DevPoint Labs is an 11-week coding and entrepreneur bootcamp in Silicon Slopes, Utah. DevPoint Labs is a community of experts teaching people how to build amazing things with code and design. In partnership with the University of Utah, they have a Web Development Certificate Course. Offering courses in UX, web development and data analytics, DevPoint Labs' approach to learning combines pair programming with traditional lectures and a mix of group projects, lean methodologies, hackathons and one-on-one mentorship from instructors.
Recent DevPoint Labs News
- How to Keep Learning After a Coding Bootcamp
- Episode 12: March 2017 Coding Bootcamp News Roundup + Podcast
- 8 Companies Who Actually Love Hiring Coding Bootcampers
Recent DevPoint Labs Reviews: Rating 4.85
Salt Lake City
Joining the Data movement has become a requirement for many companies across all industries. Learn strategies that work in Big Data projects. Learn how to integrate data management initiatives. Most importantly, learn to deliver value and tell a story with data and the multiplying effect of software engineering and predictive analytics.
Application Deadline:February 10, 2017
- Payment Plan
- Case-by-case basis
U of U ProEd Full-time Web Development
- Student loans available through: Mountain America Credit Union
- Women In Tech & Diversity In Tech Scholarships available.
- Minimum Skill Level
- Basic computer knowledge
- Prep Work
User Experience Design
Being able to express design ideas by utilizing sitemaps, user flows, and wireframes is a skill that is in increasingly high demand, and a requirement for any serious career in interactive design or product management. In this course, you’ll receive knowledge and skills in topics like: how to analyze business and usability requirements from a user perspective, drawing solutions with Sketch and best practices for common design patterns such as home pages, forms, search and navigation.
Application Deadline:February 10, 2017
- Student loans available through: Mountain America Credit Union
- Minimum Skill Level
- Basic computer knowledge & some design experience.
- Prep Work
Part-time Web Development
Application Deadline:March 31, 2017
- Student loans available through: Mountain America Credit Union
- Women's Scholarship
- Minimum Skill Level
- Basic computer knowledge
- Prep Work
DevPoint Labs Reviews
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It's difficult to compare one programming school to another, because there aren't many people who attend more than one. I will say this, though: I was very pleased with my experience at DevPoint Labs.
The instruction is nothing short of top notch. There are people in this world that are good at programming, there are people who are good with people, and there are people who are passionate about what they do. The list of people that possess all three of these traits is very short, but Dave and Jake are both on it. The effort that they put into writing and delivering lectures is easily apparent to anybody enrolled in the course.
Signing up for this course by no means guarantees that you will become a competent programmer. You will get out of it what you put into it. If you put in a minimal effort, you will exit with minimal skills. However, if you put your life on hold for 11 weeks and dedicate yourself to becoming the best programmer you can, the team at DevPoint will do everything in their power to help you. Nobody at this school is a 9-5er just counting the hours until they can go home. They are all here to help you in whatever way they can. There were multiple instances where I would reach out to an instructor or TA for help, either in the middle of the night or on a weekend, and I was never left hanging. They're not doing just doing this for a paycheck, they're doing it because they have a passion for it and they want to share that passion.
If you're looking for something easy, I would not recommend DevPoint to you. But if you're looking for a quality intro into a very complex field, you have found it.
Two months after I served a two year mission I started the Full Stack Dev course and it literally changed my life! I had always known I wanted to program but I didnt know what I wanted to do or where to start. Before, I had learned a little bit of coding from youtube and highschool classes but never retained anything I learned. When I took this course it was as they say, drinking from a fire hose. It was fast paced, it was hard and it was fun!
The classes are organized in a way that set you up for success, they are structured in a way not only to help you learn but also to retain what you learn and help you get ready to get out into an industry that is always changing! Everything they do is up to date and you dont have to worry about not knowing whats new getting out into real world, which is something you cant say with college!
Not only do they help you get ready to get out into the real world but they help get out into the real world. I got my current job less than a month later and have been here over a year and literally love it, and I wouldnt be here if I wouldnt have gone to DevPoint! Taking the course was literally the best thing for my life! Im not one that does well or learns in a college/school setting and this is what I needed to start my career! Its worth every minute and penny spent, Id recommend going here in a heart beat 10/5 start rating from me!
I took the DevPoint Labs Full Stack Development Course, which is now a U of U certified PROED course. I absolutely loved DevPoint Labs and my time learning there! The instructors know the most recent and relevant coding practices and are always willing to help when you have any question. I took this course less than a year after graduating high school and it was the smartest decision I have made! Less than 3 months after graduating I got the perfect job that I wanted and I am happily programming every day now! Going to DevPoint Labs isn't just a smart career move, it's the smartest education move. If you go to DevPoint Labs, you won't be dissapointed, with all the support and help you get from previous students, the amazing teachers and TA's will always be there even after you graduate! I recommend DevPoint Labs completely, it is one of the smartest decisions you can make. If you have any hesitation, just reach out to them and I know they will help you without a problem!
Just completed the full stack web development course and am very happy with my experience. It was a lot of information but was laid out in a very logical way that allowed my skills to build rapidly. With the help of the staff at DevPoint Labs, I went from knowing very little about HTML and CSS to deploying full functioning applications to the web using Ruby on Rails and React.js. I felt DevPoint Labs provided me with a very supportive atmosphere during my 11 week course and taught me a curriculum that made me confident and qualified enough to apply for a junior developer job. I definitely recommned attending this school over the other options SLC has to offer.
I currently work for a University and I chose a bootcamp because Universities often have curriculum that is 2 years old, which is not very helpful in the tech industry. For gaining hands on skills in what employers are currently looking for, I could not recommend DevPoint Labs enough. The Instructors are very up-to-date and the TA's are very helpful. Also, never underestimate the power of going to a physical classroom and learning with people in-person. It really excellerated my learning, just like I was hoping for.
A year ago to the day I quit my job as an Investment Banker of 10 years. I'd always wanted to learn code and I knew time was running. I'd done my research and felt DevPoint was the best place possible for me to complete a bootcamp.
I took a huge risk with quitting my job. It wasn't the smartest decision I've made and I would never recommend anyone up and quitting without serious thought.
DevPoint did an amazing job turning me into a developer. Both Dave and Jake were nothing short of brilliant in educating me. On top of that, they employed TA's that were knowledgable and patient (you da man Christian). Attending DevPoint will always remain one of the best experiences I've had. I'm now employed at a creative design agency in Salt Lake City and couln't be happier with my career change.
It took me over 3 months to find a job. There are a few things I didn't do during my cohort that affected me getting a job sooner. The biggest was not attending Meetups. Do yourself a favor and attend everyone of them. Become a face in the Ruby and Javascipt communities and your job search will become much easier.
I attended the Fall 2014 Full Stack Ruby on Rails cohort. I had minimal knowledge about programming and decided to change careers at this time. Previously I had a career in purchasing which had very little growth and was not as lucrative as programming was. After some research and meeting with the founders, I decided to attend DevPoint Labs.
The instructors and founders are very knowledgeable about programming and the different languages and frameworks that are out there. The class had different levels of students (entry to mid level). I never felt intimidated by any of the students or instructors since everyone was around the same skill level It was an intense 11 week bootcamp but it was fund, I learned a lot and was able to grow a network of programmers/friends from the boot camp.
Today I am enjoying a new career in software development with a great company. I now have the skills that will allow me to grow with a higher financial return.
DevPoint Labs was the way to go for me! I highly recommend DPL!
I came into DevPoint Labs with very minimal coding experience and I was scared for my life that I wouldn't be able to hang with the pace of the coarse and the rest of my classmates. Jake and Dave did such an amazing job teaching everything in the curriculumn every day and the TAs were all very cool, nice, and helpful. My time at DevPoint was definitely the hardest time of my life, but because of the atmosphere and resources they offer, I was never overly stressed on a problem. I always got the help I needed and I know that I will always be able to go to them for any future assistance. DevPoint is definitely the best move I could have made to jumpstart my career path and I will always be thankful to everyone who works there who is now and will forever be a big part of my life. Highly recommend for everything thinking about which school to go to!
I just completed the full-stack rails course at DevPoint Labs. It was a wonderful experience! I highly recommend dedicating your life to coding during your attendance here. One of the great things about DevPoint Labs is that the resources are readily available for you to take your knowledge as far as you can push yourself. Beyond the classroom, DevPoint Labs has created a large community of developers with an excellent feeling of camaraderie. I highly recommend DPL to anyone with a desire to learn how to code. I began with moderate coding experience in HTML and CSS (among other things), but I had a classmate who began with virtually zero coding experience, and both of us took full advantage of our time here and were both able to progress immensely into the world of web development. You are not guaranteed a job out of here, but they provide you with the tools necessary to go out and find your place in a development company.
This was a great experience. I took the Part-Time Web Development course and I feel like I have a more valuable skill set now than when I graduated with my bachelors degree. It was definitely challenging, I came to the course with your basic computer skills but now I feel like I have a real shot at working in this industry.
The teachers and TA's were great. They were always patient and encouraging. Even though the pace and intensity of the course was grueling at times, they kept the mood light and made the material seem attainable.
I can't wait to see where these new skills can take me.
This course is endorsed and certified by the University of Utah. You will get real web development experience during your last few weeks, and the whole DevPoint community is extremely supportive. You will not regret getting into coding through DevPioint.
I have been working in education for the past few years. It has been something that I am very passionate about. However as many know, there is not a lot of money in education. So after feeling like I had maxed out my possibilities at the school I was at, I needed something more. I have a background in technology. After talking with various friends and family members, I decided to look into programming.
I searched and read reviews on all of the major bootcamps offered in the area. I found that DevPoint Labs had great reviews and had recently gotten an accreditation from the University of Utah. Which as far as I understand is the only bootcamp to offer that benefit. So to me the choice was made.
After starting the course, I realized that my decision was correct. The staff was extremely accommodating to any questions I had. The instructors were extremely knowledgeable in what they were teaching. You can tell that they enjoy working in the field and are up to date on everything that is happening as it happens. They both have very different teaching styles, that I feel are a good compliment to quick and in depth learning. Which is what this course is all about.
Coming from a background that had little to nothing to do with programming, I felt prepared to enter an industry that otherwise would have known nothing about.
Overall it was a great experience, and I am happy I took that first step. It was scary and will probably continue to be. However I now have a job as a Full-stack developer, and I love what I do!
I was part of the first U OF U PROED FULL-TIME WEB DEVELOPMENT (summer 2017) cohort. I had a fully immersive learning experience that drove my programming skills beyond any self-taught or online course could offer. I moved from New Mexico to attend DevPoint Labs and stayed in the free housing that DevPoint offered. It was walking distance to Church and State and pleasant accommodations.
The course was taught by industry professionals who code every day for actual projects. It shows in the course work that is driven by current industry standards and trends. The two teachers offer different teaching styles which covered the course material from different aspects. I found this helped me gain a deeper understanding of core concepts. The course itself was adaptive to the class pace and updated throughout the summer to reflect the most current best-practices.
As with any educational course, you truly get out what you put in. Learn as much as you can before you start. Take advantage of how much knowledge and skill that the teachers and TAs have by asking deeper tier questions. Fully immerse yourself and surround yourself with peers in the cohort who are better programmers than you.
Overall I strongly recommend this boot camp. It has phenomenal instructors, supportive staff, and great course material.
This was rather a different and challenging experience, even though it was a "Part Time" course. The instructors are active professional data scientists and wholeheartedly seek to leverage the best available tools to achieve optimal problem solving. They are not professional teachers and their curriculum is not limited to only a particular set of skills or tools, if needed they go beyond that list, the limit is the sky for them, which made this course a one in a life time opportunity for me to expand my knowledge and perspective regarding data science. Front Analytics, Alton Alexander who assisted as an instructor regularly is a pioneer in this extensive and extremely useful craftsmanship. He is also a successful entrepreneur, an honorable man and has mentored many. If you decide to take this class, I would recommend signing up asap and prepare as much as you can by covering what they list in the pre-work materials and if possible go beyond that. Specially get familiar with the basics of Python and the Command Line, you won’t regret once you get the hold of it, just like anything else, it takes some practice and passion. If you do the work, at the end of the course you’ll be a different person. Good Luck!
Coding bootcamp at DevPoint was a huge dive into real world full-stack web development for me. It was a huge challenge and a lot of work but has paid off wonderfully well for me in advancing me in my current career and opening new doors to the future.
Very grateful for to Will & Nhi for their wonderful generosity in helping me with a womens scholarship towards the cost of the tuition as well as all their patience, tolerance and kindness in helping me understand some difficult concepts.
The teachers know their stuff and TA's are great, and always made me feel comfortable helping me with everything (no matter how stupid my questions may have been).
Thank you so much for everything!
Digital Graphics Specialist,
Before getting into the details as to why, let me first say that DevPoint Labs executed an outstanding learning experience. I have taken many technical training courses over the past decade and the part-time ReactJS course has been the best overall experience.
Now for some of the details as to why the DPL course excells. First and foremost is the competency of the instructors, Dave and Jake, who are both very knowledgable and most important are able to transfer that knowledge in a systematic and progressive approach. And they love this stuff and love to teach, which is contageous.
I really liked how the instructors would take brief surveys at points through the course to get indicatiors of how the students were keeping up and where we wanted to go. My cohort wanted to have some additional time with React Native training, so Dave adjusted the course material over a weekend to adjust and fit the need.
I appreciated the fact that the instructors and staff weren't just trying to check off a few boxex and say that they taught us the concepts on the course list, but were intent on giving us the best possible learning experience with the content we wanted where possible.
In addition to the technical stuff, I really enjoyed working in various teams as we were given projects to complete through the course and eventually for the capstone project. And the teacher assistants were a huge help in getting past many of the challenges.
This was a huge challenge having to work full-time and then go straight to school until 9pm for four days a week (and a couple Saturdays) during the three months. It was awesome though and would do it all again.
Thanks DPL, it was great!
DevPoint Labs provides a structured, logical, and meaningful 11 week bootcamp course. I was surprised at how much I learned and was able to do on my own in a short amount of time. You definitely get what you put into this course! It was challengin,but there is so much help and assistance available to help you through your journey in the course. The instructors are very knowledgable and patient in their approach to teaching, and the TA's are always happy to help!
DevPoint Labs has built a positive and encouraging learning environment, and I'm very happy to be a part of the alumni. I would absolutley recommend DevPoint Labs to anyone who is looking to make a change!
DevPoint Labs full-stack Ruby on Rails course is taught by two amazing coders and teachers. That is a hard combination to come by, and Jake Source and Dave Jungst do a fantastic job of bringing you from zero to coding hero in a little less than 12 weeks. It's intense and not for people who are not serious about changing their career paths. Despite the difficulty level, I garuntee that if you do take each day seriously and try your best anyone, I repeat, ANYONE, can come out on top. I took the class in from February - April 2016 and my life has only improved as a result of the new skills I learned at DevPoint. As an individual I am able to take a more analytical approach to problem-solving, and as an employee I have the skills needed to compete in a changing workforce. If you are looking to change your career without the traditional 4 year degree, DevPoint is for you!
I had a really incredible (and really difficult) time doing the full-time Ruby on Rails course. If you are not expecting the course to be difficult, challenging, make-you-question-everything, this might not be the best fit for you. If you think it will be worth the rewards you reap, then you're right! I cannot believe how much I have learned and absorbed over the last 11 weeks. And don't let the difficult part hold you back because DPL offers tons of support not only through teachers, TAs, and other staff, but also a wonderful network of alumni. Dave and Jake are both incredible instructors and great complements to each other in their coding and teaching styles. I look forward to remaining a part of this community.
