Fullstack Academy is looking for students who are at the top of their game, passionate about coding and dedicated to the intense journey. They have several methods to make sure students get a great job after graduation. They host a Demo Day, complete with speed interviewing sessions, and they also have a career success team devoted entirely to helping students connect with the right people, interview with success, and negotiate the best offer possible.
Recent Fullstack Academy Reviews: Rating 4.9
Recent Fullstack Academy News
- August 2018 Coding Bootcamp Podcast + News Roundup
- Life After Bootcamp: Teaching Fellowships
- Webinar: Choosing a Part-Time Coding Bootcamp
Bootcamp Prep in a Month
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Software Engineering Immersive
Application Deadline:September 7, 2018
Summer of Code
Summer of Code is a coding education program uniquely designed for ambitious college students seeking to supplement their traditional education by learning real world skills and building a portfolio of impressive projects. You bring the energy, curiosity and fierce dedication — we'll provide a world-class school for becoming an expert level coder in one summer.
New York City
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Flex (Part-Time) Immersive
Flex offers an opportunity to complete the rigorous Fullstack immersive program, but over a six-month span, while keeping a full-time job. Students attend class in-person two nights per week, and one weekend. Each month will have one immersive weekend, where Flex students come to campus both Saturday and Sunday. The other three weekends will consist of remote work -- not requiring live attendance. These remote weekends will utilize learning tools that work well in that format: video lectures and workshop reviews, solo coding workshops, and even pair-programming with classmates using virtual collaboration tools. This remote work will be self-paced -- completed by a deadline, but on the student’s schedule.
NYC Web Development Fellowship
In partnership with the NYC Tech Talent Pipeline, the NYC Web Development Fellowship will award ~40 NYC residents tuition-free admission to Fullstack's award-winning Software Engineering program. This curriculum has been proven successful -- Fullstack graduates are now working at companies like Google, Venmo, Facebook, Amazon, and LinkedIn, as well as hundreds of innovative small- and mid-size tech companies. Learn more about the fellowship as well as eligibility restrictions on the Fullstack website: https://www.fullstackacademy.com/nyc-fellowship
- Free Tuition for Eligible NYC Residents
- Placement Test
Software Engineering Immersive
Application Deadline:September 7, 2018
Summer of Code
Summer of Code is a coding education program uniquely designed for ambitious college students seeking to supplement their traditional education by learning real world skills and building a portfolio of impressive projects. You bring the energy, curiosity and fierce dedication — we'll provide a world-class school for becoming an expert level coder in one summer.
Bootcamp Prep in a Month
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Remote Software Engineering Immersive
$500 Fullstack Academy Scholarship
- Offer is only valid for new applicants. Applicants who have already submitted an application cannot claim this scholarship.
- Software Engineering Immersive (Chicago)
$500 Fullstack Academy Scholarship
- Offer is only valid for new applicants. Applicants who have already submitted an application cannot claim this scholarship.
- Remote Software Engineering Immersive (Online)
Fullstack Academy Reviews
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I attended Fullstack Academy’s November course last year, and then stuck aroud for a few months as a teaching fellow afterward. I came in knowing very little about coding. Now that I’m out though, I see aspects that annoy me about my computer (Wunderlist’s app interface is top of my list right now), and the craziest thing happens. Before I just accepted things like this. Now I'm legitimately considering whether it’s worth leveraging their API to create my own desktop client for Wunderlist, tailored to my liking.
The curriculum is intense, rigorous and excellent. I was challenged just the right amount to grow a lot. That’s not a normal situation for me - it’s usually either too much challenge or too little. They’ve found the sweetspot. And as someone who’s seen several cohorts, it’s clear that they take feedback and industry standards very seriously and implement changes, usually immediately. One perhaps extreme example is a recent switch to SQL from MongoDB, which must have been a break from comfort for the teaching staff. But they did it because they felt that SQL would best serve their students.
To be clear, Fullstack’s education extends beyond the syllabus listed on their website. I mentioned earlier that I was considering making a desktop app, and their syllabus only covers web apps. But the program itself taught me how to teach myself to quickly pick up new technologies. Several people in my cohort, of their own accord during the second half of the program, taught themselves to build desktop apps and made one for their Capstone project. Several others did the same for their side projects and ‘stackathon’ projects. Personally I learnt to make mobile apps with Facebook’s React Native relatively quickly. My point is that the syllabus here is bootstrapping, and not constrained to those tools.
The environment is very important with things like this, and Fullstack’s atmosphere is something I’ll miss for the rest of my life. Everybody’s intelligent, passionate and interested, all the way from the instructors to the students. It’s very, very motivating to be surrounded by people like that. The instructors in particular are probably the most brilliant people I’ve ever met, and they’re able to make everything so easily relatable. I had a workshop or two (out of many, many workshops) I didn’t particularly like, but when feedback was given on it, I saw those workshops improve for the following cohorts.
I won’t talk extensively about hireability after the program - I’m personally going to school and so was not looking for a job. But at a cursory glance, the vast majority of my cohort seems to be happily employed, and the Fullstack staff dedicated to helping graduates through the hiring process are excellent and always on the ball, always ready and willing to help out and give advice on navigating different situations.
Fullstack’s a very special place that had a profound impact on my life. I can’t speak from a hiring perspective (although everything I’ve seen points to that aspect being excellent). But I can say with certainty that if you want to learn to code, you should go to Fullstack. Not just for the technical skills, but also for the culture and community, which motivate you to excel.
On Attending a Software Development Bootcamp
Last fall, I made the decision to attend Fullstack Academy's 13-week Software Engineering Immersive course. Now almost six months after graduating, I feel confident in saying that it was a worthwhile investment. FSA is a constructive experience for people who are confident that they want to inhabit a technical position and benefit from structured, immersive education.
I wrote this to help people that are on the fence about enrolling in an in-person programming course. I start off by documenting the plan you should take to first validate your decision to enroll in one of these programs. Then if you've confirmed this is the path for you, I discuss the pros and cons of Fullstack Academy and why I feel it is a leader among coding bootcamps.
The high cost and time commitment of coding bootcamps should indicate that they are not something to do on a whim. In fact, when compared to traditional universities, their cost-to-time ratio is equivalent to several prestigious institutions. As with most things in life, you should first educate yourself on what these programs entail.
If you are considering making this move, there are three general steps you should take:
Get Advice from Past Graduates
Seek out people who have completed the course and gone on to work at companies similar to your interest. Simply peruse LinkedIn or AngerlList and you will probably find a number of these people. In my prep, I reached out to five former FSA students. Out of those five, four of them got back to me. I spoke with one on the phone for awhile and the three others wrote me lengthy, detailed opinions on their experience.
When making important life decisions like this I always feel it is best to speak with people who have been through the ringer. Learn from people who have been in your shoes, preparing to make that same decision. This is your chance to ask real people (not paid employees) things like:
- What did you get out of the course?
- Was it a manageable workload?
- Were the instructors helpful in learning the material?
These interactions were by far the best thing I could have done to help assure me that I was making the right decision.
Determine Your Path
By now you (hopefully) know that you want to take your career in a more technical direction, but maybe you are not sure how that desire will manifest itself. Sure, you can be a software developer, but maybe you are a creative with a greater appreciation of design? What about product management? A mathematics nut who would actually be better off exploring data science?
It turns out that a lot of people are interested in tech, but aren't actually passionate about development. And that is fine! Do yourself a favor and educate yourself on the different paths available to someone in this field. All of these alternative fields are growing and worthy pursuits of your time and there are bootcamps out there for almost all of these disciplines. It is reassuring to know that you explored all these possibilities before jumping into one in particular. Most of these fields are related in some capacity, but there is rarely significant overlap. It is much harder to move into a design role when you just spent 13 weeks investing your time in a development course. It's certainly not impossible, but that time/money might have been better spent on a UX bootcamp.
If you've made it this far, then you're pretty certain that the development path is for you. Excellent! Now get to work.
Preparation for the bootcamp needs to begin months in advance of the actual course. The quality schools necessitate that you come in with a solid grasp on the fundamentals of programming and the language that they teach. More importantly, the longer and more in-depth you prepare in advance, the more you will get out of the course material once you are on-site.
Here are some great resources to help you prepare for and supplement your journey:
- Computer Science Course Videos: Recently, several top institutions (MIT and Stanford among them) have been distributing their beginner CS course online for free. These are great starting points for the fundamentals.
- Free Code Camp: Learn to code with one of the most collaborative and resourceful online coding communities.
- The New Boston: A huge collection of free video tutorials on CS, web design, and more.
- HackerRank/Codewars: Coding challenges of progressing difficulty to help you practice and level-up your programming chops.
- Team Treehouse/Code School/Codecademy: Although there are plenty of free options above, these paid services contain a great breadth and depth of courses covering most popular languages and concepts.
Here is what I love most about this step: once you have spent enough time learning, you are faced with a crucial question. Why do I need to attend a bootcamp when I have all of these free or lower cost options available to me?
The truth is, you don't...
I know several professional developers who have no formal background in development and learned everything they know from the abundance of online resources. It is definitely possible if you are disciplined and take a concerted approach to learning the right things in the correct manner.
Where I will say bootcamps differentiate themselves is in their ability to provide regimented learning and hands-on support. Most online options fall short in that area and it is exactly there where I see most people fall off the wagon in their attempt to take on learn independently. This is exactly why I chose to attend FSA. Being able to completely focus on learning and not worry about establishing my own curriculum was instrumental to streamlining my mental process throughout the course.
With these steps complete, we come to a final fork in the road. If you still think that the software development program will suit you best, keep on reading for my take on FSA.
- Structured Learning: I alluded to this in the previous section, but I really cannot overstate this fact. Where FSA excels is in their ability to provide a regimented curriculum that logically progresses from CS fundamentals all the way to building a web application from the ground up. To aid in learning all of the concepts along the way, instructors present well-composed lectures that aid in students' understanding of how and why each step is important. If you are genuinely interested in the material, there will be nary a dull moment throughout the course.
Applied Learning: Not only is the learning sequence logical, but applicable "modules" are provided at each step to cement your understanding of the concepts. Instead of simply just discussing theory, these modules have you actually implement what you are learning. There are two things I loved about this format:
- Each assignment had varying degrees of difficulty embedded in the module. Each one would cover the basics, but for those progressing at a faster rate, therewould be an advanced section to take you to the next level. This was never required, but super helpful in truly understanding the nature of what we were learning.
- These challenges were better than anything I generally come across on the web. Not only did they help you grasp the material you were learning, they aid your understanding of how the technology itself works. This afforded a deeper level of comprehension and truly was transformative for my thought process. No longer am I content with using a tool. It made me a better engineer by imparting a curiosity in how my tools worked so that I am better able to compare and leverage the ones out there.
- Guidance: As someone who rarely took advantage of office hours in college, this was instrumental for my learning. The teachers were all former software developers and had a strong grasp of the concepts being taught. Each cohort at FSA also has a group of previous graduates, known as fellows, who assist in the learning process. I liken them to graduate students at a college, mentoring undergraduates in the studies still fresh in their minds. Most importantly, there is rarely a time when you cannot seek the help of one of these people. The "always on" mindset of the staff was instrumental in my learning experience.
- The Cost: To be clear, I am not saying that FSA, or any other coding bootcamp for that matter, is cheap. What I am suggesting is that when compared to most universities, it is cost competitive. Take a look at this chart to get a sense of what I mean. The cost of the FSA Software Engineering Immersive program is right on par with the University of Michigan's (my alma mater) annual tuition for out of state students. Of course this doesn't take grants, federal aid, and other educational loan programs into account, but it does suggest a comparative cost model. Not to mention that as a graduate of both programs, I strongly believe that most FSA graduates are better prepared for a real-world development job than many Computer Science Engineering graduates from UM.
Fullstack Academy does not come without its flaws. A few things to note:
- FSA is a Lean Startup: Never forget that FSA is itself a "startup" of sorts. This means that it operates more like a business than it does an institution of higher learning. This is not inherently a bad thing, but it does mean that they try to minimize costs in non-essential areas. Like using free Slack accounts and buying second-rate monitors and cables. I don't think these are imperative to the learning experience, but do not expect to roll into a classroom with shiny new equipment and stand-up desks.
- Not everyone is a "Teacher": Let me start this one off by saying all the teachers were professionals and adequately educated on software development. Unfortunately — and this should not be surprising — being a good developer does not make you good at teaching. While FSA had their standout instructors, there were those that rambled and did not present well-structured lectures. Most made up for this inadequacy during informative one-on-one conversations, but some lectures added little value to the material.
Based on the above breakdown, I would say the positives of the FSA course far outweigh the negatives. I believe you would be a good candidate for the course if you:
- want to quickly ramp up your technical skills
- are confident that programming is your thing
- have done serious research and preparation
In short, FSA provides a concise, focused, and relevant curriculum to help you transition into the software development world. If you see yourself in this world, why not explore this possibility?
I did Fullstack's flex program (nights and weekends) and would not recommend it.
I would recommend Fullstack Academy.
- The instructors are great. They're all knowlegable and nice folks.
- You're learning node. Node.js is, in my opinion, a better language to learn than ruby on rails, which a lot of other bootcamps teach. Node does a better job of handling single-page-applications, which is where tech is headed. Also, if you know node, you know both frontend and backend.
- The cirriculum is good. It's not great, but I doubt any of the other options are better, unless you spend the time to go and get a degree. There is only so much you can learn in three months (or 6 months part time).
That being said, avoid the flex program. I did the flex program, and I felt like the red-headed stepchild of FSA.
- First of all, you don't get as much. There is less classroom time than the fulltime program. They tell you that you're supposed to review on your own of the off days, but if you're doing flex you probably have a job (and a life) and don't have a lot of extra time.
- There are significantly fewer resources available to you, simply because everybody has gone home. By the time you get there, the instructors/staff have already put in 9+ hours and are ready to leave. So you don't have the ability to get that extra insight/different viewpoint.
- There are a lot of great things that FSA offers, like guest lectures and hackathons, but they all happen during the day. If you can make it, great, but if you have a job you're outta luck
- They just don't cover as much. This goes back to the classroom hours. I heard from a graduate who went on to be a teaching fellow that the fulltime class went deeper into the material because they had the time to really jump in.
- And they charge you the same amount. If I had paid less for the flex, I wouldn't be upset because I would have gotten what I paid for. But no, it's that same hefty price tag for a fraction of the experience.
TLDR: Fullstack good; flex program bad.
In short: one of the best decisions you can make for your career (with a few caveats)
Pros: World-Class instructors, great workspace, in NYC, good amount of personalized attention, GREAT quality of fellow classmates, High Job Placement rate 97% (I, myself, have found a job as a developer with a higher salary than I ever thought possible), and an average salary that is quite high at 70-80k
Cons: The only major con I can think of would be cons at all bootcamps...There is generally such a wide array of programming abilities coming in that it is difficult for the courseload to be appropriate for all of the students. We had students come in with five years of work experience, students with Computer Science degrees from Princeton, and students who have been programming since they were very young. On the other hand, individuals like myself came in with virtually no programming background. When catering to a class of 20+ students, it is difficult to teach the course at a speed that is appropriate for the majority. Essentially, I felt like this course was like drinking water from a firehose, whereas some students felt that the curriculum was moving a little bit too slowly. The only con that pertains to Fullstack Academy alone is the fact that the majority of the jobs that you will be qualified for at the end of the bootcamp are going to be FRONT-end roles. The irony that Fullstack Academy places the majority of their engineers in non Fullstack roles is not lost on me.
THINGS TO KNOW :
Next, the career counseling is definitely improving, but the majority of the work is going to be done on your own. A few students do get opportunities from Fullstack Academy's hiring day...and others through reccommendations from Fullstack staff... but the majority need to go out, network, attend career days, attend information sessions, and generally work their butts off to get a job.
Before taking the course at Fullstack Academy, I was doing photography, graphic design, marketing, and Wordpress development — it was more creative than technical. Not many creatives get into the program since the selection process is stringent and partial towards individuals who can rapidly pick up technical skills (extra emphasis on rapid and technical). My cohort was joined by physics, math, CS, and other mostly technical majors from around the world.
They have a respectably-sized campus in Manhattan's financial district with an interesting selection of lunch places and pubs. Getting there is easy as they have numerous subway lines that are accessible to the campus.
Job support is plenty in the program. In the second half of the program, the career development team whips up your resume, LinkedIn profile, GitHub codebase, and your interview skills to a point that puts you ahead of regular CS graduates. It worked so much for me that I got hired a week before the program ended.
For someone who moved to the US five years ago, Fullstack Academy has turned my life around and gave me the tools to pursue an enjoyable career at an expanding field. It also connected me to a group of friends who are smart, fun, and motivated who continue to push me further into becoming a better developer even after the program ended. Many people have commented how much growth I’ve attained in three months based on the projects I can roll out, and tech recruiters have been sending messages on a semi-daily basis.
If you haven’t applied, make sure you’re well-prepared for the application. I’d take two months of at least two hours of consistent study from Codecademy, Codeschool, & Treehouse with supplementary practice from Code Wars if you haven’t done coding before. If you’ve been selected — make the commitment to quit whatever you’re doing and pursue the curriculum full time! Fullstack makes for a smart investment and trumps four years of college. Their graduates make a higher starting salary than Harvard so there’s a good chance you’ll earn back the tuition in less than three months with your job after the program.
About eight months ago, I didn't know what the command line was or what constitutes a 'for-loop'. In a few days, I'll be starting a new career in software engineering.
One bit of advice if you're wrestling with the idea of going to a bootcamp - you have to really want it. It is an intense immersive program that teaches challenging stuff, and it's not like those college courses where you just show up and get an 'A'. You'll be learning a lot in a short period of time, but in the process you'll gain a great group of friends, a solid network of instructors/alumni/staff, and a strong foundation to build a software engineering career.
I highly recommend attending Fullstack if you're looking for a career change, or even if you want to learn more about programming. It is, without question, the best coding bootcamp.
I got into Fullstack, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. The fast pace, the extremely smart and engaging instructors, and the job support was exactly what I needed and what I was looking for. It was only three months (amazing that it's already been 6 months since I graduated), but I learned an amazing amount and met some fantastic people that I still keep in touch with.
Long story short, I had a lot of interest from potential employers on LinkedIn directly after I updated my profile before graduating, had an onsite interview the week after, and started at my new job the week after that. Fullstack was exactly what I was looking for!
I am reviewing Fullstack again because I sent in my review far too early in my job hunting process. Originally I felt that the career support was not very helpful for people who were mid career (and this is a common perception, that the career services are catered towards people more or less straight out of college). But I was so, so wrong. I met a bunch of firms at Fullstack's Hiring Day and literally just signed my offer from the first employer I met at hiring day. I got 3 offers and the career success team were extremely helpful in helping me navigate everything from turning DOWN my first six figure offer to flying out to Mountain View for my Google interview to reaching out to the Fullstack Alumni network to get more information for my eventual job offer that netted me 160k BASE. This is unreal and impossible for me to have conceived of without the help of Fullstack and without the opportunities created by Fullstack's Career Services people. I regret that I don't seem to be able to go back and edit my original review because I gave them a 4/5 because I'm a "nothing is perfect" kind of guy. But I was wrong. I stand by Fullstack through and through and if you still have doubts after reading this contact me so I can figure out what's wrong with you. @swyx on twitter.
To start things off: I graduated one month ago, and have not yet found a job. In fact, I have not even had as much as a phone screen after sending 50+ applications. If I do end up getting a job in a timely fashion, I'll update this review.
The course is alright, but I have some hesitation about the curriculum and teaching style. They throw numerous frameworks at you in a very short period of time. This is intentional - one way I heard it described is that it's like trying to catch up to a speeding truck, except that once you get close, it goes faster. Some of the technologies we learned such as React and Redux are in fact very in demand in the work force right now - I see them mentioned on almost every Front End or Full Stack job posting, so that's a plus. However, we also spend a lot of time learning Sequelize to manage back end. I haven't seen this on a single job posting, but most Full Stack roles DO want an object oriented language like Java or Python. The curriculum would have been more well rounded if something like Python was included.
We also spent almost no time on the most basic of web technologies such as HTML and CSS - you are essentially expected to figure it out yourself. However, I heard it expressed by multiple students (and myself) that this left a huge skill gap. The lack of time spent on standard web design means that students are not in the best position to succeed at Front End roles.
The portfolio we graduated with is also pretty slim. There are only two projects that we can really call our own: a four day hackathon and a group project. So all you have to show is a hastily created app and another that may or may not be great, depending on the strength of the group.
Bootcamps like Fullstack sell students on the idea that they can fully prepare you for employment in three months. This doesn't seem to be the case. I do see that students who go on to do the Fellowship (which gives them an additional three months to learn, build a portfolio, and be able to put "mentorship experience" on their resumes) seem to get jobs faster/at a higher rate. So it should be noted that that option is there, but maybe bootcamps should consider that students may need more time, and that these programs should be longer (which would allow more time to fill all the gaps listed above).
My wife and I had just had our first child and we realized we weren't going to be able to live the kind of life we want, if we both continued in our current jobs. I always liked to code, and had even done some Udemy courses on web-development, but I still felt there was something missing. So I decided to investigate Bootcamps. After having an on-campus informational interview with two of the lecturers to find out more about Fullstack, and speaking it over with my wife, we decided to take a risk.
Risk? Yes, bootcamp is expensive, and me being a skeptic was worried that I was being taken for a ride. Moreover, I had a family to support (they were supporting me during the bootcamp) and the pressure to not have picked a dud was big. So, I was nervous. Once bootcamp started, there wasn't even time to be nervous we were learning so much at such a great pace. Looking back, it is the smartest investment I made in my and my familiy's future.
Before I started I wondered if I couldn't just do this on my own for cheaper (I'm a pretty well-disciplined learner after all). But I learned more in 6 weeks at Fullstack, than I could have taught myself over the course of a year. The curriculum is well paced and structured, and it is kept challenging throughout. Not a day went by when I thought, that was a wasted day.
Another reason I picked fullstack was because it was so challenging to get in to. They don't promise to take in everyone and turn them into a coder. They want people who have the aptitude, and have demonstrated at least a basic ability to solve small tasks using code. This meant that the classes could move faster, and I was always being challenged by classmates that were smarter and faster than me. I can't stress how important this environment was for learning to code. If you've never coded before, I highly recommend taking a month to learn the basics of coding and then applying to Fullstack instead of choosing a bootcamp that takes anyone.
Another thing that sets Fullstack apart is the quality of the lecturers. While other bootcamps have gone for an expand at all costs, Fullstack academy has really made quality their primary concern. This came through from day one in their lecturers, who were passionate, experienced and just really good teachers and mentors. They are people that I look up to, and will always credit with changing my life.
But truthfully, in the end, all the preceding paragraphs would mean nothing if it didn't result in a job, and I can happily report I landed a dream fullstack job at a top company in Chicago. Not only did the content Fullstack taught me make me a suitable candidate, all the extra effort they put into helping me perfect my resume, and equip me with interview skills particular to the tech job market made me a great candidate.
TL/DR: Fullstack was the best educational investment of my life. You will learn a ton. If you are considering it but on the fence, just do it.
From a dollar-to-learning standpoint, I got much more value from Fullstack than I did from my 4 year degree at NYU.
I contacted several alums from Fullstack. They all gave it a resounding endorsement (and they were all employed as software developers). So I settled in on Fullstack because it seemed like the best option to get the skills I wanted. I was not disappointed.
It is intensely practical.
This is not to suggest that you get no theory, you do. But the bulk of the program is about writing code. So you spend a lot of time and energy and focus writing code. Everything in the environment is a conspiracy to get you writing code.
If you love to build things, Fullstack gives you lots of opportunities to do it while in the program and equips you to make great stuff as soon as you graduate. Practicality wins.
They have thought a lot about how to teach.
The founders and team have put a lot of thought into how to teach tech. It isn't some disorganized mess of pre-recorded tutorial modules that you can find online.
There is a structure and, even though it isn't always clear why you're doing a particular part while you're in it, you quickly discover that the process builds a tree of understanding. You'll learn the problem about some approach to development, struggle with it in vanilla JS, and only then get the library or framework that was built to resolve that problem.
The early part of the program uses test-driven development to help you get used to reading tests and inferring implementation from a desired functionality. I loved this approach.
After you struggle with the tests, the discovery of an answer feels like a grand, life-altering insight. I'm convinced this trial-and-error helps you learn and remember things more deeply than lecture, reading, or a repeat-after-me video tutorial.
The instructors are wizards.
You are not taught by recent grads, but by legit software engineers who really know their stuff. The environment in Fullstack is ultra-smart. It helps you up your game. I didn't want to leave at the end because I knew I would miss spending so much time around such smart people. My instructors, Omri and John, were both great programmers and great people. I will miss learning from them.
The founders actually care about the business.
The two founders are still intimately involved in the business. You can feel in the environment that the business has their attention and that they're improving it. I have huge respect for them both, especially when I saw that David (one of the founders) was actually sitting in the room on our final day when we all gave feedback about the program. When it comes to 'caring for your students', talk is cheap. David's presence shows a true investment of time and attention that are the hallmarks of a dedicated entrepreneur.
The tech stack is in demand.
You make friends with smart people.
Fullstack selects really smart people. Your peers will be people from finance, entrepreneurship, academia, or even software developers looking to update their skills. Hanging out with smart friends = you getting smarter. You'll end the program with a great group of friends.
If you do the work, the process works wondefully.
The graduation and placement stats speak for themselves and Fullstack has led the way in transparency in results.
My own experience: it isn't even a month since I graduated and I already landed an awesome full stack engineering job at an early-stage startup, which is exactly what I wanted when I signed up for Fullstack.
So, I enrolled in Fullstack's Bootcamp Prep course, which was a bit exhausting when paired with a full-time job, but was a great opportunity to dip my toe into what Fullstack would really be like, as well as see if this was really something that I wanted to do. I was hooked, and applied.
Career prep is pretty good, including "Launch Day," where you can meet potential employers through speed-dating-like interviews. I didn't get a job through it, but it did connect me to a few great people that I ended up getting lunch with later on -- and it was a great way to rip off the interviewing band-aid, so to speak.
In the end, I was interviewing with 3 companies, and accepted a job offer from 1 just 4 weeks after graduating.
- You learn a very in-demand stack, and are well-prepared going into the job hunt.
- Knowledgeable, warm, funny instructors.
- The rest of my cohort. An incredibly fun, supportive, and smart group, almost 50/50 split of men and women, all different ages/backgrounds/hometowns/former professions/levels of expertise. (Disclaimer, this degree of diversity may be fairly unique.)
- One of my biggest weaknesses coming out of this program was my ability to speak technically. At the end of the program, we had mock technical interviews which revealed this to me. Personally, would have appreciated the opportunity to practice technical interviews more throughout the program.
Advice (if you decide to go with Fullstack):
- It's hard to be an adult who has several working years under her belt, who knows her stuff, and suddenly be in a position where clicking a button doesn't do what you want it to do. It's humbling and uncomfortable. Be kind to yourself! And don't compare your progress to those around you. Focus on you and your learning, or you'll go crazy.
- You will get out of this program what you put in! Take ownership of your own education. Fullstack will give you the tools, but you won't magically emerge a software engineer just from showing up.
- Know yourself, and know how you work best. I preferred to get in very early (morning person) than work late. Use that knowledge to your advantage.
- Trust Fullstack's process. It all comes together. Just keep working and moving forward.
Highly, highly, highly recommend!
I had very high hopes for Fullstack. I took their techincal test and got through to the interview. After that, things rapidly declined and I became very frustrated with their team.
After the second interview I took their bootcamp prep course, which was poorly organized. The lessons were straightforward enough but MANY of the example questions did not match the lectures in terms of content and those that did, were on a completly different level than the lecture examples. The TAs that assisted each session had no clue what was going on. The instructors themselves were recent graduates- and while their efforts were commendable, they couldn't quite make up for the awful course. Not to mention the course is $3k. Hack Reactor offers a prep course for $800, and they are on par in terms of rigor! I would not recommend FS!!
After finishing their bootcamp prep I did the reassesment and their admissions team ignored it. The message they give to applications is that they are disorganized and don't care. It is exteremely frustrating to 'work' with them. They are VERY SLOW to respond if they do at all. Additionally, their cohorts have burgeoned to about 40 students each, and they have not been able to handle that expansion well. Previous reviewers/graduates have not experienced the new FS, which is falling very short of their reputation.
The course curriculum is great. Within the time provided I learned quite a bit about MEAN stack development. Being in the flex class I had the feeling they were having issues scaling up.
After every cohort they will hire a handful of TAs to help out - unfortunately the majority will only be around to support the full-time class. As a flex-immersive student you will be missing out on extra activities, CS Saturdays, a few CTO lectures, and communications.
Flex came across as a bit disorganized at times. Sometimes forgetting to schedule a TA to help, little to no handholding, and not being allowed to use campus facilities outside of our normally scheduled class-time. This last piece was particularly stressful during capstone phase. Speaking to students in the FT cohort, no such decree against coming to campus outside of normal hours was given.
Another major difference between FT and Flex. TAs will act as a project manager and code reviewer for each capstone team. For someone just starting out- this is extremely valuable.
Job support is okay. If you don't find a job at the first hiring day, don't expect much help after. You'll not be able to come to future hiring days. Occasionally you'll get a check in to see how the job search is going, with much of the framework for what you need to do provided. Speaking to GH alumni, the job support experience sounds very different. Perhaps this is because rather then being paid up front, they get a cut of the first year salary.
In summary, the course work was great, and the teachers helpful. However, if you want the full experience - go with fulltime and avoid flex. If you are already very confident of your ability- flex is viable. Perhaps you are already a developer? If so, flex seems to be a great stepping stone into a new tech stack.
A note about me. I do not hold any type of college degree. I went to college for music, but started working professionally in that industry before I finished. I was successful, but I've always had an interest in the CS field and wanted to work and live in one place, rather than being gone on tour all the time. I'm glad I made the decision to switch. 3 months after graduating Fullstack Academy I got a job as the Lead Mobile Developer at a startup. I graduated mid-December 2017 and started working at my current company mid-March 2018. I think I sent out 5 applications altogether.
This review is about Fullstack Academy, however, a lot of people are trying to choose between App Academy/Fullstack Academy/Hack Reactor etc. So a note about App Academy -
I went to App Academy for 5 weeks of their immersive program and failed out. It was not because of the difficulty of the material, nor that they push you harder as a coder. It had more to do with the method of their instruction. That could be my fault. I would say more, however, they gave me back my $5k deposit in exchange for signing a document that said, essentially, that I could not communicate anything negative about App Academy to anyone ever. I don't think this violates that agreement.
That being said, if you want to learn the most and best you can at the bootcamp that you choose, I recommend Fullstack Academy.
Fullstack Academy's instructors and curriculum are far and above any other bootcamp that I have had experience with. The instructors are not chosen based on being graduates of the program and thereby being cheap labor.
The instructors are great programmers, but they are also incredible communicators. They are great instructors who happen to teach software engineering, something they are really great at too. It is abundantly clear that they want you to do well and that includes caring about things outside of simply software engineering.
I've never had better teaching on any subject than what I received at Fullstack Academy.
Another thing, I visited the facilities of FSA, App Academy, Hack Reactor and Flatiron School, all in NYC. FSA has the most professional environment of all of them, hands down. Flatiron feels like college, Hack Reactor and App Academy feel hack-y, FSA feels professional. I was a professional before this. I was switching professions, going into professional training to be prepared for a professional job afterwards. I wanted a professional environment so I really appreciated that about FSA.
In regards to Job Assistance, personally I think FSA's strategy and implementation could use some work.
My experience was that their strategy is impossible. They encourage a "spray and pray" approach, but also encourage a personal (continuing the analogy) "sniper precision" approach. For me, that's impossible. I can't send out 20 applications a week and spend the necessary time to make each application convey that I am excited about the specific opportunity without coming off as rote. I think those are two different approaches that don't coincide.
They encouraged us to have a profile on every coding website under the sun that had a 'jobs profile' option. For me it felt like being told to do 10,000 things, each of which would take 2-3 days to do well, in an hour. It seemed like they didn't know what they were asking us to do, because what they were asking us to do was impossible. For me anyway.
I believe that the "spray and pray" approach is statistically more successful for finding a job post-bootcamp. I also believe that my personality and the "spray and pray" approach don't work together.
I'm a very hard working, secure, introvert. I value few deep connections over many shallow connections. I get along with people just fine, I'm not shy. I am overly serious and overly critical of myself and others at times.
I tried their approach, I chose to trust the process because that's what I did for the code instruction portion of the program. I tried to do everything the career success team told us to do while still in the immersive and it just seemed like no matter what I did or how perfect I tried to do it, it didn't have the results it was supposed to.
It was the equivalent of being told that once I pushed this boulder up the mountain it would stay there and I would be rewarded. Only, after pushing it all the way up this mountain, it turns out the only thing at the top is a cliff...and I just pushed it off that cliff...No reward. I was pushing it up the wrong mountain.
Disclaimer: I do think I am an outlier with the way I chose to job search. I think my experience is more likely the exception, not the rule.
So, after graduating from FSA, I avoided the career success team. I know that others in my cohort had good experiences with them, but this review is about my experience. Maybe things would have got better had I kept trying their way, but I doubt it.
My approach was to spend most of my time learning and blogging about it. For professional profiles I focused on linkedin, github and twitter. I would go to 1-2 meetups a week(usually 1). I would only send an application somewhere if I knew that someone was going to look at it. (That’s a no-no, but that’s what I chose to do.)
