBTQ community. In terms of racial diversity, it was a small group, but we were very diverse. People had all sorts of backgrounds. We had an electrical engineer, people from sales, customer service, business and law.
What was the learning experience like at Dev Bootcamp?
It was like drinking from an information fire hose. There was so much information every day– it was crazy. The first three months are remote and part-time involving building a solid foundation, online tutorials, and some exercises. That was pretty easy and manageable if you put in the time and effort. The on-site portion, which is the second three months, was intense. I came in there with a lot of confidence in myself and soon realized it was going to be very hard work. Every day is tiring. You're working from 9am to 6pm, and then after that, you're still working with preparatory material for the next day and weekend assignments.
Every day we had a calendar with a set of assignments which included instructions and background on what to do. Every day you're coding, learning, doing a lot of research, and solving problems with the support system of your cohort mates and your instructors
How did studying through the bootcamp compare to when you were self-teaching?
The main difference is that you have a support system so you can easily talk to anyone if you need help. Secondly, they have a lot of work for you so you'll never have to worry about what to do next– they have it all lined up for you.
When I was working on my own, I could easily get distracted. If someone asked me to lunch, that could easily turn into hanging out the whole day. But when you're here, you're in a workspace, you have zero distractions, and you’re working on this all the time. I found myself being very productive, and I felt like I was working in the real world already.
What was your favorite project that you worked on at Dev Bootcamp?
One favorite was my final project because there was minimal instruction. As a team, we spent a week going through the stages of creating an application– planning, setting goals, designing, and critiquing. There were many valuable experiences, and a lot of struggles because the instructors were not telling us what to do. However, they were active in helping guide us as needed.That experience gave me a lot of material to use for answers to interview questions like, "Tell me a time when you ran into a conflict with a fellow engineer. How did you resolve it?"
The project, pairBooked, was an application to help Dev Bootcamp students create meetings with each other. In the remote phase of Dev Bootcamp, you have to regularly pair with other students on assignments. It was often hard to coordinate and find someone to pair with, especially when people had different schedules or were in different time zones. So I came up with the idea where you put in your availability, people can see it, and then if someone else is available at that time, the app connects you. You will both get an email with each other’s contact information, and then you can pair-program together. We used Rails, which was the main framework that we were learning at that moment.
What sort of career guidance did Dev Bootcamp give you?
They teach you about the industry, and what it's like in your specific area. They give you tips on the interview process, what you can expect, examples of situations you might encounter, and basic negotiation skills. They go over some technical interviewing practice and workshops taught by a Microsoft Engineer who comes in. But you do also have to practice on your own.
The Dev Bootcamp careers team also connected me with as many people as they could in Seattle. Whenever there was an opportunity, then would send out my resume to companies. And I took advantage of those opportunities. Dev Bootcamp gives you the resources, but they won't place you in a job– nothing is a given. Just like if you graduate from college with a degree in computer science, you're not just going to get a job. You have to go out there, apply, interview and do the work.
Tell us how you got into the Microsoft LEAP program!
Right after the program in December last year, I was job hunting and networking like crazy. There was no vacation. I applied to 5-10 jobs a day. On LinkedIn, I tried to reach out to as many people as I could. I learned about the Microsoft LEAP program through someone I met at a coding workshop. I applied for the program, interviewed in January, started in February and now I'm here at Microsoft working as a software design engineer apprentice.
I applied online like you would for a school or a coding bootcamp. They ask why you’re interested in programming and what you’ve done to expose yourself to technology. If you're invited to interview, you go through two one-hour technical interviews either via Skype or in-person. You go over your resume and your projects, then they give you an algorithm problem to solve. I was really happy and amazed to be accepted.
What are you working on at Microsoft?
I'm working on Cortana, which is Microsoft's personal digital assistant. You can ask her to do stuff for you like get reminders about meetings and commitments. She can tell you about the weather, give you updates on your favorite sports team, tell you what restaurants are nearby, and answer any other random questions you might have.
I'm specifically working to improve the user experience of Cortana’s interface. Today I had a product meeting with product managers, designers, and other devs. After an hour or two of deliberation, I took my notes from the meeting and started implementing what we agreed upon. It's crazy – I'm in the real world now!
What kind of onboarding or training did Microsoft have when you first joined?
The next 10 weeks you work with your assigned team on your project. In week 16, you have a project fair where you showcase what you've worked on during your time as a LEAP apprentice.
What's been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to becoming a software engineer?
My journey wasn't straightforward at all. You can hit a lot of roadblocks when it comes to learning. It's not going to be easy, but if you practice and you keep going, then you get better.
Some of the roadblocks came in the actual learning, others were in trying to figure out what to do next, like what project to work on, and still others were in staying motivated to keep pushing forward. Finding a job was probably the hardest one. Even after graduating from bootcamp, there are no guarantees. It was a lot of effort and hustling – I had to study and practice every day. It’s so easy to get discouraged, but it's just a matter of having the right attitude and moving forward.
How have you been able to stay in touch with Dev Bootcamp and your other alumni since you've graduated?
I talk to them all the time. I am proud of whatever organization or team I'm a part of, and I like to keep in touch with everyone. I treat it like a family in a sense. Whenever anyone gets a job, we let each other know. I try and stay involved as much as I can by helping other people with their job search, or giving support or inspiration to move forward, because it is difficult.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking about making a career change by going through a coding bootcamp?
Know what you want to get out of a coding bootcamp. There are a lot of resources available that describe what it's like to be a programmer. Do research, and talk to actual engineers who are working. It's a big investment and sometimes people jump into it without knowing what it’s really like. Weigh your options as there are different ways that you can get skilled up to get a job as a developer. I've met many self-taught successful engineers– it requires a lot of responsibility, self-motivation, and networking.
Lastly, if you do decide to do the bootcamp, give it your all. It's not going to be easy regardless of how much experience you've had. The motto I live by is, “Every day is a new day.” Bring a positive attitude; focus on learning and getting better. Whatever progress you make is good. Whatever happened the day before, regardless of how bad or good it was, keep moving forward. If it worked for me, I believe it can work for you. Just put in the work.
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 →
After Jessie Yang witnessed her friend losing movement in her hand in an accident, she wanted to build an app to help people with hand rehabilitation. So she and her team at Dev Bootcamp came up with the idea for vHab, an app which uses 3D imaging to help people strengthen their hands through a variety of games. Jessie, Jenna Van Conett, Natalie Liles, and Albert Farhi explain how Dev Bootcamp prepared them to quickly learn new technologies to build their app in just one week, plus they gave us a live demo to show us how vHab works!
Can you each tell me what your backgrounds were before Dev Bootcamp and why you wanted to learn to code?
Jessie: Before Dev Bootcamp I worked as an accountant for about three years. I figured out that accounting really wasn’t my thing so I made a change and started a company with my friend which lasted for 18 months. We designed a product, and through that process I developed an interest in technology. I tried to teach myself how to code and found it really interesting. But when you learn all by yourself it’s really hard to get the whole picture. I realized I needed some guidance and that’s when I found Dev Bootcamp and started my journey here.
Jenna: I was an optician and worked in eyecare for seven years, and never really liked it. Everyone in my family is in that field so that’s how I ended up there. I knew people who worked in tech and I knew a bit about what tech looks like as a career, so I tried to teach myself how to code. After talking to a lot of different people who had gone to different bootcamps, I ended up coming to Dev Bootcamp. Part of what drew me was the nine-week remote period that Dev Bootcamp has, but also the Engineering Empathy program where they teach you how to navigate that work landscape with your coworkers and how to address difficult conversations. I’m from Michigan and moved out here for the program.
Natalie: I travelled a little bit after school and when I came back I was working in quality assurance in food manufacturing. I was never very happy with the career I was in and was thinking about a career change. I’d always been interested in web development, coding and design, so I was starting to think about web development. I looked at a number of bootcamps and online tutorials, and I chose Dev Bootcamp because I really needed a structured environment to help me achieve my goals. I never would have been able to learn what I’d learned if I didn’t have that structure and motivation at Dev Bootcamp.
Albert: Before Dev Bootcamp, I was only one year out of high school. I spent half of that year studying abroad, and the other half working as an IT Manager for a wholesale company. So although I had no coding experience coming in to Dev Bootcamp, I did have experience solving technical problems as they arose, which was definitely helpful. My original plan was to pursue a degree in computer engineering, and wait at least four years until I could produce something meaningful. I chose this alternative because the program delivers results in three months instead of four years. I was also intrigued by the level of intensity and immersion of this program.
What was the application and interview process like?
Jessie: Dev Bootcamp sends you a tutorial so you can teach yourself about Ruby and how to write a method, then you take a short test. In the interview, you get four or five questions and you talk through how you are solving each problem. After that, we had a logic question from the interviewer to see if you can think logically to solve a problem that you’ve never seen before.
Jenna: Then within 24 hours of the interview they let you know whether or not you would be a good fit for the program. You can get a soft yes which means they want you to interview again, or a hard yes where you can choose when you want to start the program. I had never coded before, so I spent a little bit more time with the material before I felt confident enough to tackle that interview. On site at Dev Bootcamp, you do have the option to repeat phases, and the interview process for repeating is very similar.
Natalie: The interview really reflected the material in the prep work. It was my first time coding in my life, so it was a little nerve wracking.
How many people were in your cohort? Was your class diverse in terms of gender, race, life and career backgrounds?
Jenna: We had 12 people in the cohort. There were four women, but previous cohorts had been 50% or 60% women. We also had a number of races and ethnicities represented; it was nice that it wasn’t all white and Asian men. Everyone has a different background. Most people are career changers and don’t have a technical background coming into Dev Bootcamp. As we got closer to the end of the program, we found that diversity in everyone’s past career, and everybody’s different skills can really benefit different projects.
What was the learning experience like at Dev Bootcamp— can you share a typical day?
Jessie: The days are different depending on which phase you are in. In Phase 1, we always had lectures at 9am, then after that we did pair coding from Monday to Wednesday. Then on Thursdays we did solo work and on Friday we worked on a group project. The day ended at 6pm, and some people would stay later to finish their work. I tried not to stay too late because my brain works better that way. From Phase 2 onwards, I got up at 4:30am in the morning to do some learning, then I went to bed early. For each phase there were different kinds of challenges because we learned different stuff in different phases.
How do you get assigned final projects and how long do you get to work on them?
Natalie: A week before our final project week, every person has an opportunity to pitch ideas that they would like to do a project on, then the class votes together for the top ideas. The teachers approve them and then we vote for the projects we want to work on. We rank them in order, and the instructors try to assign people based on their preferences. Once we were assigned to a project, we were put in a group of four people and we could start working on the project that same day and over the weekend. We worked on the project for one week.
What is your final project and how did you come up with the idea for it?
Jessie: Our project’s name is vHab and it’s a VR game for hand rehabilitation. I came up with this idea because of a personal experience. A year ago, a friend had a car accident and she lost all her hand functions. I saw her going through all the physical therapies to try to regain those functions. The whole process was very long and repetitive, really boring, plus it’s really expensive and you have to do it in the clinic. I was wondering if there was a better solution for this kind of physical therapy to make it a more affordable and engaging experience for people of all ages, either in the clinic or at their home. So that is the reason we built this app.
What sort of functionality does vHab have?
Natalie: We created 5 exercises modelled after traditional physical therapy exercises for hands. The first three are basic repetitive hand movements such as pinching, finger connect, and grabbing strength. The user can do these a number of ways, and receive encouraging messages on the screen. The last two games are a little more complicated and require more coordination. One is called Whack a Mole and the purpose of it is to select an object on the screen five times without selecting the other objects. This is great for coordination and fine motor skills, and it’s also a little bit more fun. The last game is the pinching and grabbing motion and the purpose is to drag all the objects on the left hand side of the screen to the right hand side. This is also good for fine motor skills, coordination, and muscle strength.
How do you pick up the hand motions?
Jenna: We have the Leap motion controller, which is about the size of a twinkie. It uses infrared technology to sense when your hand hovers over it and transmits those movements as data points to the computer and then we can choose to manipulate those data points however we want.
How did you create the images and graphics in the game?
What other technologies did you consider using to build it?
How many of those technologies were new to you and how did you learn them in such a short time?
Natalie: Most of the instructors weren't familiar with the technologies we were using, and they told us in advance they would try to help us as much as they could but there would be some limitations. So we were mostly just learning on our own - with the support of our instructors. We researched for the first few days, what technologies to use, we made those decisions on our own, based on our own skillsets. We worked pretty well together. We were able to successfully research on our own, Google the right answers, talk amongst ourselves, bounce ideas off our instructors, and it worked out.
How did you divide up the tasks for the project?
What was the biggest challenge you had while building this and how did you overcome that?
Jenna: The biggest challenge is we originally pictured this app looking quite different. We wanted to include a level that had block stacking, because when you look at existing physical therapy exercises, they talk about picking objects up and putting them down, and stacking things. We knew we would have to include a physics engine if we were going to do that so that if you drop a block it behaves the way the user anticipates. But with the way that the Three.js library works, and the way the Leap controller works, there wasn’t a way to get those technologies to work together with the physics engine. That was our biggest rabbit hole because we spent quite a bit of time trying to see if that was feasible. In the end, we decided it wasn’t something we could accomplish in the time that we had, so we had to change tactics and redefine what we wanted this final project to look like.
Before Dev Bootcamp, did any of you ever think you would have been able to build something like this?
Do you think it’s possible for someone to teach themselves how to build something like this rather than do a coding bootcamp?
Natalie: It depends on the person, but I personally would’ve never been able to have the research skills and the ability to learn things if I hadn’t done Dev Bootcamp. The shared learning environment and all the help you get on site was incredibly helpful. It was a really good decision for me. I didn’t have any prior experience before Dev Bootcamp, so it was a great learning experience all around.
What are your plans for the vHab app in the future?
Jessie: After graduation I plan to continue working on vHab. I think I will add more content to the game, more practice for your hands. And I also plan to learn Unity so we can use the Unity engine in this game, make it more like a real game. It will look better and interact with your hands better, when you use the game magic. I want to keep making beautiful and meaningful things.
What are your individual plans now? What sort of jobs are you looking for?
Jenna: The job hunt started the week after graduation. The neat thing about graduating from Dev Bootcamp is even though everybody is actively looking for a job, until you have that job you are pretty free to explore whatever you want, and dig into whatever you want to learn. I really want to learn Python, so I now have the time to do that. Until I get that job I’ll continue to push myself, learn whatever I can, and figure out what else I could build in an app.
Albert: My plan for the future is quite simple. I want to leverage my technical skills to build beautiful and meaningful products. I'm not tied to any specific sector in technology, but I am looking for a job that offers growth and productivity.
Natalie: I’m really excited to have the time to brush up on everything I’ve learned at Dev Bootcamp and also explore new areas. I have started getting my resume together with the guidance of my dedicated Dev Bootcamp career developer, and I’ll start applying as soon as I feel comfortable with everything. Since I was introduced to new technologies, I don’t really have a specific job in mind right now. I really enjoyed everything, so I’m very open to everything.
Jessie: I have a great interest in the VR industry. So, I’m trying to find opportunities by going to events, talking to people who work in VR to find out more about this industry, what I can do, and how I can break in. Also, I think there are many new things I need to learn to get into this area. I’m really interested in front end work, so I will focus on that as well.
What advice do you have for other people who are considering a bootcamp?
Jenna: My biggest piece of advice is to ask questions. Find someone who has gone to the bootcamp you are considering, reach out to them, and ask them about their experience. For me, that’s what helped the most. It’s also a good skill to have because once you do get to the bootcamp, you need to ask a lot of questions in order to progress.
Albert: My advice is similar to Jenna’s – ask people who have done it already about their experiences. This should give you assurance that bootcamp graduates really are regular people with no previous coding experience, and we also were skeptical of our own abilities.
Natalie: I would say, do as much research as possible. I was on the forums a lot, I read a review about every bootcamp. I chose Dev Bootcamp for the environment, I felt like it was the most supportive environment for beginners, and that was the biggest selling point for me. I would say read all the reviews, maybe attend an open house, get familiar with the campus and see if it’s a good fit for you.
Jessie: You should trust yourself, don’t limit yourself. Sometimes you can do more than you think. Just go and learn as much as you can.
It can be scary embarking on a coding bootcamp, and starting the search for your first coding job! We asked successful coding bootcamp alum Tom Goldenberg for his top tips on making yourself marketable as you go through a coding bootcamp. Watch the video above or read the brief summary.Continue Reading →
It’s that time again! A time to reflect on the year that is coming to an end, and a time to plan for what the New Year has in store. While it may be easy to beat yourself up about certain unmet goals, one thing is for sure: you made it through another year! And we bet you accomplished more than you think. Maybe you finished your first Codecademy class, made a 30-day Github commit streak, or maybe you even took a bootcamp prep course – so let’s cheers to that! But if learning to code is still at the top of your Resolutions List, then taking the plunge into a coding bootcamp may be the best way to officially cross it off. We’ve compiled a list of stellar schools offering full-time, part-time, and online courses with start dates at the top of the year. Five of these bootcamps even have scholarship money ready to dish out to aspiring coders like you.Continue Reading →
Welcome to 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 →
Sean Witt was a sound engineer for The Who in London, and managed a number of Guitar Center stores in the U.S. before deciding to join the tech industry. His mom suggested he try coding, so he joined Dev Bootcamp’s first cohort in their new Austin location. Sean tells us why he likes Dev Bootcamp’s approach to learning, how diverse his cohort was, and the similarities between music and coding. Plus we hear about Sean’s new job as a Data Engineer at Umbel!
Could you tell me about your pre-Dev Bootcamp story. What was your education or career background before you decided to go to a bootcamp?
I've been in the music industry for the last 10 to 15 years. When I was about 20, I started working at Guitar Center in musical retail sales. From that point, music became a passion of mine. I went to school at the School of Audio Engineering in London for record production. Right after school, I landed a job working as an engineer in Pete Townshend's private studio! That was a great experience. That led me to go on tour with The Who for several tours, doing miscellaneous stuff for Pete and the band. That was a wild experience.
Then after a period of time, Pete shut the studio down. So I moved back to the DC area where I started back at Guitar Center and worked my way up to be a general manager of both the DC stores, and also the Round Rock and the Austin stores. Round Rock is just a suburb of Austin.
Wow what a cool background! What was it that made you decide you wanted to change career paths and go to a coding bootcamp?
I wanted something more professional, and the tech industry has been so prevalent here in Austin. It was always really intriguing to me so I was looking at different avenues of doing that. I looked at either going into tech sales or customer service roles, but neither of those were something I wanted to do long term.
My mom is a vice president of a tech company, and she was pushing me to check out coding. Eventually, I started poking around on Codecademy and doing some minor coding challenges. Then I started looking into different bootcamps around the country, but mainly here in Austin, and I saw how a coding bootcamp could help me accelerate my entry into a tech career.
What was it that made you think that you needed to go to a bootcamp rather than continue teaching yourself?
I never really thought that I'd be able to learn enough by teaching myself and I am blown away when people do. I picked up a lot, and there were so many things that I was learning, but I didn't really know how to apply them or what they were for. So it came to me pretty quickly that, "Oh, I need a mentor. I need someone to show me." It was a pretty quick decision for me to know that I needed some help.
What other bootcamps did you consider and why did you eventually choose Dev Bootcamp?
The main two I was looking at were Galvanize and Dev Bootcamp, and then MakerSquare. I went with Dev Bootcamp because I liked their attitude and process of learning how to learn. It’s the idea that "no one's going to spoon feed you anything" but through the course materials, researching things, and working with your partners, you can figure out a solution to almost any problem. Plus I like their work with the whole self– the engineering empathy, where they teach you how to be a better employee and teammate. I felt like that step was going to be just as important as just knowing hard coding skills.
I really liked the vibe, the people, and the experience they provided. It was a no-brainer for me.
Were you also interested in what technologies or languages the bootcamps were teaching?
Did you at all think about going to college to study computer science?
Yeah, I did but to be honest, it was too much of a disruption to my life. I really couldn't afford it or take the time off work to do it. I looked at doing part-time or even going to Austin Community College, but it wasn't worth it for the amount of time I would have to commit, and I would get half the education that I would at a bootcamp. The bootcamp seemed like such a practical way to get hands-on experience.
What was your cohort like? Were they quite diverse in terms of gender, race, life and career backgrounds?
Yeah, absolutely. I was really surprised. We did a lot of work at Dev Bootcamp talking about diversity in tech in general, and we would see numbers about women in tech that actually shocked me. I don't have a ton of experience in the tech field, and our campus was run by women, and our cohort was about half women. So to me, it seemed evenly split. I just didn't realize that it was such a male-dominated field until I was told so.
We had 10 people in the cohort- four female, six male and they were quite diverse as far as race, age, and background. It was good. It was kind of a non-issue, and we didn't really think about it; we really focused on all being equal.
What was the learning experience like there? Maybe you can give me an example of a typical day and teaching style.
The theory behind a lot of it is "No one's going to spoon feed you anything." A huge part of Dev Bootcamp is teaching yourself how to learn. Some exercises put you in a situation where you don't know what you're doing, or why you're doing it, but you know what the end goal is. Through the course materials, through researching things, and working with your partners, you have to figure out the solution. We repeated that over and over. They gave us the confidence of "you can figure out anything." By the end of it, none of us had any fear about learning a new language, or anything new because we've done it day after day.
A huge benefit of Dev Bootcamp was having so much hands-on experience. On any given day, 90% of our time is spent coding. In the mornings we would do a small breakout on the stuff that we did yesterday to explain it further, or we would do a new topic. They were very open about us introducing topics as well. So we could say, "Hey, could you do a lecture on this topic?" and our teachers would put it together and do a half hour to an hour lecture on it.
On top of that, any time you ever needed any assistance, we always had our mentors and teachers there, standing no more than five or 10 feet away ready to help at any moment. You could always schedule pretty much an immediate one-on-one with any instructor. It was cool always having the safety net of someone there, but also constantly doing what we're going to do in the real world – which is just figuring stuff out.
Can you tell me about your favorite project that you worked on at Dev Bootcamp?
One of my favorite ones was a hackathon where we were given 24 hours to come up with a concept and make it happen. A small group of us had gone out a few nights before and were walking around randomly looking for a bar or restaurant to go to. So we made an app that uses Yelp technology to find the 22 closest bars to your area, then fills out a Monopoly board with all the bar names and links to their information. The concept is you can have a group of people and you play this monopoly board trying to hit every bar. You could adapt it for restaurants, movies, or whatever you want. Like real Monopoly, every time you go to one of those bars you would get a house, and if you went four times you would get a hotel. It was a cool concept and came together in about one day.
I'm interested in how Dev Bootcamp prepared you for the job hunt. What kind of career advice did they give you?
It's tough to find a job and I don't think Dev Bootcamp sugarcoated it at all. From the very beginning, Dev Bootcamp made it pretty clear they don't do placement, and are not going to guarantee you any salary. So I had realistic expectations. I think that other bootcamps make too many promises about what they can do for you in the job search. So what Dev Bootcamp encourages is taking how hard we were working in the course, and transferring that level of effort on to a job search when we graduate.
The careers developer Whitney O’Banner is absolutely incredible with her knowledge on how to interview, negotiating salaries, and all sorts of tips that you just never pick up on your own. I've been in the job force for almost 20 years now, and I learned more in one week from Whitney than I had ever before. I also realized the mistakes I had been making in interviews.
Dev Bootcamp also brought in actual tech recruiters to do mock behavioral interviews with us and give immediate feedback on how we did, what to avoid, what to say. We all did complete LinkedIn and resume overhauls, and the recruiters gave us feedback on our resumes. We set up technical interviews where we would do a Google chat with actual members of the tech industry who would give us full scorecards on how we performed.
When did you graduate from Dev Bootcamp and what are you doing now?
It has been about five weeks, and I got my first job offer a week ago.
Oh wow congratulations! What's the job?
I’ll be a data engineer with a company called Umbel. They're a sports and entertainment data company here in Austin. It’s a really amazing company, with great perks and benefits. I couldn't have landed a better place. I'm really excited to be there.
How did you find the job?
I found it through Whitney, our careers developer. She had made some contacts at Umbel and several other businesses, and basically organized screening interviews for the students. After a long process of interviewing with Umbel, I finally got the job offer.
As a data engineer what are you going to be doing there?
It's multiple roles. Part of it is client facing and part of its programming which is a great mix for me and my background. I haven't started yet, but as I understand it, we're going to be cleaning up clients’ own data, then combining it with other data sources to produce more analysis on their markets so they can target their marketing towards certain demographics. It's very cool, extremely powerful technology, and it’s the way of the future in my mind.
Are you going to be using the same languages and technologies that you were learning at Dev Bootcamp or are you learning some new tech for that?
Yes and no. he job is going to be in Python and Django – I got the job without learning Python. Yet, I strongly believe that Dev Bootcamp doesn't just teach you a language. It teaches you how to learn any language. We all knew, that at least half of us would not get jobs in Ruby, but it was a good foundation for us to learn the in depth concepts of programming, and then we can translate those concepts to other things. Also, I'm finding it a breeze to switch over to Python. It's not bad at all.
What was the interview process like? Did you need to know any Python?
One of the interview challenges was actually to do a program in Python, which I completed. It's a very cool interview process, where they have you play a videogame that they made. It's a wrestling game where you do wrestling moves against their wrestlers over the internet and, kind of like Tic-Tac-Toe, certain moves beat other moves. You have to figure out how to beat their players by their patterns and what they're doing. That game was all written in Python, so I had to figure that out and submit that to them.
I'm interested in how your previous background in music and recording has been useful or applicable to learning to code and getting into tech?
