Grace Hopper Program
The Grace Hopper Program is a 17-week, immersive software engineering program for women with no upfront tuition cost in New York City (13-weeks of the course will be on campus). Named for pioneer computer scientist Grace Murray Hopper, the program is driven by three values: education, opportunity, and mentorship. By employing a deferred tuition model, students only pay tuition once they secure a job after graduation. Grace Hopper aims to lower the barrier to entry and accept qualified candidates who cannot afford the upfront cost of a coding bootcamp. Once graduates land a job, they pay $19,610 tuition in installments over 9 months.
Applicants must be women (the team defines "women" as anyone female identifying -- including transgender, genderqueer, and non-binary) who are passionate about coding and have the drive to succeed in an immersive environment. The immersive course is not designed for pure beginners, but if an applicant's technical skills are not advanced enough to pass the coding assessment, then the Grace Hopper team can provide learning resources to prepare you for the interview.
Recent Grace Hopper Program Reviews: Rating 4.91
Recent Grace Hopper Program News
- New Year, New Career? Learning to Code in 2019!
- November 2018 Coding Bootcamp News Podcast
- November 2018 Coding Bootcamp News Podcast
- Start Date
- January 30, 2019
- Class size
- Chicago, New York City
- Minimum Skill Level
- Placement Test
More Start DatesJanuary 30, 2019 - ChicagoFebruary 25, 2019 - ChicagoMarch 20, 2019 - ChicagoApril 15, 2019 - ChicagoJanuary 30, 2019 - New York CityFebruary 25, 2019 - New York CityMarch 20, 2019 - New York CityApril 15, 2019 - New York City
- Start Date
- February 2, 2019
- Class size
- New York City
- Minimum Skill Level
- Placement Test
More Start DatesFebruary 2, 2019 - New York CityMarch 16, 2019 - New York City
- Start Date
- February 25, 2019
- Class size
- New York City
- Tuition Plans
- Grads pay $19,910 in installments over 9 months - deposit is counted toward this amount. Payments begin at the end of a graduate's first month of employment. If no work is found within 12 months of graduating, no tuition is owed.
- Minimum Skill Level
- Advanced-beginner/Intermediate programming skills
- Prep Work
- Four week-long remote Foundations class precedes 13 weeks on-campus
- Placement Test
More Start DatesFebruary 25, 2019 - New York CityApply by January 6, 2019April 15, 2019 - New York CityApply by February 24, 2019June 10, 2019 - New York CityApply by April 21, 2019
Grace Hopper Program Reviews
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Highly recommend attending Grace Hopper Academy! Attending this program changed the trajectory of my career path for the better. Prior to attending Grace Hopper, I worked in public accounting at a Big 4 accounting firm. Although I valued the experience I had in my prior career, I knew for quite some time I wanted to transition into the tech industry, so I started to teach myself how to code during my “free time,” and I then attended Grace Hopper and was part of its 1st graduating cohort. Overall, the program is very well structured, has amazing instructors, and an overall positive vibe. After the program ended, I felt very well equipped when searching for jobs and the Career Services Team was very helpful throughout the whole process. It took me about 2 months to find a job. I included more details on the program itself below (although some details may or may not be the same now):
In addition to the curriculum, we had the opportunity to interact with guest speakers from a variety of technical backgrounds. These speakers were all very accomplished and gave me a glimpse of what my future in software development could entail. These experiences were very inspirational and motivated me to continue down this exciting career path.
I started programming 2 month before getting accepted to GHA and got a job offer as a software engineer within 6 weeks of graduation.
It is a 4-months program - 1 month online prep course + 3 month onsite which includes two phases: the program itself and the job search phase. The latter is what distinguishing GHA from other bootcamps, after the program is finished, the hiring team will work with you during your job search: resume writing, job applications, networking, mock interviews, hiring day. These folks do their best to help you get the job you dream of.
Joining GHA was the best career decision I've made, and I highly recommend checking it out if you consider transitioning into software development.
Rigorous curriculum, amazing instructors and staff. Joining GHA is def top 10 moves of my life, number one being my religious use of coconut oil.
On top of being an incredible coding school, GHA also places a huge importance on fostering a supportive learning atmosphere. Self-care is emphasized and priotarized and from the get go you are forced to find balance.
I was offered a position with one of our hiring partners just a few weeks after my graduation. I would definitely recommend GHA to any woman looking to take her coding skills to the next level.
tl;dr Exceeded my expectations & best decision I've ever made.
I was a student at Grace Hopper Academy in early 2016 as part of the first cohort. Before attending the bootcamp, I barely knew how to program. I left my job as a CPA before starting GHA, but it took a long time to convince myself that I could make it in this field without any background in CS. My advice is that if you're interested in programming but are afraid of a career change, stop doubting yourself! If you really want it, go for it. My only regret is that I didn't believe in myself sooner. You also really can't go wrong at GHA. All of the people in my cohort had diverse backgrounds, but were also some of the brightest and most ambitious women I have ever met.
I looked into several bootcamps such as App Academy and Flatiron School, but GHA was the obvious first choice for me for many reasons: Fullstack Academy's reputation, GHA being an all women cohort, deferred tuition, and my awesome interview experience with one of my instructors. During my interview, my interviewer taught me a concept that I had been struggling with on my own very clearly and patiently, giving me a sense of the teaching style.
I had 1 main instructor for our 4 week prep phase before the bootcamp started, 2 during junior phase (first half of program) and 2 during senior phase. Every instructor was not only knowledgeable, but also relateable, engaging, and just a fun person to be around. The curriculum is jam-packed, but highly effective and continually evolving with each cohort.
GHA is definitely the best decision I have ever made. It's not only a fun and highly rewarding experience, but you also become part of a huge network of GHA/Fullstack Academy alumni that are always giving back to the community. I couldn't have asked for a better bootcamp experience.
Class sizes used to be <20, now they are 30-40. This matters a lot. Older reviews are not going to reflect what your experience will be like as this organization changes. Ask recent grads and current attendees directly on other websites like linked in, etc.
Work hard, have high expectations of yourself — and yourself only. Your classmates will be your biggest asset, so build good strong working relationships with them.
I would definitely recommend attending Grace Hopper! Overall, I had a great experience and was able to find a job as a software engineer fairly quickly after graduating.
In doing boot camp research, I found that Grace Hopper/Fullstack's curriculum was the most robust and industry applicable of NYC boot camps. Also, the fact that it's the only all-women boot camp on the east coast (I'm pretty sure) was a huge selling point for me.
The curriculum was very thorough and delivered very very fast-paced. Not everyone makes it from the first half of the program to the second (project based) half. Even more stressful than the huge influx of information were the presentation-based projects. I definitely appreciated them, because it made it easier to talk about different technologies confidently. I hope they continue having that as an integral part of their curriculum.
I thought the instructors were a great mix of people in the industry and people who graduated from GH or Fullstack themselves. They seemed genuinely invested in your success, which is not something you hear about a lot of boot camps.
The culture at Grace Hopper was amazing. I loved how they emphasized collaboration over competition. For the most part, they seem to choose students who are easy to work with. I came out of the program with a lot of new friends.
Their career service team is really aggressive, in a good way. They are really great at what they do, which made it less stressful to find a job after graduating.
Overall, I had a great experience at Grace Hopper, and would recommend it to any woman looking to change their career.
It's difficult to encapsulate the transformative experience I've had at the Grace Hopper program at Fullstack Academy in a few words, but I'll try! I have never before experienced an educational environmental that condensed such a high amount of marketable skills in such a short time frame. This however, would not be possible without the incredible instructors and helpful fellows who are determined to see EVERY student succeed. This is also evident with the deferred tuition plan that comes with participating in the Grace Hopper program. This means that Fullstack is so invested in your potential that they will not accept payments unless you have received a developer or software engineering role within a year. Within just 5 months I have gone from for loops to full stack applications that non technical users can enjoy. And even with an undergraduate education, I can honestly say this has been the most rewarding educational experiences I have ever had. If you enjoy coding and want to push yourself to the next level, Grace Hopper will not disappoint.
Our latest on Grace Hopper Program
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This November has been super busy in the immersive coding education world, and at Course Report! We read about how Amazon’s new headquarters will impact the coding bootcamps in New York City, we celebrated successful coding bootcamp grads, we were sad to hear that a school is closing, we heard advice for being successful at bootcamp, and found out about new initiatives to improve diversity in tech! Plus we look at new schools and campuses around the world and discuss our favorite pieces on the Course Report blog.Continue Reading →
Mariya graduated from the Grace Hopper Program in mid-2016, and has been working as a Software Engineer at Crisis Text Line for more than two years. We interviewed her right after she graduated, then caught up in 2018 to see how her career is progressing. Mariya tells us about all the new technologies she has learned, the project that got her a promotion, and why it’s so rewarding working for a company focused on social good. She also tells us how Crisis Text Line has grown as demand rises and offers her advice for contributing to good causes as a software engineer.
Tell me about your background before Grace Hopper.
What were your career goals when you first applied to Grace Hopper?
I knew that after graduation I wanted to work as a software engineer. At the time, I also really wanted to work toward social good, but I actually didn’t think it would be possible. I got very lucky that Crisis Text Line was one of Fullstack Academy and Grace Hopper’s hiring partners. The person who is now my manager had actually graduated from Fullstack Academy himself, which is why he was at the hiring day. So my job search ended up being pretty quick – when I saw Crisis Text Line on the list of hiring partners, I knew immediately that this was what I wanted to do, and I was lucky enough to get the job.
What about Crisis Text Line appealed to you?
Obviously suicide prevention is a really important cause. Originally, with my two humanities majors, I wanted to be a lawyer and work in human rights. I wanted to work at a company that prioritizes social good, but I didn’t expect it would be a tech company.
Last time we talked, you had been at Crisis Text Line for 3 months – what’s kept you there for two years?
There are so many things! I was first hired as an Integrations Engineer and I continue to be challenged technically. I’ve worked on many different projects, and I’ve also been involved in internationalization (launching in different countries). I’ve worked a lot on our main platform, building new tools, making it more accessible for different counselors, and adding more languages. I’ve also worked on building our CRM platform, doing Salesforce migration, machine learning, and APEX. As the company and our needs grew, I got to do a little bit of everything.
Now I mostly work on our platform. The platform was built 5 years ago, and we are now updating all our tech, and implementing React from scratch.
Another reason I’ve stayed at Crisis Text Line is that our mission hasn’t changed. We’re trying to get help to as many people as possible, and as an engineer it’s still very interesting. Plus, the tech team all gets along swimmingly and everyone has been receptive to my growth and has helped me become a better developer.
When you first started there, you told me you were the only female engineer in your engineering group. How has your team changed since then?
We’ve hired a second female engineer! But finding female engineers remains difficult. We’ve tried to diversify our funnel, we have definitely interviewed a lot of people, but haven’t been as successful as we would like to be. I was hired with two other people from Fullstack Academy and one is still here.
When I joined, the entire company was under 50 people and we were only live in the US. Now we’ve gone international – we are in the UK and Canada, the engineering team has 15 people, and our office takes up two floors in New York City. It’s been the perfect first job. After the November 2016 election, it was like somebody turned on a switch – we saw our greatest volume ever. It was crazy.
As soon as President Trump was elected, within 24 hours, we were just flooded with messages. People seemed like they felt they had permission to attack others, so we were just flooded that entire week, and volume hasn’t slowed down. It’s kind of wild, but to this day people still message us with worries and anxieties about friends and family – people who are not straight, white, or wealthy – who feel anxiety about the administration. That makes up a good chunk of our recent demand.
Can you share some of the projects you’ve worked on at Crisis Text Line over the past 3 years?
When I first joined, Crisis Text line didn’t have a CRM, and instead we were using scripts to keep data in sync, so I was mostly writing the back-end scripts that did that. My first big project was to do research and find the CMS we were going to use, then integrate it with our existing platform.
The project I’m most proud of is an internal scheduling app. When I joined we were using an app called When I Work, which wasn’t made for our high volume (1500 to 2000 crisis counselors per month). So we decided to build our own scheduling app from scratch. My manager and I built it, and it was very exciting to work on – it’s the project that got me promoted actually. I learned a lot by building an app from scratch – namely it’s how I learned React, which was really interesting and super rewarding. My team got to launch the scheduling app on stage at our annual conference Palooza, in front of our crisis counselors. Everyone was super excited, especially because scheduling was such a pain-point for our crisis counselors. It was rewarding to build a tool and see it actually solve the problem we set out to solve: counselors started using it and it reduced frustration immediately.
How have you grown as a developer since you started working in August 2016? Do you feel like you’ve grown into a Senior Developer?
I was hired as a Junior Software Engineer, I’ve been promoted to Software Engineer, and I’m hopefully on track to become a Senior Engineer!
I definitely feel like the breadth of my knowledge has increased so much since I started at Crisis Text Line. At the time I attended Grace Hopper, they were teaching the MEAN stack (they switched to NERDS shortly after I graduated), but here I write in so many different languages. Our back end is in PHP, I’ve worked on projects written in Apex and Ruby, and I’ve done a bit in DevOps.
As a team, we’ve also built out our workflow. We have always worked in Agile Methodology, but when I first started, people would just contact me to fix a bug. Now, our workflow is all formal, we do Agile by the book, and we are fixing issues in real-time. If our users can’t reach us, they could die, so there’s a certain pressure.
Along with the pressure in your job – how have you seen your work make a difference?
We focus on two things – one is crisis counselor retention, and the other is building tools that enable us to help as many people as we can. For instance, when we build things like the scheduling app, we see higher retention among the counselors. We have created machine learning bots which counselors can chat to in training, to get more comfortable dealing with certain types of texter issues.
Implementing React has enabled us to build a prettier and faster experience for crisis counselors, which increases retention. We’ve also made all the training materials available after the training, so that if a counselor hasn’t dealt with a particular issue in a while, they can access training materials while messaging with a texter, so they never have to feel like they’re letting texters down.
Helping take the organization international has also been rewarding, because it has helped us reach more vulnerable folks.
I hear you’ve spoken at a number of events recently, can you tell me about those?
I spoke at the Lesbians Who Tech conference about the machine learning project we have been working on with our data science team. It’s a triaging algorithm to figure out how severe each texter’s crisis is. While we acknowledge that all our texters need our help, we do need to differentiate between a person who is holding a gun and someone who is not in such immediate danger.
Originally the triage was super simple: Our algorithm looked for words indicative of high severity – such as “gun,” “bridge,” “overdose,” “kill myself” – and then flagged those as high risk. But the algorithm was not elegant, and more importantly, it was only about 53% accurate.
So we hired an incredible data science engineer, Ankit Gupta, who used deep neural networks to create Ava, a new triage algorithm with an accuracy score in the high 80s. It’s a long short-term memory algorithm, which can understand and build dependencies. So that was my tech talk.
The other event was an Out in Tech event, which was an LGBTQ+ event focused on health tech, so Crisis Text Line was invited. I spoke about how 46% of our texters identify as LGBTQ+, even though we have never marketed ourselves as service specifically for that community. It’s really telling that while so many texters identify as LGBTQ+, fewer than 5% cite their identity as their reason for reaching out. Our data suggests that LGBTQ+ people are a high at-risk population with a diverse array of issues.
Many people imagine that being a software engineer means working for a tech startup or a big bank or an Apple or Facebook. Is that your experience?
There are definitely other options. My CEO likes to say we are a tech company in the social good space, but our bottom line is not one of our KPIs. And there are a lot of not-for-profit tech companies that need software engineers. Obviously, as engineers, we are very lucky because we are in such demand right now. It might take you a little longer to find the socially responsible company you want to work for, but they are definitely out there and looking for you.
What is your advice to someone who wants to go to coding bootcamp to become an engineer and give back?
My first piece of advice is to just really know if this is what you want to do. Bootcamps tend to be cheaper than a college education, but still quite pricey. They are also very time consuming – I was there from 9am to 8pm everyday, and when I was building my projects I was there on weekends as well. And you’ll be so exhausted because you’re learning a bunch of new information every day. Because it’s such a huge commitment, you should make sure you test the waters to see if this is what you want to do. There are a lot of great free resources you can use before committing – I used Codecademy, FreeCodeCamp, and the Harvard X courses.
My second piece of advice is to talk to as many people as you can. People who work as software engineers are very usually very responsive, so just reach out to people on LinkedIn and ask to talk about their company and their engineering experience. Many people reach out to me because I went to a coding bootcamp, and I’ll often get coffee with them. Talk to as many people as you can and code as much as you can in your free time.
How can developers who don’t take jobs with nonprofits contribute to social good through technology?
Github hosts a lot of open source, social good projects that you can contribute to. There are also a lot of tech groups around New York City, and a lot of them have social good events. For example, Out in Tech hosts events and hackathons – in one hackathon, a bunch of NGOs submit tech requests, and engineers build them what they need. So there are definitely a lot of options, if you want to donate your time as a software engineer, because a lot of NGOs are underfunded.
What are your plans and ambitions for the future? Will socially responsible companies always be in the cards for you?
It’s very hard for me to see myself somewhere that isn’t socially responsible. Not only is it important to me, but I’m also just accustomed to it now after working at Crisis Text Line. Maybe I won’t always be with nonprofits, but the ethos of a company is very important to me. I don’t see myself working at a bank; I think I will always work at companies with a strong social justice and moral ethos.
Crisis Text Line is just one of many socially conscious tech companies. Check out this list to discover others. Find out more and read Grace Hopper Program reviews on Course Report, or check out the Grace Hopper Program website.
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“I used to feel that artistic skills and technical skills were very separate, but in reality the work that I did as a designer is very similar to how I approach problems with engineering.” After a BFA, MFA, and the Grace Hopper Program coding bootcamp, Liz Phillips is now a Full Stack Software Engineer at Fabric! Liz tells us how learning to code amongst women felt like a “healing environment,” how she got her job (spoiler: it involves a warm lead from a fellow Grace Hopper graduate), and why she is pushing to hire more Grace Hopper alumnae to work at Fabric.
Tell us about your career and how your path led to the Grace Hopper Program.
Before starting Grace Hopper, I got a BFA in Production Design (designing costumes and sets for movies/theater), and then pursued an MFA in Theater Design. Partway through my graduate degree, I realized it wasn’t a viable career for me and I wasn't going to be happy doing it. So I started looking around for something else.
During grad school, I started teaching myself Python from a book. That was really interesting and I was frustrated that I didn't have more time to learn it. With the graphic design skills that I had, I also enjoyed doing some website design with very basic HTML and CSS.
Did you consider continuing to teach yourself to code instead of going to bootcamp?
I recognized that it would take me a long time if I kept trying to teach myself. But that was kind of my fallback plan. I thought, "If I can't get into Grace Hopper, then I'll just keep studying." I also thought Grace Hopper could fast-track me to being ready to take a job.
