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- September 2017 Coding Bootcamp News + Podcast
- August 2017 Coding Bootcamp News + Podcast
- July 2017 Coding Bootcamp News Roundup + Podcast
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Launch Academy Reviews
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Our latest on Launch Academy
Need a rundown of everything that happened in the coding bootcamp industry this September? You’re in luck! We’ve collected all the most important news in this blog post and podcast. This month, we kept up with the status of the bootcamp industry, learned about how bootcamps are thriving in smaller markets, and explored different ways to pay for bootcamp. Plus, we added 7 new schools from around the world to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
Why do journalists and industry leaders think that two coding bootcamps are closing? And despite these “shutdowns,” why do companies like IBM still want to hire coding bootcamp graduates? We’re covering all of the industry news from August. Plus, a $3 billion GI Bill that covers coding bootcamps for veterans, why Google and Amazon are partnering with bootcamps, and diversity initiatives. Listen to our podcast or read the full August 2017 News Roundup below.Continue Reading →
Need a summary of news about coding bootcamps from July 2017? Course Report has just what you need! We’ve put together the most important news and developments in this blog post and podcast. In July, we read about the closure of two major coding bootcamps, we dived into a number of new industry reports, we heard some student success stories, we read about new investments in bootcamps, and we were excited to hear about more diversity initiatives. Plus we round up all the new campuses and new coding bootcamps around the world.Continue Reading →
As a self-taught developer himself, Kyle Feeley appreciates coding bootcamp grads who have made an intentional career change. So as the Director of UX for online insurance marketplace EverQuote, he turned to Launch Academy in Boston to hire for his front-end development team. Kyle tells us how bootcampers can stand out to employers, the difference between college grads and Launch Academy alumni at EverQuote, and why it’s imperative that designers know how to code.
Tell us about EverQuote and your role as the Director of UX.
EverQuote operates the largest online insurance marketplace. The company’s data and technology platform unites drivers with agents and carriers to deliver great rates and coverage while maximizing policies sold for insurance providers. EverQuote was founded with the vision of applying a scientific, data-driven approach to help consumers find the best price and coverage for their individual insurance needs while driving down costs for insurance providers. As the Director of UX, I oversee a team of designers and a team of front-end developers who create all the branding, creative assets and user interfaces for the company’s websites and safe-driving mobile app, EverDrive.
How large is the UX team at EverQuote and what are they generally working on?
Our UX team is made up of a three-person design team and an eight-member front-end development team. The design team generates all branding and marketing creatives for the company in addition to working with the product team on designing new UX features and a/b tests. The front-end development team is responsible for building new features, improving our front-end code, and fixing bugs. Our front-end developers also do quite a bit of interaction design and usability design as part of their implementations.
How many Launch Academy graduates have you hired?
Over the the last few years I have personally hired seven Launch Academy graduates. We currently have four Launchers on our front-end development team. We have quite a few other Launchers on other development teams at the company. Our VP of Engineering and my boss, Ryan Grimard, was invited to Launch Academy’s first hiring event. He loved the program after his first visit and we have been working with them ever since.
What roles specifically have you hired Launch Academy graduates for?
Our company has hired front-end developers and full-stack developers from Launch Academy. We have had a former Launcher as an intern, but only because he was still in school – we hired him full time when he left school. We normally hire directly into developer roles.
Other than Launch Academy, how do you usually hire developers? What are you looking for in a new hire?
We source from schools, bootcamps and anyone who is self-taught. We’ll strongly consider anyone for a role, if they have impressive examples of their work and are a good culture fit for EverQuote. Personally, I am a self-taught developer, so admire other developers from non-traditional backgrounds.
Do you notice differences in hiring from a coding bootcamp versus more traditional channels?
No CS degree program I have encountered offers comprehensive training in front-end development or user experience. The closest degree programs that specialize in UX are usually called “Human Factors Engineering,” but these programs seem to be relatively new, and different schools place different emphasis on how that relates to the web and mobile apps. That being said, coding bootcamps really seem to have been formed in reaction to an expanding job market for web & app development and so are more in-tune with the unique challenges and opportunities of developing for those platforms.
There are a lot of bootcamp grads these days – what stood out about the Launch Academy grads you’ve hired?
Launch Academy has a holistic approach to their training, which I think is a great place to start when you’re getting into development. Being exposed to both the front-end and back-end, and product and business decisions, will help inform you about what direction you want to go in when you get out of Launch. Also, during training, Launch Academy has several check-ins to make sure students are keeping up, so I feel confident that every student leaving the program has the same base-level understanding of development.
What can coding bootcampers do to stand out to potential employers?