When I went to meetups, I would hang out with one or two people and get to know them. Regardless of whether their companies were hiring or not. I would just try to make a connection with one or two professional developers. If I did encounter someone that was hiring, I'd ask them what their stack was and then I would spend time learning that stack. Even if they said they weren't ready to hire me.
I also spent a lot of time going deeper on the technologies that we had learned at Fullstack.
In the end, I was contacted by the CEO of my current company on linkedin, I did a coding challenge for him in React Native, which I spent 3 full days on, then I met with him and 20 minutes into that lunch/interview he said he wanted to hire me for a very good salary including a little equity. Not to be too specific, but I think the average salary for a just-graduated FSA grad in September 2017 was around 80k and I was offered more than that.
In conclusion, You will NOT regret choosing FSA. I'm certain their career success team will get better with time. But even without using them, in fact outright avoiding them, I got a really great job 3 months after graduating. (And keep in mind that one of those months went right through christmas and new years when there really isn't a lot of action going on with hiring).
Attending Fullstack Academy was one of the most important career decisions of my life.
Prior to the program, I was in a career funk. After five years working in IT infrastructure architecture and technical sales, I felt that my career had stalled out. When I left the Army, I went into technology expecting that my days would be filled with intellectual stimulation and challenging engineering problems to solve. Instead, I found that 90% of my days were spent sitting in Office Space style conference calls or ghost-writing planning documents, PowerPoint animations, and Visio architectures that would get handed up to management to get used in political fights over manpower or budgets and then discarded. How did I end up here? How can so many traditional Fortune 500 IT jobs be so soul-sucking?
These days, there is no excuse for someone with technical interests to stay in a job they dislike. However, when caught in the murky morass of a difficult job, it can be difficult to chart a path forward and pull yourself out. I was broadly unhappy for well over a year before I decided to stop being a small cog in a grinding corporate machine. At first, I started renewing side projects and used some free and low-cost resources for web development to try to revitalize my love for intellectual stimulation and challenging engineering problems. Over several months, I found that I would sit in my corporate cube and daydream about my side projects, the chance to build things, and the rapid visual feedback of building within the browser.
Confident that I knew the pivot I wanted to make in my career, I applied to Fullstack Academy. As a military veteran, I love the 'bootcamp' model. I know that several months of single-minded focus, a lot of intestinal fortitude, and a willingness to put all other aspects of one's life on hold can be transformative. Just like how soldiers can learn to operate and fire a main battle tank in a few months, a coding bootcamp can equips students with the skills they need to hit the ground running in their first job.
Traditionally, one would drop everything and relocate to NYC to attend the country's top-rated coding bootcamp. However, as a 30-something with a wife and a mortgage in anytown USA, this really wasn't a super feasible option for me. Thankfully, when I was considering Fullstack, they were piloting their first-ever fully-online fully-remote cohort. This new offering promised to bring the top-rated coding bootcamp to me in my home office. I wasn't sure how this model would work at first, but I went forward with it and applied. I went through a very-challenging coding interview, and when I was offered a spot, I accepted and began Fullstack.
Starting the Fullstack curriculum, it was clear to me that the remote program was no less intense than the on-campus version. I purchased a VESA monitor mount to use two side-by-side 27" monitors with a 1080p logitech webcam. This was super important for remote pair programming. On one monitor, I would have a live video stream of my class. On the other, I would have a screen share of the instructor's screen. We would break into pair programming, and I would have my editor on one monitor (which I share with my pair programming partner), and the other monitor would have my partner's face. This meant that I was essentially transmitting a video stream of my face for 12+ hours a day.
Fullstack Academy offered me a path to pivot and course correct the trajectory of my career. Within a few months, I've been able to achieve sufficient velocity to break orbit. When I think of a cool project, I now have the skills to build out a prototype and release it on GitHub. I feel limited less my by technical abilities and more by my imagination. If I hadn't had this top-shelf instruction and amazing cohort, I suspect that I would have had a hard time maturing my technical skills as quickly as needed to keep my mortgage paid. The opportunity cost of not-working is super tough for folks 30+ with financial obligations, and the Fullstack Remote Immersive program is the absolute best way to compress the time between deciding to move into web development and being job ready.
My cap is off to the instructors and amazing staff at Fullstack. Thank you for democratizing access to your program. You've opened access to a wider pool of folks that are unable to move to NYC or Chicago, and I'm confident that you'll continue to empower and effect positive change in all sorts of lives.
Fullstack’s remote immersive exceeded my expectations in every way. The curriculum is top notch, current and industry relevant. The Instructors and staff are passionate about coding and teaching and clearly enjoy their work. The lead instructor from our cohort, Omni, has an impressive depth of knowledge, is a master at explaining concepts and is a super fun and genuine person. My fellow students were from very diverse backgrounds but all were bright, enthusiastic and overall, a joy to work with. The technical and intellectual rigor and fast pace of the program truly exceeded my expectations rivaling my graduate school experience at a top 20 university (although the content and focus of the programs were very different).
Bottom line: Totally worth the investment in time, energy, and money.
I have a BA and MS in Computer Science. I worked in the computer industry in software product development for 14 years before leaving my career behind to be a full-time mom for 13 years. As my entree back into the workforce, I recently worked remotely for a software company in professional services for 3 years.
My software background is primarily in operating systems, UNIX and C. But a lot has changed since the eighties and nineties. I wanted to get up to speed on modern web development technologies and move back into product development.
How to Move Forward?
My employer did not have a path forward in the direction I sought. But, I didn’t feel confident applying for jobs for which I had no experience in the desired technologies. So how to move forward? There are literally hundreds of online tutorials on the web many of which are free. I could have taken that route but it seemed inefficient, potentially frustrating and yep, a little bit lonely. So I started looking at boot camps.
I knew I wouldn’t be the typical boot camper. According to “Am I the Right Candidate for a Bootcamp?” by Imogen Crispe on Course Report, “the typical boot camper is 30 years old, has 6.8 years of work experience, has at least a Bachelor’s degree and has never worked as a programmer”. I would say the typical boot campers is also male and has no kids. As a 52-year-old wife and mother of two high schoolers with a couple of CS degrees and experience working in the software industry, the fact that I would be an outlier was a given. But as the only woman in my college graduating class with a CS major, and a distinct minority in the systems software field, being an outlier is old hat for me.
Another obstacle was location. The closest in-person boot camps are a good 1.5-hour drive one-way from my home (in light traffic). And the idea of picking up and leaving my family for an out of town immersion was both logistically impractical and cost prohibitive. Further, I was also concerned that, given my background, a boot camp might be lacking in technical depth and intellectual rigor. Would it be worth the time and money?
Serendipitously, at that point in my journey, Fullstack Academy came out with their remote immersive program. Perfect!
Fullstack has a selective application process, accepting only about 8% of applicants. The immersive program is not for beginning programmers; you will need to have some programming experience. (Fullstack does offer prep courses). From a time standpoint, you will need to be willing and able to devote (most of) your time to the program for a solid 13 weeks and part time for 4 weeks prior.
I was part of the first remote immersive cohort. (Oct. 2016 - Feb. 2017).
Junior Phase (6 weeks): full-time+ meeting 10 am - 7 pm eastern wit1.5-hourhour mid-day break. Class is held through the Zoom video meeting app. The equipment I used was a MacBook Pro laptop and a 24” LG HD 1080p monitor. I would have been better off with two monitors for juggling code, lecture presentation, and video images of teachers and classmates. I think two 27” monitors would be ideal. Instructors and most students have Macs but PCs can be used (but require more setup).
Junior phase content consists primarily of workshops. We did 27 in all which is nearly one per day. The typical workshop format is lecture, followed by pair a programming exercise and finally lecture and Q&A on a provided possible solution. Junior phase also includes optional CS Saturdays covering an array of computer science topics. Our CS topics were: parsing (compilers), databases and ORMs, git and immutability, machine learning and cryptography. Projects are done in class but evenings can be spent prepping for the next day’s workshop or completing/diving deeper into that day’s workshop. While evening/weekend work is not absolutely required, doing as much as you can manage certainly enhances absorption rate. There was no shortage of good and useful material to work through. In fact, it was drinking from a fire hose. Pair programming was set up randomly and assigned. Workshop experiences varied to some degree depending upon comprehension of the materials and programming partner. However, I found the vast majority of the experiences worthwhile, productive and enjoyable. In fact, some of them were a blast! There were also those that were frustrating and somewhat demoralizing but instructors and fellows were always there to help during workshops, during lectures and private office hours as desired. No matter the topic or situation, we got through it. In fact, I found that I really enjoyed pair programming which was a concern of mine going into the program, never having done it before.
Lastly in Junior phase, you must pass a technically challenging online test to move on to the Senior phase. Everyone in our cohort moved on to the Senior phase.
We were lucky and got a 4 week break over the holidays but this is not the year round schedule.
Senior Phase (6 weeks): Senior phase is a time to put the skills learned in Junior phase to work. Content consists of project work and job preparation. Each day starts with technical interview practice with students taking turns being interviewer and candidate. Projects include preparation and presentation of a tech talk (individual), a 3-day “hack-a-thon” project (individual or pairs, student choice), a 1 week e-commerce site (team, assigned) and a multi-week team capstone project (assigned team with preference input, team decides topic). On our capstone project we operated as a self-driven team, defining our minimum viable product (MVP), utilizing daily scrums and project management, and conducting a beta test with our cohort mates. While I ran into some team issues (we probably all did), we got through it and produced some amazing work. Our capstone projects culminated in a demo day live on Facebook. (check us out here: https://www.fullstackacademy.com/blog/demo-day-feb-2017).
Additional job preparation skills covered include resume prep, soft skill interview prep and job search skills.
Senior phase also includes an optional CTO lecture series held in the evenings. Our topics included: Visual Design, Intro to the Agile Software Development Methodology, Lean Start-Up, and Scalability.
I have just recently graduated (2/17/17) and am just starting to look for a job so career impact is TBD. However, I feel Fullstack has prepared me well for the job search through rigorous and extensive technical interview practice, polishing my resume, advising me on job search tactics and providing me with a network of alums.
I have never been to any other bootcamp, and I have never had any other instructors teach me software development.
I have, however, met many different humans in my life. I can tell you without any hesitation that this organization is run by some of the best you will find anywhere. Forever curious and honestly intelligent, enthusiastic, good-willed, and optimistic. This is what makes them such good teachers and this is why I insist that I can confidently say that Fullstack Academy will be a positive investment of time, sweat, and money for anyone with an honest curiosity and inner desire to learn.
I have attended a lot of classes in my life, and I have a very strong belief that the absolute most important thing to evaluate is the teacher. A good teacher teaches you so much more than just the material, they show you an example of what it means to have a positive and fruitful relationship with the subject, and they give you space to foster that relationship yourself. That is absolutely what I got from attending Fullstack Academy.
I am 100% satisfied with my experience, I got everything I hoped for and more. I felt completely prepared to enter the workforce as a software engineer, I found myself able to meaningfully contribute to the work of a succesful engineering team, and I found that I had an incredible foundation from which my learning and understanding in this field has exploded.
If you are accepted, make sure to attend with your whole heart. If you're in the immersive program, stay late into the evening whenever you can. You never know when David or Nimit will be perched on a desk at 7pm, a small huddle of students eagerly listening to their every word, relating stories, memories, and pearls of wisdom on everything and anything. These are teachers whose words you will remember.
This review is long overdue, but I will say that when I was first deciding what sort of bootcamp I should attend over the summer before my senior year of college, I was looking at this very site - Course Report. Hopefully my review here helps others make their big decision as to which coding bootcamp to attend as well (there’s so many now!).
What appealed to me most about Fullstack in the beginning was how nice they were during the admissions process. It was clear they were focused not just on my technical abilities, but also on my character. They also happened to be hosting their first ever Summer of Code program this past summer which was designed explicitly for college students such as myself who wanted to get a leg up with web development. This turned out to be a great aspect of the program later on since I could relate more with the other college kids in the program (we were teamed up in groups towards the end for projects).
If I had to describe the bulk of the program in one word, it would be “rigorous”. This kind of program requires a lot of energy given you’re going to be primarily coding and learning how to code all day long Monday through Friday for roughly 11 weeks. It is not for the weak minded. Be prepared to invest all your time and effort into the program unless you’re some super human living off Soylent, which in that case, that’s just bloody crazy.
In my first week of Fullstack, I described it as a full out marathon and I consider myself more of a short distance runner.
However, this doesn’t mean the whole program was so tiring that I wasn’t having fun. In fact, I made sure to explore quite a bit of New York City during my time there (i.e. one Saturday, I randomly decided to roam around the Met by myself). The instructors were lively and always trying to make sure we (the noobs) understood the new material that was introduced every day.
There were fun activities Fullstack planned out some weeks too. One in particular that was pretty splendid was when the juniors and seniors were grouped up into teams and sent off to the American Museum of Natural History for a “coding scavenger hunt” of sorts. Then again, I also consider learning fun in general (especially if it relates to web dev) and there was no doubt I was being challenged all the time which to people like me is also indeed fun but in a more “arghhh” kind of way.
Let’s put it this way: you’re not going to be bored.
The project phase (or “senior” phase) was even more exciting (yet also tiring) than the learning phase (or “junior” phase) since this is where our actual knowledge would be put to the test and our work open to judgement.
My favorite project was the Capstone (or the final one), which is where I worked with only one other person (Joanna) to create this internal LinkedIn of sorts for Fullstack called Hiredot. Joanna and I described Hiredot as this virtual portal for students and interested companies to explore projects and hackathons as well as create their own profiles and set up hiring event preferences using the stable marriage algorithm/MEAN stack. Granted, Hiredot wasn’t even the first of it’s kind, but I’m proud of what we were able to pull off in such a short amount of time.
My learning team mentor Jimmy Farrell (no, not Jimmy Fallon thankfully) was also especially helpful during this phase and I can truly say he contributed to a large part of my success and happiness while at Fullstack. You da the man, Jimmy!
At the end of the day, I’m just genuinely grateful I was able to enjoy everything Fullstack Academy has to offer, from Ladies Lunches, my learning team laughs, eye-opening pair programming sessions, and the amazingly bright people.
The experience was exactly how others have described it here before… it was like drinking water out of a firehose. BUT since I’m more of a sweet iced tea kind of gal, I’d describe my personal experience as drinking iced tea out of a firehose. And yeah, it was pretty sweet.
p.s. I, for one, feel it’s great that Fullstack is also now branching out to other sectors, like with their new Grace Hopper Academy which has no upfront tuition and is appropriately targeting women who want to enter the tech scene.
p.s.s. If you’re interested in hearing more about my experience at Fullstack, I blogged about my experience every week of the program, so there’s that.
I made the decision to attend Fullstack Academy about two years ago, and it has been one of the best decisions that I have ever made. The entire process, from start to finish was absolutely amazing. I contacted Fullstack to express my interest, and they very quickly got back to me and were very helpful and encouraging as I started the application process.
And, even though the schooling experience was great, what really matters at the end of the day is that I could get a job at the end of all of this. After all, the schooling is costly, and New York is expensive, so I fully expected to get a job after Fullstack. I moved back to Utah and began my search. I started actively reaching out to companies and interviewing around November 2014. By December 2014, I had secured a developer job for Ancestry.com. Though I didn't have the work experience or the deep knowledge that other applicants had, I had the basic concepts and the ability to continue to learn and grow.
To sum it all up... Fullstack is amazing. I completely owe my current job to Fullstack and am extremely grateful for their assistance and care to help me get to where I am today. I started with very very little knowledge of development, but in 3 months, I was able to learn enough to get a job in which I have gained a world of knowledge and experience. Fullstack was really the catalyst that started the reaction that is now a great and rewarding career, and I am extremely grateful.
Thank you Fullstack.
My Background: Undergraduate degree in Economics, MBA in Finance. Left my job as a Management Consultant within the Financial Services industry to attend Fullstack Academy. I had very little prior coding experience.
Founders: David and Nimit are great guys. Both extremely knowledgable about coding and the industry in general. No matter how well the program seemed to be running, they were always looking for feedback and ways to improve the program. Fullstack Academy will just continue to get better over time with them in charge.
Curriculum: Overall very well structured and always improving. First half of the course typically consisted of instructor led lessons, followed by paired programming exercises. Throughout all exercises instructors were available to provide guidance. The second half of the curriculum consisted of two team projects, a 3 day Hackathon, and hiring day. There was also time spent during the second half of the course to help prepare for interviews.
Instructors: I was very impressed by the professionalism and knowledge of the instructors. Every instructor clearly had a passion for coding/teaching (one even described working at Fullstack as his “dream job”. When smart people are doing something they are passionate about, they do an amazing job.
Students: The only commonality was everyones passion to code. Incredibility eclectic group of individuals who were all amazing in different ways. One day you would be working with someone who used to be an Investment Banker, and the next day you were working with someone who was a past stunt actor for the Call of Duty video game (those are factual backgrounds). You will make great friends and you will be surrounded by people who are all working together to help each other succeed.
Outcome: I accepted a full-time Software Engineering position about a month after graduating. I went on a number of interviews (some direct outcomes from hiring day some not). Overall, I received excellent feedback on my coding challenges as part of the interview process at various companies and I always felt as if I was well prepared.
Summary: Exactly as advertised. You come into a great program with awesome people (instructors and students) and you leave with an in-demand skill that allows you to do something you love.
When I decided to change careers and commit to web development, I knew that I needed to choose the best boot camp in Chicago. I did my due diligence and found Fullstack Academy.
Fullstack's excellence begins with its application process. It is not easy to get in, but it IS worth it. Study, take some online courses, do some reading -- make sure you are ready to commit because boot camp is no joke!
The instruction at Fullstack is truly phenomenal. In addition to their solid knowledge base, Nick and Connie bring an enthusiasm that is infectious and they make coming to class a joy every day. (Bonus points: Nick makes AMAZING cookies -- ask him about it and he will deliver.) I was fortunate enough to be a part of a wonderful cohort, and when we graduated, I was literally brought to tears thinking about how much we had accomplished together. We were truly a Fullstack family.
Post graduation, I felt fully comfortable asking Nick and Connie for advice in my job search. Within 4 weeks, I received 2 job offers at companies I was really excited about. During my interviews, both companies were pleasantly surprised by how knowledgable and capable a boot camp grad could be. Truly, I owe it all to Fullstack's education and preparation.
Our latest on Fullstack Academy
We are rounding up all of the most interesting bootcamp industry news that we read and discussed at Course Report in August! This month we heard about a $43 million fundraise and a big acquisition, we saw the decline of CS degrees in the tech job market, we read about a bunch of interesting alumni who were featured in the news, we looked at how coding bootcamps can help us avoid “robogeddon,” and we celebrated an initiative teaching women in prisons to code. Plus, we’ll talk about all of the new bootcamps in August and our favorite blog posts!Continue Reading →
Have you heard of a Teaching Fellowship? After graduating from a coding bootcamp, some alumni stick around to help teach new students and improve their own coding skills, before starting the job hunt. We asked Fullstack Academy graduate Marshall Zobel how he got his coveted role as a Fullstack Fellow, what the role involves, and how the fellowship is helping him build relevant experience to land a job as a software developer in future. Marshall also busts a couple of myths we’ve heard about teaching fellows!Continue Reading →
Did you want to switch careers into tech, but not sure if you can quit your job and learn to code at a full-time bootcamp? In this hour-long webinar, we talked with a panel of part-time bootcamp alumni from Fullstack Academy, Ironhack, and New York Code + Design Academy to hear how they balanced other commitments with learning to code. Plus, they answered tons of audience questions – rewatch it here:Continue Reading →
After two years of computer science courses in college, Mike Kerslake switched his major for a BFA in Photography and Videography. Yet his love for coding wouldn’t let him go, and Mike ended up working as a Website Strategist and Front End Developer after college. He eventually realized that he needed more skills to become a Full Stack Developer so he attended Fullstack Academy’s part-time Flex program. See how Mike balanced learning part-time with working full-time and how his bootcamp experience helped him land a new job as an MVT Developer at Isobar!
What were you up to before Fullstack Flex?
Since I was 10, I’ve been really interested in how the internet worked. It was relatively new then, and wasn’t super popular with other kids my age. My father pushed me to learn, so I started working with HTML, CSS, and PHP. I created my first website using Adobe GoLive. Back then, there weren’t as many online resources to learn how to code, so most of it was trial and error.
By college, I knew I wanted to study computer science, but I also had a love affair with photography and videography. I struggled with picking a major – I did two years of computer science learning the foundations of coding, and Java, then switched to a BFA in Videography and Photography. During that time, I was still learning to code on my own with courses on Udemy.
The more I worked in software development, and the more magic I saw, the more obsessed I became. I wanted to be able to build full applications and fully-fledged user experiences from the ground up. I needed a more formal education covering the most current technologies since the industry changes so often. So I started to research coding bootcamps.
What made you choose Fullstack Academy instead of another bootcamp, or going back to college, or teaching yourself?
My goal was to move on from my current company and get a job in full stack development. So I needed to gain an understanding of and get experience building full stack applications. While it may be easy for some people to self-teach, there are so many complicated pieces of building full stack applications these days. I wanted to learn every single detail and become proficient enough to transition into a new career.
I also wanted to make sure that my coding education would be cost effective, since I already had (and had paid for) a 4-year degree. I thought about doing a Master’s in Computer Science, but the most efficient and cost-effective option for me was to attend a part-time coding bootcamp.
I did a lot of research before making my decision – mainly on Course Report! I considered every single option – part-time, full-time, in-person, online, which city to study in, the school networking opportunities, etc. – and that research ultimately led me to Fullstack.
Any advice for other students who are researching coding bootcamps?
I’m very critical with research. Since I worked in marketing, I know how easy it is for schools to push out the content they want you to see. To get the full story, I talked to a few people who had actually attended bootcamps. I thought about Hack Reactor, but Fullstack Academy came up multiple times in my research and once I found that it was the best choice, it was the only program I wanted to do.
What made you choose the Flex program specifically as opposed to quitting your job and doing the full-time course?
Mostly finances. I factored in the costs of commuting, my current living expenses, and the program tuition. It just made more sense to me to keep earning as I attended school. This also meant I could have a safety net once I graduated and moved into the searching phase.
Another thing I had thought about was giving myself slightly more runway to learn and absorb the material than you get in a 17-week full-time program. Even broken out over six months, as the part-time program is, it’s a tremendous amount to learn in such a relatively short period of time, and having just that bit of extra legroom meant I could repeat workshops or assignments on my own in order to ensure the material clicked.
What was the application and interview process like for you? Did you feel like it was competitive?
What was the learning experience like at Fullstack Flex?
We’d get to class and finish up projects we were working on previously, or work on a problem presented by the instructor. We’d then go into a lecture where our instructor would do live programming. There are a lot of nuances in coding, so it was really good to see errors and bugs in real time while learning. It was a dynamic experience, so students could pause the instructor at any time to ask questions around why they should be coding in a certain way, etc. The material moved pretty fluidly since we were on a tight time schedule. After lecture, we would do pair programming. It was great because we built actual applications, which forces you to work effectively with someone else and to get out of your own brain. If you have another mind there with you to help, it’s a better learning experience. It’s also important that I give a shoutout to our instructor Eric Katz, who was truly fantastic. A teacher has the power to make or break a course for you, and Eric is exceptionally bright and quite funny, so he made the course and learning experience a true pleasure.
How was the day structured and how many hours did you commit each week?
You have several weekly evening classes, and then once a month we would also have full-day Saturday and Sunday courses from 9am - 8pm. The instructor also set the expectation from the start that we’d be doing at least 15 additional hours of work a week outside of class. I was traveling from the middle of New Jersey to New York City so there was a lot of commuting time. But the classes were really fun. All told, including class time, study time, and commuting time, I would say I committed 30-40 hours a week to the Flex program. As I mentioned before, I would often rework assignments or try different approaches to a workshop, because I believe repetition is important.
How did you balance your other commitments with studying? Any tips for other students thinking of studying part-time?
Balancing working full-time and studying part-time was really difficult. I warned my family and friends that I would have less time to hang out and do certain activities. And to make sure I didn’t go crazy, I dedicated Sundays to relaxing and staying away from computers.
My role at Single Throw Marketing actually changed right as I was starting Fullstack Academy. I was responsible for a lot more work, but I didn’t want anything to fall through the cracks – I wanted to give 100% to my job and 100% to my studies. It really came down to staying on a regimen – I woke up really early, studied while making coffee, went to work, studied after work, went to sleep and repeated that schedule. My company was also very flexible with me – they let me leave early for the two days I had to commute to class. I did that for 6 months and even though it was difficult, I have my new career thanks to that routine. It was 110% worth it.
Which programming languages did you learn in the Fullstack Flex program?
- SQL – a database language that speaks to writing different queries
- Redux - a popular library for managing application state
- Node and Express - for application and server backend
- Websockets - for real-time interactions with a server
- BASH command shell to work through the terminal
- Git for version control
- JQuery - a terse way to write common JS and DOM manipulation
We also learned CS and industry fundamentals such as Big O (for time and space complexities when developing algorithms), Agile development, and security and authentication, to name a few.
What was your cohort like? How did you support each other?
It was really amazing that I could nerd out with people in my cohort. Most of my friends are not software engineers, so they don’t understand the topics I get really excited about, but my Fullstack cohort has been able to give me that camaraderie.
There were a lot of intelligent people in my cohort who didn’t have any programming experience before Fullstack Academy. It’s amazing to see how strong minds can pick up coding when they’re really pushing themselves. It was inspiring to see people in my cohort grow in their skills. We all had really busy schedules, so it was all about staying connected using Slack – it was a two-way street.
How did Fullstack Flex prepare you for job hunting? Do you have any advice for other part-time bootcampers going through the job search?
Fullstack Academy ensured that we were ready for interviewing – they taught us the most efficient ways to approach problems, and how to prepare for whiteboarding and technical interviews. They also gave a lot of advice about formatting our LinkedIn profiles and resumes, networking, meetups, and reaching out to hiring managers. We did mock interviews and learned about salary negotiations – people hate to talk about money but it’s an important part of getting a new role! Fullstack Academy definitely challenges you, but it’s to make sure you can learn and be prepared – they did a really great job. I engaged with them a lot regarding my resume edits and preparing for interviews because I wanted to make sure I got the most out of the experience. Fullstack also has a hiring day where around 30 companies do round-robin interviews with students.
One piece of advice I can give – read the book Cracking the Code Interview. It really does help and it’s extremely important if you want to work at a company that has a whiteboard interview process. The book takes a problem and helps you architect a solution. It’s important to remember that companies aren’t necessarily looking for you to know Node and React; they want you to be able to solve problems with different technologies. Also, if you’re on the job search, make sure you have an amazing personal website. I mean, think about it: You’re looking for a job in web development! You need to have a good website that stands out.
Congrats on your job at Isobar! What is your role there?
Tell me about your interview process for Isobar. How’d you land the job? Was the Isobar team impressed or concerned that you went to Fullstack Flex?
The interview process was similar to that of other companies I had been interviewing with. There are multiple phone screenings, they review code you write, and eventually, you meet members of the team in person for rounds of rigorous questions. I found that for some companies, the bootcamp actually stuck out as something impressive, especially since I was balancing the program with working full-time. I was able to express how enamored I was with development and how dedicated I was to furthering my education and expanding my knowledge, all while sacrificing my free time. My prior work experience and, surprisingly, my BFA also helped me as a candidate, because I knew a lot about the creative side of the digital marketing industry.
Are you using the programming languages that you learned at Fullstack Academy?
What’s really cool is that you learn how to understand technology at Fullstack Academy. It really comes down to using different syntax and understanding a language’s architecture.. So then when a new technology gets thrown at me, instead of saying, “I’ve never used this and I can’t do it,” I’m able to pick it up pretty fast because I understand the paradigm, the foundations.
How has your BFA been useful in becoming a developer?
My BFA gives me an edge in that I know a lot about design dynamics. I have a design eye, I understand how certain elements fit together, how certain typefaces affect how we read the words on a page, and how different paddings and spaces can be used in page layouts. Even analytical and competent programmers sometimes don’t have that understanding of aesthetics.
It’s really helpful to have that critical design view. I can look at the different ways composition affects the user. It helps me see things through a design lens before I have to start building with code. What I like about programming is that I’m like a painter with a paintbrush, but I have sublime text and code to paint my picture onto the screen.
Since graduating from Fullstack, working at Single Throw Marketing, and then joining Isobar, how do you feel you’ve grown as a front end developer?
Fullstack Academy completely changed my life and the trajectory of my career. Of course, there are many classes you can take online and resources out there to learn, but having a community, a regimen, resources to finding jobs in this industry, and understanding how the technologies come together — that foundation really propelled my entire life forward.
After the course, my confidence skyrocketed. I felt like I could accomplish anything. Once you get through something as difficult as a coding bootcamp, you want more. Just like people who finish marathons are ready to do another, I came out of this experience hungrier to learn more technology. New problems come along and I’m confident I can solve them through programming, and that’s an invaluable feeling. You get out of it what you put into it.
What advice do you have for people making a career change through a coding bootcamp?
Just do it! It’s really easy to get stuck questioning yourself. Some people get bogged down and only focus on a new career for the money but if you like the idea of programming, it’s something you’re interested in, and you see the things you can accomplish – go for it. Fullstack Academy teaches you how to learn new things and that skill pays for itself. If you’re on the fence, just do it.
In the coding bootcamp industry in June 2018 the biggest trend we saw was coding bootcamps funneling grads into apprenticeships! We also saw two big fundraises by bootcamp-adjacent organizations, we heard about some interesting new legislation which could change how online bootcamps operate, and some bootcamp alumni launched exciting new careers. We also look at the effect bootcamps are having on tech industries in areas around the world, which bootcamps are offering scholarships to help women and underrepresented groups launch tech careers, and partnerships bootcamps are forming with big companies like Facebook. Read the blog post or listen to the podcast!Continue Reading →
So you know that coding bootcamps can teach you how to code, but will those skills align with what employers want, or are most tech recruiters still looking for people with computer science degrees? The coding bootcamp industry has been around for more than 5 years, so have employers’ attitudes towards coding bootcamps changed in that time? David Yang, who co-founded Fullstack Academy in 2013, explains the shift in thinking he’s seen among employers, and how, in 2018, coding bootcamps grads are filling a high demand for skilled tech talent.Continue Reading →
In our April 2018 technology bootcamp news roundup we saw four overarching trends – bootcamp acquisitions, employers putting their own employees through bootcamp, a continued debate between college vs bootcamp, and efforts to expand accessibility to coding education for underrepresented groups in tech. We also look at apprenticeships, the evolution of bootcamp curricula, life after bootcamp, and new bootcamps! Read the roundup below or listen to the podcast!Continue Reading →
With a background in neuroscience, machine learning, web development for Rolling Stone, and college teaching (plus standup comedy and game development on the side!), Corey Greenwald is now combining his talents as an instructor at Fullstack Academy. Corey tells us the differences between teaching at college versus a coding bootcamp, and how Fullstack Academy students keep surprising him with the caliber of their projects!
How did you first get into programming?
When I was 10 years old, I would use Game Maker software to build personal games. I was strong in math, and in high school I took programming classes in Visual Basic and Java.
I was initially a math and computer science double major at Binghamton University. But I took a general education class in neuroscience, loved it, and turned my focus toward that. I joined a machine learning lab, which was the bridge between my two interests. I put my focus on programming on the back burner, and continued onto graduate school in neuroscience at Lehigh University.
A year into that, I realized I liked automating my experiments more than doing them. I missed the logical push of programming, and I wanted to launch an app, so I took a leave of absence from school. I knew how to program at this point, but I didn't know how to engineer. So in early 2016, I took the opportunity to go to Fullstack Academy to learn what I was missing.
What did you do after you graduated from Fullstack Academy? Did you get hired immediately as an instructor?
I didn’t, but while I was job searching after bootcamp, I did work with Fullstack Academy to build the Remote Bootcamp Prep course for students looking to get their feet wet in coding. I then received a number of job offers and took an engineering position at Wenner Media, the parent company to Rolling Stone, Us Weekly, and Men's Journal.
While I was at Wenner, Fullstack Academy asked me to teach some evening classes. It made me realize I missed teaching. I’ve had math/programming tutoring jobs since high school, helped build an online course in college, and I always loved it – and as time went on, I came to miss seeing people finally realize the why behind new information. You can do a task time and time again and not realize the why, then all of a sudden it clicks like a flash of insight, and you finally understand. I realized I wanted to share that feeling with people all the time. So I combined my on-the-job and project experience, and was really excited to come back after my time at Rolling Stone to teach at Fullstack.
Is there a difference between teaching in college and teaching at a bootcamp like Fullstack Academy?
It’s similar in that both involve lecturing and working with students. But there are a few key aspects that are very different. A student’s motivation to go to bootcamp is different from their motivation to go to college. When I taught at Binghamton or at Lehigh, most students took my class either because it was a general education requirement, or because their parents had said they should. There were only a couple of people who were genuinely interested in the course.
But at Fullstack Academy, every single person is stepping away from what they’ve been doing and making a choice to change their lives – the attitude is so different. I really mean that. On days where, as an instructor, I feel less motivated as I might on another day, just being in this environment and feeling everyone's motivation, it's contagious. The bootcamp environment is very different from a teaching perspective. I do standup comedy on the side, and when the audience is already excited, I tend to do better. I can tell the same joke multiple nights, and the number of laughs I get depends on the dynamic with each particular audience. That’s very similar to teaching. If everybody in the class is really energetic, I’m a better teacher – and at Fullstack Academy, everyone is totally energetic and committed. I love teaching at Fullstack.