Did you consider going back to college or a different coding bootcamp? What stood out about Grace Hopper?
I went straight from high school to undergraduate to grad school – under no circumstance was I getting another degree. It's expensive and it takes a long time, whereas a bootcamp (basically one semester’s worth of time) gives you an overview of all the concepts you need to know to get a job now.
It was Grace Hopper or bust for me because of their deferred tuition model (which means you train first and pay full tuition only after getting a job in software engineering). The environment at Grace Hopper was also really appealing. Initially, I didn't care that Grace Hopper was all-women. But after thinking about it and understanding that the tech industry is a male-dominated field, it was appealing to learn these new concepts with other women.
Once I got there, I really enjoyed the all-women environment. I went to public school and co-ed colleges, so it was totally new to me. When I started at Grace Hopper, I was feeling really burned out. And this sounds cheesy, but it was a healing environment – a really nice environment to learn in, along with all these really intelligent and driven women.
What was the application and interview process like when you applied to Grace Hopper?
Once you’re accepted, the first stage of the program is the Foundations phase online, which is about one month of fundamentals to make sure each student is ready for the on-campus phase. I had to study a lot during that time. Some people continue working their regular jobs through Foundations – I don’t know how I would have done that!
What were the other members of your cohort like?
There was a wide variety of people. Only one or two people in my cohort had taken CS classes or had pursued a CS degree, and almost everybody else was from different backgrounds, like science, medicine, and other disciplines. It was all over the place in terms of backgrounds.
What was the learning experience like at Grace Hopper?
The on-campus portion is separated into two phases. You have your junior phase, then your senior phase. In a typical day, there were two modes. You had lessons, and then after every lesson, there was a workshop that accompanied that lesson. The instructors would introduce a concept, talk about its history, what the tool does, what people were using before, and how it relates to previous lessons. And then after that, it was all pair programming.
As for the teaching style, Grace Hopper has set material that they're trying to get through, but each instructor has a different way of explaining things, or different information that they add. Instructors are always open to answering questions, which we could ask either by raising a hand or writing an anonymous question which teaching fellows would read out. Those anonymous questions were a really valuable thing to see, and I've definitely carried the idea with me. If I’m organizing an event, I always make sure people can ask questions anonymously.
After Grace Hopper, you became a Teaching Fellow – why did you decide to take that role before getting a job as a software engineer?
Towards the end of the senior phase when everyone's starting to ramp up for hiring day, applying for jobs, and meeting employers who come on campus, students also have the opportunity to apply for the teaching fellow position.
I loved being at Grace Hopper, so the chance to stay there longer was nice. I liked the environment, the instructors, the people, and the goal of the program. On top of that, I also enjoyed teaching. The biggest benefit of being a Teaching Fellow is that you get to review all the material again when helping incoming Junior Phase students. I got to work on reading other people’s code and learning new frameworks and libraries.
How did Grace Hopper prepare you for job hunting? What kind of career advice and training did you receive?
We had lectures to show us how to format our resumes, and we did mock interviews. I found it really helpful because I had never had to apply to jobs like that before. When I was working in theater, you couldn’t cold apply to jobs, it was all about who you knew.
I didn't participate in hiring day when I was a Grace Hopper student because I was a fellow. Then as a teaching fellow, I accepted a job offer before the next hiring day. So I never did the hiring day event as a student – I’m proud to say, however, that I have attended hiring day as an employer – but I did utilize a lot of the other career services.
For one job interview I had scheduled, I made sure to do a mock interview specific to that company. I made an appointment with one of the Career Services staff, she did some research on the company, then I did a mock interview with her, which very much helped me prepare for the real thing. I also got feedback on cover letters, the outfit I was going to wear to my interview, and how to negotiate my salary. I was super nervous, but it all worked out fine.
Congratulations on your job! How did you find it?
I’m a Full Stack Software Engineer at Fabric, which is a site for new families to start their financial futures, with a current focus on life insurance. I've also chosen to take on some additional hiring responsibilities, including recruiting from Grace Hopper itself!
A big reason I’m passionate about that work is that that’s essentially how I got my job there: I got the interview while I was still a fellow at Grace Hopper because a woman who was a fellow when I was a student recommended me. I took that interview and got the job.
How large is the engineering team? Are there many other women?
I believe we're seven engineers now. Currently, it's three women and four men, and another woman from Grace Hopper is starting in July, whom I was involved in hiring. I do quite a lot of candidate outreach and interview scheduling so I have an insight into that process. For example, I went to Grace Hopper’s hiring day because I enjoy doing things like that, and sourcing a diverse range of candidates is really important to me. I personally want to keep our company as diverse as possible – I believe it makes the company stronger. Anything I can do to contribute to that I was happy to do.
Can you tell me what a typical day is like as a developer? What sort of projects are you working on at Fabric?
In a typical day, about 70% of my time is coding. That includes research, reading documentation, typing, and reviewing other people's code. About 10% to 15% is meetings and that includes a stand-up at the beginning of the day, planning meetings, and small meetings with people on the team to figure out the structure of what we're going to build. Interviewing candidates and hiring duties is probably 10% of my week on average.
I'm a full stack developer, so I work on projects on both sides of the stack. I have an interest in security specifically. Right now, I'm working on a new product that needs a new authentication and authorization flow. So I'm doing a lot of research and creating new features that utilize AWS Cognito, which is an AWS service for authorization and authentication.
Are you using the technologies you learned at the Grace Hopper Program?
On our front end, we use React and Redux with some additional technologies like Gatsby and Glamor. React and Redux were taught at Grace Hopper; Glamor and Gatsby were not – but Fabric actually started using Glamor after I started working here so that was a learning process for the whole team. Gatsby is a static site generator for React sites so it wasn’t too hard to learn.
Do you feel like you've grown as a developer since you started? How does Fabric help the engineers make sure you're all continuing to learn and improve?
I have definitely grown exponentially, almost more than I can explain. But I think I am still a junior developer – right on the edge of mid-level. Judging by the types of projects that I'm able to work on, I definitely don't feel like projects are not assigned to me because of my skill level.
Fabric definitely has a culture where it's acceptable to take time to watch a video, read docs, or read tutorials. Also, in our SCRUM process, we try to balance working on new features versus working on technical debt or implementing new libraries. Working at such a small startup, we have a real commitment to always moving forward because our velocity is really important to us as a company.
Has your background in lighting and set design been useful in your current job as a developer?
I strongly believe that bootcamp grads have a lot to offer to companies. Because you have a different background, you're going to have a different perspective. And like I said, diverse backgrounds make a company stronger because you have fewer blind spots.
My design background has definitely been useful. I used to feel that artistic skills and technical skills were very separate, but in reality, the work that I did as a designer is very similar to how I approach problems with engineering. Most people with engineering backgrounds don't have designer training, but I can understand our designer's intentions.
Having that that pretty solid foundation of CSS and HTML beforehand really helped me because when I got hired, it allowed me to be able to contribute to the front end immediately.
Looking back at the last couple of years, what role has Grace Hopper played in your success? Could you have got to where you are now by self-teaching or another method?
I'm sure it's possible. But I have the job that I have now because my former teaching fellow recommended me for an interview – Grace Hopper provided me with a network and the tools to start in this new industry. So Grace Hopper played a huge role in where I am now. I wouldn't say that I could not have been a software engineer without it, but I definitely think it got me here faster and with more financial stability.
What advice do you have for other people who are thinking about making a career change by going through a coding bootcamp?
I really can't recommend it enough, especially if you can get deferred tuition. The program is three months, plus four weeks of pre-work. It costs about one year of college tuition and you can get hired in this new field immediately afterwards. So I really don't see a lot of downsides to it.
Definitely don't approach a coding bootcamp with the expectation that you'll understand everything right off the bat. The pace is really fast and there's so much information. Common metaphors are, “it's like trying to drink from a fire hose” or “trying to hold a teacup in a storm.” Expect to be familiar with many concepts so that when you hear a new term, you at least know where to start looking, how to learn from docs and tutorials, and how to teach yourself new frameworks and skills.
Coding bootcamps Fullstack Academy and the Grace Hopper Program were both founded by David Yang and Nimit Maru, so what is the difference between them? Grace Hopper is an all women’s program and offers deferred tuition, but what else is unique about the program? And do students from both programs have the same job placement outcomes? We asked the leadership team at Fullstack Academy and Grace Hopper to explain the differences and similarities in tuition costs, curricula, learning environment, and support, and how a woman can choose which program is right for her.
Tell us about the history of Fullstack Academy and Grace Hopper Program.
David and Nimit founded Fullstack Academy after they saw a gap in the market for teaching people practical development skills. They were teaching friends basic programming skills to help them get a promotion or move to a different role, and saw more friends and friends of friends wanting to transition out of waning industries into software. They realized people didn’t need to go to school or get a Master’s – they just needed practical development skills.
After Fullstack had been running for several years, David and Nimit wanted to tackle tech’s gender disparity. They spoke with many women who’d attended Fullstack and realized there were too many barriers to entry and not enough safe spaces. They designed Grace Hopper to address both of those problems: they offered deferred tuition to reduce the barriers to entry, and limited it to “women+” (including trans, non-binary, and non-gender-conforming folk) to make sure students would feel safe in their learning environment.
How does the admissions process compare for Fullstack Academy vs Grace Hopper?
There is no difference in admissions criteria for any of our programs. The admissions process for both Fullstack Academy and Grace Hopper Program is as follows:
- Candidates fill out an online application and choose which program to be considered for.
- Women+ can choose Grace Hopper or Fullstack.
- Applications are reviewed by an admissions team that serves both programs.
- Applicants receive the same HackerRank assessment to determine their eligibility.
- Interviews are conducted by former students who are now teaching fellows.
- Fellows look at:
- If you can solve problems and will understand the curriculum
- If you’ll be a positive addition to the community. ( #1 rule for both programs: “No a**holes.”)
- How you’ll contribute, what you’ll get out of the experience as a developer and as a human
The admissions team considers your application, assessment, and interview to reach a decision. Any woman+ accepted to our program has the choice of Fullstack or Grace Hopper; no woman+ is ever admitted to one program without being admitted to the other. Once you've been accepted, someone from your preferred program will contact you with the big news.
How do the tuition costs and payment plans differ between Fullstack Academy and the Grace Hopper Program?
Fullstack Academy tuition is $17,610 in New York (and for the Remote Immersive) and $15,610 in Chicago. Tuition for Fullstack Academy’s part-time Flex program (available in New York) is $15,680. Financing options are available via Skills Fund.
Grace Hopper Program operates under a deferred-tuition model, which means students train now and don’t pay until they’ve secured full-time employment in software engineering. Tuition is $19,610 and paid in nine monthly installments once you’ve started in your new position. It is also possible to pay full tuition upfront.
We pursued this model to make a dent in tech’s gender gap by:
- Reducing barriers to entry: Women have been systematically disadvantaged in tech, so it’s important to systematically reduce barriers for women – and cost is a big one.
Reducing risk: Allowing women to train without having to contribute upfront tuition reduces their risk. If grads are successful, they will make a good salary (the average starting salary for Grace Hopper grads is around $87,000) and will be able to pay back their tuition in a reasonable time without exorbitant interest payments from a loan.
- If they aren’t successful, on the other hand, they don’t owe us anything.
Will you ever extend the deferred tuition option to Fullstack Academy students?
You never know. Money is an issue for lots of people, regardless of gender, and we’d love to offer financial aid to encourage more programming enthusiasts from low-income backgrounds.
We already offer a number of scholarships including a $1000 need-based scholarship for women and veterans at Fullstack Academy, the 50 States of Code Scholarship for our remote program, and the Operation Code Scholarship for veterans.
We also run a Web Development Fellowship in partnership with the City of New York’s Tech Talent Pipeline, which sponsors cohorts of low-income New Yorkers to attend Fullstack 100% tuition-free. We want to keep working with government organizations and nonprofits to make sure Americans have the skills they need to be successful in an economy that increasingly depends on technical know-how.
How does Grace Hopper differ between NYC and Chicago campuses?
In New York, Fullstack Academy and the Grace Hopper Program are in the same building in the Financial District, but are each on a different floor. The facilities are essentially the same, with classrooms, labs, meeting rooms, and kitchens (the exception is our production studio, housed on the Fullstack campus, which we use for recording course materials for both programs and for events like the joint Demo Day). The bootcamps in New York are mostly separate – Grace Hopper Program and Fullstack Academy students rarely interact.
In Chicago, our Grace Hopper offering is called the Grace Hopper Track at Fullstack Chicago because, while it offers deferred tuition, it doesn’t offer the same women-only environment. Grace Hopper Track students are part of the co-ed Fullstack Chicago student body and learn on the same campus, even though they’re paying for the program differently. (Fun fact: With the opening of the Grace Hopper Track and the growing trust in coding bootcamps, the community at Fullstack Academy Chicago has outgrown its former digs in a co-working space and recently moved to its own campus.)
Are there any differences between the curricula at Fullstack Academy vs Grace Hopper?
- Programming basics in Foundations, the 4-week remote pre-work phase of the program
- Front-end and back-end technologies in junior and senior phases (on-campus weeks 1-6 and 8-13, respectively)
- Career Success program during senior phase, including workshops, networking, and one-on-ones where students prepare themselves for the job search – arguably just as important a skill set as your technical one
- Computer science fundamentals
- Emerging technologies (cryptocurrency, the latest mobile frameworks)
- A CTO series tackling higher-level concepts to encourage students to think beyond individual projects to systems and products
A typical day for both of our New York programs goes from 10am to 6pm. Some students come early or stay late to review previous lessons, to prepare for upcoming ones, or to work on projects. That varies by each student’s needs and isn’t more prevalent at one program versus another.
Who teaches each of the programs?
In New York, instructors rotate every seven weeks between Grace Hopper and Fullstack. Each cohort has one instructor for the entire program, then instructors will swap, so someone who was teaching Fullstack juniors might go on to teach Grace Hopper seniors. This exposes students to many teaching styles and helps build their networks, while instructors stay fresh and get to touch the lives of more students.
One exciting change is that we recently hired our first dedicated Grace Hopper instructor in New York. Grace Hopper has grown a lot, and the community is really strong, so we wanted to have one instructor who would know all the alumnae and be a consistent face on campus. Her name is Jess, and she’s awesome.
It’s important to mention that while Career Success staff aren’t instructors, per se, they work with students in both programs to ensure all students receive the same job-skills training – how to build a tech resume, LinkedIn best practices, negotiation skills, etc. Our counselors are versed in the different challenges each group may face and work tirelessly to help students succeed in the job market after graduation.
How does the learning experience and culture differ for students in GHP vs FSA?
Students have great experiences in both programs, but the two experiences are purposely different, which is why we allow women+ to choose the program they prefer, rather than accepting them specifically into one program or another.
Hearing that women+ were being made to feel psychologically unsafe in so many co-ed tech environments, we wanted the Grace Hopper program to be a safe space. Bootcamp is an intense process; students have to feel safe asking questions, admitting they don’t know information, and failing repeatedly to find solutions in order to get better at coding.
So the Grace Hopper community is more intentional:
- Students are more cognizant of and sensitive to each other’s needs and feel more comfortable expressing their emotions, which is how students bond and why they feel so supported throughout the program.
- There’s no pressure on students to be anything other than who they are, and while the program will absolutely challenge students and push them to be their best, it also leaves room for empathy and understanding.
For women+ in the Grace Hopper Program, do you offer any extra support or guidance that Fullstack students do not receive? If so, why?
All women+ at Fullstack and Grace Hopper have access to lunches specifically for women, where female students and staff can discuss challenges and get to know each other – because once students get out in the world, they’re likely to find themselves one of the only women in a room full of men. So it’s really important to build a strong support network outside of work.
All women+ enrolled at our Chicago campus, regardless of program, receive additional resources like women-only lunches and opportunities to meet role models in the industry to ensure they’re just as prepared for the job search as the men they’re in class with.
What is the ratio of men:women in the Fullstack classes? Do most women go to Grace Hopper?
The ratio of men to women varies by cohort. In the cohorts where we have more students, we tend to get a more even ratio, and as the number of students drops (over the summer, for example), the ratio of men goes up. Grace Hopper has the draws of deferred tuition and an all-female environment, so many women researching bootcamps know that Grace Hopper is what they want, and indicate that preference on their applications.
The admissions team does see more women applying to Grace Hopper than to Fullstack (since Grace Hopper is only for women). But women absolutely do come to Fullstack and are happy here. They tend to be career-switchers who have saved money and don’t need deferred tuition, or they come from industries where women are a majority, like teaching or recruiting, and want to prepare themselves for a total shift in dynamic by training in a program that’s majority-men.
How does the Career Success curriculum differ between the programs?
Career Success is the same for both programs and includes:
- Technical interview practice via Reacto – every morning of senior phase, students practice the kinds of algorithms tech companies love to throw at interviewees
- Mock behavioral interviews
- Working on resumes, LinkedIn
- Contract negotiation skills
- An exclusive job fair for both Fullstack and Grace Hopper students
- After graduation, the Career Success team reviews cover letters, makes introductions, provides interview support, provides insights into hiring processes, and helps grads understand and negotiate contracts.
One anecdotal difference we see between the two programs in the Career Success portion is that Grace Hopper students tend to be more on top of scheduling office hours, getting resumes in for review, and generally communicating consistently with our team about opportunities and challenges. We’re not sure, but it could be because women generally feel more comfortable asking for help; maybe because women transitioning careers are used to working twice as hard to get what comes standard for (white) men; or because the type of woman who takes on a program as intense and technical as Grace Hopper is already very organized and driven.
How do job placement rates compare between the two programs?
Job placement rates have actually been a bit higher for Grace Hopper grads over the past year. Remember, the Grace Hopper pool is a bit smaller, and it takes less time for a group of 40 people to get hired than it does for a group of 60, so that makes sense.
We’re likely seeing the embodiment of the quote: “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality seems like oppression.” For the last half-century, women were kept out of the tech industry, so men competed only with each other, but now that more women are entering the field, men are competing against a larger pool of applicants, so the job search may take longer.
We know there are more positions available for software developers than there are qualified people to fill them, but we also know that most people get hired from referrals, which is why we focus so much on Career Success. It’s a different skill set from everything else we do in life; not everyone is inherently good at networking, so it requires training, discipline, and follow-through.
As a woman applying to code school: should I choose Fullstack or Grace Hopper?
It depends what you’re looking for and what you need.
What the two programs share:
- A strong curriculum, both technical and in terms of career-building
- A pool of incredible instructors
- The Career Success and Student Experience staff
Why you might choose Grace Hopper:
- If you can’t afford tuition up front or don’t want to take out loans, Grace Hopper is an opportunity to get an education you may not otherwise have access to
To get the benefits of an all-women learning environment
- If you’ve already experienced gender discrimination in the workplace, Grace Hopper provides a safe environment where you can let go of any anger or insecurity, learn how to cope if it happens again, what channels you have for dealing with it, and understand you’re not alone.