I think music in general comes from a mathematical mind. If parents want to get their young kids into programming, I think music is a good way to start. It teaches you mathematical structures, and in a weird way, problem-solving. The other thing it teaches you is how to deal with other people. In a musical setting, you've got to be in a band that might have some big egos and tough people to work with, and you've got to work around it. A huge thing in the tech world is just working with other people.
Do you think this background was useful in getting your new job as well?
I think it was very useful. Because Umbel is a sports and entertainment company, a lot of their clients are big festivals and sporting teams, so coming from a music business background is a good segue. My experience at Guitar Center with customer service is also good for client-facing side of the job. So I had very applicable skills to this particular job.
Now that you have graduated, how will you stay involved with Dev Bootcamp, your cohort, and the other alumni?
Many are still in the process of job seeking, so we try to get together every few weeks for an accountability group where we talk about what's been working in our job search. I can bring info on how I negotiated my salary or other things I did that helped me get a job. We try to all stay in touch like that.
As far as Dev Bootcamp, they do regular meetups at the campus for the entire community, and host certain tech groups. There are open source programs that are made here in Austin, so they have groups who come in to do that. I try to go to some of those and just keep up with the community and Dev Bootcamp.
What advice do you have for other people who are thinking about making a complete career change and going to a coding bootcamp?
I think the number one piece of advice is– you can do it. It's not impossible. It is not easy, but it is possible to change your life in just six months. But with that, you have to want to do it. I think a lot of people are intrigued about the tech field because the salaries are good, and the offices look cool. The work is still work, and you have to love to do the actual coding part of it to succeed. If that stuff wears you out, if you don't find it fun, you're eventually not going to want to do it. If you're passionate about it, it's going to be the best decision of your life.
What would you say is the best thing overall about your experience at Dev Bootcamp?
The people. Meeting the staff who've been so accommodating, so inspirational, and helpful, as well as the students. In just a couple of months, I have a real community of friendships that will last forever and mentors who will never go away. To have all those people who are there to support me and me supporting them no matter what we do in the future, is just invaluable.
Welcome to the October 2016 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month, we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. This month we are also covering our Women In Tech Snapchat takeover! Other trends include new developments in the industry, new outcomes reports and why those are important, new investments in bootcamps, and of course, new coding schools and campuses.Continue Reading →
On October 26th, the Course Report team took over the Women in Tech Snapchat Channel and had a blast introducing everyone to coding bootcamps, Course Report, and even took followers along to tour three NYC coding bootcamps!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 →
Since graduating from Dev Bootcamp [As of December 8, 2017, Dev Bootcamp will no longer be operating], Tom Goldenberg has thought critically about his experience during (and after) Dev Bootcamp, and shared two articles on Medium that caught our attention. The first was an open Letter to Employers on Behalf of Bootcamp Grads and the second was his advice for Getting the Most Out of Your Coding Bootcamp. We caught up with Tom to hear about his new job, what it’s like to interview at Google, and his newly-launched mobile development tutorial called buildreactnative.com (heads up: Course Report readers can use promo code COURSE to get $5 off)! Listen to the podcast or read our Q&A!Continue Reading →
Whitney O’Banner is the campus director of Dev Bootcamp’s Austin campus [As of December 8, 2017, Dev Bootcamp will no longer be operating ]. Before that, she was a developer, a Dev Bootcamp student, and a manager at Apple. She loves how vibrant and exciting Austin is, in terms of both technology and culture. Whitney tells us about her efforts to recruit diverse students in Austin, the campus rooftop terrace(!), and why she loves Dev Bootcamp’s mission to change and improve the tech industry.
What's your background before you joined Dev Bootcamp?
I graduated college with a computer science degree, and I entered into what I like to call big tech. I was working at Apple for a few a years, programming actively, and doing some automation, but I felt a bit isolated in the environment. I came in with a solid foundation in computer science, but I didn't know how to practically apply my knowledge. I didn’t have mentorship, and didn’t feel like I could continue my learning, so I got burned out.
I decided to take a break from that and shifted within Apple to a job investigating applications for the App Store. I loved the environment. I loved the team. We had a great dynamic, but I really missed programming.
Next, I found an automation job at Amazon. This was in 2014, and coding bootcamps were gaining prominence both among people with no prior coding knowledge looking to gain a foothold in the tech economy and those, like me, with CS degrees looking for practical application experience to further their careers. I was living in the Bay Area at the time, so I decided to enroll at Dev Bootcamp San Francisco to update my skills.
What was it like going through Dev Bootcamp as a student?
Dev Bootcamp gave me so much more than just the updated technical knowledge I needed to re-immerse myself in the current job market. I got a lot more self-awareness and emotional intelligence to make the decision to only pursue what I genuinely thought would help me learn, and also help me give back to a larger community. It's amazing because cohort mates have gone on to be employees at Slack, Shopify, and Turo. Some of these people are now my best friends as a result of going through the program together.
What did you do when you graduated from Dev Bootcamp San Francisco?
I ended up circling back to Apple on a completely different opportunity where I managed a team of contractors. It was a great role where I traveled the world working on transit in Apple Maps. I was actively developing systems and getting management experience. That role moved me from the Bay Area to Austin, Texas.
How did you end up going back to work at Dev Bootcamp?
I went to check in on how Dev Bootcamp was doing as a company. I visited the website and saw that they were expanding into Austin and they were looking for someone who had a technical background, with some managerial experience, who also was familiar with bootcamps. I had all those qualifications, and I was like, "Oh, my gosh. They're looking for me." I reached out, and here I am. That was at the start of this year, and it's been a very exciting ride.
What’s your role as campus director at Dev Bootcamp Austin?
I oversee operations, marketing, delivery, curriculum – basically every component of running the campus. And, the whole Austin team and I have a very close relationship with students. As campus director, students are typically going to see and communicate with me daily.
I'm also the career developer for Dev Bootcamp Austin, the point of contact for graduates during the job search. Students spend 9 weeks on campus learning and honing their coding skills. In the 10th week, after graduation, we have Career Week where we polish students’ resumes, work on LinkedIn profiles, make students marketable as new developers, and teach them how to network with people in an authentic way. We want grads to go into the world as great human beings that people want to work with.
So when did the campus open and how did that first cohort go?
The first cohort of students started on site in early July, and it feels like we've formed a real community and culture around them. The students are fantastic. We have graduated some very talented, driven developers, and we all as a staff could not be more proud of them.
It went swimmingly. Everything was better than anticipated. We were able to provide a great level of support for the students due to our teacher-student ratio and smaller class sizes. A big part of Dev Bootcamp is that we love collecting feedback. We got so much feedback from students, and we were able to iterate quickly on our curriculum and delivery structure to respond to that feedback.
How many staff and instructors do you have in Austin?
We have an amazing staff. We have two extraordinary instructors, a community marketing manager, Kelly, who is just so dedicated to the students and potential students, and a program coordinator. I largely attribute a lot of our success to their careful planning, and their great interactions with the students.
How many students can you actually accommodate?
We have the capacity to accommodate larger cohorts like at our Dev Bootcamp locations in San Francisco, Chicago and New York and hope our campus will continue to grow. Our space can accommodate 60 students at a time. Because of that, we're a great space for, organizations like Women Who Code and Open Austin, whom we regularly host as community partners for networking events, panel discussions, and employer meetups.
What is your campus like?
We've designed our space to be very comfortable for the students, just one part of creating a supportive culture where students feel accepted and safe to explore and learn a new skill. It's a mixture of the comfort of a college dorm with the environment of a Silicon Valley startup. So, of course, there is the ping pong table, couches, and TVs if the cohort wants to get together and take a break. The space is large, open and very inviting. Our kitchen is great with communal benches and tables to facilitate open communication about projects even over a meal. And then we actually have a rooftop terrace – you can see the capitol from the rooftop!
There are also offices for the staff, conference rooms, and breakout rooms if the students want to work in groups or individually with no distractions. We also have a yoga studio, which is pretty amazing, that doubles as a presentation room for guests or evening events. We have a counseling office on site because we invite a life therapist on site once a week to provide counseling service for the students.
Wow! What neighborhood of Austin is it in?
Technically we're just south of Campus or West Campus as it's called. It's great. We are nestled just south of the students at UT, and just northwest of downtown so, you're able to find parking. There's plenty of street parking available, but it's still a lively, active community.
How is your campus similar or different to the other Dev Bootcamp campuses?
I can speak from my experience as a student at Dev Bootcamp San Francisco and I've also visited Dev Bootcamp Chicago. So comparing to those two campuses, I would say Dev Bootcamp Austin is very similar. You're going to get the same welcoming, comfortable community feel when you step on any of the campuses. You'll see inspirational quotes on the wall, and big open spaces.
We opted for orange and yellow walls in Austin, which I would say, are definitely reflective of our brand, but they're also bright and full of energy like the city of Austin. We have introduced some very Austin specific things too. Kelly, our marketing manager, is very particular about making things feel like this city because the city is so full of energy. She brought in some cool skateboard decks that highlight different aspects of the city of Austin, like the skyline, etc. We have a lot of things that make it feel like Austin and that's what distinguishes us from the other locations.
Are you teaching the exact same curriculum in Austin as the other campuses or have you made any changes to meet the demands of the local industry?
We are teaching the same curriculum. Our curriculum team works hard to establish a common curriculum nationally among DBC locations. But that said, they are also making sure that we're keeping our pace with market demands at each location. The curriculum team focuses on what's going to be useful for creating the fundamental foundational knowledge to think like a developer – approaching a project and iterating on feedback to arrive at the most elegant solution – versus the hot trendy languages being taught in coding schools right now.
The thing that we do adjust at our location is the delivery of the curriculum. We find that students often have different learning styles, so we always take feedback from students, and work that into how we deliver the content.
Have you noticed a difference in diversity of students in Austin compared with other DBC campuses? Have you had to use different methods to recruit a diverse cohort?
Absolutely. The basic Austin demographics are split pretty evenly between men and women. I don't know statistics for nonbinary gender in Austin. There’s an 8% black population in Austin which is decreasing, and there’s about a 30% Latino population. It has been a challenge that we've taken on to make sure that we have a diverse student body at the Austin location.
For example, we reached out very early to organizations like Women Who Code, Girl Develop It, and ChickTech, to form relationships so we have a representative group of women on our campus. It’s been a challenge, but it's one that we gladly take on and actively pursue because it's a commitment for the company at large. We want to see diversity not only in our student body but also in our staff. Dev Bootcamp does their part in ensuring that we have diverse representation and inclusion at the company. So we want to do the same thing with the students we're bringing into our community.
We also teach Engineering Empathy, a proprietary program where we have conversations about gender identity and systemic oppression in the workplace. We talk about what it's like to be a woman in the technology industry. So it's important for us to have representation when we're discussing these things so that we are inclusive of many different perspectives.
What’s the tech scene like in Austin?
The tech scene is booming in Austin. I didn't realize that until I moved to Austin for that opportunity with Apple. I realized, "Wow. Apple is here, Google, Facebook, and just all of these big names." Even names like Under Armor Connected Fitness, Dell, Oracle, retailmenot.com, which I use all the time, are based in Austin. And in the nature of my role, I've been able to connect with a lot of employers, and a lot of startups and tech companies in Austin whom I hadn't heard of before moving here. We are continuously working to build that network of local employers and pass on those connections directly to our students.
We are also seeing an increasing number of competitors - other coding schools opening to fill that demand for technical talent in the city of Austin. Something we're noticing with graduates in these programs, and with people coming to community events in Austin, is they want to find jobs in technology here because they see how much technology is growing, and they want to be a part of that. It feels like the new Silicon Valley in a lot of ways.
Austin is such an amazing city. It's full of music and it's full of driven people who also know how to hang out by the lake. It's full of really grounded, down-to-earth, progressive people, and I think that's a recipe for a strong tech culture.
What do you think makes Dev Bootcamp stand out amongst those other bootcamps?
Austin is all about community, 100%. There's the East Austin Community, South Austin, North Austin, and Campus. It's all about community. At Dev Bootcamp Austin, community is something we take very seriously. We protect our community by building a brave space where you can try something you’ve never tried before, fail at it a lot without judgment or ridicule, and feel like your growth will be supported by everyone around you. And, we want to grow that community of dedicated, courageous learners by creating greater access for a wider breadth of learners from diverse backgrounds with the scholarships we offer and our partnerships with community groups.
We will equip you with the skills needed to be successful in software development and web development, and we do so in a way that is collaborative. You will learn to communicate and collaborate with fellow students, teachers, and mentors through pair programming, team projects, and a real world workspace. In addition, Dev Bootcamp is concerned with graduating people who want to change and improve this industry. We're on a mission to combat this oppression that exists and raise the greater collective enlightenment. And so that's woven into our curriculum as Engineering Empathy. It's reiterated by our staff in how we interact with students and our community at large; you will not get that anywhere else.
Have your students started applying for jobs? What kind of companies are hiring junior developers?
Actually, we just had Career Week and half of our students have onsite interviews scheduled this week, so they're in the final stages of the interview process, which is incredible. And excitingly, Sean Witt, one of the first members of our first cohort, just landed a job as a Data Engineer at Umbel (a trendy tech company in town). Before enrolling in Dev Bootcamp, Sean was in retail management at Guitar Center.
There are some really great employers in the Austin community who are open to hiring junior developers. When an employer takes on a graduate of a coding school, they understand that they're taking on someone who may not have a traditional computer science or engineering background, but is equipped with the technical skills to immediately contribute to engineering teams, is hungry to learn from senior team members, and has demonstrated an aptitude for rapid learning. As with any new hire, it will take some time and mentorship to ensure that person moves up and excels in their role as a developer. But, those employers are willing to see it as an opportunity to bring on someone who's excited about this industry and about what they're building.
What size companies are interested in hiring bootcamp grads?
In Austin, I have seen that it is mainly medium-sized companies typically like 50 to 200 employees. Those companies have the bandwidth and the resources to mentor a more junior developer, and they see the opportunity more than the challenge of bringing on a junior. We also have employers from larger companies come in to speak to students. For example, we just hosted an event with recruiters from Google, RetailMeNot, and Apple who came to speak about their perspectives from the technical recruiting side, what they look for on LinkedIn, and on resumes.
How are you involved with the Austin tech community?
As a result of this role, I have made connections with a lot of community organizations that want to be involved in the diversity and inclusion ethos of our company. We partner with organizations like Women Who Code, ChickTech, and various organizations here in Austin.
In October, I'm doing three different workshops on version control and Git for the Austin community. Dev Bootcamp has partnered with Women Who Code for one of these workshops. The other is for a Women Who Code Python group that I run once a month. The business side of Dev Bootcamp has allowed me to still share that knowledge that I have about programming and technology.
Whitney (right) hosting a panel discussion.
What meetups do you recommend in Austin for a complete beginner?
I recommend checking out meetup.com and searching for the language of choice. If you're a beginner, and you think, "I want to try Python," head to meetup.com and type in Python within five miles in Austin, and hopefully the Women Who Code Python Workshop that I run will pop up. You can just come in, stop by, and figure out what it's all about. There are so many events and opportunities in Austin every week, and really every night.
Is there anything else you'd like to add about the Dev Bootcamp Austin campus or Austin in general?
We actually have a cohort start coming up on October 24th. We're trying to get that date out to make sure people who are applying last minute or who need to accept enrollment, do so before October 24th. That date is the start of Phase 0, the online part-time pre-work part of the program. Students will come onsite on January 3rd.
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 →
As of December 8, 2017, Dev Bootcamp will no longer be operating. The DBC staff cultivated and grew their culture and community of students and alumni. In fact, the Dev Bootcamp culture was so integral to the school’s success that they even had a Director of Teaching, Learning, and Culture! We spoke to the man leading the campus and learning culture, Leon Gersing, about what made Dev Bootcamp’s culture special, how it was maintained across campuses, and why community was so important for both current students and alumni in the workforce.
What is your role at Dev Bootcamp and what are your primary responsibilities?
My primary function is to inform, design, innovate, and evolve both the student learning experience and our teaching pedagogy. That includes what we teach, how we teach it, how students learn, and the culture we create around those concepts. I spend time at each campus, make sure new teachers are trained in our teaching style and understand our culture. It’s a fun job, I really enjoy it.
What was your background before you joined Dev Bootcamp?
I was a professional software developer for about 15 years and worked writing software professionally for big and small companies. I did consulting, worked on product teams – everything from startups to Fortune 500 companies. I really enjoyed that part of my life, but right now I’m having more fun creating a community of other people who want to get into doing awesome things with code.
I joined Dev Bootcamp in 2015. I started as a teacher, then took over as the campus director in Chicago. In Chicago, we were making some innovative changes to the program’s delivery, and Dev Bootcamp decided to hire someone to look at program culture and how we build an effective, supportive learning community across all campuses; I transitioned into that role earlier this year.
As a software developer, what did you first think about coding bootcamps and what stood out about Dev Bootcamp?
I’m an avid community builder, so I do a lot of public speaking and teaching. When the coding bootcamp idea came on the scene, I think I was as skeptical as anyone. I questioned whether a short-term learning experience could be effective, but there was an underlying thread that they were doing really great things.
Dev Bootcamp co-founder Dave Hoover is a friend of mine, and I was inspired by his book Apprenticeship Patterns. I ended up guest lecturing for Dev Bootcamp, and taught one phase about a year before I joined the company. After watching the students and the experience, and seeing the staff’s commitment, I realized there was something wonderfully supportive about it. I ended up falling in love with the students and the experience, and became a big advocate for continuously improving curriculum delivery so students had the best possible learning experience.
How do you define the culture at Dev Bootcamp?
When I think about culture, I think of the philosophy, the guiding ideals, the ethos of a person, of an entity, or of an idea. At Dev Bootcamp, we’re interested in providing coding literacy and fluency, for a variety of people who want to join our community in a way that remains supportive, inclusive, and collaborative.
For me, Dev Bootcamp’s culture is apparent when I walk into any of our classrooms, or join the Phase 0 (Dev Bootcamp's remote prep phase) Slack channel, and see that people are freely talking about ideas, getting the information they need, challenging themselves and their peers in a way that isn’t demeaning, shameful, othering, or oppressive in nature, but is supportive, respectful, and inspiring. Do they feel supported enough to make mistakes boldly, learn from those mistakes, and continue forward? That, to me, is the Dev Bootcamp culture - an openness to diverse perspectives, free dialogue, a spirit of continuous learning.
One of our teachers coined a term recently, which is that we are a brave space – a space where you can try something you’ve never tried before, be someone you’ve never been, fail at it a lot without judgment or ridicule, and feel like your growth will be supported.
How does that culture and “brave space” help students succeed and thrive?
It empowers students to get involved, and not feel like they’re drowning. I’m always asking the questions: are our teachers inquisitive as well as demanding? Are our students curious and not afraid to fail? Are they free to express themselves? Do we have a path for helping them understand, get feedback, and then get better with practice? Our goal is not to help them prepare for a test but for a job and a transformative change in their lives.
Software is a creative endeavor, although it often gets lumped into this “mathematical or pragmatic only” sphere. Of course, programming does have those elements to it, just like a piano has mathematic and pragmatic elements to it, but the proof is in the playing and in the art and creativity. If you can’t create an environment where people are free to make mistakes with their piano playing, they’ll never make great art or great music, or great apps or libraries or compilers.
How do you screen for culture-fit in the admissions process? What sort of person fits the Dev Bootcamp culture?
When we talk about culture fit, we’re not talking about excluding applicants because they don’t say the right thing or they don’t have some requisite knowledge of coding before starting the program. Instead, our admissions process aims to bring to light the underlying reasons someone wants to attend Dev Bootcamp and to make sure that a person who is going to commit 19 weeks of her life to our program is doing something she really wants to do. My aim is to ensure that students see that Dev Bootcamp is going to help them enhance their future in a meaningful way; whether that is helping them to become software professionals or enabling them to use their software development skills to excel in another chosen field.
We do screen for culture fit, but it’s usually at a very high level. If a person is so acerbic that he’s not willing to listen, he’s not a good culture fit for Dev Bootcamp. If a person is so entrenched in his current identity that he’s not open to feedback, he’s not necessarily going to succeed in our 19-week immersion program, which relies on diversity of perspectives, collaboration, and teamwork.
How do you maintain diversity while screening for culture?
We’re hoping that anybody who has the desire to become a software developer will come to Dev Bootcamp, no matter their personal or professional background, creed, race, color, gender, age, etc. because we believe that a diverse array of perspectives yields better code, forms better engineering teams, and produces better overall products. In fact, we invite people with a broad range of learning styles, personalities, and experiences into our community through scholarships for people of color, marginalized groups, people who identify as women or non-gender-binary people. That is definitely not the kind of thing we’re screening for when we screen for “culture fit” – in today’s parlance they get a little confused.
How does Dev Bootcamp’s culture differ from other coding bootcamps?
For the most part, coding bootcamps have very similar goals - help people get jobs in the technical industry - but we all have different ways in which we implement them. I’d argue that most bootcamps agree that there should be coding challenges, that the tools and technical stack we use should be modern, and that graduates of these bootcamps should be ready to join programming communities.
There are three main things that distinguish our culture from other bootcamps. One is the way we engage students in collaborative learning - through pair programming, team projects, a simulated agile workspace, and a SCRUM environment. The second is the way we create greater access for a wider community of learners with the scholarships we offer and the demographics we reach out to through our partnerships with community groups like #YesWeCode and Lesbians Who Tech. Third, because we integrate soft skills training into our program and have made Engineering Empathy part of our curriculum, our culture is one that encourages honest and kind feedback, open communication and self-awareness, all of which enhance the ways students build self-confidence and work with each other.
The best way for students to work out if a coding bootcamp is right for them, is to visit one. At Dev Bootcamp, we encourage people to come take a tour or come to one of our events.
How do you instill the culture in new staff, and maintain it across Dev Bootcamp’s various campuses?
All of our teachers will spend time at another campus before starting at a new location. They’ll spend a phase or two seeing what the classroom is like, what the students are like, and what the interactions are like between staff and students. They are not just observing, they are participating. A brand new teacher will be paired with a seasoned teacher to help guide them through our pedagogy and culture.
The team members at Dev Bootcamp love our mission - to transform lives by teaching people of all backgrounds the technical, cognitive, and interpersonal skills used in software development so they can thrive in the tech economy - and will share feedback with me on how we can improve. Our culture is intentionally a guiding philosophy, rather than a strict rulebook. I’m lucky to have a whole bunch of empowered people all around me to help me with my job, to help us continually improve upon and evolve our culture.
How does the culture differ between different Dev Bootcamp campuses- like between Chicago and NYC? Do you think that certain types of people would fit better at different campuses?
Culture is a living, growing thing; it’s not something set in stone. The culture in our more mature campuses, those that have been around for a few years, like San Francisco, Chicago, and New York have their own gregarious cultures, fed by the nuances of the local communities. They’re big and welcoming, and sometimes even collegiate in the level of camaraderie shared by the students, staff, and alumni. The newer campuses share the same ideals of culture, discipline, practice, expert feedback, and guidance, but on a smaller scale, so it feels more intimate.
How does the Dev Bootcamp community support students who are struggling with something?
Everyone from teaching staff to support staff gets involved if we see someone who’s in pain or crisis. We want to maintain a brave space, not an uncomfortable space. If we sense someone is genuinely uncomfortable, isolated, withdrawn, or acting out, we get involved. And it’s things like Engineering Empathy, our onsite counselors, our informed staff, and our alumni mentors, which students can embrace and leverage to position themselves for success after Dev Bootcamp. We also organize extra study groups with alumni mentors, and students organize pairing and study sessions on weekends to help those who are struggling with course material.
What are some examples of regular activities or events held at Dev Bootcamp that help cultivate the culture?
It starts way before students come on site and continues well after they graduate and enter into the technical community. Every campus has a Community Marketing Manager, a person who organizes events and creates a welcoming space for people in the software community to congregate, network, talk, and get their questions answered. We’re constantly doing hackathons, group education events, and guest lectures and panels.
We’re particularly proud of the partnerships we’ve cultivated with community oriented groups such as Lesbians Who Tech, Girl Develop It, ChickTech, and Black Girls Code. We regularly give them a space to carry out their efforts to support marginalized groups in technology. That’s something we at Dev Bootcamp think the industry should be doing more of, so we’re happy to play some part in the fight, and create that space.
We can’t forget about alumni mixers and other events that allow our current and prospective students to mingle with our vast and vibrant network of alumni, who play such a crucial role in the community we’ve built. Our alumni, along with our community of employer partners, form the foundation of the professional connections our students will have when they start their job search, and we want to make sure that the support they provide is clear to students from the get-go.
And, we also do about seven different allyship (the process of building relationships based on trust with marginalized groups of people) lunches to help create a stronger onsite learning community for the students in the immersive portion of the program. There is a gender-inclusive lunch, an LGBTQ lunch, a people of color lunch, all efforts initiated either by Dev Bootcamp staff or by students to help create a culture of inclusion. We also often bring in a lunch-and-learn speaker who can talk to the students, then hang out, network, and share their experience.
How do alumni benefit from Dev Bootcamp’s culture and community? How do those benefits continue when they get into the workplace?
Everybody’s experience is different. But what I hear from alumni is that the act of going through Dev Bootcamp and feeling supported, especially during their job search, is extremely helpful. It’s very difficult to break into any field without experience, and much of the time the only experience a Dev Bootcamp grad has is her Dev Bootcamp experience. The most valuable thing that alumni can do is go out and be hired and be successful so that employers understand that coding bootcamps are a viable avenue towards technical proficiency.