While it’s true that you can enter a coding bootcamp without relevant experience in development; the more you prepare ahead of time, the more you’re going to get out of your time at the bootcamp. I think most people, myself included, need to be exposed to a new skill over time for that skill to cement. Also, when you are at a bootcamp: do your best to clear your schedule except for your bootcamp coursework and the work on your final project. You may never get another chance to spend this amount of concentrated time learning and creating.
Did you get resistance from your company about hiring coding bootcampers?
Our management was actually excited to learn about Launch Academy. The management at EverQuote tends to be very forward-thinking and results-oriented – so they see how coding bootcamps embody those values. Our management also knows how difficult it is to hire solid developers. Any trepidation they might have had with regards to hiring from a coding bootcamp must have gone away after the success we had with our first hires.
When you put the Launch Academy grads through a technical interview, how did they do?
Every Launcher is different. Some do better than others. And the ones who do the best, we end up making offers to.
At Launch Academy, students learn full-stack web development, but you’re hiring them as Front-End Developers – what does the on-boarding process look like?
The onboarding process consists of a lot of pair programming, group programming, code review, and talks from our leads that explain our stack, internal tools, and code architecture.
We do not have a formal mentoring or apprenticeship program in place. We have an established on-boarding process for new hires. Also, our developers work very closely together and are encouraged to pair program whenever they feel that the project warrants it. Our more senior developers are interested and enthusiastic about helping new developers get up to speed. Our code review process is thorough and, hopefully, very informative. Also, our company encourages continued learning by reimbursing employees for training relevant to their work at EverQuote.
Do you think it’s important for UX Designers today to have web development skills?
Since you started hiring from Launch Academy, have your new hires moved up or been promoted?
Yes, definitely. A couple former Launchers on my team have become leads on b2b and consumer projects.
Do you have a feedback loop with the Launch Academy team?
Launch Academy has been very responsive about our input. We have met with them several times to offer our thoughts and answer questions. Their curriculum looks to be constantly evolving as a result of their engagement with employers and students.
Will you hire from Launch Academy in the future? Why or why not?
Yes, absolutely; we have had a lot of good fortune with our employees from Launch. They have brought a ton of value to our teams and our company and I look forward to more Launchers joining the team!
What is your advice to other employers who are thinking about hiring from a coding bootcamp or this bootcamp in particular?
Hiring from a coding bootcamp is not the same as hiring a Computer Science grad and that’s OK. They may have different gaps in knowledge or understanding than a CS grad does – they have had less time to be exposed to some of the core concepts. But bootcamps force students to learn fast and adapt quickly, so if you find someone who’s the right fit, and as long as you give them the right support, they should be able to integrate into your team successfully. Also, the mindset of the most successful bootcamper is maybe different from the average CS grad – more enthusiastic, more curious – because rather than an “I guess I’ll do this” approach many college students take to their majors, the choice to enter a bootcamp is a very intentional one.
Larisa Bainton was about to graduate (with degrees in Vocal Performance and Brain & Cognitive Sciences) when she started researching coding bootcamps. As a recent college grad, Larisa wasn’t ready to commit to another degree, but 10 intensive weeks at Launch Academy in Boston offered a more reasonable path to learning full-stack web development. Learn why Larisa chose Launch Academy, read about her learning experience in the “flipped classroom,” and see how she landed her first software developer job at Cimpress!
First, tell us what you were up to before Launch Academy.
Unlike some of my classmates, I had actually just graduated from college. I got a dual degree from the University of Rochester, with a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance and a Bachelor of Arts in Brain and Cognitive Sciences. During my science degree, I learned to code in R for research projects. That made me realize that I was interested in coding, so I started looking for coding bootcamps during my senior year to do after graduation.
Did you ever take a computer science class in undergrad?
No. I wanted to, but with two degrees, I didn’t have a lot of flexibility in my schedule.
How did you decide that a coding bootcamp was the next step in your education?
I was definitely feeling burnt out, and wasn't really interested in doing two more years of school. I had read about coding bootcamps online and thought that I should at least try it.
When you decided to go to a coding bootcamp, was your goal to get a job as a web developer?
When I graduated, I started looking for a job in the brain and cognitive science field, and a lot of the jobs that I was interested in actually required coding skills. Even though I had done Codecademy, I still felt like I had pretty limited knowledge. In my cognitive science degree, we learned a little bit about machine learning and AI. I understood some of the theoretical concepts, but I didn’t have the actual programming experience of building a website.
I went into Launch Academy to get those fullstack coding skills. While I was there, I realized I liked building websites, and I also realized that I had so much to learn.
Why did you choose Launch Academy? Tell us about your research.
When I started researching, I looked at bootcamps in New York, San Francisco, and Boston. Once I decided that I wanted to live and work in Boston, I narrowed my search. I liked that Launch Academy didn’t have a ton of campuses; it felt like I could get individual attention.