- When you’re the only woman in the room it’s easy to feel an obligation to represent all women in everything you do, which often means needing to perform perfectly so that no man can interpret your failings as failings inherent to all women. (People of color – women of color especially – face these challenges to an even greater extent.) Grace Hopper is a great reminder that you aren’t standing in for all women. You have the right to try things and fail, to make mistakes and learn from them – and not every action you take has to feel like a strategic maneuver in the fight for women’s rights.
- You’ll emerge from Grace Hopper with a strong, diverse professional network of women, which will help you get your foot in the door and eventually propel you into a position where you can advocate for other female hires, creating a virtuous cycle.
- With many companies trying to diversify their recruiting pipelines, Grace Hopper is becoming a trusted resource: a pool of bright, qualified software engineers who happen to be women, which is exactly what companies want more of.
Why you might choose Fullstack Academy:
- If you’re coming from a field dominated by women, and you want to prepare yourself for a change to the male-dominated tech world, Fullstack Academy might be a better option.
Don’t want/need deferred tuition
- You may have the resources to pay tuition up front or don’t want to owe anything after graduation.
- Fullstack Academy is a stronger brand, just because it’s been around longer, so employers may recognize the Fullstack name before they will the Grace Hopper Program name.
We want to make sure that the standard is the same across ALL Fullstack and Grace Hopper campuses, including our Chicago location. We want all our programs to be synonymous with a rigorous education. You should receive the best education we can provide, whether you’re a student at Fullstack New York, Fullstack Chicago, or Grace Hopper.
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 →
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 →
Women make up only 24% of the tech workforce, and this number could shrink to 22% over the next 10 years. The US isn’t just lacking women in tech, there’s a general shortage of tech talent: universities only graduate about 52% of the technology workforce needed to satisfy a growing job market. Without alternative education funnels like coding bootcamps, which are particularly conducive to women, (the result of lower cost and flexibility) we won’t meet those requirements. To measure these impacts, Course Report surveys real coding bootcamp graduates to understand who is graduating from coding bootcamps and how successful they are. In our first post of this series, we explore the illuminating data we found about gender in coding bootcamps.Continue Reading →
In our End of Year Podcast, we're rounding up the most interesting news of 2017 and covering all the trends, thought pieces, controversies and more. Many schools are hitting their 5 year anniversaries – a reminder that although there is a lot going on in this industry, it’s still nascent and there is still room for new innovative approaches to the bootcamp model. We’ve chosen the most defining stories, and it was a very eventful year – a couple of big bootcamps closed, a ton of new bootcamps launched, some schools were acquired, and other bootcamps raised money.Continue Reading →
Emily Maskin has hired three Grace Hopper Program graduates for contact lens startup Simple Contacts. As the Engineering Manager for the web team, Emily took a chance on hiring her first bootcamp graduates (all women) and was blown away by the caliber of their skills. Learn what stands out about a Grace Hopper Program graduate, read Emily’s tips for employers on how to hire from bootcamps, and find out why she will always choose the hard working and delightful junior developer over a difficult senior developer.
Tell us about Simple Contacts and your role there.
Simple Contacts aims to make it easier and more affordable for contact lens wearers to renew their prescription via a quick vision test taken from home through your phone or computer. The test is designed and reviewed by doctors to replace costly and unnecessary office visits. We are a fairly young startup but growing quickly. As one of the first team members, my role has evolved from engineer to web team lead, managing the development of the web version of our product. The web team currently consists of three engineers, all women.
How many Grace Hopper graduates have you hired and how did you get connected with the Grace Hopper Program?
We have three Grace Hopper graduates on the team. The first applied to us through Tech Ladies and ended up being such a great hire that we were enthusiastic about bringing in more graduates of the program.
What roles have you specifically hired Grace Hopper graduates for?
Other than Grace Hopper, how do you usually hire developers?
It really varies. Many of our developers, especially earlier on, came as referrals from existing team members. Some we’ve found on LinkedIn or Angel List; others have applied directly. One I even met in a Lyft Line!
Do you notice differences in hiring from a bootcamp (vs. using recruiters or hiring from colleges etc)?
On the whole, I think bootcamp grads have more web-specific/real-world experience, whereas computer science grads have a stronger background in fundamentals. Both are valuable! We haven’t had a need for recruiters thus far.
Does Simple Contacts aim to hire more women engineers? How does Grace Hopper factor in that initiative?
Very much so. It’s something that’s incredibly important to me personally – I’ve been the first female engineer at every single dev job I’ve ever had, and I want us as an industry to do much, much better. I’m super thankful that Simple Contacts cares about it just as much. Out of about 14 or 15 developers across all our dev teams, six are women. This is a better ratio by far than anywhere else I’ve worked, and we are still aiming to improve it. Three out of those six women came from the Grace Hopper Program.
Do you see bootcamps being a viable channel for recruiting developers?
In my experience, not all bootcamps are created equal. I’ve known a lot of tech managers (I used to be one of them!) who are reluctant to hire from bootcamps because of not feeling like they have the resources to bring a brand-new developer up to speed. We took a chance and have been blown away by the caliber of all three of our Grace Hopper grads.
Have you worked with any other coding bootcamps yet? What stands out about these Grace Hopper bootcamp grads?
Simple Contacts doesn’t have grads from any other bootcamps at this point, which is not to say we never would. Grace Hopper seems to do an exceptional job preparing its students for the job market, with complex real-world projects for their portfolio, interview practice, and a wide network.
Have you tweaked the application process for non-traditional applicants at all?
We aim to look at all the strengths a candidate brings to the table, not just raw technical ability. Above all, we want to hire people who are smart, motivated, positive, and generally awesome to be around.
Tell us about the women you’ve hired from Grace Hopper. Did they go through a technical interview? How did they do?
Yes. Our interviews involve a code-pairing session where we look to see how the candidate works through a problem. There’s less focus on finding the perfect solution and more focus on the right considerations, asking good questions, making informed choices, etc. All three did great and clearly demonstrated how smart they were!
What stood out about the Grace Hopper students you hired?
Their final projects have all been really impressive, and a great indication of the students’ ability to build complex applications. We also look for the ability to learn quickly and work through challenges (see code-pairing session described above). Culture fit is important for all our candidates, but it has a lot more to do with being someone who’s good to work with, rather than having the same personality as everyone else!
How important are candidates’ backgrounds from before they went to Grace Hopper? Do you factor their previous backgrounds into their suitability for the roles?
An applicant’s earlier experience can definitely help round out their candidacy. One of our Grace Hopper grads was previously a math teacher; another has a background in penetration testing. We’ve ended up with a team with a really wide range of backgrounds, and that has been a huge asset for us.
Did you have to convince your company (or even yourself!) to hire a bootcamper? What was your hesitation?
It was less about hiring a bootcamper specifically, and more about hiring a brand-new developer and whether we had the bandwidth to mentor them and get them up to speed, for our sake and theirs. But it’s worked out great!
Has it ever been a concern for you that these new hires don’t have a traditional computer science degree?
No, I’ve known plenty of successful developers who don’t have a computer science degree. I personally am mostly self-taught, and all our Grace Hopper grads came out of their program leaps and bounds ahead of where I started.
Could you give us an example of a project that a Grace Hopper student has worked on?
Examples include building and iterating on workflows for users to get their prescriptions and lenses as quickly and seamlessly as possible, leading engineering efforts for new experimental brand propositions in conjunction with the marketing team, and implementing GraphQL into our codebase.
How do you ensure that the new hires are supported in continuing to learn in their first jobs? Do you have mentoring or apprenticeship programs in place?
I care a lot about helping new engineers (especially women) develop the tools to succeed. I don’t feel like I had good mentorship in my first few years in the field, and it’s important to me to try to do better for those who come after me. We don’t have an official mentoring program, but we make learning and growing a key part of our culture. All code goes through review – with not just the more senior team member reviewing new hires’ code, but also new hires learning by reviewing other people’s code. We have small teams with lots of collaboration, and the opportunity to wear many hats and learn about any area that interests you.
Since you started hiring from the bootcamp, have your new hires moved up or been promoted? Or do you anticipate that they will?
Yes, all of them either have already, or I have no doubt will do so in the near future.
What does the relationship look like between Simple Contacts and Grace Hopper? Do you pay a referral fee?
My understanding is that their graduates pay deferred tuition upon starting their first dev job. We don’t have an official relationship with Grace Hopper where we pay a fee, just an appreciation.
What is your advice to other employers who are thinking about hiring from a coding bootcamp or this bootcamp in particular?
I can’t say it enough – just hiring super-senior “10x” developers will not make for a successful team. We have created an amazingly successful, productive, and motivated engineering department by seeking out people from different backgrounds with different strengths. We have our very experienced engineers, for sure, but we also have people with awesome design chops, communication skills, and project management abilities. One of our four criteria for performance reviews is “Don’t be a jerk” and we are very serious about it. As a manager, if given the choice to lead a group of “junior but hardworking and delightful” developers versus “incredible technical expertise but a pain to deal with,” I will choose junior every single time.
Just as they’ve developed disruptive education tools, technology bootcamps are also adopting payment plans which allow students to pay nothing or very little until they graduate and find a job. Deferred tuition and income sharing agreements (ISAs) are becoming more widely available, and give students who don’t have $20,000 in the bank, access to life-changing learning opportunities. This guide will help you sort through the details and differentiate between the terms; plus, we’ve even helped you start your research by compiling a list of coding and data science bootcamps that offer ISAs or Deferred Tuition.Continue Reading →
Why do journalists and industry leaders think that two coding bootcamps are closing? And despite these “shutdowns,” why do companies like IBM still want to hire coding bootcamp graduates? We’re covering all of the industry news from August. Plus, a $3 billion GI Bill that covers coding bootcamps for veterans, why Google and Amazon are partnering with bootcamps, and diversity initiatives. Listen to our podcast or read the full August 2017 News Roundup below.Continue Reading →
Are you learning to code but worried you’ll never truly be a professional coder? You may be experiencing Imposter Syndrome, and don’t worry – it’s pretty common. As the Dean of Students at all-women’s coding bootcamp, The Grace Hopper Program, Meg Duffy has heard first hand about the anxieties that come with learning to code. We sat down with Meg to find out what exactly Imposter Syndrome is, why it’s common among coding bootcamp students (especially women), and four tips to overcome imposter syndrome so you can build a career as a software developer. Watch the video or read the summary.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 →
“I want to see more women in the tech industry, because the more women who work in this field, the safer and better it is for everyone.” Kate Humphrey has a background in technology consulting, and enrolled in Fullstack Academy to solidify her skills for the New York market. With her tech experience and teaching experience, Kate was well qualified to become an instructor for The Grace Hopper Program. Kate tells us about her quirky and interactive teaching style, the difference between teaching all women versus co-ed classes, and why she feels it’s so important for more women to learn to code and break into the tech industry.
Tell us about your background and experience in programming before you became a Grace Hopper Program instructor.
At first, I was intimidated by my move to New York. My sister suggested I apply for tech jobs, but I thought, “There’s no way I’m qualified to work in New York tech.” I actually took the Fullstack Academy program to solidify my knowledge and to meet local New York companies. I’m really glad I did that, because at a time when I felt like an imposter, Fullstack helped me build confidence again. I looked at Course Report for reviews on Fullstack Academy, Flatiron School, and App Academy. Fullstack Academy seemed the most rigorous to me, which is why I went for it.
How did you transition from a student to an instructor at Grace Hopper?
When I graduated, Fullstack Academy hired me to be a Fullstack Fellow, and then I interviewed for an instructor position. I also had a job offer at a larger company, so there are some things I gave up to work here, but the idea of being able to be technical and social and touching people’s lives makes me feel so fulfilled, and I enjoy that in a work environment. In college I was a TA for three years, and the professor I worked with got to teach code – I knew that was what I wanted too. It never occurred to me it would actually happen: to get a job as an instructor.
Tell us about what you teach at Grace Hopper and Fullstack Academy.
I’ve taught both Junior and Senior Phases at both Grace Hopper and Fullstack Academy. Senior Phase is project-driven, so it’s more fulfilling because it’s interesting to learn about new technologies. I don’t know everything about every programming language, so I’m sometimes learning with the students, which I enjoy a lot.
I primarily teach at Grace Hopper, but I also understand the benefit of having more female leadership at Fullstack Academy, so I teach cohorts at both Grace Hopper and Fullstack Academy. I also just taught a Fullstack Remote cohort, which was very different than anything I’ve ever done.
What have you found is your personal teaching style?
My teaching style is a little quirky. I like to engage the class as much as possible, which at times they hate me for! I get them to answer questions, and tell me what they think is going to happen next in a problem. I do use slides at times to walk through high-level topics, but I really like using coding examples and live coding. It’s always fun for them to watch me run into a bug and work through it; then they feel a little less intimidated when they run into something similar. I like to be as interactive as possible.
When I taught at a university, everything moved at a slower pace; it was much more relaxed, which meant there was more time to review things, meet with students, and teach classes. It felt like I could wander through a subject. At Grace Hopper, I’m trying to give the students as much information in as short a time as possible, so I’m finding better ways to be more ways to be efficient.
When you teach Fullstack Remote, how do you have to tweak your teaching style to teach students remotely?
There was a learning curve: I realized I can’t walk over to a student’s desk, or point to two things at once on the screen during a presentation because there is only one cursor.
But otherwise I often found students to be more engaged. I had fewer students – the on-campus class is usually around 24, but the class online was around 10. I set up many monitors so I could see all the students while teaching them. So at a glance, I could see who was spacing out and get them to engage more.
One thing I enjoyed about the remote group was the wide variety of students. People were coming from different locations and different points in their lives. If you have a family, it’s easier to do an online course if you need to be at home with the kids. The variety of students made everyone more driven to pay attention.
Do you think your experience teaching remotely has changed any of your in-person teaching methods?
Teaching remotely has definitely made me more aware of how important it is to cultivate a class culture, which is more difficult to do in a remote environment. I was more conscious of that during the remote course, and would enforce hanging out for 30 mins every other day so we got to know each other. On campus, I expect the students to go to lunch together, and hang out naturally. But my remote teaching experience has made me more keen to do retrospectives with my students more quickly and more frequently.
How does teaching an all-women class differ from teaching co-ed classes?
Every single cohort I’ve taught has a slightly different culture. But I frequently find that women in both settings are more prone to feeling under qualified, even when I tell them they are on track, or doing better than average. If they don’t feel like they can explain every single aspect of a technology, they say, “I don’t feel like I know this.” That’s not true for all women, but more frequently I find that men think they understand a topic even if I’m spending more time trying to help them. It’s very interesting to see that.
I find a cohort also becomes more competitive when it’s male-dominated. Sometimes it gets this very intense, winning focus, and the students get a lot done, and work so hard. That can be great for some personality types, but it can stress out other personalities. At Fullstack Academy, when a third of the class is women, then that competition decreases.
At Grace Hopper I more frequently see supportive competition, where students challenge themselves and others, but when someone else is falling behind, they’re supported by their classmates.
If a woman is deciding between The Grace Hopper Program vs Fullstack Academy, what’s your advice?
It totally depends on the student – I made this decision too! I decided that I wanted to prepare myself for the work environment I’m most likely going to be in. So I did the Fullstack Academy program, because it’s more similar to what the tech world looks like, which is ~20% women. When I was in Fullstack, I had some friends in the Grace Hopper Program, and sometimes I was really jealous of their learning environment!
A learning environment is always going to be different from a work environment. At Grace Hopper, you’re able to focus on learning in a space where you feel comfortable, and that can be very helpful at the time.
I have a friend who is one woman in a tech department of 50 people, and she doesn’t even notice, so she would be fine at Fullstack Academy because it doesn’t phase her. But for other women who feel a little unsure about their technical skills, Grace Hopper can be a better environment to feel unsure and grow.
Having been a student and a Fullstack Fellow, how has that put you in a unique position to iterate on the curriculum as an instructor?
Because I was a student, I’m often able to be a very strong student advocate. When I work with Fellows, I can help them figure out what their focus should be and how we can best assist them to become better developers during their time in the fellowship. My experience as a student definitely makes me much more aware and empathetic to everything that’s going on, and much more prepared to give a lot of specific details about my expectations from students and their code.
Grace Hopper is always a work in process, and we always take notice of student feedback and iterate on it for the next cohort. If you do decide to attend Grace Hopper, feel free to always give feedback. We constantly change our curriculum and how we teach it; we’re always looking at the languages we teach based on student feedback, what we’re seeing in the industry, and the jobs our alums are getting. Last year we switched from using Mongo to using Sequelize, and from Angular to React, which are pretty big changes. As a result, it keeps the curriculum updated for students and makes it fun to work here as an instructor.
Last year, Fullstack introduced “CS Saturdays” to give students an edge in the job market; do you continue to see employer demands changing? How is Fullstack ensuring that your grads remain competitive?
We introduced CS Saturdays to give students the ability to talk about computer science subjects, so that when they are asked a question in a job interview, they can talk at a high level, and help calm any fears employers have about bootcamp grads.
We are constantly iterating on our curriculum, and changing what we are teaching in CS Saturdays. For example, right now we’re adding in a lesson on microservices, and we just started covering web security topics. During my time as a technology consultant, I worked on some security and penetration testing, and that’s something I’m trying to push into the curriculum. During Review Week between Junior and Senior phases, I work with another instructor to give an optional web security workshop for a full day. We are constantly iterating, not necessarily with what employers explicitly say that they want, but towards helping our students become more prepared to jump in and quell the fears of employers.
Is there an ideal instructor:student ratio that you aim for in Grace Hopper Academy and Fullstack?
We’re talking about that as a staff, and there is no general consensus. Most instructors want a high number of instructors per student. I find that 12 to 16 students to 1 instructor is a very nice ratio. When it comes to the Remote cohort, there are fewer students right now, but we’ll get to that ratio. And in our Senior Phase, we usually have 10 to 15 students with one instructor and a fellow, and that’s my favorite ratio.
Fullstack Fellows are so important when we have a large cohort. We usually have about six students to a Fellow, and every week they get lunch together, do retrospectives, bounce ideas off each other, debug together, or talk about technical or non-technical problems.
Do you find that there’s an ideal type of student who does well at Grace Hopper?
The students who excel the most are fast learners. Everyone knows you’re going to be doing a lot every day, it’s going to be fast, and you only have three months. But there are still some people who are surprised at how quickly it goes by, and how much material is covered. Fast learners who are okay with not mastering everything they learn the first time tend to do well. Some people try to internalize everything we teach them every day, which is not what we expect, and probably not possible. We just throw so many things at you – it’s great if 60-70% sticks, and then you keep iterating, and building on it.