No, you won't be able to retain every single thing you learn so quickly, but I'd guess what I did learn in 11 weeks would have taken me three or four years to learn on my own, floundering around with online courses. Without DevPoint I wouldn't have gotten the big picture of how it all works together.
I left with a good concept of how to learn whatever coding skills I might need at a new job and something you can't put a price on- confidence. I did the evening course and there are two instructors. They are both very talented. They never got stumped or seemed like they were winging it. On top of that, it was obvious that they loved what they were doing.
Very positive and supportive environment. Plus the networking during and after the course really makes the difference in connecting you with a job after the course. Definitely recommend doing this over trying to do it on your own. Lots of diversity in age and gender in my cohort- don't be intimidated!! ;)
I would highly recommend DevPointLabs to anyone interested in becoming a developer. Dave and the whole staff are amazing. They are there help you along every single step. I am glad I had the opportunity to attend DevPointLabs and would not hesitate to go back.
Our latest on DevPoint Labs
Learning to code at an intensive bootcamp takes dedication and focus. And even though you’ll reach that finish line (we promise you will!), it’s important to remember that the learning doesn’t end at graduation! Whether you’re acclimating to a new technology stack on the job, or you’ve decided to add to your skillset through online resources, there’s always room to grow. A great developer's job is never done, and the learning will continue. So how do you stay on top of the ever-evolving tech scene? We’ve collected advice from bootcamp alumni and employers in our 8 steps to keep learning after a Coding Bootcamp.Continue Reading →
Haven’t had time to keep up with all the coding bootcamp news this March? Not to worry– we’ve compiled it for you in a handy blog post and podcast. This month, we read a lot about CIRR and student outcomes reporting, we heard from reporters and coding bootcamp students about getting hired after coding bootcamp, a number of schools announced exciting diversity initiatives, and we added a handful of new schools to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
In our recent Student Outcomes survey, alumni reported that they were working in over 650 different companies! Of course, you may have read recent press citing companies like Google who apparently aren’t willing to invest in junior technical talent from coding bootcamps (we happen to know that coding bootcamp grads have been hired at Google and Salesforce, but that’s not the point)... Here we’re highlighting 8 forward-thinking companies who are psyched about the bootcamp alumni on their engineering teams. Each of these employers have hired multiple developers, and are seeing their investment pay off.Continue Reading →
Access Development is a B2B rewards and loyalty company in Utah with a team of developers working in Java and Ruby. We spoke with CTO Clint Peterson about the six DevPoint Labs coding bootcamp graduates he’s hired over the past two years (one of his first hires is now a team manager!) and how bootcamp grads bring a different perspective than CS degree graduates, but do equally well in technical interviews. Find out what Access Development looks for in a new hire and how their mentorship process ensures new hires are supported in their learning and growth.
Tell us about Access Development.
Access Development is in the business of loyalty marketing. We have developed relationships with about 350,000 merchants around the country, who are willing to offer discounts on goods and services to people who belong to some sort of organization. For example, if you are a member of a local teachers’ association or union, you may pay your annual membership fee, and part of that fee gives you access to loyalty benefits provided by Access Development. Most benefits come in the form of a web application or a mobile application, that gives you access to discounts on everything from local restaurants, to rental cars, hotel stays, and dry cleaning. Access started in 1984. We are a B2B shop, we don’t have a direct to consumer business.
How large is the technical team at Access Development and what’s your role?
We have a team of about 28 technology professionals, which includes eight full-time Java developers, six full-time Ruby developers, a QA team, and support staff. I’m the Chief Technology Officer and I manage all of those teams, providing support and direction to each team manager. I’m also responsible for the overall technology strategy, not only to meet our internal infrastructure needs, but also for our clients who are paying for our services.
How did you get connected with developers from DevPoint Labs?
A few years ago Access was a partner in a new company that needed to build out a public-facing application. That company hired a DevPoint Labs graduate who was also teaching at DevPoint Labs. He was able to do some amazing things for this company. We were so impressed with him that we brought him on at Access Development as our first Ruby developer. He then helped us build a team of Ruby developers, and we took on a bunch of small projects, building a cool set of REST APIs and web services, as well as brand new hybrid mobile and web applications for our clients to use.
How many DevPoint Labs grads have you hired now, and for what sort of roles?
We’ve hired six DevPoint Labs grads. One of them is the manager of the Ruby developer team, and the others are doing full stack Ruby development. They are involved in the hybrid mobile application as well as the desktop app.
What kind of projects do the DevPoint Labs grads work on at Access Development?
Right now they are working on a push-messaging portal. Within our mobile application we have the ability to push messaging for targeted notifications, so a couple of the developers are building out our application so that business clients can customize the messages they send to app users. The other project is a travel booking application, and the DevPoint Labs grads are working on the front end UX/UI of that application
Other than through DevPoint Labs, how do you usually hire developers?
We’ve taken three approaches. One, we have an internal HR team which helps drive potential applicants in the door. We’ve also worked with placement firms, which usually means we’re using a contract-to-hire process, where we hire someone as a contractor at first, then over the course of three to six months, we bring them on full-time if everything works out. However, our strongest hiring channel is word of mouth and referrals from existing employees.
What are you usually looking for in a new hire? Does Access Development put an emphasis on technical skills vs. culture fit?
Our platforms run on Amazon Web Services, so we’re looking for folks who are not only capable in a particular developer skill set – Ruby or Java – but also have some sense of the capabilities available to us from Amazon. So on the Ruby side, we’re looking for full stack developers who have a couple of years of experience, and to date, those have all been DevPoint Lab graduates. As far as culture, Access was just named one of the top workplaces in Utah by the Salt Lake Tribune. Our employees are able to have distinct work/life balance, and we emphasize teamwork and collaboration here.
Do you notice differences in hiring bootcamp grads vs. applicants from more traditional channels?
Most of our Java developers are typical computer science grads who come to us with a number of years of experience and a CS degree. The only real difference we’ve seen has been breadth and depth of experience. Skillset-wise, bootcamp grads are coming to us with good capabilities, though perhaps a bit green. Bootcamp grads can really develop and grow without any trouble.
What stood out about those six DevPoint Labs graduates that got them the job?
Actually the strongest references we had were from candidate’s peers who knew them from DevPoint Labs. Someone on our existing team said, “Hey look, this is a really sharp guy who I’ve worked with, let’s interview him and bring him on.” So through the interview process, both the social interview and technical evaluation, the DevPoint Labs graduates just stood out as great candidates and have proved to be such.
Do these bootcamp graduates do as well as Computer Science graduates in a technical interview?
For the level of experience they have, yes. Again, if I were hiring a new Computer Science student who just came out of college, versus a DevPoint Lab graduate, their technical skill sets and capabilities would be very similar.
What does the relationship look like between Access Development and DevPoint Labs? Do you pay a referral fee when you hire their graduates or are you paying to be a part of their hiring network?
No, we don’t pay for anything.
Do you think there are any advantages to coding bootcamp grads over more traditional developers with CS degrees?
I think there are advantages, and one of those is the coding bootcamp grad’s perspective. Coding bootcamps are not as rigid, or as focused on some of the historical structure that CS grads think about when they are developing software. So bootcamp grads bring an interesting perspective that has really helped our development team move into a new realm, such as extending into continuous delivery, test automation and some of the other modern development technologies and capabilities.
I know DevPoint Labs grads are working in Ruby at Access Development, which is what they learned at DevPoint Labs. Have those bootcamp hires had to learn new languages or technologies?
Yeah, they have. We’ve used a number of different tools in the development of our mobile application. Because it’s a hybrid, we’ve had to do some native development. So there was some xcode and Swift work they had to pick up, along with some new technologies from some of the authentication infrastructure we have in place for OAuth. They seem to be adapting very well.
How do you make sure these new hires are supported in their learning and growth at Access Development. Do you have a mentorship or onboarding process in place?
We do. We have a formal and an informal process. When somebody new comes in, we assign them one of our existing developers as their mentor. That mentor, along with the manager of their team, is responsible for getting them up to speed, familiar with our business, immersed in the code base, and helping them understand our approach to continuous delivery.
One of the first things we have new hires do is jump in and write more automated testing, to help them really understand the underlying code in applications we develop, and then from there we give them increasingly challenging assignments to get in and provide feature functionalities. They come up to speed pretty quickly.
Do you have a feedback loop with DevPoint Labs? Are you able to influence their curriculum if you notice your developers lack knowledge in a certain area?
There’s no formal feedback loop yet, but our DevPoint Labs folks are pretty active in the community. So there is some informal feedback going on there but nothing direct.
Will you hire from DevPoint Labs in the future? Why or why not?
Yes. The experience we have had so far has been really favorable, we’ve had nothing negative. We really have a desire to hire beyond the students who have joined our team so far.
Interestingly enough, we had three people working in various roles within Access Development, who were not developers, and they left a month ago to go DevPoint Labs’ 12-week bootcamp. One of them is on a leave of absence. The other two said, “This software development work looks exciting, we’re going to leave our positions, go to the bootcamp and then hopefully come out with a new opportunity.” If we have the need, we’d love to get them back because of their domain knowledge.
What is your advice to other employers who are thinking about hiring from a coding bootcamp or DevPoint Labs in particular?
My advice would be to look at the coding bootcamp, see if you have some relationships with anyone who has been involved with them. Leverage those relationships to validate the capability of the bootcamp, and then give them a try.
Coding bootcamps are a good opportunity to give people a chance to grow and learn, then get meaningful and gainful employment. So I think they are great hiring channel.
We spoke to you earlier this year about your role as an instructor– are you still working at DevPoint Labs and part-time on Exposure Tracker?
How are you involved with curriculum planning and development?
I’m responsible for maintaining all of the curriculum, keeping it up to date and making sure things don’t go stale. Jake Sorce and I are the sole proprietors of the curriculum. But, like most developers, I’m still a student of software myself – I spend every waking moment reading articles trying out new things and new technologies. It’s a hobby of mine, so that helps to keep the curriculum up to date as well.
We hear you’re moving the HTML/CSS curriculum to a pre-work module. Can you explain that change and what it means for incoming students?
What do students actually need to know before Day One of class? How deep should they dive into HTML and CSS?
Students can go as deep into HTML and CSS as they want. We provide a lot of resources that cover the basics and go in depth. Our main expectation is that they come to class on the first day with a portfolio web page that is styled, has different aspects, links, tables, etc. We can get an idea of each student’s progress by checking out their portfolio page. Then, if we need to dive a bit further in, we can. Because we teach React at DevPoint Labs pretty heavily, we are using a ton of CSS and HTML every single day, so students are still reviewing those topics, it’s just baked into other subjects.
When do students start on the pre-work module?
After students are accepted into DevPoint Labs, we give them all the resources and exercises they should complete. Then we provide checkpoint quizzes, so we can see their progress as they are preparing to come to the course. We require that they score at least an 80% on the quizzes. If they aren’t meeting that requirement, that’s flagged, and we can bring this student in before the course starts to give them some tutoring help.
How long do students need to allow to complete that pre-work?
Ideally, it should take 3-4 weeks, part time. But we also know that we have students who sign up late and want to start a certain cohort, so we’ve had people come in with as little as one week of time to go through the prep work.
What exactly does the pre-work include?
There is a lot of stuff out there, whether it be Codecademy, or Code School. So we give them access to that. We point them to w3schools to get the basics. We use the Canvas learning management system at DevPoint Labs, where we have homegrown resources and guides that walk you through HTML, CSS, CSS frameworks. And then at the end of all the modules, there is a quiz they have to pass.
When students are going through that pre-work, are they learning on their own or will they have access to instructors and other students?
The idea is to learn on their own, but Jake and I are always available before and during the cohort, so they have direct access to communicate with us on Slack and by email. If a student is struggling with the curriculum, we’ll have them come into the classroom and schedule some mentoring time.
When did you implement this pre-work and how is it going so far?
Since the change, our first cohort is running now, and they are in Week 4 right now. I think the biggest unexpected change, was that students have a little more skin in the game coming in. They have to do all the pre-requisite work, and be comfortable with that without the help of an instructor which causes them to really dive in, and discover self-learning in software. Plus they come in more prepared and already understand how a web page is actually rendered.
What specific additional material or skills will students be able to learn during the courses, now that you won’t be spending much time on HTML and CSS?
How does DevPoint Labs decide which new technologies to add to the curriculum? What is the process for that?
It’s a chaotic process! I follow quite a few of my software heroes on Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram, so my ear is always to the ground. I speak at a lot of conferences, the Utah JS meetup, and other meetups, so I’m getting topics here and there. As these topics grow in popularity, I start to reach out to businesses in the area to see where the trends are going. I also do a lot of contracting work with startups and larger size companies, so I’m seeing trends in the real world as well.
How many instructors or TAs do you have at DevPoint Labs? And how do you make sure all of them are versed in the new technology you’re going to be teaching?
We have two instructors, myself and Jake Sorce. Then a full-time TA who is here all day, plus part-time TAs for every three students.
How will these changes to the curriculum make students more marketable as developers when they graduate?
With these new changes, what sort of roles will DevPoint Labs grads be prepared for?
Is there any pre-requisite knowledge to go through the admissions process? What are you looking for in new candidates?
We don’t really care about technical skills. It’s easy for us to teach technical skills. Usually, we give candidates a quiz that’s not software related to look at how they think about a problem. Are they able to take a big problem, break it down into small chunks, and solve the small chunks until they can solve the bigger problem? The ideal student already has that mindset. That mindset is a lot harder to teach than the syntax for a programming language, or how to navigate around your terminal. We’ve had students start at DevPoint Labs with no technical skills. The only thing we do stress is that if your typing skills are low, we give you some extra material to get up to speed.
Our Admissions Director, MarkAnthony, does the initial interview with the candidate, getting to know them, and seeing what their scenario is. We like to take people on a case by case basis. Then they meet with our lead TA, who conducts the non-software related quiz. If he feels they are a good candidate, they will meet with me or Jake, and we’ll let them know, what to expect, how to prepare, how to succeed, and how to fail. We really stress if that if you follow a certain pattern, you will absolutely fail and waste your money. So candidates meet with at least three people before they are accepted.
What meetups or events can you recommend for people wanting to prepare for the DevPoint Labs pre-work?
Is there anything else you’d like to add about DevPoint Labs, the pre-work or curriculum?
Right now, as far as my career, this has been the most exciting time to be a developer, just because of how fast things are changing, how many options are available to us as developers, and how these technologies are merging together, so our skills are starting to overlap. I think it’s really interesting to be able to teach new and innovative technologies because you’re still gaining a skillset that is backwards compatible.
Should I do a coding bootcamp? This is a question we hear all the time, and for good reason. As more coding bootcamps launch (not to mention the rising media coverage), you’re probably wondering, “should I jump on the bandwagon and learn to code?” A recent TechCrunch article implored you not to learn to code unless you’re ready to put in the work to be great, whereas President Obama wants every student to learn computer science in high school. So what types of people are opting for coding bootcamps? And should you be one of them?Continue Reading →
Like many UX Designers today, DevPoint Labs UX instructor Ty Hatch originally trained in graphic design, but gravitated quickly toward digital and interactive design, and now helps aspiring UX Designers make the transition. Ty brings his experience with companies like Mayo Clinic, the LDS Church, and Microsoft to his role as a part-time instructor at the Salt Lake City bootcamp. He explains how his real-world career makes him a stronger teacher, how he can use his network to provide students UX opportunities, and about the real-world client projects his UX students work on. We also asked if UX Designers need to know how to code, and love his answer!