Many times alumni want to continue the culture of support they felt on campus and “pay it forward” to the new cohorts with advice on technical interviews, research resources, job openings, conference opportunities, etc. We help facilitate that community of sharing with methods to keep alumni connected to current students, each other, Dev Bootcamp staff, and the broader tech community using platforms like our alumni Slack channel, various private Facebook groups, Meetups, and free passes and paid entry fees for hackathons, trade shows, etc. We also have all kinds of events where alumni can come back and mentor. At mentoring.devbootcamp.com any mentor can sign up to teach students. When I say “community,” I mean it. I don’t mean “community until you graduate.”
Our San Francisco campus has been in operation for over four years now, Chicago for over three, and New York for over two, so we have hundreds of alumni who are now mid-level developers, who are out running teams, who are out being international public speakers, really supporting our community and our craft. They are great examples and great role models for our students, and just amazing to watch. It’s incredible to watch someone go out there and really become the thing she wanted to be in ways she couldn’t have predicted.
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 →
Welcome to the July 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 trends this month are initiatives to increase the diversity in tech, some huge investments in various bootcamps, and more tech giants launching their own coding classes. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast!Continue Reading →
Dev Bootcamp was known for its unique Engineering Empathy curriculum, which focuses on the human side of software development. As of December 8, 2017, Dev Bootcamp will no longer be operating. Dev Bootcamp aimed to produce job-ready graduates with both technical and interpersonal skills. But what exactly was Engineering Empathy? And why do coding bootcamp students need it? We spoke to Dev Bootcamp NYC mental health counselor and Engineering Empathy facilitator, Sarah Birdsong, about imposter syndrome, stereotype threat, allyship, and why soft skills are key to being a successful developer, technical employee, and manager.
What’s your background and experience as a therapist?
I’m a licensed mental health counselor. I specialized in multicultural counseling at Columbia University. The term “multicultural counselling” is a little outdated, but the idea is that if we can understand ourselves as biased identity beings – as racial beings and gendered beings – and understand the assumptions and biases we hold as a result of our cultural experiences and identity experiences, we’re better able to work with people from a wide range of backgrounds. If we come into a situation with no biases or assumptions, we’re left with this pure curiosity, and are able to work with people from a lot of different experiences.
How did you get involved with Dev Bootcamp?
I’m drawn to Dev Bootcamp for the same reason I’m drawn to therapy: the workspace is a missed opportunity for self-processing, self-development, and self-actualization. We spend all this time at work, and if we’re having interpersonal conflicts, battling difficult team dynamics, or struggling with regulating our own emotions in the workplace, we often try to ignore the effect it is having on us internally. That’s devastating to creativity, productivity, retention, and burnout, but from a personal stance, it’s such an opportunity for self-growth. I wanted to work as a therapist and soft skills educator in a workplace, or in a startup setting, so I get both at Dev Bootcamp.
Why do coding bootcamp students need a counselor onsite?
A coding bootcamp is such an intense experience. It brings a lot to the surface, which is a great opportunity for students to better understand how to regulate emotions, and communicate effectively. There is a lot of confusion when you’re looking for the solutions to each coding problem, and that can be a petrie dish for self-doubt, insecurity, and intrapersonal conflict, all of which can distract from the goal of learning.
Also, a lot of students are used to being very good at what they do. They are either career changers coming out of a career they have mastered, or they are used to being at the top of their class. At Dev Bootcamp, they’re novices again as adults, which is very, very difficult because it’s hard on the ego.
Dev Bootcamp looks and feels a lot like a tech startup, and if you can learn how to regulate your emotions, work on a team, and communicate effectively while you're learning something very complicated, then you are equipped to practice that in the workplace.
Is there a stereotype of developers today as being unempathetic or hard to work with?
The stereotype of the past was a developer who was so engrossed in code that it was hard to communicate with them. So to be a developer who can regulate their emotions, work well on teams, work well in pairs, and also communicate to nontechnical partners, is a huge asset. They’re not becoming inundated with frustration or intrapersonal problems, and they’re able to hear all the ideas in the room, even if they’re coming from non-technical staff.
But there are also studies that find developers are disproportionately introverted, which makes sense because technology is their opportunity to be creative without having to be as social. But as more and more companies have open layouts, emphasize pairing, and rely on collaboration, soft skills and self-care for introverts are becoming more and more important.
In your experience with tons of Dev Bootcamp students, have you found that there is one specific type of person who is successful in a coding bootcamp?
I’ve come to understand that anyone can learn how to code. The challenge is the fight with the ego, with expectations of yourself. People have thoughts like “maybe I can’t learn this, maybe I shouldn’t be here,” which are really devastating and exhausting. I’m starting to lose any belief in “learning styles;” it’s more about self-care, focus, practice, patience, communication, and asking for help. If you can do those things, coding is a skill you can master with persistence, community support, and mentorship.
What is Engineering Empathy?
Dev Bootcamp’s founder, Shereef Bishay, started the company by developing a technical curriculum. Then he went to a bunch of Silicon Valley hiring managers, and asked them what they look for when hiring junior devs. Across the board, they said soft skills. They said, “we can continue to teach the tech when we hire them, that’s not a problem – it’s the soft skills.”
Developing your soft skills can improve your metacognitive learning and it also improves your marketability as an employee, your creativity, productivity, and communication in the workplace. Realizing the benefits of soft skills training in tandem with the technical training, Shereef tapped his brother, who had a background in this, and they put together the original Engineering Empathy curriculum.
We now have this really brilliant curriculum, that each facilitator in each Dev Bootcamp campus can hone to their campus culture. I was given the freedom to make it what the New York campus needed, which I really appreciated, because I think San Francisco has a fundamentally different culture, compared with New York, Chicago, Seattle, Austin, and San Diego. The aim is for Dev Bootcamp graduates to go into their next job as skilled, confident, empathetic employees and influence those companies to become more accessible and inclusive of developers from diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
What soft skills can students expect to learn through Engineering Empathy and how are those skills useful for developers?
Number one is communication, which is a multi-faceted soft skill. It has to do with understanding your own identity, your own assumptions, biases, and boundaries because the person you’re communicating with also has a different set of assumptions, biases, and boundaries. It also means understanding how the language you use can have a different impact than you intend for it to have, and to be open to that. That’s incredibly helpful for coders who pair or work on teams. It can increase creativity, productivity, and decreases burnout; it makes people more resilient and more cohesive.
We also teach team dynamics – understanding your strengths and needs in a team and understanding what other people’s strengths and needs might be and how to interact, and communicate around that. And, we teach leadership skills and resilience. It all speaks directly to productivity and creativity, as far as anything that's in the way of the goal because you’re able to iron everything out and hear each other.
How do you teach Engineering Empathy at Dev Bootcamp?
The foundation of EE is the experience of empathy, as a way to understand yourself, understand other people, and connect in that authenticity through cultural differences, communication style differences, and professional experience differences. EE is taught through a combination of clinical lecture and experience. First, I share research, data, and psychological theory around the topics to give context. Then, I will facilitate an experiential component to increase participants’ empathy.
How often do you have EE sessions and how long are they?
There is an EE session every week for the first 5 weeks on site, then one more in Phase 3 in anticipation of the students’ final project. That last one is an EE session about team dynamics.
What do you discuss in Engineering Empathy sessions?
We discuss experiencing empathy, communicating needs, style, objectives in a pair situation, how to give and receive feedback, the best way to have difficult conversations, how to express your feelings when it could be a conflict, how to communicate non-violently, and team dynamics. We also talk about leadership, workplace boundaries, and personal boundaries and resilience in the context of the power of vulnerability. And we have a very important session about allyship and inclusion.
What is “allyship” all about and why is it important?
One of the goals of the allyship part of EE is to get students to understand that their experience isn’t necessarily a shared experience. Each individual’s experience is very much informed by their unique identity, and we all have a responsibility to work a little bit harder to have our spaces be more inclusive so diverse voices are heard and supported. Students have graduated with that lens, and have gone on to their places of work, where their managers notice them as being an ally, and now we’re teaching EE at those companies.
In general, how do students respond to Engineering Empathy sessions? Are they resistant to it or open to it?
It really depends. A lot students come to Dev Bootcamp for the Engineering Empathy. They say “I don’t think I could have got through this program without it,” or “I knew I needed this, I knew I wanted to develop these skills,” or “I wanted to be in a community that valued a holistic self-care approach.” The students who are hungry for it take advantage of counseling sessions with me; they’re reading all the material and really gain an enormous amount from it.
But some folks are only here for the technical training – for them, EE is just another thing that happens at Dev Bootcamp. I’ll invite them to counseling to have those conversations, to process their hesitation, which can often be fruitful. Many times, the students who had the most hesitation about it coming in leave fully committed to the idea; I’ve seen so many students leave Dev Bootcamp having grown enormously because of EE. Overall, at any coding bootcamp you’re really asking students to challenge themselves to be courageous and vulnerable, which is very new for some folks, but I think subsequently can be incredibly healing and productive for them.
The bootcamp metaphor extends beyond the name of the company. We call this type of educational model a bootcamp because of the rigorous, immersive learning approach that requires complete commitment from the students, and they rely on each other for emotional and technical support. I see them come into the program with a competitive mentality, but they’re able to bond with classmates so that it doesn’t feel competitive at all anymore.
Imposter Syndrome is such a buzzword right now- what is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome was coined following a study of Ph.D. students at Harvard, which found that once you get to a very high level of expertise, you realize how much more there is to learn. It’s an insecurity that sneaks up on you and can be really overwhelming. It happens in tech all the time because there is so much more to learn. For example, you’ll have to inevitably learn a new language for your job. You’re constantly learning, and never really feel like a master.
How do you see Imposter Syndrome manifest at Dev Bootcamp?
For Dev Bootcamp students, I can see them feeling like a fraud for calling themselves junior developers because they have never been paid to be one; they haven’t been validated doing that work, and so it feels very unfamiliar. For folks who don’t feel like they fit the stereotype of a developer, it’s hard to say “I’m a web developer,” especially if you aren’t a cisgendered white or Asian male.
Imposter Syndrome may be more common in a bootcamp setting because it’s a new model of education. The traditional college education model prescribes so many years and so much money to call yourself a professional in your chosen field of study. During the 19 weeks at Dev Bootcamp, it is our job to combat any feelings of inadequacy and instill the confidence in our students to take their rightful places as developers out in the workforce.
How do you help students navigate through Imposter Syndrome?
A number of ways. First, I remind them that it’s not their job to hire them; it’s an employer’s job to decide if they’re a developer or not. We get them to practice telling each other they are developers, and encourage students go to meetups and introduce themselves not as Dev Bootcamp students but as developers.
We also do some reality checking, on the viability of the idea they are a fraud. What’s the evidence that you're not a developer? You haven’t had a job yet, but you have built a portfolio full of products, and you’ve gotten through this very rigorous program, which is absolutely more rigorous than almost anything you’ll do in the workplace.
Students need the ability to hold that self-doubt to acknowledge the fact that that self doubt is really preventing you from doing work in a field where a lot of people are used to being masters. You have developed things. You’ve built things, on your own and in teams. You are a developer.
Tell me about the Corporate Engineering Empathy programs you are running?
Dev Bootcamp students graduate with that allyship lens, and go on to their next workplace where managers notice them as being an ally. So those companies who hired our grads contact us to ask “what did that person learn, because all of our staff could really benefit from learning that too.” So we designed a corporate allyship EE program. Lateesha Thomas, Dev Bootcamp’s Director of Diversity, and I teach it. So far we’ve taught it at tech companies in NYC and SF. It includes education around precise language, and concepts like oppression, privilege, stereotype threat, microaggressions, small group activities, and really contextualizing it to each organization. And we’ve been getting great feedback.
How do you think learning about Engineering Empathy distinguishes Dev Bootcamp grads from people who go to other coding bootcamps which don’t have that focus?
We know that hiring managers are looking for strong technical and interpersonal skills and the ability to learn quickly. We’ve also found that the second two skills are marketable, effective, and traditionally lacking. People are becoming more interested in them and valuing them because they are seeing what it does for the bottom line.
Students can demonstrate those skills in job interviews. You can talk about the EE curriculum and give examples of how you reacted when faced with a challenge and became overwhelmed with frustration. Realizing that these skills are necessary for every challenge that a developer has, and seeing the ways in which students grow by practicing those challenges here, is pretty easy to communicate to hiring managers. And the benefits are productivity and creativity.
We teach to the whole person. You’re going through this really intense thing and we want you to come out in the end completely whole – greater, bigger, stronger, and with an ability to learn quickly. I think hiring managers can see these qualities.
Welcome to the May 2016 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world, from acquisitions, to new bootcamps, to collaborations with universities, and also various reports and studies. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup podcast.Continue Reading →
Since the first bootcamp acquisition in June 2014, we’ve seen several bootcamps acquired by for-profit universities and even other schools. These acquisitions and consolidations should come as no surprise. With rapid market growth in the bootcamp industry, for-profit education companies are beginning to take note. And as existing coding bootcamps think about expansion, consolidation through acquisition is certainly on the horizon. We’ll keep this chronologically-ordered list updated as bootcamps announce future acquisitions.
Continue Reading →
As of December 8, 2017, Dev Bootcamp will no longer be operating. You may know Phase 0 as the first 9 weeks of Dev Bootcamp’s full 18-week coding bootcamp, but in March 2016, Dev Bootcamp launched the 9-week part-time online program as Fundamentals of Web Development, a standalone prep program. We spoke to Lucas Willett, head of Phase 0, about how the standalone, part-time course is ideal for people who want to learn the basics of programming and how to communicate with developers, without quitting their jobs.
How did Phase 0 start?
When Dev Bootcamp started in 2012, it was a 9-week onsite program. We started teaching on day one, but we found students had a very inconsistent set of backgrounds. Some students had been trying to self-teach for a year, some had coding backgrounds, and others had no idea what code was. We created Phase 0 to mitigate those inconsistencies and to define a base level from which we could start the conversation.
In The Matrix, once Neo has jiu-jitsu uploaded into his brain and he’s fighting Morpheus, there’s a moment where Morpheus says “stop trying to hit me and hit me.” If Neo didn’t have that knowledge, that conversation couldn’t have happened. Similarly with coding, you need that root knowledge of how to do basic functions. That’s what Phase 0 was designed to be.
Why has Dev Bootcamp decided to launch the Fundamentals of Web Development standalone option?
After running Phase 0 for a year, we realized that learning the fundamentals of computing and coding could be helpful to a lot of people, not just those who want to become developers. Our goal for the renamed standalone program, Fundamentals of Web Development, is to empower people to communicate better with developers, and help people who work in tech to take ownership of their technical skills. We are teaching the fundamental coding principles through Ruby, so you can take those skills and apply them to Python, C#, Java, etc.
What is your background in programming and teaching?
What do students learn in Phase 0/Fundamentals of Web Development?
It’s a wide variety of topics over 9 weeks. Here’s a breakdown:
- Week 1
- UNIX command line – the inner workings of your computer at the file system level
- Git – a powerful version control system for code
- Week 2 – HTML
- Week 3 – CSS
- Weeks 4 to 6 – Ruby basics, data structures, classes, modules
- Week 8 – SQL and databases, to understand how the data is stored
- Week 9 – We show you how to put it all together
What level are students at when they finish the Fundamentals of Web Development?
You are still a beginner, but you’ve got a set of tools for reasoning in logic and about code. For example, you could build a website, you could build small programs to help with onerous office tasks. It’s like bringing superpowers to your existing job to automate those time-sucking tasks.
Who is the ideal student for the standalone Fundamentals of Web Development program?
There are a few types of students for whom Fundamentals of Web Development is perfect:
- People who want to understand the logical process of problem solving from a developer's perspective
- People who want to understand what developers are saying and doing
- People who want to demystify what’s happening when they do something on their computer.
In addition to people who work with developers, there are those with jobs already on the edge of the new skills economy who would benefit from knowing how to program. These people are on the periphery of coding, but manage to avoid it because they have tools that help gloss over it. I’m thinking of digital marketers, product managers, project managers, quality assurance people, and data analysts. For example, maybe you want to know more about how MailChimp works to send out marketing emails, or you need to know about SQL because you’re writing queries in a database, or you work with tools like Salesforce and other heavily customized tools. The Fundamentals of Web Development gives you a great basis for working out how to optimize those to make them work for you.
What is the learning style in Phase 0/Fundamentals of Web Development? Are there lectures?
We’ve just done a full curriculum redesign, front to back. It’s a 20 to 25 hour per week commitment, with opportunities in the curriculum to expand if you have extra time. It’s all hands-on, challenge-style learning. Students watch 5-10 minute concept videos, do 10 minutes worth of reading, then an hour of challenges to back it up. We then encourage you to stretch yourself and learn beyond the curriculum.
One powerful thing about being a developer is that you don’t always need to know exactly what you're doing; you need a framework for how to find out how to do it. I’ve been a Rails developer for six years, and a developer for 10, but there are still many things I need to research. So a lot of our curriculum is based on metacognitive skills – research skills, debugging skills, and the ability to make sense out of nonsense. That is the enduring skill of a programmer – to be able to work in an unfamiliar code base with a set of strategies for breaking it down and approaching it.
How many instructors are working solely on this program?
We have around 25 part-time guides right now, and I’m currently hiring about 10 more. We have four full-time cohort leads; we assign one lead per cohort (three cohorts run at any given time), and one “floating” lead is available to support the other three.
What happens if students have questions? How often do they interact with instructors and staff?
All students who come through Phase 0 or Fundamentals of Web Development are assigned a cohort lead, and this person is available to you Monday through Friday, 9am to 6pm, in EST, CST, or PST (whatever your timezone is), over Slack, Google Hangouts, and email. We also have part-time guides who are professionals in the industry running pairing sessions with students, once a week, for 5 out of the 9 weeks. These guides also hold office hours and answer questions. There are office hours for each of the cohort leads every day, where students can come into Google Hangouts and ask their question.
When we decided to create the standalone Fundamentals of Web Development program, we were committed to providing the same sense of support and community that our Phase 0 students experience; it is something that makes us stand apart from a number of other online-only coding schools.
Do students interact with each other? How do they communicate?
Yes. Initially we created a Slack channel for each distinct cohort and the students interacted with their own cohort only. However, this meant senior students were not able to help the junior students, so we combined everyone into one big Slack community. Cohorts have around 100 to 110 people each, and a new group starts every 3 weeks. We usually have 3 cohorts going at once, so there are about 350 to 400 students in that channel right now. They make themselves available to each other, pair on challenges, answer questions, and help with technical problems.
Will students in the Fundamentals of Web Development standalone program be learning separately from Phase 0 students who are going on to the full Dev Bootcamp immersive class?
Everyone is learning together. Students doing the Fundamentals of Web Development program have a lot to benefit from interacting with future programmers doing Phase 0. And future programmers can benefit from interacting with people who want to understand the processes and techniques. It gives context to both sets of learners. Also, it means a larger network available to help each other out.
What is the feedback loop like between students and instructors?
Whenever you pair with a guide, we ask you to fill out a feedback form which is read and digested by all the guides. At the end of every week, we ask for feedback on how the week went, and how much time you spent covering topics so we can continually improve the course. For example, we just got some really excellent feedback about how week 5 is structured. We caught it by the end of the week and it was fixed in time for the next cohort. So there’s a constant feedback cycle that results in real-time, measurable improvements.
What is the application process for the Fundamentals of Web Development program? Is it different from the application to Dev Bootcamp’s immersive program?
It is different. There is no interview or selection process for Fundamentals of Web Development.
One of the reasons the Dev Bootcamp immersive program has a more strict interview process is because of what’s at stake. It’s a whole career move, there is a lot of money on the line, and a lot of pressure to succeed. People who feel that overwhelming pressure sometimes misrepresent themselves or take a shortcut to get that success. So we need to be stringent.
Fundamentals of Web Development is a lot lower pressure. The end goal is learning to better yourself, so we have a much higher acceptance rate. Once you submit your application, we enroll you in a cohort, and issue you with 5 to 10 hours of prep work, which is due by your cohort start date. The materials cover a couple of basic programming concepts like variables, methods, and strings.
What is the process for students who decide to take the full Dev Bootcamp immersive program once they finish the Fundamentals of Web Development? Will they have to reapply? Do they get a discount?
There is no reapplication. After the assessment in week 7, we ask students if they want to continue with the full program. As long as you’re a culture fit for Dev Bootcamp, and you’ve been successful in the Fundamentals of Web Development, converting to the onsite immersive should be an easy transition. We will credit your Fundamentals of Web Development tuition against the full Dev Bootcamp tuition.
Tell us about that assessment in Week 7.
It’s a project-based assessment which tests your HTML, CSS and Ruby knowledge. If you pass the assessment in week 7, it’s a validation that you know how to build a website. If you aren’t able to complete the assessment, we’ll let you repeat once at no added cost. If you are asked to repeat, you’d go back three weeks and have some more time to master HTML and Ruby, and then try again.
So if people do the Fundamentals of Web Development standalone program they can effectively avoid the Dev Bootcamp interview for the immersive program?
Yes. The point of an interview is to determine your strategies for success and your aptitude. If you’ve been through the 9-week remote program successfully, engaged with the culture using the channels available to you, participated, helped others learn, and received help from others, we already know you’ll be a success at Dev Bootcamp.
If you’re dealing with imposter syndrome and it sounds appealing to bypass a 45-minute interview by doing 9 weeks of 25 hours per week of work, I'm willing to make that concession.
Is that a path people are taking often? Are many Fundamentals of Web Development students continuing with the full immersive program?
We’ve only run one cohort for the standalone Fundamentals of Web Development program so far, but we’ve already seen two students transition to the full immersive program.
We have definitely accommodated people who are very interested in Dev Bootcamp as a whole, and interested in the Fundamentals of Web Development standalone program and what it can bring them. Having participated in Fundamentals of Web Development, they’ve learned to enjoy coding, approached us to continue, and we’ve helped them.
What’s your attrition rate like for Phase 0/Fundamentals of Web Development? How do you keep students engaged?
The attrition rate is still less than 10%, which is amazing for an online course. Most of our attrition is due to life events, so I’m really happy with that attrition stat. Pretty much everyone who starts Phase 0 sticks around.
How much does Fundamentals of Web Development at Dev Bootcamp cost?
It works out to be about $250 per week. All in, it will be $2400, but right now we’re doing pilot pricing for $1600.
There are a ton of free intro to coding resources; what makes the Fundamentals of Web Development worth the tuition?
There are great resources out there for $30, but that’s not how everyone engages with learning to code. Some people need interaction and the ability to reach out to a community and ask for help. There’s sort of an inherent flexibility when learning from real people; our cohort leads can answer questions about anything that’s interesting to you, not just things in or around the Dev Bootcamp curriculum. There is value in having someone walk you through the foundations of coding and getting over that first hump.
Is there anything else you want prospective students to know about the Fundamentals of Web Development program?
This program is a very integral part of Dev Bootcamp, with the same ethos and approach to education that all of Dev Bootcamp has – it is about learning as your “whole self.” During the remote program, we discuss cultural topics, stereotypes, oppression, the industry at large, career preparation, equal opportunity, and fair treatment. We strive at all points to keep a safe and open environment for everyone from every background, and require students to abide by our code of conduct. This includes thinking before you speak, and making sure what you post and contribute is as open and welcoming as it can be. It’s not about creating a competitive environment. If you become a developer, it’s not going to be at the expense of someone else. We can all be developers, we can all get those skills.
- Week 1
As of December 8, 2017, Dev Bootcamp will no longer be operating. Dev Bootcamp had roots in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York, opened in San Diego last year, and this year announced new campuses in Seattle, Austin, and D.C.! We spoke to Seattle campus director Stu Jones about his background as an instructor in San Francisco, and the preparation for opening the new campus. The 9-week remote, online component of the program began April 11, and the first cohort of students arrive onsite on June 13. Stu gives us a sneak peek into what the new Seattle campus will feel like, why Dev Bootcamp chose to expand to Seattle, and how aspiring bootcampers can start engaging with the community.
What’s your role at Dev Bootcamp Seattle?
I’m the campus director and an instructor. Opening a new campus is like launching a startup; we want to contribute to the local community and build a successful business, and find the right people and get the right team in place. We’re figuring out how to develop the Dev Bootcamp experience so that it’s appropriately attuned for Seattle.
How long have you worked in tech?
I’m originally from the UK and have been programming since I was 11 in 1981. I started out teaching myself to code then later got a masters in Information Technology.
I've worked in Germany, Switzerland, and the US as a software engineer, technical trainer and in developer support. I was part of the core developer team for AutoCAD by Autodesk and I've taught C++, Java and Ruby at several companies.
At what point did you realize you wanted to teach?
After working solidly for 10 years as a developer I took a trip to the jungles of Guatemala, slept in a hammock and asked myself, “What do I really enjoy?” I thought back to those C++ classes I taught in Europe, and I regained my passion for helping other people learn to program, so I started teaching Java again. Most recently, I was working as a developer in San Francisco, but again, I missed teaching. I joined General Assembly first as an instructor, then joined Dev Bootcamp, because I fell in love with their philosophy and mission.
What did you like about Dev Bootcamp’s philosophy and mission?
Of all the coding bootcamp programs, Dev Bootcamp is unique in promoting a balance of great technical content, engineering best practices, culture, taking care of each other, and bringing your whole self, as well as addressing major issues like the lack of diversity in tech. It’s not easy to get it right, but we work at being inclusive, trying to be the best we can and to support all of our students. These ideas – bringing your whole self, putting 100% effort in, and being kind to each other – these are really powerful things that go way beyond just programming. Those concepts really resonated with me when I met Jon Stowe, Dev Bootcamp’s president. And so I switched to Dev Bootcamp, and I taught at Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco for two years.