Students who are able to collaborate also tend to do better. We focus a lot on pair programming, teamwork, and collaboration.
Tell us about your biggest student success story!
Caveat: I sometimes spend way too much of my personal time helping students. I had one student who was amazing. She had been in a car accident and had to relearn how to walk, talk, and write. A year and a half later, she’s at Grace Hopper. I didn’t know that background when we started meeting one-on-one, so I just thought she needed a lot of repetition. Once she shared that with me, we started to work one-on-one. She was so driven, and worked so hard. I was a little nervous about how she would do in Senior Phase, but she just killed our hackathon with a VR project that she built in four days. She won People’s Choice Award for it and I loved it. It can be hard when someone doesn’t want to fail. But she said, “As a woman of color, I think people expect me to fail, and I just cannot fail.” It was all her.
For our readers who are beginners, what resources or meetups do you recommend for aspiring bootcampers in NYC?
The Women Who Code meetup hosts an algorithms meetup every week, where you can talk to people about how to get involved in code, and what languages to learn. Everyone comes in with a different level of experience. Most people are very supportive and share how they solved a problem and the resources they used. I’ve found it supportive, with a variety of levels of difficulty.
At The Grace Hopper Program, we host events with Women Who Code and Girl Develop It. We also host admissions prep workshops, which are specifically designed for women in the applications process because we found that women were less likely to take our admissions test. Once we started offering the prep workshop, we’re able to connect with those applicants and give them the confirmation they need to get started.
What advice do you have for women who are thinking about becoming developers?
Do it! Know that it’s not always going to be an easy path. Some women find a job and don’t experience much bias, but that’s not everybody’s story. It’s important to know what can happen, and you may run into situations where people are consciously or unconsciously biased against you, oftentimes in the hiring, performance, and promotion aspects of your job.
There is a great support system for women in tech in New York. Sometimes we talk about issues that have happened at work, or things we’ve seen; sometimes we code together, and go through algorithms. I want to see more women in the tech industry, because the more women who work in this field, the safer and better it is for everyone.
Our takeaway from Annika’s story? Learning to code is hard work. After years in sales and marketing, Annika was looking for a mentally-stimulating career change and wanted to try coding. Her husband (a lead engineer at MongoDB) suggested The Grace Hopper Program, and after a month of independent learning, Annika decided to apply to the all-women’s coding bootcamp. She tells us how she persevered through 9-hour days in the classroom plus extra hours of studying, why she continues to battle imposter syndrome, and how The Grace Hopper Program prepared her for her first job as a Software Engineer at Jet!
What were you up to before Grace Hopper?
I was heavily involved in performing arts and studied acting until I was 20, but then realized that it wasn’t the career I wanted in the long run. I decided to study international business, then got a Masters degree in Marketing and Economics.
In 2009, I moved to New York from Finland for an internship at the UN. I fell in love with the city and decided to stay and work at an organic food company. After 5 years, I was the CMO at that company, and in 2014, I took a job as the sales manager for a small juice company. After that, I went through a period of evaluating my next career move. I thought about starting a business, or getting another degree. Every day I had new ideas, but none of them seemed to make total sense. I’m at an important point in a woman’s life, because if you plan to have a family, that can interrupt your career. I wanted to start a career that inspired me and stimulated me mentally.
What motivated you to start learning to code?
Did you research other coding bootcamps? What made you choose The Grace Hopper Program?
Did you think about doing another 4-year CS degree?
A coding bootcamp seemed like the perfect choice for me; almost too good to be true. I didn’t want to wait too long to break into tech. I’m 34, and historically I’ve been a little non-committal, so I didn’t want to make a huge commitment, time or finance wise. College would have been very long and so much more expensive.
What was The Grace Hopper Program application and interview process like for you?
There were three stages. First, I sent in an application, then the second stage was an online, 75-minute coding challenge on Hackerrank. I needed a bit of coding knowledge before applying. I still found it extremely hard – I think I passed half of it. The third stage of the application was a Skype and screenshare interview, which was also pretty hard. They asked me about Recursion, which I had never heard of. My interviewer explained recursion to me, and looked at how I could figure it out on the fly.
I had only been coding for a month when I started at Grace Hopper. The program starts with one month of remote classes plus homework, then I went to the campus for three months. I found the remote work very hard and intense. During the first days on campus, you have to pass an exam to make sure you are ready. But I was in over my head, and felt like I couldn’t swim. I didn’t pass the on-campus exam, so they asked me to defer to the next cohort. I studied for another 6 weeks, which turned out to be the best thing for me. When I came back to campus, I was much more prepared.
How many people were in your cohort? Was your class diverse in terms of gender, race, life and career backgrounds?
It was very, very diverse. That was one of the coolest things about the Grace Hopper Program: meeting women from so many different backgrounds. There were about 18 people in my cohort, and ages ranged from 22 to late-30s. Many of my classmates had come from a different job and wanted to change careers. Others started Grace Hopper right after college, and one of my classmates had a computer science degree.
What was the learning experience like at The Grace Hopper Program?
The three-month, on-campus time was split into two, six-week sections, with one week in between for checkpoints and reviewing material. During the first section, we had class every day, with interactive, high quality lectures in the morning, and workshops and pair programming in the afternoons. In the second section, we got into the project phase, where we got split into teams, and worked on three different projects, including an individual project and our capstone project.
What was your favorite project that you built at Grace Hopper?
Definitely my capstone project: Brainlab.tech. That was an amazing experience – I was very happy with it. We took on a pretty big challenge, to build a neural network graphical user interface. It’s a user-friendly site, where users can create an account, and create a neural network using a data set. The website explains what neural networks are and shows you how you can add and remove inner layers and neurons, in a beautiful way. We got to learn some data visualization tools, and a Python neural network library that we hadn’t learned in the curriculum. We were lucky to have the CS graduate in our group, and we could not have done it without her because she had already worked with neural networks in the past.
It’s been exciting to talk to potential employers about that project. I think it’s very important to show that you put a lot of effort into your capstone and to be excited to talk about it.
How did The Grace Hopper Program prepare you for job hunting?
We had classes on writing resumes, general job-seeking information, and a LinkedIn workshop. We also had a hiring day event where The Grace Hopper Program invited the school’s partner companies, and we could meet them and show them our capstone projects. Once we graduated, the Grace Hopper team kept in touch with us very actively. We used Asana, a project management software, to track our job search, and they were very communicative and supportive. I always felt like I could call people from the careers team.
How did your job search go? What advice do you have for other bootcampers going through the job search?
If I could give advice to future students, I would say put a lot of effort into the hiring day event. I was living in some sort of dream world where I thought it would be super easy and fast to get a job, but that was just too optimistic. If I did it again, I would research the partner companies more, talk to more people, and try to present myself really well.
I knew I wasn’t a typical candidate, so I was very active and applied for so many jobs. I felt like a maniac. I applied for about 60 jobs in total, and interviewed with 12 companies. I definitely improved in every interview.
I didn’t apply for the Fellowship program at Grace Hopper, but I think it’s a really great option. In my case, I felt like I had to put more time into interview practice, and am older than many other applicants, so I wanted to find a job ASAP. But in hindsight, I think it could have been great for me. I think the Fellowship is a huge advantage and the students who do it usually get jobs very quickly.
Where are you working now? Tell us how you got the job!
I’m now a Software Engineer at Jet, and I work on the internal tooling team. At Jet, Category Managers use several tools to handle all the different categories on Jet.com, so we build, and work on the platform that they use. My team consists of two product managers, one UX designer, and 15 developers (5 new devs since I started, we’re growing very quickly!); I’m on the User Interface side of the team.
I contacted everyone I knew in the tech field. I knew two people who worked at Jet, and they both seemed to love working there, which was important to me. After I did the on-site interview at Jet, I became obsessed with getting that job. I was interviewing with another company at the same time, and both options would have been amazing. But Jet’s office was really beautiful and it’s a big company, yet still feels like a startup with great energy. Everyone I met seemed really smart and inspiring, and they were all so excited, passionate, energetic, and loved what they do. Those things made me feel like I really wanted that job.
There are lots of women at Jet, but only one other female developer on my team. To me, it’s not a huge deal, but I definitely think women in tech should stick together and support each other; that’s very important.
Do you think your previous background in marketing has been useful in your new job?
In terms of learning to code, not at all. I feel like I’m using a part of my brain that was asleep for decades. That’s been a really cool experience for me. However, my past background has made me a strong communicator, and I’ve taken that with me. During the Jet job interview, I asked my boss what the most and least important qualities they were looking for in a developer. He said the most important quality was curiosity and being able to dig deeper. He wasn’t looking for an applicant who was too introverted to communicate about problems. After being a manager and leading teams, communication is something I have a lot of experience with.
Did Grace Hopper teach you everything you need to be a developer, or have you had to learn a lot on the job?
There is so much new material to learn. When you haven’t worked for a tech company before, that’s the most overwhelming part. In terms of frameworks, I learned Angular 1 at The Grace Hopper Program. At Jet we use Angular 2, which is pretty different. I expect I’ll have to learn more languages in the future too, and am currently digging deeper into React.
When I started, Jet gave me instructions about everything that I needed to install on my computer. They also put all new hires through a couple of bootcamps. There was a two- to three-day front end bootcamp, and an F# bootcamp, which I was able to take too. Jet uses F# on the back end – I don’t work with that now, but it was still cool to learn.
I really love being a software developer. It’s amazing to be learning so much new every day. I’m sure the learning curve will become less steep over time, but in this industry there will always be more to learn. There are so many cool opportunities in tech – you can be creative, and have a sense of innovation and flexibility.
What’s been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to learn to code?
I had never felt Imposter Syndrome before this. I was used to being top of the class, and didn’t have to make much effort to get there. Changing careers into tech was hard on my ego; and I respect it so much because of that. The challenge is feeling like you’re stupid, you’re never going to learn, everybody is so much better than you, and having imposter syndrome.
It’s always going to be a process, and I’m still struggling a little bit with this, but I’m trying to tell myself that I want this challenge. I’m going to get better with time, and the more challenging it is, the more I’m growing and learning. That feeling has not gone away yet, but I’m better at dealing with it. Everyone is very supportive at my job and tells me that it’s a normal feeling.
How do you stay involved with Grace Hopper? Have you kept in touch with other alumni?
Grace Hopper and Fullstack host a lot of events and the alumni are all very involved. Our cohort was very tight, so we stay in touch and get together regularly. You definitely feel like you're a part of the alumni community, and can be more or less involved, depending on your preference. At the moment there are five Fullstack/Grace Hopper alumni at Jet, so that’s pretty awesome.
What advice do you have for people making a career change through a coding bootcamp?
Honestly, if you can’t keep up at Grace Hopper, then you won’t graduate, which I think is a good thing. It gives me more respect for Grace Hopper, because they aren’t just pumping out students and taking their money. They actually care about their students’ reputations after the program.
A coding bootcamp is like drinking out of the firehose – you really have to take in all the information at once. That was very hard for me because I’m more of a thorough learner and I prefer to know everything in order to put the pieces together, but you just can’t expect that from a coding bootcamp.
If you enjoy the learning style at a coding bootcamp, you can keep up with the curriculum while working 15 hours per day like I was, and you still like it, then I think that’s a really good indicator that you will enjoy working in the tech field. Bootcamps are unique because they’re a few months long, not four years of your life. It’s a great way to see if programming is something you like. If you had told me, even two years ago, that I would be a software developer, I never would have believed you!
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 →
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.
Maggie Neterval had a bachelor’s degree in cognitive science, but felt she just wasn’t on the right career path. After switching lanes and moving to NYC to work for an organic food delivery startup, Maggie discovered her passion for tech. Her Founder House roommates introduced her to coding bootcamps, and Maggie enrolled in The Grace Hopper Program, an all women coding bootcamp in New York. Learn more about Maggie’s journey into tech, why she chose to teach other bootcampers as a Fullstack Fellow at The Grace Hopper Program after graduating, and how she landed her new job as a Front End Engineer at Dataminr!
Tell me about your pre-Grace Hopper story. Your undergrad degree is in cognitive science?
I studied cognitive science at UVA and thought I wanted a career in neuroscience. I realized that wasn't for me after working in a couple of research labs. I graduated a little early and moved to New York City to work for a startup called Sakara Life which does high-end organic meal delivery. That really introduced me to my lifelong passion for health and nutrition.
I did a little bit of everything at Sakara Life. It was quite a small team when I joined, and it was really fun to watch it grow while I discovered my passion for tech. I was really interested in a lot of the technical challenges the company was facing and started to teach myself a little bit of programming on the side, and totally fell in love. So I decided to leave that startup to pursue programming full-time.
So you were working for a tech company, but when did you realize that you wanted to work as a software developer?
While I was still working at Sakara, I was also living in a co-living space for people in tech called Founder House. I was actually a house manager of one of their locations. I became friends with a lot of excellent developers and people who have made a career out of programming, and they really pushed me in the right direction in terms of online resources, and how to really make the career change.
I had actually never heard about coding bootcamps until a few of my Founder House friends suggested Fullstack Academy to me. I had become friendly with Fullstack Academy alumni, and they let me know about the new Grace Hopper program. It was pretty new at the time I had heard about it, and I thought that it would be a really great fit for me.
The Grace Hopper Program is an all-women coding bootcamp; how important was that to you?
Since Sakara is a mostly female company, I really loved the "all women empowering each other" environment. And obviously, the deferred tuition model at Grace Hopper is really attractive to someone who at the time was not totally confident that they'd be able to make this career change into tech. So overall it was a great fit for me.
I'd say that the deferred tuition, the reputation academically, and the curriculum aligning with my interests were the top three, but learning with all women was a close fourth. I really enjoyed that all women environment at my previous job, and it was not a disappointment at Grace Hopper either. It was really cool.
Tell me about your cohort at Grace Hopper. Obviously, you were learning with all women, but did your class feel diverse in terms of a career and life background, and race?
Yes. I'd say it was one of the most diverse groups of people I've ever worked with. Some people had computer science backgrounds, but the rest came from such different industries. Everyone brought different skills to the table. There were people from marketing, finance, and some people straight out of college.
It was a really unique opportunity to be learning something completely new with people who brought a perspective from all different industries. I thought that was really cool. Obviously, it was all women, but the racial diversity I thought was great and representative of New York. One of the things I love about being in the city is that everyone has had such different life experiences; so I did think that our cohort was reflective of that, in a way that constantly surprised me, especially since the tech industry is often not as diverse.
Did the teaching style at Grace Hopper match your learning style? Can you describe a typical day?
Yeah, absolutely. The on-campus portion of the Grace Hopper Program and Fullstack Academy is divided into two main parts: Junior Phase and Senior Phase. During Junior Phase, you spend an hour or two on lectures each day and then the rest of the day doing workshops with a partner. I am definitely someone who learns by doing so that really aligned with my learning style.
Senior Phase, which is the second part of the program, is completely project based. So you'll be working on three different projects. Two are with a group and one is an individual project. So again, learning by doing is the best way to learn– at least in technology and at least for me. So I found it really helpful to be diving in for each new technology we learned and applying it immediately.
Did you feel like learning to code with women changed the learning experience at all?
I’ve only done Grace Hopper, so I can't compare it with another program, but I would say that I felt a little bit safer asking questions that I may have kept to myself if I had felt more judgment. Knowing that everyone was coming in on the same boat, entering a new field, I didn't feel like any of my questions would be looked down upon. Whether that was a product of the Grace Hopper culture as a whole, or the all-female environment, or some combination of the two, it was a very safe space to ask any questions that came up, and really learn at your own pace; not to be made to feel stupid or insecure during that process which is something I was so nervous about.
Did you have a favorite project at Grace Hopper? Tell us about it!
I did my final project with two other women in my cohort, who are now my dear friends. We tried to build a better version of Slack- the real-time messaging system. I had a lovely time working with them. We explored a couple of new technologies and really had a great time learning together, making mistakes, and correcting them. We spent the last few weeks developing our capstone projects and that’s what we presented at Hiring Day. Hiring Day is where local employers come and watch you present; there's an interviewing and networking session after.
What technologies did you use for this Slack clone? Did you have a name for it?
We called it “Lack” because it was meant to be Slack but a little bit simpler and less noisy. We used Firebase which is a back-end-as-a-service that Google has released. It gives you a real-time database as well as a few auth tools. And then we used Angular on the front end.
Our readers always want to know about the job search. How has Grace Hopper prepared you for the job search? Did you feel prepared throughout that process of looking for a job?
I was the most nervous about that process. One thing that Grace Hopper did, which was super helpful, was set aside the first hour of every day during Senior Phase for whiteboarding problems. Whiteboarding is a big part of the tech interview process– answering data structures and algorithm questions live instead of doing it on a computer– which can be really anxiety provoking. Since I didn’t come from a computer science background, I did have to put in a lot of my own time after graduating to sharpen up those skills to a point where I felt confident going into onsite interviews. Grace Hopper gave me an excellent start.
Secondly, the career services at Fullstack Academy and Grace Hopper Program are superb. There are a lot of one-on-one meetings where they will help you with your resume and cover letter and just general tactics for approaching the job search that I had no idea about. Never having applied for tech jobs before, it's really a completely different game. So learning what the rules are from an actual recruiter who had been in the tech space who now works at Grace Hopper as a career counselor was invaluable.
I did end up staying on as a Fullstack Fellow for an additional three months, which really solidified the skills I would need in the job search. I feel lucky that I was able to be a fellow, and afterward I felt really confident going into interviews.
What motivated you to become a Fullstack Fellow? Had you gotten any job offers?
I knew pretty early on at Grace Hopper that I wanted to do the Fullstack Fellowship, so I didn't apply for jobs right away. Once I found out that I had been accepted as a Fullstack Fellow, I was really excited to stay on for another three months and be a mentor for the next cohort and sharpen my own skills as I mentioned. So I didn't end up applying for jobs until around the holidays this year.
What's the process to become a Fullstack Fellow?
We had to do a small written application during our Senior Phase as students and a technical interview with an instructor who would act like a student with a bug in their code. I went through and explained it to them and helped them debug, as well as answered a few behavioral questions.
I found out that I was accepted within a week of applying, which was really nice so then we could know going forward whether we'd be applying for jobs immediately or whether we'd be staying as Fullstack Fellows. For me, I loved the program so much, and I knew I wanted to stay, so it was really a no-brainer.
What was your transition like from Fullstack Fellow to a developer? I heard that you had quite a few offers and you had to make a decision between companies.
I interviewed with several different companies. Some were larger companies and some on the smaller end. I'm glad that I interviewed with different sized companies, because there are some unknowns for you in your job search, especially when it's your first job of that kind. I learned a lot about what I did and didn't want in a team and in the technology throughout the interview process.