How many Fullstack Academy instructors or TAs are in each class – and what's your ideal student-teacher ratio these days?
That's something that Fullstack really excels in, and one of the reasons I chose to come here in the first place as a student – they really don't slack on the support. Every cohort has at least two instructors, plus five to eight teaching assistants who can help students with the material. Put the two together, and you’ve got about 10 teaching staff in total, managing about 35 or 40 students, so the ratio is 4:1 right now. It varies a bit with seasonality – sometimes there are more instructors, a few more or a couple fewer teaching fellows, more students – you get the idea. But the idea is to provide more than enough support so that we have the opportunity to focus on students who might need some extra help, and also to push those who are excelling even further.
After teaching at Fullstack for some time now, do you find that there's a certain type of student who does well in the class?
We work hard to attract a really diverse group of students, so it’s probably easier to answer the question, “What kind of student doesn't do well?” That would be someone who starts Fullstack Academy without realizing how rigorous the experience would be and how invested the people around them will be. Anyone who’s intimidated by other people's excitement, as opposed to letting it contagiously affect them, is not going to perform well, and more importantly, they’re not going to enjoy the experience. It’s a challenge, but students who do well here do so because they like to be challenged.
It’s funny, but the other key to success at Fullstack is being willing to fail. Failure is so hard for people to accept, but it's incredibly important when you do anything new, and especially when it comes to coding. You will mess up, you'll forget things, and you'll have to look things up – but the important thing to remember is that you'll also work through it – if not on your own, then definitely with help from instructors and fellows – and it’ll make you a better coder in the end. That willingness to fail and the acceptance of that temporary failure – we call it the productive struggle – is really important to student success. It’s called a bootcamp for a reason, and that challenge should sound exciting to a student. A bootcamp is not something that anyone should do on a whim or expect to skate through. It will require you to grow in all kinds of ways – not just as a programmer – and you should show up ready for that.
What does student success mean to you?
We have graduates who go on to work everywhere, from big tech companies like Google to mid-size startups and small startups – and we even have grads who started their own companies. But to me, success is not getting hired at some big-name company – because while getting a job is, of course, important, the most important thing to me is seeing my students learn more than they thought they could. For example, I’m so proud when I see students building applications where I have to ask myself "How would I even do that?" I'm shocked by some of the projects that students put forth – and I love it.
For example, when I was teaching the Web Development Fellowship last year, which is a free program for underserved New Yorkers sponsored by the City of New York, I taught our group of students all the way from Bootcamp Prep through to the end of the curriculum. So I saw students progress from not knowing how to write a line of code to building augmented reality apps – for example, an application that allows you to take pictures of your food and interpret the exact nutrition of it. To me, that is success.
What is the goal for a student who completes Fullstack Academy? What kind of projects will they be able to build and what kind of roles can they take on?
When students leave Fullstack Academy they will have a good understanding of architecture and they’ll understand how every different piece of technology fits into the “tech stack.” They’ll of course also be able to solve technical problems. They'll know some of the most popular technologies used in the field, and will be able to get jobs as junior- to mid-level software engineers in front end, back end or the full stack.
Some students take it a step further and push themselves to understand technologies beyond what we teach. For example, we teach React at Fullstack Academy, but if a student understands React, then they’ll be able to apply for jobs that call for Vue.js and get up to speed quickly. On the back end, we teach Node and Express, and I know plenty of graduates who now use Koa instead of Express. Or instead of Node, they use Rails, Django, or Spring. Our graduates are able to pivot between these technologies because we don't just teach to the technology, we teach to the concept and to the architecture. I think that's a really important lesson.
What’s your advice for people who are thinking about applying to a coding bootcamp?
Start coding. It can be scary because there are so many resources available, and it’s hard to know where to start. So start with something small like the Bootcamp Prep program. If you tell yourself you're going to build the next Facebook, Google, or Uber, chances are you're going to run into roadblocks immediately, and without guidance, you won’t be able to accomplish that outsized goal. Be a realist. Start by just learning how to code and how to think logically. Pick a language, learn the basics, then sign up for a bootcamp and get yourself into it.
Don't expect coding bootcamp to be easy. If it were, our graduates wouldn't be as successful as they are. Regardless of what you want to do – start your own company, launch your own product, get a software engineering job – learning to program will improve the way you think. It's something that I wish was more available to all. I really couldn't recommend a bootcamp more strongly. It was almost certainly the best decision I've made in my life.
Oh Summer, one of the best seasons of the year! While it’s a time to relax, bask in the sun, and plan trips with family and friends, summer is also an awesome time to learn. If you’re a current student, teacher, or professional looking to learn to code, a summer bootcamp is a great way to learn new skills in just a few months. We chose 28 coding bootcamps that offer summer courses to help you launch a new career in tech. Check out the following courses to help you #learntocode this Summer 2018.Continue Reading →
You’ve graduated from a coding bootcamp, you know how to build a website from scratch, but you have no relevant work experience – how do you find a job? It may sound like the chicken and the egg problem, but as Fullstack Academy and Grace Hopper Program’s Head of Career Success Ceren Depree points out, you probably have more experience than you think. In this video tutorial, Ceren shows us how to make your LinkedIn profile, your resume, and your Github stand out to potential employers, even if you have never worked as a software developer before. Watch the video or read the summary below.Continue Reading →
In this episode, we’re talking about women’s success at coding bootcamps. Every year, Course Report does a survey of real coding bootcamp graduates to find out who is attending coding bootcamps and how successful they are. We dug into specific demographics this year, and found some pretty illuminating data about gender in coding bootcamps. We invited two awesome ladies from Fullstack Academy and The Grace Hopper Program to discuss how bootcamps are doing on this front, how the number of women in bootcamps has changed over time, if all-women bootcamps are good or bad for the problem, and how women can use bootcamps to make a transition into tech.Continue Reading →
Is learning to code on your 2018 New Year’s Resolutions List? It should be! There will be 1 million more computing jobs than applicants who can fill them by 2020. And a coding bootcamp could be just what you need to make a fresh start in 2018 as a developer. We’ve compiled a list of 16 full-time, part-time, in-person and online coding bootcamps which have upcoming cohorts starting in January and February 2018. Most of these have approaching application deadlines, so submit yours quickly if you want to get a head start in 2018!Continue Reading →
Two years ago, Will Jacobson graduated from Fullstack Academy, and since then he’s worked as a Software Developer at Perspective Data and even been promoted to lead their Data Acquisition team! See how the work ethic Will learned at Fullstack Academy helped him take on more responsibility at work, what he’s done to grow as a developer since graduation, and why he trusted the Fullstack Academy path to a career in tech.
What were you up to before attending Fullstack Academy?
I was a couple of years into a Ph.D. program in Earth Science at Columbia University when I started to feel detached from my work as an isotope geochemist. When you’re a grad student, as soon as you stop being fully engaged and excited about your project, it just doesn't work anymore. I felt like my project was far-removed from having a tangible effect on the world.
I made the decision to leave academia and spent about eight months bartending, before realizing I wanted skills that would allow me to contribute in, what felt to me, a more meaningful way. I wanted to be able to create.
Did you learn to code at all as a geochemist?
Like a lot of ex-academics, I did some coding in MATLAB. That’s a language that's used a lot by hard scientists, but going into my grad program I didn't know any of it. Then my early Ph.D. work ended up requiring a bit of mathematical computation, but MATLAB has a lot of hooks with complex statistics, though I was still quite scared of it, to be honest. So while there was a lot of quantitative work in my master's program, I would not say I was a strong programmer at all.
How did your path ultimately lead to a coding bootcamp?
I took on a couple of little freelance projects and then realized a bootcamp would be just the thing to jumpstart my learning and development. A four-year degree was not stomachable to me; it just wasn’t a mental or emotional option. I needed faster returns and I knew that graduate and undergraduate degrees would be too general for my purposes. I wanted an education that would be useful immediately, and that's why a coding bootcamp seemed so attractive right away. The Fullstack Academy reviews were amazing, so I applied, and it worked out.
There was a lot of prep work first, of course. To make sure I was ready for Fullstack admissions, I used Coderbyte as my main online resource. Coderbyte got me to the point where I could convince Fullstack that I was worth accepting.
Tell us about your cohort at Fullstack Academy!
My cohort was diverse in that students of many backgrounds were represented. There were plenty of ex-academics, ex-financiers, and people just looking for their first career after college.
Even though we came to Fullstack Academy from all walks of life, we were equals in the classroom, and that was great. We were all just good, earnest people trying to get a foothold in tech. Fullstack did a really good job facilitating that feeling of being on the same team and equal to each other.
After a life in academia, did you appreciate your learning experience at Fullstack Academy?
There were two phases: Junior Phase and Senior Phase. The Junior phase was like drinking from a fire hose. First, you see how many tools you can possibly incorporate into your toolbox. Then you build projects with those tools. Junior Phase was very intense because if you had one “off” day, you could really miss out. It was very busy and weekends were spent internalizing concepts. Looking back, I’d say the more energy you give it, the better position you'll be in after graduation. Every single day was valuable.
I should be clear that I had never experienced the “bootcamp” learning model. In a traditional school, we had always spent weeks on each topic; whereas at Fullstack, any given topic was all condensed into one morning. The Fullstack approach is an efficient use of time, but I had no experience with that aggressive pace.
I wouldn’t even have known what to learn if I’d tried to teach myself. One of my mentors says "Just buy speed" all the time and I love that. That means that if you know a certain learning process will get you results, you should just do it. Let someone who has taught a hundred other people, teach you. That’s what I did, and I then took those tools and ran with them. That's a long way of saying I would not be where I am without Fullstack Academy, that's for sure. I think I could have gotten here some day, but it would've taken much longer.
Tell us about life after graduating Fullstack Academy. What was your first job?
I finished Fullstack Academy in January 2016 – almost two years ago now. I took a job pretty quickly at a small startup called Prescriptive Data as a Fullstack Developer. We make it easier for building managers to run large buildings by gathering tons of data from the building and prescribing ways ways to do things smarter and more efficiently. We’re bringing a lot of disparate data sources together in a scientific way.
How has your job evolved over the past two years?
I started out as a Web Developer, and then I got more heavily into the process of acquiring and aggregating the data coming from all the different sensors in each building. I’m now the lead for our Data Acquisition team. We feed the application with data and also write commands back into the building to change fan speed intensity which controls interior temperatures. I’ve now actually hired two more Fullstack Academy students and I lead a small team of three.
How did Fullstack help you with your job search and how did you ultimately land your first role at Prescriptive Data?
Fullstack has a Hiring Day during the last week of class. For my cohort, they had about 15-20 companies in attendance to watch us present our Capstone Projects (the final project you complete before graduating) and then we went through a round of speed interviews. Prescriptive Data was there, but I didn't actually meet with them that day. I ended up reading about what they did and following up with them after Hiring Day, and the conversation kept moving from there.
That connection was completely initiated by Fullstack Academy. I know that at least half of my cohort found jobs in a similar way. We didn’t have to cold-call companies. Employers took us seriously because they knew the Fullstack Academy name, and that would always start the process.
How was the learning curve when you first started at Prescriptive Data? Did you feel like Fullstack Academy really prepared you?
I already knew front-end development and back-end development, so I was able to swap out different frameworks. It was just a matter of learning new syntax and new tools, but the fundamentals were the same. It was quite empowering to realize that even though I'd never seen a particular framework before, my foundation from Fullstack was strong enough that I learned React quickly, all on my own, and immediately contribute at work.
And not long after I graduated, Fullstack Academy realized this new framework React was important for any developer to know, so they started teaching it. Students who graduate now would report even less of a learning curve than I experienced.
You've been at your company for two years and have gotten a promotion – what did that process look like? Do you have any tips for other bootcampers looking for growth within their company?
It kind of goes back to what I learned at Fullstack Academy – the more you give, the more you get. The more energy you put out, the more you're going to gain from it. When I joined Prescriptive Data, there was one tech lead and he was stretched thin. It required a lot of self-starting to get a foothold and start producing meaningful work for the team. Once I got the foothold, the feeling of building something, being in the trenches with people, and seeing it go live in the app became addictive.
As far as the change in team dynamics, at one point, I found myself as the only developer working in data acquisition. I was the sole owner of a huge pile of code, feature requests were coming in, and there were a lot of processes to maintain. I didn’t feel like I was an amazing developer – I think that’s what they call impostor syndrome – but I chose to go full-speed ahead instead of crumbling. I kept up with the feature requests, I kept the code clean – all while interviewing multiple people a week to try to build a team around me.
It was a busy time, and I could’ve said, "I'm not ready for this." I had to make the decision to be confident and to put in the extra time and energy. There's not really a shortcut for that. It's a mindset that I definitely learned at Fullstack: to separate my ego from tough problems, and fortunately, it always worked out.
Do you think that your background in academia and earth sciences has been useful in your new life as a developer?
Earth science essentially means using other areas of science to answer earth-based questions. You identify a problem and then you pick from your toolset to try to address that problem – and everyone's going to have a slightly different toolset. On an abstracted level, that’s pretty similar to engineering because you pick your goal and then you pick your path. And it taught me to keep an open mind and leave my ego out of the solution to a problem. So while that experience didn't translate to tech on a practical level, the mindset and the enthusiasm certainly have.
What's been your biggest challenge or roadblock on your journey to becoming a software developer and now a team lead?
I remember that when I got to Prescriptive Data, there was a little disconnect between exactly what I had studied at Fullstack Academy and the code base at Prescriptive Data. The two didn’t merge seamlessly – which is the hard part for every brand new developer when they start a new job. That was my first challenge--and my first step toward life as a real-world developer.
The next step was making the shift from doing little assignments, to thinking about the product holistically – from a level where I can identify the problems we're going to run up against in the future. That's a jump that an every-day-developer will have to make in order to be a team lead. You’ll have to be in the trenches, dealing with everyday headaches, while also looking ahead. Always be ready with your next game plan. You're acting as the player and the coach at the same time.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking about making a career transition and who are contemplating attending a coding bootcamp like Fullstack Academy?
Apart from “just do it,” I would say that it’s helpful to talk in-person with someone who has graduated from a coding bootcamp. When I was considering a coding bootcamp, my first thought was that I'm not smart in “that way.” I was lucky to have a friend who convinced me otherwise, but it’s a big leap! You see these stats about bootcamps that you can make X amount of money and develop these valuable skills in just 4 months, but you have to know that it’s for real; otherwise, it's a big blind investment.
But at this point, coding bootcamps are a well-established path and I am just one of the many thousands of developers for whom it’s worked out. The most important thing you can focus on is to absorb everything you're taught, and one day you’ll look around and realize you're a hot commodity.
Collin Miller is a self-taught developer (he actually started building applications in high school)! After leading the Front End Engineering team at The Onion, Collin was itching to teach programming. Now he’s shaping new developers as an Instructor for Fullstack Academy’s 17-week Software Engineering Immersive in Chicago. Learn why Collin’s non-traditional education makes him believe in the efficacy of coding bootcamps, how his background in improv makes him a better teacher, and the one trait he sees in his most successful Fullstack Academy students!
First, how did you learn to code? Did you do a traditional computer science degree?
I had a lot of exposure to computers when I was growing up because my father was a software developer. I had access to computers and did a little bit of programming (meaning graphs and formulas in spreadsheets) at a young age. When I really got earnest about computer programming – making websites – it was 2005.
I did not do a traditional computer science degree. I started doing homeschooling during the 10th grade. As part of that, I had a video technician internship at a company that made infomercials. After about a year of that internship, I took a job at that company and did not graduate from high school, because I figured that this job would be a good credential to get the next job. Outside of work, I was teaching myself Ruby on Rails, which was the cool thing at the time, with a friend.
My path was pretty self-directed. We had access to a lot of blog posts and books, but there was no guided classroom experience for us. We had to do a lot of self-teaching, researching, and finding our own materials. After about 6 months, I got a job at a startup that built applications for HD DVD, which was a competitor to Blu-ray. From there I've just been learning on the job and trying to build from that step-by-step.
Why did you transition into teaching programming?
As my career went on, I started getting more teaching and leadership roles. Before Fullstack Academy, I was the Director of Front-End Engineering at The Onion, a satirical newspaper that is now a website (when print died and went to the internet heaven). As a director of engineering, I naturally took on some of those duties of mentoring and teaching. If you're choosing a new technology, then you're responsible for making sure the team learns how to use it. Teaching is enriching. You're not trying to just create a product, you're trying to help people transform themselves, which is very satisfying. You're giving them new tools, new ways to think, and new ways to approach programming.
I felt like I had mastered my technical skills, and when it was time to move on from The Onion, I wanted to merge tech with education. I thought I had to choose between writing code all day long and being an instructor. But teaching programming allowed me to do both.
In addition to being a programmer, I've also been a performer and a comedian. My career gave me the opportunity to move to New York City to work as a programmer, and I was also the director of improvisation at a high school for 4 years.
What stood out about Fullstack Academy – why did you want to work as an instructor there?
At The Onion, we interviewed coding bootcamp candidates, and one of them was from Fullstack Academy. I got a bit of an introduction to their process and the capstone project. The bulk of his resume was about the work he did at bootcamp. We wanted to hire that candidate, but he ended up taking another offer. After that, I was fairly convinced that Fullstack Academy worked.
When I started researching Fullstack Academy, it seemed like a transparent company; nothing seems to be very hidden here. I had worked in startups and knew I liked the culture because you get a little bit more freedom and room for experimentation. I wanted to work at a company where the DNA of the company was freshly built.
Since you’ve worked in tech and had a non-traditional education, did you need to be convinced of the bootcamp model?
Being a self-trained programmer, my inherent bias is towards the bootcamp model (versus someone who's gone through college for programming). Friends used to ask me about the education model of a bootcamp, but until The Onion, I had never worked with somebody who trained at a bootcamp. At The Onion, I worked with a developer who had worked as a Laser Lab Technician in the Air Force before attending a coding bootcamp in Austin, Texas. Working with her, I realized that this model definitely can work.
Do you think that improv has made you a better teacher?
After teaching improv, I’m more comfortable leading a room as a facilitator. That has been a great experience to be able to take into teaching. I also found that I was able to learn while running a workshop, and that made me truly care about the material.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that improv helps you become a better listener. In improv, you have no prior information about the scene – your only tool is paying attention. You have to know when someone checks out or gets confused and be able to, if necessary, intervene and facilitate a conversation. It forces a certain level of presence that I feel is definitely useful in this kind of teaching role.
Give us an idea of your personal teaching style. What is class like?
My teaching style involves asking my students a lot of questions. How do they think we should approach a problem? As teachers we ask ourselves – are we using our time well? Are we able to engage in a conversation or dialogue?
Fullstack Academy is split into a Junior phase and a Senior phase. The Senior phase is more project-based versus lecture. Right now I'm working with the Senior teams on projects, which means that instead of solely lecturing, my role is to be available for any and all questions. My experience as an instructor is lecturing, doing live coding, and teaching different one-off concepts.
What is Fullstack Academy’s teacher:student ratio at the Chicago campus?
I think the ratio is 10 students for every 1 instructor. We have three full-time instructors, four full-time teaching fellows. Currently, we have 30 students on campus. Even if an instructor is busy, there's usually a Fellow who's available to help you, so I do think it’s the right ratio.
Is there an ideal type of student that excels at Fullstack Academy?
The ideal student is one who can celebrate failure. Failure is happening left and right constantly, all the time. You don't immediately know the answer to everything – you have to think about it, write some code and it may not work. There’s a relationship between learning and failure for everybody. An ideal student is someone who can dive in, try something, and if it doesn't work out, they won’t be discouraged. You have to be able to feel comfortable in that zone of discomfort.
For example, one of our new teaching fellows, Camden, was a Summer of Code student. He's a student who is relentlessly positive and engaged – if the world was full of Camdens, it would be a better place.
He had the fearlessness to say, "I'm going to take a little time off of the traditional college path to focus on being a Fellow at Fullstack." Being able to look at what is in front of you and trying to make the most of that rather than doing the status quo is amazing. It’s rewarding to be part of Fullstack Academy, which is creating an environment where someone can take those risks and succeed.
How does Fullstack Academy assess student progress? How do you make sure that students are on the right track?
A big part of this is that our students pair program. There is built-in social accountability when you pair. You're sitting down at your workstation with another person and they can't get their work done unless you're also working. Students keep on task in that way.
We also have an internal website called Learn. Every day students do a check-in: how are they feeling? Are they keeping up with the curriculum? If they are feeling particularly low in a category that day, they can leave us a note, and we’ll then help to encourage or fill in gaps.
From week-to-week and between Phases, we give students at-home and in-class assessments. There are also checkpoints at certain parts of the curriculum. For example, if we’re teaching React, then the React checkpoint might have 20 test cases that you need to pass. Oftentimes, we'll sit down in a room, talk about that code, and try to catch any problem spots before they snowball into too much of an impediment.
It's an interesting time for the coding bootcamp industry – some schools are closing, others are growing. Why is a coding bootcamp like Fullstack Academy the best option for people looking to change careers.
Something that I've really come to appreciate about Fullstack Academy’s company culture is a very strong focus on outcomes. We adjust what we're doing to make sure that we're creating the outcomes that students want. We need to keep it consistent for students so there's not a chaotic environment.
Between phases, we talk about how and what we can improve. What are the things that just aren't working anymore? There's a lot of very courteous, but frank, discussions about the curriculum. We’re always improving the student experience.
Have you been able to contribute to the Fullstack Academy curriculum?
We have 6-week phases, so there’s a limit to how quickly you can change the curriculum. Instructors have a Review Week between phases that gives us time to look at the curriculum and make changes. I’m really excited about a piece of curriculum that we're trying out for the first time. There’s a movement happening in Design Systems best practices around synchronizing the thought processes between the design and development teams. I’m now designing a lecture and workshop training for students to work together on Design and Development. I think my strongest contributions to the curriculum will be in the front-end – thinking about how developers can use design techniques to help them understand how to structure and architect applications.
What's special about the Chicago tech community? Do you have any tips for aspiring bootcampers?
Meetups! Absolutely, you should go to meetups in Chicago. People tend to be very helpful and friendly. You will notice that people who go to meetups love this job and this career. You can draw immense satisfaction from programming – you get the ability to create things which can be very joyful and rewarding. So going to a place where people can come together to discuss programming can be fun.
I owe my career to meetups and conferences. There have been a number of times where a meetup exposed me to some piece of technology, some framework, or some tool in advance that I wouldn't have heard about until months later. Also, once you are looking for a job, the social network you’ll build at meetups can be a very powerful resource.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers about taking the first step into a coding bootcamp?
If you're learning, don't worry about breaking a few things along the way. Be a little reckless! You're not going to break everything and if you do run into problems, just keep trying until you get it right. Play a little recklessly and try different things.
What exactly can students build after a coding bootcamp? We attended a recent Fullstack Academy and The Grace Hopper Program Demo Day to find out. A total of 19 teams presented the tech behind their awesome Capstone Projects, such as an AI kitchen assistant and a check-splitting app (one group even created their own cryptocurrency)! You can watch the Fullstack Academy video presentations below to find out how these bootcampers turned their dreams into live applications.
Every student at Fullstack Academy and The Grace Hopper Program, including students from their Chicago and remote cohorts, gets to take part in a Demo Day. Groups of students present their Capstone Projects to fellow students, staff, and to the world via livestream on Fullstack Academy’s Facebook page. Here are a selection of projects from the Remote cohort, the Chicago cohort, The Grace Hopper Program, and the New York City Cohort.
Team members: Fara Woolf, Lina Jones, Shayne Mihalka, Kevin Genus
Cohort: Fullstack Academy Remote.
What's Exquisite Corpse? An Android app using React Native, which combines photosharing with surrealism. In the original game of Exquisite Corpse, each artist would add to a collective drawing, without seeing what the previous person drew, and at the end they would unfold it and see whole drawing. With this app, a user can take a photo, send to another user who can only see the edge, they can then take another photo and match up the edges to the original photo. This next photo can then be sent to final user who adds their photo. At end all users can see the finished piece appear, like a collage of all the photos. They can then share the photo straight to Facebook.
Their biggest challenge: Creating one photo from three sources. The user lines a photo up, sends it to an image masher. When a photo arrives at server, begins measuring and tailoring photo, cuts a little off the top, a lot off the bottom, server sends both to AWS, and puts them together as one.
Technologies used: React Native, Redux, Heroku, Sequelize, AWS, Express, Imagemagick
See the live project here: exquisitecorpse-fsa.herokuapp.com/
Team members: Jean Luciano, Jason Hu, Raj Kadiyala
Cohort: Fullstack Academy Chicago.
What’s Split? A mobile app to facilitate splitting the check at restaurant, because it’s not always ideal to split the bill in half if people order differently priced meals. A user can take a photo of receipt, then Google Vision OCR API analyzes the image to draw out item names and costs. The app puts all the items in table. The user can then add, remove, or change items. The app also calculates tax and tip. Then the user can add his friends to the app, and assign and unassign items for each person. Then users see a summary screen with a detailed view of all the transactions. Then the user sends checks to everyone. Each person receives a text message with a list of what they ordered, and a link to pay their amount. The main user can then mark people off as paid.
Technologies used: React Native, Redux, Express, Firebase, Node.js
See the live project here: Github
Team members: Danni Liu, Jessica Blake, Kaitlin Moreno, Sarah Charles
Cohort: The Grace Hopper Program in New York City.
What is Tiny Kitchen? It’s a personal recipe organizer and kitchen assistant. Instead of being interactive via a mouse or keyboard, users can interact with this app by talking to it. The team created the app so that people using a recipe on their computer found didn’t have to touch the computer with dirty hands. Cooking assistant called Mochi who can accept voice commands and read recipe step by step so you can focus on cooking. Users can search for a recipe on the web, use a Chrome extension to populate form and add the recipe to the Tiny Kitchen app. Users can also change the recipe, or manually add a recipe. Can also make grocery list and email it to yourself.
Mochi can react to commands, and can answer cooking related questions, and do unit conversions while a user is cooking, for a hands-free experience.
Technologies used: Chrome Extension, React, Google API.AI, speech to text recognition
Team members: Brian Bohme, One June Kang, Max Brodheim, Olivia Oddo
Cohort: Fullstack Academy in New York City
What’s Humm? An iOS app which allows users to share playlists across music streaming platforms like Apple Music and Spotify, to avoid having to manually put together playlists. Users connect their music streaming services to Humm, add each other as friends, and share playlists with each other. They can then download the shared playlist to their own music streaming service, either Apple Music and Spotify accounts.
Check it out live: Github
Team members: Stanley Tu, Sid Reddy Aatish Varma, Ken Russo
Cohort: Fullstack Academy in New York City.
What is StackCoin? A cryptocurrency using Ethereum blockchain for a Fullstack Academy students to use as a currency. Students at Fullstack can send stackcoin to other students, see how much money they have, how many people are using system, send money to each other and see the distribution of wealth. Once logged in, users can check in on the dashboard, see the latest transactions, and start mining. Transactions logic is created by Ethereum Contracts which creates a public ledger, and enforces strict rules. The system supports two contracts, a check-in contract when people log in, and a Codewars contract where users receive 100 Stackcoins if they do a Codewars problem, and 200 points if they rank up in the queue.
Technologies used: React, Redux, Web3, Express, Postgresql, Ethereum blockchain, Azure servers
Link to the live project: stackcoin.tech
And during this Demo Day, attendees actually voted on their favorite projects! Check out the winners:
Need a summary of news about coding bootcamps from July 2017? Course Report has just what you need! We’ve put together the most important news and developments in this blog post and podcast. In July, we read about the closure of two major coding bootcamps, we dived into a number of new industry reports, we heard some student success stories, we read about new investments in bootcamps, and we were excited to hear about more diversity initiatives. Plus we round up all the new campuses and new coding bootcamps around the world.Continue Reading →
With the closing of Dev Bootcamp (slated for December 8, 2017), you’re probably wondering what other coding bootcamp options are out there. Dev Bootcamp changed thousands of lives, and built a great reputation with employers, so we are sad to see it go. Fortunately, there are still plenty of quality coding bootcamps in the cities where Dev Bootcamp operated. Here is a list of coding bootcamps with similar lengths, time commitments, and curriculums in the six cities where Dev Bootcamp had campuses: Austin, Chicago, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle.Continue Reading →
As an experienced recruiter, Ceren Nomer knows how to get coding bootcampers in the door at tech companies, and she brings that perspective to her students as Head of Career Success at Fullstack Academy. We sat down with Ceren to find out how the Careers Team prepares Fullstack Academy and Grace Hopper Program students for technical interviews, develops soft skills to impress employers, and helps navigate salary negotiation. Plus, Ceren tells us the 3 worst mistakes that coding bootcamp grads make in interviews (and how to stop making them)!
What career services experience are you bringing to Fullstack Academy?
I started in a recruiting agency, then transitioned to internal tech recruiting for startups. Over the past six years, I've focused predominantly on tech. After working in startups, growing teams from 35 to 150 employees, and doing career coaching on the side, I realized that I wanted to tackle something new. I didn’t want to keep moving from startup to startup. At Fullstack Academy, I’m able to give students insight into what recruiters and hiring managers are really thinking but won’t say to them.
What makes you excited to work with Fullstack Academy to get their graduates jobs as developers?
I had always done career coaching on the side. I helped friends of friends and co-workers or significant others who were looking for advice. I had really bad experiences with college career counselors, and it’s a space where I see a lot of room for improvement. Getting students at Fullstack and Grace Hopper ready for their first careers in tech takes everything I love and pulls it into one job!
Also, as a recruiter, I talked to a lot of coding bootcamp graduates and saw the other side. They said all the wrong things, so I knew there was a lot I could bring to the table.
When does the career services team start working with students? The first day? The last day?
My work starts during Senior Phase, which is halfway through the program. We definitely don’t want to wait until the end because I think you want to be prepared before you start the job search. In the first week of Senior Phase, we do one-on-one discussions with each student to talk about the kind of industry they’re interested in, the size of companies they're thinking about, and the roles they want. Then throughout Senior Phase, we do prep work on LinkedIn, resumes, lectures on how to interview, how to negotiate salary. It’s a lot of lectures, one-on-one mock interviews, and coaching.
Do all of your students know the job they want?
A lot of the time, students aren't totally sure yet. We tell them to think about the products that they like, their own passions, their backgrounds, and what will make them stand out to companies. We start the discussions with students.
As a former recruiter, what’s the biggest mistake you see bootcamp grads making?
In the past, I’ve seen two main issues, and both are more soft skills than technical skills. First, bootcamp grads didn't seem like they were passionate about the company they were interviewing for. I would hear (and still hear in mock interviews) a candidate say that they’re “just ready to learn and grow” instead of showing that they were passionate about the company.
The second reason I wouldn’t move forward as a recruiter was because they were being coached to ask for $125,000 salaries as a junior level engineer. That’s not market value! In New York, the market value for that role is $85,000. And you need to be ready to talk about compensation in the first conversation.
Third, I noticed bootcamp grads who didn’t know what they wanted. How do I know that you want to do this front-end role if you say “Oh, I’ll take anything.” What if you get into that front-end role and you realize very quickly that you want to work on the back end or do product management? As a recruiter, I don't have time to deal with that. The biggest stigma that employers have about bootcamp grads is that they’re career switchers and they won’t know if they enjoy this new job. You need to show that you’re focused and know what you want in the next five years. Does your five-year plan change? Of course, it does. But if you don't have something like that, how can a recruiter trust that you're going to stay in this role for a year?
How has the Hiring Day and Demo Day changed over time and what does it look like for students?
Previously, we held a one-day event that lasted about 2.5 hours. We invited employers, students did demonstrations of their final projects, and then employers did 10-minute interviews with students. As the size of our cohorts has grown, demo days have changed. More students mean more demos, and it was becoming less engaging. Because demos got longer, interviews got shorter. Our students were only speaking to one or two employers, and it just didn’t make sense.
Now we host a separate Demo Day, three days before our Hiring Day and every student in our whole program contributes. Everybody is involved, from our Chicago campus to Grace Hopper students to the Remote Immersive students. A lot of engineers also love to learn about what’s going on in the industry and what other developers are working on, so it’s becoming a cool community event. It brings everybody together. We're ramping up marketing on that event, and it’s even a Facebook Live event now.
Hiring Day is a separate event, and allows students to interview with every company. They’re also able to network, which is really important when there are 60 students graduating. We wanted to make it as serious as possible, so we open up the networking hour, which gives both employers and students a chance to talk to whomever they would like.
Since Chicago is still a fairly small cohort, they still use the previous format.
Why do you think that Capstone Projects are important to getting a job?
Students spend two to three weeks on the capstone project and there are two reasons that those are important. First, you need to be able to talk in-depth about the technical aspects of a project you’ve built. For example, there are CS grads who come to Grace Hopper because they haven’t built their own project and say that they don’t know what to talk about in interviews. They don’t have examples to bring up because they haven’t built anything. When you’re asked a question in an interview, you can relate it back to real world experience.
Secondly, students work in groups of 4 on their capstone projects, so you’re able to work on a part of the project that really interests you. You can show that you’re passionate about a specific industry or technology that matches well with employers. For example, I’ve seen groups who are really interested in music, so they build a unique and technically challenging composition app. Or a student who likes the front end will own the front end of the project, and can then talk about that in interviews.