Why launch in Seattle? What’s special about Seattle?
San Francisco is special, there’s no doubt about it, but I started hearing more and more about the tech community in Seattle. I think culturally Dev Bootcamp is a great fit in Seattle. I haven’t lived in Seattle very long, but the people I meet are tremendously friendly, kind and thoughtful. Bringing Dev Bootcamp’s program and culture to Seattle is a really good move because the culture here works well with our “whole self” approach to learning.
What’s special about the Seattle tech scene? Why was it missing a Dev Bootcamp campus?
We see a lot of VC investment here and a lot of new money coming in. Of course, the big tech titans are expanding in Seattle, but there’s much more to it, there’s such a vibrant creative tech scene here. That’s really exciting and leads us to believe there will be an increased demand for software engineering talent in Seattle.
There are quite a few coding bootcamps in Seattle already – how do you think Dev Bootcamp will stand out amongst the competition?
The fact there are other bootcamps is a good sign. But Dev Bootcamp has this unique value proposition, where we combine hard skills, soft skills, and metacognitive training into a cohesive experience.
Where in Seattle is the campus and why did you choose that location?
The campus is down by Pioneer Square. We chose it partly because of the bricks – we have this heritage of red brick in our campuses. But culturally it’s in the center of a special part of Seattle, and it’s easily accessible from different parts of the city.
What is the campus like and how many students will it accommodate?
We are currently building out the space which could fit about 50 students. It’s an old brick building with exposed beams. It’s interesting; it’s on a mezzanine level with windows looking out to a fitness studio below, so we have a funky vibe.
How is the campus different or unique compared to other Dev Bootcamp campuses? Do you think the culture will be different from Chicago/NY/San Francisco?
There is a certain core culture which Dev Bootcamp maintains, with kindness, effort, and whole self at the center. However, the culture also grows out of the students. The culture we create together is inclusive, supports diversity, and is unique to each particular campus. I’m excited to see what culture we create together with our students in Seattle..
When does the first cohort start? Will DBC Seattle offer rolling admissions like other campuses?
Phase 0, our remote, part-time prep phase started on April 11. Then students will be coming on site on June 13th. The following cohort starts 12 weeks later.
Can an applicant apply to Dev Bootcamp and then choose between campuses or are there separate admissions standards by campus?
Students should select which campus they are interested in when they apply, though they have the option of changing which campus they attend during the admissions process.
How many instructors and staff members do you have so far?
We have a small team involved with set up so far. I’m one of the instructors, we have Erica Melzer doing community marketing, and we’re getting a few others together. We’ll have a team of five to seven staff who are a mix of full time and part time.
Will the curriculum be the same as the other Dev Bootcamp locations? Or will you tailor the curriculum to whatever languages are in demand in Seattle? Like .NET for Microsoft?
The goal is to start with our core competencies curriculum. We believe that the skills you learn with programming in Ruby are translatable into other languages and domains. We do find that our graduates go on to work in other fields with other technologies. However, we’re always innovating and iterating on our curriculum, based on feedback from students, teachers, and employer partners.
For a complete beginner in Seattle, what are your favorite meetups to get introduced to the tech scene?
How are you feeling about launching Dev Bootcamp in Seattle?
I’m super excited about DBC Seattle, it’s a great opportunity. The thing I love most is meeting the graduates out and about after the program. I’ll be walking down the street and hear someone yell “Stu!”, then they share the story of their success in their new career. When that happens you really know you’ve made a difference, that’s the best part of the job. I enjoy teaching, but the best part is our graduates enjoying the transformation they have worked hard for. We do help them, but the students work really hard in the program to earn those changes in their lives.
If anyone has any questions they can shoot us an email at email@example.com.
As of December 8, 2017, Dev Bootcamp will no longer be operating. Course Report attended the “How To Ace Your Interview” meetup at Dev Bootcamp New York, to find out the inside knowledge on what happens when you apply for Dev Bootcamp’s immersive web development program. Here we outline the whole application process, from submitting your online application, to your interview, and coding challenge. We’ve even included some links so you can do extra practice before you take the leap and apply to Dev Bootcamp.
What is the application process at Dev Bootcamp?
- Submit an online application
- You’ll get an email back with links to schedule an interview, plus the interview prep materials which include:
- Tutorials on Ruby on Rails
- A video about Engineering Empathy
- Schedule an interview
- Complete the interview where you’ll complete a logic puzzle and coding challenge with your interviewer during the Google Hangout.
- Within 24 hours, you’ll get a response saying you were rejected, accepted, or that Dev Bootcamp wants to schedule a second interview.
- Then, you’ll choose a cohort (which starts every 3 weeks in New York, San Francisco and Chicago) and get started on Phase 0, the 9-week, part-time, remote prep phase.
How long does the whole application process take?
Depending on how quickly you complete the prep material tutorials, and when you schedule your interview, an applicant could be enrolled within a week of applying online.
What goes into the online, written application?
This usually takes about 30 minutes:
- Fill out an application form with your personal details and select which city you want to study in.
- Answer short essay questions on why you’re interested in Dev Bootcamp and becoming a web developer.
What are in the interview prep materials?
After you submit your online application, you will receive an email with prep materials including coding tutorials and a video about engineering empathy
- The coding tutorials are videos which walk you through various lessons about basic coding in Ruby, then you’ll have exercises to complete that relate to each lesson. Dev Bootcamp is geared towards beginners so they don’t expect you to be a master software developer
- You will also get a video on engineering empathy (e.g. TED Talk about empathic civilization)
- Dev Bootcamp says it takes a couple of hours to get through these materials, and then you’ll be ready for the interview.
How do applicants know they’re prepared for the Dev Bootcamp interview?
Dev Bootcamp recommends you give yourself several days to go through prep material tutorials.
- Complete all of the coding tutorials and make sure you understand them
- Watch the Engineering Empathy video and think about it how it applies to you and your life. In the interview you will be asked to talk about how it applies to yourself and how you connected with it. Dev Bootcamp teaches soft skills and team dynamics – this is separate from the technical curriculum – so think about how empathy will benefit you in this journey.
- Review the material a few times to make sure you know it well.
What should applicants expect in the interview?
The interview is a chance to get to know you, and for you get to know Dev Bootcamp. The exercises – the logic puzzle and coding challenge – are not about getting the right answer, but about communicating so your interviewer can see how you think. You and your interviewer are getting to know each other rather than assessing you.
- The total interview time is 40 to 45 minutes, and held on Google Hangouts
- It starts with a Q and A session, where your interviewer will ask you about your learning style, your goals, and your interest in coding, and you should be prepared to ask questions about Dev Bootcamp.
- You’ll get a coding challenge, and you talk your interviewer through how you are working it out
- You’ll get a logic puzzle, and you talk your interviewer through how you are working it out
- You’ll discuss the engineering empathy video with your interviewer
- In 24 hours you will hear back if you’re accepted, declined or require a second interview.
Dev Bootcamp says the interview is a non-judgmental conversation. Expect to be asked to elaborate on your answers.
Where and what time is the interview?
Every interview is conducted through Google Hangouts. Dev Bootcamp does not hold in-person interviews. This is to make it fair for people who cannot attend in-person interviews.
Interviews are held all throughout the day including up to 10pm or 11pm ET, because some of the interviewers are based on the West Coast.
What sort of questions are in the interview?
- Your interviewer will ask you about
- Your coding experience
- Your life and career goals
- Your learning style
- The logic and coding challenges
- Engineering Empathy
What happens with the logic puzzle?
- Your interviewer will ask you to work through a puzzle, describing out loud your thoughts and process as you work through it
- Dev Bootcamp wants to understand your thought process, analytical skills, and ability to communicate clearly when facing new material.
- This is an example of the sort of logic puzzle you might get (make sure you try to work it out before checking the solution!)
- More logic puzzles are available here and here.
What happens in the coding challenge?
In the interview, you’ll be solving actual coding challenges in the Ruby language. If you’ve thoroughly been through the prep material, you should know what to do.
- Like the logic puzzle, you’ll be describing out loud how you are solving the challenge
- You should know: variables, string, concatenates, array, integer, operators (computation and comparison), Method structure
- Syntax is less important than your methodology – your interviewer is looking at how you’re explaining and showing that you understand the code.
- The coding challenge is not necessarily about getting the right answer, but rather to see your communication style and how you learn and think
Dev Bootcamp admissions staff are looking for how you understand it and explain the code, even if you don’t write it out perfectly.
What happens in the Engineering Empathy part of the interview?
Dev Bootcamp’s philosophy is that good software is built by good teams. They believe you can be an excellent technical person, but without the personal skills to interact with others, you won’t be as successful as a developer. Engineering empathy is about feedback, communication, and interacting with others.
- Your interviewer is looking for emotional intelligence/soft skills, self-awareness, and your ability to give and receive feedback
- You’ll be asked questions about the engineering empathy video you watched from the prep materials.
- You should be able to chat with your interviewer and ask questions of your interviewer about the video and experience.
- Example question: How do you possess the qualities that you admire and how can you bring those to a space like Dev Bootcamp?
What other resources are there for preparing for the interview and Phase 0?
- Codecademy Ruby track
- Read this Dev Bootcamp blog post
What happens after the interview?
After the interview, you will hear from the admissions team within 24 hours. There are 3 possible outcomes to the interview – accepted, not accepted, or a recommendation for a second interview. The second interview may be recommended if the admissions team seeks to further assess your technical skills.
How does Dev Bootcamp evaluate applicants?
Dev Bootcamp is geared towards beginners. They don’t expect you to be a master before you get to the interview. The program is rooted in pair/small group work, so the admissions team wants to work out if you suit this learning approach. They look at:
- How much material were you able to pick up on your own?
- Do you learn better on your own or with others? If on your own, Dev Bootcamp may not be the best learning environment for you as the environment there is really collaborative, rooted in group work.
- Where are you at right now in terms of your learning, how does this fit with your learning style?
- Is your investment in time and money a good fit for Dev Bootcamp’s teaching style?
- Do you genuinely want to be a part of Dev Bootcamp’s “passionate and diverse community” of learners? The admissions team wants to talk to “self-motivated dreamers who are willing to take themselves out of any semblance of normalcy to chase a massive goal.”
Dev Bootcamp says that for most people who don’t get in, it’s not an indication you can’t be a developer, just that this program doesn’t fit your learning style. Dev Bootcamp is looking for students who can bring their “whole selves” to the Dev Bootcamp experience.
What happens if you’re accepted?
If you’re accepted you will be asked to choose a start date and cohort, and put down a deposit to reserve your spot.
Once you’ve paid your full tuition, you will start Phase 0, the remote pre-work phase of Dev Bootcamp:
- 9 weeks with 20 hours of work per week
- Work with a cohort lead who leads you through the process
- Work with other students in your cohort to do pair programming
- Complete challenges by certain deadlines.
- Attend an optional Phase 0 study group on Wednesday nights.
- The majority of students do continue to work at their jobs during Phase 0
Does Dev Bootcamp accept international students? Can you organize visas?
Dev Bootcamp does accept international students who meet Dev Bootcamp’s admission standards. But they cannot assist with getting visas.
In our most recent Coding Bootcamp Student Outcomes report, we found that music majors saw the most drastic increase in salary after graduating from a bootcamp, so we caught up with a musician-turned-programmer to find out if the correlation is true. Michael Angelo was an opera singer in New York for six years before he decided to switch careers and attend Dev Bootcamp in 2014. He was excited to find a number of parallels between music and coding, and now works as a front end developer at Time Inc.
What you were up to before you went to Dev Bootcamp?
I was a professional opera singer in New York City for six years. Music is a huge passion of mine and something that I’ve always been drawn to naturally.
But I wanted to do something different, and I figured out it wasn’t music that was the most important thing, it was being creative. Creationism is the top tier; music and tech are subcategories. You could put me in a room with clay for an entire day and I’d be happy as a clam just making pots. It was at that moment that I realized singing is translatable to tech.
That’s a really interesting parallel. Did you study music?
I did. I got a full scholarship to go to the University of Hartford to study with one of the best opera voice teachers – Joanna Levi. It was a great experience; I loved it. I graduated and immediately started getting work. A lot of people are worried about getting into the music field and never making any money or being successful, but I didn’t have that problem. I did have to work a second job, but I was always singing.
How did you end up transitioning from music to tech?
My older brother had done some programming and sent me a link to Codecademy. I did some free courses there and started to see the parallels between music and technology. When you sing, you stand on a stage and sing to entertain people. The goal is to entertain the audience. I noticed in programming it’s the same – you sit behind a computer with the goal of entertaining the users. I’m writing a program where the user does something, and they get a reward back. If you go on Facebook, you’re experiencing something and you like it, so you spend your time on Facebook. My job now is to entertain an audience of millions through a product that I’m creating. So it was easy for me to make that transition.
I think that, like music, coding is creative.
Did you look at a number of bootcamps or did you know about Dev Bootcamp already?
I didn’t know about Dev Bootcamp specifically. The first one I saw was App Academy and I started the application process for that. As I was going through the application for that school, I thought, “This can’t be the only one.” So I started looking them up, and found Flatiron School, Dev Bootcamp, General Assembly, as well as App Academy.
What was important to you when you were looking at each of those? You obviously wanted to stay in New York.
Staying in New York was a top priority. There was also price, so App Academy was appealing because you didn’t have to pay for it upfront. You could get in and they would take part of your salary for your first year. But at Flatiron and GA, I just didn’t think the curriculum was strong enough.
At Dev Bootcamp the most appealing thing was it was not just "Hey, come here and code” or "We’ll teach you to code.” It was a very balanced social environment that focused on person and programmer.
How did you see the difference between Dev Bootcamp and App Academy?
There were a couple of things. The social aspect of Dev Bootcamp; the yoga, the engineering empathy. They openly say things like “We do 80% pairing and 20% solo time.” In their breakdown of what they offer, they give you a lot of transparency into what the program is. With App Academy, it was a lot of mystery. There was a lot of “I don’t know if you do hour-long lectures every day.”
App Academy also focuses on Rails so early on, whereas Dev Bootcamp builds you from the ground up – starting with Sinatra and Ruby, then Rails later. What I perceived of App Academy was they teach you a lot of really cool stuff but you’re going to have to learn a lot on your own.
Did you ever repeat a phase?
I didn’t repeat a phase. I was lucky in the sense that I really “drank the juice” while I was there. The Dev Bootcamp teachers really encourage you to lean on other students and start peer programming. When you feel there’s a hole in your education, you should lean on another student and say, “I don’t understand that. Can you take 30 minutes and just explain to me what’s happening?”
The instructors are there and willing to help but they almost encourage you to ask other students instead. They say, “Did you ask people within your cohort first because if they can explain it to you, that means they really know it.” So it’s encouraging this “everybody’s always learning” mentality.
What was your cohort like? Was it diverse in terms of gender, age, race, life and career backgrounds?
It was. We had 15 people in the beginning and by the end there were nine, including three women. Dev Bootcamp is always trying to get more women to come and they started offering scholarships to women and people of color who are underrepresented in tech, which is great. In my cohort there were two African Americans, as well as Latino and Asian students.
What was more interesting to me was everybody’s story and where they came from. Some people were artists like me, and another was a filmographer. There were people from finance, there was an engineer who had been building trains at one point, and one student who came all the way from Japan on a visitor visa just to go to Dev Bootcamp.
How did you pay for it? Did you have savings from before or did you use one of the financing partners?
I worked hard to save up for when I finished to have a nest egg to live off. Then I took out loans.
I feel like our cohort got really lucky. We had teachers who were freethinking, or at least that’s how I perceived them. When we would have projects or something to work on they would say, “This is the curriculum but if you want to look into something different, go for it. As long as you’ve finished the main challenge for the day, please go find something that interests you.”
Can you tell us about a project you made that you were really proud of?
Our final project. A group of five of us built a project called Dreams. You log in with your YouTube or Gmail account and it grabs all of your YouTube videos, and turns them into a dream sequence. It grabs a random 10 seconds from each video then puts them all together into a long video where it looks like it’s fading in and out of a dream.
That was the biggest learning moment for all of us. The instructors were there to help of course, but they ask you to not to rely on them. They’re like, “Really, we want you to do this on your own because you’re a developer now.”
We had five days to build the project, then you have the sixth day to prepare to present the next day. We also had a chance to present to employer partners.
How did you figure things out that you didn’t know?
Reading lots of documents! Dev Bootcamp teaches you how to learn. That’s really the gift they give you because everybody has a different learning style. Whatever is thrown at you, you may not know how to use it but you can figure it out. We were Googling everything.
We used five APIs in total and none of us had ever used an API. So it was a lot of leaning on your peers, asking them questions then figuring it out together. Then lots of discovery ‘aha’ moments where it would be like, “oh, that’s what they were talking about. I didn’t get it then, but now I do.”
What was the demo day like?
The project demo is a whole other part of programming that people don’t really talk about – that you have to be able to sell your product. If you make something, you need to be able to tell people about technologies you’ve used, why you used them, and how you used them. Dev Bootcamp creates this well-balanced developer, not just a coder.
Did you ever use the therapist that they have on staff?
I went every week. I’m a huge advocate. She is an actual therapist with her own office. You’re at Dev Bootcamp all day, every day so you need a mental break, to just to go and talk to somebody about how great or awful you feel. We have little breaks for yoga and to go get dinner but you still are primarily there to code. It’s nice to have someone who doesn’t have any opinion on what you’re doing, just there to service your mental health.
What are you doing now? Tell us about your new job.
I work at Time Inc. It’s pretty awesome, but I feel like an imposter every day. I’m the front end web developer for Fortune.com. It’s just three of us that work on Fortune but we’re actually hiring two more developers so we’ll be five.
Are there people more experienced than you on your team who have helped you ramp up?
Yeah, I’m on the front-end and we have a back-end person and we have a lead. My lead is an ex-Amazon employee and I call him a wizard because he’s so smart and he really encourages me. It feels very Dev Bootcamp-like. He’ll give me something that’s beyond my reach and say “I know you don’t know this but I’m going to give you the time to go figure it out, come back to me when you’re done and we’ll go over it together, and you’ll grow from me critiquing you.” It feels very nonjudgmental, very open. He’s just happy that I want to learn.
I’ve been here for six months and I worked at another startup for four months before this called Waywire.
What was Waywire?
Video curation. They create an online platform that people can go to view curated video. Let’s say you really love cats – you can search all over the internet for cat videos and put them into your Waywire profile, then other users can go there and look at all his handpicked videos.
How did you get that job?
Through AngelList. I was applying through any medium that I could, specifically to jobs I thought I would learn at. Waywire seemed like they had a good team and were doing something that could be really cool, and I had just used an API that had to do with video so I felt it was a good match.
How did that interview process go?
Interviews in general are so different from opera! For opera, you go in, you sing, it’s great, then it’s over. In the tech world, it could be anywhere from one technical interview to two technical interviews and two behavioral interviews for just one role.
For Waywire, there was a screening phone call first with the CTO. He asked me what I was doing, what I was interested in, told me a bit about the company.
Then he sent me a coding challenge. The challenge was pretty complicated. I did it the way I knew how to do it, then I did it three other ways for better practices that I had looked up online. I sent all four ways and I commented on each thing, explaining that the first way is the way I know how to do it, the next version is a slightly better way to do it, and pointed out the most optimized version.
Did you have people at Dev Bootcamp helping you through the process of getting that job?
We have career coaches who do exactly that. They’re there to help you get your first job and even after. If you quit that job they can help you find another one. They help you with your resume, do mock interviews, and give you tons of coding challenges that you can do on your own time. Even when you’re mid-interview or when you’re negotiating salary, they’re there for you.
When I got the job at Waywire, I brought my offer letter to my career coach and said, “I don’t know if this is enough. Should I ask for more?” She was like, “Oh, absolutely. You should ask for more. You guys are worth more than this.” So I did and they accepted it.
But when I got to my new job, I realized I liked the agile development field, but I don’t like doing the long hours required at a startup. Startups seem edgy to new developers. You’re like, “Oh, I wanna be like one of those kids that’s just out there having a good time and building the next Facebook or Snapchat 2.0”. But the reality is, your first dev job is going to be mostly grunt work and that’s when you learn a lot.
Before you started Dev Bootcamp, you had realized some potential parallels between music. Has that held up? Are you still singing?
Singing is something I’ve done since I was a kid so I can’t give that up. I am extremely happy that I went to Dev Bootcamp and extremely happy that I’ve become a programmer. Since I’ve graduated, I’ve won two hackathons. Not to toot my own horn, but in opera, you don’t really get recognized for your talent. But when you do something really awesome in tech, people are like, “How do we get you? What do I need to do to get you on our team?” It feels so gratifying to just be good at what you do. You don’t have to worry about your hair color or clothing size. There’s a lot of bullshit in the arts industry. But in tech, it doesn’t matter who you know, where you’ve been, it’s just can you code?
What’s been the biggest challenge either at Dev Bootcamp or in your new job?
You mentioned learning React. Is that something that Time supports or did you learn it in your free time?
As far as company time, yes and no. Part of it is done at work because we’ll be using it at work, and part of it is just on my own wanting to learn. There are so many resources out there. I am a visual learner so I’ll look up video tutorials on YouTube, then I’ll look on Udemy or Frontend Masters where they also have video lessons.
Is most of what you’re doing at Time pretty different to what you learned at Dev Bootcamp?
We specifically use Backbone and Marionette right now but we are playing with new technologies because we want to start using the most up to date things.
Has Time hired other bootcamp grads? Were they hesitant about you not having a CS degree?
I think I’m the only bootcamp grad here. The CS degree wasn’t brought up in my interviews but they did ask me a lot of technical questions. The interview process was 4.5 hours long. I had to do a live coding challenge that I didn’t finish. Then I went home, finished the challenge and emailed it to them. On my second day of the job, my boss pulled me aside and said, “I want to let you know the reason you got the job was because you went home, finished the challenge and sent it in.” It shows them that you can teach yourself or figure it out, maybe not in the moment but as time goes on, you don’t need handholding.
Is there anything else you want to add make sure that our readers know about Dev Bootcamp or your time after it?
Dev Bootcamp doesn’t turn out cookie-cutter developers, it turns out awesome programmers. We can think freely, challenge status quo, and contribute really early on. The two jobs I’ve had have been extremely impressed with my ramp-up time because usually it takes a CS person a couple of months to commit code to production, but at my first two jobs, I made a pull request in the first week.
Dev Bootcamp is really well balanced. It’s a social learning environment that helps you build connections within the industry but also, people in your cohort. You will forever be friends with your cohort and always go back to Dev Bootcamp. I go back once a month just to check out the new cohorts to see what they’re doing with curriculum, and talk to the teachers.
Have you stayed involved with Dev Bootcamp since you graduated as a mentor?
Dev Bootcamp started as one of the first coding bootcamps in San Francisco in 2012. As of December 8, 2017, Dev Bootcamp will no longer be operating. Kevin Solorio, Director of their Dev Bootcamp San Diego campus talks about San Diego as an emerging tech hub and why the apprenticeship model is a great fit for the local market.
Tell me about your background and how you became a developer.
My start in development was a little late, I would say. My undergraduate degree is in Business Administration, specifically Accounting. I was helping with merger/acquisitions and doing organizational evaluations at a startup. Our software team was creating a lot of cool things, and I wanted to learn how to do that. I had some business ideas, so I began to learn how to code.
I thought it would be a pretty easy thing – and I was so wrong in that assumption! I jumped into a lot of books. I spent every night after work going over Ruby and Rails. A few months later I found a Ruby meetup group. I found mentors and from that point my learning skyrocketed. Not much later I got my first job as a junior developer in 2009.
How did you get involved with Dev Bootcamp?
I was introduced to Dev Bootcamp through one of their cofounders, Dave Hoover. At that time I was living in the Midwest where he was doing a tour on his book Apprenticeship Patterns. I got to meet Dave two years before Dev Bootcamp Chicago opened.
My girlfriend and I decided that we were going to leave Cleveland and move to Chicago, and I reached out to Dave for recommendations on organizations to check out in the area since I knew that Dave was huge on apprenticeships and mentoring. I also told him about a curriculum I was building to teach my friend how to code. We were using Python and getting together every week to answer questions and review the material. I mentioned this teaching experience to Dave and he said, “Have you thought about Dev Bootcamp?” This was late 2012/early 2013- right when the bootcamp was getting started. I had no idea about it, but Dave explained and invited me to interview in San Francisco. I went out to the Dev Bootcamp San Francisco campus and interviewed there. I was part of the launch team that opened up the Chicago campus that April.
I see a lot of skepticism from self-taught developers who say, “three months is just not long enough; it took me years to learn to code.” As a self-taught developer, did you have to be convinced of the three-month, immersive approach or did it make sense to you?
When we first talked about Dev Bootcamp, yes; it seemed insane and almost impossible. But when we did the interview on site and I saw how the curriculum was put together, how hard the students were working and how many hours the students were working, I came to the conclusion that it’s doable.
After seeing what students were able to produce after graduation, I was totally sold on it. I would say that Dev Bootcamp graduates have around the same level of knowledge I had after two years of learning on my own with a little bit of mentoring.
What went into the decision to expand to San Diego? What’s special about the tech scene there?
We put together a matrix of factors that we were looking for when comparing the demographics of specific cities to our target population. The majority of our students have a bachelor’s degree, some have graduate degrees, and are between the ages of 25 - 35. There is definitely a strong population with those characteristics in San Diego.