What’s your background before you started teaching at DevPoint Labs?
Like most designers, I started as a junior designer doing grunt production work for both print and screen-based projects. While I have a traditional print design background my love has been learning and doing interactive and UX Design. But you still can’t beat the smell of fresh ink that washes over you when you go into a press check at a printer! Screen-based work is very ephemeral by nature, but it can have a lasting impact on those who experience it. It’s incumbent for those of us in the field to aim for great and positive experiences for those who encounter our work.
Throughout my career, I have worked a variety of companies—from contract work at Microsoft to consultancy work at design agencies to an art director role at Mayo Clinic and a few different roles at the LDS Church, including some time as a front-end engineer. In all of those roles, I’m trying to give people easy-to-use tools and experiences.
Where do you work when you’re not teaching at DevPoint Labs?
I am the Lead UX Designer for a small workforce management company called SwipeClock. Our software tracks time and attendance to make sure employees are punching in and out appropriately—so their employers can track their labor costs better—and have that data feed into payroll systems. We just released a brand new clock for our channel partners to sell to their clients.
How did you learn design, and specifically UX Design?
User Experience as a title didn't really exist until a few years ago, so I couldn’t get a degree in it. My degree is a BFA in Graphic Design from a private art school in Portland, Oregon (PNCA) and I graduated right before the dotcom bubble burst. I naturally gravitated toward technology and digital, screen-based design. I took the one class that offered HTML and really enjoyed it. My senior project was an informational website about typography.
I taught myself HTML, CSS, LESS (and eventually SASS, because it won.) I like to understand the industry as well as understanding the technology and tools that I'm using, and continually try to learn and improve in that regard. Solving problems—particularly in technology where there are some really gnarly problems—has been a really enjoyable career for me.
How did you first become aware of the “coding bootcamp” model? What’s interesting or inspiring about working with a bootcamp?
In the last three or four years, I’ve watched how popular coding bootcamps become because traditional academia is unable to keep up with the market’s changing demands.
But the most interesting thing for me is watching bootcamps bring in UX in as part of that curriculum. It's a different type of problem to solve. I believe design is a teachable skill. People can have instincts one way or the other, but you can also learn the right tools and how to use them, just like learning to code. It really boils down to an individual's motivations and desires, because you can be a great UX Designer and not be a traditionally “creative” person.
I believe that everybody is creative in their own way. People can express themselves creatively in a spreadsheet just as much as in a painting or in a website or in code. I know some extremely creative coders who write code in a way that I would never even think of.
How did you get involved with DevPoint Labs?
I'm an organizer for HackNight SLC, and I was introduced to DevPoint Labs co-founder Nhi Doan when we were at Church and State for one of our meetups (where the DevPoint Labs classroom is). We stayed in touch, and when he told me they were thinking about adding a UX Design course in Salt Lake City, I agreed to co-teach the first UX course in January 2016.
You’ve spent a career becoming a UX Designer; do you think it is possible for a student to learn enough skills to become a UX Designer in such a short period of time?
I think that DevPoint Labs is a good way to expose students to UX Design. Success boils down to an individual’s motivation. If you’re motivated by the money you’ll earn in UX, then you are probably not going to be successful. But if one is intrigued by problems, enjoys solving them, and wants to learn how to do that at a larger scale, then they have a really good opportunity at DevPoint Labs. The UX skills they need are definitely teachable, it's just how students apply them.
Before you started teaching at DevPoint Labs, did you have any previous experience in teaching or mentoring?
Yeah. I've taught college courses as well as workshops and presentations. I'm a huge believer in helping others and giving back, and UX has given me a career that I really enjoy. In a way, I view teaching this course as a way to give back to the profession.
Tell us about the day-to-day structure of the UX Design course at DevPoint Labs! What’s your teaching style?
We meet three times a week: two weeknights and Saturday morning. Everybody in the class, including myself, has busy professional careers during the day, so most of us come straight from work. Our class always starts by reviewing what the students were asked to work on in the prior class.
I'm a big believer in learning by doing, so there's a lot of project work, and evaluating other people's work. We do what's called the Minute Crit. We'll pull up one student’s work, and then another student has one minute to review it and provide feedback. This builds both the confidence to present your work regardless of what state it is in, as well as how to give focused feedback in a constructive manner to others.
As an instructor, Minute Crit shows me where students are struggling and where they're excelling. We tailor class discussions to focus on those things to help them learn and grow those skills.
We also discuss what UX Design is beyond the hard skills (ie. wireframing or visual design). A lot of being a successful UX Designer relies on soft skills – dealing with clients and teammates, building relationships, how to provide constructive feedback on really bad ideas, and knowing how to persuade and advocate for meaningful change without having the authority to make and enforce decisions.
How many hours a week do you expect your students to commit to the UX Design bootcamp on top of the teaching hours?
Ideally, it's two to three hours per week, outside of class. Sometimes it's going to be a lot more depending on our timeframe and what we're trying to accomplish. Being a realist, I understand that my students have personal and family lives, as well as work responsibilities. At the same time, we're here to help them learn and grow, and one of the best ways is to get out of your comfort zone.
How is teaching a coding bootcamp different from the teaching you've done at college level?
No grades! You get out of a bootcamp what you put into it. We've had students who are so engrossed in solving a problem, that they've taken time off from work to keep working on it because they’re so engrossed in the work.
DevPoint Labs has an extremely challenging course and we push our students beyond what they think they’re capable of accomplishing. To their surprise—but not mine—the amount of growth they experience during the course is tremendous and they’re ready to venture out on their own with confidence. We also work on a real project with a real client who has a business problem that needs to be solved.
How do the real-world projects work? Do you partner with companies who need UX Design?
We have one project that the whole class works on throughout the course. We (DevPoint Labs) arrange it with the client before the class starts and make sure we have a defined scope. With most projects in UX Design, you're given a request or a solution, and it's your job to unwind that solution or request and figure out what the client really needs. We do that as a class as it can be a pretty tricky thing to detangle.
Once we’ve roughly defined the project and identified the deliverables for the class with the client, we spend a lot of time discussing, understanding, planning, documenting, and making sure we know the problem space. There are interviews with key stakeholders, user interviews, competitive analysis and research to do. We work together as a group during this part as it’s key to understanding the discipline of UX. We make sure each student has individual artifacts they can show after the class in their portfolio. We encourage students to work on individual solutions, because at the end of the day, employers are making a hiring decision based on how well you describe and present your work as a designer.
At the end of the project, we have a final presentation to our stakeholders so they can see the work that was done and make it available to them. A project may continue past the class with the client engaging one or more students to help them finish out the project. Each student also writes a case study of their work in the class. This is the start of their professional UX portfolio, which hopefully will help them begin a career in User Experience.
What is the project that your current cohort has been working on?
This current cohort is working on the DevPoint Labs website to improve the admissions process. It's been very instructive both for the class and for the DevPoint Labs organization, because it has highlighted some needs that were previously in the background. The class is benefiting from a good real-world project, and DevPoint Labs is benefiting because they're getting some really great work from some talented students.
One of the other projects we worked on was to help with the creation of a search engine for researchers and entrepreneurs who are searching for grants called Grant Miner. It was more defined and limited in scope than the DevPoint Labs project this cohort is working on, but we were able to apply the same principles and concepts to it. That’s the beauty of good principles, tools, and processes: regardless of the project, you can apply them and have a good outcome.
What are the specific technologies and software that students use in class for making their designs?
In the class we use Sketch, InVision, with a lot of whiteboard discussions in between. A whiteboard is the designer's best friend because you can have detailed or quick conversations, collaborate, take a picture to document your conversation, erase it, and keep moving.
You need to be able to help people understand in visual ways as a designer, and quite often the best medium can be a whiteboard. Being confident and able to facilitate conversations with people in a way that brings understanding and clarity is paramount. It also helps to pass the whiteboard marker to others. People often feel uncomfortable at first doing this, but as they gain experience talking through ideas at a high level, it becomes a very powerful tool for collaborating with others.
Do UX Designers need to know how to code?
My answer is: it depends. I wrote an article called "Do painters need to know how to make paint," which explains that just like any artistic medium, if you don't understand the medium, then you're not going to be successful. To be a successful painter, you don't need to know how to make the paint, but you do need to know how the paint is going to interact with the different substrates you are going to paint on. If you don't understand that, then you might paint on a piece of gessoed masonite with watercolor, which won’t work well because watercolor needs to have paper to soak into.
The same concept is true with HTML and CSS. You don't need to know how to write it. But if you understand the fundamentals of how code works, then you're able to have better discussions with the engineering team about trade-offs and compromises. They will be implementing what you create. Understanding how code works is important in ensuring that your designs are implemented successfully. (It’s also really helpful to engage the engineering team as early as possible, so they have a better understanding of what they’re building and you can understand the technical limitations, constraints and how to best approach the solution.)
Do you teach any coding classes in the UX Design bootcamp?
Not as part of the curriculum, but when students ask, I point them over to really good online resources. Sitepoint.com, Udemy, and Udacity have online courses that teach HTML and CSS. HTML and CSS are fairly straightforward to learn, and you can teach yourself quickly.
Most of the coding bootcamp instructors we interview are full-time instructors. Are there benefits to being a part-time instructor who is also working in the industry?
I'm a practicing professional. I know what the industry is expecting and looking for and I’m part of professional organizations and networks. Many of my friends are also fellow designers. It’s helpful to share with my class exactly what companies are looking for in a designer and in a designer’s skillset.
Guest speakers are really important to the class. It exposes the students to a broader spectrum of experiences than just the instructors’. We've had Nate Walkingshaw, Chief Experience Officer for PluralSight visit the class, along with other leaders and individuals a UX Designer would work with in the course of their daily routine. We brought in a Product Manager to talk about how they collaborate with UX Designers, and a hiring manager talked to the class about what she looks for when hiring UXers. We try to do everything we can to give them the tools to succeed and encourage them to continue learning.
How does your industry knowledge help you contribute to the UX Design curriculum at DevPoint Labs?
As an active professional, I understand the needs of the industry and how it impacts them as students. This helps us know how to best select our projects to reflect real-world business needs. It allows me to say, "Hey, this is how a project might go, and this is how we might want to approach the class and the curriculum." We typically have a co-instructor, and working with him has provided a great balance because I've worked mostly as an in-house resource during my career, and he's worked in an agency setting, so we're able to represent both perspectives.
We're on our third cohort, and our third iteration of the curriculum. It's a learning process to understand how things work best, just like any UX project. Based on feedback we get from students, we make adjustments to the curriculum, and try to fine-tune and get it to work well for the students. Each class will be different, but there are core principles that each class needs to understand.
What is the ideal student:teacher ratio at DevPoint Labs? Do you have any TAs helping you out?
For the first couple of classes, even for this current class, the student teacher ratio is about 4:1. For this current cohort I don't have a co-instructor, but we have a TA in the class. He is a graduate from a past cohort, and he's doing a great job.
Is there an “ideal student” or a certain type of student who does well in the UX Design bootcamp?
The students who really excel are the ones who are intrinsically motivated, who love solving problems, and really enjoy learning. If you don't want to learn UX Design, you're not going to. If you don't like solving problems, you're in the wrong career.
You also have to be able to ask questions, because a UX Designer is really a change agent for an organization. If you're not willing to become a lightning rod for opinions and separate your personal feelings and self-worth from your work, then it's going to be an extremely challenging profession to get into.
Tell us about one of your students who has had a really interesting background or story!
That’s just about every student! They're all so diverse, which is really great. I just had lunch with our first cohort, who were all fantastic and are all now doing UX. One was moving to North Carolina to take a position as a UX Architect, one's stepping into a bigger role at her company, and one created a UX role for himself at his existing company. I believe you recently profiled Addison—he's really indicative of the type of individuals we teach. He's working hard, he's got a position doing UX, and also working on his own project.
How do you help students prepare for finding a job?
I keep my eye out for opportunities for junior positions, internships, or apprenticeships. Recently, a local company was looking for a Junior UX Researcher, so I let the hiring manager know about a couple of DevPoint Labs students who were interested.
The market is really strong for Senior UX Designers, but it's not as strong as for junior and less-experienced designers. The industry is starting to recognize that, and there are individuals trying to create opportunities for less-experienced people. But if you're just starting out, it takes three to six months to get your toe in the door.
What is the actual goal for a student that completes this UX program? What sort of jobs are they prepared for?
When they come out of class, depending on where they're at, they could go straight into a junior or mid-level UX position, or they could go into an apprenticeship or an internship. It's a really individualized outcome, but the baseline is they would leave the class with the ability to secure an internship or an apprenticeship with a company. They'll have enough tools to get started with a career in UX.
For Course Report readers who are beginners, do you have any resources or meetups that you recommend for aspiring UX Designers in the Salt Lake City area?
Sure. DevPoint does a lot of meetups that are heavily developer focused. The Product Design Association of Utah (PDAU) is really a great resource if you're interested in learning about Product and UX Design. There’s currently a trend of UX transitioning to a new title of Product Designer.
We have an active AIGA chapter here as well. Salt Lake Design Week is going to be in mid-October, which will be a great opportunity to experience the UX and larger Design community here in Utah. PDAU is going to be doing two full days of different (and free!) lectures during Design Week, so if anybody is interested in that, that’s a great way to be exposed to what's going on in the industry.
Burnt out from his professional cycling career, Addison’s path was rerouted to DevPoint Labs’ two month UX Design bootcamp in Salt Lake City, UT. Always an avid fan of the Health industry, he decided to turn his sights to tech in order to solve a deep problem. Since his brother had the coding skills, he decided to learn UX design in order to start their healthcare platform. See how he’s balancing the entrepreneur life (working on his startup called allday) and excelling in his new remote UX designer role for lolo.
What was your educational or career background before you attended DevPoint Labs?
I graduated high school when I was 18, and I didn't go to college. I was on my path to becoming a professional cyclist. Luckily I had support from family, but I was totally burned out by age 20, and I didn't know what I was going to do with my career.
I always had a fascination with personal health and what constitutes it; that slowly started to develop more after I stopped cycling. I had wanted to create a business around health, and initially thought it could be a blog or a book, but I decided that software was really the only solution to fix a large scale problem in the world.
I officially moved to Salt Lake City, and my brother had enrolled in DevPoint Labs’ Full Stack Web Development bootcamp about one year before. Our ideas for this software health startup continued to grow and I attended DevPoint Labs in April 2016 with the intention to create this company with my brother. Since he knew software development, I decided to learn UX design to complement his skills.
Where did your motivation to learn UX Design originate?
Since my brother had the coding skills, I felt it would be more useful for me to learn UX design to start our business. I'm definitely more of an artistic-minded person. An artist’s and engineer's minds are very different mindsets. Nonetheless, you do have to understand both sides. One of my DevPoint Labs teachers told us that you don't have to understand how to mix paints if you're an artist, but you can definitely create substantially better art if you know how. The same principle applies to tech: you don't have to learn how to code in order to be a designer, but if you understand the basic principles and fundamentals, you'll design products with engineer in mind.
What made you choose DevPoint Labs to learn UX design?