It’s important for us to leave capstones, hackathons and all the other projects very much up to the student. They should build what they want to build, and start thinking like an engineer. An engineer isn’t just building things to build things; they’re solving problems, and making things more efficient. That's the mindset we're trying to encourage in our students.
How are you getting students ready for their first technical interviews?
We do both mock behavioral and mock technical interviews, and I think those are helpful. We share a lot of resources with our students, including a list of common questions you’ll be asked, and what concepts to review before an interview. I've definitely heard a lot of students say, "Thank God I reviewed that list because I was asked the first question on it and I wouldn't have known the answer otherwise."
Another resource is our student community. We encourage all of our students to share knowledge via Slack and email. We have alumni groups who sit down with students once a week to do REACTO problems, or share the toughest technical interview question you’ve heard.
You mentioned REACTO- how does that help students get ready for whiteboarding in an interview?
REACTO stands for Repeat, Examples, Approaches, Code, Test, Optimization. During Senior Phase, students come in at 9:30am and we do paired whiteboarding exercises every day for 6 weeks. I've had so many students say, "I just went to an interview and I'm not going to lie, one of the REACTO problems came up and I was less nervous because I knew the question." So that's a big help.
Do you have advice or thoughts for future employers who are interviewing Fullstack graduates?
I don’t think employers should tailor interviews to a bootcamp graduate. Our standards are high, so our graduates are getting into companies that aren’t dumbing anything down: Google, Facebook, Amazon. The fact that our graduates are getting through those technical interviews means something to me. However, there are certain questions that a Computer Science graduate will do better on than a bootcamp grad. Coding bootcamp grads actually have hands on experience, but CS grads have more fundamental algorithm and database background.
That being said, in this environment, we can tell when a student is falling short in a certain area, and we have the curriculum, articles, and books for them to get there. We also offer CS Saturdays, which is an additional day when students learn more about computer science topics.
How do you help your students choose a company best for their first jobs?
It definitely depends on the person. One piece of advice is that you can’t be the first developer. And it's not because you can't do it. It's because you can't properly manage expectations. Knowing how long a project will take to build just comes with experience. That’s a big “no.”
The other thing I tell students is to understand the difference between mentorship and the opportunity to learn and grow. There are companies that have formal mentorship programs like Stack Overflow, and you will know they a have a mentorship program because they will advertise it as a perk.
If the company doesn't have a formal mentorship program though, that doesn't mean right off the bat that you're not going to get support. Look at their dev team’s profiles on LinkedIn and figure out how senior their developers are. If there are ten engineers and eight of them are senior, then you know you're going to get the initial hand-holding experience and mentorship.
Pro-tip: there is also a stigma around this! If you walk into a startup and say, "I want mentorship," then that signifies that you need a lot of hand-holding and you don't feel comfortable deploying code. So we spend time with our students talking through how to seek out mentorship without using the buzzword that could take you out of the running for the job.
How do you help students approach compensation and negotiation in their first jobs?
Salary negotiation and compensation ends up being one of our longest lectures because I get the most questions!
First of all, you need to have a salary range in mind. The number one mistake in an interview is to say you want “market value” or “whatever you see fit.” Keep that ball on your side of the court because the second you give it to someone else, you’re letting them value you. This should be a salary range to show that you’re flexible.
Remember that compensation is going to change depending on the company that you’re interviewing for, whether that’s a startup or a medium-sized company, or a huge tech company. If you really love and want to work at a specific startup, they may be able to offer you less, and you’ll have to change your range depending on that. Our students have resources like Glassdoor, PayScale, Salary.com, and PaySa to make that decision.
Students always tell me that they weren’t prepared for the salary question. You have to understand that compensation will come up in the first conversation, especially if you’re talking to a recruiter.
Do you notice differences when working with new women developers from Grace Hopper?
The biggest difference is confidence. For example, I worked with an amazing Grace Hopper student who had a development background already so I knew right away that she would be in demand. She was going to on-site interviews at companies that she was overqualified for, and she wasn’t getting the job. One of my team members pointed out that what she lacked was confidence. I had a sit-down chat with her about showing confidence in interviews. If you don't believe in yourself, how can somebody else believe in you? After we had that conversation, she got two offers and now she's working at Facebook. One little tweak made a world of difference.
How has the Fullstack Academy employer network grown over the last few years?
Our hiring network has doubled if not tripled in the past year. One of the biggest takeaways (which I love) is that anyone who hires a Fullstack Academy grad comes back to hire more.
Even when our graduates move jobs, they’ll expand the hiring network to their new employer. I recently had someone reach out to connect their last manager with their new company.
What do employers say they like about Fullstack Academy + Grace Hopper graduates?
Secondly, our grads know what they want and can communicate that well. They know that they want to work in a specific role or a particular environment, so they do well once they go to those jobs, and will stay in that company.
What types of jobs are they getting?
As an employer, you can come to a hiring day and find your next developer, product manager, front end, or UX, UI designer.
Mark Hario’s advice to anyone thinking about going to a coding bootcamp? Just do it. A former welding engineer, Mark dabbled in coding growing up, and after thinking about returning to coding for a few years, he finally took the plunge and enrolled at Fullstack Academy’s Remote Immersive coding bootcamp. Mark explains why he chose to study online rather than in person, why he found the Fullstack Academy remote learning experience so effective, and how his new job as a web developer is a dream come true!
Can you tell me about your educational or career background before you decided to attend Fullstack Academy?
I was always interested in computers. I played around with HTML when I was younger. In high school, I was thinking about actual jobs and careers to pursue and a number of factors led me to working in more industrial jobs. So I ended up learning how to weld at Community College. I worked as a welder for about a year, then got my engineering degree in welding and continued working as a robot programmer for two years.
I had been thinking about returning to coding, or focusing on it entirely, pretty much my whole life. I finally realized, "I don't want to do welding forever," and there were a number of other advantages to changing careers as well. For instance, I’ve always wanted to live in Boulder, and now I am. If welding wasn't going to do it, coding could. What was I waiting for?
It sounds like you already played around with code quite a bit. Did you try to teach yourself to code at all before you considered going to bootcamp?
What made you choose an online coding bootcamp specifically? Did you look into in-person ones?
They're based in New York City so choosing the online bootcamp was a financial decision. Paying rent and living in New York City for four months with no income didn't sound feasible.
Where were you based when you were studying? Were there in-person options there?
I was living in Iowa at the beginning of the course, and moved back in with my parents in southeast Michigan for the duration of the bootcamp. I am fortunate to have a supportive family, because living rent free went a long way towards making it economically doable.
There were also a few local bootcamps, but I felt that it was pretty clear that I needed to do an online bootcamp, or move to another city. Moving would’ve been expensive, so this worked out pretty well.
Did you think about going back to college to study computer science?
I did. My original plan was that the bootcamp would get the ball rolling, I’d find some job, then go to school after that. Then I realized that the bootcamp could really replace university for me. For my needs, the bootcamp was more than enough. Going back to college simply is not necessary, and would be far more expensive and time consuming.
How were you able to pay for Fullstack Academy? Did you use a financing partner or do you have any tips?
I had a loan lined up from one of the banks focusing on financing bootcamps, but my parents ended up offering to extend me a loan with no interest (thanks!). I had also saved a few grand to put towards the career transition. And, again, living rent free helped a lot. Honestly, the total cost to me was less than the cost of attending a state university for a single semester.
What was the Fullstack Academy remote immersive application and interview process like when you were applying?
What was your Fullstack Academy remote cohort like?
There was a group of 15 to start. Geographically we had two people from New York City, people from Washington DC, somebody from Virginia, two people from Texas, one or two from California, and somebody from Puerto Rico. We had a number of races as well. I think there were four or five women. Fullstack Academy is based in New York City so it's on the Eastern Time zone, the same as Michigan. The people in California had a little bit of a challenge but it wasn't anything totally unreasonable.
Some of the students were from computer science or coding backgrounds, and were trying to augment their resume. One person was coming back after taking a hiatus to raise her kids. And there was one guy like me who was a mechanical engineer and switching to coding. It was quite diverse.
What was your study setup was like? Were you studying from home and how did you stay focused?
Mentally, that was a challenge. When you're in a real classroom you don't have a dog at your feet! It's more distracting when you're at home, so that was a small challenge.
Most students typically worked from home because most of us were on Macbooks and used external monitors. A couple of times I would work outside or at a coffee shop, but generally, I wanted to have my bigger monitor because screen space was such a premium.
What was the learning experience like for this Fullstack Academy remote bootcamp? How were the days structured and how did the instructors deliver the material to you?
It was divided into sections – foundations, junior phase, and senior phase. Most days in the junior phase half of the course consisted of a workshop where the instructors would go through a topic, then we would do coding challenges in pair programming teams. Lectures and most of class time revolved around a shared video chat, which was really nice. Anybody who had a question would unmute themselves and speak up – it was quite similar to a classroom environment. We were in pairs or groups of three for the coding challenge, and regularly swapped who was coding and who was looking ahead.
If we were having problems, we could click the help button and the instructor could join our video chat and be right there. Looking at a shared screen together was really quite effective for learning the materials. Pair programming worked a lot better, and was a lot more fun, than I thought it would be.
For the senior phase in the second half of the course we would start our day with coding puzzles called REACTO challenges where we would split the class into two groups. One group would go with the instructor and talk about a coding puzzle for the morning and the other group would just hang out and chat, which was pretty nice – in the remote online cohort we had fewer opportunities to make small talk than you would in an in-person class. Then the rest of the class would come back and we would break into pairs to test each other. The rest of the time in the senior phase we were working on projects.
What was your favorite project that you worked on at Fullstack?
How many instructors did you have and how often did you interact with them?
We had two instructors, Geoff who ran the junior phase, and Omri who ran the senior phase. We also had two teaching fellows, Elliot and Dani, who were totally kick-ass. They were all accessible most of the time, and we were in almost constant contact with one or more of them. I really can't say enough good things about the whole faculty at Fullstack. I was blown away by their dedication to teaching, and to our learning experience.
I'm interested in how Fullstack prepared you for job hunting. What sort of career prep or advice were they able to give you?
In senior phase, we had REACTO puzzles every morning. That was practice for technical interviews where we would discuss intricate computer science questions and work through them together. Those questions are very similar to the types of things you'd see on coding challenges in a job interview.
The Fullstack careers team also offered technical interview rehearsals and feedback. They all have hiring backgrounds so they know what to look for. We discussed how to get into the industry, how to find connections on LinkedIn and follow up. It wasn't so much about introducing us to employers as it was about teaching us how to find them ourselves.
I've been to a few of Fullstack Academy’s in person hiring days in NYC where they present their final projects. Were you able to do anything like that?
Yeah, absolutely. Our capstone project was a React Native app we built in three weeks. It was called Bite Swipe, and anyone can download it for Android. It’s like Tinder for restaurants. We presented it during the first ever Fullstack Academy remote tech demo day. We were also given the opportunity to fly to New York City and attend a hiring day personally, which a few people took advantage of. The catch was you would be meeting hiring managers in New York City who are looking for people who want to live in New York City, which didn't necessarily fit everyone in our group.
Congrats on your new job! Can you tell me about what you're doing?
I'm working for financial tech company in Boulder as a web developer doing exactly what I had set out to do. I'm starting on front-end technologies, and soon I’ll be doing some API writing and more of the back-end side of things. I enjoy the work, the people are intelligent and helpful, and there will always be something more to learn. In many ways, it's like a dream come true. There are also free bagels in the kitchen!
Well done! How did you actually find the job?
I was on LinkedIn and Indeed.com, and I reached out to a few people. One piece of job advice Fullstack gave us was that you'll find better jobs faster by physically being in the city where you want to work, and attending events. So I went to Boulder, stayed in an Airbnb, and gave myself about eight weeks to find a job. My first interview actually turned out to be the job I took – it went better than I could’ve predicted!
How has the first week been? What sort of training or onboarding have you received?
My first few days were spent setting up my machine, and getting some of the apps that they work on installed and running. The first few days was a lot of hand-holding, getting the machine going, and following tutorials. Now I’m building some simple HTML content. I’ve had a lot of questions, but everyone has been very patient and helpful.
How has your previous background been useful both in learning to code, and now in your new job?
I think I’ve always had a good work ethic. That bootcamp was 60 hours on an easy week – it really took dedication and energy. When I was working in welding, I was getting out of bed several hours earlier in the day and worked a few hard weeks, so I had good self-discipline. Beyond that, as a robot programmer and welding engineer, I was doing logical problem solving so there are some technical parallels. It's a similar thought process in both jobs.
Have you been able to stay involved with Fullstack Academy at all or kept in touch with the other alumni since you graduated?
I have actually. One alumna was from Colorado and I actually met her after I moved here to Boulder. So that was cool. We have an alumni group, and a couple of us have projects that we're doing together. For instance, I work with two fellow alumni on a non-profit project so obviously, we stay in touch.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to learn to code?
For me, the most important thing was to be as dedicated as possible. My challenge was overbooking myself. I was doing the foundations part of the course while I was still working full-time. If I was to do it again, I would’ve quit my job three weeks earlier and just focused entirely on coding from day one. Also, I think everybody suffers from imposter syndrome, thinking "I'm not smart enough." All of us were thinking, even through graduation day, "We're not going to be up to this." And now all of us are doing it professionally. I think I would go easier on myself if I was to do it again.
What advice do you have for anyone else who is thinking about going through an online coding bootcamp?
Carefully research the options and choose the one that best fits your needs. I wanted to do full-stack web development, but maybe some are more interested in front-end work. Choose the right bootcamp, and dedicate yourself 100% to that endeavor.
If you don't like where you're at in your life, then do something different. In six months flat, I totally reinvented my career. We live in a time when all you have to do is apply online. You can stay in your seat and reinvent yourself
I know there's always a dozen reasons for not doing something. Quit thinking about it and just do it. Sometimes any decision is better than no decision.
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 →
Reed Branson graduated from Fullstack Academy in September 2016 and is enjoying his new job as a Software Engineer at Machine Metrics in Massachusetts. We sat down with Reed to ask him all about his new job, which programming languages he is working in (and learning), and why he wanted to work at a startup. Plus Reed tells us about his Fullstack Academy Fellowship. Watch the video Q&A (or check out our summary below)!
Why Reed chose Fullstack Academy:
- Because he lived and worked in New York, Reed narrowed his options to NYC.
What happened after Reed graduated from Fullstack Academy?
- Fullstack Academy actually offered him a Fellowship position, and Reed saw it as a great way to continue learning, earn some money, and work on a side-project that he thought of with his sister.
- As a Fullstack Fellow, Reed had to learn Mongo, React and Redux on the job. In the end, he feels like he got two schools for the price of one, because he learned Angular.js in class and React.js as a Fullstack Fellow.
- Reed’s advice on choosing a programming language to learn: “I don’t think the language matters at all, as long as you have the ability to learn to code. It’s a lot easier to learn to more languages after you have learned one language.”
What attracted Reed to Machine Metrics for his first job?
- The leadership team had a track record of success - they had sold software companies in the past.
- There were opportunities for personal development (and room for growth) as an engineer.
- Machine Metrics is a diverse team working on diverse technologies.
- Reed got a ton of responsibility and Machine Metrics let him learn & fail. For example, in his first week Reed broke the app, but the second week, he fixed it!
What’s the appeal of working for a startup?
- Reed has worked in huge organizations like the NSA and American Express.
- After those experiences, he wanted to have more freedom, skin in the game, equity, and flexibility
- At a startup there is no getting bogged down with process, you either perform or you don’t– he likes risk and high stakes.
Is the learning over when you get a job?
- The learning is not over on graduation day, and the learning is not over after you get a job.
- Reed’s advice: If you’re not learning, get a new job!
After successfully completing Stack Overflow’s in-house apprenticeship program, two graduates of Fullstack Academy and The Grace Hopper Program are now working as full-time developers for the world’s largest online programming community. So what did it take to land those coveted jobs? We spoke to Stack Overflow’s Tech Recruiting Lead Pieter DePree to find out what he is looking for in new hires, why employers should look at a bootcamper’s trajectory instead of traditional experience, and why their new hires from Fullstack Academy and The Grace Hopper Program did so well in their technical interviews.
Tell us about Stack Overflow and your role there.
I’m the Tech Recruiting Lead at Stack Overflow. As a company, we’re obsessed with supporting developers. We are the world’s the world's largest online community for programmers to learn, share their knowledge and level up their careers. As the Tech Recruiting Lead, my team and I are responsible for building out our technical talent pipelines within the engineering, design, and product verticals.
How large is the dev team at Stack Overflow?
We have 42 developers in total. The majority work remotely spanning 12 time zones. We also have 10 product managers and 14 designers.
How did you get connected with Fullstack Academy and The Grace Hopper Program?
Fullstack Academy came highly recommended through word of mouth. We’d heard great things about their program, and it had come to our attention that they were also launching The Grace Hopper Program, which was a place for women to become awesome developers. It was really cool that we got to partner with both Fullstack Academy and The Grace Hopper Program at the same time. And it seemed fitting that we could launch our first apprenticeship program with Grace Hopper’s first graduating class.
How many Grace Hopper or Fullstack Academy graduates have you hired and for what roles?
We hired two graduates, one Fullstack graduate, Ian Allen, and one Grace Hopper graduate, Jisoo Shin, for our three-month apprenticeship program, which is our version of an internship program. Both were so successful in the program that after 3 months they both accepted offers to join the team as full-stack devs.
They both have the same title as any other developer on our technical team. Ian is on the Marketing Engineering team, which is part of the Internal Development organization. Jisoo is on our Profiles team which is part of the Q&A Engineering organization.
Other than The Grace Hopper Program and Fullstack Academy, how do you usually hire developers?
Our primary hiring source for our dev team is our own platform. We advertise our positions on Stack Overflow Jobs which is a place for developers and employers to meaningfully connect with each other. Developers can get matched with jobs and companies they love; employers can engage with the community and recruit the right talent. We also use our own CV search database. We like to “dogfood” our own product.
How do you usually recruit developers for the apprenticeship program?
It was our first time running this kind of program, so we wanted to keep the apprenticeship program very small. One concern we had in the past was that we weren’t sure if our team had the bandwidth to successfully mentor junior developers. We wanted to make sure we weren’t hiring junior developers without giving them the resources to be successful. We kept it small so that if the program required more resources, we would have the capacity to get more devs to help mentor and train these apprentices. Since we were opening two spots and we didn’t want 2000 applicants, we wanted to partner with a few defined sources. In this case, Fullstack Academy and Grace Hopper were the first two bootcamps we partnered with.
What are you looking for in a new hire?
Our CEO Joel Spolsky wrote a guide for “Standing out and Attracting Top Talent”, which pretty much defines our hiring philosophy in a nutshell. He talks about how to attract and retain talent for technical organizations. In the context of the apprenticeship program, we were looking for individuals who showed a promising trajectory. We looked for individuals who were smart, adaptive, could learn new tech quickly, and had gone above and beyond to learn their craft during the course of the bootcamp. We were looking at their passion for coding, what their motivations were in going to a coding bootcamp, and what they had accomplished in the past three months.
Do you notice differences in hiring from a bootcamp versus hiring applicants from more traditional channels such as computer science graduates?
I would say there are only positive differences. People who attend bootcamps tend to be very enthusiastic, excited to learn and develop in their new career. They are coming out of those programs with a go-getter attitude. I think that probably applies to CS majors as well, but I have a very small sample size– we haven’t hired many recent graduates or junior developers in the past.
Fullstack and Grace Hopper have a lot of graduates. When you think about the two graduates that you’ve hired, what got them the job?
During the interview process we were impressed by how quickly they picked things up – the interviewer didn’t have to repeatedly explain things, and they didn’t have to explain basic programming concepts. In general, we were very impressed by how the bootcamp grads we interviewed performed in the technical interviews. Again, I’m speaking from a very small sample size as we don’t hire many CS degree grads either, but I think CS majors often concentrate a lot more on theory, whereas individuals out of Grace Hopper and Fullstack have a lot more practical programming experience from the projects they have worked on.
You mentioned you don’t hire many CS grads, what other backgrounds do your dev hires have?
We don’t hire many recent CS graduates. This apprenticeship program was our first chance to really pilot a junior engineering development program. I will say that we are not credentialists at Stack Overflow; many of our current senior devs don’t come from traditional CS degrees. They are experienced developers but might have degrees in music, or film– there are different majors outside of a CS background.
How do bootcamp grads do in their technical interviews compared with people who have more experience in tech?
The bootcamp grads performed very well in technical interviews. They seemed to have a lot of practical programming experience, and I think the bootcamps may have done mock technical interviews with them. They generally seemed to understand that the trick for approaching technical interviews is to make sure you’re defining the problem, understanding it, and creating a path forward before just jumping into the code.
Did you put those bootcamp grads through the same interview process that you usually use for every dev applicant, or did you tweak the application process for them?
We did tweak it since our goal was to hire juniors, and our typical process is for hiring seniors. We optimized the interview process for efficiency, so that we could interview a large graduating cohort at the same time. Many of the graduates were entertaining offers. So while our usual process might last two to three weeks, we basically put them through a hiring day, where they go through all the interviews in just one day, so we could get decisions to them more quickly. Because of that, we shortened the interview process somewhat, and removed some of the more academic/algorithmic questions that we typically ask in other technical interviews.
Can you tell me a bit more about the Stack Overflow apprenticeship program– what motivated it and what does it involve?
The apprenticeship consists of a three-month curriculum. Since this was our first time running this program, we defined a very clear curriculum. It started off with a two-week crash course in our technology stack, C# and .NET. Then, eight weeks of pair programming where apprentices partner with a mentor, work on some of that mentor’s current ongoing projects, get involved directly in our actual code base, and then they wrapped it up with a four-week final graduation project to show off their newly acquired skills; and to have something to point to that they worked on for Stack Overflow. The goal of the graduation project was meant to be something that would go live in some small way on the site.
The apprenticeship was never marketed to be a contract-to-hire program, it was meant to stand on its own merits. The idea was that by doing a graduation project, they’d be able to go into the job search and point to something on Stack Overflow that they’d worked on. We thought that would be a nice resume booster early in their career. We were quite happy that it turned out the way it did with two full-time offers though!
In addition to the apprenticeship program, how do you ensure that the new hires are supported to keep learning?
Skills development is very important to us. We offer an annual conference budget that allows individuals on our staff to travel to, attend, and stay at a conference of their choosing. They also get an additional three PTO days, they can double those PTO days and conference budget if they speak at a second conference. We also offer more traditional tuition reimbursement as well as ongoing budgets for books and educational materials. On top of that, we internally try to foster a culture of learning and have a series of educational tiny talks, where members of our staff share areas of expertise with others who are interested. So it could be anything from design topics to development topics. Our data scientists also have a series of talks they do regularly, so we have a variety of ongoing internal initiatives.
You mentioned as part of the apprenticeship program, the apprentices had to do a two-week crash course in C# and .NET. Is that something all of your new hires do?
The C# crash course we put the apprentices through is exactly the same as the program we put any new developer through who has not worked with our technology stack in the past. Our mindset here is if you’ve developed proficiency in one tech stack, it’s not that hard to pick up the nuances of another. The two-week crash course involves building a ping pong score keeping app which is meant to get their feet wet, and then they present to the team at the end for feedback.
Since you started hiring from the bootcamp, have Ian or Jisoo been promoted or changed teams? Do you anticipate that they will?
Yes, they have. Both of them have changed teams, by the nature of how our developers switch around and work with different project teams. As far as promotions, they were never brought in as Junior Developers; they were brought in as Full Stack Developers – everyone at Stack Overflow shares the same title. So they’ve taken on progressive levels of responsibility, and taken on new challenges, which in the way we work, is similar to a promotion. They have certainly proved themselves on a variety of projects at this point.
Do you have a feedback loop with Fullstack Academy at all? Are you able to influence their curriculum if you notice your dev hires are under qualified in a certain area?
I believe it’s available and they can ask for feedback, but we never needed to exercise that feedback loop. We aren’t very opinionated about what technologies students are being trained in, we are willing to take that on ourselves once someone starts with Stack Overflow. We were more interested in them having the fundamentals and basic concepts, the rest is incidental.
Will you hire from Fullstack Academy and The Grace Hopper Program again in future?
We’d love to. If and when our hiring plan allows, we will absolutely run the apprenticeship program again. This past program turned out to be a resounding success.
What is your advice to other employers who are thinking about hiring from Fullstack Academy or any other coding bootcamp?
I always recommend that employers not be credentialists. Hire for trajectory when you’re looking at junior developers; that’s the most important thing. Junior developers are very eager, and their learning curve is very steep. You want to see that someone has a clear trajectory of growth, going above and beyond on any projects they’ve tackled. So hire for trajectory and testability, not what college they’ve graduated from. Stack Overflow makes it easy for employers to evaluate candidates holistically. We also encourage employers to hire junior devs and students: right now, we offer clients the ability to post free internships on Stack Overflow throughout 2017.
I think there is also a lot to be said for hiring people with a diversity of experience. For example, one of our apprentices came from a marketing background before he went to Fullstack Academy. It turned out we had a marketing developer role available, and that combination of his development experience with his background in marketing made him an absolutely perfect fit for that role. So there is a lot to be said for being able to hire people with other experience outside of traditional CS backgrounds – it diversifies the conversation on the team, and helps your team have a wider range of viewpoints.
How do you get a job after coding bootcamp if you have no relevant, real-world work experience? Only 1.4% of bootcampers have worked as developers in the past, but most career-changers have little – if any– client experience when they start looking for a developer job. Some bootcamps help students overcome this hurdle by offering opportunities to work for the bootcamp itself, or with real clients through projects, internships, and apprenticeships. These opportunities can give students substantial experience to add to their portfolios and resumes, and kickstart the job hunt.Continue Reading →
It’s that time again! A time to reflect on the year that is coming to an end, and a time to plan for what the New Year has in store. While it may be easy to beat yourself up about certain unmet goals, one thing is for sure: you made it through another year! And we bet you accomplished more than you think. Maybe you finished your first Codecademy class, made a 30-day Github commit streak, or maybe you even took a bootcamp prep course – so let’s cheers to that! But if learning to code is still at the top of your Resolutions List, then taking the plunge into a coding bootcamp may be the best way to officially cross it off. We’ve compiled a list of stellar schools offering full-time, part-time, and online courses with start dates at the top of the year. Five of these bootcamps even have scholarship money ready to dish out to aspiring coders like you.Continue Reading →
Welcome to our last monthly coding bootcamp news roundup of 2016! Each month, we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to fundraising announcements, to interesting trends we’re talking about in the office. This December, we heard about a bootcamp scholarship from Uber, employers who are happily hiring bootcamp grads, investments from New York State and a Tokyo-based staffing firm, diversity in tech, and as usual, new coding schools, courses, and campuses!Continue Reading →
What was your educational or career background before you started at Fullstack Academy?
I graduated from Rice University in Houston, Texas in May 2015. I majored in biochemistry and psychology and my original intention was to become a doctor. Half way through college I realized that wasn’t really what I wanted to do. When I graduated, I started working as a data analytics consultant for a consulting firm. There I started learning R, SQL and SAS, some database related things, and a couple of big data techniques, but most of my job was on the consulting side.
I started loving the coding part of what I was doing more than the other stuff. So I started using free online resources like Coursera, edX, and Codecademy, to learn more coding and to see what I could do with it. I got to the point where I understood a lot of fundamentals, but I didn't know what I could build, how to use it, or how to apply it to the real world. Then I stumbled upon Free Code Camp, an open source community that has a curriculum covering the entire MEAN Stack. As I worked through that, I realized it was a viable career path; that I could get paid to do something I really enjoyed. So I started looking at coding bootcamps.
Once you decided that you wanted to do a bootcamp, how did you decide to do an online bootcamp? Did you look at in person bootcamps at all?
There are quite a few coding bootcamps in Austin. I wanted to stay in Texas so I started looking primarily in Austin. Then I started looking online to see what kind of options were there. I came across Fullstack Academy, in part because of Course Report. I started reading more about the program, and the community they foster. It was inconvenient at the time for me to move to New York, but I saw their new remote option. I applied and ended up loving them.
Why did you choose Fullstack? Did you want to learn specific coding languages?
I was also impressed by the breadth and the depth of the Fullstack curriculum. We do CS Saturdays, during which we’ve learned concepts like how compilers work and built a parser, what functional programming is and built a Git clone, and how databases work and built our (super basic) database language. In the main curriculum itself, there’s still a heavy emphasis on not only learning what works, but also how and why. We’ve even built versions of Bootstrap and promise libraries to understand how they work the way they do. In my research of other bootcamps, I felt like very few would go into that kind of depth and variety of material.
The third reason was I just loved everyone that I came in contact with. I talked to some alums, my interviewer was actually a former student, and everyone was super friendly. In my application interview the first coding challenge was working through a problem in a completely different way that I hadn't seen before.The second problem was applying what I had learned in that first problem. That spoke a lot to Fullstack’s philosophy and teaching style. It just really clicked for me at that moment.
What else did you have to do for the Fullstack Academy interview process?
The first step was a written online application with questions like, "What is your background, why are you a good fit, what have you done on your own.” Then I received an online timed coding challenge that had problems that were similar to code wars or Hackerrank problems. There were five of those, and I was only able to finish four, and just pseudo coded the last one. Fullstack was testing my thinking process and how I solve problems rather than what I knew.
I was selected for an interview with a fellow who was a former student. The first part of it was getting to know each other better. Then we went into a pair programming/coding challenge. There were two problems. The first one was, “Let me show you how to do this in a really cool way." For the second problem, I applied what I learned to solve it. Then I received notification that I was accepted, and I started in late October 2016.
What is the learning experience and a typical day like at Fullstack online?
I'm in the junior phase right now, and we are learning everything and anything. It's a mix of lectures, pair programming, working through concepts, and reviewing. Each day we start with an hour or two of lectures. Then do a few hours of pair programming to work through exercises, or on a toy app, to build upon what we just learned. Afterwards we have a review, which is a combination of pre-recorded videos and live coding with the instructors. The senior phase is entirely project-based, so we'll apply everything that we're learning now into building actual full-scale apps.
I know Fullstack is running in-person classes as well, are you involved with those or is the online program run quite separately from the in-person ones?
It's pretty separate. For our normal Monday through Friday classes, we have our own instructors. We have fellows who are 100% with us the entire time, so they're not going back and forth. All of our lectures are just for our cohort and are completely delivered by our online instructors. None of those are streamed at all.
For CS Saturdays, we are with the in-person cohorts where they do a live stream of the lecture, and we pair program with other online students, or sometimes we've been able to pair program with someone who is in person in New York. When guest speakers visit the campus, those are also live streamed for us as well.
We also have a Ladies of Fullstack group which is a Slack channel with all of the women at Fullstack. They do ladies lunches every Friday, and the online ladies often video conference into those.
How often do you actually interact with instructors or mentors?
On a daily, or even hourly basis. When we're pair programming, if we get stuck on a concept or have no idea how something works, we can submit help tickets through our learning system, and within a minute or two an instructor will pop up in our online breakout room and help us through whatever we're working on. Our code reviews are all with our instructors. We spend a good amount of our day with our instructors which is really nice.
The instructors are always trying to make themselves available to us. We also have end of the week reflections where they ask for feedback. They really care about making the experience absolutely fantastic for every single student.
Because you are in Austin, I was wondering if the program is delivered in your time zone?
The program is actually delivered in Eastern time since Fullstack Academy is based in New York. Austin is an hour behind so that's not terrible in terms of just timing. It's 10am to 6:30pm Eastern Time, so that’s 9am to 5:30pm for me which is not bad. One girl in my cohort is in California, and so she gets to start at 7:00am every day.
Where are the other people in your cohort from and how diverse is the group? Are there different backgrounds and are there many women?
Most of our cohort is based on the East Coast. There are a couple in Virginia, one in Ohio, and one in New York. A few of us are from outside of the Eastern time zone, including me in Texas, Indiana, Colorado, and California.
I'm interested in what your study setup is like. Are you working from home and how do you keep focused when you're working in that 9am to 5pm schedule?
I do pretty much all of my work from home. I have a nice giant second monitor that's been very helpful. That's partially why I've never gone to coffee shops or anything.
Staying focused isn't actually that hard, because a lot of times we're pairing with another person and devoting ourselves fully to something, and it's hard to check out of that. Having another person with you and working on something together helps a lot in terms of staying focused and keeping yourself accountable.
We have a dual screen feature on the video software we're using, so you can see everybody's faces in a grid on one screen and then the lecture that's being presented on another. So a lot of us have done that, and you can't really get away with not being there.
It's super cool that you're keeping a blog about your experience! I was wondering if that's something that helps you keep motivated and plugged in through the program?
Sort of, in the sense that it gives me a good chance to review everything that we've done and the challenges I’ve faced. As I'm going through the day I often think, "Oh, I should write about this."
I won't say the blog motivates me to continue doing what I'm doing. I think it's more of a byproduct. It’s a good way to keep myself on track, making sure I'm understanding everything. Because when you're trying to explain something to someone else or even write it down, you really have to understand it in order to do that.
What was your main reason for starting that blog?
Over the years I've dabbled in blogging and I've always been a big writer. When I was younger, I did a lot of creative writing for competitions. As I was researching bootcamps, I read a couple of people's blogs about similar journeys. Seeing what they've done, how they've learned, how they've gotten through challenges, helped me a lot in terms of figuring out what I wanted from a program and what I needed to do in order to succeed. I hope that one day my blog is able to do that for someone else as well.