Also, tech companies in San Diego are growing. San Diego was listed as Forbes’ #1 city for startups in 2014, so those companies are now growing into small/medium-sized companies that need to bring in talent.
We’ve seen a lot of indicators that San Diego is about to erupt on the tech front. We wanted to get in early by building relationships with companies, especially the small companies as they're growing into medium and large companies.
San Diego is also home to Qualcomm, Sony, and Intuit, which are well-known large tech organizations, so there is a nice mix of large and small companies that provide a lot of opportunities for our students once they graduate.
Are big companies like Sony open to hiring junior developers from bootcamps in your experience?
We are building relationships with big companies in the area.
One thing we’re thinking about is apprenticeships. We’ve noticed a lot more mid to senior level positions in the area, so we’re partnering with a non-profit out of St. Louis called LaunchCode that coordinates paid apprenticeships with local businesses. We’re helping them get acquainted with the city to see if we can help them expand to the area and also help our students.
We’re also holding an event on November 18 for CTOs and engineering leads to talk about apprenticeships and determine if it’s a good step for their company. We’ll talk about how quickly you can take a junior developer to the mid to senior level just through a good organizational structure focused on development. Dave Hoover literally wrote the book on this (Apprenticeship Patterns) and he’s coming to set up this event. We have a couple of CTOs coming from the Midwest to talk about their success with an apprenticeship program. LaunchCode is going to be part of that panel as well.
I love hearing that. I think apprenticeships are part of a missing link right now in terms of the way we think about hiring after bootcamps.
There’s an organization called Signal that actually hired a few of our grads from the Chicago office and it’s largely because they have such a great apprenticeship program. Detroit Labs will be there. Detroit Labs is a little unique in that they’ve gone the mobile route. Their apprenticeship has been focused on Android more so than IOS.
We’ve had grads accept positions in languages we don’t teach, such as PHP and C#, and we’ve had a couple of grads go straight into iOS programming. If there’s an overwhelming market change that requires us to adjust our curriculum it’s something that I would work on with our curriculum team.
Our curriculum has stood the test. Over 1,700 people have graduated our program and most are gainfully employed. At this point, we’re definitely going to start with our existing curriculum and see how the market reacts. By focusing on fundamentals, we’re still in good shape regardless of language.
The main thing we’re focused on is that students leave the program with a sound foundation to build upon, and that they are ready for life as a developer. If the languages we teach ever become an impediment in obtaining jobs then that would be our biggest drive to change.
Are you teaching this class?
I’m essentially managing the location and I’ll be teaching as well. We’ll be hiring at least one more full-time teacher. We’re also considering a third teacher and a couple of TAs to help cover the floor and make sure students are able to get their questions answered.
Where is the campus within San Diego?
San Diego has a ton of really small neighborhoods and we’re going to be in East Village, which is the heart of downtown. It’s really close to Petco Park where the Padres play. It’s an emerging area.
We’re located at 707 Broadway, a building that is positioning itself as the tech hub of San Diego. It’s a high rise. Every tenant is either a software development organization or has a business related to software in some way. I can’t imagine a better networking scenario than our students hopping in an elevator with other developers that are working there. We’re the only bootcamp in the building.
Will the amenities like a therapist and yoga be available in San Diego?
Absolutely. That’s a core part of our belief in our education. You have to take good care of your brain and your mental health. Right now it’s still an open position, but we will have the counselor and weekly yoga just as the other locations.
What’s the biggest difference between San Diego and the other Dev Bootcamp campuses?
One of the main differences in San Diego is that we’re going to start with one cohort at a time and do four cohorts a year. If we see that there is enough demand for the graduates then we will morph into a rolling cohort model. As we get off the ground, we don’t want to take on too much or flood the market. We want to make sure that we’re growing the organization responsibly.
At other campuses if someone is falling behind they can repeat a module. Will students be able to do something similar in San Diego since there’s not a cohort coming up behind them?
They will be allowed to repeat a cohort, it’s just going to be a longer lag. You’ll have the option to wait 6-8 weeks to join the next cohort, but that’s going to be a decision the student makes, if they can wait that long or if they would like to withdraw from the program.
We’re definitely going to offer a lot of one-on-one time and outreach to make sure that we’re working with everybody. With a better student-teacher ratio, it’s hopeful that anybody that starts to fall behind can get some one-on-one.
It’s a lot of material so to say that everybody’s going to be able to keep pace, that’s just not true. What we’ve seen in the other locations is that some people need more time to learn the material and we expect to see it here, but hopefully we can do our best to minimize it.
Speaking of the people, what is demand like so far? Who is applying?
We’ve had a lot of interest from applicants in San Diego. The people that have applied have done great in the interview. The experience has been really positive so far.
Have you had to go through state approval in San Diego?
One major advantage for San Diego is that it’s considered a branch location of the existing San Francisco campus. The fact that we have already applied for approval in the state is something that we’re able to leverage.
Dev Bootcamp is not the first bootcamp in San Diego. How does Dev Bootcamp stand out in the market?
One of the ways we stand out is our focus on the whole self. We teach the technical and we also teach the interpersonal and Engineering Empathy, which is part of our curriculum in the other locations.
What we’re trying to do is not just teach people to be great at coding but to be great as part of a team. What we’ve seen so many times is a lot of projects fail, not because of their technical abilities, but because of their lack of ability to communicate and work effectively together. It’s such a big part of our curriculum that we focus not just on doing the work, but doing the work with other people. When you’re working at an organization, you will be working alongside other people.
We also focus on how to have conversations that are not easy and how to give and receive feedback that may not always be nice, but should always be kind. Those skills are something that really make our program unique. Having the counselor is part of this philosophy of taking care of your whole self, including your mental wellbeing.
What are a few of your favorite San Diego tech meetups? If students want to get involved in the tech world, where can they start?
The Ruby Group has Magic Nights, which are small coding competitions. They host that on Thursday nights. They also have the normal presentation/talks at a local university.
When is the next in person happy hour or campus tour?
We can’t offer tours yet as the campus is undergoing renovation, but our next happy hour meetup is November 20 in Carlsbad. San Diego is pretty spread out so we try to host meetups both downtown and in North San Diego.
If anybody’s interested in learning more about the local team, I would say check out the Dev Boot Camp San Diego meetup. We’ll be posting some virtual meetups along with some in person chances to meet and greet.
Welcome to the October 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 →
Welcome to the September 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!
This Week on Course Report:
- Should you learn web or mobile development first? We dive into this question with advice from Atlanta's DigitalCrafts code school!
- Have you tried Thinkful's Workshops? Grae, the Head of Education at Thinkful, gives us the scoop on their newest offering for bootcamp grads and working engineers.
- Mechanical-Engineer-turned-Web-Developer Kacy Ebel talks about her career change and her experience at We Can Code It's women-only bootcamp.
Aquisitions, Fundraises & Regulation
- General Assembly announced their $70MM Series D. This reporter thinks about what the fundraise could mean for their London campus.
- Hack Reactor acquired Chicago-based Mobile Makers Academy, adding iOS to their offerings. They also announced "Hack Reactor Core," the umbrella under which each school will operate autonomously.
- Inside Higher Ed reported on General Assembly's journey through regulation and expansion. Education Dive provides a nice, brief summary of the article.
- The Huffington Post reported on a letter from Jeremy Shaki and Khurram Virani (Founders of Lighthouse Labs) to parliament on code literacy, outcome-based education, and Canadian innovation through technology.
New Campuses + Courses:
- Dev Bootcamp announced they will open doors in San Diego this November.
- Montana Code School's first cohort started class September 28. (Listen to Montana Public Radio's story on the bootcamp).
- ThoughtKite will teach their first Toronto iOS bootcamp in October.
- Code Fellows has overhauled and reorganized their courses (bye bye Dev Accelerators, hello Code 401!)
- Applications for Code Platoon, a Chicago bootcamp geared towards veterans, are now open.
- Global News Canada writes about Toronto's Bitmaker Labs.
- Fortune Magazine explores women in Coding Bootcamps.
- FCW finds that coding bootcamps are 'Very empowering, very transformational.'
- A LinkedIn researcher blogged about the types of jobs reported by bootcampers on the networking site.
- Delaware Online looks back on ZipCode Wilmington's first bootcamp cohort.
- Built in Chicago: How Designation is bringing the bootcamp model to design.
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee computer coding school expands as employers show interest.
- The Street: Future Code Monkeys May Skip College and Head to Boot Camp
Have a great October!
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 →
Welcome to the August 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 →
As of December 8, 2017, Dev Bootcamp will no longer be operating. Dev Bootcamp and Flatiron School both offer intensive full-time web development programs that focus on Ruby on Rails, but that’s where their similarities end. Whether your focus is strictly coding or you are seeking a complete life overhaul, it’s a hard choice between these top New York coding bootcamps.Continue Reading →
While the majority of coding bootcamp students are motivated by the prospect of a job as a developer at graduation, about 8% of bootcampers reported taking the class in order to start their own business or become a technical cofounder. Starting with a killer idea and learning the coding skills needed to launch an minimum viable product (MVP) can result in a winning combination, and can save a ton of upfront cash.Continue Reading →
The July News Roundup is your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the coding 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 →
This Wednesday, our friends at LiquidTalent hosted a spectacular panel of women who discussed their experience at New York coding bootcamps and transitioning into their first jobs. Course Report was lucky to moderate the panel- here are 12 things we learned from this rockstar panel of lady developers!Continue Reading →
Welcome to the May 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 →
"Can I be a programmer if I'm not a math genius?"Continue Reading →
Welcome to the April 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 →
Halfway through her senior year at UCLA, Laura Mead decided that she wanted to be a developer, so she applied to Dev Bootcamp and describes her choice as “one of the best things you can do to jump into the tech industry.” While she was a top performer at her job at Salesforce after graduating Dev Bootcamp, Laura needed a more supportive management team, and recently moved to Twitter as a Solutions Engineer. We sit down with Laura to talk about getting a job after graduation (hint: write a compelling LinkedIn summary!), fighting impostor syndrome in an unsupportive environment, and finding a team she loves at Twitter.
What did you study in your undergrad?
I started as a music major at UCLA, changed my major four times and finally graduated with a degree in English. I didn’t realize I wanted to be a developer until halfway through my senior year and by then it was too late to change my major.
Did you take Computer Science classes in college?
I took an introduction to C++ my senior year and, ironically, really disliked it! I didn’t want to go back to school for computer science- that’s when I found Dev Bootcamp.
What prompted you to realize that you wanted to be a developer in your senior year?
I had dinner with some family friends, who are programmers, after a UCLA football game. They told me I should become a developer, but I was hesitant because I didn’t love math. They explained that it was more logic-based than math-based, so that winter break I started looking on iTunes at Harvard and Stanford’s free CS podcasts. In hindsight, I wasn’t actually building or developing anything very substantial, but at the time, I thought I was doing something cool. Even just setting up a virtual machine on my Mac was something I’d never done before. The fact that I was able to successfully do that and that I was loving it indicated to me that programming was something I should seriously consider.
Do you think your background as an English major has affected your career as a developer?
I think there’s a benefit to having an English degree. There’s no harm in being able to verbalize and communicate well. A lot of people don’t see the correlation between English and coding, but code is just another language. The parallel between sentence structure could be loosely correlated with lines of code.
I also think that having a passion for learning is critical to being a successful developer because this industry is constantly changing. If you don’t want to keep learning then this isn’t the industry for you.
Was your goal in doing Dev Bootcamp to get a job as a developer?
My goal was to get a job. The Dev Bootcamp tuition is a substantial amount of money to be dropping on something you aren’t serious about.
Why did you choose Dev Bootcamp specifically? Did you look at any other bootcamps?
That was the only one that I knew of at the time. It seemed to achieve the goals I was looking for. I saw how many students were placed into jobs and the positive environment Dev Bootcamp embodies - that really convinced me that this was the place I wanted to be for achieving the goals I had.
Who were your instructors at Dev Bootcamp?
We had a couple of different teachers. The class is divided into three different sections, all about three weeks long. I had a bunch of different teachers like Anne and Shadi.
My experience at Dev Bootcamp was fantastic and I always share that with people who ask. I know that they’re constantly iterating the program, so the experience that I had is probably going to be different than someone applying today because there’s even more to learn now. That doesn’t make it better or worse, it’s just the nature of such a rapidly evolving industry.
Did you have any feedback that you gave after the class was over? What was the feedback loop like?
Once you graduated, how did you stay involved in the Dev Bootcamp community?
I was a Teaching Assistant for about a month. Being a TA allows you to search for jobs and keep your GitHub portfolio active while you’re going to interviews, meetups, networking, etc.
Being thrown into the real world is a little intimidating. So coming back to Dev Bootcamp was like coming back to home base. It was like recharging your batteries, being with people who understood where you were coming from and where you were going. Being able to help other cohorts gave you a reinvigorated sense of purpose, and if you couldn’t help a student, at least you could learn something new.
I got hired by Salesforce less than one month after graduating. The holidays are always a difficult time to get hired so there were a lot of people I knew who took a lot longer and they would go into the classroom almost every day.
What is your advice about meetups and hackathons?
I think those are all really great for learning, networking and getting to know people. As far as getting jobs out of them though, I haven’t seen very much success.
I saw most people getting jobs through personal relationships or by doing something totally out of the box. One person I know started inspecting elements on web pages to see if she could debug anything- she would send fixes to the company and start a relationship. I thought that was brilliant.
How did you find your first job after graduating Dev Bootcamp?
Actually, both of my employers found me on LinkedIn! A technical recruiter from Salesforce reached out to me. We had a call, then I came in for a three-hour interview which consisted of meeting the team and a technical interview.
I noticed that your LinkedIn lists the projects you did at Dev Bootcamp. Do you think that was important to recruiters?
Actually, I think having a LinkedIn summary is more important than listing your projects (though that can’t hurt!). A summary is the only opportunity to share your voice from a more personal perspective. Using your LinkedIn as a real resume is the most powerful way to use that tool. As a developer, it’s significant to have metrics like test percentages, how many languages and frameworks you’ve utilized, how you’ve worked on a team, etc. However, I think it’s important to remember that you need to be a personable engineer.
There are plenty of people who have skills that will blow you out of the water every time. There are people infinitely more capable than I am, but what I think really stands out about me as an individual is that I like to talk to people. When you’re an engineer, you have to interact with sales, other people on the engineering team, and non-technical teams. You need to have a personality. You need to like other things besides just sitting in front of your computer all day.
Did Dev Bootcamp prepare you for that or was it something that you had to cultivate on your own?
Dev Bootcamp inherently chooses students that are out of the box or who push the envelope. They do lessons on “Engineering Empathy,” which focus on how you relate to other people. We did these cool check-ins every Friday morning, which I wish every company did!
That’s honestly why I have such close bonds with people from my cohort because we went through a lot together during those 9 weeks. Everyone is risking something, whether it’s time with your family, money, quitting your job; we’re all taking a giant leap together into an unknown pool.
I think it’s incredible that Dev Bootcamp facilitates these check-ins, because it helps you understand people better and that quality is crucial for working on teams, especially teams that tend to focus on code. Being able to relate to one another I think is one of the most best things you come away with.
Tell us about your first job at Salesforce- what did you do?
I was a demo engineer, which means that I built demo applications on the Salesforce platform for sales engineers who then sold them to customers. It was fun, but different than what I did at Dev Bootcamp. At Dev Bootcamp, we had to test our code and write code well. But as a Demo Engineer, no one was going to read the code itself.
What was your first month like at Salesforce?
It was kind of scary! Impostor syndrome is a real thing. It was hard, too because I was one of the only female engineers on my team and I had just come from a really welcoming environment at Dev Bootcamp. My family will tell you there were a lot of phone calls and late night conversations, questioning if this was even something I wanted to do.
Ultimately for me, ramping up meant putting my head down and working as hard as I could, forcing myself to push through that impostor syndrome and that fear that I couldn’t do it. I started taking on as many projects as I could and successfully turning out so many apps that and I ended up being the highest performer on my team. I built 50 more demo applications than the next guy.
In the first 6 months, I was the first team member to build over 100 demo applications in 2014 across all of our teams in the U.S., India, Ireland, and Japan.
You either can psyche yourself out or push through and really excel. After a lot of hemming and hawing and crying, I chose to push through.
Did you feel supported by managers and more senior developers?
Unfortunately no. It was a very cliquey group from the beginning, so I felt pretty isolated. I consider myself a generally friendly person and I love getting involved in team events, but this group was intentionally exclusive. When I started, there was one woman on the team, but she changed teams a few months after I started. After she left, the team really became a boys’ club and it was pretty evident that I didn’t belong. As for support from upper management, that felt nonexistent. Within the first two weeks on the job, my manager told me that I didn’t have the skills to be a ‘legitimate’ developer at Salesforce. That was pretty upsetting.
How do you get over that experience?
I knew after two weeks that I wanted to leave, but my parents convinced me to stick it out. When my manager told me I didn’t have the skills to be a developer, I decided to be the best performer on my team. As soon as someone tells me I can’t do something, it makes me more determined to prove them wrong.
Six months into my time there, I was project managing million-dollar deals and turning out quality work that was being recognized by the VP of Sales. It was one of those situations where I had to overcome my insecurities.
One year later, you moved to Twitter- how has your experience at Twitter been different from Salesforce?
It’s funny; I’ve been working at Twitter for three months now to the day. Being here has completely blown my experience at Salesforce out of the water. I had zero mentorship at Salesforce and it didn’t feel like a safe place to ask questions. There’s just no comparison to Twitter. I have so much help here. There are two senior engineers on my immediate team and they are so nice. I can ask anybody questions and they’ll take the time to help me out.
At Twitter, my goals for the first month were clear. We had an Excel sheet of all the things that I was going to accomplish in the first 30, 60, and 90 days just to help me feel really comfortable ramping up.
At Salesforce, I was doing a lot of that ramping up on my own. It was up to me whether I was going to sink or swim; nobody was helping me. Here at Twitter, I’m in a totally foreign industry - ad tech. I knew none of the ad tech verbiage, so it could have been a huge challenge. But being surrounded by people who are willing to help me out and grow me has been an absolute blessing and I’m just so thankful to be here because it confirms that there are developers out there who are welcoming and encouraging.
At Dev Bootcamp, I met the nicest people ever; everyone’s willing to help you. Then I got a job with Salesforce where few people were willing to help me. Making the move to Twitter where people are fun and supportive was the confirmation I needed to prove I joined an industry in which people are helpful. I just needed to see it.
What advice do you have for future bootcamp grads on getting the right job?
I started asking a lot more questions about the environment and the culture fit after Salesforce. The culture fit is more important than a lot of people give it credit.
When I first started talking to Salesforce, I just wanted a job, so culture fit was less of a priority. I learned my lesson though so that when Twitter started courting me, I asked a lot of questions about the team. How do they work together? How do they communicate? Part of what I really loved about my team at Twitter when I was interviewing is they kept saying, “We’re like a family here. We stick up for each other and help each other. We have fun together.”
Are there women in leadership positions at Twitter?
Yes. I’m a Solutions Engineer at Twitter. I’m on an immediate team of three Solutions Engineers but we’re in a larger organization of about 12. On my immediate tem there’s one other woman and then my mentor, Joe.
My manager is a woman and she reports to a woman. Plus, there are three other women on my larger team.
I haven’t seen any discrimination towards women at Twitter – and I’m not saying that because I work here. There’s genuinely nothing that I’ve seen that’s been rude or inappropriate or derogatory at all. It’s all been really great. Even people who have been on the team longer than I have are asking questions and getting help and we’re having fun at the same time.
It’s been cool to be able to finally compare that and realize not all teams have to be like the other ones. I love my team here, I love my work here. It’s been the best couple of months and I want to stay longer.
Did Dev Bootcamp prepare you to confront Impostor Syndrome?
Actually, one of our Engineering Empathy sessions was about impostor syndrome. We did an exercise where we were paired up, and one partner would stand up and verbalize all the things that her impostor syndrome was saying to her- everything from body image issues to intelligence to family issues. Then we would switch.
We talked about it afterwards, and I wanted to fight for my partner, but then realized that I should fight for myself too. I imagine impostor syndrome as a giant wall that you have to hop over, or a dark hole you’re in and you’ve got to come out into the light. If we let our insecurities eat away at ourselves, we will just fall further and further into the pit or the wall will just get higher and higher. I believe the best thing to combat Impostor Syndrome is verbalizing the fear. Confronting it takes a lot of humility and vulnerability. Impostor syndrome is a real thing and I think even the best developers experience it.
I would think you’re now “over the wall,” but do you still feel bouts of Impostor Syndrome at times?
Well, especially in a new role in a really specific industry, I think my Impostor Syndrome is more present now than 6 months ago. The difference is that I’m in a safe team environment where I trust the people that I work with. I can verbalize my insecurities and they can dissuade them. I’ll be the first to admit what I don’t know. I’m like, “I’m so sorry that I’m asking so many questions” or “Thank you for your patience…” and my manager or teammates will say, “No, you’re only a month in. You’re not supposed to know this,” Or, “It’s okay. You’re not supposed to be flying on your own right now.” Or my mentor will be like, “I don’t know what that is either. Let’s look at it together.”
I verbalized insecurities that I had at Salesforce to family and friends a lot and they really helped me push through it. But there’s nothing like going to the source and getting the confirmation you need directly.
We forget to be defenders of ourselves. We are so quick to fight for other people and yet, when you’re stranded out there in the ocean, you kind of need to swim for yourself. It doesn’t hurt to have people encourage you and help you stay afloat and remind you the truth about yourself – that you are a developer, that you build quality programs and you are qualified to be here; they hired you for a reason.
Have you become a mentor for others?
I haven’t had a chance to officially mentor with Dev Bootcamp but I’ve mentored a lot of people. I have a lot of people ask me questions on Tumblr and LinkedIn asking about my experiences. I have a ton of friends in sales and UI/UX at Twitter who I answer questions for and teach.
I really feel like the developer community is welcoming and warm. If you come across someone who isn’t, then they’re probably dealing with their own impostor syndrome. Actually, one friend told me, “If you think the problem is you, it’s probably not. And if you think the problem isn’t you, it probably is.”
That’s really good advice. Do you think you could have become a developer without doing Dev Bootcamp?
I think Dev Bootcamp is incredibly valuable if you want to land a job sooner rather than later. It gives you some credibility, too.
I’m a self-learner, but it would’ve taken me years to get to where I am now. I don’t think I would have been hired by Twitter if I didn’t have the skills that I learned at Dev Bootcamp.
The best thing about Dev Bootcamp is that I know I wasn’t wasting my time. I use what I learned at Dev Bootcamp every day, whether that’s relating to people or picking up a new language. I learned mobile development two weeks ago and started developing for Android and iOS a week after that.
How did you learn Android & iOS?
I learned them through Treehouse, but I was at an advantage because I already knew what I was looking at. It was mostly just watching videos while learning the syntax, but I had picked up the programming concepts from Dev Bootcamp. Once you learn one language really well, learning a new language is just a matter of remembering syntax.
Objective-C is a really challenging language to learn, but I wasn’t intimidated by it; being able to jump in gives you a sense of confidence.
Would you recommend Dev Bootcamp to a friend?
Definitely, and I would absolutely do it again. I recommend Dev Bootcamp to everybody because I think it’s one of the best things you could do to jump into the tech industry and really get a great job as a developer.
Since Course Report is based in New York, we try to go to as many bootcamp hiring days and student presentations as possible, so a couple weeks ago, we attended the Dev Bootcamp New York Hiring Day. The "Squirrel Class" was graduating, the classroom was full of enthusiasm and energy and overall, it was a really cool experience. One of the projects that stood out was called Council, which is a social app to “make decision-making easy.” It was created by Melissa, Anna, Jay and Sagar and we are joined in this Live Q&A by Melissa and Anna to talk about their experience at Dev Bootcamp. They also take us through Council and tell us how they approached issues like user experience and test-driven development.
See the full transcript below:
First of all Melissa and Anna, introduce yourselves and start by telling us what you were up to before you started at Dev Bootcamp, your education background, your last job and things like that.
Anna: I was doing marketing at Entertainment Weekly. Before that I went to Berkeley. It was a little bit of a career change but definitely a good move – I love it.
When you were at UC Berkeley did you ever take a CS class or did you have any technical background?
Anna: No, not at all.
Melissa, how about you?
Melissa: I went to UC Davis for economics and I was doing some project management for a tech company in New York called Pixable. I didn’t have any tech experience either.
But you had been part of the tech environment.
Melissa: I’ve been a part of it but never as an engineer. It’s a whole different world.
Before you decided to do a bootcamp, had either of you done Codecademy or used other online platforms? Did you start by teaching yourself?
Anna: I did do a lot online, actually. I started with Codecademy, which was definitely super helpful but you can only go so far. Then I tried doing Ruby Monk, but that’s what ultimately led me down the bootcamp path, was that I needed someone who could put it all together for me.
Melissa: Yeah, exactly. I was working with engineers all the time and I felt like they were speaking this secret language, so I just set out one Saturday and started Codecademy to try to learn some buzzwords. Luckily I started with Ruby so it was easy to understand and from there I realized how much I liked it. I did as much as I could with Codecademy and Code School but ultimately, I needed to be in a classroom.
What was your goal in doing Dev Bootcamp - did you have specific aspirations?
Anna: I just wanted to learn how to program coming from somewhere where I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know if I wanted to do front end or back end or anything, and now I’ve figured out I love front end. But I didn’t go on with a specific goal in mind other than to learn more about this thing that I was really stoked on.