Logistically, everything fell in place for DevPoint Labs. I only live a block away from the school and I wanted to stay in Salt Lake City because the tech scene here is really cool. I’ve reached out to some potential mentors and CEOs here in Salt Lake City and they are totally willing to give you some of their time. For instance, I specifically asked one mentor about recommendations for books on being a CEO, and he took the time to hyperlink out four books on Amazon - little things like that are meaningful. The network here is very supportive of the next generation, which is nice. That was the icing on the cake.
Tell us about the application process for DevPoint Labs. What was that like for you?
I’ll give you a little back story, my brother Christian went through DevPoint Labs and then became a Teaching Assistant, and later a full-time instructor at DevPoint. So my process was different because he could vouch that I was a good fit for the course. I sat down with Nhi, one of the co-founders, and we went over my motivations. A big thing for DevPoint Labs is that they want to accept people into their cohorts that are eager to learn.
Could you describe what your cohort was like? Was it diverse in terms of gender, race, & career backgrounds?
We had four men and two women, but it wasn’t very racially diverse. Nonetheless, everyone’s job backgrounds were pretty diverse. One of my classmates was a graphic designer, one was a content strategist, and one was an account manager. One of the ladies had a fine arts background and another was a copywriter, and of course, my background was cycling. It was cool that everybody had different backgrounds, so we represented very different motivations.
How did you like the learning experience at DevPoint Labs? Describe a typical day.
Our courses were Monday and Wednesday night from 6:00pm until 9:00pm; then we had class on Saturday morning from 9:00am to 12:00pm. Those were good flexible hours, but nonetheless they're pretty rigorous three hour classes with some small breaks in between.
In regard to the learning experience, their teaching approach was to throw you into the deep end, if you will. The class is such a short amount of time (two months). You essentially only have nine hours a week in class, so I personally believe that this is the only teaching methodology that would work in that environment.
I could gauge who in the class really applied themselves, because UX Design, like all things, is a field where you get out what you put into it. Like venturing out and trying to dissect software, applications, and websites because they brought back new examples to the class.
Also, we used a local software called [Instructure] for course curriculum management. It's a dual site where teachers can communicate directly with students and post assignments. That was the learning experience in a nutshell.
What did you like most about the DevPoint Labs learning experience?
What I liked about it most was that it wasn't really project-based in terms of doing multiple projects. It resembled working in a dev/design shop or at a company. You only have one big project that you're working on, then within that project, there's all these little subsets of different challenges that need to be resolved. For example, my team worked specifically on Search, so we built out all the functionality and went super deep into user experience design, which was fascinating.
I liked it because we weren’t working on all these different things, I think that if you do spread yourself too thin then you don't really learn anything. We got to go narrow and so deep that it really yielded us a good base to start building on. And that's what I noticed the most is that it's just a really good course to establish that base of working tools in the industry. Then it takes your own initiative, after that point in time, to learn, to read books, to find mentors, and to create things. That was the coolest part about going so narrow and going so deep under one subject.
Tell us about some of those projects!
DevPoint Labs finds real projects for students to work on. Ours was actually a project that a subsidiary here is developing. The project is called Grantminer, and the mission is to simplify the grant-searching process because it is currently extremely overwhelming. You couldn’t simulate the experience with real stakeholders by using books.
Also, our teachers took us through their personal process and their curriculum to show how they go about a project. They condense the material into about a two-month time frame, starting from scratch to building out a high fidelity prototype (which is what you would give to a developer). The process was very iterative. There are definitely principles that you can work through, but a lot of it is just trial and error. At the end of the project, the stakeholders of Grantminer selected their favorite prototype, and they selected my design. Recently, those developers told me that they officially launched Grantminer. That was cool.
What are you up to now that you’ve graduated from DevPoint Labs?
There’s a Catch-22 after graduating from a bootcamp, because you have this portfolio project, but you're not sure if you can actually provide tangible value to a company. You really have to hustle to create things and gain that experience as fast as possible. I was lucky that I had enough savings to focus on building my UX and UI base, so I did that for about three months while working on our startup idea, and getting prototypes in front of our users.
Tell us about the startup that you and your brother are working on!
It’s called allday, because we want to move the idea of health out of the old, compartmentalized experience that we all grew up in, in which you go to the doctor, or dietician or yoga class, and then you go home. We talked to a local health professional, who voiced how hard it is for her and her patients to connect outside of the office. And that sometimes they just have a simple question to ask, or need to get on a video call with her, but can’t, because the technology doesn’t exist, yet.
So we want to provide people and their health professionals with a communication platform that affords this ‘continuous experience’. On top of which, would be the necessary tools needed for them to better connect.
Is allday live yet?
It’s not live yet, but I've been working on it since I graduated from the UX course at DevPoint Labs. The class gave me the proper tools to be able to start prototyping and to get it in front of people. It’s so powerful to be able to show our prototype to professionals and get feedback on buttons, UX, etc. I had no industry knowledge, graphic design or software background, but I went from 0 to 60 because of the teachers and the curriculum at DevPoint.
While I’m working on allday, I recently got a UX position with a company called lolo which develops and maintains personal health applications. They have a suite of health applications in Apple and Android stores.
Congrats! Tell us about the interview process for your new UX role at lolo.
It’s funny because, again, my brother was the one who got me the interview at lolo (he works there with me). It's all about who you know! The whole interview process was over Slack and Skype.
People reading this may think this was an easy process, but I spent my nights and weekends refining this new craft. That’s what gave me the confidence to ask for a position, and guarantee that I could provide value to the company. It’s all about applying oneself after you graduate from a bootcamp and not having that college mentality that just because you've got this degree, you’re somehow entitled to a certain compensation. In the software world, both designers and engineers have to show what they have done. Not just talk about it in an interview.
During my interview, this is what got me the job, the CEO asked me, "What value will you provide for lolo?" So I told him that I would instead show him. I picked apart a mockup that lolo was working with and identified all the things that could be improved. I rebuilt the mockup and sent it to the CEO. He was impressed that I had already been thinking through the experience problems. If I had not put in those extra six hours of re-designing that mockup, I probably wouldn't have gotten the job. It's about providing value. Find a problem in the company that you want to work for, re-design a solution, and then send it to them. Show, don’t tell.
It's great that you have this perspective of being an entrepreneur and also working in a company as a UX designer. What’s your day-to-day like?
At lolo, we all work remotely, so it's an interesting workflow. We rely heavily upon communication tools such as Slack and Zoom. I’ve observed that they hire problem solvers, that get things done.
It feels like a small startup still. My brother and I usually work out of his apartment. He may ask me for design feedback, and I may ask him if something is smart to build. Being remote does add a layer of complexity. Our hours are flexible, which means that some of the engineers will be working different hours, and that makes it a little difficult at times, but at the end of the day, designers and engineers really love building things. It's all about the growth process of designing something cool, and then handing it off for them to build it. Even though there are hurdles, it’s inspiring to be in an environment with smart people that love building things.
Overall, how are you feeling about your new skills from DevPoint Labs and your new role?
I’ve definitely felt impostor syndrome. It’s funny, especially when you start at a new company, you think silently, "Wait. You’re actually going to build that now??” A few months ago, I was designing basic interfaces in class, and now it’s for a full Web, Android and iOS build.
Are you currently using the tools that you were taught at DevPoint Labs in your new job, or have you had to learn new technologies?
Yes. We use Slack for communication and Sketch and Invision, which is what I learned at DevPoint Labs.
What’s been your biggest challenge since starting at lolo?
I think the biggest challenge is just acclimating to what it's like to work with engineers and understanding how they think, and work. You have to know the simplest and most effective design that you can deliver to an engineer. For someone with a designer’s or artistic mind, we can be so focused on the design, that we forget about back-end functionality. It can be an interesting balance.
What advice do you have for people thinking about making a career change and considering coding or a UX design bootcamp?
Ask yourself “Why?” When you understand the “why” behind your career, then you'll actually be able to apply yourself. This industry can be very rigorous and hard at times, so I always think that the “why” is your lighthouse, metaphorically speaking. When you’re feeling burnt out in designing or coding, you can remember that “why” and it can help you get through those times.
Faith Oladele is a multi-tasker to the extreme. She balances being in the Air Force Reserves while working part-time in sales and pursuing her Computer Science degree at the University of Utah. Now she has enrolled at Utah coding bootcamp DevPoint Labs during her summer break! We talk to Faith about her DevPoint Labs scholarship, the difference between her CS degree and a coding bootcamp classroom, and her exciting plans for the future.
Tell us about your life pre-DevPoint Labs. What were you up to?
I’m actually a Computer Science major at the University of Utah (I also already have my Associate Degree in Computer Science). I’m in the Air Force Reserves, so I’m committed to that one weekend per month, and I’ve worked in sales at JC Penney for two years as I go to school. I’m on my summer break, which is why I took DevPoint Labs.
Woah! You’re busy! If you’re already studying for a CS degree, why take a coding bootcamp?
I took the course to get the real world experience that you just can’t get in school and through classes. When I looked at job postings, I noticed that there are newer technologies out there that I need to learn as well. That's why I chose to take a bootcamp and learn more.
DevPoint Labs has also been good for my own growth, actually. I’m on summer break, but this keeps me from being lazy and taking a break from programming.
You’re halfway through the Full Stack Rails class. So far, what have you learned at DevPoint Labs that you couldn’t learn in a CS degree?
In college, I've learned languages like C++, Java, and C#, but here at DevPoint Labs I'm learning React, Ruby on Rails, and the current Web Engine- the frameworks that are being used in the industry. My plan is to become a software engineer, so I need to know those relevant languages. To me, this prepares me for the real world, as well as land me a job while I am still in college. You have to have some experience, and that is what I'm trying to do.
So by the time I graduate with my degree, I will have studied CS theory, and have developed things at DevPoint Labs, hopefully with a potential employer.
Did you research other coding bootcamps in your area before you decided to go to DevPoint Labs?
I did look at other schools, but I loved the opportunities at DevPoint Labs. As a woman in software engineering, I could apply for a scholarship, which was awesome because bootcamps are really expensive. I liked that they recognize women in the technology industry, because you don't see a lot of us. That was one of the biggest inspirations for me.
DevPoint Labs is also close to home and my work. I looked through the curriculum, I came in and spoke to the DevPoint Labs team personally. I actually visited three times, and each time I visited, I learned more until I said, "Okay, I really want to be here.” I was looking for a broad curriculum, and that’s what I saw here.
Congrats on winning the scholarship! What did that scholarship entail?
The scholarship I received paid for half of the tuition. I got a loan to pay for the rest which is like getting a grant from school. I'm still paying that second half of tuition, but it's a good deal.
Did you have to do coding challenges during your interview?
No, because the point of DevPoint Labs is not to attract experienced people. They want everybody, so they're trying to train people across all experiences. They want to make sure you're willing to put in the work because you're going to be learning new things and you have to be willing to learn. That was the main thing they were looking for in the interview. Dedication was way more important than your level of programming or industry knowledge.
Tell us about your cohort at DevPoint Labs? Is it large? Is it diverse in terms of gender, race, and backgrounds?
There are about 15 people in my class, including six women – DevPoint Labs tries to keep classes small. And it is very diverse. We get projects generated for us randomly so we get to work with other people and see their style of coding. People never do one thing the same way; that and group projects also help me learn more about working with other people. It's a good learning environment if you ask me.
That’s awesome! Tell us about the learning experience at DevPoint Labs. What’s a typical day like?
A typical day at DevPoint Labs starts at 9:30am, then our instructor lectures on a subject for about four hours. He introduces us to a new subject, we code along to understand the concept, and then we get to work on our projects. We're given bonuses to challenge ourselves as well, like going beyond the scope of what was taught that day. The next day, you can expect to go over that bonus challenge to make sure that everybody understands. Every day we get challenges and start new concepts, which is awesome.
How does that compare to the style of learning at your university? Is it quite different?
It is definitely different. DevPoint Labs is only 11 weeks, so it's more fast paced compared to a full semester course. At university, I have an assignment every week, and I have a whole week to finish one project. Here, I have new projects to work on every day, and then you have to keep up with the pace of the class. It is a fast learning pace, but I've met people that haven't coded once in their life, and they're doing just great.
A CS degree gives you a solid background, but sometimes I think people don’t need a formal degree to be “smart.” You just have to have the right tools. I'm sure there are amazing developers who were not CS majors; but for me, doing the bootcamp alongside my degree will give me experience on the whole spectrum.
How many instructors or mentors do you have at DevPoint Labs?
We have two main instructors who teach us, but we also have TAs (teachers’ assistants) who assist us with our projects, our labs, and questions. There are about five TAs, so we have a lot of help around here to make the course easier to understand. And I like the fact that we have two instructors because it shows that no two programmers are the same. You learn more when you’re learning from two different teachers, and you can gravitate towards the teaching style that you grasp more. I like that learning process.
What's been the biggest challenge so far at DevPoint Labs?
My boss at JC Penney was really awesome, and she lets me work 6am to 9am and then I have to be at DevPoint Labs at 9:30am. But still, the biggest challenge for me is working and going to the bootcamp. It helps that I like the learning environment here. I like the fact that you sit in lecture for four hours and then the rest of the day is spent doing your project and trying to catch up on anything you don’t understand.
Wow we’re so impressed with your commitment. Do you have a favorite project that you've worked on so far at DevPoint Labs?
Oh, my favorite project so far has been a group project where we built a “bucket list” app. Users can create a bucket list of events to do. It took us about a day to finish it, and I was really impressed with what we came up with. It was well styled, and that process made me understand working with people much better. I was impressed with myself and with my group about what we could do in such a short period of time.
Does DevPoint Labs prepare you for looking for a job?
They’ve been training us for that since the second week. We started out with our resumes- how to build a resume, and how to polish your LinkedIn. We have one day in the week to talk about job hunting and resume building. They also put time into introducing us to the right employers. We’re going on a field trip soon, so I'm excited to see what developers actually do in the real world. I think it's exciting.
Do your university classmates consider doing a bootcamp? Is that common amongst your class?
No, it's not common, actually. I have questions from my classmates asking why I don’t just do an internship. And I could do an internship, but to me, I feel like I still need to broaden my knowledge.
What is your ultimate goal when you graduate from both DevPoint Labs and from college? Do you have a dream job?
Right now, I plan to use my skills to become an officer in the Air Force. I want to do programming for fighter jets- that's one of my biggest dreams. Aside from that, after I finish with DevPoint Labs, I want to immediately look for jobs and start developing so I can have that experience under my belt by the time I'm done with my degree. I love my job right now, but I want to move on from sales.
And what kind of work do you do for the Air Force?
I'm a Traffic Management Officer. That sounds like I control traffic, but I actually control personnel, helping them with travel and Military goods.
What advice do you have for future coding bootcampers?
Like I said, determination is huge. And remember that learning these skills at a bootcamp is not going to be cheap, but you’ll get a job that can pay for it in no time. Tuition might sound really expensive right now, but if you are determined, and you feel like this is what you want to do, then you shouldn’t think about the initial cost.
Tom left business operations at a custom apparel startup in Rhode Island to learn to code at DevPoint Labs in Salt Lake City. In the startup world, technology can make or break your company. He saw the pain points in having limited tech knowledge, so he decided to gain more technical skills. Read on to learn about his choice to work in a smaller tech hub in the midwest.
What was your pre-DevPoint Labs story?
I graduated from Yale in 2013, where I studied Environmental Engineering and German. I got my first job through Venture for America, which is a two-year fellowship program that places college grads in startup companies across the country, in up-and-coming startup cities. I was placed in Providence, Rhode Island at a company called Teespring. Teespring is a crowd-funding platform for creating and selling custom apparel. I was there for just over 2.5 years, working mostly on the operations side of the business.