So by the end, I was deciding between a couple of different options, and ultimately it came to feeling that the team was the right fit. I'm starting a new role as a Front End Engineer at a company called Dataminr on Monday.
What were some of the things that you were looking for in a company? How did you decide on Dataminr?
For me, the industry was a little bit less important than the team and the technology. My number one priority is to learn as much as possible and to grow as an engineer, so I wanted to be in an environment where people were constantly learning and excited about mastering their craft. Just as important were the people. It’s hard to judge the people before you actually get on site at a company and meet the team that you'd be working with, but it was important to me to click with the team. I think that's a huge factor in your happiness at work and therefore in your life– is getting along with the people you work with. You have to make sure that you're a good culture fit and that you're working style fits in with the communication style of the team.
Technology was another important piece for me. While I was a Fullstack Fellow, Fullstack Academy and Grace Hopper changed their curriculum on the front end to React and Redux, and I really enjoyed learning and then teaching those. The companies that were using those technologies was exciting to me, so I am glad that I'll be using those technologies at Dataminr.
From listening to your story, it sounds like Grace Hopper was the right decision for you, but looking back on the last year, what was your biggest challenge in your journey to learn to code?
I think my own lack of confidence was my biggest roadblock. I was really afraid that I wouldn't get into Grace Hopper Program, and then I was afraid that I would fail at the program, and then I was afraid that I'd succeed at the program but fail at the job search. And so you see a pattern here, which is my own lack of confidence pulling me back.
From talking to other women entering the field, it’s not uncommon to feel like an imposter, or to feel like you don't belong. Getting over that and realizing that I was hired because I am good at what I do, I passed the interviews, and it wasn't a mistake, and just really repeating that sort of mantra to myself that “it's going to be okay” was huge. My own self-doubt has held me back more than anything.
How have you been able to combat that self-doubt and imposter syndrome?
I don't think I'm totally over it yet. My next fear is "I'm going to be fired on the first day of the job." I know that it’s a terrible pattern, and I'm actively working on changing it, but it is tough, and it doesn't go away overnight. I think the biggest thing though is just talking to other women in my Grace Hopper cohort and having them express that they have felt the same way or reassuring me that those thoughts about myself didn't reflect reality. Ultimately, I think it just has to come from me. I'm hoping that more time on the job realizing that I can do this will stop them, but the voice in my head hasn't quite turned off.
What advice do you have for other people making that career change into technology and going to a coding bootcamp?
A coding bootcamp is like a guide, but I think individuals will really determine their own success. There are plenty of people who could go through the program and not be qualified to get a really good job afterward. Make sure you're doing the bootcamp for the right reasons. Don't read a review online and say, "Oh, I want to make a six figure salary. I'll just go through this program."
Your heart really has to be in it, and you have to like programming because in order to do really well you have to put in the extra time every day. If you’re trying to make a ton of money, go work in finance. You have to really love this so do it for the right reasons.
The second thing would be, don't give up if you fail the first time. I've always been really open about saying this at Grace Hopper, but I was rejected the first time I applied, and I really didn't think that I could ever be able to get in.
Even in the first week, I felt like I was in the bottom of the cohort. I didn't even know how to use a text editor. I didn't know any keyboard shortcuts. To look back on myself clicking around is really embarrassing. I put the extra time in every morning and at night and quickly I was able to rise up. Anyone with a certain level of intelligence could do the same, but you need to put the work in.
Thanks to everybody else tuning into this conversation. If you have questions about Grace Hopper, leave those in the comments of this video. Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook and let us know which school you're interested in, or which school you would like to see another live Q&A with. Have a good day everyone!
Women face many challenges when it comes to getting into the tech industry, including in their education and in finding a job. I recently attended the annual Grace Hopper Conference, where I was surrounded by thousands of women with plenty of inspiring stories and useful advice. Here are my takeaways for both women developers and employers navigating the job search and hiring process.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 →
Anna Garcia played music- trumpet to be exact- professionally since age 11. But when she blended her entrepreneurial spirit with her love for healthy living to create a startup called Juice Crawl, Anna knew that she needed tech skills to build the website. Intrigued by the process of building that website, Anna was motivated to learn software development, and enrolled in The Grace Hopper Program’s all women coding bootcamp in New York City. Learn about Anna’s transition from music to coding, and about her new Software Engineering job at American Express!
What was your educational background and last career path before you got to the Grace Hopper Program?
I moved from St. Louis to New York to receive my master’s degree in music. I played professional trumpet for a few years, went on tour, and was even nominated for a Grammy. New York is such an art-friendly place.
I’ve been playing music professionally since I was 11. I was very used to that life, but I was always curious about other things, and
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and you need that in order to survive as a musician or as a freelancer. You are your employer and your employee. You're making contracts, setting up gigs, and planning everything. I eventually started my own company called Juice Crawl, a monthly event in New York. It’s like a pub crawl, except that we go to different juice bars. That was my first non-music project that I had ever done.
How did that develop into an interest in coding ?
Through my Juice Crawl project, I learned digital marketing, PR and even how to create the website. Since launching Juice Crawl in 2014, I started to find myself more interested in building the actual website. I had to make a website for my company that let users buy tickets, sign up, and send a newsletter. I found the HTML and CSS Head First Series by O'Reilly book at a library, which is big and daunting, but it's a really easy read. If you don't know anything about programming, it guides you through it. Through that book, I learned enough to make a really simple, functional web page.
Also, I'm always doing free coding courses. There are so many resources right now like Coursera, Codecademy, Code School, Udemy, and Udacity.
When did you decide that you wanted to attend a coding bootcamp?
Even once I started building the Juice Crawl site, I wasn’t necessarily considering a coding bootcamp. My goal was more to make Juice Crawl successful and to make this website better. Google was a really good resource for looking things up, and then I found out about coding bootcamps.
At the same time, a friend was talking about doing a data science bootcamp and it seemed interesting. I started researching, and it looked really cool. I was honestly a little skeptical- you go to a bootcamp and you are there for four months, and then you get a job? As a musician I've been playing trumpet for years, and you can't just play trumpet in four months and make it to the the Grammys! I was very skeptical, but I kept researching more, and it seemed like a lot of people were seeing success.
Which coding bootcamps did you research?
I didn't want to move, so I limited my scope to New York, and I ruled out online bootcamps because after learning all by myself for a few years, I knew I wanted to code with people. I looked at a bunch of bootcamps.
It really came down to Flatiron School, General Assembly, Grace Hopper, Fullstack Academy or App Academy. For quality, I really liked App Academy, Fullstack Academy, and Grace Hopper. Flatiron School and General Assembly seemed to be larger, and I felt students wouldn’t get as much attention. I also went to meetups to meet people who had gone to different bootcamps, and I noticed which people were unemployed, versus the people that had graduated and did have jobs.
What made you choose The Grace Hopper Program?
I loved the quality of Fullstack Academy and through Fullstack Academy, I found Grace Hopper and I thought it was really cool that they had an all-women program. Also, Grace Hopper has a deferred tuition model, and I felt that if they're depending on me getting a job to get paid, they’re incentivized to be on my side.
I was accepted to Grace Hopper, but also was accepted into App Academy and the other schools I mentioned. I felt that throughout the admission process, The Grace Hopper Program was more warm and caring. I also knew that, after speaking to people at meetups, it was important for me to learn React. I was going back and forth, but I chose Grace Hopper because of their quality of instruction, the opportunity to learn with women, the tuition model, and the friendly atmosphere.
Can you walk us through the application process for Grace Hopper? Did they require a coding challenge?
First you fill out an application online, and you have to write about yourself, and why you want to attend. I don't think there was anything too technical, but then after they look at that, they send you a coding challenge. Grace Hopper’s coding challenge matched what I thought it would be as far as quality. The bootcamps I thought were better, had a harder coding challenge. Grace Hopper had a pretty difficult coding challenge, the first time I took it really late and missed their first cohort deadline, I didn't even past the first test. I retook it, and it was challenging still, but I passed. Then two different people called me, and asked me about myself, and I elaborated more on the first application about who I was and why I wanted to attend.
After the coding challenge, I had a Skype challenge. Then I met with one of the teachers and it was like a job interview actually, because they ask you questions and you have to solve it without your computer's help. You can't really check what you're doing. It's what you call whiteboarding I guess, but on the computer. I felt good about that portion and then the second portion they try to teach you a new concept, and they try to see how receptive you are to learning with one of the teachers. That was the last part of the application, and then they let me know within a few days.
Your cohort was obviously all women, but was it diverse in terms of race, age range and career backgrounds?
Yes- it was amazing. We started with 24 students and only 20 graduated, but everybody was super smart, really nice, and friendly. It made the whole experience great. The majority was generally around the millennial age range.
In terms of backgrounds, some people actually had CS degrees. I think maybe two people had already had previous job experience as front end developers, and then we had people with completely different backgrounds like Macy's department store managers, musicians, and other jobs unrelated to tech. I was really surprised as we all became really close.
This is a really intense program. You’re in the classroom Monday through Saturday, for 10 hours a day. If you're learning and growing with your classmates for that long, it's hard not to make close bonds.
Can you give us a peek into a typical day at The Grace Hopper Program?
The whole program is split into a Junior Phase and a Senior Phase. The Junior Phase was really structured. We'd arrive at 9am in the morning and start with a quick lecture, or we would go over a concept that we had talked about the day before. Then we went into workshops, which would always include pair programming. I think some people don’t like pair programming, but I loved it because I wanted to learn with people. That's the reason that I chose an in-person bootcamp instead of an online program. What I loved about pair programming is that when you're not the driver (typing code), you're watching your partner’s thought process. If you're with a group of really smart women, it's hard not to learn something new from that process.
After the workshop, we reviewed the workshop via a video or an instructor. If we had a video, an instructor would come in after we watched the video to clarify any concepts. We would then have lunch and then another workshop learning more quick concepts. It would change day to day, but basically, Junior Phase was a lot of learning.
The Senior Phase was full of projects. We did three projects– one project was a solo, hackathon-style project (there were even prizes at the end) that took two days and you could basically build anything you wanted. We were supposed to put everything that we’d learned during Junior Phase into that project.
What did you build for your first project at Grace Hopper?
At that point, I was voted the class alumni representative, so I built a simple way to keep in touch. The app was called "Keep in Touch” and it emails all of the alumni every month, then collects everybody's responses.
What were the other projects you built?
My team of five built a mock e-commerce store called "Wish Upon a Store," where we sold wishes. My favorite was the capstone project, where Grace Hopper encouraged us to use what we've learned, along with whatever new technologies we wanted. My group essentially made our own game engine and built 3D Memory Palace. We used a new technology, Three.js. It was scary because we only had a few weeks to make this project, and you start by thinking to yourself, "How in the world can I make these projects?" We decided to use a different technology, but we made it. We pulled through, and that's the project that we used for Hiring Day and all of our job applications.
What technologies were you using for those projects?
How did the all-women learning environment compare to your past education experiences like your master's program?
I'm a trumpet player, so I'm used to being the only woman in all-male spaces; I knew that I could deal with it. My master's program was small- about 12-15 people in a trumpet studio- and there were only two women. I’ve spent the majority of my life in that type of environment and so I never really thought about it or was bothered by it too much. Being in an environment with all women, I think the difference is that everybody wanted to create a community, be friendly, and meet people and make friends.
How was your job search? Did you have support from Grace Hopper throughout the process?
For me, I feel lucky that it was relatively painless. The day after Hiring Day and graduation, I went to Thailand for vacation for two weeks. It wasn't completely ideal to do that vacation right after the program, but I followed up with everybody that I met on hiring day, giving them a heads up. When I came back, I was a little worried that I had missed out, but I actually think my time off helped me to relax after such an intense program. It was very fun, but there's only so much your brain can handle!
In fact, I got a coding challenge from every company that I met at Hiring Day. Then I met a majority of them for in-person interviews. I met American Express at Hiring Day, and got an offer from them fairly quickly.
Congrats on your new role at American Express! Is the life of a software engineer what you expected?
I am a software engineer on the New Initiatives team at Amex. That means that my team gets to brainstorm, “proof of concept” a lot of ideas, and then test them. We get to work with different teams, and see a lot of parts of the business. In that way, I’m in an engineering role, but also a little bit of a business role. My team at Amex sort of operates like a startup (we’re a team of three), but with the security of a large company.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect. This is a totally different life. It's actually easier than playing the trumpet. I still play the trumpet, I just get to pick my favorite gigs instead of playing to survive.
Tell us about your first few weeks at American Express. How have you transitioned into the real world?
Amex is really good about helping further your career. They offer to pay for classes so they can help me to continue and further my learning. I jumped in on the first day at American Express, and I've been able to be really helpful and fit in. It's a big company, so there's still a lot to get used to, but I’ve avoided imposter syndrome for the most part.
I have a one-on-one every week with my manager to check in and talk about anything. I've graduated from a four-month coding bootcamp and I've definitely learned a lot, but I didn’t know if I felt like a software engineer. In my most recent one-on-one, my manager told me that it’s not about the amount of time you spent learning, but rather the quality of your learning. That’s really helpful for other coding bootcamp graduates to hear, and it’s true! We put in quality time in those four months, and we learned so much. I had classmates with CS degrees, but even that doesn’t necessarily mean you have current job industry skills. That’s why coding bootcamps exist, and that's why they're successful.
I use Angular at American Express, which is what we learned at Grace Hopper. CSS and HTML are constant no matter your job. Grace Hopper now teaches React, but since I didn’t learn React in my cohort, I spent a month teaching myself while I was waiting for my background check to clear. By the time I started at Amex, I felt pretty good about it.
You're not going to learn everything in one day, but you can use Google, Stack Overflow, etc to learn the right syntax and the language. The concepts are the same, so it's not too bad.
What's been your biggest challenge on your journey to learn programming?
The biggest challenge is when that negative voice comes up in your mind– maybe you’re just starting on this ladder, or you don't have a CS degree, or you’re learning a lot in four months of intense programming. You have to remind yourself that you are here and you’re benefiting the team. Life is always a journey in learning. There's never a point where you're done learning and you've mastered a topic. That's probably the thing that gets in my own way, but you just have to stop and silence that voice.
Are you still involved with other Grace Hopper alumni?
Since I’m the alumni representative, I planned an upcoming Sunday brunch to get my cohort together again! But I haven’t been very involved in the newest cohorts.
Do you have any advice for bootcampers who are about to start the job search?
I feel lucky that I got an offer so quickly, but my advice is to apply! Don't put yourself in a position where you feel like you shouldn't apply because you're not going to get the job. Just do it. The worst thing that could happen is you don't hear back from a company. Also practice coding challenges to be fresh for the interview, and do your research about the company you’re interviewing with. Instead of mass emailing a ton of companies, send a thoughtful message to a company and demonstrate that you understand who they are and that you care about what they're doing. You’ll get more responses.
For someone who is on the fence about joining a coding bootcamp- what’s your advice?
I guess it depends on why you're on the fence, but I would say if you can do a coding bootcamp, even if you decide you don't want to become a software engineer, programming is such a good skill to know today in today's job market.
If your hesitation is because of financial reasons, Grace Hopper is so great with the deferred tuition model. If you're on the fence because of finances, I would really study up and try to get into one of the deferred tuition bootcamps.
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 →
Starting college right after the recession, Jisoo chose accounting as a safe and stable career path, even though she originally wanted to study engineering. After working for two years at a big accounting firm, Jisoo realized she had to go back to her original passion and started teaching herself to code. A friend recommended coding bootcamps, so she enrolled at Grace Hopper Academy in NYC and never looked back! Jisoo tells us why she felt more confident in an all-women’s learning environment, all about her Grace Hopper Academy capstone project, and how she landed her new developer role at Stack Overflow!
What is your pre-Grace Hopper Academy story? What’s your educational and career background?
I went to the University of Southern California. When I was applying to colleges, I applied to be an engineering major, but in my first few weeks at USC, I quickly changed my major to accounting. Coming on campus, I got really nervous and overwhelmed, and thought I wouldn't do well in a major dominated by men. Also, financial security was important to me because we had just come out of the recession. I grew up in a financially unstable household, so I really wanted to graduate with a degree that would give me long term job security. I had heard accounting was a really good and stable career path.
In college, I did well in my accounting classes, so I thought this was the right career path for me. In my junior year, I got an internship with Deloitte. After graduation, I joined them full-time in New York and was there for about two years.
What made you decide to change careers?
When I started full-time at Deloitte, I realized I was missing a passion and curiosity for what I was doing. I had a steady career path and income, and I was proud of being a CPA, but there was nothing internally motivating me to go above and beyond, or to think outside the box. I did a bit of soul searching and realized I applied for engineering majors in the first place because I loved math. So on the side, I decided to teach myself how to code. The more I taught myself, the more I realized I was in the completely wrong profession, and I wanted to change my career.
How much did you teach yourself before deciding to attend a bootcamp? What made you realize you needed to go to a bootcamp?
I did a couple of free courses online. I started with Codecademy, and then I took some online courses from different universities like Rice University and Stanford through Coursera and other free online resources. I found myself overwhelmed with how much information there was because I didn't know where to start. I didn't know which programming language I should teach myself, or if I should go into web or mobile. I then talked to a friend who was already in the field and had a CS degree. He told me about a few of his friends who went to coding bootcamps, and how they were really successful. So he recommended I take that path as well.
It took me a while to actually apply to bootcamps. I was thinking about it for about a year and a half, because I didn't know if it was feasible for me. It's really expensive- about $15,000 or $16,000, and I didn't know if I would be successful. Yet, when I came across Grace Hopper Academy, a bootcamp that defers your tuition and is only for women, I immediately knew it was a perfect fit for me.
Did you look at any other bootcamps before you decided on Grace Hopper Academy?
Yeah, I looked on Course Report and Quora. There were a couple of bootcamps that I really wanted to go to, but they were too expensive. I was actually leaning towards App Academy since it had deferred tuition, but I guess Google and Facebook knew I was looking at bootcamps, so they recommended Grace Hopper Academy. I researched it, and thought "Wow, even though I'd be the first cohort, I think this is a really good opportunity." Grace Hopper Academy seemed really awesome and I knew about Fullstack, so I thought it'd be a really good fit.
When you were looking at bootcamps, were you looking for any coding language or technology that you specifically wanted to learn?
Grace Hopper Academy is an all women’s bootcamp – how much of a factor was that in your decision making?
When I was applying to bootcamps, it didn't occur to me that there was something like an all-women’s bootcamp. I thought I would just go to a co-ed one, and be fine with that. But once I saw there was an all-women’s bootcamp, I felt like I would be a lot more comfortable in speaking up. I'm a really shy and introverted person, but when I'm around all women, I feel a little bit more confident, so it did play a pretty big part.
Did you think about going back to college to study coding or computer science?