Melissa: I went in with the goal of just being able to build something from the bottom up. It’s interesting being on the product side and the marketing side and trying to say things that you like about it and things that you don’t like about and sell it. I’ve just always wanted to be a part of the actual building process and as an engineer.
Were you both in New York when you decided to apply?
Why did you decide on Dev Bootcamp in particular? Did you apply to other bootcamps?
Anna: I did look at other bootcamps. I looked at App Academy, I looked at Flatiron School; they all seemed awesome. Honestly, I still think I could’ve done great there, but I knew that Dev Bootcamp was one of the first ones so I assumed they had a pretty solid process outlined. I liked that they had you do yoga and encourage you take a break and not go insane.
Melissa: Yeah, me too. I went to a bunch of meetups about web courses and bootcamps and they all did seem cool. Dev Bootcamp really focuses on the holistic programmer and not someone who’s hunched over their computer all day not doing anything else. That was really important to me.
Was it important to you that Dev Bootcamp taught Ruby on Rails? Was the curriculum and the language important to you?
What was a typical day like for you at Dev Bootcamp? Were you doing a lot of pair programming? Was there typical lecture where they teach up in front of you?
Anna: In the morning, we had a lecture and then we would general pair program until lunch. Around lunchtime we would break either for lunch or for yoga or a little of both. It was lecture then ‘here’s a challenge; go code.’
Melissa: We would usually have lecture, around 2:00 or so right after lunch as a recap of this morning challenge, what did you understand, what didn’t you understand, what questions do you have? Then we would finish that challenge or work on another challenge. All the while coaches were walking around and helping, you could ask different people questions or work with your pair or other people or by yourself if you chose. At the end of the day we would have a standup meeting where you would say what you learned and any blockers that you were facing and things like that. Then you were free to continue or go home or do what you want to.
We hear a lot about Dev Bootcamp and this holistic view of a programmer- “engineering empathy” is a buzzword that we hear a lot! Can you tell us what that really meant to you day-to-day?
Anna: I think day to day for me personally, it just meant being receptive to feedback and also making sure you’re able to give really kind feedback that people can actually act upon as opposed to something that can be construed as mean or some random comment. I would say that for me on a day-to-day level that was the main thing, just being able to be in constant communication with everyone and really letting people know how you were getting or what they could work on or maybe you could work on. That was the number one thing I took away, not just engineering empathy. Making sure you can actually get along with others as opposed to just power through a problem.
Melissa: Dev Bootcamp focuses a lot on being able to work well with others, which is really important for programmers. With pair programming with Anna and I, sometimes she has a way to do it and I have a way to do it. It’s not about who get there first, it’s about do we both understand how to get to the answer, can we both explain it to each other and can we both work with each other? We had some engineering empathy courses about group dynamics and how to work with others and being confident in the things you know and how to portray that to others. So engineering empathy was actually pretty neat; I really enjoyed it.
On a broad level, what has been your experience as a woman in tech and in programming? Did you feel there was a barrier to entry at all and how did Dev Bootcamp address that?
Melissa: People talk about women in tech all the time and when we go to meetups, there are oftentimes not that many women in the room. Dev Bootcamp really does focus on not just pointing out there are only two women in our class but more so making everyone comfortable with the fact that you’ve got different types of people, whether they be different genders or any other type of diversity. I think Dev Bootcamp really focused on not singling out women per se but keeping up awareness with everybody that there are differences and everyone should be open to that.
Anna: I think Missy really nailed it. That’s absolutely what they did. Because you wouldn’t want to make it “us vs. them”. That’s not what this is at all. Even in our engineering empathy sessions, while we did talk about women in tech briefly, it really was more so making sure that you’re aware of everyone and everyone comes from a different place and just that whole idea.
Have you found any particular meetup groups or groups outside of Dev Bootcamp to be helpful? Have you stayed involved with things like Girl Develop It or RailsBridge?
Melissa: Girl Develop It, we host them sometimes at Dev Bootcamp so I see them there quite often – and that’s a really cool group. I’ve been going to Code Genius which has been really neat and I went to a Rails meetup two weekends ago. We both did a Spotify hackathon last weekend which was really neat. I think we’ll probably try to do that more often.
Anna: That was awesome.
Melissa: Yeah. Those seem to be super helpful because you’re in an environment where everyone is as amped about coding as you are and you can just geek out the whole day and talk to different people; it’s a good experience.
Was there a good feedback loop with Dev Bootcamp? Did you feel like your feedback was taken into account?
Anna: Every Friday they send out a feedback form and you’re encouraged to fill it out. Oftentimes, you can see some of the feedback you actually asked for implemented immediately. They definitely try to keep that feedback loop super tight.
Melissa: Yeah, they do. And you can feel comfortable, too. I felt comfortable as many times as needed to speak to teachers directly or students directly and just tell them, “I really like when you do this; can you do more of this?” They really are so receptive and you’ll see it the next day. All of a sudden they’re giving you more time for questions like you asked or whatever.
I want to talk about Council because that’s the first thing I noticed about you, so tell us about your project.
You can have a food council, you can have a fashion council, you can have a music council, you can have a spring council. Those are just a group of 5-10 people to which you can send an image with a question and upon receiving that image, your council or any member from your council can either swipe right to let you know that you should do it or swipe left to let you know that you shouldn’t do it.
That’s pretty much the basics of Council. I’ll actually let Anna walk you through the UX and UI.
Anna: When we started out we had so many different views; it was getting super of hand. We realized that we weren’t designing for desktop. We really needed to start about mobile first and what that really means. Once we reevaluated everything, we were able to completely redesign our wireframe.
This was our first big mobile experience. It was really exciting and we definitely realized that you had to take a different look at it.
Melissa: We were really focused on test-driven development so we made sure to have that in the forefront of everything we did. We incorporated Travis CI and Simpleco and from that we were able to have a 90% coverage rate, which we’re really proud of.
What is a 90% coverage rate? We hear the word “test-driven development” all the time; what does it mean?
Melissa: We have four people in our group and every person is working on something different and ultimately you’re going to step on someone’s toes. So we just want to make sure that something that perhaps I’ve implemented is not going to break something that Anna’s implemented. You need to put tests in the beginning so that if I push anything, if something is broken then I know I must’ve stepped on Anna’s toes in some way because this is broken.
Simpleco, it’s simply a test for your tests, so it just sees how much of your app is actually covered by testing. Basically, 90% of our app is covered by testing so it would be very hard for me to break something without knowing.
How did you decide who to work with? Were you assigned people to work with as a group?
Anna: We were assigned groups. We all voted on what projects we would want to work on and from that they decided who was going to be on each team.
Melissa: It’s a really cool process. There’s so many creative people in your classes and you get to hear all the ideas that they have then decide. They tell you what types of technologies they want to use and exactly how they want to implement their idea then you get to choose like, this is what I want to work on. That was one of my favorite parts.
Did you know the technologies you would be using to create Council before you started?
Anna: We kind of went into it actually knowing that we wanted to use frameworks we’d already used. There was a brief moment when we explored maybe doing Meteor, but ultimately we knew Rails; and we wanted to make sure it was awesome. That’s why we were able to do testing and everything like that, because we had slightly extra time.
Melissa: I’ve had this idea for a really long time, actually. When I first had it I didn’t have any programming experience, thinking how would somebody build something like this? But after having gone through the program and learned so many different frameworks and languages, it was really cool to be able to say okay, we’ve sort of mastered this language so let’s just try to use it and see what we can do with it. We were able to do more than I even thought.
Can you tell us about an issue or problem that you ran into either working together as a team, or maybe something that you hadn’t learned before and learned as a group?
Melissa: We had 6 days to build this project so your stress levels are through the roof 99% of the time. You’re in this room and trying to figure out what to do; we had learned a lot about agility methods and working Agile but sometimes, especially being the team lead it’s hard. You’re so pressed for time. In hindsight I wish that I could’ve broken it up a bit more using the Agile framework instead of using specific front end and specific back end. But we actually learned that along the way and were able to take some pretty large bits to do that way better, so the last four days of the projects I think we broke up the work a lot better.
Anna: I agree with that. Basically, it was definitely a learning curve trying to get everyone on the same page; that was really the main thing. I think Missy really crushed it.
Are there plans to launch Council as a product to the public anytime soon?
Melissa: Yeah, it’s actually already on Heroku but Heroku is not extremely reliable all the time so we’ll look at some other options. We’ll also look at some other features and fixes that we wanted to implement first so it’s on the road.
When I saw you all, you were at the hiring day. When was that and what’s happened since then? Have you been interviewing?
Anna” I’ve been interviewing, I’ve been chatting with people over coffee, going to meetups. As Missy said, we went to the hackathon. Mainly right now I’m just trying to make sure all my information is up to date and all the good stuff you do when you’re job hunting. Also, I’m working on a new app that will be launching today or tomorrow so… that’s exciting. It’s called Nightly Nachos.
Melissa, what are you up to?
Melissa: The same stuff that Anna said. I’m also a coach now at Dev Bootcamp so I’ve been doing that. It’s been really fun. It’s a really good way to sharpen your skills too, on learning; having to look at someone’s code and find out what the bugs are is really challenging so I like it.
Did Dev Bootcamp do a lot of job prep with your class?
Anna: We actually had a full week of it where we just did interview prep.
Melissa: We had a whole career week where we did interview prep and whiteboarding and how to build a tech resume, cover letters and how to cold reach out to people. Whiteboarding Wednesdays are really great at getting you on your feet with a marker in your hand and how you’re going to feel and things like that. It was really helpful.
My last question is: was Dev Bootcamp worth the money? Would you recommend it? And if we skipped over anything in the interview, let the audience know now.
Melissa: Dev Bootcamp was definitely worth the money. It’s not one of those situations where you pay the money and just become a programmer; that’s really not what it is and I think that’s important for people to understand. Rather, you paying the money is saying that you’re going to go through and give this whole program your all and you’re going to really give more than you ever thought you could for those full 19 weeks, all the time. Then from there, you will become a programmer and you will be so proud of the transition that you’ve made. There are resources there that I’ve received and just people that I can rely on and go to at any point in my day. It’s such an amazing environment and such a great program to be part of so I would highly recommend it.
Anna: I second that. It’s really what you put in that’s really what you get out. But for anyone who’s watching this and looking to go to a bootcamp, I would definitely say research them all. Look into all of them and find the one that’s the best fit for you personally. If you have experience, whether or not you want engineering empathy, they offer so many great things.
Melissa and Anna, thanks so much for joining us and sharing your experience. We can’t wait to see what you get up to in the next couple of weeks and months and we will definitely keep up with your success. And we can’t wait to see Council and Nightly Nachos live in the app store! Want to find out more about Dev Bootcamp? Check out their School Page on Course Report or the Dev Bootcamp website here!
Welcome to the February 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 →
Art Lee was one of the first graduates of Dev Bootcamp Chicago, and talks to us about his background in design and teaching, his opinions of Dev Bootcamp's teaching style, and how he connected with his current employer, Higi.
Tell us what you were up to before you started Dev Bootcamp.
My background is actually in Industrial Design. I studied Industrial Design at the Institute of Design and started working in CAID, the Computer Aided Industrial Design side of the business, after graduation. After a while I realized I wanted to do more with computers specifically in the field of Visual Effects and transition out of doing design work.
I ultimately ended up in teaching in Chicago; I taught a few computer animation and web development courses back when it was all new and fresh. This experience teaching eventually led to becoming a trainer at Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, CA. I worked there for almost 8 years as Training Supervisor implementing technical training programs for the studio, training animators and artists to use new and existing in-house tools.
Is it a pretty natural progression from animation to coding?
Yes and no. You don’t really think about making a transition into anything other than what you’re doing when you’re working at that level. If you’re working on feature films, you don’t think about transitioning into anything other than maybe games.
It’s not really a natural thing for animators to consider unless they’re already working more heavily on the technical side of it, developing tools or doing programming.
What made you want to make the switch then?
Design is something I’ve always enjoyed doing and will always be my first love, but I hadn’t done it for quite some time. I found a job description for a Toy Designer/Developer at IDEO and was like, “I’d love to do that!”
With my design skills, I’m comfortable building products, whether it’s physical or interface-driven. I was thinking about pursuing a career in web development as a way to re-enter the product development process. Then as a coincidence, Dev Bootcamp opened here in Chicago, so I was in the right place at the right time to do this.
Why did you choose Dev Bootcamp in particular?
I wasn’t prepared to go back to school and I wanted to do the most efficient learning in the least amount of time as possible. There are a number of different bootcamps here in Chicago but Dev Bootcamp sounded the most intense and the most difficult, and I’m a glutton for punishment. I wanted to do something that was expeditious but would yield the results i wanted, as in finding a job afterwards.
It sounds like it was a very career oriented decision.
Absolutely. Another big reason is that what I did in the Animation industry was very specialized. I wanted to enter a field where I had more options to work on a variety of different things, even in different industries. I didn’t want to stay in Visual Effects and Animation and work as an artist in order to, ultimately, only have a limited number of options.
Did you apply to any other bootcamps besides Dev Bootcamp?
Just Dev Bootcamp. I looked at Mobile Makers and had a tour, talked to those guys and they seemed nice enough. When I went to Dev Bootcamp, the space wasn’t even open yet. They hadn’t started the first cohort. I didn’t see the space but I did meet with the most awesome Dave Hoover.
Did you do a technical interview or a culture fit interview?
No. As part of the application process you fill out the application and talk a little bit about your background. Then you submit a 3-minute video that showed you teaching somebody something. (This video requirement is no longer part of the Dev Bootcamp application).
So I submitted that and then got contacted. I had a phone interview, but there was nothing technical involved. We dove a bit more into my background.
What was your cohort like? Did you find that there was diversity in age, race and gender?
Age and gender- yes, but not by a wide margin. The age diversity was actually quite nice because there were two other students my age or older, so that was nice from a standpoint of relatability.
Did you feel like everyone was on a similar technical level and able to learn together?
Not really; most people did had some experience - we had a lot of really strong people in my cohort.
How did you make that decision to repeat a phase and what was the process?
We have assessments at the end of each phase and it’s based on the results of those assessments. At the end of those assessments, I was deemed not ready to go forward.
Did you feel like you weren’t ready?
Yes and no. Of course, I appreciate the entire experience and I got a lot out of it – more than anything I’d gotten out of my career, which was the goal. One of my biggest criticisms of the course was the way they go about educating people with this content. They kept using this ‘drinking from a fire hose’ metaphor. It’s not a metaphor you use when you think of teaching.
An extra three weeks was just more time with the material so I wasn’t necessarily opposed to it. For the second phase, I did as much as I could but at that point I was 9 weeks in already so I was a little burned out.
I do think they should be more transparent about repeating phases so people can understand that it’s potentially not a 9-week program; it’s a 9 to 16 week program. I think if any phase should be repeated, it’s the second phase and not the first phase. That’s not to say that the first phase material isn’t as important as the second phase, but the second phase material is basically why everyone comes to the bootcamp to begin with, to build web applications.
What material did you cover in that second phase?
You start building things that show up in the browser instead of the command line, which is the reason 99% of the people are there.
During the first phase, you cover algorithms, you cover some database stuff, all of these are fundamentals but if you don’t grasp that, it’s okay because you’ll learn it in day-to-day operations.
Having spent time as a trainer and educator, you have an interesting perspective.
When I teach, it’s really important for people to grasp the information, so I have to do as much as I can to facilitate that. You have to make things understandable and easily digestible for the lowest common denominator. That’s always key because if they don’t get it, that could mean that they don’t keep their job.
Were you satisfied with the curriculum and material you learned?
I was mostly satisfied, now that I’ve actually been out in the field and have taught a one-day workshop for Dev Bootcamp, I realized that they didn’t spend enough time teaching HTTP, which is the actual protocol that’s used to go back and forth. They touched on it in one or two sentences but they didn’t really go in depth and talk about how it works.
I had lunch with one of the instructors about two months ago and he said they were changing the curriculum to accommodate more of this. That’s the only thing I think I would criticize.
Everything they cover is absolutely what you need to know. Even though I’m brand new to this, when my coworkers are talking about web development, whether it’s front or back end, they’re using terms that I now know. I may not know exactly and may have to ask some questions to get some clarity but I’m not completely in the dark.
How did you push through the burnout you felt? Do you have advice for future students?
You’ve got to remember why you’re there in the first place and just use that as your motivation to keep going.Phase three was not meant to be as arduous as the first two phases, but I was glad for that because it seemed like we were getting a bit of a reprieve. The last three weeks were spent working on our final projects.
Did the Chicago campus have a resident therapist?
They did. I did not use any of those services. It’s definitely a life jacket for when you feel you’re sinking a bit. It just all depends on how you deal with your feelings and emotions and stress. For me, the only thing I could do to get through the stress is to remember that each minute that ticks away, I’m closer to getting done. That’s the only comfort I had.
What are you up to today? Where are you working and what does your job entail?
How large is the dev team that you work with?
We just merged with another company in Monrovia, CA and I have no idea how many devs they have but locally we have around 8 developers.
How did you get your job? Was it a connection through Dev Bootcamp or was it through your own networking?
It was a connection to Dev Bootcamp. Higi came to our portfolio day and I made the connection there, talked to them and afterwards followed up and they asked me to come in for an interview.
Does Dev Bootcamp take percentage of your salary for the first year or a referral fee?
They do not. There used to be a fee that they took from the employer, but I’m not sure if that’s still the case.
Did you feel Dev Bootcamp prepared you to start this job in the real world?
Do you feel like you can still be artistic in your job?
Not at the moment… My work is supporting a product that’s been developed and deployed for about a year now. As the company brings on new designers, they have new ideas about what to do. We just rolled out the second version of the website and there’ll be a third version next year and who knows? On the management side of things after the merger and acquisition, there’ll be more tools and features to build. Those things keep the product evolving, but it’s not like I’m actually solving highly visual problems.
Coding Bootcamps are intensive programs- some require an 80 hour per week commitment, and all demand undivided attention in the classroom. This structure may be necessary to learn a new skill in a short time, but it can also overwhelm students and in some cases, cause burnout.
Luckily, at Course Report, we get the opportunity to talk with alumni from coding bootcamps all over the world, and we always ask how they avoided burnout during their courses. We’ve compiled the top eight best pieces of advice for future students from alumni who have been through it before!Continue Reading →
2014 was a stellar year for coding bootcamps, and the team at Course Report had a blast covering it. We've seen acquisitions, major fundraises, and new schools launching weekly in cities from San Fran to Sydney. As we connect with bootcamp alumni all over the world, success stories continue to emerge and it makes us so excited to see the future of bootcamps unfold. But we can't head into the New Year without reflecting on some of the greatest accomplishments of 2014, so read on for our top picks!Continue Reading →
Since graduating from Dev Bootcamp in October 2013, Katy Exline has landed a job as a software developer at Chicago-based startup Fooda and became co-leader of Girl Develop It Chicago. We talk to Katy about her experience at Dev Bootcamp, the instructors and teaching style, and how she's stayed connected to the tech community.
Tell us what you were up to before you started at Dev Bootcamp.
Before I started at Dev Bootcamp I studied political science and geography at Ohio State University so I had a background in social sciences. I had done several internships and part-time jobs in campaigns, in the legislature and even abroad at different parliaments.
At the same time, I was studying geography and specializing in GIS, geographic information systems, which is dealing with spatial analysis. I had to take at least one programming class, so that gave me a bit of exposure to programming.
What made you want to make the career change after being so heavily involved in the political world?
I always thought I wanted to work in research but I wasn’t feeling the fulfillment that I expected. I saw a lot of really crappy government websites day in and day out and I thought, “I could build something better than this!” I was also working with spreadsheets and I knew I needed a database and/or some way to streamline data, but I didn’t know how to build it.
I felt like I was missing a skill. I started tinkering with online tutorials about the web and coding and then I got involved in a local meet-up group called Girl Develop It in Columbus, Ohio where I took my first intro HTML/CSS class. For about 6 months, I studied on my own time, just playing around and doing some self-teaching on top of a full-time and part-time job.
How did you decide on Dev Bootbamp? Did you look at any other boot camps in Chicago or the Midwest?
The first one that caught my eye was App Academy because of the way they handled tuition (deferring tuition until the student gets a job). That led me to Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco, and I realized they had just opened a Chicago office. It turned out that my original teacher from my HTML/CSS class at Girl Develop It, Jen Myers, was actually moving to Chicago to teach at Dev Bootcamp.
Because I knew people teaching at Dev Bootcamp from Columbus and Girl Develop It, those personal connections made me feel very welcomed and supported and drove me to choose Dev Bootcamp as my coding home.
What was the application process like for you?
As a disclaimer, I did Dev Bootcamp in October 2013, so it’s probably changed a bit. The application took a reasonable length of time.
I submitted the written application along with a video submission and I believe I heard back within a week. Then I had a Skype interview which was about an hour long. Mine did not involve any live coding, but we discussed my technical background extensively.
I wonder why they didn’t ask you to do coding questions.
Once you started, what was your cohort like? Did you find that it was diverse in terms of age and race and gender?
When I first started, I think there were around 24 people in my cohort. I would say it was relatively diverse. We had a couple of women, a couple of people that were underrepresented or from minority groups but I would still say generally, the majority were young white males. I did not hold it entirely against Dev Bootcamp because the people they brought onto their staff showed me that they did care about diversity.
Did you feel like everyone was on the same level in terms of experience?
I would definitely say that there was a mixture of skill-level. In regards to the content, we were all in the same place but some people came from computer-oriented backgrounds. There were two or three actual computer science majors in the course who had certain strengths that others didn’t have. But I would say we were all pretty much close to the same level.
Did everybody graduate?
At Dev Bootcamp they have a process where it’s broken down into three phases, three weeks each, aside from the prep phase. At the end of your third week you go through a test, which is a coding challenge and a code review where they check to see whether or not you’ve retained most of the content from class. If you haven’t, sometimes you are asked to repeat that phase. That can happen in both the first phase and the second phase. In each phase we had around two to three people repeat each phase.
Each cohort has a woodland creature name like Salamander or Firefly. If one person repeats then they would repeat that phase with the next cohort.
That was very tough but the nice thing was that even if you did repeat, the way the rotation happened, your cohort was still around. Our cohort in particular was a little bit funky because I was from October to December so we were the last cohort of the year. We didn’t have any younger cohort below us in that if anybody repeated, they had to wait until January to start again.
But that has changed now; they’re going to go through the holidays so that nobody has to do that.
Who was the instructor for your cohort?
Ironically enough, I never ended up having Jen Myer as a direct instructor, which was okay. She was around so that was wonderful. Each cohort had two instructors and those would change. It depended a lot on the teacher’s schedule, their abilities and their backgrounds.
I didn’t repeat, so over the three phases, I had a total of 4 or 5 unique instructors. Now what Dev Bootcamp does is rather than rotating the two every time, each cohort has one cohort lead the follows them through so that one teacher actually rotates.
Did that teaching style work for you? Were you satisfied with that approach?
Yeah; I loved that. I loved being able to get new perspectives, new ways of thinking and I didn’t feel lost because even if a teacher wasn’t my direct teacher that phase, they’re very good at being around and being available.
The only downside to it was that they took a little while to understand where the class was and how you learned. This is what the cohort lead is supposed to alleviate.
Were you satisfied with the actual curriculum that you were taught?
I was really happy with the way Dev Bootcamp teaches because you don’t go straight into Rails; you start with Ruby. Basically, Rails does a lot of things for you and we had to build pieces from scratch. It was incredible beneficial to build knowledge on top of solid foundations so that you understood what was happening under the hood. I thought it was a very well-rounded curriculum.
What are you up to today? Tell us about your job and what you do!
I graduated in December and then in February was hired as a Junior Engineer at Fooda. We work mainly in Rails with a little bit of front end work. A lot of the internal tools and the technology we use were familiar to me. About 4 months ago, I was promoted to Engineer.
What is your team like?
The company itself is about 65 people. The tech team interestingly enough, had varied a lot since I’ve been here. When I first came in it was around 12 people. At its highest point they had around 20 people. Now we’re back to around 13 people.
How did you get the job? Does Dev Bootcamp have a partnership with Fooda?
I found my job and interviews through my own personal networking. The two interviews that I had were both connections through Twitter. The CTO of Fooda is from Ohio and we had a lot of mutual friends and he had asked if I wanted to grab some lunch, which ended up being an initial interview that led to the job.
Did you go through a technical interview with them as well?
I had one more conversational interview and then I had a take-home coding challenge. One interview that I had was a live coding for about 4 hours, the one for Fooda was a 3-day take-home coding challenge and I then had an interview with the CTO and the majority of the tech team members.
Did you feel that Dev Bootcamp had prepared you for that job interview?
I think Dev Bootcamp did a good job of making me feel confident about the code I was writing. One of the things I think they’ve improved on since I’ve been there is they’re actually doing practice interviews now, which I’m sure will be even more helpful nowadays.
Back in social science, there might be a writing sample that would vary between interviews but literally, all the interviews were just talking. I have never seen a field where the interview process varies so much between companies as web development. You could have whiteboarding in one interview, another might have live coding, others want to talk about algorithms, and some may not have any coding at all; it’s all over the map.
Dev Bootcamp has an intense feedback process and makes you really introspective about yourself and your code. Dev Bootcamp really helped me develop my communication skills to communicate my thought process going through my code. When you pair program during class, you have to be able to communicate your thought process.
How did you get involved with Girl Develop It in this leadership role?
I took that intro HTML/CSS class in February of 2013 in Columbus, went to Dev Bootcamp and moved to Chicago. My first night in Chicago, Jen Meyers and I had dinner and she told me she was moving into a more advisory role and asked if I would be interested. I took it on and almost a year to the day, I taught the class that I had been a student in a year before.