Teespring is a tech startup, so while we shipped physical products, we also had a tech platform that made it all possible. For the entire time I was there we never had too many tech resources, and there were often limitations on what we could fit into each sprint. I chose to transition out of the company and started researching coding bootcamps. I finished my role in March 2016, and started the summer session at DevPoint Labs in May.
Did you try to teach yourself to code before you started looking for a bootcamp?
Yes. Being in a startup environment, I wanted to know what it meant to be a developer. I did some Codecademy Ruby on Rails tutorials on my own, and I thought this was something that I could see myself doing more seriously.
When I would try to extrapolate what I'd learned and build my own web apps away from what the Codecademy tutorial had been teaching, I would get stuck on certain things. I could only Google my way to victory so much, and hitting road blocks made me more inclined to put the work on the shelf. Road blocks kept happening, so I thought if I really want to be serious about this, I should enroll in one of these intensive programs where this is my main focus for three months. That's why I went for it.
When you were thinking about bootcamps, did you ever consider going back to college and doing a CS degree?
Not really. I like the structure of a bootcamp because it's maybe one tenth the cost of a traditional degree and probably around one tenth the time comittment, too. If coding ended up not being a great fit for me, I would know at the end of three months; and I wouldn’t have taken out massive student loans. Also, from what I can gather, four-year computer science programs don’t really teach modern web development languages. It's more theory based, where you learn the history of the web and you learn how systems work. Bootcamp programs teach the right languages for builidng web apps.
Did you only look at DevPoint Labs or were there other bootcamps that you researched?
I stumbled upon name brand bootcamp programs like App Academy and Hack Reactor. I was definitely looking into those. Those sounded very attractive, but there were a couple of factors that influenced my decision. The main one is that my short career to date has been through Venture for America, whose mission statement is to redirect the flow of talent away from these major cities that those programs happen to be located in. I realized that maybe the best programs were located in New York and San Francisco but if there was a program that could teach me the same curriculum in a city that wasn't one of those major cities and would be more appealing to me, then I was going to pursue that. I'm glad to have found that in DevPoint Labs.
What other reasons drove you to choose DevPoint Labs? Did programming languages offered or tuition cost play a factor?
Price was definitely factor. One of the reasons I chose this program was because I could pay out of pocket. The coding bootcamps in San Francisco and New York were almost twice the cost.
I think one of the main value proposition of any bootcamp is access to great instructors who can help you through any issues that you have. One of the main issues I had trying to learn on my own was that I didn’t necessarily know the right questions to ask. Having someone who knows this material like back of their hand, sitting next to you while you code is a great asset. I wasn’t too worried about one school having a longer history or a better track record placing students into name brand, headline grabbing companies. I thought if the languages being taught were the same, I could put down some roots in a city that I would like to live in after the program is done. And if it was a city that fits within the Venture from America story, then that choice was the most attractive to me.
Did you have to move to Utah for DevPoint Labs? Did they provide housing assistance?
I did move here. I was living in Rhode Island for the past two and half years, and then I came out here a week before the program started. It's one of the main selling points. In addition to great instructors and great reputation the program makes housing available for the few people in the program that come from out of state. That took a lot of the extra work out of the process. It’s reasonable in terms of cost and just a 15-minute walk from where the lessons are held every day. That was really appealing to me. There are three DevPoint Labs students in our apartment who were not local. Most of the people in the program are local, either they live in right Salt Lake City or they live a drive away.
What was the DevPoint Labs interview and application process like?
It was a written application all online and then a half-hour interview with one of the founders of DevPoint Labs. I traveled to Salt Lake City for a long ski weekend and did my interview in-person. It's my understanding that if you are out of state, they'll have the interview over Skype.
What is your cohort like at DevPoint Labs? How diverse is it in terms of gender, race, and backgrounds?
We are a total of 14; so a relatively small group compared to past cohorts. There's great access to instructors which I think is one of the main selling points. Six of my classmates are women so almost a 50/50 split. There’s about four current college students doing this on their summer break. Some of them are current CS majors so it’s really interesting to have their perspective in class because they know a lot about computer science but we're all learning these languages together. Everyone is mostly in their 20s.
How’s your learning experience at DevPoint Labs? What’s the schedule, teaching style, and space like?
We have two lead Instructors. One teaches Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and then one teaches Tuesday and Thursday. We have about four TAs. We do a lecture in the morning from 9:30am to 12:30pm. There’s a lunch break and then we work on small projects that are meant to cement what we learned in the morning. And when we have that project time, we're often sitting with the TAs to ask questions. If it's a little bit more of a challenging lesson, an instructor will carry over into the afternoon. Otherwise, it's a very simple assignment to try to build something using what we learned that morning. This is usually an individual project.
We are in a building called Church & State, old church building that has been refurbished into a co-working space. In the chapel, there's a large open area with long tables and chairs to work in. Our room is upstairs, off to the side in a classroom. As DevPoint Labs students you have full access to the entire building. There is a little break room with snacks. I've come in here on Saturdays and Sundays to work; it's a great space.
What sort of projects do you work on and do you have a favorite project you've worked on so far?
Are there other companies hiring in your co-working space?
Yes, there are about six companies that maintain a small office here. One former DevPoint Labs student got hired by a company in this building. He comes by every week for a mentor session to lend his time which is really great to see that the alums in the area come back and pay it forward with the current students.
What does DevPoint Labs do to help you prepare for the job hunt?
We have a dedicated member of the DevPoint Labs staff who is in charge of resume critiques. They’ve also set up a panel with a few engineers that work locally. We've been told that towards the end of the course we're going to do mock interviews with the instructors. Job assistance is going to pick up in week 9; we’re currently on week 7. I do know that it's something that they're very serious about, and DevPoint Labs is very much in our corner.
Do you have any ideas of what kind of industry or role you want to work in after you graduate DevPoint Labs?
I am hoping for a junior developer job in the Greater Salt Lake area. I'm pretty much company and product agnostic. I know that people looking to hire junior developers who are great culture fits in terms of the person being a good addition to the organization and being coachable. I'm looking for someone who can invest in me and teach me. I think anyone who really puts their career on hold to do a program like this for three months is serious about learning these new skills and making this their career after graduating. I hope that there are folks out there who can appreciate that and place junior developers like me on their team.
Okay, so it’s been seven weeks- how are you enjoying the DevPoint Labs bootcamp?
I like it a lot. I am very happy that I decided to do this. I would highly recommend such a program to my peers. I think these are very valuable skills to have. It's my belief that software will be the common denominator in every company in the next 10 to 15 years, so these tech skills are only going to help.
What sort of advice do you have for someone who is thinking about doing a bootcamp but isn't quite sure yet?
Look to the secondary markets; Course Report is great resource for doing so. I’ve become good friends with a lot of my peers in Venture for America. Many of them went to college on the East Coast, then got a job at a startup in Detroit or in Cleveland and ended up absolutely loving it. And I think if you're interested in doing a bootcamp, take a look at cities like these because they are often going to be a better value for your dollar in terms of enrolling in a program like this. Oftentimes the job market is going to be healthier than you expected in those markets. These bootcamps are set up here for a reason – there are companies looking to hire their graduates. Definitely, take a look in these types of smaller cities. The first one to check out would absolutely have to be DevPoint Labs.
A coding bootcamp can propel your career in tech to new heights, but that often means quitting a job, uprooting your life, or moving to a new city. Maybe you’re moving to a new city to become a developer and need a short-term housing option. Or perhaps you’re an international student without credit history. Regardless of your background, funds can become tight when committing to a full-time, intensive bootcamp, and suddenly expenses like rent and food can be stressful. Luckily, there are coding bootcamps that make housing easy.Continue Reading →
What were you were up to before you went to DevPoint Labs?
I worked at Costco for 12 years and actually I didn’t have a college degree. I lived in three different states with Costco and worked at 5 different locations. Mostly I worked in retail and I was a supervisor for a couple of years. I had taught myself HTML and CSS when I worked as a web content specialist for Costco in Seattle, but that was about it. I also did an HTML and CSS class in high school.
What was your motivation to go to DevPoint Labs?
I had been looking for a career change because I was burnt out in retail. Twelve years ago, I had started a degree for web design but I wasn’t inspired by it and dropped out after a few weeks. The reason I got back into computer programming was I felt like it was the only thing that I’ve ever had a niche skill for.
Did you apply to any other coding bootcamps or just DevPoint Labs once you started the application process?
I applied for Bloc then I ended up pulling that application once I found out about DevPoint Labs
How did you make the decision between Bloc (online) and DevPoint Labs (in-person)?
The biggest factor was that DevPoint Labs is in Salt Lake City where I live. With mentors and teachers and homework assignments, I thought I’d be more motivated to get it done than I would an online bootcamp.
From what I can tell, the online coding bootcamps are pretty good about setting up mentoring and assignments, but it just seemed like being in a classroom would make it more important for me to get things done.
Because this was a part-time course, could you keep your job at Costco while you were at DevPoint?
Yeah; it was still a super busy schedule but I was able to pull it off.
How many people were in your class? Was your cohort a good mix of backgrounds and students?
There were eight or nine students in my class. It was a good mix, and I felt like I was right in the middle technically. There were some concepts that I could understand better than others; some of my classmates were also doing college on the side for C programming so they were way on top of their game.
What was the learning experience at DevPoint Labs like?
We were in the classroom on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for three hours a night. Outside of class, there was always homework! We could get on Slack and talk to mentors or other students outside of the classroom. I would say I spent about 18 hours a week on the course. I threw in some extra time because I know that I learn slower than others.
It’s really cool that you’re aware of your own learning style. Did you feel like you had enough support throughout the class?
There was plenty of help. In addition to the instructors, all of the alumni stay on Slack so it seems like they just accumulate more and more mentors each year. Now that I’ve graduated, I go on Slack too and do some mentoring.
Who was your instructor throughout the course?
Dan Treasure was our instructor.
Yes. We had two hackathons throughout the course, and we did a project for each of those. Then at the end, we had to present a capstone project.
Can you tell us about your capstone project?
My project was called Upper Earth (login:demo, PW:demo), which helps users get to the highest peak in each state. Mountaineers call it “high pointing.” I pulled in weather data for each location, added a journal feature, and users can add each summit to their profile as completed. On a profile, a user can see their summits and total feet climbed.
Are you a climber?
I am! I knew I wanted to make something outdoorsy for my final project.
What are you up to after graduating? What’s your current job?
I graduated at the end of October of 2015. I have a job in Ogden, UT at Akirix, an escrow service; so we are writing software for people who contributing funds to a shared project.
What’s your role at Akirix?
That’s awesome! How did you get the job?
Every time I finished a project, for example a dice rolling game, I’d actually walk through my code in a video on YouTube.
I found the job at Akirix on Indeed; I applied, then they gave me homework.
Was it a concern to your employer when you applied that you didn’t have a CS degree?
Our head developer and CTO seems to like hiring people who are less experienced, because they have the opportunity to shape them as developers. There are a few other DevPoint Labs grads working at Akirix, and when I applied, they actually responded very quickly with the pre-interview questions because they already knew DevPoint’s reputation.
Depending on where you apply, some hiring managers will expect a degree and others will not. At a smaller company, they’re not a worried about a degree as much as they are about culture fit. But I think if you’re applying for a company that has 500 employees or more, they’re probably going to look for different criteria.
How large is the dev team at your company?
We have seven developers of which one is senior. We have one senior developer right now, six junior developers, and three or four designers.
How has the ramp up been at your first developer job?
I am a very junior developer! There is one senior developer on our team and when we’ve got a question, we just go right to him. We try to work with each other as juniors to figure things out.
We have two main applications and we’re adding a third. Our third application is going to be in Ember 2, which is pretty different from Ember 1, so you always have to be learning. Ember is a beast and Node was probably the hardest for me to understand when I first started.
I used a mix of methods when learning those new languages. For Node, I took a Udemy course but it didn’t really address the same libraries that we use at Akirix. I know a lot of developers use Express for their framework with Node. We use Restify, which is much smaller. A lot of people use Mongo and we use MySQL.
It was really hard to find anything online for learning Restify, so I learned by talking to my boss a lot and asking him about how things were done. I also started working on my own projects as a testing ground for trying new technologies. I ended up learning a lot from doing my own projects and asking coworkers.
Also, I used the Ember Community Slack and talked with people from DevPoint which was helpful.
What was your biggest challenge over the last six months?
Missing out on social life! I went to school for three months, then spent three months between graduating and getting my job at Akirix in the beginning of February. I knew that if I wanted to make the career change, I couldn’t really sit idle, I had to keep making progress.
After I graduated, I was constantly working on projects and learning, so I had to pass on a lot of social invites. The hardest part was staying committed and spending a lot of time in code, which even though I enjoy, meant I had to take a social break.
Have you stayed involved in DevPoint Labs at all? You mentioned staying on Slack and becoming a mentor there.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking of making a career change into the tech world? What advice would you have for people who were in your shoes?
I actually just spoke about this at a meetup. I don’t mind being an example of the person who didn’t have a degree and didn’t have the technical background before a coding bootcamp.
My advice is to be persistent and to be constantly coding. If you want to become a developer without a degree (or with one), you will have to spend most of your free time programming. The course gave me the tools I needed. However, had I just done the part-time course and not pursued anything further, if I hadn’t continued to educate myself, I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.
Jake, tell us about your education and career background.
Jake: I went to a private university in Salt Lake City called Neumont University where I got my Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science. My class started with 20 students and graduated with six, so it’s a very intense course. It’s 18 to 24 credit hours for two and a half years. We learned Java and C#, and .NET.
My first job was at a company called Master Control. I soon realized they were using outdated technologies like Adobe ColdFusion. If I had been there longer, then applied anywhere else, recruiters would’ve laughed at me. I left after six months.
My second job was as a QA automation engineer at Instructure, where I had to learn to code in Ruby on Rails. I worked there for four years, and eventually became a professional services full stack software engineer working primarily in the Ruby on Rails framework. That’s where I met Dave.
Dave, what’s your background?
Dave: I got my associates from Salt Lake Community College, then I did a CS program at the University of Utah. While I was working at Instructure, Jake and I started a software business on the side building web applications, and we were hired by a company called VaultRMS in San Diego. I’m the CTO of VaultRMS Exposure Tracker, our application. It’s enterprise-level software that tracks firefighters’ work history, their toxic exposure etc. So we both work on Exposure Tracker as well as teach at DevPoint Labs.
You both got traditional CS degrees and you both learned through apprenticeships and self-teaching. How did you become aware of the bootcamp model or of DevPoint?
Jake: I was working at Exposure Tracker, at Instructure, and at our freelance web development firm that Dave and I cofounded. Nhi Doan (DevPoint Labs co-founder) hit me up on LinkedIn and even though I was busy with three jobs, I had lunch with them, and they made me a great offer. It seemed like a good time to switch careers- I had been in a tech job for almost four years and they say you should switch jobs at least every five years in tech to keep yourself fresh. So I considered the opportunity for a while, then decided to join DevPoint Labs.
Opening a coding bootcamp in an accelerator space seems like a great way to bring people from different parts of the tech community together.
Jake: Exactly. We’ve actually hired eight people from bootcamps into intern positions at Exposure Tracker and all of them have gone on to bigger and better things. Within two or three months, they have incredible job offers and we can’t retain them because we’re a tiny startup so it works out great. And it’s not just DevPoint Labs, we’ve also hired from other bootcamps in San Diego.