Would you be able to share your screen with me now and show me the learning platform?
What do you see when you first log in?
When you go to learn.fullstackacademy.com, the first thing you’ll see is all of our workshops. We usually do one workshop per day. For example, we’ve been working on different aspects of a Trip Planner over the past couple of days. Each day is something different.
Another workshop was Wikistack, a Wikipedia clone which was our first full stack app combining the front end, the back end, and SQL on the database side. There is always pre-reading, which we are recommended to do the night before so we know what's going on the next day. Then there is usually an introduction on how to set up, if there's any special tools that we need, or if there are any Git repos that we need. Then it's up to you to figure out exactly how to go about doing it.
So you're following those steps on the left-hand side?
Yes. It's not necessarily always step-by-step. Sometimes there are jumps in between that you have to figure out, but there is usually very helpful information so you can figure it out on your own. They do a very good job of giving you a structure to follow without telling you a ton. It definitely forces you to think, problem solve, and learn on your own.
Once you're done with the section, you can check it off, and there's a status bar to show how far along you are. Every workshop ends with a conclusion where it summarizes what you should’ve learned and it’s a good place to go back to for studying and reviewing. Each workshop ends in a feedback form where you can go over lectures, the workshop, the review, key takeaways, comments and then you rate your pairing experience.
Are these workshops something you work through by yourself or are you working with a partner?
All of these we pair program on. I have never worked by myself on a workshop, which could be good or bad thing, depending on what you're looking for. I actually never paired before joining Fullstack, but I absolutely love it. It's so nice to have another person to bounce around ideas.
How do you know which workshop is the one you're doing that day?
The next week’s workshops are put online each Friday, so over the weekend we can take a look at things. We also have a nice calendar that goes over what that day is going to look like in terms of what workshops and topics we're covering.
How do you interact and communicate with your instructors and the other students?
We mainly communicate through our video classroom software, Zoom, which is fantastic. Zoom has the ability to make breakout rooms, so for pair programming, each pair will be placed into a breakout room and then the instructors can bounce around room to room. Then whenever we're pairing with a partner and get stuck, we'll write a ticket on the learning platform help desk. Within a couple of minutes our fellow or instructor will show up in our chat room to help and talk through things.
Help tickets are usually only available when we're pairing together during the workshops. Our instructors and fellows are always reachable through Slack, and through email. I've posted questions on Slack at 10pm at night and had an instructor respond. They're good about monitoring things and getting back to us.
When you're working through these workshops are you mainly working through GitHub or how does that work?
It depends on the pairing and what your group wants to do. We definitely have a lot of stuff on GitHub. Typically, one person drives the pair programming, so we're working on their laptop and they are screen sharing their text editor so we can see everything that's happening. Then they will push the changes to GitHub and when it’s the other person’s turn we'll pull it down, and switch screen sharing. We also have the ability to take remote control of other people’s laptops or the software.
Is there a career advice module included on the learning platform at some point?
In the junior phase, our focus is solely on learning the technology. But we have taken a couple of career surveys which ask, "What are you looking for? Where do you want to work?" to give the career service team more information so they can prep for senior phase. The senior phase is when we’ll get into mock interviews, and preparing our online presence.
We’ve recently gained access to our primary and very lengthy career advice module that goes over everything: from senior phase projects to giving tech talks (which every Fullstack student is required to do) to mock interviews to preparing our online presence to figuring where and at what companies we want to work to prepping for demo day and hiring day. We’ll be working through all of that in senior phase.
How is Fullstack's learning platform different from using the free online resources you tried out before you decided to do a bootcamp?
One of the notable things about Fullstack's platform is there isn't any kind of editor built in. On Codecademy, Code School, and Code Camp, the editor is built right into the platform. But Fullstack’s approach forces you to set up your ecosystem the way a real developer would, which is nice.
The learning platform is great, and they use the same system for the in-person cohorts – they have the same workshops and the same help tickets. I feel like we're pretty much getting the in-person experience but doing it from our homes. The primary value in Fullstack is the interaction with students, instructors and fellows.
Is there anything else that you'd like to show me on the platform?
The last tab is office hours where we can schedule time to meet with fellows and instructors one-on-one if we need it. I've gone to a fellow before to say hey, "I'm interested in starting this project. How do I start?" We also have a forum which is mostly used during foundations where people ask things like, "What do you think of this? How do you do this?"
I know that the in-person programs do a demo day and meet with hiring partners and I was wondering what similar thing they do for the online students?
Our cohort will be having its own demo day, where we’ll just be presenting our projects online in our Zoom classroom and it’ll be livestreamed via Youtube, so others, including hiring partners and family and friends and in-person cohorts, can tune in as well. We’re also being given the option to go to either New York or Chicago’s Hiring Days, if we’re interested in working in those locations and want to meet the hiring partners that come to those.
What was your overall goal in attending a bootcamp? What kind of job or result are you hoping to get out of this?
I think I would like to be able to do both sides of development in terms of back end and front end, and be a full stack developer. In terms of location and type of company, I haven't really thought that far ahead yet. Still working on getting through the day-to-day. I've been involved in The Women Who Code community here and things like that so I've met some amazing people over that.
What kind of advice do you have for people who are considering an online bootcamp?
First of all, know what you want out of the program. Especially in the online world, the program options vary from part-time, 10 hours a week, to immersive full-time like Fullstack. For some of them, you have a mentor who you meet with once or twice a week versus having instructors who are devoted to you full-time.
This is not strictly for online bootcamps, but use your instructors and mentors. They are there because they want you to learn and they want to help you grow and develop, so don't be afraid to ask for help. One reason a lot of people go to a bootcamp is so they can interact with and bounce ideas off people who know what they're doing.
Lastly, it’s not always easy, but it's always worth it. There are times when the only thing you want to do is crawl into bed and pretend your computer doesn't exist, but if you stick to it, it can be a fantastic experience.
Kevin Hurley taught high school math and computer science for 17 years, when he realized his programming side projects were more interesting than his teaching job. He had taught himself Java and Unity, but to streamline his career switch, he enrolled at Fullstack Academy in Chicago. Kevin tells us why he valued the strict admissions requirements at Fullstack, his advice to other career changers with 15+ years of experience, and how he got a job as a Front End Software Engineer at Catalytic one week after graduation!
Tell us your pre-Fullstack Academy story. What were you up to?
I taught high school Math for about 17 years, and nine years ago I had the opportunity to teach the AP computer science class. I didn’t have a lot of programming experience at that point, so I saw this as an opportunity to learn. The class was taught in Java, and over time I got really into it. I started developing on my own, and even worked with Unity to release a couple of mobile apps.
I realized that I was more interested in my side hobby than I was my teaching career, and that's what brought me to Fullstack Academy.
Since you had those CS foundations, why did you decide on a coding bootcamp, as opposed to a CS degree or continuing to learn on your own?
I definitely considered graduate school. I already have a master's in math, and experimented with getting a master's in computer science in 2008. What I didn’t like about the CS degree was that I had to start from the basics and take introductory courses. I didn’t want to prove myself again through a long, expensive graduate school process.
I was reluctant to switch careers on my own, because I had been in an education bubble for quite a long time. I needed some type of credential to show that I could learn things quickly, work with others, and be a professional.
Did you research other coding bootcamps? Why did you choose Fullstack Academy?
I got a visit from a former student who was a graduate of Dev Bootcamp, and that was the first time I'd ever heard of coding bootcamps. I found Fullstack Academy through Course Report (editor’s note: yay!) and I chose them because they were the only bootcamp in Chicago that had a strict admissions requirement.
I didn't like the idea of paying the Fullstack Academy tuition and getting accepted easily. I wanted to make sure I was surrounded by people who were not only super motivated, but also knew some programming already.
You’ve worked in traditional education for a long time – did you need to be convinced of the coding bootcamp model?
No, because learning to code is just like anything else. If you're motivated, you'll get there. I've seen that time and time again with my own students, and I knew that I was pretty motivated at that point.
I was convinced by the Fullstack Academy curriculum and teaching style; they emphasized pair programming and project-based learning. And I loved that they emphasized struggle. As a teacher, I gave students the opportunity to learn by struggling too. I was convinced that Fullstack would be a good experience, but it definitely exceeded my highest expectations.
Any tips for our readers before they start the Fullstack Academy application process?
Once you started at Fullstack Academy, did you find that your classmates were on the same skill level as you?
Yeah. I would say that the skill level was very high. I think honestly it was good that I had some experience coming in, because my classmates were gifted. They were very smart, and the great equalizer for me was my experience.
As the cohort went on, many of them caught up and even surpassed me. I felt grateful that I was admitted to that class of incredibly sharp people. And I think that's a credit to the admissions process. I didn't want to go to a coding bootcamp and not be constantly learning.
How many people were in that Chicago cohort? Was your cohort diverse in terms of gender, race and life experience?
This was the first Chicago cohort, and there were 14 of us. There were two women, and the rest were men, but people came from all different backgrounds: teachers, lawyers, people from finance, business, customer service. All walks of life.
One thing I was a little worried about before Fullstack was age. I think I was the oldest person in my class, but not by much.
Can you tell us about the learning experience in Chicago? Was the curriculum broken into Junior Phase and Senior Phase like it is in New york?
Yeah. We did exactly what New York did, to the minute. There was tons of communication back and forth.
The six-week Junior Phase was a crash course on how to build a web application. Then we had a review week, so I started building something in Angular. The last six weeks was a Senior Phase, when we built projects. We built an e-commerce site, had a fun four-day hackathon, and did our capstone project.
What did you build during the hackathon?
The hackathon project was probably one of my favorite parts of Fullstack Academy. We worked on our own, and I managed to tie in what I knew about Unity into a Node server.
I set up a multiplayer game Node server and I figured out how to wire it to my Unity clients. I was basically using my Node server like a real-time multiplayer server, which I've never done before. I was so pleased with how it came out.
As an educator with a master’s degree in Math, I'm curious what you thought about the Fullstack Academy teaching style?
There was nothing particularly special about the actual teaching style. Obviously, my instructors, Zeke and Nick, were very knowledgeable and very passionate, which is what made the teaching great.
The structure of the assigned projects is what made the class special. The projects themselves are set up to be extremely instructive. As you work through a project, a lot of interesting questions and discussions arise naturally. The instructors are well-prepared for those discussions, they know where you're going to stumble, and they can anticipate where you're going to have problems.
What impressed me most about the curriculum was the flexibility; if you finished early, there were interesting follow-up assignments and challenge questions on hand. On the flipside of that, if we were struggling, there were a lot of cool ways in which they would help get you out of the struggle. The flexibility in dealing with many different skill levels and progress levels was helpful.
You got a job within one week of graduating. That's incredible. Where are you working and what’s your role?
I am a Front End Software Engineer for a small startup in Chicago called Catalytic. We’re building a platform to manage business processes – onboarding, scheduling, the possibilities are endless. I’m on a team of nine or 10 engineers, and it's a very exciting product.
It’s cool that you’re working for a startup, but you also have a team of 10 developers to learn from. Tell us about your first week on the job! Is it what you expected?
My first week and a half has mostly been spent learning the codebase, fixing small bugs, and navigating through the company. I did actually get to implement a small feature, and that’s going to be in production next week. It’s been cool to feel like I'm contributing this early, but I'm also constantly overwhelmed. When I get to work on a specific problem in the code, I’m most comfortable because that’s what I was trained to do. But it does take me longer to solve problems, because I’m still learning.
Did Catalytic hire other coding bootcamp grads?
Actually, one of my classmates from Fullstack Academy was just hired this week. Another guy from Hack Reactor started about three weeks ago.
At coding bootcamps, people have a lot of different backgrounds and life experiences. Catalytic actually looked at my teaching background as a real asset, which they told me during the hiring process. I appreciated that a lot because I felt that my experience teaching would be something unique that I would bring to the table. And the fact that they recognized that early on was really awesome.
Did Fullstack Academy get you that interview with Catalytic or did you get the job on your own?
Catalytic came to our hiring day, two days before I graduated. Then I had a follow-up interview the next day where I interviewed with their Lead Front End Engineer and we hit it off. They gave me a take-home coding assignment to write a small application. I spent a couple of days building that, we reviewed it, and I was given an offer that day. I think there was a total of six companies that I was talking to after Hiring Day.
Wow – that sounds like Fullstack has a lot of hiring partners in Chicago!
I think Chicago is just starved for talent. I don't know if I'm necessarily special; I just applied to a lot of companies, and I did the best that I could to sell my skill set.
Another reason I think companies were interested in my team was because of our capstone project. We took on a very challenging project and made it happen. In fact, you can actually check it out: hellocodejs.com. A user can input any public GitHub repository, and then it actually analyzes the code. I felt I got a lot out of that challenge, and it was awesome to be able to put the live hyperlink in my resume too.
The average bootcamper has four to five years of work experience. With 17 years of work experience, did that affect your career change at all?
Yes, but companies are so desperate for these skills, so as long as you can demonstrate that you have some skills, you're willing to learn, and you're not an asshole, then you're going to get a job for sure.
I’m starting my job at an entry level, just like every other coding bootcamper. I think it's unreasonable to expect that just because you have a past career, you will start at a higher level. Have reasonable expectations.
I don't care how old or young you are. If you don't want to be a programmer, you're going to quit. That's true no matter the situation. When the going gets tough, are you willing to really push through that? I definitely was, and all of my classmates were too. And that's what bonded us.
It sounds like your experience with Fullstack Academy was pretty successful. What was the most challenging part of it?
It's not an understatement to say that Fullstack completely changed my life. Everything about it was exactly what I was looking for and what I needed. I feel extremely fortunate that I was accepted into it, and got through it successfully.
Honestly, the most challenging part was being my age and having a wife and kids and feeling pressured to graduate and get a job. My wife was really supportive throughout the whole process, but I did put a lot of pressure on myself.
I had a lot of doubt about actually getting a job after graduating, so the hardest challenge for me was trusting the process and believing that it was going to all work out. It was a big leap of faith, but obviously, it worked out.
Welcome to the October 2016 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month, we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. This month we are also covering our Women In Tech Snapchat takeover! Other trends include new developments in the industry, new outcomes reports and why those are important, new investments in bootcamps, and of course, new coding schools and campuses.Continue Reading →
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 →
Sergio’s international business background led him to start a marketing company and work at various travel startups. He transitioned to product management and realized his constant interactions with developers made him want to learn code. So he decided to attend Fullstack Academy's Bootcamp Prep in NYC and then their full-time bootcamp in Chicago. Learn why he chose to do the bootcamp prep first, and how he’s enjoying the first Fullstack Academy Chicago campus cohort.
What is your pre-bootcamp story? What were you doing before you attended Fullstack Academy?
I majored in international business and started my own marketing company focused on website design and social media after finishing college. That eventually led me to work for travel industry startups making single solutions for travel services like accommodations, flight tickets, and car rentals. Those roles were more marketing and branding than actually developing applications or new solutions for our clients, so I transitioned to product management within the company.
I really didn't have any formal coding education or a computer science degree before coming to Fullstack Academy. I tried to learn some programming on my own, and given the nature of my previous work, I was in close contact with developers. That past career led me to discover this passion that I now have for developing.
Why did you decide that a coding bootcamp was the best option for you?
My first choice was to get a formal graduate degree, but I looked into several different Master's Degrees, and none of them were really the right fit. An MBA was the natural choice given my previous degree in international business, but looking through the curriculum, I wasn’t interested in high-level financial reporting courses. I really wanted a hands-on program that would provide the set of skills I felt would compliment my background.
That's when I realized that maybe I was not looking for a graduate degree, but I was actually looking for a career change. I found out about this new generation of coding bootcamps, and it was like a whole new world for me.
There are so many different options out there, and it was really surprising. Through that struggle- this might sound a little bit cheesy- but Course Report helped me a lot throughout the research and decision-making process.
Did you try to learn coding online before you decided to apply to bootcamps?
What other bootcamps were you considering besides Fullstack Academy? How did you narrow it down?
Why did you start with the Bootcamp Prep at Fullstack Academy?
Since I was not a developer or a formal computer science graduate, I knew I needed some extra experience, and I used Bootcamp Prep to help me confirm that I wanted to be a web developer as a full-time job.
Choosing a bootcamp is a huge commitment. You have to make a huge effort to put aside certain aspects of your life while at bootcamp. During Bootcamp Prep, I had a chance to experience what it was like to be at a coding bootcamp and it really helped me prepare for the bootcamp mindset.
How prepared did you feel after the Bootcamp Prep?
I felt really confident after going through the bootcamp prep. It's more about giving you the skills and that confidence boost that you need right before applying to bootcamps. No matter how many times you go through online courses, sometimes you need a real taste of how the coding life would be, and I think that Bootcamp Prep helps you achieve that.
Did you apply to more than one bootcamp?
When I was halfway through Bootcamp Prep at Fullstack, I had started the process for applying to other bootcamps. I decided not to pursue any other options because I was really convinced that Fullstack Academy was the right bootcamp for me after learning in their prep course.
I decided to do the full-time program in Chicago as opposed to New York, but even if I had decided against Fullstack Academy, I would’ve still been really motivated and confident to apply to any other elite bootcamp in the country.
Why did you decide on Fullstack Academy’s Chicago campus (instead of the NYC campus)?
I was living in Miami, Florida before moving to Chicago to start the full-time bootcamp, since I was already looking for another city to move to, I wanted to be part of a bootcamp that is well established and in a city that is really involved with the technology scene. And I think both, New York and Chicago, meet that criteria. It was more of a personal decision, as my family had plans to move to Chicago.
It was really nice to decide between two cities, because once you apply to Fullstack Academy, and you’re admitted, you’re able to choose which city you want to do the full-time bootcamp.
Were you able to put your Bootcamp Prep tuition towards the full-time bootcamp?
Yes. That was something that I also found really appealing about going through this program. Since Fullstack Academy was my first choice, it was a very natural decision to go through the bootcamp prep, have a real taste of what the bootcamp was going to be, and then pass the credit of the prep tuition onto the full-time program.
Tell me more about the application and interview process for Fullstack Academy. How was that experience? Did you get top priority since you did Bootcamp Prep?
I didn't feel that I got special priority for having participated in the bootcamp prep. I was treated the same way as if I was applying for the first time, and I think that's a good point to consider.
For the application process, you have to fill out the application form and send your profile with your previous work and coding experience, if any. After sending the application, you first get a coding assessment online. You are given a certain time frame to answer the coding assessment, and it's a pretty basic assessment to determine your level of coding knowledge. That assessment is really good because it's broken into different parts and each of those parts has a different level of difficulty. After that assessment, there’s a Skype interview.
The interview was really personal and I didn't feel like I was being judged about the results of the assessment. It was more a conversation about the assessment experience, and discussing where they saw opportunities to grow. After that, Fullstack makes a decision and finally, they let you know if you’ve been accepted or not.
Do you have any tips for our readers in terms of how to ace the Fullstack Academy interview?
Were there important factors that you were specifically looking for like location, price, or instruction when looking at bootcamps?
I was living in Miami, Florida before moving to Chicago to start the full-time bootcamp, since I was already looking for another city to move to, I wanted to be part of a bootcamp that is well established and in a city that is really involved with the technology scene. And I think both, New York and Chicago, meet that criteria.
Describe your Fullstack Academy cohorts in both the New York Bootcamp Prep and the Chicago Full-Time Immersive. Are those cohorts diverse?
Bootcamp Prep in New York was a cohort of about 35 students, and there was a wide variety of people. There was about 60% men and 40% women, which I was really surprised by because you would think this industry was still dominated by men. The truth is that this type of coding bootcamp, especially Fullstack and their sister school, Grace Hopper, makes a really good effort to nurture gender equality. In terms of background, some students were right out of high school, some learned to program 30 years ago, some were coming from the restaurant and accounting industries and others just wanted to update existing skills.
In Chicago, there are 15 students in my cohort. I have come to really appreciate that the attention is even more personalized. We have four women in the cohort right now. The backgrounds of this cohort are comparable to New York in that there are people from very different backgrounds. Some are looking for a career change, and others are looking to enhance skills.
Do you like the learning experience in the Immersive? What’s a typical day like at Fullstack Academy?
I have come to appreciate all the effort that Fullstack Academy brings when creating this 13-week program and making sure that the overall learning experience is very well balanced. Fullstack has figured out a way to make you feel really involved with every new subject they teach. They also have these special moments to reflect on your achievements and provide feedback. I can tell that they try to improve that program in each cohort because some of the workshops are updated quite frequently. Fullstack Academy not only cares about giving you information, they make sure that you actually process that information, which is great.
A typical day starts early at 8am with practicing some code on your own. Many students used Code Wars as I think it's quite popular between the coding community. Next you have a set of lectures that are usually followed by a workshop. Most workshops are done through pair programming, which I think it's really a good method of learning. For those who are not familiar with what pair programming is, essentially you are paired with another student, and both of you have to work on a single computer. One is reading the general objective at a high level, and the other is more focused on typing and syntax. You have to work really closely because at any point you may want to switch positions. Since the pairs are being rotated quite often, you get to work with almost all of your colleagues, and that makes the cohort and the general ambiance of the program really enjoyable.
What's been the biggest challenge or roadblock for you on your Fullstack Academy journey?
It has been challenging, definitely. I think the first thing you have to keep in mind when joining a bootcamp is that it'll be a high demand of all your attention. Make sure that you see this as a full-time commitment and not just the typical six to eight hours per day. You need to give your full attention for these 13 weeks because the program is demanding; but in a good way.
Even if you are familiar with the industry or with programming, there are so many new things that you're going to learn that it will require your full attention and a lot of motivation. Fullstack has really paid attention to the details of the program so they also care about your well being. They take the time to ask you, either in a one-on-one or in a group feedback sessions, how you are feeling, if you are resting well, if you’re in good health, etc.
What technologies are you currently using at Fullstack Academy? Do you have a favorite project?
My favorite project so far is not finished. Are you familiar with a game called Guitar Hero? I am a huge music lover and I know how to play guitar, piano, and the drums. So I decided to use VR technology like Google Cardboard (it’s the Samsung VR headset), which have special glasses for a visual reality experience. I am working on building a VR Guitar Hero that is connected to the Spotify API so that you can pick any song if you have a premium account from Spotify. And through an algorithm, I am able to identify the beats of the song and the user is essentially able to play Guitar Hero through the keyboard instead of a game controller. We have about a week to finish it.
You’re in the first cohort of the Chicago campus. What does the space look like, and how's the tech scene in Chicago?
I’m having the time of my life here in Chicago. The campus is in 1871 (that name comes from the Chicago great fire). Initially, they were using that name to represent the rebirth or reconstruction of the technological spirit of Chicago. This is one of the biggest technology hubs in the city, and it's a great place to learn and work.
There are some tech startups here on campus, and there are a ton of different events like tech talks and meetups with technology companies. I think Fullstack made a great choice on deciding to open their new campus in Chicago.
Do you have an idea about the types of positions you're going to be looking for once you graduate?
I would really like to work in an engineering position to practice everything I’ve learned at Fullstack Academy. In the longer term, I would like to start a business of my own. Fullstack recently started a new coaching program to help alumni who start companies. You can read more about Fullstack Fund, but I know the program has helped at least two Fullstack alumni. So that's something to really look forward to after graduation.
What advice do you have for people thinking about making a career change and attending a coding bootcamp?
The best advice I could give is to take the time to experience what the tech industry is about. Go to meetups or participate in tech events. Go to a hackathon even if you don't know how to code. This is such an interesting and awesome community- the best way to learn is to discover it for yourself.
Also, don't worry about not being able to solve that problem online. If you're struggling on how to go through that online course, just go out, meet some people and you'll see that maybe they’re struggling too and you may be able to help each other.
Many competitive coding bootcamps want you to have some programming knowledge in order to be accepted into their programs – whether they’re looking for past experience on your resume or require that you pass a coding challenge. For a beginner, it can be tough to get the experience that a selective bootcamp looks for in the application process. There are many ways to learn basic coding (including teaching yourself) but if you want to make sure you’re covering the right material and quickly, then a bootcamp prep program may be for you.Continue Reading →
After successfully launching Grace Hopper Academy and acquiring Starter League, the team behind Fullstack Academy is expanding into the world of online education with the Remote Immersive. We connected with founders David and Nimit to answer all of our questions about the Remote Immersive (we’re talking time commitment, admissions standards, and employment opportunities). We’ll get a demo of the Remote Immersive platform so you know exactly where you’ll be learning. Plus, they explain how high-quality remote immersives could actually help to democratize bootcamps.
First, tell us about this newest online offering from Fullstack Academy.
Nimit: Half of the US population lives outside of metro areas, and therefore lack access to an in-person coding bootcamp. There are clearly a lot of very smart and motivated people out there who want to learn at Fullstack Academy, but we previously weren't able to reach them.
The Remote Immersive is something that we've been wanting to do since 2014. Since this is the 4th program that our curriculum is supporting, scaling the curriculum to support separate programs has been the easy part; now we're just getting the technology right. After successfully launching Grace Hopper Academy and our campus in Chicago through Starter League, we're now very comfortable with entering the online frontier.
How is the new Chicago campus going??
Nimit: The first class actually started last Monday at 1871 in Chicago, and it's going super well. It’s very surreal to know that there's another city in the world that’s teaching the Fullstack Academy curriculum.
David: I'm actually going there tomorrow so we really believe that it's happening!
Do you think there's something inherent about learning to code that almost lends itself to learning online?
David: I think that's a great intuition. Right now, we’re asking ourselves, “Can we actually use this online medium to deliver an excellent experience to students, improve the amount of coaching, improve the tools that you need to be a good programmer, and reduce distraction?”
Nimit: Yeah, learning online has some great benefits: reducing distractions, even cutting down on commute time is a big saver. We're also able to experiment with tools that aren’t being used in education right now, like virtual reality. Pedagogically, those opportunities are very exciting for us.
Fullstack Academy has delivered other intro programs online, too. What lessons did you learn from those programs?
Nimit: Something that we learned from Remote Bootcamp Prep is that our instructor to student ratio is not an area where we can scale just because it's remote. We learned that we need to make the same number of instructors and teaching assistants available as we do in an in-person setting. That's a key thing that everyone should know; Fullstack’s Remote Immersive is different from a mentor-lead program where you have one hour a week with your mentor. In the Remote Immersive you are interacting with instructional staff 8+ hours per day.
David: Plus, we learned a lot about communication tools. For example, we thought a lot about activities that people can do online to feel more connected than just using videos or Slack. Slack is great if you know the person you’re Slacking with. But if you don't know them already, it doesn’t do a lot to make you feel more connected. We're trying to leverage a lot of other tools that make people feel like they're in the same classroom, even though they're online.
What’s the time commitment expected of students in the Remote Immersive?
Nimit: The exact same time-commitment that we expect of in-person immersive students (Monday-Friday with optional CS Saturdays).
What are you looking for in applicants? Do they need specific qualifications? Are you using the same admissions standards as the in-person?
David: Just because Remote Immersive is online, doesn’t mean we’ll open the floodgates to people who are not prepared for our curriculum. Being prepared for the curriculum and structure is key to a student’s success. So in terms of the admissions requirements, there's no difference between the Remote Immersive and our New York or Chicago campuses, because the curriculum is the same. We think our Remote Immersive cohort will be made up of the same students who apply to in-person, but can’t move to New York or Chicago for three months.
Nimit: Bootcamps themselves are making education more accessible, but having to move to our campus cities to take the Fullstack bootcamp is a very real burden. It actually ends up decreasing diversity in the bootcamp space in general, because it requires a certain level of economic flexibility etc. In some ways, I think the Remote Immersive (and the rise of high quality remote bootcamps) will be a democratizing force in bootcamps.
How about time zone? Do applicants need to be in a certain location or time-zone to take the Remote Immersive?
Nimit: Time zone is such an important facet of launching a synchronous, online class. Class will start at 10:00 am EST (7am PST) making it convenient for people in North America.
How will students in the Remote Immersive be learning the curriculum?
Over the last year and a half, we've been building out Learn Dot, our internal learning software, and closely measuring how students and instructors are performing. For Remote, we’ve had to do some technical buildout for the platform itself, but it was already pretty robust internally. Now we get to focus on how to build the online community and make the coaching supremely effective.
Which tools will you use in the Remote Immersive?
David: We're experimenting with that right now, but in our initial launch, our main tools will be Zoom for video conferencing, Full Bits for pairing and group work, and a whiteboarding tool that was built by former Fullstack students. Along with Learn Dot as the Learning Management System, for content, workshops, and assessments.
Will there be interaction between the in-person and the online immersive cohorts? Will their instructors be the same?
Nimit: The instructors for Remote do come from the same staff - students can expect to be taught by the same experienced instructors. As far as the students themselves, we think of Remote Immersive as a new campus, so they won’t be interacting with our New York or Chicago campus students.
David: It's not like the Remote Immersive has a video feed into our New York campus. There're pro and cons to that setup. It's cool to see other students live, but I think that’s the last vestige of the current educational system; it's just not interactive enough.
When we teach a remote class, the instructor will know each of the students personally. They’ll be able to take questions from them, pause when one of the remote students has a question, etc.
Since this is the first cohort, I'm assuming that there will be some hurdles. How are you preparing yourself for feedback?
David: We are both huge believers that a strong start is essential to future success. Nimit and I will both personally be overseeing the operations of the first cohort. We're letting students know that this is our first time doing the Remote Immersive, but it's not our first time doing immersive education. Thinking back to our Fullstack New York and Grace Hopper launches, the first cohort is particularly exciting because it's a very collaborative and engaged process.
Nimit: We recognize that remote is a new medium, but we've gained valuable experience by teaching Bootcamp Prep online, and using Zoom internally. We’ve also extensively tested all the tools, and the thing that really makes us successful is our willingness to iterate based on evidence. I don't have any loyalty to Zoom, for example; I’m loyal only to having the highest quality educational experience for our students. We will be paying very close attention to what students are saying in the first cohort. We’re also investing in the Remote Immersive through a new Scholarship Fund, to provide more opportunities to attend.
Speaking of remaining loyal to tools and technologies, I heard you recently dropped the M from “MEAN Stack.” Can you tell us about that change?
Are you hearing concerns or excitement from employers about hiring students who learned to code in an online program?
Nimit: I've never heard an employer complain about the medium of education. You hear them complaining about the quality of education. I think that what you learn is much more important than the medium. We’re communicating to employers that we maintain the exact same quality, educational standards, and outcomes for all programs.
David: Another interesting thing is we get requests from employers asking for things like “10 developers in Lexington, Kentucky.” We could be helping people in those areas skill-up and get those jobs, but not with the current in-person ecosystem. That’s one area where Remote Immersive will be very valuable.
What’s your advice to employers who still aren’t comfortable hiring engineers from a coding bootcamp?
There’s no magic dust that makes someone a senior engineer overnight. However, I think that companies need to very much understand what bootcamp grads are good at and how they fit into an organization and a career path. I've heard from recruiters at Google and Facebook who are now looking to bring on hundreds of coding school engineers. Google has been hosting 2-3 day long seminars for coding bootcamp graduates to navigate the Google engineering hiring process.
Those companies recognize that coding bootcamps are a great source of talent, and the student bodies are very heterogeneous compared to what they're seeing in Computer Science programs. In fact, just within the last 6 months, 3 Fullstack grads have gotten software development jobs at Google, and Facebook recently hired a graduate from Grace Hopper Academy as an engineer. When you see the most selective tech companies hiring bootcamp grads, I think that sends a signal that the hiring market is getting past its unreasonable fear of these programs.
When does the first Remote Immersive cohort start?
David: The ‘Foundations’ pre-course starts in September, and the full-time portion starting in October.
To learn more, read Fullstack Academy reviews on Course Report or visit the Fullstack Academy website.
Welcome to the July 2016 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to big fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. This month the biggest trends this month are initiatives to increase the diversity in tech, some huge investments in various bootcamps, and more tech giants launching their own coding classes. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast!Continue Reading →
Welcome to the June Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world, including new bootcamps, what we’re seeing in bootcamps internationally, outcomes, and paying for bootcamps. Plus, we released our big Bootcamp Market Sizing and Growth Report in June! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast!Continue Reading →
Tell us about your programming experience before you became an instructor at Fullstack Academy.
I’m different from the other instructors, in that most are either Fullstack alumni, or they have a computer science background. I studied psychology in college and got into programming through gaming. I learned to code on my own and started a side business with a graphic designer.
How did you learn to code? How did you teach yourself?
Sleepless nights! The online resources out there now are incredible, but at the time, I used what was available to me. I learned with htmldog.com, found videos on YouTube and started practicing and building things on my own. I credit most of my learning to figuring out problems for things I wanted myself and my friends to use. I'd build things for fun, struggle, and spend weeks on something that would take me a couple of hours now. That's how I learned and internalized all this knowledge.
Did you have any teaching or mentoring experience before you started teaching at Fullstack?
I had a bunch of public speaking experience from meetups and conferences. I also trained other developers on my last job, and did some consulting with remote developers. It felt natural to go into teaching. Working in any programming job, you see ways to improve your own code and others’ code. That translates well to teaching a beginner how to code, finding problems in their code, and how they can stylize, and write more elegantly.
At Fullstack, I’ve learned how to be a mentor. We spend a lot of time meeting with students one-on-one, hearing them out from a technical and a mental health standpoint, to make sure everything's okay and they're keeping pace.