Yeah, I mentioned that to my mom initially before I found out about bootcamps, but I didn’t think it was worth paying another college tuition and spending another couple years in school.
What was the Grace Hopper Academy application and interview process like?
There was a written portion where you describe why you're interested in coding and how much experience you have. Then you do a Hackerrank assessment with five algorithm problems. They were pretty hard. I don't think I finished. I did two and a half questions, but they still gave me a live interview for the third round. My interview was with my instructor and he was really awesome.
Our interview was supposed to be an hour long, but he extended it to an hour and a half to teach me the concept that I was struggling with. At the end, he also gave me a bonus question, "If you want, you can try solving this on your own and email me with your solution." I did that, and I was completely wrong, but he emailed me back going in-depth into where I was going wrong and what concepts I didn't understand. That really impressed me, and gave me a sense of Grace Hopper Academy’s teaching style.
What was that Hackerrank assessment like?
There were five questions. The first and the second ones were really easy, like, "Write a function that counts down from five to one.” But then the third, fourth, and fifth questions were really hard. I can’t remember them, but I remember not passing all the test cases.
But you did okay in the end, right?
Yeah. I think they purposely make it hard, so they can more accurately assess your skill level.
How many people were in your cohort and was it diverse in terms of background, race, and life experiences?
Yeah. My cohort was 16 people. It was super diverse in terms of everything like age, major, race. A lot of people had more artsy backgrounds. One was a music composition major, one was a theater major, but there were bio and finance majors. The age ranged from fresh out of college to maybe late '30s.
Can you tell me about the learning experience at Grace Hopper Academy and give me an example of a typical day and the teaching style?
We would come in between 9am and 10am and work on our own, either catching up from yesterday or working on Codewars problems. From 10am to 11:30am, we'd usually have a lecture introducing us to a new concept. Then the rest of the day would be dedicated to a step-by-step, hands-on workshops. The workshops wouldn't spoon feed you the answer, but would make you think and pretty much force you to problem solve.
Students were usually paired with one other person for each workshop. If we got stuck, we could file help tickets to our TAs and our instructors who were in the room, and they'd come over and put us on the right track. Towards the end of the day, we would review our workshop and have a Q&A session for about an hour to an hour and a half. The first half of the program is structured this way, before we start project phase in week 7.
How different did you find it compared to the style of learning you'd had at college?
It was definitely much more intense, and instructors were way more hands on at Grace Hopper Academy than in college. It was just a very different environment. I think in college, you're in class because it’s what you have to do- I took a lot of classes that I wasn’t particularly interested in just to fulfill requirements. But in this environment, everyone is super excited to come to class every day and everyone really wants to be here. So many people have completely shifted careers because it's something they really want to do, so it's definitely a more intense experience, in a good way.
Being in that all women's environment, did you find that different or better for learning?
Yeah, I found it to definitely be better. Throughout college, I rarely spoke up in class, and I was afraid to have the spotlight on myself just because I was afraid of saying something dumb. But in this environment, I found myself raising my hand, being more collaborative, and just speaking up a lot more than I ever had before.
What was your favorite project that you worked on while at Grace Hopper Academy?
Definitely my capstone project. It was a really fun experience because we got to choose everything ourselves in terms of what we were going to build, and what technologies to use. I had a great team and we worked really well together. It was a fun experience seeing what we had accomplished in just three weeks and showing that to friends and family and potential employers.
We recreated a board game called Robo Rally. It's where you try to reach different checkpoints on a grid, but there are different obstacles like walls, lasers, and pits. I had two teammates, and only one of them had played this game before, so it was pretty fun the first couple of days just learning the complexities of the game and figuring out how we wanted to model it.
How did Grace Hopper Academy prepare you for job hunting? What kind of career coaching did they give you?
It actually surprised me how much career coaching they gave us because I wasn't expecting it. We had mock interviews, technical interviews, and one-on-ones with the instructors. We also did a lot of behavioral interviews and resume/cover letter reviews. Every morning in senior phase, we would do a whiteboarding algorithm problem; that prepared me the most for the job hunt.
Congratulations on your job at Stack Overflow. That's super cool. Can you tell me about it, and what you're doing so far?
This summer I was in their first 12-week apprenticeship program. I was in the program with Ian, a Fullstack Academy grad. I worked on the careers team and Ian was on the core Q&A platform that Stack Overflow is more predominantly known for. For the first two weeks, I was learning their tech stack, which was completely different from what I learned at Grace Hopper Academy, by building a ping pong scheduling application.
The rest of the program was really well planned out. In addition to working on bugs and small features, we also had technical talks with different engineers every week on specified topics and met with people from different departments like marketing, community, and HR. In the final three weeks of the program, we got to work together on a feature of our own. We ended up building a feature on Stack Overflow’s jobs platform, and we worked with a project manager, a designer, and another developer who helped us with code reviews. In our final week, we demoed the project to the product/engineering team.
Have you finished that program now?
Yeah. At the end of our program, we were given offers to stay on full-time. I joined the Core team, and Ian joined the Marketing Engineering team.
And what's your specific role?
I would definitely call myself a junior developer, but at Stack Overflow they don't give seniority based titles. Everyone is called a full stack developer no matter how many years they've been doing it. Technically, I'm a developer on the Core Q&A team, and I'm working on a project called “The Developer Story.” It’s a new way for developers to showcase open source projects, apps, blogs, and other public artifacts. This differs from the traditional resume which typically highlights what school you went to, what major you had, and your work experience; this doesn't really work well for someone like me who has had a nontraditional path to software development.
How did you first get introduced to StackOverflow and get into the apprenticeship program? Did you have to apply for it?
Stack Overflow was one of Grace Hopper Academy’s hiring partners, so they came to our hiring day. All of the students chose companies that we wanted to have a speed interview round with, and Stack Overflow was one of my top picks. I was really interested in the apprenticeship program so I reached out to Stack Overflow after hiring day and they brought me onsite for interviews.
Was the interview for the apprenticeship program quite intense?
I think it was much less intense than their regular developer interviews. The onsite portion was with three people who asked both technical and non-technical questions. I think they were more interested in what I’d done so far, rather than the depth of my knowledge in software development
You mentioned you had to learn their tech stack. What stacks did you have to learn when you got there?
Stack Overflow uses Microsoft technologies: C# and ASP.NET MVC with SQL Server as their back end. We also use technologies like Redis and Elasticsearch, which I hadn't used before. I found the best way for me to learn was to actually build something, rather than just doing a step by step tutorial. I think people in the company felt that way too, which is why they told us to build this ping pong scheduling application to start.
It was completely new to me, but I had a really great mentor who was always there for me when I had questions. Stack Overflow also set us up with anything we needed to learn. They gave us paid subscriptions to online video lectures, and we were able to any buy books from Amazon that we were interested in.
Was this apprenticeship almost like another bootcamp where you were learning this new stack?
It wasn't like a bootcamp because it was a lot more relaxed and you were working on a lot more real world things. I purposely wanted to do this apprenticeship because I had that burning feeling still to be in an environment where I was constantly learning new technologies. I really liked the idea of working on a graduation project, which reminded me of the capstone project. In that way, it was kind of similar.
I wanted to ask about your co-workers at Stack Overflow. Was there a good mix of men and women and different cultures?
It's weird because I never feel like I'm a minority. We have a really good culture, especially in terms of diversity and inclusion. If you look at the statistics, the engineering team is around 40 people, and there are only three women, but I never feel like my opinions are not being heard.
What do you think has been the biggest challenge in your journey to learning to code?
Sometimes I'm impatient, and I just want to learn so many different things at once just because there're so many things to learn. I struggle with trying to learn many disparate things at once when I could just take it step by step and one day at a time.
What would you say has been the best thing about learning to code and getting into this new career?
It’s really exciting to learn about something you are interested in and to see yourself grow and getting better at it. I really love the problem-solving aspect of coding, and the satisfaction of finding a solution to a problem that you haven’t encountered before.
Are you still involved with Grace Hopper Academy or in touch with your cohort mates?
Yes. Whenever there's an alumni panel, Shanna will usually reach out to our cohort or the cohorts after us, and ask for volunteers. So I usually volunteer. I've been on two panels and it's really awesome going back. Once every other week or so, we'll meet up on a Friday and get happy hour, which is fun.
Overall what kind of advice do you have for people who are wanting to change their careers, do a coding bootcamp, and become a developer?
If you're constantly looking at Course Report and teaching yourself how to code, there is probably something in you that really wants to do it, and you'll be successful as long as you don’t give up. Don't doubt yourself just because you don't have the background or don't have any experience. If there's something burning inside of you to do it, then just do it. I had that feeling for a really long time, and I could've switched earlier. There's no reason to just keep thinking about it and not act on it. There are so many resources, and there are so many great bootcamps.
Welcome to the August 2016 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month, we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to big fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. This month the biggest news is the Department of Education's EQUIP pilot program to provide federal financial aid to some bootcamp students. Other trends include job placement outcomes, the gender imbalance in tech, acquisitions and investments, and paying for bootcamp. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast!Continue Reading →
Mariya always enjoyed STEM subjects at high school, but landed on a humanities major in college. In her last year at Cornell she took a computer science class and loved it, so after graduation, Mariya enrolled at Grace Hopper Academy coding bootcamp in NYC. Now she’s putting her new skills to good use as a software developer at Crisis Text Line! Mariya tells us about the practical skills she learned at Grace Hopper Academy, the strong friendships she made with her cohort mates, and her experience learning to code with all women in the classroom.
What is your pre-bootcamp story? What were you up to before Grace Hopper Academy?
I went to high school at Brooklyn Tech, where we chose “majors,” and I was a bioengineering major. By the time I got to college, I wanted to focus on humanities, because I was so exhausted with STEM! I went to Cornell and majored in American Studies and Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies (FGSS). By the time I was a senior, I really missed STEM subjects, and took one computer science class, which I really liked. After I graduated college in 2015, I started picking up small web development projects on Craigslist, realized I had a knack for it, and decided to enroll in a coding bootcamp. I guess Facebook’s algorithm knew I was searching for coding bootcamps, because I saw Grace Hopper Academy in my Facebook feed!
How much coding did you teach yourself? How much programming had you done at college and in high school?
Did you research other coding bootcamps or did you have your heart set on Grace Hopper Academy?
Grace Hopper Academy was the second bootcamp I applied to and I got in. The first one I applied to was Enstitute, which was a technical apprenticeship program, but it actually shut down during the interview process. I also looked at App Academy.
What attracted you to Grace Hopper Academy?
Did you think about going back to college and doing a 4-year CS degree?
I actually wasn’t extremely satisfied with CS classes in college, and college is super expensive. My plan was to do a coding bootcamp, work for a few years, and if anything, I could go back and get a Masters in CS – a lot of Masters Programs will accept work experience instead of undergrad classes.
Was Grace Hopper Academy’s deferred tuition a factor in your decision? How does that work?
Fullstack Academy, which has the same curriculum, has upfront costs of around $16,000. I couldn’t have afforded it. I already had student loans from college, and didn’t want to take out more loans, so deferred tuition was definitely a strong consideration during my research process.
Grace Hopper Academy takes 22.5 percent of your salary for one year after you find a job. So there was only an upfront deposit of $3000. I borrowed that from my mom, and I got that investment back within my first month of employment. The rest of the tuition comes out of my salary once a month.
In terms of paying for education, I only paid Grace Hopper Academy if I got a job. And they delivered on all their promises. Grace Hopper said I’d be employed within three months after graduation, and within the first month, I had two job offers, so I was very satisfied with my experience.
What was the application and interview process like for you?
First, there was an application where you attach your resume and write about why you want to do Grace Hopper Academy. Then I received a timed assessment on Hackerrank, where I had an hour to answer 5 questions.
The next step was an interview with pair programming. One of the Fullstack Academy fellows Skyped with me for half an hour and we solved two problems together. After that I got my acceptance email!
Grace Hopper isn’t for total beginners. Their interview and testing process is definitely not feasible for beginners.
How many people are in your cohort? Is your class diverse in terms of race, life and career backgrounds?
I was in the first cohort, which was 16 people; now the cohorts are about 25. Since we were the first cohort, it was diverse in terms of career background and age; however, the cohort after me was definitely more racially diverse. In my cohort, I was the youngest one at 22. It was super inspiring seeing people mid-careers just change completely.
And being the first cohort actually strengthened camaraderie between us. We’re still like, “we were the first ones, how cool is that.” We still see each other every two weeks or so.
What was it like being in a classroom learning with all women?
I don’t know how apparent it is to everybody – because I was an FGSS major, I look for these things – but it’s been proven in several studies that men definitely talk more than women in classrooms. We escaped that because there were no men! But I definitely felt like there was a more relaxed environment and that people were more comfortable expressing themselves. I don’t know if everybody felt that. In terms of any huge significant differences, not really.
What was the overall learning experience like at Grace Hopper Academy? Did it match your learning style?
In the mornings, we had a 60-90 minute lecture, then a workshop that directly pertained to the lecture we’d just had. We would learn skills and theory, then immediately apply them in the workshop, which was super nice. Grace Hopper tells you they are going to teach you practical skills, and they deliver. You’re immediately applying what you learn and how to build things with those skills, which is incredible.
The curriculum is split into Junior Phase and Senior Phase. Junior Phase is lectures and workshops, and in Senior Phase you focus on three projects. First is Stackathon, a three-day hackathon you do yourself or with a partner, then everybody builds an e-commerce website, then you work on your capstone project for 2-3 weeks.
How many instructors or mentors did you have for your cohort?
We had three main instructors during Junior Phase, and one main instructor during Senior Phase.
What is your favorite project that you worked on at Grace Hopper Academy?
Probably my capstone project, because it was three intense weeks. For the e-commerce website you’re given specs and it feels more like a real work project. Whereas for the capstone project, you think of what to build, you decide on the process, and build it from scratch yourself. Plus, I loved my team, we got along so well. During Junior Phase and most of Senior Phase you’re in the classroom from Monday to Friday. But when we were building our capstone, we were there pretty much Monday through Sunday. Monday to Friday we spent 10 hours together and during the weekend a little less. We definitely bonded hard.
Tell us about that Capstone Project!
Our project is called Symph. It’s a way for users to create music within the browser. Usually, music apps don’t actually create music within the browser- users have to download files and then play them. With Symph we use ToneJS, a sound library which allowed us to play music within the browser. That is unique and significant because there is no lag time, and the sounds are just there already, so it’s faster. Right now, one of my teammates, Emily, who now actually works at Grace Hopper, has continued working on Symph and has added more instruments for users to play with.
I have no music background, but Emily has a Masters in composition and is a trained musician. Our other team member, Alex (she works for Facebook now on the west coast) also has a degree in musical theater. So they were both very musical, and since I was completely non-musical, I suggested that we make the app usable for people like me. What if we make music visual? That’s how we came up with the 8x8 grid that you see.
How did Grace Hopper Academy prepare you for job hunting?
They prepared me so well; I wish my college career department was nearly as good. We started working on job preparation about 8-9 weeks into the bootcamp. We got substantial feedback on our resumes because web developer resumes have different standards from most other resumes – you are highlighting your projects and that’s what you want employers to see at the top. We also revised our LinkedIn profiles- they even took our photos for LinkedIn to make us look professional.
We did mock interviews, both technical and behavioral. Our technical interview prep started in our Senior Phase. Each morning, we did REACTO, which is an acronym for the steps you do during a whiteboard problem in an interview. So we did half an hour of that every day, which was immensely helpful. By the time I got into real technical interviews, nothing surprised me. I’m pretty sure that one problem I’d done during REACTO showed up during my interviews!
Tell us about your job at Crisis Text Line! What is your role?
I was hired into the software integration team, so I work mostly on the backend, and mostly with APIs. I’ve been here for 3 months. Crisis Text Line is a crisis line which operates through text messages only. We have our own platform, so if you are texter, you are texting us from your phone, but our crisis counselors are on a platform on the computer which makes it very easy to collect data and respect anonymity.
How did you find the job?
Crisis Text Line came to our hiring day. I had never had a real job since I was fresh out of college. When I looked at the list of hiring partners, I put Crisis Text Line as number one immediately. I had worked for a rape crisis line when I was a freshman in college, and nonprofit work was really important to me, so when I saw a nonprofit company that also did tech, I was very excited.
For sure. I’m learning PHP right now. I feel like you’re always learning new technologies, even if your job is in the same language you learned, because so many new updates and libraries are released literally every single day. I definitely feel like I’ve been learning a lot on this job. I do feel like Grace Hopper Academy has prepared me to teach myself new things. Obviously we learned a huge amount of information in a really short time, so I feel comfortable going online, watching tutorials, doing problems on my own and learning.
What kind of onboarding or training did you get at Crisis Text Line? Tell us about your first month as a developer!
The first three months were onboarding. On my first day, I was given an overview of different departments to talk to. The software integration team is three people plus our manager. I was also hired with two Fullstack Academy graduates, so we definitely feel very comfortable with each other, and actually my manager is also a Fullstack grad from the first or second ever Fullstack Academy cohort.
I’m the only female engineer in our engineering group, but the company itself is very diverse other than that. I believe that diversity only strengthens a team.
What’s been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to learn to code and how did you overcome it?
Lack of exposure and representation. I had a computer science “major” in my high school, and out of 30 people, there was only one woman. I never saw girls coding, so it was never in my mind as something I would enjoy doing, and I never had to take a CS class. I only took it because my best friend was a CS major at Harvard, and she told me I would love it. Before that class, CS was just an abstract thing. Looking back, I think it would have been great if I had been exposed to CS earlier. In college you meet people who have been coding since 5 or 7.
How do you stay involved with Grace Hopper Academy? Have you kept in touch with other alumni?
We do have alumni events where we are invited to come back and talk to new students about our journey – what we did before Grace Hopper Academy and our jobs now. My cohort also stays connected through Slack, and we see each other every couple of weeks for drinks or to hang out. 12 of the ladies from my cohort stayed in NYC.
What advice do you have for people making a career change through a coding bootcamp?
From my perspective, when I started coding the learning curve was quite high because it wasn’t the mode of thinking I was used to, even coming from a STEM background at high school. So be prepared to fail many, many times. Computer science, programming, the MEAN stack, what it means to be a full stack developer- none of that really clicked for me until a month into the program. SO just trust the process, keep on learning, keep on failing, it’s fine. You’re definitely going to get it if you persist. There is this idea that you either “have it or you don't,” but I found that students get what they put in. The more hours you put in, the more you practice, the better you will become.
Tell us about your background and experience before you started at Grace Hopper Academy.
I studied computer science and writing at the University of Colorado. While there, I took a student assistant role at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) working on software for weather forecasters. I continued to work at NOAA for a couple of years after I graduated, and got to work on exhibits like Science on a Sphere.