Did you have to be convinced of the effectiveness of the coding bootcamp model?
Jake, what was the process like building a curriculum at DevPoint Labs in a bootcamp setting?
Do you co-teach these courses? How do you collaborate as instructors?
Dave: Before I came along, Jake was the only teacher. I haven’t taught a cohort by myself, it’s all been co-teaching. Students from previous cohorts say they really like the approach of having two different instructors and the different methodologies we bring to the table. We bring different mindsets, different experiences within the web, and within software engineering itself. I always tell students there’s a million ways to get to the same solution – that there’s no single specific path to take in software – which can be hard to grasp with just one instructor. With two instructors, students can see two different methods which get the same solution.
Do you have TAs in the class also?
Jake: Yes. They are DevPoint Labs graduates. They have the experience, they know what the students are going through, and they know the instructor. It makes a much better working environment for everybody. Then they rotate out as they find jobs as full-time developers.
What do you think about being educators? Have you found a teaching style that you like?
Jake: I love it, I love teaching. It actually makes me a better developer. It makes my daily job at Exposure Tracker much easier and keeps me honest about my code, too.
Dave: If you’re going to teach something you need to be practicing it. If you’re telling students that these are best practices then you better be doing these best practices in your applications because you’re probably going to hire a lot of interns that are going to work on it. It just keeps you honest and sharp about your skills.
Do you think it’s important to keep your own projects?
Dave: Oh, definitely.
Jake: We talk about that all the time at DevPoint Labs because the biggest pain point right now with bootcamps is instructor turnover. As a bootcamp, you have to find the right balance between instruction and development. You want senior developers as instructors but you will burn out as a senior developer just teaching the basic concepts over and over again.
A bootcamp needs to have a freelance division where the senior developers can express their skill sets, or time allowed for senior developers to do side projects. Otherwise the developer will want to move on to other projects or enterprise companies. So at DevPoint Labs teachers get one week off between each cohort.
Jake: We give the best instruction we can but there are other outside factors with students that determine where they sit on the course. Our main goal is to have them hired as junior developers.
But Dave and I both started in QA automation engineering and I always tell the students not to limit themselves to junior development positions. Get your foot in the door at a top company, then work your way up to that junior developer position.
How do you assess students’ progress through the course?
Jake: We give quizzes all the time and take attendance. It’s not like we have a graded course or tests you have to pass to stay in the course, but we do like to gauge where our students are and if they’re attending classes or not. So we have tools within the system to gauge how many classes they missed or how many quizzes they’ve taken, and we provide feedback for them. We go through students’ Github accounts and if we see issues creeping up, we’re able to catch them pretty fast with those tools.
Dave: We also meet on a weekly basis to talk about how we can better identify students who need extra help earlier on in the course. We’re really lenient about giving students second chances. If they come in and they’ve had life problems or anything, we’re not going to say, “Thanks for the money, see you later, sorry it didn’t work out.” We’ve had multiple instances of students coming back the next cohort and finishing out.
Do you all get to be involved with the admissions process?
Dave: Ty and Nhi often bring me and Jake in to meet with candidates if we’re not sure we can provide benefit to them. For instance, one of our students coming in next cohort has the number one rated YouTube channel on Ruby, so they brought us in to see if he would gain anything from this course. We don’t want to just take people’s money and run. We want students to come out singing our praises.
Jake: We also do the women’s scholarship for the full stack Rails course, and that’s only one scholarship per cohort. They like to get the whole administrative team in on that process.
Do you have Utah meetups or resources that you recommend in your area for aspiring bootcampers?
What advice do you have as employers for other employers thinking about hiring from a bootcamp?
Jake: For us, it’s easy because we’re able to get to know the students. A lot of our students go to these meetups. So really the most important thing is getting to know who your potential people are so that you can pick the cream of the crop. A good way to do that is to send a guest lecturer, bootcamps love that. A guest lecturer who can stay afterwards and talk to the students and get to know them.
Dave: My advice too for them would be to have a more open mind. I’ve seen a lot of our graduates get rejected right off the bat from the HR people. They automatically see “bootcamp” and say, “Sorry, you don’t have enough experience for our company.” They don’t even get into talking about their skills. I think recruiters and HR professionals need to have an open mind and look at the technology stack we’re teaching and see if it’s a good fit. For some enterprise companies, I feel like there’s still a stigma surrounding bootcamps. That needs to go away for these students to get a fair shot.
How much do coding bootcamps cost? From students looking for free coding bootcamps to those wondering if an $18,000 bootcamp is worth it, we understand that cost is important to future bootcampers! While the average full-time programming bootcamp in the US costs $11,451, bootcamp tuition can range from $9,000 to $21,000, and some coding bootcamps have deferred tuition. So how do you decide what to budget for? Here, we break down the costs of coding bootcamps from around the USA.
When coding bootcamps started gaining popularity, we wondered if tension would arise between traditional universities and these alternative education providers. On the contrary, a trend arose and universities have now been partnering with coding bootcamps for a few years now. When the Department of Education announced the EQUIP Initiative in October 2015, these collaborations were formalized by the US government; but EQUIP is just one example amongst the myriad of strategic and independent partnerships between universities and coding bootcamps.
Updated April 27, 2017Continue Reading →
Check out Course Report's Q&A with DevPoint Labs Full-Stack Web Development students Rosie, Hector & Megan. Learn why they chose DevPoint, diversity in their cohort (their class is 50% women!) and get a demo of their Hackathon-winning project Sixxer!
In this video, you'll learn:
- How Rosie, Hector & Megan made their bootcamp decision- which schools they researched & applied to and why they decided on DevPoint.
- The scholarships they got to make their tuition more manageable.
- Rosie & Megan's experience as women in a bootcamp and what DevPoint Labs is doing to encourage women to succeed (their current class is 50% women!)
- Plus, see the web app that Rosie, Hector & Megan made after just 4 weeks of bootcamp- it won their class's hackathon!
The full transcript is below!
DevPoint Labs is one of the first coding bootcamps in Salt Lake City. They teach a full time immersive web development bootcamp and they also teach some part-time bootcamps in front end development and UX/UI. In this Live Q&A, we are joined by 3 students who are in the current web development full stack bootcamp, Rosie, Hector, and Megan. Thank you for joining us. We’re going to talk about why they chose DevPoint Labs, their experience in the class, and some of the unique things that DevPoint Labs offers like housing and scholarships. They also won the first DevPoint Labs Hackathon four weeks into the program and they’re going to show us what they actually created. They’re about five weeks in and so we’ll focus on their experience so far and hopefully we’ll get to catch up with them in a few months to see where they are.
Don’t Forget: Course Report has an exclusive $500 scholarship to DevPoint Labs that’s available for the Course Report Community!
Let’s get started. First, Rosie, Hector, and Megan, why don’t you introduce yourselves, and tell us what you were up to before you started at DevPoint Labs.
Rosie: I’m Rosie. Before DevPoint, I was just working a nothing job. I had just graduated from college. I studied math and chemistry. Studying math in college is what initially got me interested in computer science because I shared a lot of classes with computer science majors and got a little jealous of how cool all the things they were doing were.
Did you take a computer science class in your undergrad?
Rosie: I didn’t. I didn’t really become interested in it until it was too late to take extra classes or switch my major. I decided to just finish and move onto the next thing. I had been doing some Codecademy classes. I applied to a bootcamp in San Francisco called Hackbright. I went through their application process, which was a great learning experience. I had an interview with them where I learned some new code that I didn’t know before. Even though I didn’t get in, I think it was a great experience and it really helped me get motivated to keep going. That’s when I found out about bootcamps in Utah.
Hector, how about you? What were you up to before DevPoint Labs?
Hector: I was a college dropout. I just wanted to have fun and live the dream. I was traveling and hanging out with my wife. I was doing marketing for restaurants. One day, I decided I wanted to do something that I could take with me wherever I go, a skill. It started with how to build a website and then briefly Google searching how to build a web app. Through that I tried it and did some online tutorials, but I had so many questions and I wanted to be in a structured setting where I could ask questions to a live person. I researched some in Salt Lake and found DevPoint. I went through the interview process and here I am.
Megan, how about you?
Megan: My name’s Megan. I’m born and raised in Salt Lake. I ended up getting a political science degree from Gonzaga University, so no experience with computers, really. It really didn’t happen until after I graduated. I think it was about six months graduated, working retail. I had just recently moved back to Salt Lake. One of my friends had done a continuing education program at the University of Utah for web design, so I thought that looked cool. I did that and got a certificate. It was really a great learning experience and it broke me into the basics of HTML and CSS, so I had that background. Right as that was ending, Wordpress started to become a big tool for people putting up websites, and so I got really into that. I ended up getting an internship with the Salt Lake City Council to convert their website. I didn’t do it personally, but I was on the team that converted the website into Wordpress. Once I was finished up with that, I was working for a tech company that specializes in web hosting. I was tech support. It was really kind of a rough decision to do DevPoint. Three weeks before the cohort, I was interviewed and I decided to do it, but I just wanted to get a better job. That was the main reasoning behind deciding to do it.
Were you all three in Salt Lake City before you started DevPoint, or did any of you move for the program?
Rosie: I moved to Salt Lake just from Logan, Utah, which is an hour and a half north, where I went to college.
Hector: I’m from Salt Lake City. I grew up here. It’s my home.
Megan: Me as well.
It sounds like from talking with people at DevPoint that it’s pretty geared towards beginners. Megan you had maybe a tiny bit more professional experience. Would you consider yourselves all beginners when you started?
Megan: I think so, even being introduced to it through Treehouse. There was prep work that we were expected to do before, just building a basic web page. The learning is really fast-paced, so if you’re not into that it may not be the best experience. I would say that most of us were at the beginning level. Some people didn’t know anything.
Rosie: The attitude they have is really great. They know we’re beginners. They are only here to help us, whatever we need and whatever questions we have. They know how hard it is for beginners.
Hector: For me, the difference between a web page and a web application, about two months ago I researched it and dove right in. There’s so much more that goes into clicking this button.
What was your goal in doing a bootcamp, and did you decide that before you applied?
Rosie: Similar to Megan, I wanted a better job. I wanted to work at a place that really meant something to me and that I enjoyed doing. You always hear about how people who program love their job and they love to do it. That’s what I want. Also, I wanted to break into an industry that is progressive. It’s obvious at this point that programming isn’t going to go away and there’s always something new to learn and so I was really interested in being an industry like that.
Do any of you want to start your own company or build your own product?
Megan: I’ve always thought about it. I think my next step will be getting into the workplace and doing that for a couple of years. That’s always been in the back of my mind to be my own boss. That thought is so attractive to me. I don’t know if I feel I’m ready for that now. Another thing that I like about doing the bootcamp is that you can do a lot of online things and self-paced stuff, but actually being here, we’re making our portfolio right now. We’re going to have so much to show for, which gives you so much confidence when you’re going out for interviews so that you have stuff to show. I couldn’t have done that on myself, or it would have taken me a lot longer.
Rosie said that she applied to Hackbright before applying to DevPoint, did anyone else do research on other bootcamps or apply to other bootcamps?
Hector: I researched some other ones in Salt Lake.
Why did you decide on DevPoint?
Hector: I came here for an info session and toured the buildings. It’s an awesome building, an old church that’s been repurposed for startups and technology. It’s an awesome space. The main chapel is called the Sanctuary and it’s a pretty open space for any member of Church & State to work at or if you’re a student it’s also included. I was impressed by the whole atmosphere and the way that everybody was not only eager to teach and share, but that it was intense and they were into it.
Megan: A couple of months before I decided to do DevPoint, I was looking around, and I did find one, I’m not sure they still exist, it’s Isomer.io.
Isomer actually doesn't operate as a bootcamp anymore.
Megan: Yeah. I looked at that and thought it was a cool idea, but since it wasn’t running anymore I put it on the backburner. Then I started looking again and there’s also DevMountain, which I did look at a little bit, but I didn’t choose that because of location. They’re mainly based out of Provo. I didn’t want to commute down there. They do offer a class in Salt Lake, but it’s part-time and I wanted to do this for the whole summer. They also don’t teach Ruby, I think they just teach Node.js. I wasn’t sure I would fit in there.
Did any of you apply for or get a scholarship while you were going through the application process?
Megan: I did apply to the Women’s Scholarship, and like I said I had done this three weeks before the cohort was beginning so when I talked to Ty for the interview, he told me I was a bit late on that. It was really easy, just a couple more questions about why you want to code and being a woman and that sort of thing. I think when I met with him, he did say that they do give a mini scholarship for any woman like $500 off or something like that and we just have to go teach at a school.
Rosie: That’s just for any woman in the class, automatically.
Have you started going to meetups and networking events like that in Salt Lake?
Rosie: A little bit.
Megan: We’re going to one tonight. Definitely, the Hackathon was a great experience. That’s a really huge thing if you have time in the evening, just go to these meetups because there’s so many and it’s a great way to meet people.
Hector: I have been to them and they’re actually super fun. There’s a lot less coding than you would think, but just being around like-minded individuals is always a good thing. I enjoyed it. It’s fun to see all the other developers. The way you’re taught and the way you learn is so different from every other person that it can give you new perspective on how code should be written or what steps you would take or not take, outside of our classroom.
Can you just tell us on a really broad level, have you felt like there’s been a barrier to entry at all? What’s been your experience as a woman in a bootcamp? Has DevPoint Labs been supportive of that? Do you find a lot of diversity in your cohort right now?
Rosie: I think Ty told me that the last cohort had maybe two women in it, but ours is half girls, which is awesome.
How many people are in your class?
Rosie: 16. 8 girls. 8 guys. I think the industry is really becoming aware of this trend to get more women to code. It’s a great idea and it’s definitely needed and everybody’s becoming aware of it. You can’t really ignore it because it’s being demanded. I think that the industry is very supportive of us and DevPoint Labs is very supportive of us. They don’t treat us differently than the guys or anything like that. It’s been great.
Megan: I was going to add, it was a little bit intimidating on the first day. I have two younger brothers, so I’ve been around guys my whole life, but having something to talk about was what was going through my head. That’s just all put to the side. It’s really about getting there. That first meeting can be kind of uncomfortable when you’re meeting your other classmates, but just getting past that, I think it’s fine. They’ve been more than helpful. The interesting thing to me is that we’ve had a couple of girl TAs, but we haven’t had a woman come in that’s spoken to us about her developer job. That’s something where I would want to come back once I have a job. That’s a bit lacking, but I think it’s going to be changing very quickly.
Hector: From my research online, it seems going from zero knowledge of coding to trying to be a developer, it seemed that Rails was the best way to go. Even before I knew about DevPoint, I knew that I wanted to learn Rails and Ruby. Then once I did find DevPoint and that they taught Ruby and Rails, it was just a no brainer from there.
You all are in week 5 right now. What have you learned so far?
Hector: The instructors have a unique saying about the course. They say they throw you in the coding pool and let you struggle with it, but they’re not going to let anybody drown. You have to want to learn or else it’s going to be super hard, but they’re right there to throw you a noodle or a floaty to keep you going.
Tell us about your hackathon project. You won the Hackathon, so that’s pretty cool.
Megan: Sixxer is our app name.
Hector: We wanted to build something complete for our hackathon. We had eight hours, which just flies by when you’re coding. It’s amazing. We wanted a good reference and we found some sites online that we liked. It’s a Fiverr clone, but we called it Sixxer. I think I was the only one who had heard of Fiverr. Fiverr is an app where you do a service for five dollars from anywhere in the world.