What is your role as an instructor? Are there specific classes you teach?
All the instructors at Fullstack do a bit of everything. Currently I'm teaching the Junior Phase which is the first half of the immersive curriculum after foundations. It's a very structured, very scheduled phase, with many little modules. My role is lecturing, manning workshops, taking students through example projects, then reviewing solutions, and giving advice on how to solve problems. And we do that pretty methodically for about six weeks.
I've also taught many Senior Phases. That's where we take all the stuff we've learned in the Junior Phase workshops, and apply it to building projects. My favorite part at Fullstack is the practicality we get from the Senior Phase. The first project students work on is an e-commerce store, where they get to actually see the technologies make sense together. To see the progress students make between then and their final projects is exciting every time.
What kind of projects do you like seeing students work on?
I'm a big fan of students writing games for their final projects because nearly every game you build is full of complex logic and performance complications. The aim of final projects is not to build something usable, marketable, or lucrative but to build something challenging. And that's where they learn the most, I think.
How are you and other instructors involved with the Fullstack curriculum?
Absolutely. The whole academics team and all the instructors, we work like a hive. There's nobody at the top making the decisions. We are very collaborative and put a lot of teamwork in to get things done. For this current cohort I am teaching Junior Phase with Ayana, Omri, and Ashi, we have just completed a full overhaul of our curriculum from MongoDB to SQL. It was a lot of work, and we’re really happy with the results. It was a decision we were trying implement for a while, and it went really, really well.
Why move from MongoDB to SQL?
A huge switch like this from MongoDB to SQL doesn't happen often, but those decisions and changes get made when we realize the industry and the adoption of those technologies is swinging a certain way. There are many reasons, including how this will affect students’ ability to find a job in the industry. MongoDB is definitely less common in the industry than SQL. And that's why we made that switch.
Do you make those curriculum updates often?
We constantly make curricula updates to improve the quality of each module. As technology changes during each cohort, we may add or remove a certain technology to the curriculum. For every new cohort, Fullstack has a slightly modified and hopefully improved version of the curriculum based on what we had on the previous cohort.
We have a great internal tool called LearnDot, which a bunch of fellows and instructors work on, and we use that tool to update and deliver the curriculum. We're aggressive about trying to keep it current, modern, and the highest quality we possibly can.
How many members of teaching staff are there?
Counting David and Nimit who also still do some instruction, we have about 14 or 15 instructors and teaching staff across Fullstack Academy and Grace Hopper Academy. Fullstack and GHA are separate schools but we run the same curriculum, and we have a lot of the same support systems, and all of the teaching staff interact with each other. Our engineering team who works on internal products will all at some point interact with students via lecture or in some way. Even the head of product will give a talk in the Senior Phase about either UX Design or Project Management.
We also currently have 14 Fullstack Fellows. Fellows are alumni who applied for a fellowship that involves them mentoring our classes.
How does Fullstack Academy compare to other coding bootcamps?
A lot of bootcamps are bigger than us, and a bit less intimate than Fullstack. At Fullstack, we have an instructor for every ten students, not including other teaching staff like fellows. So you get a lot of individual attention in this very intense curriculum which is constantly being iterated on. It's not a factory; it's very personal and the people who work here really care about the students.
What is your personal teaching style?
I find myself in my element when I am lecturing. I'm pretty reserved otherwise, but I’m very energetic when I lecture, and I perk up a lot when I teach!
I don't have a theoretical or academic background in computer science, but I have a lot of practical industry experience. And that's how I would define my teaching style – practical. I like to give people the strategies and approaches to allow their vision to become real, as opposed to emphasizing the theory or the underlying workings of things. Theory is extremely important to the craftsmanship of programming but I think what sets a bootcamp apart from a CS degree is this practicality. I think that's where the “wow moments” in programming come from.
How many students do you have in a cohort or that you're teaching at one time usually?
It varies on the time of the year, and it depends on how much time we have for admissions, and the strength of the candidates themselves. Currently I am teaching about 30 students at Fullstack. Our current Grace Hopper cohort is also about 24. It tends to fluctuate in that range.
Right now we have two Fullstack cohorts running. One in Junior Phase and one in Senior Phase. And we have a Grace Hopper cohort right now in the Junior Phase. Our plan is when this Grace Hopper cohort becomes senior, we will also have another Grace Hopper cohort start in the Junior Phase. So soon we will have four running at the same time.
How many hours a week do you expect Fullstack students to commit while at bootcamp?
At a minimum, they’re in the classroom from 9:30am to 6:30pm with a mid-day lunch break, five days a week. We also have a curriculum that runs on Saturdays called CS Saturdays, which is our opportunity to get under the hood on computer science fundamentals.
Most students in the Junior Phase stick to that schedule and pace themselves. But in Senior Phase, they really get into their projects. They get very motivated and will typically pull late nights or work on weekends. What they build is dependent on how much time they devote to the project.
How do you assess a student's progress to make sure they're keeping up with the rest of the class? Are there tests at Fullstack Academy?
We have many checkpoints throughout the curriculum. The first checkpoint happens after Foundations, which is the first four to six weeks before students arrive on campus. In total, we have about six checkpoints, to varying degrees of importance. Most of them are self-evaluation, and the instructors will also take a look at how they did and give feedback. Some checkpoints have more significance in that if you do poorly, it gives us notice that we need to give you extra attention or work with you one-on-one a bit more.
For those more significant checkpoints, students have the option to redo that checkpoint, with the same concepts, and different content. If the student doesn't do well on either of those, we will give them a chance to catch up, redo foundations and get ready for the next cohort. And this usually helps everybody – coming back later when they’ve had a bit more time to absorb.
What type of role do you have in job placement and career coaching?
In Senior Phase, when we are approaching Hiring Day, the career coaches meet with all the students to get an idea of their ambitions, what industries they want to work in, what they were doing before, and how to leverage their strengths. Students also do resume workshops, LinkedIn audits, and mock behavioral and technical interviews.
If people want extra help, the career coaches connect us. For example, I recently met with an alumni for two hours, who had graduated back in March, to get a sense of what he was looking for in his job search and prepare for him for an interview he had coming up.
Have you found an “ideal” Fullstack Academy student?
I don't work in admissions but I do have a strong opinion about this. I feel like the background of the person isn't as important as their motivation and work ethic. We've had people at Fullstack from prestigious programs like Yale, Harvard, Cornell. On the other hand, we've had people who had dropped out of college or not even gone to college. The outcome, their quality of work, how quickly they learned, and their aptitude, had nothing to do with what they had done before. It was all about how hard they wanted to work and how much they want to learn how to code. So I would say the perfect Fullstack students want to work really hard and are ready for this kind of intensive curriculum.
What happens in the Fullstack Academy interview and admissions process? Do they do a coding challenge?
Do you have any resources or meetups you recommend for people who are thinking about doing a bootcamp?
Fullstack Academy holds a lot of different admissions prep and more generalized meetups and workshops over the weekends. For somebody thinking about going to a bootcamp who doesn't know much programming, I wouldn’t recommend typical Angular or a NodeJS meetups - it’s hard for beginners to garner anything from deep talks about the stack and the technology.
Instead, I recommend tech meetups which are more networking based where you have pizza and beer and talk to other like-minded people. A lot of those people – because bootcamps are now such a popular thing – will have been to a coding bootcamp, maybe even Fullstack, so you can talk to them, ask about their experience, and figure out if it's right for you.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about Fullstack Academy?
I want to emphasize that aptitude, and an attitude of working really hard, is much more important than experience. What you need to get into Fullstack can be learned in a few months. Using resources like Codecademy or Code School to learn the basics is a great place to start.
If you're a college student, an incoming freshman, or a teacher with a summer break, you have tons of summer coding bootcamp options, as well as several code schools that continue their normal offerings in the summer months.Continue Reading →
Neal Sales-Griffin and Mike McGee launched The Starter League in 2011, and the “coding bootcamp” as we know it was born. Five years later, The Starter League has become ingrained in Chicago’s tech ecosystem, and announced today that they’ll be fully acquired by New York-based Fullstack Academy! This marks the first expansion by Fullstack Academy outside of New York City, and the start of a really neat partnership. Neal and Fullstack Academy founders David Yang and Nimit Maru joined us to talk through what this acquisition means for brand, leadership, and 2016 plans. Plus, we dive into logistics for future applicants wondering about the admissions process, course offerings, and job placement services in Chicago and NYC.
Tell us the news!
Fullstack Academy is acquiring The Starter League! Part of the acquisition is that we’re expanding into Chicago, and it also means that we get to work closely with Neal.
First, let’s talk about Chicago. Why is Chicago an important market to expand to for a coding bootcamp?
David: Nimit and I are Midwest guys- we met 15 years ago at the University of Illinois.
Nimit: Chicago was my first love (New York is my second). When we decided to open Fullstack Academy, we actually considered Chicago, but we knew Neal was already there. About a year ago, I stopped by the 1871 space in Chicago, and I was blown away. It’s a joint collaboration between government, big companies, and coworking. Neal was actually involved in the early stages of 1871; The Starter League was the first tenant in 1871. That shows how much innovation The Starter League has been responsible for in the bootcamp space from the very beginning.
David: So Chicago was always high on our personal list, but also when we look at the metrics, Chicago is a great city. There’s a need for talent, and while there are a number of great schools there, we look at a lot of metrics for expansion. We look at the number of seats offered by current code schools, we look at Course Report data, as well as the number of new startups, and VC funding trends. Post-Groupon, Chicago is blowing up in terms of VC funding.
David and Nimit, why acquire a coding bootcamp instead of opening a new Fullstack Academy campus in Chicago?
David: Serendipitously, Neal reached out to us when we were looking at our plans for 2016. That was like a celebrity sighting for us- we’ve known and followed Neal’s work for a long time. After talking, we decided that acquiring The Starter League and working with Neal would be the best way for us to do Chicago right.
Nimit: We get to use his experience, the curriculum, courses, and software that they’ve built to expand into Chicago.
David: Fullstack Academy is so deeply ingrained into the New York ecosystem. You can’t just expand into a new city, because every city is different. The ecosystem that The Starter League has built, in terms of employers and alumni, is huge. Our alumni is such a huge part of what makes Fullstack successful now, so we knew that would be integral to expanding into a new city. There’s so much to be said for how innovative Neal and Mike were in creating this space that we’re all part of now, so getting to work with them is particularly special.
The Starter League was the first “bootcamp style” program in the US. Neal, how have you seen this industry change and grow over the last years?
Five years ago, my cofounder Mike and I decided to start a school and a company to teach tech skills. On one hand, the blossoming and growth of this space has been so humbling and mindblowing. On the other hand, it’s been crazy to see the saturation of this market- and not in a negative way. With so much opportunity, it’s natural that there will be an expansion and contraction of this space and resources. There are so many layers and flavors of this industry- we see a focus on veterans, a focus on women, etc; one of the biggest draws to work with Fullstack Academy is Grace Hopper Academy.
We have a beginner-focused program with an entrepreneurial bent; Fullstack Academy has an advanced, software engineer/CTO track. It feels like Tony Stark finally has the arc reactor in his Ironman suit and he can finally take off. The offering we’ll be able to provide by collaborating is going to create results that I don’t think the industry has seen yet.
We’ve seen incredible growth in this industry over the past five years, but I think what Fullstack Academy is about to bring to the table, with our help, is really going to blow people’s socks off. Chicago is going to be more awesome because of it, but Fullstack Academy also has plans for worldwide expansion. I wanted The Starter League to be a part of that, and for our legacy to be joining forces with a school that I really believe in. It was very clear, very quickly that David and Nimit understood The Starter League in a way nobody else did. I was super aggressive about working with them because of that energy.
Neal, what have you noticed about Employer trends since starting The Starter League?
I think I have a different perspective than most. When I had this idea, most people slammed their doors. Software firms didn’t buy it. I had a theory that people could learn how to do software development without a strong background in it and that with a basic set of skills, they could be employable as a junior developer or apprentice. There was a notion of this traditional path that developers needed to take in order to be qualified to be in their world. I was challenging their world view, so I got a lot of opposition.
Once we fought through that, it opened up the floodgates. It’s less important for me to claim credit for being the first bootcamp. We opened the floodgates to show all of these other schools that they could do it. And now, as an industry, we’re teaching tens of thousands of students how to make things with technology, work for great companies, live good lives, and get better careers. That’s magical.
We’ve seen the acquisition of a few bootcamps over the past couple years (Hack Reactor acquiring MakerSquare & Mobile Makers or Kaplan acquiring Dev Bootcamp), and every acquisition story sounds different. How will The Starter League and Fullstack Academy’s relationship look?
Neal: Fullstack Academy is doing a full acquisition of The Starter League and Starter School. The only thing that will remain is Lantern, which is our learning platform. Part of their plan is to expand their education offerings into different fields. We’re rolling in the curriculum, resources, and insights that we’ve gained into Fullstack Academy’s future planning. Classes will be available immediately.
Nimit: Right now, we’ll keep The Starter League brand alive. The Starter League has built an incredible and beloved brand in Chicago and in the US. But right away, Fullstack Academy’s Software Engineering Immersive and Summer of Code courses will be offered in Chicago. We’re still actively working on a lot of details.
The Starter League’s curriculum (for their web development program) is Ruby on Rails. Will that remain the focus or switch to MEAN Stack?
Nimit: We’re definitely using parts of their immersive course, but in general, we’re bringing our Fullstack Academy MEAN Stack immersive course from New York to Chicago.
David: The Starter League has always meant two things: first, they’ve been able to take students from across a spectrum of backgrounds with a passion for code. Second is their focus on entrepreneurship. We’ll incorporate both of those into our offerings in Chicago.
Even though the brand will remain intact, how will leadership change at The Starter League?
Neal: I’ll be helping out with Fullstack Academy to primarily facilitate a strong transition. I’ll be hands on, getting operations off the ground, and infusing Fullstack Academy with the energy that we’ve built over the last five years. Mike, my cofounder, is also helping, but in a different way. He’s also catching his breath after sprinting for five years. Fullstack Academy has a lot of plans to build up Chicago by hiring new people and bringing over New York staff.
David: We are sending Fullstack Academy employees to Chicago, as well as hiring in the city. Zeke Nierenberg, one of our best instructors, will be in Chicago to set up the first class.
Will The Starter League campus be in 1871?
Neal: Although we were originally based in 1871, we grew out of the initial space. They have now grown significantly, so we’ll be moving back in!
When will we see the impact of this acquisition?
June 6th is the first cohort in Chicago, but the 4-week remote Foundations pre-work will start in May. Applications open on Wednesday, March 16th.
For applicants who are considering joining either Fullstack Academy or The Starter League, is the culture at each school starkly different? Would a certain type of student perform better at one school over the other?
The culture will be different at each school, because the cities are different. But what we won’t compromise on is admissions standards. We aren’t thinking about these schools as existing in two different tiers.
If an applicant is accepted to Fullstack Academy, are they now also accepted to The Starter League and vice versa?
David: Yes, they’ll be one and the same. Applicants apply to Grace Hopper Academy, The Starter League, and Fullstack Academy, and decide which is the best fit. We want to work with all students we believe in and can drive outcomes for.
Neal: I also strongly believe that there’s a large part of The Starter League community that can now re-up. We have so many repeat alumni, and with this Fullstack Academy enhancement, they’ll take people to the next level. We’ve exposed so many beginners to UX, Front-End, BackEnd, etc, and with over 1500 alumni, a lot of those students may find Fullstack Academy tracks really attractive. I anticipate a lot of repeat students going even further as developers now.
Will alumni have access to job placement services in both NY and Chicago?
Nimit: Yes, absolutely. That’s a natural benefit from expanding to multiple cities.
David: I’m always excited when Fullstack Academy graduates hire each other. I’ll be so excited to see a Fullstack Academy grad hire a Starter League alum, and vice versa.
Neal: We’re at a place where there are businesses and entrepreneurs who are hiring coding bootcamp alumni from their schools; it’s an alumni connection, just like I went to Northwestern and have an affinity for Northwestern alumni. With this merger of brands, communities, and identities, it’s going to blow up that alumni network.
This sounds like a solid plan, but what’s been the biggest lesson learned in merging two bootcamps?
Neal: From my perspective, it’s obviously a challenge to get a deal done when we’re in different cities and both trying to build and grow our own businesses. The other challenge is getting certified to operate in new cities. Dealing with the licensure and operation processes was an important part of this acquisition, which any bootcamp founder will have to resolve when they expand. On top of that, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is making sure that values are aligned. You’ll find that the details are just the same as any other business deal, but making sure you have a culture and value fit is crucial; we can’t just hand off The Starter League in a hollow deal. This is a real partnership, so making sure that stays intact was a huge lesson, and I couldn’t be more excited to work with David and Nimit. This is not just another acquisition. The offering we’ll be able to provide through this partnership is unlike anything we’ve seen.
David: Another lesson we learned was that a lot of coding bootcamps look similar from the outside, but internally, they’re very different machines. Every time we talk to another founder, it’s clear that there are different innovations happening within each school.
Are you revealing the terms of the deal?
Nope, we’re not disclosing specifics, but we’re all happy.
I remember when Kaplan reached out to us (to be clear, there were initial calls but never a hard offer on the table), but I chose not to continue that conversation because we still had to figure out what The Starter League’s identity should become in Chicago. We stuck to our values and our mission, and now we get to partner with a team of people who truly get us.
Any major changes to either school that we’re missing as part of this news?
David: We’re just so excited to expand outside of NYC. We look at how other schools scale in this space, and we know we have to get it right. I don’t think there are bad players out there, but it’s easy to take a wrong turn, and we think this is a great move for us and for the industry. From an industry perspective, we’re in a stage of consolidation of strong players. That’s a good thing for this space, because it’s becoming clearer who the high quality players are.
Frances, people may see you, a Computer Science undergrad student, and think, “why does she need to do a coding bootcamp?"
90% of CS undergrad degrees are extremely theoretical, and you won’t get a lot out of them if you focus solely on completing the classes. Even though I had been working with all the typical online platforms to learn how to code since high school (e.g. Codecademy, Code School, and Treehouse), you really have to possess a lot of discipline in order to complete these courses at a similar pace to that of any coding bootcamp. Aside from these online courses, you can always try to be proactive by attending hackathons, conferences, Meetups, and exploring what your local Slack groups have to offer. My local community is called 757Dev and they have a very active and helpful Slack group which is actually how I learned about the conference I spoke at right after I graduated from Fullstack.
You did so much research during your bootcamp interview process. How did you find out about coding bootcamps?
My dad forwarded me a news article in summer of 2012 specifically about App Academy and Dev Bootcamp. I was a junior in high school and was planning on majoring in Computer Science for undergrad so my dad felt such a program might be worth looking into. However, at that point in my life, I didn’t feel I had the technical aptitude to be accepted into one of these programs so I figured I would wait until I felt more secure about it.
In the fall of 2013, I started applying to several coding bootcamps for the summer and was fortunate enough to be accepted into RefactorU and Bitmaker Labs while also beginning the application process for a few others (e.g. Dev Bootcamp, RocketU, App Academy, General Assembly, Hackbright Academy, and Code Fellows) They were ok with my age (I was 18) and even though I was intending to go, I realized I couldn’t because I had to take some university courses over the summer.
Finally, in the fall of 2014, I started applying again (with a lot more determination) and started documenting the entire application process for the following bootcamps: Fullstack Academy, Coding House, Coding Dojo, Dev League, DESIGNATION, MakerSquare, and Hack Reactor.
What was the biggest red flag that you ran into when you were interviewing at coding bootcamps?
I think how well organized the interview/admissions process is can tell you a lot about the caliber of the bootcamp. While applying for Coding House, the technical founder was driving his car while interviewing me! And he was asking very basic questions (like - do you know what recursion is?), which was a big red flag for me since I wanted to be surrounded by students who are passionate about the material and not just looking for a quick intro-level program. In other words, I believe the standards that a school holds you to in the interview can tell you a lot about how rigorous the curriculum itself will be.
What was the hardest interview you did?
Fullstack Academy’s interview was by far the hardest, which was still appealing because it was nice knowing I was going to be challenged. I remember one of the questions in the coding challenge being directly taken from the famous book, “Cracking the Coding Interview" by Gayle McDowell.
I interviewed with Fullstack Academy in December 2014. Originally, I was applying for the normal Fullstack Academy program, but they introduced the Summer of Code program while I was in the interview process. It was targeted exclusively at those still in college (undergrad or grad) which was nice because I was surrounded by people my age, some of whom were also pursuing a CS degree.
Were there any additional requirements for the Summer of Code application?
No, the application was exactly the same for both programs. What was interesting was that even though most of the Summer of Code students had a CS degree background of some kind, others were pursuing degrees in Epidemiology, Connective Media, Electrical Engineering, and even Architecture. One student, Theo, was coming straight out of high school and was just 18 at the time. The requirements were those required by any Fullstacker - lots of passion and personability.
What was the difference between the Summer of Code and the regular Fullstack course?
The main difference is that you get the opportunity to interact with other college level students, which makes the experience slightly less isolating. They also emphasized that the Fullstack team would reach out when it’s time for internships, and that’s something I’ve already seen. I’ve been contacted by Google three times since graduating from Fullstack, which kinda blows my mind but having the skills gained from Fullstack would definitely put anyone in demand career-wise.
What was your Summer of Code cohort like?
There were 13 college students in our cohort (~25 in total). I was surprised that two of them were from Yale; it’s been mentioned a lot in the media how Yale’s CS curriculum is not on par with the curriculums of other elite schools like Stanford’s or CMU’s (Yale’s, apparently, is far too theoretical). I even talked to one of the Yale students at Fullstack and she told me that one of the primary reasons she was attending Fullstack was to make up for the fact she hasn’t learned a lot of the more modern developer expertise through her CS program.
Did Summer of Code students work side-by-side with the non-Summer of Code cohort?
We were allowed to work with anybody on all the workshops and all the senior level projects but for the final Capstone project, we had to work with other Summer of Code students since the graduation dates were slightly different.
Fullstack also breaks us into “Learning Teams”, where we have a mentor assigned to some students in the current cohort to aid with programming problems or just any difficulties faced throughout the program. In my team, which we named “Bubbles” after the bubble sort algorithm, three of the students were there for the Summer of Code program. My mentor, Jimmy, was so helpful to me and proved to be such an invaluable part of my overall experience. Our team had a lot of fun together playing strange games like Avalon for our team lunches which just made me appreciate my Fullstack adventure all the more.
Tell us about the projects you worked on at Fullstack Academy!
The first “big” project I worked on was an e-commerce store which was supposed to help us learn the ins and outs of GitHub (organizing branches, issue maintenance, merge conflicts, etc.) My group ended up making an e-commerce store for robots called Robopocalypse (pretty standard). The second project was framed more like a hackathon in the sense that we had a very limited time to complete it. Most students completed the hackathon project by themselves. I created a project called RankMe, which aggregated data on Coding Bootcamps from Yelp, Course Report, Quora, etc. For the final capstone project, I worked on Hiredot, which was a web app meant to act as a platform for Fullstackers and interested companies to explore projects and hackathons as well as create their own profiles and set up hiring event preferences.
I consider myself a developer with a design background, which I think really helped me at Fullstack. You can make something technically challenging, but if it’s not usable, then, nobody will want to even look at it, let alone pay money for it.
What was the difference in teaching style between Fullstack Academy and your Computer Science degree?
It was very different. Fullstack has CS Saturdays now, where you get to work with data structures and algorithms. I think that’s a brilliant idea, and if I could have worked on Saturdays as well, I definitely would have. It was just that ridiculously fun. A good analogy here would be to Apple where the employees just feel so strongly about their company to the point where there is a certain culture that makes them want to work more and more.
So this doesn’t apply to all undergraduate schools of course, but I’ve found that the professor doesn’t care if you participate or not. You can learn the material on your own, or you can never learn it and cheat (unfortunately, I see this a lot.) At Fullstack, if I had cheated on an exam during my junior phase, I would have been totally screwed later on!
The other difference is that most universities are not built to have a very interactive learning environment; so you’re not obligated to participate. At Fullstack, one of my instructors, Omri, actually had a console application that he used to randomly select students to call on if we weren’t participating as much as we should be. It worked pretty well!
Did you think Fullstack Academy or your Computer Science degree was harder?
No question, Fullstack was way more challenging. This is cliche, but I really did learn a lot more in those 12 weeks than I would have in 12 weeks at college.
I think it’s important to note that Fullstack even incorporates data structures and algorithms (DSA) into the curriculum (with their CS Saturdays).
Looking back, did you need to do the Computer Science degree?
Unfortunately, I don’t think I needed to do a CS degree for the career I want. Ultimately, I want to work as a software developer/product designer.
If I were trying to get into academia where I would be working with CS research involving topics like computer vision, artificial intelligence, etc., then of course, I definitely would have needed the Bachelor’s degree (at the very least). A lot of students coming out of college also have to worry about student debt which is something to consider when deciding whether such a degree is worth it.
Now, I’m looking at Masters degrees (surprisingly). That’s partially because my parents want me to but also partially because I don’t want to regret it later. One of the programs I’m looking at is a MEng in CS at Cornell Tech, which is supposed to offer a more practical hands-on experience. My partner for my Capstone project for Fullstack is at Cornell Tech for Connective Media and she convinced me to apply. Aside from exploring conventional Master’s degrees, I’m also looking at attending longer bootcamps (two years long) like the ones offered by Make School and the Holberton School.
Did Fullstack de-emphasize job placement since you were all college students?
A little bit, yes. The Summer of Code students graduated one week earlier because the other students all do job placement during that week.
Do you have any advice for other college students or coding bootcamp graduates?
I made it my goal this semester to attend as many conferences and hackathons as possible and I think that these opportunities best replicate the bootcamp experience since they’re short, very immersive, and relevant to today’s demands
Do you get sponsored to go to conferences like that?
For the Developer Week conference, I applied to be a volunteer and got an all-access pass in exchange for working two, 6-hour shifts. Then for React.js Conf and Fluent Conf, I applied for the diversity scholarships, which I’m very appreciative of, being a Latina in tech.
TreeHacks hackathon also reimbursed me for flight costs since they had a more selective process for out-of-state students.
Tell us about the internship you’re about to start!
It’s a summer internship based at Accenture’s Tech Labs in San Jose. Accenture is a consulting firm, which I didn’t expect would be the kind of field I would enter into initially, but they were able to really pitch the value of their internship and offered me a great package. I’ll be working in web development, but beyond that, I don’t have a ton of details.
Did you talk about your Fullstack experience in that internship interview process?
Yes! That was actually the primary experience that really stood out to my technical interviewer. Another reason I feel Fullstack was definitely worth it.
For someone who is currently doing an undergrad CS program and thinking about doing a bootcamp, what’s your advice to them?
If you’re enrolled in an elite undergraduate program or you are not paying a lot for school, then I believe it wouldn’t hurt to finish the degree.
This is because, unfortunately, society is still at a point where we really value that piece of paper. Some people are brave and are willing to/can afford to drop out of college to do their own thing; I’m not that brave. I need to know that I can fall back on that CS degree at whatever point in the future. As a female minority, I also feel like not having that degree is just a risky proposition in general. I wish it wasn’t of course, but it definitely is, even within the tech industry where businesses like to emphasize technical ability over pedigree. Silicon Valley hiring isn’t exactly a meritocracy, though.
The safer option that I ultimately decided to go with was completing a brilliant coding bootcamp like Fullstack Academy over the summer which I could incorporate easily with my degree. Being able to build cool stuff while also being around smart people is typically the goal of most high-achieving developers.
When you’re applying for a bootcamp, it’s very important to really do your research. Course Report, of course, is one of the best tools for this with in-depth reviews, interviews, and resources, but you should try go the extra mile. That means looking at existing questions answered by the coding bootcamps on sites like Quora (most bootcamps will have their own Quora profile), going to LinkedIn and looking up alumni to contact (they may actually be able to tell you something you would never find online!), and making sure you understand exactly what you’re getting into. Much like a relationship, attending a bootcamp is a serious financial and time investment, so it’s important you choose your partner wisely - a partner that’s worth that money, duration, and effort.
For example, I realized after finishing Fullstack that the ROI was so much higher than a normal semester at university. Accounting for all travel, food, and lodging costs, Fullstack cost me around $14K (rounding up) for 650 hours worth of content (rounding down) over the span of 15 weeks. You take that and compare it to one semester of university (my Fall 2015 semester, for example) which was 14 weeks, 255 hours of classroom time, and cost $29K if I were paying for it, then it’s easy to see why bootcamps are in fact becoming so popular.
The below images show time and money spent on bootcamp vs CS degree:
The rest of my advice for people considering a bootcamp is pretty basic: create a GitHub account, spice up your LinkedIn profile, make sure you have a website (GitHub pages is a good start), and really just become as much of a developer as you can on your own before you start!
I think coding bootcamps in the future are going to become a more credible and reliable way to gain a foot in the door of the tech industry so regardless of whether you’re interested in attending one or not, exploring the rapid growth and expansion of this industry throughout the past four years has been fascinating.
Are Coding Bootcamps the new "replacement" for college degrees? Or are bootcamp grads missing out on valuable Computer Science theory by opting out of a traditional CS degree? As coding bootcamps rise in popularity, they face both praise and criticism- but what is the real difference between these two education paths? Join Course Report and our expert panel (seriously, these folks are running the best bootcamps in the world) to dive into this topic: CS Degrees vs Coding Bootcamps.
This webinar is perfect for future bootcampers or anyone interested in the coding bootcamp industry.Continue Reading →
How much do coding bootcamps cost? From students looking for free coding bootcamps to those wondering if an $18,000 bootcamp is worth it, we understand that cost is important to future bootcampers! While the average full-time programming bootcamp in the US costs $11,906, bootcamp tuition can range from $9,000 to $21,000, and some coding bootcamps have deferred tuition. So how do you decide what to budget for? Here, we break down the costs of coding bootcamps from around the USA.
The January News Roundup is your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles in the coding bootcamp space. If you're part of the bootcamp world or just want to stay current on coding bootcamps, then check out everything you may have missed in January!
Olivia Vanni from BostInno argues that Computer Science degrees in 2016 don't really make sense (coding bootcamps are one reason).Continue Reading →
We often hear the argument that the tradeoff between a Computer Science degree and a Coding Bootcamp is “theory vs. practice.” So what exactly does this computer science theory include, and more importantly, can a coding bootcamp work these principles into their curriculum? The team at Fullstack Academy, a MEAN Stack bootcamp in New York, accepted the challenge and added a new module that goes deep into CS fundamentals. We chat with David Yang, Fullstack Co-Founder and Lead Instructor, about the new curriculum, exactly what's changing at Fullstack Academy, and how the added challenge will make their grads even more prepared for their first jobs as developers.
How is Fullstack Academy’s curriculum changing? When are the new changes taking place?
Beginning with the January 2016 Full-Time Immersive cohort, we’ve added a large module to our curriculum that focuses on computer science. This curriculum takes some classic learnings from Computer Science, applies our knowledge of how to make it fun, memorable and practical, and really provides students with more depth than ever before. To fit this into an already packed curriculum schedule, we’ve added an entire new program called Computer Science Saturdays. This addition comes with a scheduling change as well - Fullstack’s Full-Time course now meets 6 days per week, from Monday - Saturday, up from the previous standard 5 day per week model.
Computer Science Saturdays covers both CS fundamentals and theory -- going well beyond the in-demand higher level material taught on weekdays. While our core curriculum has always had a large focus on CS (we’ve always covered Data Structures and Algorithms), we’re excited to take it further with this program.
We hear a lot that the tradeoff between coding bootcamps and CS degrees is practice vs theory- do you think that’s an oversimplification? Are developer bootcamps the new/better “alternative” to a CS degree?
Yes, “practice vs theory” is an oversimplification, but it reveals the biggest weakness faced by CS programs today - you can graduate from a CS program without knowing how to do a lot that is “practical.” This goes back to a fundamental difference between coding schools and CS programs - Fullstack’s goal is to graduate students who are highly qualified for software engineering roles in today’s job market. All of our energy and mission goes toward that singular focus, whereas universities and colleges have a much more diffuse and broad mission of general education.
More specifically, coding bootcamps like Fullstack have developed their curriculums differently than universities. We’ve designed our educational structure and content based on what’s in-demand in the job market, since our goal for graduates is to make sure they get great jobs. And in general, for coding bootcamps that does mean a larger focus on real-world practice, and less on theory, especially given the time constraints for programs (~13 weeks). However, a good portion of traditional computer science material is still useful for today’s software engineering positions, which is what we’re adding to Fullstack with CS Saturdays.
If an employment outcome is your primary goal for attending a school, then attending a job-outcome focused program like Fullstack is definitely faster and more cost-effective than getting an undergrad or master’s degree in CS. We’ve even had a small number students at Fullstack who either dropped out of college or attended Fullstack straight from high school, and they have all gotten high-quality jobs after graduating (though I’d add that they were also all very strong programmers).
My recommendation these days for young people is that if they really love working with computers, do a coding school like Fullstack after your senior year in high school. You’ll enter college ahead of your classmates and know more about why you’re learning what you’re learning, and whether or not it’s valuable.
Both you and Nimit have CS degrees- what aspects from the CS degree did you feel were vital to incorporate into the Fullstack curriculum? Were there classes/parts of your CS degree that you didn’t think were necessary?