After that I moved to San Francisco to work at Google in Site Reliability Engineering for four and a half years. After Google, I knew I wanted to teach. My partner went to Hackbright Academy, and I really liked helping her. I saw her go from, "I can't do this,” to working at Pinterest. So I moved to New York to take a job at Dev Bootcamp New York.
I worked at Dev Bootcamp for a year. Teaching was amazing, but I felt it had been too long since I’d worked as a developer. I started working at Hopscotch, a startup that teaches kids to code through visual programming language on an iPad app. I learned a lot there, including Swift, but I realized I missed teaching. I saw Grace Hopper was hiring, applied, and started in March 2016. It's been an incredibly rewarding experience. I love it.
You mentioned you learned to program early in life, did you know how to code before you studied computer science?
Yeah. My family had a Commodore 64 which was a big boxy thing that plugged into a TV. You have a few commands and you can run basic programs. My dad showed me how to write a program when I was six, and my first program printed “I love you mom” in an infinite loop in rotating colors. And then I just kept hacking on it. I used books about programming to write code, then tweaked the code so it would do more things – that's how I learned.
Then I moved on to learning QBasic and then Visual Basic. In middle school I ended up typing for a coworker of my mom's who had carpal tunnel and couldn't type. He was working on a language model for a speech recognizer, and he was a very natural teacher. I learned C, and Emacs. That was an incredibly helpful experience having that mentorship.
You mentioned that your partner went to Hackbright Academy – what did you think when you first heard about coding bootcamps?
I remember thinking it was a pretty good idea. I learned to program fairly early in my life. That can actually be a hindrance as a teacher because I take a lot of things for granted. It's like you learn a first language and you don't really think about the grammar. And I don't think about some of the conceptual things that are difficult about programming. Obviously as a teacher I'm forced to think about those things and that's good practice. So I was like, "Yeah, you can totally learn to code in 9 or 13 weeks."
Tell us a bit more about your prior teaching experience before Grace Hopper?
My year working as an instructor at Dev Bootcamp was my first teaching experience. I'd done one-on-one work with friends who were trying to learn to program, so I knew I enjoyed that process. I used to be scared of public speaking and lectures, but teaching at Dev Bootcamp made me more comfortable with those parts of teaching.
When I started at Dev Bootcamp, I was still learning Ruby on Rails, which turned out to be an asset. When students had issues, I could teach them my process for figuring out the answers, so they would have more tools for how to teach themselves in future.
There are a few coding bootcamps in New York now. What about Grace Hopper Academy stood out to you?
I thought the fact that Grace Hopper is for women was really cool. Learning to code has some of the same dynamics that exist in the tech industry that can make it very hard for women to succeed.
Women’s stories about getting into technology are often very interesting. There are so many hurdles for women and other marginalized groups, and tech skills are becoming increasingly valuable whether or not you work directly in tech. I emphasize to my students that whether or not you end up working in tech long-term, this is a valuable skill to have – to be able to understand how a huge part of the world works.
Right now, many groups are isolated from access to those skills, partly because of how society perceives software engineers as white nerdy guys who eat Cheetos all day. I obviously don't fit that stereotype, and I like to defy that stereotype and encourage people who are restricted in the industry to get into it and learn these skills.
How does Grace Hopper’s deferred tuition model impact that idea of accessibility in the industry?
I do think the deferred tuition plan makes the program much more accessible. There are students in the current cohort who have scraped together the deposit and are only able to attend Grace Hopper because they didn’t have to pay upfront tuition. As a teacher, that means that I have a lot of responsibility to make this valuable for them. But it also it shows me that the program is providing a lot of upward mobility for people who don't have the resources to get started.
There are still considerable costs to attend a bootcamp. You will not work for 13 weeks, which is not something everyone can afford to do. Living costs in New York for 13 weeks are expensive. The selectiveness of our program can be a confidence boost for the students. The deferred payment model means that our students wouldn't be here if we didn't think they could get a job.
Is teaching a cohort of women at a coding bootcamp different from teaching a co-ed group?
The first week I started teaching at Grace Hopper, I was so surprised at how different it felt compared to teaching at Dev Bootcamp or even at Fullstack Academy. I felt much more relaxed, and that might just be myself preferring to be in and teach in an all-female environment.
At Grace Hopper, I have yet to encounter students who ask questions unrelated to the lecture to flex their intelligence. There also seems to be less social clash dynamics. Not that they're totally absent, but at Grace Hopper, there is more of a communal support vibe.
Now you've taught at two different bootcamps, are there any really big differences you've noticed between Grace Hopper and other bootcamps?
Grace Hopper and Fullstack Academy are aimed at students with a little bit more experience compared with other schools. That doesn’t necessarily mean industry or programming experience, but it does mean students who have taught themselves a bit. Fullstack Academy and Grace Hopper offer a Jumpstart class to prepare students for a bootcamp. That opens up more space in terms of what you can do with the curriculum.
The curriculum at Grace Hopper is really structured. The materials are well-designed, which as a new instructor, I really appreciate. For example, at Dev Bootcamp, the model was more flexible, and teachers had more freedom to structure each lecture.
What have you found is your personal teaching style?
The best way I've ever found to teach is to pair program and work one-on-one with the student. Obviously we don't have time for me to pair with everyone for 13 weeks, but I try to engineer as much of that one-on-one time as I can. Especially if a student is struggling, I'll try and walk through problems and talk about their thought processes.
What's the structure of the Grace Hopper curriculum like? How is it divided over the 13 weeks?
How many instructors, TAs or mentors are there at Grace Hopper?
We have two full-time instructors dedicated to each Grace Hopper cohort, and three full-time fellows who act as teaching assistants. For example, Terry is a fellow now. One of the options students have upon graduating is to apply for a fellowship where they'll stay here for another 13 weeks and go through the program as TAs and work on our internal dev projects, which is very valuable for them. Fellows are some of the strongest students - one of them just got hired at Google.
How many students do you typically have in a cohort?
It varies. Right now we have 22. The last one had 16. The next one will be around 18, I think. And those numbers are always fluctuating because people will defer, and more people will join in at the last minute.
How many hours a week do Grace Hopper students put in? What's their schedule like?
Their official schedule is Monday to Friday 9am to 6:30pm with lunch break from 1pm to 2:30pm. Many of them come early, many of them stay later. All of them are working at home and on weekends. We also have CS Saturday from 10am to 6pm which many students attend to learn about advanced computer science topics. They learn about things like writing a parser and cryptography – the sort of subjects that you would get in a CS curriculum that you don't necessarily get in a bootcamp. Those are combined with Fullstack students.
What is the Grace Hopper campus like?
We have this amazing, huge space on the 11th floor of 5 Hanover Square – the same building as Fullstack Academy. Half of the floor is totally open and we’re using half of it for the students to work in. We're setting up another work area on the other side and there's a slightly smaller presentation area in the middle. Then there's a whole bunch of conference rooms and two kitchens.
How would you describe the ideal student for Grace Hopper Academy?
I think the most important qualities of the successful Grace Hopper student are that motivation to learn and goal-oriented. For example, a student who wants to build an idea that they have or knows that they want to learn a specific aspect of programming.
What’s the Grace Hopper Academy application process like?
When you apply online, we send you resources so you can learn the skills you need to complete the coding challenge. Anyone who's thinking about attending Grace Hopper Academy should apply and get those resources, and then work with them and see how it feels. Try it out because you might take to it very easily. Students who do well get some insights into their learning style.
How do you track students' progress as they go through Grace Hopper?
We have checkpoints every couple of weeks where we grade students and provide feedback. Those are an opportunity for students to get feedback on their code. We schedule blocks of office hours so students can ask questions and find out how they're doing. When we give feedback we tell students the concepts they need to understand and then we work with them to find new strategies for understanding.
What happens if students get really far behind? Can they repeat part of it or how do you help them get to the right point?
If a student seems to not be picking up the material we will typically ask them to defer. If you defer, you get six weeks to study and then you start again with the next junior cohort. This only happens in junior phase. We've had a few students defer at the foundations checkpoints. The senior checkpoint is coming up. And those are the only two points where you might be asked to defer. You're never asked to straight up leave.
What sort of jobs have you seen students get after the first cohort?
I know that one student recently got a position at Stack Overflow and one got a position at Crisis Text Line. We also had a graduate recently hired at the New York Stock Exchange.
How do you help students prepare for the job search?
I do some technical interview preparation, and in senior phase students start doing REACTOs. It's what you should do you in a technical interview whiteboard problem. Students do those every morning as practice for technical interviews. Then a couple of weeks before hiring day and graduation, we sit down with students and give mock interviews for hiring day.
Preference-wise I think half of them really like doing frontend stuff and half of them want to do backend.
Do you have any resources or meetups you would recommend for aspiring female developers?
There is Women Who Code NYC which does a bunch of meetups. Also Algorithms Practice which is slightly more geared towards people with some programming experience, but going there as a beginner you would meet people and solve interesting problems, even if you don’t understand everything. They have other meetups that aren't as technically targeted, so they're a good group. Shanna, the dean at Grace Hopper is quite involved with them.
There is also the Lesbians Who Tech meetups which are open to women who are not lesbians as well. Those are good networking events. I think the vibe is very nice there.
Does Grace Hopper itself have a meetup or events that anyone can come to find out about it?
We share a meetup with Fullstack Academy and offer info sessions which are open to the public. There you can get an insight to what you would learn if you attended Grace Hopper Academy.
Is there anything else that you would like to add about Grace Hopper that we haven't covered or you want to comment on?
I'm just so happy to be working here. All the instructors and staff are wonderful. I like that it's all in this building. It's basically still a startup. There are about 30 people who work here and that feels really nice. It still feels small.
New York’s MEAN Stack coding bootcamp Grace Hopper Academy just graduated their first all-female cohort, and Course Report attended their hiring day to get a first-hand look at the students’ final projects.
The students had about two and a half weeks to work on these projects, then four minutes each to present them to hiring partners. After the final project presentations, Grace Hopper Academy grads were matched with employers for 10-minute interviews with 19 hiring partners (we spotted Ebay, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Two Sigma in attendance).
Four of our favorite projects included two popular board games transformed into web games, an easy-to-use music composition app, and a Chrome extension for taking code-related notes while surfing the web. Read on to see exactly what Grace Hopper NYC students were able to create at their coding bootcamp and how they overcame challenges; plus, you can test out each project!
Team: Meredith Coulis, Terry Horowitz, Yuval Idan and Leila Loezer
Seven Cities is a browser-based version of the board game 7 Wonders. The team realized that even though the game has a very large fan base, there is no online version. The game can become quite messy in the board game, so they figured it would make the game flow better to play it online.
Playing the game
At least three players log in to a designated game. Every player is assigned an ancient city from the seven wonders of the ancient world. People can build structures, build up military, and fight wars to get points. Players can see other players’ boards and resources. At the end of each era, a war happens. Once everyone plays a card, they get a new hand. The game state is constantly changing.
All the game logic happens in the back end, plus some logic in the frontend to ensure accuracy. The back end processes every possible move. Because the game state is always changing, the team created a socket system using socket.io to communicate between their Angular.js front end, and the logic and the database in the back end. The team used relational databases in postgreSQL, suitable for the application’s complex data relationships. For the UI, the team created custom animations using CSS, instead of using external libraries.
Watch the Seven Cities presentation here.
Team: Mariya Bogorodova, Emily Intersimone, Alexandra Polubiec
SYMPH is a web application where both new and experienced musicians can create and share musical ideas. The team set out to create a fun and accessible platform where anyone, even people without any musical expertise, can create and compose music. The design of SYMPH allows users to rapidly prototype, collaborate, and iterate on their and other users’ loops.
Symph has a loop editor where users can create, save, and edit loops. Users compose 8-note loops using an 8x8 grid, with the horizontal axis denoting time and the vertical axis denoting pitch. Users click on cells to make the loop, then play it, edit it, and save it in a loop bucket. Users can then browse other users’ loops, play and edit those, or add multiple loops together to make a multi-loop track using the mix editor. In the mix editor, users can also select different instruments for the layers and tracks, then share the tracks with friends.
The team made the loop cells dynamic with pablo.js. The musical sounds are synthesized in the browser using Web Audio API and tone.js, which allows users to listen while they compose. The team made the mix editor using custom Angular Directives, with HTML5 native Drag and Drop API.
Team: Alyssa Hertig, Ksenia Mikhailovskaya, Dorothy Moore, Zhengshi Zhao
Coder Notes is a free open source Chrome Extension notebook for coders. During Grace Hopper Academy coding lectures, the team wanted a way to take notes on practical code and theory, in a similar way to Evernote, but more coder-friendly. They wanted to be able to take note of code formats, then run the code on the same interface. Coders are always googling for information, so the team built Coder Notes as a place to aggregate useful information all in one spot. The aim was for Coder Notes to be like Evernote + a text editor + dev tools.
Using Coder Notes
Once logged in, users can create and add notes to the notebook by using the Chrome search bar. If a user finds a useful tutorial or website, they can highlight it and save it to their notes. When the user goes back to the notebook, they can see the notes they have saved. Users can attach websites to their notes, and use Markdown to format the note text, which the team thought would be easy to read and write. Users can also share the notebook with other users. Coder Notes is integrated with Github, and export notes as Gists.
The Coder Notes interface formats code with Angular Markdown and HighlightJS. Users execute code within the note using Tonic, a sandboxed NodeJS environment. Coder Notes Chrome extension is available in Chrome web store.
Team: Jisoo Shin, Emma Bishop, Priti Patel
RoboMayhem is a web version of the board game RoboRally, where robots race to reach specified checkpoints by overcoming obstacles. Players have to calculate moves before you make them and in the board game players have to manually move robots. The team felt the complexities of moving the robots on the board actually made the game very conducive to a web version.
Playing the game
Users sign in and go to the lobby, where they see a list of games available to join, the option to create a new game, a choice of difficulty level, and a choice of avatar. When the game starts the players are dealt nine cards. Each player is randomly assigned starting point, then they choose five cards to efficiently move their robot towards the checkpoints. Players click “ready” and the robot is moved on game board. Then the game calculates the following move by the characteristic of the tile each robot lands on. When all the cards are played, players are dealt more cards. When one player reaches all checkpoints, they win and the game is over.
Watch the RoboMayhem presentation here.
What is your pre-coding bootcamp story? What is your educational background and last career path?
I graduated from Bates College, Maine in 2013 with a bachelor's in biology and math. Originally, I was pre-med, but by Junior year I realized medicine wasn’t for me. So I started college knowing exactly what I wanted to do, and finished having absolutely no idea! That actually ended up being a benefit, because I’ve now had a few different careers.
It’s not clear why I started doing that. I think I wanted to learn a new skill, and be more stimulated. My job was great for learning about managing a team, but it wasn’t much of an educational environment, so I enjoyed having a schedule which allowed me to come home and study. I became really interested and started using more of my time to move towards web development.
How did you first get interested in coding?
A friend did the part time coding bootcamp at Fullstack Academy – which he found really exciting. I also have a friend who works for MongoDB, plus my boyfriend got interested in coding around the same time, so we were both hearing about it, talking about it, and getting excited. The idea of using logic again, like I did in college for math, sounded awesome to me.
Was your background in math and logic useful for learning to code?
I think so. There are definitely a lot of girls here who say they are not comfortable in math, and they are still obviously doing an amazing job. I know that I love math, and it helps that I don’t approach a problem with that mentality.
When did you decide you wanted to learn to code full time instead of continuing to teach yourself?
Did you look at other coding bootcamps? How did you choose Grace Hopper?
I was strictly looking in NYC because I didn’t want to move cities. I looked at Fullstack Academy first because that’s where my friend studied. I also checked out App Academy, and then Grace Hopper Academy was announced. So I sent applications to Fullstack Academy, Grace Hopper Academy and App Academy.
I did one interview for Fullstack Academy and Grace Hopper Academy combined. I received the coding test from App Academy, but put that on hold while I was interviewing for Fullstack and Grace Hopper. I really was not seeking out an all-female coding bootcamp at the time, but ultimately I thought this would be a special and rare opportunity to be around this many women in this industry.
Was it important for you to learn a specific programming language or stack?
How important was Grace Hopper’s deferred tuition plan to your decision?
That’s another difference between Fullstack and Grace Hopper – at Fullstack, you pay up front. So the deferred tuition plan was definitely attractive and it helped me make my decision. Students usually incur a tuition and opportunity cost while at a bootcamp, so it’s pretty nice to put off the tuition during this time and just worry about maintaining yourself through the whole process. Another appealing element was that I knew they had a financial investment in me doing well at the end of the program. After working with everyone at Grace Hopper, I have no doubt they are also personally invested in having super smart women come out of this program and they truly believe in the program.
What was the combined application and interview process for Fullstack Academy and Grace Hopper Academy like?
I applied on each of their websites, then there was a test before the interview. They told me they received both applications, and said I could just take one test and one interview to be considered for both. In the interview we did a couple simple problems, then we pair programmed together. One of the most important things was not necessarily coming up with a perfect answer, but to show your approach and thought process. It’s important to show that you can think critically, and be able talk out your process.
At the end of the interview, they asked me whether I would prefer Fullstack or Grace Hopper, but I didn’t really have a preference. My interviewer was a woman and I asked a lot of questions about being a woman in tech, so that may have indicated an all-female program would be good for me. About a week later they got back to me and told me I was admitted to Grace Hopper specifically.
Is your class diverse in terms of race, life and career backgrounds?
There are 14 of us, so it’s pretty small. There’s a bit of diversity – there are a couple of international girls, and then there’s the inherent diversity in that we are all women in tech. I think the deferred tuition opens it up to a wider range of people; it’s less burden of a commitment to make.
What is the learning experience like at Grace Hopper Academy?
It’s awesome, really fun. It’s broken into two parts – a Junior and Senior phase, with well thought out transitions for every stage of the process. Right now we are halfway through Senior phase. In Junior phase we did a lot of structured workshops, and almost always worked in pairs which I really liked. At the beginning of Senior phase, we built an online store including all of its functionality in a group of four people. It was cool to talk out our problems as a group, then pair program. Next we had to build our own personal projects for a hackathon, so after the group project, it was a little less scary to build a whole project on my own.
What has been your experience learning in an all-female environment?
I wasn’t seeking out an all-women’s program, but I would encourage it to any woman who is looking at both co-ed programs and all-female programs. I have no idea what it’s like in a co-ed coding bootcamp, but the environment here is amazing. We all have the mutual interest of everyone succeeding, there is no competitiveness – we know there are jobs out there for all of us. It’s a really supportive environment- which you don’t always hear about for women in tech- so it’s a nice way to start a career in technology.
What are your instructors like? Are there female instructors?
We had three instructors in Junior phase who sort of rotated, two were male, and one female. Now in Senior phase we just have one instructor, Ayana. She graduated from Fullstack Academy about a year ago, and is great to go to when we are stuck on a problem. Ayana is the most intelligent person I’ve ever met.