What does Sixxer do? What’s the functionality?
Rosie: It’s basically the same thing. You can create an account and post services that you want to provide and then other users can view those services and buy the service from you for six dollars.
How far through DevPoint were you when you did the hackathon?
Rosie: Four weeks. We had just finished Rails.
You had 8 hours to do it. Why did you decide to work together? Did you get to choose your group?
Rosie: We got put into groups. I think we got really lucky. We all get along really well and we’re all pretty competent. I was really happy with the people I ended up with and obviously it turned out well. It was just luck, really.
What technologies did you use to build Sixxer?
Hector: We used Rails and then a few gems. We used a Divise gem for log-in and authentication and the Paperclip gem for photos and just a lot of Bootstrap. The girls killed it on their styling.
How did you figure out which gems to use?
Rosie: Bootstrap we had been taught in class, but the other ones like Divise, they were just mentioned in class. Hector really took the reins on that and went out to the internet and learned how to do it. If you know basically what a gem is and how to look them up, which we do now, then you can figure out how to use almost any gem.
Megan: We had just been taught the week before how to hard code in authentication. They taught us the hard way first and then set us free. I know the previous cohorts didn’t actually get that. They were just taught how to use the Divise gem. It was cool that we had that foundation. It came easier.
Hector: We understood what was happening. It was done for us using the gem, but we understood it and we could customize it and manipulate it since we knew how it worked.
This looks like it has a lot of functionality for a project done in eight hours after four weeks of a bootcamp.
Hector: The cool thing is that you’re able to see all of the services available on Sixxer.com. For instance, this gentleman will draw you a cute digital photo. It explains a little detail in the description here. The user that posted it and of course the six dollars.
Is the app functional right now?
Hector: We didn’t set up the striped gem.
Rosie: It’s still in test mode.
Hector: If we set up a bank account and an email address, I’m sure we could receive payment in some way, but we didn’t go that far. The cool part is you can see all these services or you can create a service through this drop down screen. You can start with your picture here. It’s created now, so you’ll notice at the bottom it just scrolls in and you’re able to edit and delete your service. You see how all the rest of the services don’t have those buttons.
Can you tell us about an issue or a problem either working together or maybe a technology issue and how you overcame it?
Rosie: We had relatively few issues, which was just luck. We were able to stay level-headed throughout the whole thing. We were using GitHub in a way that we were all comfortable with. But I remember at one point, it was towards the end of the day, we were rushing to get it done and have it look nice, and also have the pictures display correctly. Hector was trying to figure out how to use Paperclip, which is the gem for pictures. We were trying to get the images to display all the same size or something like that. We just couldn’t get it to work and we’re standing up and freaking out, but not too much, just a little bit. Hector was able to figure it out and it worked. It helps in those situations to focus on what you’re doing and it’s okay to freak it out a little bit, but then get back to what you need to do. If you don’t freak out it might build up.
Hector: We did a lot of time management too. In one hour, we’re going to get to a point where you can share with the rest of us, that sort of thing. We had many timeframes within the eight hours. At 3:30 we’re going to merge and it’s going to be a complete project and then we’re going to test and tweak everything. There’s obviously going to be issues at that point. Starting from the very beginning we focused on the time management thing and gave ourselves mini-deadlines.
Do you learn Agile methodology or any approaches to teamwork and collaboration at DevPoint as part of the curriculum?
Megan: Not specifically Agile, but there’s actually going to be a talk tonight and we’re going to have a speaker who’s going to talk about Agile. I dealt with Agile a little bit when I worked for the Salt Lake Council, but mainly here we just learn peer programming, how to communicate with each other. We’ve actually been starting to designate a team leader for other projects.
Hector: Pseudo-code, putting it in English on paper is super important also.
Rosie: Also, one other idea about programming and getting stuff out there and getting it to work, especially in a group, is to make it work first and then deal with refactoring or making it pretty or making it better. That’s really helped me. If it can just work first and I can get something out there that I can look at and use then I can make it better.
Are there other things that you have suggested should be changed about the curriculum or how things are taught at DevPoint? What has been the feedback loop?
Megan: I don’t really know. Every new cohort is a new experience. I don’t know exactly what number cohort we are, but I know our curriculum has definitely changed and expanded a lot since the very first one. I was really surprised and thankful because we’ll have TAs who didn’t learn authentication the hard way and we can actually teach them, which helps everyone learn better. I thought that was really great, and I think they’ll keep expanding on that. I think we’re a week ahead in our current cohort. They’ve just left it open to the class if there’s anything we want to learn like CoffeeScripts or a certain gem. No complaints I can think of.
Rosie: Not too many other than we need more help, which is normal I think. They did put out a survey to us last week right at the middle of the cohort that was just to get our feedback on the course and what we would suggest. They do listen to the students and they do try and implement the suggestions that we have. We just talked about the survey yesterday as a whole group.
Was DevPoint Labs worth the money? Would you recommend it to a friend in your position?
Rosie: I definitely would. It’s a lot of money when you look at just the number, but when you look at what you’re getting in return, it’s definitely worth it. DevPoint Labs itself is cheaper than a lot of other bootcamps that I know of. You’re learning a skillset that would take much longer to learn on your own and you might not be able to do it. You’re really paying for the people to help you and the resources they give you. Everything they provide, I don’t know how I’d accomplish the same things on my own.
Hector: Yeah, I would definitely recommend it. The price point is going to take an investment, not just money, but time. It’s full time. You definitely have homework. If you don’t understand something, you have to look it up. They say you have to bang your head and just push through that last little bit. The price point makes it so that you’re more invested and you want to learn that much more. I think it’s perfect. It was exactly what I needed.
Megan: I agree with all of what they said. I think just the timeframe, for what you’re paying, you get so much. You might even get more than you’re actually paying for. You just need to be ready for it and get in that mindset and go. If you’re not ready to keep up, you could fizzle out easily.
Thank you so much. I can’t wait to check in a few weeks or a couple of months and see what you’re up to and the awesome new jobs that you’ll have. I want to thank Hector and Megan and Rosie for joining us today and talking about your experience at DevPoint.
Welcome to the January 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 →
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 →
Lisa Bunch saw serious value in the hard skills her college friends were graduating with, so she attended DevPoint Labs in Salt Lake City to learn a new technical skillset. We talk with Lisa about the teaching style at DevPoint Labs, her new job as a front-end developer, and how DevPoint provides support to students in their community long after graduation.
What were you up to before you started at DevPoint Labs?
I graduated from college with a degree in Agricultural Business Management in 2012 and then I was an au pair for a year in Germany. After that I came home and began looking into bootcamps like DevPoint. I was mainly searching to find a way to get into something I’d find personally rewarding. I was home about six months before I got into DevPoint.
Did you take a Computer Science class or any technical courses in your undergrad?
Not too much. Most of the technical work I did was in Excel. But I had a lot of CS friends and engineering friends and I looked up to them. I felt like that the skills I learned were mostly soft skills…I wasn’t really proud of it.
How did you find out about bootcamps and decide it was the type of education you needed?
I just came across it Googling. But I had thought of possibly going back to school or getting an associates degree in Computer Science. When I stumbled across these bootcamps, I thought it would be a quick way to start down another path. I didn’t want another bachelors- I didn’t have the time or money to spare. I just wanted a fast way to learn a different skill.
Why did you choose DevPoint in particular? Did you look at other bootcamps?
Actually, at first I was looking for longer programs. I applied to two 6-month schools: gSchool and Nashville Software School.
The location (Salt Lake City, UT) and vibe of DevPoint appealed to me. I’m from Virginia and was living there at the time. I ruled out several from the feel I got from their website or simply being located in a city or state I didn’t care to go to.
What was the application like for you with DevPoint?
On the application they have basic questions, then they contacted me for a Skype interview. There weren’t any particularly technical questions. They ask about your background, expectations, and what you know in the field already. Then they let me know I was accepted about a week after that.
Had you done Code Academy or another sort of self-guided learning before you applied?
Yeah; before that I was working on Treehouse. I had basically just gotten through HTML and CSS lessons of the Web Development track.
The DevPoint Labs program is advertised for beginners who have little experience but I think they want you to have looked into programming on your own some. They want to see that you’re serious about it and determined. I think that’s important.
So once you started, how many people were in your cohort?
12, but they’re averaging a few more than that now.
Did you find that it was diverse cohort in terms of age, gender and race?
I believe so. There were three more middle-aged people but most people were in their mid to late twenties. I was one of the youngest and I was 24 then. One guy was 21 I think, he was the youngest by several years. There were three females.
Did you feel like everyone was on a similar technical level when they started?
The majority of us were pretty much complete beginners but there were a few who had more experience coming in, so they were ahead. There’s always a few people ahead of the curve in any class though.
Who were the instructors?
Jeremy Woertink was the instructor, and Jason Carter was the TA. The class was structured around a morning lecture. He would walk us through what we were learning as we shadowed him and then the afternoon was our project time. We’d basically review what we learned and the instructors would hang around to help us as needed.
Did you feel like your learning style meshed with his teaching style?
For the most part. I understand why it makes sense to have a morning lecture and afternoon project, but sometimes for retention sake, it would have been nice to have more frequent lectures and project times.
How many hours per week were you spending on the program?
Fulltime, 9am to 5pm.
Did you do a final project?
We had one major capstone project and spent the last month or so on it. We worked in teams, but I only had one partner. My cohort picked our own teams, but I think they might be assigning teams now to keep them more even.
For our project, we made an environmental tracker that’s like a task list to reduce environmental impact. You can view it at http://www.eco-mojo.net/. Users create an account, with the option of using Facebook instead, that creates your dashboard where you have your tasks and can assign how many you want to do in a week, and then you can track the goal. You have a nice visual that shows your goal vs. actual in a progress wheel. The badges’ point values were set really low so it is easier to demo.
Did DevPoint do a lot of job prep with your class? Did you do interview practice and things like that?
Yeah, we did. We had two or three mock interviews and we went over resumes. We didn’t have an official job placement day per se, but the day we presented our projects, DevPoint invited potential employers – although they can’t control who shows up so it might be hit or miss. Still, they did try.
Once you’re a DevPoint student they’re not going to abandon you. You can always go to them for more help – and they’re trying to grow a dev shop for students to get more experience. If you need time, you’re welcome to sit in on any future lessons in another cohort you think might help you. A handful of students have really taken to mentoring future cohorts, which keeps them in the learning environment as well.
What are you up to now, Lisa?
I found a job at a marketing firm about 30 minutes north of Salt Lake. I am more of a front end developer now and my days vary a lot but I mostly work in Rails and Wordpress sites. I’m very happy with my new career path but I’m nowhere near done learning! (Not that I’ll ever be, but you know what I mean.)
How did you find that job?
Indeed.com. I was one of the first to find a job and I believe it took me 3 weeks.
Did you learn everything you needed in order to succeed in that interview?
Yes; I do think our mock interviews helped. The first one was really awkward but by the second or third one it was a lot better. So I think that did help me for real interviews because it got rid of the initial jitters.
Would you recommend Dev Point to a friend who was looking for a boot camp?
I would and actually I did. My friend back home is going to come out and start the February cohort.
I really liked Dev Point because the guys running it are great people. They’re really interested in growing a community. It’s not just like you’re in and out; they really want you to stay around and be part of everything.
In today's spotlight, we talk to Ryan Holdaway of Mastery Connect, an education company that has hired several DevPoint Labs graduates. Learn about their relationship with DevPoint Labs, what Mastery Connect looks for in new hires, and how they mentor DevPoint grads to continue growing as developers.
Tell us about Mastery Connect and your role there.
Mastery Connect is an ed-tech startup that creates assessment delivery and mastery tracking tools for K-12 teachers to use in the classroom. We have a ‘freemium’ model so any teacher in the United States can sign up and start tracking Mastery standards in their classroom.
I’m a member of the development team. I also help out with the hiring process.
How large is your team?
Our company is around 85 people and our dev team is right around 20. We’ve grown quite a bit over the last year. A year ago we had 25 employees and 2014 was a really big year for us.
Tell us about your relationship with DevPoint Labs and how you got connected with them.
We hired our first DevPoint graduate about one year ago. DevPoint reached out to the CEO of our company and we felt like it was a pretty close-knit tech community.
We were interested in what they were doing, so we sent a couple of our developers to their graduation ceremony to see the projects their students had been working on. We ended up hiring one of them. He worked out really well so we went back to the next one and hired three more grads, and hired a couple more from the next cohort.
I think so far we’ve hire about seven DevPoint grads.
That’s amazing! What roles are you hiring them for?
Several of them have been hired into junior developer roles. A couple have been hired into QA roles and one of them was hired to do analytics development, which is kind of its own role. We hire into certain roles based on the needs of the company at the time, the needs of our team and the skills of the individual and their interest.
Other than DevPoint Labs, how do you usually hire developers?
Employee referral is our best source, we like to hire people who our engineers have worked with in the past. We also have a few recruiting agencies that we’ve engaged– and that can be hit or miss.
We wouldn’t really use a recruiter to hire for a junior developer position. We’ve had better luck just going to the bootcamp ourselves and picking the cream of the crop and not having to pay a recruiter much money.
Have you worked with any other bootcamps in addition to DevPoint Labs?
DevPoint is the only bootcamp that we’ve even had an application from. DevMountain is down in Utah County which is just a little bit south of us. None of those guys have ever reached out to us. I’ve talked to them before and told them to email me when they were looking for a job but they never did.
What does the relationship look like between Mastery Connect and DevPoint Labs? Do you pay a referral fee when you hire their graduates or are you paying to be a part of their network?
There’s no kickback. Ty and the team at DevPoint, they swing by our office a couple of times and send us an email to remind us about their graduation days. They haven't asked for any kind of kickback or referral fees like that. I think that they’re just really glad that they have placement for their graduates.
We just hire their graduates and help them out when they need mentors.
I’m assuming that all of the people who have come from DevPoint have gone through a technical interview. How did they do?
When we’re interviewing junior developers, we’re looking for certain things. We’re looking for somebody who’s going to fit well with us culturally; that’s the most important thing. We don’t expect them to be genius developers because we understand where they’re coming from. We just want somebody who’s going to be able to jump in and contribute and get their hands dirty and is comfortable not knowing everything and willing to learn.
We do a technical interview to make sure that they’ve learned enough during their program and that they’re able to continue learning.
Has it ever been a concern for you that these new hires don’t have a traditional computer science degree?
I think we only have one engineer at Mastery Connect that actually has a Computer Science degree. We’re more interested in what you can build than what you’ve learned at school. I studied music in college and now I’m a developer!
What are you looking for on those hiring days?
We’ve always had someone involved with mentoring at DevPoint. So when we go down to demo day, we can already identify the three smartest people and we already know the right direction.
From there we take a look at their final project. We’ll pull up their Github account just like we would any other engineer; see the code that they’ve written. Part of our interview process is a take-home coding challenge/test; we give them a project that will take an hour or two just so we can see them write some code.
I don’t think we do anything super unique with the applicants other than get a better idea of what their baseline is.
You’re hiring mostly junior developers- how do you ensure that the new hires are supported as they continue to learn after they graduate from DevPoint? Do you have mentoring programs?
That’s a great question. I think that’s probably the most important aspect for the long-term success of these individuals, is getting into an organization where they have a good mentor who can help them continue to learn. You can’t learn everything you need to know about computer science in 11 weeks. That’s just crazy.