Can you tell us a little bit about Girl Develop It?
Girl Develop It is focused on educating women and men in web development. We’re about providing affordable, short-term classes for people looking to enter the technical field. We’ve actually ended up being a pretty nice complement to a lot of boot camps because a lot of people don’t have the time or the resources to dedicate 9 weeks. We have a lot of women in our group who take our classes either to gain a new skill or to incrementally make a transition into a new field and to a more technical position.
It’s been a very natural connection with Dev Bootcamp. Both the former co-leader that took it on with me, myself, and my current co-leader have all been to Dev Bootcamp. A lot of women start taking our classes and realize they want to accelerate and then go into Dev Bootcamp.
Both Dev Bootcamp and Girl Develop It have an ‘anybody can do this’ mentality.
Do you partner with bootcamps in Chicago other than Dev Bootcamp?
I can’t speak to any other chapters, but in Chicago we don’t partner with anybody else. We definitely work with Dev Bootcamp but recommend to our members if they look at bootcamps, to find the one that’s right for them. We don’t steer anybody away from another bootcamps.
After Dev Bootcamp, have you been able to continue education in any other ways?
I have the ability through my work, by the nature of the problems that have come up, to learn a bit more.I’m actually getting ready to go back to some Java to help with our Android application, which my job has allowed for. I’ve also learned because I’ve had to teach things for Girl Develop It.
I would say I probably haven’t been doing as much as my friends have because organizing Girl Develop It takes up a lot of the time I would need to further my education. Our chapter has exploded and I know we’re going to reach 2,000 members by the end of the year.
Do you think that you would have been able to get to the point where you are today without doing a bootcamp?
I think that I could have, but what I was able to do in a year would have taken me at least three years through another path. I needed a disciplined environment for me to continue learning and that’s really why I chose to do a bootcamp.
Is there anything you want to add about Girl Develop It or Dev Bootcamp?
I will say that in order to go to Dev Bootcamp, you have to be prepared to come in and let your guard down because it is not only professional journey; it is really an emotional journey and if that is not something you’re looking for, it might not be the right bootcamp for you. But if you really are looking for a bootcamp to grow not only as a developer but as a person, it’s hard to think of another place that does it as well as Dev Bootcamp.
Lauren Scott is a poet, Dev Bootcamp Chicago graduate, developer at BradsDeals, and organizer for RailsBridge Chicago. In short, she's a busy contributor to the Chicago dev scene and we were lucky to catch up with her to chat about her experience. We talk to Lauren about learning to code with a humanities background, why it's important to be involved with your tech community, and how she landed a supportive job as a developer after graduating from Dev Bootcamp this year.
Tell us what you were doing before you started at Dev Bootcamp.
I studied poetry for 8 years--I went to boarding school for poetry, college for poetry and I left with my undergrad in poetry... and worked in retail for 3 years. It was really difficult to find any sort of work that was even remotely related to poetry.
I didn’t really have a technical background. I did come from a family which really valued computer science. My dad works in computer science and my mom was always trying to get me into the field. I’d been accepted to an MFA program and I was really considering going, but I felt like there wasn’t much financial support or many career prospects after graduation. I was just really looking for anything else that would allow me to have a job that I was interested in and passionate about.
Once I heard that there was a way to learn without having to go back through the traditional educational system, I was really excited. So I started going to Girl Develop It, Rails Girls and Chicago Women Developers and I applied to Dev Bootcamp right away.
Did you find out about Dev Boot Camp through Girl Develop It?
No, I found out about Dev Boot Camp from my mother!
Was Girl Develop It and Rail Girls your first exposure to coding?
Actually the first thing that I did was TryRuby.org. There are small Ruby tutorials that my mom sent me off to do. (My mom was really drumming for this). So I tried several tutorials and then I found Rails Girls, which does weekend coding workshops and Ruby on Rails workshops for women with no programming experience.
At that point, Girl Develop It had not yet launched in Chicago and Rails Girls (which was founded in Sweden) didn’t come to the U.S. very often. I saw that they were having an event in Atlanta so I decided to fly there and go to the workshop. I came home from that, immediately declined my MFA offer, and applied to Dev Bootcamp.
Did you find that having a humanities background clashed with learning to code?
I’ve always been interested in both math and creative fields since I was a little kid. It’s nonsense to believe that you can’t get into Computer Science because you focused on liberal arts. It’s really cool to see the way in which my liberal arts and artistic education has really helped me in programming. You see the attention to detail; you’re trained in critical thinking.
In a liberal arts education, you spend a lot of time making connections between different theories and texts- I think it’s very helpful for people to have that sort of training. In the case of programming, you’re making similar connections but with a different toolset.
I think people who have an artistic background, particularly people who have been through things like workshopping, are able to self-edit and also listen to others and incorporate their feedback.
So actually, I’ve got a lot of skills that particularly help me because of my background!
Decide you decide only on Dev Bootcamp or did you look at other bootcamps?
I looked at a bunch of different bootcamps and there were a few factors I considered. One factor was that it would be by far easier for me to stay in Chicago, particularly because I have a significant other. When you have a significant other you might not want to say I’m going to completely leave and be out of communication for several months while I’m doing this thing.
So I was giving preference to programs in Chicago, but if I had found something I really liked or believed in I would’ve done it in a different city. I did lots of research online- one thing that I really liked about Dev Bootcamp’s approach was their emphasis on empathy and teaching holistically. They teach students to be programmers but also to be better people and better employees or coworkers and better communicators and collaborators.
I think especially as a woman, it’s helpful to go through a boot camp where people are interested in empathy, because even though you can still encounter sexism in such an environment, it’s a lot less pervasive. And I knew that Dev Bootcamp had just a really good reputation and they seemed to have the most solid job prospects. Looking at the history of the developers they put out, I knew I would love to be one. So I only applied to Dev Bootcamp.
Did you complete the program in 9 weeks or did you ever repeat one of the phases?
I went through it in 9 weeks.
Did people from your class repeat the phases? Did anyone actually drop out?
While I was attending I don’t know of anybody who left the program, either voluntarily or because they were asked to leave. There were plenty of people who got held back a phase. I think “held back” is too strong a word because it’s all about making sure that you know the material well enough that you’re not going to drown when you move on after that. The whole system is trying to make sure each student knows the material well enough that when they move onto the next section, you won’t be still floundering. If you’re still trying to solidify and relearn the knowledge that you had from the last phase, you won’t be able to focus on the new phase.
What was your cohort like? Did you find diversity in age, race, and gender?
Not exactly. I think that this just varies from cohort to cohort. I believe when we started we were almost entirely white. We had two people of color and both of them decided to leave in the first week; I said earlier that we didn’t have anyone drop out, but at the end of the first week Dev Bootcamp gives everyone the option to leave with a full refund except for the deposit (in case the environment just isn’t for you).
When we entered the program there were only three women and among 20 students. I’m not gonna lie; that was rough. Despite everyone’s best intentions, a lot of people aren’t necessarily open to trying to understand why tech is difficult for women – and by difficult I mean not a particularly welcoming environment. I definitely encountered some issues with guys in my cohort.
Did you feel a lack of compassion, or what was that experience like?
This wasn’t specific to my group; I feel a lot of the guys had a hard time listening to women in general. And there were definitely times when I wished I had been in a cohort that had more women. Three other girls joined our cohort by repeating from the cohort before us and they were great, so that was fantastic.
Eventually, our cohort did end up with more racial diversity and more women. I’ve talked about the sexism that I have encountered so far in my programming career in lots of public forums so it’s just something that I speak out about. But I would not say every group is representative of the whole. The nice thing is, Dev Bootcamp is very, very sensitive towards these issues and puts a lot of effort into making the space safe and accepting.
I know Dev Bootcamp is also putting a lot of effort towards increasing diversity. One problem that you see in bootcamps is a lack of institutional financial support for these programs, so it can be incredibly difficult for people to fund going through them without having a lump sum of cash. The financial model makes them less diverse. The groups definitely skewed privileged.
Who were your instructors while you were there?
My cohort lead, the instructor that stays with you throughout, was Alyssa Diaz, who was fantastic. Having somebody to talk to about my experience as a woman going through the program, who was a person with power and able to actually help me out, was fantastic.
Our other instructors changed for each phase, so I was also taught by Torey Hickman, Kevin Solorio, and Ryan Briones, as well as a few temporary junior instructors.
Aside from the teaching style, were you satisfied with the material that was taught?
Absolutely! I think the curriculum is really spot on. Instead of throwing you into things right away, they really make you build up to the technologies .
They have you reading and tinkering long before you get to the program. They are really good about making sure your knowledge builds up. You’re starting with these very basic building blocks and learning about different data structures; it’s fantastic.
Then you start branching out into databases, then into making a bare bones Sinatra app. Although they provide you with a Sinatra skeleton, it’s still a very bare bones Sinatra skeleton. You are learning how to do some of the things that a real app does so that you really understand what it’s doing in certain ways.
Did you ever feel any burnout in those 9 weeks? And how did you push through it?
I think burnout’s going to be inevitable- I was often working 14-16 hours a day. I think that burnout happened for me more on a daily basis. There’s going to be a point where your brain is done.
For me the most important thing was to take frequent breaks. Go get something to drink or eat just so you physically move.
We did yoga twice week. I hate yoga; I really hate it. It’s not for me. But it was mandatory and I knew that the point of it was to get focused on your body and make sure that you’re not neglecting that other parts of yourself that are really important towards being a realized human being. So really, I’m glad they forced me to take that time, even if I grumbled through it.
What are you up to today? Where are you working and what does your job entail?
I started working at a company called BradsDeals, a local post-startup. We’re a deals site that curates deals for our customers.
I’m working here as a junior developer so I work on full-stack, and I get a fair amount of autonomy. They basically put a lot of trust in me when I came here and just let me dive in and get started working with other developers.
Is Brad’s Deals written in Ruby on Rails?
Yes. It’s Ruby on Rail on the back end, Backbone on the front end. We also use GO.
One of the reasons that I chose Brad’s Deals is that they have a very supportive dev team here and they’re very focused on making sure they give back to the community. They’re always involved in community events and they’re constantly sponsoring classes or holding Girl Develop It classes.
I’m putting together a Rails Bridge workshop- right now we’re rebooting Rails Bridge in Chicago; we’ll have 80 attendees and 35 volunteers and Brad’sDeals is awesomely hosting the whole thing, which is really neat. And also, Dev Boot Camp is sponsoring it so both companies are super involved.
When did you start this job?
I started three months ago. I graduated at the very end of March and took a couple of weeks off before I started TA-ing at Dev Bootcamp. They then offered me a junior instructor position, so I taught there for nine weeks while job hunting. Dev Bootcamp was great about saying they didn’t want to hold me back, but they wanted to give me this opportunity while I search for jobs on the side.
How did you find your job with BradsDeals?
There are actually two other Dev Bootcamp graduates who work here - on a relatively small dev team. We’ve got about 10 devs and now three of us are Dev Bootcamp graduates.
The CTO of Engineering here actually goes to almost every single Dev Bootcamp demo day to watch the students show off their applications because he’s always so impressed by what they do. He approached me at a Rails Con shortly after I graduated and said that he saw my presentation, and to talk to him about working at BradsDeals. I ended up meeting with him and we had a really nice lunch; once they were in a position to hire a junior developer, I took the job.
Have you kept up with your poetry since learning to code?
Not as much as I’d like! I’ve been spending so much of my time not only trying to learn all of these new things about development and programming but also, trying to be really active in the community; it’s especially important at the beginning of your career. So I’ve been doing a lot of event organizing with RailsBridge and teaching.
How did you get involved with organizing Rails Bridge?
When I was first getting involved with programming, I remember seeing the ghost of Rails Bridge in Chicago at meet-ups. It seemed like they had events over a year ago. I was reminded of it again last spring and found their website. Anybody can organize a RailsBridge meetup, so I met with their organizers at a Ruby Conf. Their organizer, Lilly, is another Dev Boot graduate from San Francisco. They hooked me up with two other gals who were interested in organizing. We kicked things off in September.
Does Rails Bridge Chicago partner with other bootcamps in Chicago at all?
No; not yet. Right now we’re only talking with a handful of sponsors for our first event; we’re still looking for a couple more. Hashrocket and Table XI are also helping sponsor the event. We have not reached out to other bootcamps but I think that would be a really good idea.
When is the first event?
It is December 5th and 6th.
And who’s the target audience or can anyone go?
The workshop is for women. Men are allowed to come as the guest of a woman. You can come in as a completely inexperienced programmer who has not programed anything before in any language or you can come in as somebody who knows a lot of Ruby and you just want to learn Rails, or somebody who is a well-versed developer in a completely different language and you want to try out Ruby on Rails to see what it’s all about.
We end up splitting the attendees into sections so that you can work with people on their level. The workshop is already full with a sizeable waitlist, but feel free to hop on there or come to one of our next events--we’re trying to make them a regular occurrence!
Is there anything you’d like to add about your experience?
I will say this about Dev Bootcamp in general: out of all the experiences I have had in my life, I have never had anything change my life as much as this. When I was a new grad I didn’t even hear back from Kinko’s when I was looking for a job. Getting to go from that position to talking to 6 or so different companies about potentially working with them was such an empowering and cool experience.
Dev Bootcamp does a really phenomenal job of getting their students to that level. More so than any other group of people that I have seen in an educational institution, they just really care about their students- they’re constantly getting feedback and they address it so personally.
Do you think that you would have been able to get to where you are without Dev Bootcamp?
If I had incredible discipline and was not afraid about constantly reaching out to other people and finding resources on my own, I think I could have done that. Maybe not quite as quickly but I think I could be working in a junior dev position right now.
But that’s assuming I literally had superpowers! Like I would somehow make myself sit down and work for 14 hours a day and go find people who want to pair with me and who want to work with me. I think in the end, I still wouldn’t have the experience of working with other people on a team, being able to implement agile processes. I wouldn’t have as many connections.
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[As of December 8, 2017, Dev Bootcamp will no longer be operating.] The sale of Dev Bootcamp, the first coding bootcamp of its kind in a rapidly expanding space, to Kaplan marked a significant landmark in the coding school world. Kaplan, the test prep powerhouse, lends legitimacy to the bootcamp model as a viable form of education.
Other coding schools’ recent fundraising only confirms that the model will continue to grow and perhaps even expand to subject matter beyond coding, like sales, user experience design, and digital marketing. General Assembly raised an impressive Series C round of $35MM in March 2014, and Flatiron School, based in New York, recently pulled in $5.5MM in new funding in April.Continue Reading →
Alyssa Ravasio graduated from Dev Bootcamp in 2013 with a background in startups, a great idea for a website, and the programming skills to execute it. Read our interview with Alyssa to find out about her unique application process, how Dev Bootcamp gave her the tools to start her own business, and what types of people really succeed at a bootcamp.
What were you doing before you started at Dev Bootcamp?
Directly before, I was travelling through India for a couple of months and then prior to that I was Director of Operations at a startup called Xola.
Did you have a technical background before you applied?
Nope. I had helped start two Silicon Valley startups so I was the first employee at both of them. One of them is now very large with 100+ people and offices all over the world, and I got to really see what it meant to start a company, specifically in the software space. I was at those startups because I knew I wanted to start my own company at some point. I learned that it was probably going to be beneficial if I learned how to code before starting a software company – and that’s what took me to Dev Bootcamp.
Did you do any preparation, like did you try to teach yourself to code before you applied?
I learned a bit in college, and the year prior had tried to teach myself on Code Academy but failed. Dev Bootcamp sends you lots of prep work ahead of time so I’d completed that as well, which was super helpful.
What was the application process like for you?
I have a really weird story; I didn’t even really apply. I learned about Dev Bootcamp from John Davidson (a former DBC student) because he had just graduated. I heard about it at a party when I had just left my job and I knew I wanted to start a company; I was already trying to learn to code on my own. And he was like, “Oh my gosh, I just graduated from this program, it’s called Dev Bootcamp, it changed my life. There’s a class starting on Monday.” This party was Friday night, and I figured I would just show up and see what happened.
I actually showed up Monday morning at 7 a.m. I was the first person there and just started talking my way in. The whole Dev Bootcamp staff was super divided about it. Half of them were like, “This girl is so awesome, she just showed up without even applying and she wants to be here because she just heard about it.” Other people were like, “We can’t accept this person or the next time we start a cohort there will be like 40 people waiting outside.”
Eventually, they decided that I couldn’t start that day but I could start at the next cohort, so that was about 3 months later.
Did you have the idea for your company Hipcamp before you got to Dev Bootcamp?
Yes, I did.
Were you clear about that with the DBC staff that you didn’t want to go get another job at a startup, but that you wanted to start your own business?
I don’t think that even came up. I was just very passionate about learning to code and I needed to take the next step in my life, and that’s what they were all about. Through the course of the program there were times when I thought I might end up getting a job, too. It wasn’t like I went to Dev Bootcamp to build Hipcamp; I knew I had this idea that I really wanted to build but at the same time, what if I didn’t know enough and I needed to work as a junior engineer for a year?
It basically went as well as I could have hoped for, which is to say that when I graduated I did know enough to build a basic version of this application. I didn’t assume that would be the case going in.
It was actually not until the last week when Steve Huffman, the cofounder of Reddit and Hipmunk, came in and gave a talk. Every week Dev Bootcamp would bring in these speakers and I’d ask the same question: “I’m just learning to code for the first time but I really want to start this company; what do you think I should do?” And every speaker beforehand had said, “Oh, I don’t know, I don’t want to tell you what to do with your life” or “It depends”, like totally wishy washy answers. And Steve said, “Does it solve a problem you have”? Is it a problem other people have? And will people pay you to fix it?” and I said Yes. He told me: “Yes, yes, yes, yes…go for it, start the company, don’t look back. If you run out of money you can always get a job later.” And that’s exactly what I did. I definitely owe Steve for that dose of inspiration.
Did you work on Hipcamp for your final project?
No, I did not! It was very calculated because if I worked on it at Dev Bootcamp, then some of my classmates might have thought they owned part of my company and that just wasn’t something I was willing to enter into legally.
I pitched an idea called the Geotube- it’s a world map where you can explore different media trending around the world without the filter of American propaganda broadcast news.
Have you stayed involved with Dev Bootcamp as a mentor?
I am not an official mentor because I’m starting a company right now. If I hadn’t had a job I totally would have. I help out my boyfriend a lot (he’s in a current cohort at Dev Bootcamp) so I was there all day Sunday.
I’ve definitely stayed in touch with the people from my class and actually organized a reunion dinner on our one-year anniversary of starting the program.
Tell us about what you’re up to today and tell us about Hipcamp!
Hipcamp helps people discover and book campsites. We do this by actually building the data set and manually doing the research and building up data sets like: can I bring my dog to this park? Is there rock climbing, it there running water? These are really simple questions people have and there’s nowhere online where you can see all of your options for camping at once, let alone with this powerful discovery feature.
We also develop original content around each of the parks; so we won’t just tell you that there’s rock climbing but somebody will also give you one or two links to the best resources on the web that we can find so that you can learn more.
Finally, we integrate across multiple government agencies to produce real time availability. So we let you put in your date and say that you want to go rock climbing and you want to bring your dog and we show you your options.
Did you work with a developer to build the site or did you build it?
Basically, I built a first version of Hipcamp on my own, which was enough to attract my co-founder and our first customers. We spent last summer learning what people wanted to see and this summer is all about really proving that we’ve got product market fit.
We’ve raised a small ground earlier this year and I’m raising another ground right now. We’re seeing really great growth and lots of really happy users.
We’ve got a really engaged community that will write us with ideas for what they want to see next all the time, which we absolutely love. And we hired our first lead developer last month. I’m still coding but I’m not building out a whole new feature set or anything. I now do more recruiting and fundraising and writing investor reports, which is fun, too.
Who else is on your team?
I have a cofounder named Eric and he leads up our growth and content effort. We have a wonderful team of summer interns who do most of the copywriting and research and marketing. Then we have a research team in the Philippines and they do a lot of the heavy lifting.
Basically, there is no comprehensive consistent data set for our public parks; we’re building that for the first time.
So what’s the next step for Hipcamp?
We’re going to launch all of California at the beginning of July and then the goal from there is to start nailing down the whole process of adding a state and actually begin expanding nationally to have coverage by next summer.
And then are you thinking of expanding internationally at all?
Definitely. Camping is like the number one activity in Korea right now!
I didn’t know that! Do you plan to grow the company at all or do you think you can stay relatively small?
We are currently hiring a front-end engineer, a designer and a full-stack engineer, and maybe an operations manager but that depends on how effective I can become. So yeah, we’re definitely growing the team.
It sounds like you’ve had a great evolution in your career over the past couple of years.
Yeah; I feel very fortunate to work on something I think is so important, that I love. Our mission is to get more people outside. I think spending time in nature is vital to health on an individual level but also on a society and planetary level so it’s really fun to progress on that mission every day – little bit by little bit.
What has been your experience as a woman in the tech industry, not only as a woman who learned to code but also a technical cofounder?
Normally, I only think about it when people ask me about it, but other than that I haven’t noticed. I’m not sure our investors have really noticed. Our customers certainly haven’t noticed.
I think it’s a big deal there aren’t more women in the industry but in my experience, I’ve always been treated fairly and with respect.
In your class at Dev Bootcamp, what was the gender breakdown? Did you notice that there were a lot of women in your class?
There were less women than men for sure, but I had a few strong women graduate alongside me. Actually, our lead developer at Hipcamp just joined us last month and she had left a job at a coding bootcamp. She was the Director of Operations at Hackright, Liz. She is absolutely incredible. That’s probably a very interesting pipeline to potentially hire from.
What sort of person would you recommend attend a coding bootcamp and what kind of person do you see not succeeding in that environment?
Anybody who wants to learn to code should go to a coding bootcamp. Anybody who really wants to learn; it just comes down to that passion for coding.
The people who should not go are the people who think coding might be a “way out” of their current situation or that they should learn to code because it’s cool. When I’ve seen students either succeed or fail, it really comes down to having an authentic desire to do this or are you doing it because your boyfriend did it or because you think it’s going to get you a high-paying job?
If it’s anything external from yourself, you’re probably not going to make it. These are called Bootcamps for a reason. But if it’s something you really want for yourself, at least Dev Bootcamp has the resources there to make it happen for you.
Now that you are an employer, would you hire a graduate of Dev Bootcamp?
We’re probably about to.
Is there anything else that we didn’t touch on about Hipcamp or Dev Bootcamp?
Any impact-oriented angel investor who wants to get in on a hot new company should email me!
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Dave Hoover has been involved in the creation and development of several programming bootcamps since 2011 and is the co-author of Apprenticeship Patterns. His involvement in the bootcamp space has helped solidify the industry and he continues to contribute to it's success. In this interview, Dave talks about apprenticeships, finding qualified bootcamp instructors, and the core culture at Dev Bootcamp Chicago! [As of December 8, 2017, Dev Bootcamp will no longer be operating.]
What were you doing before you started with Dev Bootcamp and what sold you on the school?
I started programming when I was 26, and shifted from psychology and therapy to technology and software development, which was a strange and fun transition. Ever since that transition, I’ve been interested in apprenticeships and helping other people make a similar transition to mine. So I started an apprenticeship program at Obtiva, a consultancy that I’d joined after I was at Thoughtworks. We grew Obtiva for about 5 years and then we got acquired by Groupon, so now I was bringing this apprenticeship program into Groupon.
At the same time, these code academies and bootcamps started popping up and I was really excited about it. I had gotten really involved with Starter League in Chicago (in 2011, it was called Code Academy). I was their lead mentor and I did a lot of work with them that year when I was at Groupon. I met Shereef Bishay while I was working at Groupon in Chicago. I had co-authored Apprenticeship Patterns and Shereef had been recommending it to his students. When I was introduce to Shereef via email, he invited me to visit DBC in San Francisco. There was something special about the students, and Shereef really made me feel like he valued my opinion, but I was still very partial to the Starter League, my hometown program.
Throughout that year, I was hiring software developers at Groupon and vetting some apprentice candidates. Much to my chagrin, I found that the Dev Bootcamp grads were beating out the Starter League grads for our apprenticeships. That made me take a harder look at Dev Bootcamp.
So a couple months after I left Groupon, after spending a lot more time in San Francisco, I decided to join Dev Bootcamp full-time, and Shereef brought me on as a co-founder. Within a couple weeks of joining, I decided I wanted to bring Dev Bootcamp to sweet home Chicago. I felt that the culture of learning they’d created in San Francisco was a culture worth copying.
Do you feel like that culture was “copied” to Chicago or did things change between San Francisco and Chicago?
The core culture comes naturally from the pace of our technical curriculum and the influence of our Engineering Empathy sessions. Since these are shared across NYC, Chicago, and SF, the core culture of our locations’ programs are very similar.
The culture differs in that we have a couple of Chicago-specific flavors in there, like we have everyone do improv once during the program. The New York school actually has hip hop dancing as part of their experience, which is awesome.
Also, the teams are obviously different, initially due to the local founders who do the hiring. I hired a lot of people I’d worked with in the past, and a most of them came out of the midwestern Ruby community and the Software Craftsmanship movement. So in Chicago, we’re very connected to these local tech communities.
How do you know when you’re successful at Dev Bootcamp?
One of the things that attracted me to Dev Bootcamp is that they tracked employment metrics about their graduates. That was huge for me. The two numbers we track closely are our Net Promoter Score per cohort and our employment rate for our grads. And secondarily, our students’ average salary.