As you’re reading this article - the fact that it shows on your screen, that it was sent to you over a vast network of interconnected machines, that the content was stored in some remote database in what looks like gibberish - thousands of incredibly sophisticated things had to happen to make that possible. The most valuable thing I took from my CS degree is how all those layers work (from how we manufacture silicon chips to how your screen is drawn) and what types of abstractions are necessary so that anyone can make all of this work.
You get these moments of eureka throughout a CS degree when all of a sudden, a layer of abstraction is no longer that - it becomes clear how exactly that layer works. We want to take students through those various layers and show them both the engineering and beauty of what it takes to make that system work.
There are a lot of CS classes that aren’t necessary in that they don’t translate to things most programmers do every day. It doesn’t mean that it’s not valuable to learn that - there is just as much beauty in great algorithms as there is in great literature. That being said, it’s a lot more useful to learn CS when you need it rather than ahead of time - your brain just absorbs it much better. I’ve seen this time and time again.
What will one of these “CS Saturdays” look like? Mostly lecture? Projects?
CS Saturdays are structured in the same format as the core curriculum phase as Fullstack, which is the first 7 weeks on campus. It’s roughly 40% lecture and 60% hands-on coding workshop. The day starts with a lecture on some topic in the curriculum. That’s followed by several hours of workshop time where students work in pairs, building something related to the lecture topic. And then the day ends with an instructor-led review of the workshop assignment.
On top of that coding focused schedule, we’re also excited about CS Saturday’s curriculum structure. It starts at first principles in computer science, with very low level concepts like logic gates. Then each week builds on the last one, with students moving up the chain and building more complex elements using all of the material cumulatively. It finishes with students building their own web browser.
How will this additional CS theory change the types of jobs students can get after graduating?
Part of it is also that students at Fullstack just really love being challenged - we want to provide this curriculum to take them further and deeper.
For someone who isn’t very familiar with career/employment options in web development, what are some job titles that a CS grad would expect vs. a bootcamp grad?
The gap has really closed significantly in my mind - in fact, I’ve talked with CTOs who prefer “bootcamp grads” versus CS college grads. In the CS world - I’ve definitely seen a bimodal distribution of practical knowledge that’s hard to judge by GPA alone. Some students can do well in their classes but have no idea about software architecture and design, how to work on projects (some don’t even have github accounts) and how modern technology stacks work (Web, Mobile etc). Our students are more consistent and oftentimes bring with them valuable expertise outside of just a CS degree.
Are you seeing employers become more or less comfortable to hiring from bootcamps? What kind of employer feedback did you consider when designing this new curriculum?
The gap in employer “comfort” is closing rapidly, for a few reasons. Bootcamps like us have gotten really good at what they do - our curriculum, class processes and admissions processes now really help create amazing graduates - they’re motivated, smart, and just generally great people to work with. Employers have also gotten more comfortable understanding the pros/cons of working with bootcamp grads and how to continue to mentor them towards breakthrough performance.
We’re constantly in conversations with employers about what they’re looking for - surprisingly more CS is about 3 or 4 in their priority list. The other things we’re hearing about we’ve essentially already added to our curriculum and culture in other ways. At Fullstack we definitely have an integrated view of what it means to be a great developer beyond just technical mastery - communication, cultural fit, coachability and business sense all combine to make our grads valuable additions to their companies.
At Fullstack, we’ve seen our hiring partnerships grow with every cohort, and each hiring day we host sees more companies express interest in our students. My favorite fact is that many companies are sending Fullstack graduates back to Fullstack to “hire more people like you.” That’s about as strong an endorsement as I can imagine, and there are several big companies like American Express, Goldman Sachs and Priceline that have hired 4 or more graduates from our school.
2015 was another huge year for coding bootcamps, and the team at Course Report had a blast covering it. We've seen acquisitions, attention from the White House, a focus on accessibility and new schools launching weekly in cities from San Fran to Sydney. As we connect with bootcamp alumni all over the world, success stories continue to emerge and it makes us so excited to see the future of bootcamps unfold. But we can't head into the New Year without reflecting on some of the greatest accomplishments of 2015, so read on for our top picks!Continue Reading →
Daniel was studying computer science at Brandeis when he realized that he wanted the intense hands-on coding experience he could get from a coding bootcamp like Fullstack Academy. Daniel traded in his theory-heavy college courses for more technical training and interactive projects and doesn’t regret it at all. Daniel discusses his motivation to put his traditional academics on hold, his experiences thus far in a coding bootcamp, and how he's adjusting to New York City by living at Common.
Tell us what you were up to before you started at Fullstack Academy.
Last year, I was a freshman at Brandeis University, studying Computer Science. When Brandeis accepted me, they also invited me to participate in a Leader-Scholar Community focused on media and politics. We had a big final project that required us to do something connecting media and politics. My team decided to found an initiative to share the stories of individuals facing homelessness in the Boston region. As part of the initiative, we built a website from the ground up that is fundamentally similar to Humans of New York but has a particular focus on the homeless population.
Did you do the coding for it? Did you teach yourself enough to build it?
Yeah, it didn’t require a lot because it was just HTML and CSS but it was enough to get me interested in programming and building products more generally.
On the first day of Fullstack, our instructor explained that programming and Computer Science are not the same thing.You can be a fantastic programmer without being a fantastic computer scientist, and you can be a fantastic computer scientist without being a fantastic programmer. However, it happens that knowing CS and understanding the fundamentals can help make you a better programmer.
I hadn’t heard the CS vs programming distinction articulated until I came to Fullstack, although I think I had an inkling of it when I started building the website I mentioned earlier.
So you were studying Computer Science but didn’t realize that you wanted to pursue programming until you actually built something.
That got me interested in a summer program at Brandeis, which was focused on building web and mobile applications. I loved that program, it was exactly what I wanted.
Did you get credit for that summer bootcamp?
It wasn’t a bootcamp, actually. It was a 12-credit suite of courses, and it was great. During the program, I discovered I had developed a real passion for programming and building. Going back to regular college classes with PowerPoints and lectures -- none of the hands-on building I enjoyed so much -- was going to just kill my passion for programming.
A friend who had gone to Hack Reactor told me about coding bootcamps. It was then that I decided to take a semester or year off and pursue that route of education.
Did you tell Brandeis you were going to do a coding bootcamp? Was it a difficult process?
It was easy to take the leave of absence. Brandeis knew about the coding bootcamp only because I inquired whether I could get credit for the work. That would be the perfect situation.
Wow, this sounds like the perfect argument for EQUIP (The Department of Education’s new initiative for collaboration between four-year institutions and bootcamps).
I could not be more on board with that. That would make a CS degree a lot more compelling for a lot of people who are less interested in theory and algorithms than they are in making stuff. While some theory is necessary, it’s become apparent to me how different theory is from building real things.
People who have great imaginations and come up with cool ideas would be able to explore and discover their passion for building.
How far are you through Fullstack right now?
We are about to finish our junior phase, which is the first six weeks. My cohort is a little different from others in that we get a month-long break in December, but typically, a cohort has six weeks of class, then a review week with assessments, then a six-week senior phase that is more project-oriented.
Has there been overlap between the Computer Science fundamentals that you were learning at Brandeis and the curriculum at Fullstack?
Yeah, definitely.We learned some CS fundamentals in the first week at Fullstack. They want you to have some background in theory, so during the first week, you learn different algorithms like sorting – material that I didn’t find very engaging and enthralling at either Brandeis or Fullstack, but I definitely appreciate that some theory will be helpful further down the line. For people who haven’t have any CS background, Fullstack will definitely get you to a good starting place.
Were your parents supportive of you taking a semester off?
They were surprisingly supportive. It’s cheesy to say but they’ve always been behind me and been my biggest supporters. I told them. “Mom, Dad, I’m not enjoying either what I’m learning or the way I’m learning in school.” I told them about the bootcamps and how I was excited by their method of teaching They were very skeptical at first, as most parents would be --especially my parents, who are very academia-oriented. My dad is a professor who has a PhD and my mom has a Master’s Degree, and both highly value a liberal arts education. Given that, I was expecting a lot of pushback. But after I’d researched the programs I was interested in and discussed my thoughts with them they were on board.
You don’t think you’ll go back to school when you’re done with Fullstack Academy?
I’m considering multiple options right now, and over my winter break, I plan to apply as a transfer student to schools with a more project-based and hands-on CS curriculum. I’m still not sure exactly where that’ll be, but I want to generate an array of possibilities for when I graduate from Fullstack and get ready to take my next step..
What other bootcamps did you research?
In Boston, I looked at General Assembly and Launch Academy. Some teach the MEAN stack, others teach Ruby on Rails; I was most interested in learning the MEAN stack.After talking to people in the industry, it seemed to me like, while a lot of companies use Rails, the MEAN stack is going to be the next big thing. I didn’t actually hear about Fullstack until a month into my search for a bootcamp, but once I found it, it seemed like this amazing place. I remember reading a question on Quora from someone who got accepted to both Fullstack and Hack Reactor. The answer was:“You’ve gotten into Harvard and Yale; you can’t go wrong.” I also read a lot of reviews and testimonials from people who had gone to Fullstack, and the reviews were overwhelmingly positive. After doing that research, I was confident that it was a good school to apply to.
I applied to Hack Reactor, MakerSquare, Coding Dojo, Launch Academy, Fullstack Academy and General Assembly.
Originally, Hack Reactor was my top choice, but I didn’t get in. In retrospect, I can see why -- I didn’t understand a lot of the material at the time of my interview. It was my first interview, which was a big mistake because I think they’re one of the most selective bootcamps. I was unbelievably nervous going into the interview and I think that that, together with its being my first interview, wasn’t a good mix. But I actually found the Fullstack Academy interview significantly harder than the Hack Reactor one.
Was there a technical coding challenge in the interview for Fullstack Academy?
Yes. The entire application process for Fullstack is a little bit different from a lot of other bootcamp application processes. They have a relatively lengthy written application that you have to submit before you can do anything else. If they like your application, they’ll get back to you and send you an online test to complete. If you do well enough on that test, they’ll reach out to you and schedule a technical interview. If you do well on the technical interview, they’ll accept you into the program.
Did you have to complete the online coding challenge in a certain programming language?
Nope, I recall them asking me to complete the challenge in whatever language I preferred.
Are you working harder than you did in college?
I’m working harder than I did in college but I’m also significantly happier with the type of work that I’m doing. I’m excited to go to school in the morning and I’m excited to come home and continue working. In college, I wasn’t nearly as engaged in my classes -- I wasn’t very excited about their content, and I wasn’t as excited as I wanted to be about doing the work for them.
Even though I’m excited about what I’m learning, the time commitment is still tough. Still, I don’t find it too hard to find motivation to do the work for it.
How did you find out about Common as a housing option?
Through Fullstack, actually. I have two family members in New York and had zero friends here and I had no idea where to live. I had heard horror stories about living in New York and finding a place and it just seemed like a very stressful situation. So I asked Charlotte and she recommended Krash, Founder House and Common. Common just seemed like the best option from the get-go.
Is everybody in the Common house in tech?
I think that the majority of my housemates are in some aspect of tech. The only non-technical people I can think of offhand are one person who works as a copywriter for a startup and one person works for the UN. Those might be the least techy people in the houseI think that almost everyone else is doing really cool stuff in the tech industry; everyone’s doing cool stuff.
Are there other coding bootcampers at Common?
There are two others besides me. One is studying UX Design at General Assembly. The other bootcamper is in my class at Fullstack, which is great. It means we can study at home sometimes and talk through problems that we encounter during classes. It’s kind of like living in a college dorm except significantly nicer.
Right- you just came from your freshman year at college! Is this like living in a dorm?
It’s a much better version of a dorm. It’s living with people who have a common interest, much more freedom, much more privacy, and much nicer accommodations. Walking into Common makes me a little bit happier every day; it’s just such a beautiful space.
Do you feel like you’re connecting to the tech scene in New York at all?
Not at this point. Most of my extra-curricular activities are oriented more towards social events. Both Common and Fullstack Academy host lots of events. At Fullstack, each cohort appoints a social chair that schedules your “Sunday Fun-Day” activity. In addition to whatever’s planned for Sunday, we have happy hour/studying every Thursday (Thirsty Thursdays), and a lot of impromptu games of Avalon. Common hosts a lot of events as well. There’s a communal dinner once every two weeks and we have weekly events. But if I don’t have work, I like to catch up on sleep!
Who’s your instructor at Fullstack Academy right now?
We have three instructors: Joe, Gabe and Ayana, who are all phenomenal. I think that all three graduated from Fullstack a year and a half ago, were Fullstack Fellows, and are now full-fledged instructors. Joe, the instructor who’ll come through to senior phase with us, is a self-taught programmer, a very cool person, and a phenomenal teacher.
The teachers at Fullstack motivate you and inspire you; they want you to learn and succeed.
Have you done a project yet?
Yep. We just finished the longest workshop of the junior curriculum. We built a Spotify clone during a five-day workshop. We started from a very basic skeleton of the app and added functionality to make it a complete web application built on the entire MEAN stack. That was our introduction to Angular.
That was my favorite project so far. It seemed like something that I would actually want to build.
I’m going into each of these projects with the desire to learn how to learn. I want to be able to look at a new technology and know how to start using it.
I think Fullstack is going to help me get there. Their curriculum is designed to teach you how to learn, not just teach you the MEAN stack, which I think is essential in the tech field.
Is there anything we skipped over that you want to make sure our readers know about Fullstack Academy or bootcamps in general?
Overall, bootcamps are really cool. You learn a lot, you meet a lot of really cool people while doing it and even if you don’t walk away with some high-paying developer job, you walk away having learned a huge skillset...
Have your friends from Brandeis asked if they should follow in your footsteps?
I haven’t been approached by anyone but if I were, I would definitely encourage them to take a look at Fullstack.
Welcome to the October News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Do you want something considered for the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
Are you planning on attending a coding bootcamp? Deciding between two bootcamps? We’ve scoured the net for alumni blogs from top coding bootcamps including Fullstack Academy, Dev Bootcamp, The Iron Yard, Coding Dojo, MakerSquare and Hack Reactor. From a CS major to an event planner, these bootcamp graduates give you a snapshot of what makes each coding school and experience unique.Continue Reading →
This Wednesday, our friends at LiquidTalent hosted a spectacular panel of women who discussed their experience at New York coding bootcamps and transitioning into their first jobs. Course Report was lucky to moderate the panel- here are 12 things we learned from this rockstar panel of lady developers!Continue Reading →
A Digital Marketing Consultant at Google, Randy was ready to ramp up his technical knowledge, so he began searching for an intensive but part-time programming bootcamp in New York City. His research led him to Fullstack Academy and the Flex Immersive, which would allow him to learn around his work and travel schedule. Now heading into the last weeks at Fullstack, we talk to Randy about his expectations of a bootcamp, managing his time around a busy work and class schedule, and building tight-knit relationships with his fellow students.Continue Reading →
While quitting your job and diving headfirst into your coding education can yield impressive results, we also understand that not everybody can commit to a full-time, 12-week programming bootcamp. Jobs, school, families - life, in general, can prevent that kind of commitment. For all the students who can’t give 40 hours a week to a code school, we’re outlining some of the best part-time web development bootcamps around. With a variety of price points and locations to choose from, you'll find an in-person program that can get you coding, even with your busy schedule.Continue Reading →
As Fullstack Academy continues to expand, the team found themselves growing out of their original classroom in the Financial District. They moved into the 25th floor of 5 Hanover Square in New York this November, and we got a tour from Program Coordinator Liz Livi; we're happy to share an exclusive campus tour with you!
Fullstack Academy has over 70 people in their space at the same time every day! Liz says that the best part of the new space is having "so much more room for activities and learning!"
We have 4 "learning halls," and the first hall is the Alan Turing Hall, a space for the seniors to learn. Two students per desk, each student is a set up with a monitor.
The Fullstack space is also home to Grace Hopper auditorium, where presentations and lectures take place. This hall can fit up to 65 people seated at once. And the Von Neumann Hall, which is set up for our juniors (same table set up as the senior hall). The newest addition, Ada Lovelace Hall, is where Fullstack holds the Flex Immersive class every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Students have plenty of space for activities and games when they're not coding.
At the end of each cohort, the space is filled with prospective employers and graduating bootcampers at the Fullstack Academy Hiring Day. Fullstack also hosts meetups such as Women Who Code, Y-Combinator Happy Hours and many talks including one by Justin Moses of Mongo DB.
Welcome to the February News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Want your bootcamp's news to be included in the next News Roundup?
Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
Since Course Report is based in New York, so we try to attend as many bootcamp hiring days and student presentations as possible. A couple weeks ago, I went to the Fullstack Academy hiring night at their new classroom in New York's Financial District, where each student group presented very quickly on their final projects that they had completed throughout the course, then they met with prospective hiring companies. All of the final project ideas were really thoughtful, but one of the projects that stood out to me was called Splyt and it was created by three women- Lindsay Levine, Kamilla Khabibrakhmanova and Emmie Salama.
I knew I had to hear more from these ladies about their experience at Fullstack, and I'm so excited to share our conversation with our readers! We talk about their experience at Fullstack and as women in tech, and they even walk us through Splyt and show us what they were able to actually make in their 13 weeks at Fullstack. Watch the video and read the full Q&A below!
Liz: Lindsay, Kamilla and Emmie, introduce yourselves and start by telling us what you were up to before you enrolled at Fullstack.
Emmie: I graduated from NYU with a bachelors degree in Speech Pathology. After I graduated, I realized I didn’t really want to go into that field and decided to work for a year and figure out another career path. During that year, I took Computer Science classes at night at Queens College and fell in love with computer science.
Kamilla: Before Fullstack, I spent three years in Austin, Texas, working at a tech company called Indeed.com. I was managing the Russian site, doing a lot of marketing and product support. I started dabbling in coding to try to make some things easier, and to see if I could automate tasks that were previously manual.
Lindsay: I dropped out of McGill Engineering two years ago; I was studying software engineering there, so I’ve been exposed to computer science and web development for quite a while but I wasn’t convinced that it was what I wanted to do, so I did a lot of soul searching for a few years. Ultimately, I realized this is what I want. I found Fullstack and talked to Nimit- it was the easiest decision in my life after talking to him.
Liz: It sounds like all three of you had somewhat of a technical background, either working in a tech company or having taken computer science courses. What was your goal in doing a bootcamp? Was it to get a job, get a promotion, to start your own company?
Emmie: Because I was in a Master’s of Computer Science program at Queen’s College, it felt like the professors were theorizing everything and I wasn’t getting to build anything. Fullstack was appealing to me because I could build, which was more important than getting a degree.
Liz: Was the ultimate goal to get placed as a developer at a company?
Emmie: For me, definitely.
Kamilla: For me it seemed like the quickest way to actually get a job as a developer. I know people who took night classes and slowly worked their way up, but it made more sense to me as someone who’s young and has no obligations to just go and try it out full-time for three months.
Lindsay: I wanted a job. I did have a bit of web development experience before coming to Fullstack but I didn’t think that experience made me employable, so I thought a bootcamp would help.
Liz: Kamilla, you came from Austin to New York- how did you find out about Fullstack in New York and what was your research process when you were looking for a bootcamp?
Kamilla: I actually took a part-time class at MakerSquare in Austin before applying to full-time bootcamps. I did a lot of research, and I mostly looked in New York City or Austin because I have family in New York and I was already based in Austin.
Once I had my interview, the decision was easy. My interview with Nimit was the best that I had.
Liz: Did anyone else apply to other bootcamps in addition to Fullstack?
Lindsay: I applied to a few others- Flatiron and App Academy in New York, and gSchool in San Francisco.
Liz: Was there an overwhelming reason why you chose Fullstack in the end?
Lindsay: Like Kamilla said, it was Nimit! I was able to be really honest and open with him about what I wanted and my past and he was really accepting and understanding.
Liz: Emmie, did you only apply to Fullstack Academy?
Emmie: I actually applied to Fullstack’s Flex Immersive - Fullstack is the only bootcamp I found with a really well thought-out Flex program. They accepted me but Nimit also gave me the opportunity to join the fulltime cohort and I should just jump all in.
Liz: As women who are starting your careers in tech, what has been your experience as female developers?
Kamilla: I worked at a tech company and our department was pretty much 50-50; we had a lot of women. But I did see that the development team was definitely mostly male. That did contribute to my decision to try and do this because it seems like the development world really needs a lot more girls in it. We need to have a stronger voice.
The world is becoming more dependent on technology and we’re only letting one gender drive all of its development.
Liz: Lindsay and Emmie, what was your experience like in undergraduate/graduate Computer Science classes as a woman?
Emmie: The few classes I took I was one of three women in the class, especially because it was a night class. To be honest, I know of the misogyny in the field but I’ve never seen it firsthand. Coming to Fullstack, I was worried that would be an issue but it never was. I completely forgot about it because Nimit’s rhetoric on the first day was knowing that the lack of women is an issue and this is how we’re going to fix it here at the Bootcamp. It was kind of amazing. I’m still waiting to see that firsthand but I haven’t seen anything yet.
Liz: Were there a lot of women in your class at Fullstack Academy?
Lindsay: There were four others besides me. Out of a class of 25.
Liz: Did you notice anything in particular that Fullstack did to be supportive of women?
Lindsay: I was just mentioning to Kamilla, we do weekly or bi-weekly “ladies meetings”. It’s led by the female staff, Shanna and Charlotte. We'd all get together and talk about how we’re doing and how we can support women and make sure nothing feels sexist.
Liz: It sounds like the MEAN stack curriculum was important to the three of you. Now that you’ve finished the course, are you satisfied with the actual curriculum and the material that was taught?
Kamilla: I’m definitely glad I chose to a coding bootcamp that focused on MEAN stack. It really seems to be where a lot of development is headed. I think that the main thing we learned was that it doesn’t really matter what framework you learn; it’s about learning how to learn. So while we focused on Angular, Express and Node, I think it’s really easy for us to go and learn a different language. I heard that a lot of people don’t get jobs in the same frameworks that we learned.
I’m definitely glad I chose the MEAN stack because it does give you a good foundation.
Liz: Tell us about Splyt. First, how did Fullstack approach these capstone projects? How did you decide to work together on a project?
Emmie: At Fullstack, everybody pitches their ideas. Actually, Splyt wasn’t an idea that was pitched. Kamilla, Lindsay and I realized we just want to work together on something, and Splyt was born from that.
Liz: So you actually decided to work together first and then figured out the actual project afterwards. How long did you spend on Splyt in total?
Lindsay: We spent a little more than two weeks. We were working all day. I live really close to Fullstack so I was in the building often. I would be watching TV at home at 11:00pm and check my email, and I would have 6 new emails from Kamilla that Github had sent me- we definitely put a lot of time into it.
Liz: Can you share your screen and show us the actual product, what it does and walk us through how you built it
Kamilla: Splyt basically has two parts. It has a Chrome extension and there’s also a web app. We wanted to make it easier for people to manage the way they listen to music. If you’re online and on music blogs, YouTube, Tumblr and Facebook, there’s no centralized place where you can actually play these files. Then you still have to have those tabs open and remember them.
So we built the extension to automatically scrape each page that you open in your browser. Lindsay knows more about how the extension works because she did most of that.
Lindsay: As I was showing you as Kanilla was speaking, the extension just checks whatever page you go to, to see if there is audio embedded on the page and makes it add-able to your playlist in our web app.
Here we’re on this random blog that I always go to, and I can just go ahead and add it and it scrapes the page. You can see the number at the top of the page.
Then we’ll head back to the playlist and you’ll see these songs that I grabbed from those two pages are already here. The player’s global across everywhere in the app. You add a new playlist or follow someone – I think Emmie and I are following each other
Liz: So you can follow friends and what they’re listening to?
Lindsay: Yeah. I have in my friend music feed over here songs that Emmie has added.
Kamilla: Yeah, we also built this in case you get bored with your friends’ and your own songs that you’ve added, you can search for songs to add. It searched YouTube and SoundPlug for whatever you want. What should we search for?
Liz: Probably Taylor Swift.
Kamilla: So it just searches… here we’re searching SoundCloud… Taylor Swift is not on SoundCloud… then it just instantly adds that to your playlist. If you scroll down here you’ll see the two Taylor Swift songs we’ve just added.
Liz: And it’ll scrape any song from a site or will it also for from Spotify?
Kamilla: It will look for Spotify embeds from around the web but we didn’t want to support or try to support playing Spotify audio in our player because you need the actual native app to be open to play it. We just didn’t want to but we do let you bookmark it, so if you find a song it’ll show up I the extension popup and you can add it and keep track it it in your Spotify bookmarks.
Liz: Are there things you worked on for Splyt that you didn’t learn in class? How did you approach that when you didn’t know how to do something?
Kamilla: I’d say that there’s always something that we haven’t learned. Most of the app was just figuring out new stuff. We had a lot of support; we always had people helping us if we got stuck on something. That’s the main thing about learning at Fullstack, is that you have the support around you.
Lindsay: But not necessary staff support. There was a student, Sam, who was working on the same extension at the same time so it was really awesome to have him help out when we got stuck.
Liz: Can you tell us about a problem or an issue that you ran into while you were creating Splyt and how you got over it?
Lindsay: For the first half of our time working on this, we weren’t 100% sure we would get this player to work and be able to stream SoundCloud YouTube and other audio in the same player. But we were clever about it. If anyone who’s watching this is familiar with Angular, we used object orientation and Angular factories to make our global player ignorant about where the song’s actually coming from. We have a class for YouTube, SoundCloud and Tumblr. I don’t know if you guys knew this but SoundCloud artists can set their music to either streamable or not streamable. That was another problem, where you can’t actually plug the source into an html5 audio tag because they just don’t want you to. So we had to use the SoundCloud widget API.
So we’re using two different approaches to stream in SoundCloud depending on what the artist wants. We have two different Angular factories depending on whether the SoundCloud artist wants their song to be streamed. All of these factories and classes do the same roles. They all have the same methods like Play, Pause, Current time, Duration and so on.
Liz: Are there plans to launch Splyt to the public in the future or was this strictly a class project?
Lindsay: Yeah; we’re a day or two from being able to release it to the public. We have a few people testing out some last-minute stuff. The extension’s on the web store but only to specific users so hopefully by next week it’ll out be out for everyone to install and download.
Liz: Thank you for taking us through that project! It’s always cool to see what you were actually able to accomplish after learning for three short months.
One of the questions I get most often is about job placement. How did Fullstack prepare you for interviews, resume building etc?
Emmie: They definitely helped us a lot with that. During the Senior phase we had a lot of technical questions every morning. Shanna, who’s our job guru, helped us through everything like resumes and LinkedIn. We could come to her with any question we had, so it was a very helpful environment for that specifically.
Liz: Did you go through the hiring day process?
Lindsay: Well, these guys are going to be Fullstack fellows, so they didn’t go through it but I went through it. It was pretty much like intense speed dating with really cool employers. It was a lower pressure situation than having real interviews because you’re just in and out, quickly getting to know each other.
Liz: Lindsay, are you on the job search now or are you focusing on Splyt? What’s your status?
Lindsay: I’m doing a bit of both. I’ve been searching around this week but I’ve also been in the classroom at Fullstack. Kamilla and I are here right now just finishing up some things for Splyt.
Liz: It’ll be great to see where you end up. Emmie and Kamilla, since you are going to be Fullstack Fellows, can you tell us a little bit about that? What is a Fullstack Fellow?
Kamilla: The Fullstack Fellows program is the same length of time as the Fullstack program- 13 weeks after you graduate- and it’s split into two parts. The first part is where you’re helping new students, answering any questions they might have. Then during the second part you work on a project which is either working on Fullstack software so you get some experience on something that’s used by people daily, or else you can create your own workshop. You focus on one thing to teach people and then create an exercise that they have to build to learn about a certain subject or tool.
Liz: Did you have to apply for the Fullstack Fellowship?
Kamilla: Yeah, they have an application process and there are interviews. It depends really on the cohort and how many people apply.
Liz: Well congratulations both of you for doing that.
So, was Fullstack worth the money? Would you recommend it to a friend?
Kamilla: If you’re looking for a career change and you’re interested in development, I would definitely recommend Fullstack. I wouldn’t recommend it for people that hear developers make a lot of money, so want to become a developer. You have to be someone who wants to learn; I don’t think I could’ve learned this much in such a short time if I didn’t love it.
Emmie: Because it’s such a big time commitment as well as a big life commitment. It’s three months but it’s three months focusing on one thing and you have to really love going in every day. We spent our entire days at Fullstack and I didn’t feel it at all.
Liz: Like you didn’t feel burnt out at all?
Emmie: Yeah, exactly.
Lindsay: I loved coming here every day. I’m sad to have to leave the people. One thing that’s unique about Fullstack is that the people here are all really special and overwhelmingly kind and giving. They definitely made the experience for me and I would recommend it to anyone who’s considering coding. It’s definitely a great decision.
Thank you all so much for joining us and sharing your experience. We can’t wait to see Splyt live; we’ll send it out to all of our Course Reporters once it’s live in a week. Thanks!
What makes for the ideal coding bootcamp student? Experience? Perserverence? Natural Skill? We've compiled advice from instructors and founders at top programming bootcamps like gSchool, Dev Bootcamp, Wyncode, and Fullstack Academy- aka the folks making admissions decisions every day. Read on for the 8 qualities that bootcamps tell us they look for in potential applicants. [As of December 8, 2017, Dev Bootcamp will no longer be operating.]Continue Reading →
Tell us what you were up to before you started Fullstack Academy!
Andrew: I started in financial technology in 2007 at a small startup company. It was effectively a facility that connects banks. I worked there for three years, then I worked for a company called Cantor Fitzgerald and I was working in the electronic bond markets, again doing technical integration and building their trading and matching engines. After about three years at Cantor, I got hungry to do something more technical so I decided to investigate these bootcamps; Fullstack Academy was one of the first ones that I found.
Did you feel like you were more advanced for your class or that you were on the same page with other people?
Andrew: I certainly didn’t feel as if I was more technical. I worked in startups companies that make technology. I was doing high school internships starting in 2000; so I worked at a bunch of different companies but I had never coded in those roles. So there were other students who had already done a lot more coding and were ahead of me. I was a little bit more comfortable with a UNIX command line because I’d spent a lot of time doing that; everybody has strengths.
What was the application process like for both of you? Was it particularly technical or was it more of a culture fit interview?
Andrew: I felt it was very well-rounded. I was actually concerned about it. I don’t like tests; I get very nervous because I’m a perfectionist and I freak myself out.
The first part of the test was logging into a web portal and answering five questions and basically writing five functions that do various things. For example, writing a function that counts up to 10 then prints “blast off.”
They gave us an hour to complete those and then we had a phone interview based on those answers. I did mine in Python, by the way. I studied Python on my own in order to get to the point where I could write basic functions – but that was a stretch for me at that point; now I’d be able to do them pretty easily.
Then, Nimit and I got on the phone and I just expressed my passion for technology and my disappointment that I hadn’t been able to go this route prior. I didn’t feel like I was in control of my future because I didn’t have these technical skills.
Edward: I felt, and this became more apparent throughout the program, the interview process could’ve been a bit more rigorous. If you’re paired with someone in a workshop who isn’t as focused, it can hinder the learning process. (Note: Since interviewing in March 2014, the application process at Fullstack has been revamped and acceptance standards are now more rigorous).
Andrew: I think one of the biggest value adds for a bootcamp is the other students. We found that one of us would run into a wall and once we got over the initial fear and struggle we looked around and everyone was stopping at the same thing. Having the students being of relatively the same caliber and also being able to focus and be consistent is really important.
Edward: I wanted a better understanding of the whole stack. Most of my experience was with front-end Objective-C. I would occasionally debug some backend code, but I wasn’t a backend developer at all.
So my motivation was to flesh out the skill set, boost my pay grade by 20-30%, and go for these more ambitious roles. I had grown frustrated at being one part of the puzzle because as you gain experience, you feel that you have valuable input on how to approach things. You can get discredited by default if you don’t come from a certain background.
Andrew: When I decided I wanted to go investigate these bootcamps, I had come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t be able to grow anymore unless I either went to business school or learned how to code. It had been frustrating to me that I worked at all these software companies and if I had been able to code, I would have made much more of an impact.
No matter how hard you try as a business analyst, at the end of the day if you’re working at a technology company, it comes down to how good your software is and not being able to contribute to that was hard for me. It was also hard for my bottom line; I wasn’t able to get the jobs that paid quite as well as people who could write code.
So for me, it was both a monetary and a control motivation. I wanted to develop my career, take on more responsibility and be able to build things, and also get control again. I think back to something that Steve Jobs wrote. He said that everybody should take a year of their life and learn how to code. He is my hero and it is the best thing I’ve ever done. Now I feel so much less stressed because I know I can go build things.
How many people were in your cohort?
Andrew: It was 18
Did you find that it was a diverse cohort in terms of race, gender, and age?
Andrew: I think we had three women. Fullstack tries to find people who are going to be really passionate about coding.
Edward: I thought the spread was pretty good. One of the guys wrote air traffic control software in C. There were others whose first real code was written a couple of weeks before the start of the program.
Andrew: Most importantly, everybody was there to learn. They were friendly and focused and a pleasure to be around. It was a wonderful experience.
Who were the instructors for your cohort?
Edward: The instructors have since changed, but during our cohort, we were taught primarily by David and Nimit, more so David as the program went on. We had a guest speaker for Angular and a one-day lecturer for some back-end topics.
Andrew: We also had TAs; we had Scott Delassandro. Scott ran the four-week training course that they do prior the school to get you up to speed and he was always available for office hours; a really, really nice guy. We also had Tong, who was a former student, he was a Fullstack Fellow so if you had questions he could generally help. And we had some other folks there too who were ready to help.