At Mastery Connect, we work in small teams of three. We try to keep those pretty balanced with one strong experienced team lead developer, one strong mid-range candidate and then we can rotate our DevPoint guys as the junior developers. That way they have one strong senior mentor and mid-level person that can help them out.
The rest of the team is all obviously available for mentoring but they do have that one mentor they can turn to for everything.
Since you started hiring from DevPoint, have the new hires moved up or been promoted?
Yeah. The very first DevPoint graduate we hired was put him on a team with our strongest developer and one of our awesome mid-level guys. We’ve now promoted that mid-level guy to be a team lead and that DevPoint Junior to be a Developer, and they’ve got another junior on their team.
Do you have a feedback loop with DevPoint at all? Are you able to influence their curriculum?
I’ve personally gone to DevPoint and given a guest lecture for a couple of their cohorts and we have one other engineer who has taught classes on a couple of different topics. Those are topics that we think are cool tools that they may not have experienced with their instructors.
DevPoint asks us for feedback about things in the curriculum that they may have been lacking that we would like to see more of and they’ve adapted to that. They’re really cool about trying to make sure that their graduates are as prepared as possible to enter the workforce, so I know that we and some of the other hiring partners have all given them feedback on the curriculum and they’ve taken that to heart.
Will you hire from DevPoint in the future?
Absolutely. We’re at a point right now where we don’t have a lot of room to hire, but our development cycle is cyclical with the school year; so we’re going to be ramping it up again in Spring/Summer and we’re hoping to bring in a couple more people. We would definitely consider DevPoint grads, people we’ve had good success with them in the past.
Is there anything we didn’t touch on that you wanted to add about DevPoint or about hiring from bootcamps in general?
I think DevPoint and other bootcamps are a great way for people to get started in computer science. It’s definitely not right for everybody but for those who are willing to really commit to it, bootcamps could be a good thing.
The biggest thing is setting proper expectations. As a hiring partner, we know that what we’re getting out of the program. We know that grads are still starting out on their path. Any bootcamp who pitches their graduates as excellent, capable awesome senior level developers- that’s obviously not even close to true. But a bootcamp is definitely enough education to get somebody started on a path of lifelong learning.
Just as long as everybody’s managing proper expectations, I think it will continue to be successful.
Dave Nelson attended DevPoint Labs, the 11-week coding and entrepreneur bootcamp in Silicon Slopes, Utah, and now works as a Junior Developer at Crowd Engine. He tells us about his journey to become a developer, the teaching style at DevPoint Labs, and how to avoid burnout in an intensive coding bootcamp!
Tell us what you were doing before you started at DevPoint Labs!
I had finished a couple semesters of college but I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do so I worked at various call center jobs. I worked in customer support with the technical aspects of the site, things like that.
How did you acquaint yourself with coding to begin with?
Why did you choose DevPoint Labs and did you look at any other boot camps when you were doing your research?
There are a couple of bootcamps in Utah and DevPoint Labs seemed the most successful. Plus, they were teaching Ruby and Rails and that’s extremely useful. I only applied to DevPoint.
What was the application process like for you? Was there a technical interview or was it more like a culture interview?
The interview was just for culture-fit. Ty Skyped with me and asked me some questions about why I wanted to do DevPoint. Just very soft questions, no technical interviewing.
He did ask me about my history and asked me what I had done as far as coding but I think I probably would have been accepted without having done Codecademy. We had to do that as a prerequisite, learning HTML and CSS before we started.
Is that in formalized pre-work?
Yes, they give you assignments on Code School; on Code School they do these courses. It. took me 15-20 hours to complete.
What was your cohort like? Did you feel like people were on the same level learning together or did you feel like you were the most advanced?
I only felt more advanced because I had done more before the class. I picked up things easier because I had a bigger foundation to build on. There were a few of us who were at that level. So there was quite a wide range there but it worked out fine.
How large was your cohort?
Did you find diversity in that class in terms of age, race, gender?
Yes, definitely. I think the oldest student in our cohort was 45 and the youngest was probably 21. There were three women and the rest were guys.
Did everyone graduate who started with you or did people drop out?
Only one person dropped out.
How did you actually pay for the course?
DevPoint was $8500. There are definitely financing options. I took out a line of credit through my bank.
Who were the instructors in this course?
The instructor was Jeremy Woertink and Jason Carter was the co-instructor.
Jeremy wanted us to learn how to do things at the basic level and not just use the easy way, so that was the teaching style.
As far as lecture vs. projects, for the first several weeks we’d do a lecture throughout the morning from 9 to 12:30 and then we’d spend the afternoon after lunch practicing what we learned that day. After 7 weeks we actually started our final projects where we got into groups, as we were still using the mornings to learn new concepts.
Were you were working on your project in a group?
There were groups of 2 to 4. Mine was the biggest – we had four people. For our project, we made MobileNoms, a food truck locator. It depends on actual food trucks to sign up for the application. You would jump on your food truck and you could either tap a button and it would locate you just using geo-location or you could type in the address and then anybody nearby could bring it up to see you on the map and navigate to you.
Were you satisfied with the curriculum and the material that you were taught?
I feel like Jeremy at least brushed on everything I needed to know so I knew where to go and where to look for it. I’m very satisfied on that level. He covered a large spectrum and at least touched on everything that you need.
Did you ever experience burnout throughout the course? It’s 11 weeks long; it sounds pretty intensive.
A little bit. I’m not arrogant at all but I probably experienced it less than most just because the experience I’d had before the class really helped. But there was one day when we were doing Code Kata, which is a coding exercise; you get a really hard problem and you solve it. It’s something that’s not ever going to come up in your career as a developer really, it’s just a really complex puzzle, basically, it just makes you a better programmer. So I was doing that and I had a headache. But other than that, I was okay.
Do you have any advice to somebody who’s going to do DevPoint, like how to avoid that inevitable headache?
What are you up to today?
I’m a Junior Ruby Developer at a startup called Crowd Engine. They develop crowd-funding apps like Kickstarter. It’s a very complex app and there’s a lot to cover. I find myself touching a new part of the app every day; it’s a struggle but I’m learning a ton. It’s a Rails app.
Are there people who are more senior on your team? Do you feel like you’ve had support since you started?
Oh, absolutely. There’s two senior developers and the rest of us are junior.
How did you get that job?
I emailed the president, Jim. He liked my enthusiasm in the email so he gave me an interview. First they gave me a little Ruby test to see my knowledge in Ruby and Web development; I did well on that and they brought me in the next day, interviewed me and hired me on the spot after a coding exercise.
Did DevPoint do a hiring day or put an emphasis on job placement?
We had three mock interviews. One was just with Jeremy, the other was with Jeremy and Ty’s wife, who has a lot of experience hiring people. For the last interview, we had a company come in and somebody interview us from there; so there was a lot of that.
There were no promises of job placement but there were people who came to launch day and watched our presentations, companies that have a good relationship with DevPoint so we made connections there and I interviewed with one of those companies.
Is there anything else that you wanted to add about your experience with DevPoint?
Absolutely. When I was month and a half, almost two months in, I knew that I had done the right thing going to DevPoint because they really boosted my ability; they made me a hirable junior developer. I learned a ton there. They were great at emphasizing learning how to be a good web developer and programmer rather than just a Rails developer.
Would you have been able to get to this point without a bootcamp?
Yes but to get to the level I was at when I left DevPoint, with my fulltime job, it would have taken me a couple of years.
DevPoint Labs takes students from zero to Junior Developer in 11 weeks, and instructors like Jeremy Woertink are critical to that promise. We talk to Jeremy about how he learned to code, what DevPoint Labs does to incorporate job readiness into their course, and how he's ensuring that the curriculum stays strong and current.
Tell us what you were doing before you started as an instructor with DevPoint Labs.
I was co-organizer for the Las Vegas Ruby Group. I’ve been running a local Ruby group here in Vegas for about 7 years or so. We grew pretty large and started having meetings every single Wednesday. We alternated between a formal presentation from some of the higher level devs in the group and these classroom sessions. The classroom sessions were roughly 2–3 hours long and I would cover a basic beginner topic. It would help bridge the gap between new people coming into the group and the higher level devs.
Other than that, I was working as a developer. Also, we started a mini-class here in Vegas called Ruby Weekend. That was a weekend crash course if you want to learn development and see if it might be a career for you. You would be learning to build a Rails app from scratch. It gets a lot of people excited and inspires them to actually take the initiative to start learning.
DevPoint Labs was thinking about starting a class in Las Vegas so they sat in on one of my classes and asked to bring me on as their Vegas instructor.
I actually did not realize that there were classes in Vegas!
We did one Full-Stack course from February to May here in Vegas and we decided to hold off before doing more- we’re currently working with Nevada’s Post Secondary Education agency. I went to Salt Lake and taught one of the classes. That way we could restructure our curriculum, solidify it a little bit more. But we do plan on bringing the class back to Vegas as well.
How did you get into Ruby and programming in general?
I was in the Marine Corps; I did 8 years in the Marines and when I was transitioning out from active duty into the reserves, I had a music degree and couldn’t get a job doing that.
I just looked into general tech and I had a buddy who was hiring a programmer and offered to hire me if I wanted to learn. I didn’t know anything about programming so I learned on the job.
Did you have to be convinced at all of the bootcamp model?
I love teaching. I would say it’s probably my favorite thing to do. I was doing the Ruby weekends and the hack night classes for three years before I even heard of Dev Point Labs.
I have a friend who also teaches –Jeff Casimir of Turing School. I liked what he was doing so when DevPoint Labs offered me a position, I was like, yes! It’s exactly what I want to be doing.
What have you learned over the last few cohorts and how have you changed and evaluated the courses?
One of the things that I noticed was when we first started doing the classes was that we were trying to throw too much at the students. Coming from any other field into a programming field is already a pretty ridiculous move because you not only have to learn new material but you have to also change the way you think. We noticed that they’re just not grasping simple concepts because we were giving them advanced concepts as well.
You do accept beginners into the course, right?
Yes, beginners are definitely what we were focused on. There is a range of what students already know. Some of them have been coding for a year and just aren’t grasping it; others have a little bit of dev experience. We do focus more on the super beginners- people that actually have zero knowledge.
Do accepted students do prep work?
We send our prep work out a few weeks before the course starts but it’s not necessarily prep work. We just ask students to get familiar with some terms, run through a couple of exercises; and make sure that this is something that they can handle doing. That way when they come into the class, when we say something like “HTML,” they’re not just completely lost.
How many teachers and students are there in a class? Do you try to keep a certain ratio?
We’ve had as low as 8 students and as high as 18 but generally, we want to try and keep it around the 12-15 range. We max out at 20. For each class we always have 2 instructors with 2 TA’s. We have a primary instructor and a co-instructor as well as a really large team of mentors.
The on-staff mentors will be there for tech support and little questions to keep the classes on track so that they don’t get derailed. We’ll also schedule mentor hours for after class. Class usually ends at around 5pm at night, then from 5-7pm will be mentor hours. Mentors sit one on one with the students to answer questions about the day or their progress.
Does DevPoint Labs ever hire graduates of Dev Point to be mentors or co-instructors?
Yep; we sure do. We currently have two. For almost every cohort, we’ll bring on people who we really think can help to move the students along.
The on-staff mentors just got through doing these lessons, so they can mentor the students who are struggling through it. Usually what happens is those mentors will end up picking up an even better gig as a developer with some large company or whatever, and we totally encourage that.
Tell us about the teaching style for the Full Stack class.
We follow the ‘I do, you do, we do’ pattern. I will talk about a subject and then I will show an example of that topic and then I will have the students do a mini test on that topic, then they will go create it. The other instructors and mentors walk around and check on them. When everyone’s done, we do it all together to reiterate what it was we just did.
We usually split the day up into two separate parts where one part is a very structured lecture time and the other part is a very hands-on lab project time.
Cool. So they’re working on assigned projects?
Over the course, the students will create several different projects and 100 mini example projects. By the end, they will have created basically one large application which will be their final capstone project. That way when they graduate, they have something to put on their portfolios; the live application with the domain hosted.
Do they work on that capstone project as a team or do they do that on their own?
They do it in small teams. When you work for a company, you’re going to be part of a team. So one of the big things we focus on is that everyone knows how to properly work on a team. We keep the teams small, though. That way each one of the students has a chance to cover a large portion of the application.
In addition to the student collaboration and teamwork which is huge for being ready for a job, how else do you incorporate that job readiness in the curriculum?
We actually do several mock interviews throughout the whole course. Each one of the interviews is designed to basically teach and test the students on different interview practices. We will do question-based interviews, we do whiteboard–based interviews. We even do an interview where we bring in potential employers. We’ve had a couple that have been actual interviews and had students hired from the interview.
We even do interviews where we intentionally sweat the students to make them nervous and make them jittery because when you get into one of these interviews, you get really nervous. We want to get all the nerves out now and then we’ll tell you how you can combat those nerves.
In addition we do a lot with Github in class and mimic what it’s like to work at a company. One example is we work on projects as a class and students will make pull requests then submit their code. The best code will get submitted to the master branch.
How has job placement gone so far?
We have a 85 – 90% hiring rate. On top of the fact that we partner with a lot of companies and have our hiring partners come in for our Launch Day. The hiring partners get a chance to talk one on one with the students.
But when a student signs up for DevPoint labs, they don’t end their relationship with DevPoint Labs at the end of a class. We have students who went from cohorts months and months ago, one of the earliest ones; if they lose the job that they had got, we still work to try and get them more work. We have a little community where if someone gets some side work or something like that, we’re always constantly passing that along.
Once you’ve signed up with DevPont Labs, you’ve basically joined the family and anytime you need work, we will do anything we can to try and get you work. Even if someone doesn’t get hired right away, they eventually will get something.
Do most graduates stay in Salt Lake City and work for companies in Utah?
Yeah. All of the Salt Lake cohort stayed within the Salt Lake area. The whole area is basically a lot of smaller towns that are right next. For the Vegas cohort, I noticed a lot of those students dispersed to L.A and Salt Lake.
Is Ruby the most popular language in Vegas and Salt Lake City?
In the Salt Lake area it’s definitely used quite a bit and it’s used way more than it is in the Vegas area. In the Vegas area, Ruby isn’t really used a whole lot. In our class, we’re not necessarily teaching people how to be Ruby developers. We just want to teach them how to be web developers.
Our students might not get jobs as Ruby developers when they graduate. They might get a job as a PHP developer. The syntax changes but that’s about it.
Can you tell us about the Code and Ski Promotion and how it fits in with DevPoint Lab’s goals?
Because it’s the holiday season, we decided to extend the length of the class and incorporate longer breaks for the students. Some of the students will travel from as far as Virginia and New York to come just specifically for this class. They’re away from their family and they’re on the other side of the country, so we want to be able to give them things to do.
We got a discount through one of the ski lodges resorts in Utah, and we’ll shuttle the students up to the ski lodge and they can hit the slopes on weekends.
Will you be instructing for the iOS class or will another instructor take that class?
I probably would not do the IOS course although I do know some Objective C. My position is going to start migrating toward a director level, ensuring that the instructors we do have are qualified to teach the material and that the material stays up to date and we don’t have instructors teaching an old version of Objective C.
I know there’s some talk about possibly making certifications for bootcamps. If anything like that comes up, I want to make sure that we’re adhering to those standards. Anything that emerges that helps ease the transition for our students to get into new jobs we’re all about that.
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