What has been your favorite coding project so far?
I really liked building my hackathon project. I built a Chrome extension to be used with Yelp. If you’re on a specific restaurant Yelp page, the Chrome extension uses the NYC Health Department API to find out the current and historical health grades of restaurant. We’d never seen Chrome extensions before so it was interesting to apply my skills to a different environment, and a good culmination of everything we’ve done. I like working on my own, and it was cool to solidify that I can do a whole project on my own. The hackathon was three-days long, then we presented four-minute project demos with the Fullstack Academy class.
What’s been the biggest challenge at Grace Hopper Academy?
Right now, my biggest challenge is coming up with creative ideas for projects. It can be scary to create a problem for yourself or suggest something if you haven’t wrapped your head around how you will approach it technically. That’s a whole other aspect of coding.
At first, we had trouble brainstorming our final project idea because we were trying hard to be creative. But we decided to build an existing board game called Seven Wonders, which one of my teammates loves. We are applying a lot of logic skills to take a step back and see how all the user interaction is going to work. So it’s nice that the parameters of the game exist already, but it’s a super intricate game. We have three weeks to build it.
How often do you interact with Fullstack Academy students, staff or alumni?
We haven’t really done any coding with the other students. But now that we’re in the Senior phase we’re a little more aware of what’s going on there. We are going to demo our final projects with each other, it is cool to have a partner school.
We do interact with alumni from the Fullstack Academy fellowship program. For three months after graduation, Fullstack takes on alumni to help with internal projects and also be TAs for both Fullstack and Grace Hopper. So we get to interact those alumni directly. I like that because they have really useful input for project ideas and things, since they’ve already been through it. We almost always have TAs available.
What was your goal in attending a bootcamp? What are your plans after you graduate?
I definitely want to look for a developer job. I haven’t narrowed my scope to exactly what I'm looking for in a role or company. We are just starting workshops on resume writing, so that’s getting me ready to get serious about that. I don’t have a full vision of the type of company I’d like to work for. but I definitely want to become software developer.
How does the coding bootcamp prepare you for job hunting?
There are a couple of ways. Since we’ve been in Senior phase, we start every morning with interview questions, where one of us poses as interviewer and the other as interviewee, and practice whiteboarding technical problems. We also had a workshop where we scrapped our old resumes and started on them anew.
When we complete our final projects, we’ll have a hiring day. Grace Hopper invites potential employers and lets us know ahead of time who is coming, so if we have a particular interest in a company we can let them know. After we demo our projects, we can then sit down with employers whom we are interested in interviewing with.
When will you start applying for jobs?
Grace Hopper Academy’s Hiring Day is the last week of class, and the final two days of the program are job search intensive. They have a very tried and true system so I’m relying on that to make it clear when I’m ready to be applying. I don’t have a complete developer’s resume yet and this final project will be a resume builder as well, so I’d like to get through that and feel comfortable with my final project.
What advice do you have for others considering a coding bootcamp?
I think if you’re a woman considering a coding bootcamp you should consider an all-female bootcamp. But you should also consider if a coding bootcamp is really something you want to do. It’s a major time and emotional commitment. If you’re not completely ready to do it, then you probably can’t handle the amount of things they ask of you. Bootcamps have high expectations and if you’re not ready to hear about everything they expect from you then it could end being difficult. However, if you are excited about working in web development, then it’s super fun, because you just get to spend hours every day with exceptionally smart people who are also excited.
How are you coping with the emotional side of getting through the bootcamp so far?
I’m coping mainly just because it’s exciting, fun and interesting. With web development, when you’re writing code you can ultimately see what you’re building. Every time you test or break your page, you see all the errors. Eventually, you’ll know exactly how to handle an error. I also think at an all-girls bootcamp, everyone around you is super supportive – there is always a pal in your cohort if you’re having a hard time.
Is there anything else you want to add about your experience at Grace Hopper Academy?
Something that definitely stands out about Grace Hopper Academy and Fullstack Academy, is the instructors and everyone who works here genuinely cares about every person. It’s definitely a business but they also really take an interest in each individual. I believe when they accept someone into the program they truly believe in that person from the beginning to the end and think the person can complete this and be successful. They want to see us happy and in a career that makes sense, that’s why there is a whole process to applying for jobs and fixing a resume, and meeting hiring partners.
Leila began her career working as an architect in Brazil, moved to the US to do her masters at the University of Cincinnati, worked as a project manager, and taught herself enough web design to land freelance jobs. Now her varied career path has led her to New York City to become a full stack developer at women-only coding bootcamp Grace Hopper Academy. Leila tells us about her fascinating journey, what factors convinced her that Grace Hopper Academy was the right fit, and how much fun she is having solidifying her web development skills!
Quick update: Leila recently landed a job as a Fullstack Software Engineer at the New York Stock Exchange. Go Leila!!
What were you up to before you started at Grace Hopper Academy?
I studied architecture and urban planning at the Federal University of Parana in Brazil and worked as an architect. Then I moved to the US and did a Master’s Degree in Architecture and Community Planning at the University of Cincinnati, and worked for a few more years in an architecture firm doing project management. I started thinking about changing careers about two years ago, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I thought about engineering but eventually I decided on software development because I had always liked playing with computers and basic software programming.
About a year ago I made the switch and started learning how to program through online resources, mainly in HTML and CSS. I started doing some freelance projects as a Front End Developer. With my design background I was able to work on interface design and user experience.
What kind of resources did you use to start learning how to program?
If you had already taught yourself, why did you decide to do a coding bootcamp?
I had grasped the front end concepts and the interface design technologies by myself, but I felt for back end programming I needed to be in an immersive environment. I also thought this would help me find better opportunities professionally – my goal is to become a full stack software developer.
Did you look at other coding bootcamps or just Grace Hopper Academy?
I did a bit of research on several bootcamps, looking at location, class size, and curriculum. Most bootcamps didn’t really appeal to me, so I continued teaching myself and doing freelance projects. Before I found Grace Hopper there was nothing that I was really excited about, that I could imagine myself going to. I’m a member of Women Who Code and in their newsletter they announced a scholarship for Grace Hopper. It also mentioned it being a women’s only bootcamp, so I eventually decided to apply after reviewing it.
Was location important to you when deciding on a coding bootcamp?
It was a hard decision to move to New York from Cincinnati, Ohio. But I thought moving to a larger city like New York would expand my professional opportunities in the future. I moved here the Saturday before classes started, on January 11, 2016.
Was Grace Hopper Academy’s deferred tuition plan an important factor in making the choice?
Were you specifically looking for a women-only bootcamp?
I wasn’t necessarily looking for a women-exclusive bootcamp. But since I found out it was women only, that was a big factor, and I was even more encouraged to apply.
Did you ever think about doing a 4-year Computer Science degree?
I thought about doing a Masters Degree in computer science because it would be shorter. But because I’m a little older and already have undergraduate and master’s degrees, I didn’t want to do a full four-year program. Also, in programming, there are a lot of opportunities for people who don’t have degrees, but do have experience, so even if I didn’t study at a university, I know I’m getting experience in web development, just at a different level.
Where is the Grace Hopper Academy classroom?
It’s in the Financial District in Manhattan at a WeWork coworking space. We have a large classroom area and we take advantage of the common facilities of the coworking space. It’s a nice classroom with enough space for everybody.
What are your fellow classmates like? Are they diverse in terms of race, life, and career backgrounds?
We are 16 students in total. There are a few international women, and women with varied backgrounds like accounting and biology. There are some students right out of college as well. I think most people were already living in New York, but some people, like me, have moved to the city for the program.
What is the learning experience like at Grace Hopper Academy?
Classes start at 10 am. We usually arrive earlier and work on coding challenges and do pre-readings for our daily workshops. We have short lectures, in the mornings or afternoons. Most of the time we are doing workshops where instructors give us a project based on the curriculum, and some guidance on how to proceed, then we pair program in teams of two people.
Right now we are studying Angular so we just started an Angular project. The class schedule is very intense, even with just the minimum program requirements. Then if you want to, you can do more and engage in other activities in the evenings and weekends. In the evenings we may get together with study groups, and sometimes an instructor or alumni from Fullstack Academy will be there to assist us. There are also talks from other Fullstack alumni. We also try to do hackathons over the weekends.
It’s intense but fun. Our group is very connected and we’ve bonded together – we’re friends and we like to be around each other.
Who are the instructors at Grace Hopper Academy? What are their backgrounds?
We have three instructors right now, two have been through the Fullstack Academy program and have been instructors for a year, but before that they had varied backgrounds. One of them was going to medical school then changed careers before he finished. Most of them don’t have a background purely in coding.
What has been your biggest challenge during the coding bootcamp so far?
Having information poured on you and feeling like there are some gaps in your knowledge. But I’ve realized with time, if you let the knowledge sit a bit, things start making a lot more sense and you realize you know much more than you thought. It’s just about accepting and being patient with yourself.
You mentioned that you’re working on Angular projects now. What is your favorite project you have worked on so far?
In class, we are doing workshops most of the time. Grace Hopper has a Junior Phase and a Senior Phase. So in the Senior Phase we will start working on our own ideas, but our Junior Phase is mostly guided projects. So far what I like the most is working with Node and Express to create full stack web applications. Those projects give you the confidence to feel like you can build an app on your own already.
Do you know what type of jobs you’ll apply to when you graduate? How is Grace Hopper preparing you for that?
I’m not really thinking about it right now; we are instructed not to worry to about jobs during the Junior Phase. We will have a full six weeks, when we are working on capstone projects, to also work on resumes and the job search, so I’m trying to push that back and fully focus on the curriculum. But we do have presentation days where seniors from Fullstack Academy present their capstone projects, so that’s a nice way to see where they are at, because our curriculum is really similar. Later on we will also have mock interviews and general career coaching.
What has been the best surprise about Grace Hopper Academy?
How much we are actually learning and how much we are being pushed to learn every day. Even if we don’t fully understand everything, we keep going and that puts us on a very intense routine and schedule. It’s nice to see how much you can absorb – which is a lot more than you would think, you feel you have the power to learn things very quickly and effectively. I really like that feeling.
What advice do you have for people who are considering a coding bootcamp?
First of all, you need to know why you’re doing a bootcamp. Definitely find out if you really like programming, because a bootcamp is a big investment of time and money. Try to dig around and see all the aspects of programming. Also find out which languages you want to learn and what is trending in the market.
My final advice is to go for it, know that you want it and just do it. It’s a very fun and interesting experience. I’m loving every second of it.
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 →
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 →
Fullstack Academy has recently announced the launch of a partner school, Grace Hopper Academy a coding immersive program exclusively for women. Tuition is not due until graduates secure positions in software engineering after the program. Grace Hopper Academy Dean, Shanna Gregory joined the bootcamp scene early, working with hiring partners at both Hack Reactor and Fullstack Academy and helping graduates find jobs as engineers. Shanna shares the changes she's witnessed in the bootcamp space, and how female-only schools prepare women for jobs in tech.
You worked at Hack Reactor, then Fullstack Academy, and now you’re the Dean of Grace Hopper Academy. What has changed since you started in 2013 in this bootcamp space?
A lot of my experience has been working with hiring partners and employers, and I've seen a big change in the reactions to job-seekers with this type of education. Employers are starting to accept bootcamps as viable experience and supporting alternative routes to engineering. Candidates can really prove themselves with their skills, projects, and portfolios, even if their undergrad degree is in something unrelated, like ceramics or law. That’s been such a massive change for the better - that you do not need to major in Computer Science to become a developer, and it’s not too late if you studied History.
Obviously, there is still a lack of women in technical roles, but in bootcamps, we actually find that the ratio it closer to 50-50. Why does the world need Grace Hopper Academy right now?
From a personal perspective, when I moved to New York to work at Fullstack Academy I didn't really have a community. One of the first things I did was start going to tech meetups. I started going to Women Who Code and Girl Develop It and meeting a lot of women who were teaching themselves how to code, or learning from friends or online.
I was really excited about this huge group of women in New York and wanted to bring them all to Fullstack Academy - but I realize that attending a bootcamp is not financially possible for everyone and personally it wouldn't have been for me either; I completely understood that. We want to remove a huge barrier for these women, and encourage them to apply regardless of financial situation.
From a confidence standpoint, it can be really hard to imagine yourself as a programmer; as a woman who is not tech savvy, it's a really long road that you see ahead of you when the tech scene lacks strong female representation.
At Fullstack, our alumni community is really a big boost to the educational experience, placements, and outcomes. We keep in touch with our alumni, they keep in touch with each other and go to Hackathons and meetups frequently. They talk on Slack all the time - and it gets really crazy because there's so many of them at this point - but it's nice that we're able to support them throughout their whole journey and I wanted this strong community for women entering tech careers.
What is Fullstack Academy's percentage of gender breakdown?
Right now, it's 1 in 3. So in a recent cohort of 30 students there were 10 women. It's better than Computer Science undergrad programs; it's not 50-50 but there is this close-knit, budding community. We have Ladies of Fullstack meetings, a dedicated Slack channel for discussions, and we do things like invite everyone to women-focused tech meetups or events.
I do think it will be a different experience to have a class of all women.
Some of the criticism that I hear of female-only schools is that it's not setting up women to work in the real world. How do you address that?
I would make the comparison to all-female colleges. I think that resonates a lot with what we're doing; women graduate from Barnard or Smith College and then start their careers, working with men and women. It's not as though they're less prepared than had they gone to a co-ed school, they just had a completely different, more supportive learning experience.
What it comes down to is that the educational experience and working environment do not need to be the same. In an environment where you are learning how to program, I think it's a really vulnerable process of learning quickly and can be intimidating to some people. We're creating the opportunity to make this experience more attractive to someone who would feel uncomfortable asking a question in class, or pair-programming with a really confident partner, for example. Once you've built up that confidence, have a supportive mentor network, and valuable skills, it's easier to enter into a field and job where you are confident in yourself and your ability.
Having worked at two different bootcamps, what are some of the obstacles that you see women facing in a traditional bootcamp setting?
I think there are a few different barriers. One is that when women are considering a career path or school to attend, an imbalanced gender ratio can be off-putting for some people. So we're hoping that an all women's school makes this an attractive option for those considering entering the field but who are put off by the current ratio.
Also, the learning environment can feel uncomfortable for someone who is already facing “imposter syndrome”, those who are struggling to accept their own strengths and therefore do not feel as confident in the classroom.
Why did you choose the deferred tuition payment structure? How is it different than a bootcamp loan?
It's different than a loan because you do not owe tuition if we don’t succeed in helping you become a developer. A coding bootcamp loan has to be repaid regardless of your employment outcome. That's something that I feel very strongly about. I take it personally because I’ve been working on the hiring side - in the rare case someone doesn't get a job, I would feel responsible. Even though there are so many success stories, the bootcamps that I have worked at have placement rates well over 97%, the financial burden is terrifying if you don’t get a job.
A lot of recent college students are also coming out of undergrad with so many loans. Many can’t imagine going to grad school at this point because you’re adding debt and there's no guarantee that you will have a job at the end.
This would be an attractive option for those folks, because there's no risk except for the opportunity cost during the three month program. If you don't end up getting a job after the program, you don't lose anything. Both Fullstack and Grace Hopper Academy are really incentivized to help students get jobs because that's how we succeed.
Because of the deferred tuition, Grace Hopper will be depending on students getting jobs after graduation. Do you anticipate that this will mean higher attrition? I'm thinking about the classic App Academy example of regular assessments and higher attrition.
I've done some research about that; we'll probably be closer in-line with how Fullstack Academy has been operating, which is that we do regular assessments to check in with a student’s progress. I think it's a self-selective process as well. If someone after a week or two is feeling like they're not getting it and we agree and they wanted to leave then absolutely, it doesn't make sense to stay.
I don't think there will be higher attrition, I think our admission standards already account for the fact that applicants need to be successful after graduation. But it does make sense to putting more checkpoints in place to make sure that happens.
How much is upfront tuition if a student doesn't want to take a job as a developer afterwards?
We're still working on determining that tuition fee, for those interested in becoming entrepreneurs or going back to school. There will also be the option to pay upfront if you can.
Who's the instructor for this class?
A pair of experienced Fullstack Academy instructors will lead the first cohort, and we're working to bring on more female instructors as well. In addition, we’ll have a few teaching fellows from the graduating cohort in December.
Have you started getting applications yet?
Yes! Since officially launching mid October we've gotten a great response from the tech world and the media. We've received almost 100 applications so far. I think the deferred tuition model has made it a very interesting option for people.
We recently hosted a Women Who Code event at Fullstack, and it happened to coincide with the Grace Hopper launch date. I was able to speak to many women who were there for this hardware workshop, and a few of them applied as we were discussing it.
Also, our current students and alumni at Fullstack Academy are sharing it like crazy with all of their female friends.
You've mentioned that Grace Hopper Academy is not accepting beginners; what does that mean in this context?
Beginner to me is someone who sees this school and says "Oh, I could probably learn how to code" but has never coded. You must know this is what you want to do. It's a huge commitment to participate in an immersive program, and passion is a prerequisite. This is not a program for anyone who is not sure this is something they're passionate about and going to be interested in long-term. I'd encourage those applicants to go through online tutorials and learn as much as they can about what it takes to become a developer and to prepare for our coding assessment and technical interview.
We put applicants through a technical assessment and interview. Our curriculum is the same as Fullstack, and starts with the assumption that students already know programming fundamentals. So applicants need to demonstrate that in the admissions process. If someone is a pure beginner, we have a lot of resources we provide to help them get to where they need to be, including free online study materials and live classes taught at Fullstack.
What kind of relationships do you have with employers so far? Are those mostly Fullstack Academy hiring partners?
Because we just launched last week, I sent out an email to Fullstack Academy hiring partners and I’m already getting really excited responses (and a lot of questions!). I'm certain that hiring partners will be interested in both schools’ graduates; it's very much the same curriculum in terms of what we're teaching, with different learning environments and support networks.
So if an employer is reading this, why should they hire specifically from Grace Hopper Academy?
Employers should be excited about diversity on their teams and Grace Hopper is a place where they can meet really talented developers, know their skill-set, and see what they've built. Any hire they make from Grace Hopper Academy will improve their team’s diversity drastically, and be valuable technically.
What are your favorite resources for women who are just starting to learn to code?
I think online tutorials are great and really important when you're figuring things out, but I also think in-person meetups are important, places where you can build a community and physically ask questions of people when you’re struggling.
I'm really partial to Women Who Code because I've made a few great friends through them. They do some very beginner-oriented, all-day Saturday workshops once a month that teach HTML and CSS and I think that's a good start for women who are interested in learning how to code. We also have a link to admissions preparations materials on the Grace Hopper website, on the application page.
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