What did you think about the Fullstack Fellows? Did you think it was particularly helpful to have somebody that had been through the program before?
Edward: It was nice; it’s a convenience. For me, it didn’t make a huge impact.
Andrew: The team at Fullstack is building what we hope will be an institution that will last for a long time and they’re in a very early phase. So to have the Fullstack Fellows stick around for the program and be able to shape how the next cohorts are operating and what the curriculum looks like is a very valuable feedback cycle. So I hope that that will improve the experience for everybody.
Did you learn everything you wanted to know by the end of the bootcamp?
Andrew: Fullstack basically got me aware of all the things that I needed to learn and starting the process. But it’s a journey. Even the best coders are going to be learning and the reason they love it is because they’re constantly doing something new, and you can’t do that in three months.
Edward: Just to present the good and bad here, there were some students that had issues with the way Angular was taught. But David and Nimit were totally open to the feedback. That kind of attitude is what drew me into the program; they’re completely open-minded. When something’s not working, they get that. Like Andrew was saying, Fullstack is growing and I’m sure it’s quite a bit more sophisticated today than it was six months ago.
I understand that you worked on your final project together. Do you want to tell us about that project?
Edward: Andrew and I gravitated towards working with each other because we both wanted to do something of real value. We didn’t want to make a toy or something trivial. Andrew eventually had an opportunity that presented itself.
Andrew: I knew somebody in New York who has a collection of posters and he needed a new website; he didn’t have any e-commerce on his site, and the idea of building an e-commerce website was really exciting. Originally, we thought we would build it from the ground up; when we talked to David, he suggested using a platform like Magneto or Shopify. We looked at a bunch of them. We ended up devoting approximately two months to the project to get it to completion and it is now live at www.postermuseum.com.
Did you all end up using Shopify?
Edward: It was good to do something in e-commerce with real world results at the end of it. Granted, we were using Liquid, a templating language, instead of Angular, but we still got to learn a lot on the frontend.
Andrew: We were going for a specific look and feel that we wanted and it was a great opportunity for me to get a lot better with bootstrap and CSS and structuring templates.
What are you both up to now? What’s your new job, what are you working on?
Edward: We’re both working on Gypsy Circle, a networking app for travelers. I reached out to the CEO Andrew Butash who had attended our cohort’s Hiring Day. I thought it would be a great opportunity to have ownership of the code base. I’ve worked for a few startups so I was able to bring additional value outside of simply being a developer. As the scope of the project grew, I needed someone to help out. It’s hard to find talent as it’s a developer’s market right now; they can be selective on where they want to go. I reached out to Andrew Glancy because we had worked successfully on Poster Museum.
I talked to Edward and he explained that they needed another fulltime resource at Gypsy Circle. It seemed like a perfect way to transition away from what I felt was going to be another dead end. It is such a developer’s market right now and there are so many great opportunities out there. You’ve got to be selective. I know everybody wants to leave these bootcamp and just get a job but they should really relax and think, “how do I want to make my impact and what do I want to do?”
Edward: Similar to how Andrew felt about his financial past is how I felt about my healthcare tech past. It’s something that can easily draw you back in. But Fullstack was a chance to redefine my trajectory. That was also a motivation to work on Gypsy Circle; it was completely different from all my other technical and software experience.
Andrew: Gypsy Circle is an Angular app but you will be able to download it from the App Store and use it and it will feel just like any other app.
Did you do an interview with Gypsy Circle? Did you feel prepared for it?
Edward: Not exactly, I was the first developer brought on. For Andrew Butash, I’d assume that my resume in addition to graduating Fullstack gave him the confidence to go with me and ultimately Andrew Glancy as well.
One last question: Would you recommend Fullstack to a friend? Did you feel like it was worth the money and the right decision for you at the end of the day?
Edward: Absolutely, without question. They’re only getting better with each new cohort. And cost-wise, they’re very competitive. It was an extremely positive experience. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.
Andrew: I’d say 100% yes; I’d recommend it to anybody. I think sooner or later we’re going to start to see students from Fullstack and from other bootcamps that are doing really great things. We’re going to look back and see bootcamps and Fullstack as the catalyst. I’m excited about it.
Founder Andrew Butash had a stellar idea for a social travel app, but little technical background. To turn his idea into reality, Andrew attended a hiring day at Fullstack Academy in New York and has now hired two graduates to build his app, Gypsy Circle. We talk with Andrew about his satisfaction with the new hires, the initative that his developers take to learn new technologies, and what's next for the Gypsy Circle team!
Tell us about your app Gypsy Circle.
Gypsy Circle is a social travel app that connects users with friends and friends-of-friends before you arrive. There’s no app right now that shows you where your friends are going to be. We aim to be the first social future-tense app. The travel apps available now are all present-tense; Gypsy Circle solves the problem of missed connections. Users can also plan trips with our chat feature on the app so you can see where your friends are travelling and where they’ve been. It’s the social network for travelers.
How did you come up with the idea?
I was actually backpacking with friends in Europe a little over a year ago and we ran into the problem of meeting people when we were traveling in hostels and wanted to connect with them and see their travel plans. We were in cities where we knew we had a network but we couldn’t easily see who was there without spending hours on Facebook.
I came up with the idea for an app to see where friends of friends are travelling. That would have made our trip so much easier.
Did you have a technical background before you started working on Gypsy Circle?
I had no experience in tech. I could barely reset my iPhone. Gypsy Circle was more of a solution to a problem I saw. My strengths are in design, marketing, and branding. I obviously needed help with the tech side.
So how did you get connected with Fullstack Academy?
I was actually connected to Fullstack Academy through Course Report. I saw that they were based in New York, where I work, and asked for an introduction. I was on the edge, making a decision to work with the design company The 88, who had done the front-end design and branding for the app. I knew that back-end development wasn’t their specialty, so I took a risk and went to check out Fullstack.
At their hiring day, I met a great developer, Edward Izzo, and I actually hired one from that meeting. I interviewed him the following week and he’s been working with me since August.
What role did you offer Edward?
Initially, it was a freelance contract to see how he worked out. As we started working together, we developed a rapport and he became our lead developer. He’s a fulltime Gypsy Circle employee now.
Our second developer, Andrew Glancy, worked on the same project with Edward at Fullstack, so they had experience working together.
Was their final project what convinced you to hire them?
I wrote down notes during all of the presentations and they were definitely one of the guys that knew the technology that I needed. They shared the same vision of social connectivity.
What they knew was very valuable for what I wanted to put in the app so those guys were my first choices when I first went to Fullstack.
Since you didn’t have a ton of technical experience, what role did Fullstack play in the hiring process? Did you feel like the students were already screened for you?
Totally. It was great to have Fullstack as a middleman- sort of like a Michelin Star rating for developers. I don’t know if I would’ve trusted someone on Craigslist to develop this app because it’s very important to me, but having a school like Fullstack that has a great reputation for producing great developers was reassuring. They wouldn’t have these hiring days if they didn’t feel like they could actually do the work.
Did you do a technical interview with your Fullstack hires?
When I interviewed Edward I didn’t even do a technical interview, which was probably naive on my part, but it worked out. We found two unicorns of tech. In talking with my business advisor about everything or other people who are in the tech space, they’re amazed that I found two guys who already have a good working relationship together and who know what they’re doing. The Gypsy Circle beta is now finished and it’s honestly one of the best-designed, seamlessly working app I’ve ever used. We obviously need to include more features but right now it looks like it’s already on the app store - it looks flawless.
I think it’s just so rare that I found developers in New York City at this time because they’re in such high demand. Additionally, developers that are this talented and committed to Gypsy Circle are a rare find. And third, these developers already have a working relationship so they get how they can push each other or give each other slack; the camaraderie between them is just fantastic, which I couldn’t ask more from between two developers.
Have you been impressed with the skills that Edward & Andrew learned from Fullstack?
It’s obvious that Fullstack isn’t teaching frivolous things- they’re not learning codes that are just some little widget you can put on your computer. The coding that they’re taught is very substantial and these guys know more than some of the other developers I’ve met who are working on pretty legit apps.
The technology stack they learned (MEAN stack) is really impressive. Since this is my first startup, a lot of pieces are up in the air, but everything is just falling into place right now. That is just pure luck- but it’s certainly because of Fullstack.
Are there things that Edward and Andrew have not known? Things they’ve had to learn or skill up on?
Totally; That's the nature of development- whether it's software or building a business. It's an endless cycle of encountering challenges and finding solutions. Their education at Fullstack clearly prepared them to do that. One example that they’re researching right now is doing map integration with the app so it can show your current location and match you with other travellers in your area. I know we’re exploring different routes for integrating maps into the app to make it easier with synching up locations and trips and socializing in future.
They’re really proactive in finding the newest technology for messaging and now for maps.
Did you pay a referral fee when you hired Edward and Andrew from Fullstack Academy?
No. I haven’t received a bill yet!
Would you recommend hiring from Fullstack to a friend or a business partner?
Completely. If somebody is looking for a developer, I would automatically shoot them over to Fullstack. If they can’t find someone there, it’s definitely a good stepping stone into the dev community.
Working with Fullstack saved me a lot of time. If there weren’t coding bootcamps like Fullstack Academy, I have no idea how I would have found a developer, to be honest. I think I would have posted on NYU or Columbia job boards. I’m sure those kids are smart but they’re not as experienced. These schools are like brokers for developers, which is super helpful.
Tell us about your background and how you started programming.
I got started with programming when I was about 10 years old- I started with HTML. I had a few mentors along the way who were valuable resources at the right time. By the time I got to college, I was a pretty solid coder and I ended up studying chemistry and biology because I was interested in medicine at the time, along with computer science.
I ended up being a Teaching Assistant for computer science classes. I TA-ed in science as well and realized I liked teaching. In my last year there was a professor that left abruptly; I had assisted with his course several times so, with faculty mentorship, I basically taught the course.
They let you teach the class as an undergrad?
I had developed close relationships with several faculty and they vouched for me. The year after I graduated I ended up being hired as an adjunct professor to teach the same course.
I also tutored people along the way with varying backgrounds from a 5th grader to a non-technical CEO who was interested in learning how to code. So I had done some tutoring and some teaching.
I worked at a startup and for another tech company for a bit as well.
That sounds like the perfect background to get involved with a coding bootcamp. How were you introduced to Fullstack?
I saw the job listing on Hacker News and I was interested. It was the first and only time I had applied to a job from Hacker News. The listing said something like ‘Do you want to change how technology is taught?’
What was the hiring process like?
It was cool. The application questions were relevant. One of them I remember was ‘teach me something by writing it’--or something to that effect.
The interview process was also teaching-based. I actually got to work with students. That sold me on Fullstack... Before that it had just seemed like an idea. I learned that Fullstack students, or maybe bootcamp students in general, are much more dedicated and intense than college students. College students are in a life discovery mode. They’re not necessarily on a mission to master a craft.
Since you had taught in a traditional university setting before, did you have to be convinced at all of the bootcamp model of education?
I was slightly skeptical, but it wasn’t the first time I’d heard of bootcamps. I wasn’t skeptical about their ability to add value; but I was a little bit skeptical about how far you could go with it in three months, considering that it had taken me many, many years to learn programming.
During my interview, though, I was working with students halfway through the program and I was impressed with how much they knew and the types of questions they were asking.
I definitely had a bunch of Node.js experience before Fullstack. I would not have called myself an Angular expert before getting here, but in programming, there are a lot of things you can transfer between technologies.
Have you helped develop the curriculum since you’ve been at Fullstack?
We actually iterate our curriculum every cohort. We don’t change everything obviously, but we add new workshops and change others. I’ve been involved with several iterations.
Sometimes we’re forced to change the curriculum because a certain open source module will change. For example, express.js might release a new version, and we’ll have to update our workshops to provide current examples.
Other times we notice that there might be a conceptual gap in the first half of our curriculum that we have to make up for in the second half. So we try to add things to workshops to address deficits that “seniors” have.
What do you mean by a Senior student?
At Fullstack, we teach two cohorts at once. One cohort will be in the junior phase which is much more lecture/workshop based. The other cohort is in the senior phase and that’s project based. So if we notice that we’re having to explain something to each senior group, that’s a good sign that we could fit it in the curriculum phase. We might write a workshop or add a module to a workshop that we already have.
How many instructors do you work with? Are you teaching both cohorts?
I work with 4 other instructors - David, Nimit, Omri, and Scott. We all teach the classes. I’d say I’m teaching both cohorts but teaching looks very different for the senior group.
Since you teach full time at Fullstack, do you have breaks between cohorts or do you work on side projects? How do you stay relevant in the dev community?
We have an internal software platform that I work on. We just actually launched a major version of our software called LearnDot. I’ll also write open source libraries sometimes; I’ll go to hackathons, and I do a little bit of weekend consulting as well.
Staff are encouraged to spend time working on Fullstack projects to keep up with the latest tech. Sometimes that means taking a little time away from teaching to be “heads down” on something.
From your experience, have you found that there is an “ideal Fullstack student?” What type of person do you see really excelling in the class?
I think there’s more than one kind of ideal student. I think you have to seriously think about how much you like programming. It’s a very intense experience so you have to be someone who knows they like coding. We’re very lucky. We select a group of people who are very excited to be coding.
A good dose of curiosity is also useful; because there’s so much to cover, having some sort of internal driver is also very important.
Are there technical requirements to get into Fullstack? Does an applicant have to have experience coding?
We have an online coding assessment and then technical interviews to get in. You don’t have to have prior knowledge to apply to Fullstack, but if that’s the case, we’ll give out some resources like books and websites to start learning. If you’ve had no technical knowledge before applying, you’ll need to study a fair amount before you’d really be ready for the interview process.
So accepted students do have experience coding- some from a fair amount of self teaching, others from being CS majors or having professional developer experience.
Do you find that having CS majors and non-technical people in a cohort works? Is everybody able to learn together?
People come in with different backgrounds and sometimes that presents a couple of challenges but most of the time it works well. We try to create a community that’s understanding of the fact that not everyone is going to be at the same place and that’s okay as long as everyone’s growing.
Often it’s an asset because students can ask other students for help if they know they have more experience. But I’d say that between our selective admissions process and 4 weeks of interactive preparation work and assignments, all students come in at a pretty good starting point.
Tell me more about the pre-work.
Our pre-work is almost more of a part time remote course at this point. It has 4 weeks of materials to review, weekly assignments, and one on one meetings with an instructor. We’re constantly adding material to that portion of the course too.
Does Fullstack have teaching assistants in the classes?
Yes. We have a teaching fellows program. Select former students stay on for another cohort in a paid position. Their role is to TA as well as work on a thesis project, where they’ll develop either a piece of software or a workshop. Actually, right now one of our fellows is presenting on Promises, which is a way to handle asyncronicity.
What is the teaching style like during the Junior phase of the class?
A typical day would be a lecture in the morning followed by a workshop. Students go through building something with some guidance. They get help from teaching fellows and instructors when they’re stuck.
Halfway through the day, we meet for 30 minutes to catch up a little and make sure everyone’s on the same page. At the end of the day, there’s a review which is a lot like a lecture but can be a little more spontaneous.
What does the Senior phase look like?
The Senior cohort is project-based, and there are two main projects. One is personal so that you get some experience working alone; that lasts for about a week and a half. The rest of the time is spent on group projects.
We also do things like interview prep in the Senior phase and a lecture series, as well as have outside speakers whenever they can come.
I’ve been to a Fullstack Hiring Day and seen some pretty impressive final projects. What goes into making sure that your students are job-ready in addition to having the hard skills?
We also focus on strategy. It’s not just getting your resume ready. We also prepare people for strategies on how to apply and the types of companies our students will like- how to think about salary vs. culture. We have someone full-time who works on that. We also have curriculum covering how to succeed as a new developer, and practice sessions answering technical interview questions.
Will Fullstack accept a student who is not actively looking for a job but may want to learn as a hobby or is learning to start their own business?
Yes. For example, we sometimes have undergrad students who come in for the summer. We also usually have a few entrepreneurs in each cohort looking to start startups after Fullstack. Part of our curriculum focuses on startup topics, so they like that.
Has everybody made it through the Fullstack class or has there been attrition?
We've had 4 students total who have not made it through the course here. The class is pretty challenging and moves quickly. For those few students, Fullstack wasn't the right fit and so they ended up leaving the program. In total that makes our attrition rate very low, which I think speaks to our selective admissions process. We also monitor students' progress and really try to be proactive with teaching assistance whenever someone seems to be struggling.
We’re continually impressed with Fullstack Academy- not only because of their placement rates and intentional curriculum, but also because we’ve personally attended their hiring day twice now, and the final projects speak for themselves.
Unlike the last Fullstack hiring day, there were no presentations by students; instead, each programmer stood at their computers with monitors, as potential employers made their rounds. It mostly resembled a science fair, and gave each employer a chance to have one-on-one time with the students. I must admit, I missed those short product pitches, but the Fullstack team had recorded these and were displaying them throughout the classroom.
In an industry that is so new, each bootcamp has the opportunity to be as innovative as they want to in their hiring day. Outreach Manager Hannah Jane Buchanan has worked out a system using playing cards to connect students with employers who want to work with them. I brought a friend looking for a developer to work with him on his app, and founder David Yang immediately pointed out several students who would be a good fit.
Andrew Scheuermann, a charismatic student who clearly wants to continue sharpening his front-end development chops, showed us his app Voto, which presents algorithmically sorted, crowd-curated photos and descriptions of the best attractions on earth.
The students we talked with were personable and excited to learn- a great pool of applicants for a hiring company!
Migi Domingo is a recent graduate of Fullstack Academy in New York. We met him at the Fullstack Demo Day, and he was nice enough to answer some of our questions about his experience! In this Q&A, Migi tells us about how he got into tech and takes us through his final project.
What were you up to before deciding to go to Fullstack?
Before Fullstack, I had just left school and left my job as a radio DJ back in the Philippines. I was doing a lot of soul searching in 2013, trying to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life moving forward. I realized that a lot of ideas I had had a lot to do with tech and so I dove right into teaching myself coding in August last year.
Who was your favorite instructor or mentor and why?
It's hard to pick between David and Nimit because they both bring different things to the table. I had a lot more time sitting down and pairing with David and talking about ways to solve particular coding problems while with Nimit I spent a lot of time discussing potential ideas and seeing how they could be executed. I can't pick a favorite because they're both great mentors and without them, I definitely wouldn't have been able to handle web development the way I do now.
Can you talk about a time when you got stuck in the class and how you pushed through?
While working on Hash Toogs (my final project), I spent a few days trying to read up and figure out how I was going to stream music to all connected clients using sockets and the SoundCloud API. It seemed like something that could be done easily at first but after a few days I realized that I might not be able to learn how to do it fast enough. I talked to David at that point and he helped me open my mind and explore other ways of making my app do what I wanted it to do. In the end, I ended up using Firebase to solve the problem and the app works really great now.
Tell us about your final project! (the technologies you used, how long it took, how you executed on the idea, etc)
My final individual project is something I called Hash Toogs. I took the concept of Turntable.fm and modified it a bit to create a different kind of user experience. I decided to allow all users to contribute music to the chat room using the SoundCloud API. I started out by planning the project on paper, imagining what users would be doing when they use the app. The chat/music app runs on a combination of Angular+Firebase and allows for a really smooth, real time experience. If I count the number of hours I spent working on it, I'd say it took me about 3 weeks to get the app to where it is today. Firebase just recently introduced a free hosting option and I plan on refactoring my code so that I can use Firebase's free hosting.
Omari Wallace attended Fullstack Academy in 2014, and he told us about what convinced him to join the Fullstack program, how he pushed through tough times, and what he created for his final project (hint: think Tinder for Cheap Eats).
What were you up to before deciding to go to Fullstack?
I worked as a project consultant for a private equity firm.
Did you apply to other schools? Why did you ultimately choose Fullstack?
Can you talk about a time when you got stuck in the class and how you pushed through?
Getting stuck was a daily occurrence, and I considered it a hallmark of the learning process taking effect. But one that sticks out in my mind was for my final individual project where I was implementing functionality with the Google Calendar API. I was attempting to chain a sequence of functions that would add an event to a user's calendar; but I kept on receiving an error response. I ended up refactoring almost every line of code in the module, added a ton of console.log's to debug every line of code, and added a linter to make help catch any syntactical issues. After taking some time to step away from the code and re-read the documentation, I discovered that it was a simple capitalization issue for the query I was making of the API.
All in all it was a valuable exercise in debugging and I ended up with cleaner code than when I had initially started -- but it was a lesson in the importance of attention to detail that won't soon be forgotten.
Tell us about your final project!
The project that I was most excited building was done with a fellow student during the final 2 weeks of Fullstack and we call it The Hunger Game -- which can be succinctly described as the "Tinder" for cheap food.
The technologies we used to build the project included the MEAN stack (MongoDB, Express, AngularJS, Node.js), the Foursquare API, the GoogleMaps API, Firebase and the HTML5 Geolocation API.
Here's how it works: Users are presented with an interactive slideshow of restaurants from foursquare filtered by proximity, lowest price (only one "$" out of four), and being open at the time of gameplay. Users can vote up or down on restaurants by swiping on the images during a 30 second round. Upon conclusion of a round, users are presented with a winning restaurant that is chosen at random from their selections (or provided a random choice from the entire pool if no selections were made). For multiplayer mode, users are aggregated in "rooms" based on their geolocated proximity and the voting system tallies votes amongst all users in the room. After all participants end their round, they are presented with the choice that received the most votes.
Kyle Dorman decided to get into programming full-time, so he attended Fullstack Academy and is now working as an Engineering Generalist at Gilt. Read below for his application experience and how he stuck to his goals even when he got stuck!
What were you up to before deciding to go to Fullstack?
Before deciding to go to Fullstack I was working as an Application Support intern for a clean tech company called EnerNOC in Boston. While working for EnerNOC, I started writing a lot of SQL queries and VBA scripts and eventually wrote some SQL scripts and really enjoyed the analytical reasoning it took to write a good query or script. At that point I decided this 'coding thing' was pretty fun and wanted to get into it full time.
Did you apply to other schools? Why did you ultimately choose Fullstack?
I applied to four bootcamps in NYC, Flatiron Academy, General Assembly, App Academy and Fullstack Academy. Flatiron I never heard back from after I applied. After my first Interview with General Assembly, I felt that they would take just about anyone who was interested in signing up for the class. Which concerned me, so I stopped pursuing that bootcamp. I completed coding challenges for both App Academy and Fullstack and was accepted to both. App Academy seemed ideal because they don't ask for any money upfront where as Fullstack does. But when I had my final interview, my interviewer didn't seem to have a great coding background himself and that concerned me. After I was accepted to Fullstack I actually came down from Boston to visit the school. At that point the school was still under construction and Nimit and David (the instructors) were a little afraid it would turn me off to the school. Totally not he case. I sat down with Nimit and he explained to me that the goal of the program was not to make me a good Ruby on Rails developer but a great developer who could write great, reliable code using whatever languages and tools were right for the job. At the time I didn't understand what this really meant but it felt right to me. (In retrospect, I believe that's what all bootcamps should be striving for)
Can you talk about a time when you got stuck in the class and how you pushed through?
Everyday I got stuck. Something in my code or my mental model of the web was always out of whack and every day I had to adjust to new information and new ways of working. But thats just the reality of the profession I was desperately trying to enter.
The biggest thing that I got stuck with was self doubt. Bootcamps are great because they are a safe place to learn. Everyone is new to programing and you feel totally comfortable asking stupid questions all day long. But they also shield you from knowing what the real excepts of junior developers. As I progressed through the 12 weeks, I was constantly asking myself how I would compare to people with real CS degrees. Over the course of 12 weeks, I was able to push through my self doubt with the positive encouragement of my instructors and the strong bonds I formed with some of the other students in the program. The instructors acted both as honest mentors, who would let you know when you needed to pick up the pace, and your biggest super fans, who was always ready to chime in with a supportive comment. The other students also had no idea how they would stack up against 'real' programers. For me, discussing our progress and where we thought we needed to be after 12 weeks was a great way to remind us how fast we were learning help me feel confident that I wasn't traveling through this crazy life adventure alone.
What are you working on now? Do you have a job as a developer? What does it entail?
David Yang and Nimit Maru have been friends for ages, and after many successful years in business, decided to turn their love of educating (and coding) into a full-time gig at Fullstack Academy.
We were so excited to sit down with David and Hannah Jane, a graduate of the first Fullstack cohort and employee at the company now, in the Fullstack classroom space. We learned a ton about the school, their unique CTO Program, and how Fullstack students are crushing hackathons before they even graduate!
Tell us your story, how you got into the bootcamp space and if you had a background in education or development.
David: Nimit and I actually met more than 15 years ago in undergrad; we were really good friends from day one and have been working on projects ever since. Two years after we graduated, we both went to Yahoo to work together.
In 2008 moved back to New York because my family was here, and Nimit started a company called Bloomspot. I was working here at Gilt and before that, RecycleBank. Nimit had sold Bloomspot to JP Morgan, and then went to Wharton for his MBA. After he graduated he was like “David what’re we gonna do next?” Business school students had really started focusing on entrepreneurship and startup technology. So we decided to offer them additional content so they could be better entrepreneurs and fit better in technology companies- we called it the MBA Code School.
This was Nimit and I, backpacks in hand, going to all the business schools in the East Coast, teaching one or two day seminars to business students. We went to Wharton, Harvard, Columbia, and through that process, we just really fell in love with the idea of teaching, empowering people to do something cool with code. So as we looked around we asked how can we make this our full time jobs? After Nimit graduated, we’d also gotten into Y Combinator to work on ideas of code and education. So in 2012, we started working with coding-education ideas, and I think what MBA Code School told us is that the value of in-person education is still so huge. Last summer, we started Fullstack Academy. So we are not educators by training but we’ve been doing this for about 2 years now.
So you’re both co-founders and also the instructors.
Did Fullstack start with some funding?
David: Yeah, we have some education-focused investors as in our company as well.
How many people are in your cohort now and how many cohorts have you done?
David: We have 24 people in this cohort (we’re on our second). In our first cohort, we had 14. Our promise was that we would keep it small and focused. We have two instructors and the TAs who each come by for a week or two.
Have you noticed how many women and unrepresented minorities have been a part of Fullstack? Do you do outreach to get unrepresented groups more involved in tech?
David: We definitely are trying to reach out to women in the community. Actually, last weekend we ran a Road to Code event.
Hannah Jane: Road to Code was just a one-day event, we had two of them last weekend and the first day was all women in an effort to make women comfortable coming into a programming setting. I think we had a lot of really smart, interesting women here. I’m really excited about that and I think we’ve seen a pick-up in our women applications. So we’re definitely thinking about ways to close that gap and encourage more women to consider a career in programming.
Do you do any scholarships or are scholarships a part of your future plans?
David: We are open to scholarships. We have been offering scholarships to strong applicants and we’re definitely open to female scholarships as well. We have students who got in through Upstart. We don’t work with Upstart per se but we recommend a lot of students to fundraise through them.
What technologies are students learning in their 12 weeks at Fullstack?
Would you expect that a student might graduate from Fullstack and be able to take a Python job or teach themselves a different back end language after they’re finished?
David: I think that we really focus on fundamentals. We haven’t had anybody do that yet but I think they all could learn Python, especially as the similarities are greater than the differences.
Hannah Jane: We haven’t had anyone switch to Python, specifically, but we have had a students go on to work in technologies they’re not familiar with. My cohort didn’t learn Node but we have students working in Node as well as students that are learning some PHP and Scala for their positions.
Tell us about the CTO program and how that sets you apart from other coding boot camps.
David: Nimit and I have been CTOs or VPs of Engineering at various companies. It’s an understanding of things beyond coding that are important to a business. How do I think about planning a project, how do I think about communication? How do I think about words like “lean, agile, scrum”? How do we think about negotiation? I think at the higher level, programming is much more of a human project than it is a technical project. The best programmers are those who have a bit of both so the CTO program puts you on the track of management and entrepreneurship.
What are you looking for in applicants? I read on your site that you’re not looking for necessarily complete beginners but what type of student are you targeting?
David: I think we look for talent, we look for passion and we look for people who have started the path, what we call the road to code. We’re not looking for people who are just looking for a job because they’ve heard programming is lucrative. We want people who’ve done Code Academy, people who want to figure out how they can get better at this and want some guidance. We take applicants of all skill levels but we’re looking for those underlying traits. People who have demonstrated excellence in some other part of their life and can demonstrate excellence here.
In the interview, is there a technical test that applicants need to pass?
Hannah Jane: First they’ll send in an application with some general questions about what they’ve worked on so far, what their background has been. After that we send them a code assessment that they can take online. Based on their performance, we call them to do an interview; one part of the interview checks for cultural fit and just seeks to get to know the candidate, the other part is a review of their performance on the assessment and some additional technical questions to see how they think about problems in real time.
Describe your curriculum and your teaching style.
David: We break up our semester into two sections, one of 8 weeks, one of 4 weeks. The first 8 weeks, it’s lecture followed by exercises and workshops. We have our own learning matrix system where we’ll present a challenge and then walk them through how to think about it and then they work on it individually or in pairs.
It probably balances between 20% lecture and 80% exercise. I would say that we’re teachers who use these kind of constructivist activities where you’re given little tools and given these levels to jump to and try to build your knowledge. Then we layer that upon layer. One criticism that we get is that if you miss a step, things layer up too quickly. But that’s how it is in programming. You have the basic fundamentals and then you build a lot of interesting things.
And what’s happening in the last 4 weeks?
David: In the last 4 weeks, they start to have their project fair. So we have time for them to work on their personal project and a time for them to work on their group project. We have two to three projects at the end of hiring day and they can then show their portfolio.
Can you tell us about some of the student projects?
David: Just as a point of reference, this semester our students have already won $6,000 in prizes.
Hannah Jane: The project they won $5,000 for overall was creating a network for Step Up Women’s Network, a nonprofit that does mentoring. It had a Facebook user from the Step Up Women’s Network, and that account would mediate discussions between a mentor and a protégé. The application would allow you to configure things like anonymity, and it would raise alerts upon various things being disclosed that weren’t supposed to be disclosed. So the idea was that anybody who was starting a mentoring network could create a Facebook user and then have all these things that protect both sides of the conversation.
Another project that they had done already was for a wedding company where you could create Dropbox folders where the sharing was mediated by your Facebook friends instead of by Dropbox share folders.
Another team won $1,000 for doing Snapchat for legal documents and data privacy (GhostDrop). Their project was really interesting considering the number of industries the problem spans and the political implications.
Hannah Jane, what projects did you do when you were a student at Fullstack?
So if a student accepts a job with one of your hiring partners then they get a refund, is that right?
And is Fullstack also getting a recruiting fee or a hiring fee?
David: The idea is that if we do get a placement fee we will share it with the student.
How do you structure that? Who are some of your hiring partners?
David: Hiring partners are companies that we are in conversations with to give them access to our students. Some big companies and medium companies. We’re still working on that list right now.
Can you tell me about the hiring day?
David: The hiring day is kind of like a speed dating event where we have people set up projects and monitors were set up and then companies come in and walk down the aisle, and talk with each student.
Hannah Jane, when you went through that Hiring Day, did you feel like you’re really prepared to talk to those hiring companies?
Hannah Jane: Yeah; some people came in and were surprised that I had done this much work in 12 weeks. I felt fully prepared. It was actually really fun and interesting talking to different engineers from the companies, hearing about what they’re doing and getting to show off all your work.
Did you do interviews with other tech companies before you accepted this position with Fullstack?
Hannah Jane: I just had to come back! I interviewed and had an offer from a really interesting data encryption firm in Atlanta who was raising money like crazy. But New York and Fullstack just drew me back. I love it here and I believe in what Fullstack is doing.
Have you published job placement stat at all?
David: In our first cohort, we got some great job placements. They graduated in December so we’ll have our official stats by mid-March for our first class.
If a student comes to Fullstack and they don’t necessarily want to be placed in a job but maybe they want to start their own business or build their own product, is that something that you can support?
David: Being an entrepreneurial ourselves, we love to support that. We encourage people on day one to have an end goal in mind – what do you want to be able to build? I think that when students have that, it clicks a lot faster. In the end we really care about the outcome for the student. I think the success that people have will determine us as a company, not the placement fees.
Hannah Jane: We have students that have launched into their own projects and current students that are planning on going that route.
After all of the articles talking about cracking down on California boot camps, do you all feel any pressure to become accredited or are you working with New York regulatory agencies?
David: Actually, I looked up New York regulations on bootcamps and we are looking into that process now. I’m relatively encouraged by the fact that that New York has been friendly to this kind of innovation.
I’m not too concerned about the regulatory impact, and I could be naïve, but we’re happy to work with regulatory agencies. I think government and education have always formed special relationships and I see no sign from New York that this is something that they’re discouraging. I think in any industry you’ll see good players and bad players and we definitely want to be known as one of the good ones.
Any plans to expand outside of New York?
David: No, no plans to expand out of New York. We want to make sure that we’re delivering the best outcomes for our students. I think New York is the place for us to do that. I don’t want expansion to come at the cost of the quality.
How do you choose a coding boot camp in New York that's right for you? New York City is home to 13 full-time coding bootcamps, teaching everything from Web Development to Mobile App Development to FinTech. With so many options to choose from, you should consider factors like your learning style, professional goals, and language preferences.
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