Alumni employment is so important to me that the person who co-founded DBC Chicago with me was Elliott Garms. Elliott has been a long-time “developer agent” in Chicago, and he went on to start our Chicago Careers team.
Does Dev Bootcamp in Chicago accept people who aren’t looking for a job, but instead want to become a technical cofounder?
We definitely accept students who want to be entrepreneurs as opposed to career software developers. That said, they’re exceptionally rare. Of the students that drop out of our program, entrepreneurs are overrepresented. Our program is optimized for people who want to launch a career in software development, and is painful for people who want something else. But it does happen -- Ricky and Phil are a good example of that.
How do you see the bootcamp industry evolving?
Right now I’m most interested in the international scene. Makers Academy is a great school in London, and I’m surprised that there’s basically only one good school (that I know of) in such an enormous city.
There’s a school in New Zealand called Enspiral, and they say they’re partnered with Dev Bootcamp. Can you explain that partnership?
We are partnering with, and coaching Enspiral, helping them get up and running. They came and spent a bunch of time with us in San Francisco. They’re not a franchise, they’re not owned in any way by Dev Bootcamp but we do have a partnership. It’s an experiment that we’re running to see if we can partner with other schools as opposed to expanding the way we did in New York and Chicago.
How do you find instructors for the Chicago Dev Bootcamp? Are you looking for people with dev experience or education experience?
When we launched, it was basically 100% people with dev experience. We were better developers than we were teachers, which I think was okay for Dev Bootcamp’s program because we spend about 2 hours a day in lecture, but the students spend 10-plus hours a day on challenges and hands-on stuff. And that’s what our teachers are best at, especially our initial crew.
I’m not from the education world, I’m from the dev world; the people I hired were all pretty well connected to me. Since then we’ve brought on someone who has a PhD in Curriculum Development and other person a background in outdoor education. We’re interviewing somebody right now who’s currently teaches computer science at a university.
We’ve learned a lot from having K-12 teachers like Rachel Warbelow and Zachary Rivest go through the program as students and giving us feedback along the way. We’ve even had them come on as junior teachers for a while before they start their new jobs.
Are all of your instructors fulltime?
Yes. I will say though, that we do have visiting teachers. Last year we had Matt Jones, he’s a consultant at Neo. And this year we have a junior teacher from DevMynd. These visiting teachers generally come from consultancies that find it easy to take somebody off of their rotation for 6 or 9 weeks.
Because all of our teachers teach in pairs, it’s pretty easy to have someone come in from the outside with a bunch of expertise, straight from the field and spend 6 or 9 weeks with us. So in terms of fulltime people, we do have some short-term people that come in -- and works great because they have a lot of expertise that’s really fresh and we’re really strong on the program at this point.
Can you explain the “apprenticeship” model to us?
When some students graduate, they’re ready to be entry level employees. And yet “entry-level employee” is a really relative term. That can mean a very different thing at a place like Groupon as opposed to a 10-person startup.
Certain companies need to hire below that “entry level” in order to be able to take on diverse and interesting people – which is something that a lot of good companies want. Apprenticeship programs can fill that void. They are 3 to 6-month programs. Some are really formal, some are pretty informal. These programs level people up so that they have the skills necessary to be an entry level engineer at these firms. There’s a lot of this happening in Chicago right now, at places like BrightTag and Backstop Solutions.
Do you see apprenticeship as being a potential replacement for bootcamps?
I don’t. Having hired apprentices for 6 years, all the apprentices that I hired were around the level of our graduates. They had already achieved a certain level of fluency in software development to get in the door. Maybe they were undisciplined, and unfamiliar with Ruby, but they figured out a way of getting enough context in order to be productive.
That’s why as soon as I heard about these schools starting up, I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is where apprentices come from.”
It seems like apprenticeships and bootcamps go hand-in-hand in certain ways. Do you think establishing apprenticeship programs is the responsibility of the employer or the bootcamp?
I know General Assembly has an apprenticeship program, and Flatiron just started their Flatiron Labs, which is cool. For us, I’m a big proponent of helping employers create their own apprenticeship programs. I spend time helping Indiegogo with apprenticeship and I’ll be speaking at Heroku about apprenticeship programs this summer because I really feel it’s something employers need to take on. There are things we can help them with formally like offering them guidance with structure, but in general each employer knows what they need, and we just need to give them enough nudging to get them there.
The apprenticeship programs seem important for the employers, but also for the bootcamp graduates- accepting a new job is a risk for the student too!
Yeah, that’s the cool thing. There’s a great company in Chicago called 8th Light that has a very mature apprenticeship program. We had some of our best students from 2013 who could’ve gotten more immediately high-paying jobs who chose to go through their apprenticeship program, making a fraction of what they could have made elsewhere. They do this because after the apprenticeship, they’re at a completely different level as a software developer than if they had just worked an ordinary dev job for the same length of time.
The cool thing about these apprenticeship programs is that the companies really invest in the apprentices, and because of this, the apprentices succeed well over 90% of the time. It’s not like they take on 10 people at once and 2 survive.
Like other students, Rachel Warbelow went to Dev Bootcamp in the Summer of 2013 to learn to code. Unlike other students, Rachel was actually a teacher herself. She needed to learn to code in order to launch SWOTbot, an app that automated the manual process she had developed to track and communicate with her students. When we ran across Rachel’s Indiegogo campaign to buy computers for her class (who she was also teaching to code at the time), we knew we had to find out more about her story.
Read on for more about Rachel's brilliant idea for the SWOT program and how she used Dev Bootcamp to acheive her massive goals.
How and when did you get into teaching? How did SWOT evolve?
I went to Indiana University and majored in journalism and cello performance. I was planning on going to law school, but heard about Teach for America. I applied and ended up getting in, so I accepted the offer and got placed in Las Vegas teaching 4th Grade. I followed up with the same students when they got to 6th Grade and we found that students would return to visit us with these horror stories in Middle School of failing grades, getting into fights -- all sorts of stuff. It felt like the hard work I put into my fifth grade class was canceled out when my kids when to middle school.
My cofounder, Ben Salkowe, was teaching 5th Grade at the same school and finding the same problem, and we wanted to do something about it. We started SWOT as a college-prep, extended-day program. The kids were with us from 7:30am to 5pm. It wasn’t all academics -- we had Choice Time where students were able to choose what they learned (such as violin, sports, etc.), and we started our morning with a fitness block. The rest of the time was focused, high rigor, college-prep academics.
Did you get a lot of support (financial or otherwise) from your school?
We didn’t really feel like we needed to be paid for the extra work. For us, we wanted to see what we could do to change these lives and prove people wrong. That was our motivation -- to prove everyone wrong who said these kids were going to fail and end up dropping out, or worse. We didn’t have funding that first year, but our principal was super supportive -- any grant or extra money she could find, she would go out of her way to get. That was four years ago. Our students that year did so well on the state test that our district took notice, and we got permission to keep our group of students for 6th Grade at the same school. We also added another teacher, so we had a 5th and 6th grade at the elementary school, which in Nevada is unheard of. This year, we’re doing 7th and 8th Grade -- we have about 120 students, and next year will be 6th-9th grade with about 250 students.
Do students have to apply to the SWOT program?
We want this to be student-driven. We don’t want a parent to see “College-Prep” and drag the kid in. The way we recruited in the past was to go to elementary and middle schools and pitch the idea that they’ll be working harder than they’ve ever worked before, but we’re promising that the hard work put you on a different life path. Even if they don’t decide to go to college, and instead go to Dev Bootcamp or a trade school, they still need these skills to be successful. If this is something that they want to do, we tell them to go home and bring their parents to the parent meeting. We also tell them that we don’t know them -- we don’t know if they’ve been suspended, if they throw things in class, or if they’ve failed in the past. We try to target students whose teachers may have given up on them in the past. Often times, those are the kids who are going to change the world; the ones who don’t quite fit into a traditional classroom environment.
It will be cool to see your success rate, when your first cohort of students starts applying to college!
Our first class will be ninth graders next year and several of them are applying to college summer programs right now. That’s another thing -- getting them on a college campus is huge. We want to give them the chance to picture themselves as college students.
When did you decide to go to Dev Bootcamp?
Since we started SWOT, we’ve been tracking student data. I’m kind of a data freak; I love looking at data, analyzing it, and seeing what you can do with it. Our teachers had been doing all of this on clipboards and spreadsheets and a giant mass of disconnected documents. As the program started to grow, the thought of more papers made me want to cry! It was a lot of data, and it took hours to input to make these reports for the students and parents. I love Excel and someone told me that if I enjoyed logic and writing formulas, I would really like programming. So I Googled “learn to code,” and found Codecademy.com, started doing those exercises, and it was like stress relief to me. I knew that I wanted to build an automated system to work with this data, so I started looking at university classes over the summer, and then I found Dev Bootcamp. After looking at some of the blogs that students had written, I knew this was the place I wanted to be. I wanted to be somewhere where people work incredibly hard for really long hours and the university setting often time seemed like people were just there to get the degree. I found that with Dev Bootcamp, you’re not going there to get something, you’re going for the experience and to work as hard as you can. I applied and I ended up getting accepted.
Did you do the summer cohort?
Yes, I did the summer cohort of 2013 from mid-June to late-August. It was the only cohort that fit into my summer break as a teacher. When I applied, they told me it was already filled, and I was so sad! But a few days later I got an email with great news – I would be able to join.
Since this was the summer cohort, did you find that there were a bunch of other teachers and students?
No, there weren’t any other teachers. It was a very eclectic group of people. There was a chimney sweep, people with advanced degrees, and people who barely made it through high school. But what they all had in common is that they were so smart, super motivated, really kind, and willing to work as hard as it took.
Were you upfront about not wanting to go through the job recruiting process?
Yeah, and I wanted to make that pretty clear. I know one of the things they brag about on their website is their job placement. So I told them I wasn’t planning on getting a job out of this, I just didn’t know where else to go to learn how to do what I wanted to do. Obviously that was a bit of an anomaly, but they were pretty supportive in the idea.
Eventually, for your group project, you worked on SWOTbot, right? How did that come about?
I was really excited that it worked out that way. The third to last week, you pitch ideas, and I was almost not going to pitch mine because there were so many cool ideas. But my idea actually got top voted, so I got this amazing team of people (Allen Dayag, Jake Myers, and Eric Allen) to work with on SWOTbot. It was really fun -- we built it in eight days, and obviously had to work on fixing bugs and building out features for the next month.
The manual SWOT program is very data driven, so take us through how it translated into a web app.
The first night we were planning this out, I opened all of the documents I had from the past couple years -- the Excel spreadsheets, the checklists, and the Google Docs. Then, we got on the phone with students and their families. We asked, “If you had this web app where you could access anything about your student, what would be the most important features?” Then we thought about what would be easiest for a teacher. One of the biggest problems with putting technology in a classroom is that a lot of the time it makes my job harder. The technology is slow, it has to connect to the internet, it takes a million buttons to get to the program, etc. So that was our big focus: what will make teachers love to use this? At first, we were thinking to have the app on a computer, but a teacher can’t be moving around the classroom that way. Without the SWOTbot, we did our tracking on clipboards, so we optimized it for an iPad -- we didn’t make it a native iOS app, we made it a web app. That way, teachers can walk around their classrooms or be working with small groups of students and still be entering behaviors and other student data.
That’s so smart. Teachers should be designing technology for teachers.
I just had that conversation with someone. It seems like our district has a million pieces of software for attendance and office referrals and grades. They don’t work well together or communicate with each other. We want all of that information in one place, so a parent logs in and can see attendance, grades, missing work, message the teacher, detentions.
So you have two stories here. The first is your actual app, SWOTbot. The second is that when you got back to school, you started teaching your kids how to code. Tell us about that.
I had the time of my life that summer, and I thought that if someone had introduced me to coding in middle or high school, I don’t know what my life trajectory would have been. For the kids who I haven’t been able to find what makes them tick or spark, what if it was coding? The biggest problem was that our program, the Scholars Working OverTime, didn’t have computers. We’re a middle school housed inside of a wing of a high school. The high school has its own computer labs, but it’s unpredictable when they’ll be available since the high school classes use them. So I said- I’ll just teach my students to code on paper.
It didn’t occur to me how weird that was because I was so excited. I hooked my laptop up to the projector and would type what a kid had written to show them how it worked on screen. The kids really liked that -- they thought it was awesome when they got their paper put in Sublime (a text editor) and we ran it in Terminal. The problem was that when the students were able to use the high school’s computer lab and were able to see their results and have instant gratification, coming back to the classroom and having to code on paper was a letdown for them. If you have a syntax error on paper, it’s not going to tell you. That was a struggle.
These kids are going to be amazing at whiteboarding when it comes time for them to interview!
Yep, on a computer, you start typing the first couple letters, hit TAB, and it fills in the rest. By learning to do this on paper, the kids literally had to know every the placement of every single bracket, semicolon, etc.
Are you using an online program like Codecademy as your curriculum, or lessons you learned from Dev Bootcamp?
A combination of everything. I had to figure out what works best on paper and then combined some of the skills from Dev Bootcamp’s prework, some Codecademy lessons, and a few online tutorials. Mainly it was looking at those things, getting ideas, and then tailoring it to what would be best for the kids.
A lot of what we hear about bootcamps is that frustration is a huge part of the process, but I imagine that with your group of middle schoolers, you don’t necessarily want them to be frustrated- how do you deal with that?
The first day of class, I was honest about the fact that I was literally three months ahead of the students in terms of coding. I told them I didn’t have all of the answers and that even if I did, I wouldn’t necessarily give them out. I think that was a very different mindset than they were used to. In general, in the classroom, you raise your hand and the teacher answers your question. But with coding, you have to be able to find the answer to something you don’t know. That’s still a struggle with my class today -- it’s teaching them the soft skill of being able to independently solve a problem by researching it. It’s a different type of learning and thinking for them.
Outside of SWOT, have other teachers reached out to you about using the app?
Yeah, we had quite a few teachers run across our campaign (to buy computers) on Indiegogo and ask to use the app in their classroom. I wish everyone could use it, but the four of us who developed it had been coding for two months when we made it, so it’s still breakable and has bugs. Our goal is to rebuild it over the summer. Three of the people on our team are now Junior Developers, so they have coding jobs. They’re learning a ton, I’m keeping my skills up, and we’ll make it more accessible and more stable.
Is there any new functionality planned for the next iteration of the app?
Definitely. This year was cool because we were able to see what worked and what we didn’t want. There’s no better feeling than having an idea and being able to build it.
Jessie Young graduated from the second cohort of Dev Bootcamp and went on to take an apprenticeship at thoughtbot, where she works today. Jessie tells us about how she found her passion in tech (even after getting a degree in humanities), the difference between an internship & an apprenticeship, and the types of students who thrive at Dev Bootcamp.
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Course Report is featured on the Kapor Center blog!
Coding bootcamps are producing graduates that enter the workforce almost immediately, so their approach to recruiting and retaining students from underrepresented backgrounds may quickly start to define, and potentially diversify, the landscape of the tech industry. One way to reach out to potential students is through scholarship programs. Check out the full article on the Kapor Center blog to see a full list of coding boot camps currently offering scholarships specifically to underrepresented minorities.Continue Reading →
Sherif Abushadi has been educating for 10 years and teaching Rails at Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco since 2012. [As of December 8, 2017, Dev Bootcamp will no longer be operating.]
In part two of our interview, Sherif dives into the Dev Bootcamp interview process, curriculum, job placement and hiring process, and more!
What can a potential student expect to see in the interview process?
First, it’s an online application. From that pool, we will pick 25-30% of applicants to interview. The interview itself is 30 minutes. The first component is “getting to know you” and figuring out if this is a person the interviewer would want to work with. Then, we’re trying to get to the root of the candidate’s motivations and grit. Obviously, the kinds of questions we ask may induce confusion or helplessness in the student. So we’re looking at how you deal with that impossible problem. Do you get upset or frustrated? Do you attack the interviewer for putting you in that position?
We generally do our interviews on Skype or Google Hangout.
Once a student has been accepted, what type of pre-work is required?
In 2013 we launched phase 0, a 12 week part-time preparatory program for students who are accepted and scheduled to attend Dev Bootcamp. Some might say you can basically think of DBC as a 21 week program with 9 weeks onsite. Students work through guided pairing sessions with coaches and instructors for about 10-15 hours per week as they complete a set of introductory challenges that cover a wide range of topics, technical and non-technical.
The benefits of this new phase have been obvious to all of us this year. Students are walking in the door much more prepared than they were last year and their questions are a week or two ahead of what we expect to see in their first days onsite.
What is your cohort size?
20-25 students, with 3 or more teachers per cohort. We have two dedicated teachers per cohort, and then 1 or more supporting teachers.
From your experience, why do you think that 20-25 students is the best cohort size?
It’s about balance. First, you want a low student:teacher ratio. But if it’s too low, then there’s too much downtime. After you get too high (over 15) in cohort size, there’s not enough of the teacher to go around. Also, diversity is important. In any group, you want to maximize diversity in cultural background, personal and professional goals. When you pair with people, you want to get a lot of exposure to different people and different working styles. And then from a business perspective, you want to make it sustainable, so there are considerations in terms of the profit/loss, number of students, and price points.
Of your average 20 person cohort size, how many are typically male vs. female?
Right now, we’re around 15-17% female students. We have an internal initiative geared to pushing that up at DBC- the Levo-Scholars program is part of that, but we’re also conducting research, polling alumni, hiring partners, and applicants to figure out how to get more women to apply and encourage greater diversity in our student body. The goal would be ideally a 50-50 split and to be representative of the population. But if we could at least get to industry standard of mid-20% women or higher in 2014, that would be a good target for us. We spend a lot of time talking about how we can be a better role model in this initiative.
Can you give us a quick run-down of the curriculum?
Can you talk a bit about “Phase 4?” What does it entail and why is it a good option for graduates?
Phase 4 is an optional three week addendum where students are invited to stay on site and continue their study, and apply for jobs, provided that they contribute some time back to new incoming students, helping them become more culturally aligned or technically capable. Depending on the graduate, they might be more inclined to act as a TA or a mentor.
So there are a number of online boot camps and online classes that teach Ruby and other languages. Why do you think in-person classes are the most effective?
I just started focusing on my health this year, and one of the things I’ve taken up is hot yoga. You’re in a room that is uncomfortably warm, and you’re contorting your body in strange positions and crushing your body in terrible heat. As you do this, you’re failing. And then right next to you is someone who has been doing this for years and looks like a graceful swan. And your mind goes crazy trying to spare you this threat. The reason that you stay and push past those voices is because that’s what everyone else is doing. In a community, there is a protection from the impossible. And for exactly the same reason, on-site boot camps are more effective than online courses. The in-between moments when you realize that someone else is struggling, and another person is getting it, is why in-person is more effective. Second order to that, you have direct access to experts and so much more communication can be transferred (via body language etc) in person.
How does DBC help your graduates find jobs in tech once they've completed the program? Can you explain the relationships that DBC has with partner companies?
We have a staff of two or more full-time employees with backgrounds in recruiting per office, that is dedicated to getting students jobs. We also support graduates with an internal “Linked-In” type of system, where students and hiring companies register their profiles and use that system to make connections. Once you graduate DBC, you connect in interviews with our on-site placement team, and they help introduce you to companies that are aligned to your interests, whether that’s the financial sector, or gaming, or a big brand name. They’ll support you in prepping for the interview, and then during the negotiation process and all that good stuff. On top of that, we have teachers and alumni conduct sessions like mock interview sessions, and events on-site with alumni who can set expectations for getting a job and give technical interview techniques.
Do those mentors or companies have input into the DBC curriculum?
Yes, while the hiring companies tend not to have preferences for language or curriculum, there are strong industry preferences for best practices. Two specific examples where hiring partners have asked for deeper coverage are test driven development using Rspec and MiniTest as well as version control using git and GitHub These are two specific examples of the direct influence of mentors and hiring partners on our curriculum.
From our perspective, our 200+ network of hiring partners is the source of truth when it comes to what we teach our students to prepare them for the job market.
Find out more about Dev Bootcamp on their school page.
In today's Graduate Spotlight, we talk with Ricky about his passion for socks, why DC is the perfect town for a consumer-facing startup, and how his Dev Bootcamp education is integral to Nice Laundry's success.Continue Reading →
Sherif Abushadi has been educating for 10 years, and teaching Rails at Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco since 2012.
In part one of this two-part interview, we talk to Sherif about the Dev Bootcamp application process, what they look for in future students, and why working at Dev Bootcamp is the best job he's ever had.
"Learning to write code, as with learning anything new, gets really confusing, and that confusion ought to be a sort of delight. Confusion is the last recognizable milestone before you learn something so, in fact, you ought to welcome and use confusion as a guidepost to learning."
What is your background and how did you end up in the coding bootcamp space?
How did you get involved with Dev Bootcamp?
I met Shereef Bishay in 2012 over a phone call and after about 5 minutes I felt like I was talking to myself. We agreed on so many of the fundamentals like what it really means to teach and learn, how much time it takes and the levels of passion and commitment you need to really change the way you think.
So I flew out to DBC that summer and met an amazing group of super smart, very motivated students. I spent that week working with students and meeting the staff and just fell in love with all of it. You can ask them, I was kind of giddy for the first few months. It didn’t take much to get me to sign up after that. I had been teaching long enough to realize that this was the right way to do it: get people to commit full time to learning something, immerse them in a world where everyone else was laser focused on the same goals, give them support and encouragement and everything else just falls into place. Here I am a year and a half later and I still believe this is the best job I’ve ever had.
Which programming languages will students master in the 9 weeks at DBC?
Why does Dev Bootcamp teach Rails?
Three reasons. First, it’s what the market is demanding today, so there are a lot of job opportunities when you graduate. Second, the community is vast and supportive, so there is tons of documentation, sample code, timely answers on stack overflow, an abundance of meetups, conferences and books. Ruby is a very easy language with which to express yourself. There’s a massive community and tons of online learning resources. And that’s important because as you’re learning, you want to choose a technology to study with the lowest possible friction to getting your questions answered. And then the third reason is that our team of instructors just knows Ruby on Rails very well, so students have a diverse drinking well of experience to draw from.
Which cities is DBC currently operating in? Why are those cities specifically good for a coding bootcamp?
Shereef Bishay started the first immersive bootcamp in San Francisco in the spring of 2012 to provide developer talent to Silicon Valley startups. A year later he partnered with Dave Hoover to open our second campus in Chicago in the spring of 2013 where Dave had spent several years building software teams at Obtiva and Groupon. Our New York campus, led by Lloyed Nimetz and Tanner Welsh, welcomes their first class this March of 2014 after getting a lot of requests to have an east coast presence. Having all three locations means students all over the US have access to Dev Bootcamp and gives our alumni a hiring network in three amazing cities. Each city has their own unique flavor and culture as well as an underlying need for new developer talent.
Do you think that potential students should only apply to boot camps in cities where they're looking for a job?
If you can afford it, absolutely, it’s about exposure after all. If you can afford the trip and living expenses, being immersed in your target community from the very start has major advantages. There are so many community events happening in San Francisco, Chicago and New York on a daily basis, for example, that if you want to live and work there, starting early means more awareness and more access. If you can’t afford the move, you can certainly try to find a boot camp local to where you are to reduce the cost of the experience (you aren’t paying for travel, room & board or communications). Assuming the quality of education is the same, I could see the advantages of staying local if you have family or other obligations to balance. About 50% of our students who attend San Francisco are native to the SF area, so they benefit from both sides of this equation and are also in a convenient place during the interview process.
What are you looking for in potential students?
When we meet students, we’re basically thinking about a couple of things. One thing is that the incoming student is culturally and motivationally aligned, meaning they have the kinds of motivations for attending the program that we believe will actually have staying power. If you have somebody who has decided “I want to build this app and make a million dollars” or “I want to start a new company and need to know how to manage these monkeys who are going to be coding for me,” then what I’ve seen as a teacher is that they aren’t able to muster the grit to deal with the lowest of lows that you arrive at on a Friday night after a week of utter confusion and failure. Being able to muster the grit that you need to push through those trenches is what we need all of our students to have. It gets really confusing, and that confusion ought to be a sort of delight. Confusion is the last recognizable milestone before you learn something, so in fact, you ought to use confusion as a guidepost to learning. Students who are here seeing Dev Bootcamp as a ‘means to an end’ will tend to slip back into their competencies and will avoid the toughest problems. Our interview process is created to filter out students like that- and to encourage them to realize this in themselves while selecting for students with a deep passion for the craft of software development, or at least what they know of it when applying.
Is Dev Bootcamp exclusively looking for applicants who have programming experience? Do any stories stick out in your mind of students that might not typically fit the "tech profile" but really succeeded in the program?
Not at all. It’s not at all about your experience. Sure, students with a hard science background tend to have an easier time with some of the work that we do, but it’s an even playing field when it comes to systems design and building usable applications. Someone with a humanities background can be just as effective, if not more effective because they have an intuitive sense of what it means to enjoy using an application. If I could draw a line around our strongest students, they would be students who have somehow already stretched their learning muscles- they’re graduates of a PhD program, doctors, lawyers. One of our students was a PhD in linguistics, another of our best students was an ophthalmologist, and another was a lawyer. It’s all about recognizing how you deal with confusion and knowing how to study well.
The opposite is true too. Students who come from a background where they haven’t explored learning might not be as successful. Typical self-defeating statements like “I’ll never be good at math” are indicators of students who will find every reason not to push through the confusion.
Next week, we'll be posting Part 2 of this interview, as Sherif dives into the Dev Bootcamp interview process, curriculum, job placement and hiring process, and more! Find out more about Dev Bootcamp on their school page.
1/15/2014Continue Reading →