When I was doing my research, I didn’t yet understand what it meant to be a “back end developer” or to work in “front end.” I also liked that Launch Academy taught full stack programming because I wanted to be able to learn both sides to see which I preferred.
What was the Launch Academy application process like for you? Did you have to do a coding challenge?
Nope, there was an online application and then there was a Skype interview with Max Detmer, who is the Director of Outreach & Admissions. We talked about my goals and my learning style. He also asked me to do logic questions, but they weren’t explicitly coding questions.
How many people were in your cohort? What was your cohort like?
There were 42 students in my cohort– it was huge. We had 4 EE’s, which were our everyday, experienced teachers. There was one other guy who had just graduated from college, but everybody else had different levels of experience. Most of my classmates were in their late 20's.
Did you like the learning experience at Launch Academy? Did it match your learning style?
Going into Launch Academy, I was definitely a little bit full of myself. I had done two bachelor degrees, so I figured this should be no problem for me. In college, the classes built on each other incrementally and I never really felt overwhelmed with new information. Whereas at Launch Academy, I had to let my ego go and admit that I really didn’t know anything. It could definitely get overwhelming at times because there was so much to know and understand.
Tell us about a typical day at Launch Academy.
We were assigned readings and homework assignments to complete at night. In the morning, we met with the same group every day to go over the readings and the homework assignments from the night before. Then after that, there would be a lecture that explained the readings from the night before. When we struggled with a concept on our own, the instructors would explain it. During the afternoon, we worked on assignments and projects. Then at the end of the day, we had a new lecture and got our homework assignments based off of that lecture.
For the first six weeks, we had mini-assignments. After that, we did a two-week long group project, which simulated a real-world work environment. Our teachers became our managers, so we had to get our pull requests approved by them. We pair programmed together in the group, rotated, and figured out the system that worked for us. We pretty much pair programmed with someone every day. And all the groups were working on the same type of projects, but we all put our own spin on it. After the group project, we started on our individual capstone projects.
Do you think that learning to code had similarities to learning music?
I think so. Both programming and music require you to be able to think abstractly. Music theory, like programming, is not something you can touch or physically move. Coding is not a tangible thing, and at some point, it’s trial and error. In music, you play around with different sounds to get the technique you’re looking for.
Tell us about your favorite project that you built at Launch Academy!
For that project, I used a lot of the concepts that I had learned in Launch Academy, but was also able to expand on them. Each person had to learn something new. For me, forms are pretty easy in the Rails framework, but I had to build a form on my own that wasn’t part of that framework. That was definitely something new.
So what are you up to now? Do you have a new job working as a developer?
I work at Cimpress (Vistaprint’s parent company) as a software developer. I graduated from Launch Academy in November, got the job in December, and started on January 3rd.
Were you introduced to Cimpress through Launch Academy’s Career Day or on your own?
My boss actually went to Career Day looking for developers. At Career Day, all of the students make a screencast of our final projects, and present them in 2 minutes. We talk about the tools we used, our backgrounds, etc. There were about 15 companies at our Career Day, and after we presented our projects, we mingled and talked with all of the companies.
Did you have to do technical interview for Cimpress? How did it go?
My first phone interview was about an hour, and we used this shared screen so that I could type out answers when he asked questions. My second interview, which was in-person, was five hours long. It was intense; I had a behavioral interview, and then they asked me questions about object-oriented design, making models, and relationships. Then I had a logic interview, and I also had a whiteboard coding interview.
The team at Cimpress hadn’t hired anyone from a bootcamp before, so I don’t think they knew what to expect. I’m not sure how I did in the interview, but I think I’ve been able to prove myself in my day-to-day job performance.
What are you working on as a developer at Cimpress now?
Did you learn everything that you needed to know at Launch Academy or are you learning a lot on the job?
Launch Academy gave me the tools to get to my first job, and a basic understanding of the skills I needed. Now that I’m at Cimpress, I feel like I can learn more skills to the point where I’m a marketable and useful employee. I have definitely learned so much here. Now I talk with my friends who were Computer Science majors, and it seems like they’re in a similar position to me.
During Launch Academy, the group projects that simulated a real business was definitely helpful. I don't pair program as much in my job, but I think that was something that we needed to do because we were not as experienced. My team now makes decisions about the product for ourselves, and that was something that we learned to do in our group project at Launch Academy.
What was your biggest challenge or roadblock in learning to code over the last six months?
This isn’t necessarily about coding, but a big roadblock I experienced was getting discouraged by the overwhelming amount of information. As you keep learning new things, you also learn how much you don't know. That can be discouraging, but at my job now, even my coworkers feel that and they've been doing this for years.
Do you stay involved with Launch Academy? Have you kept in touch with alumni?
I went back one night to speak on an alumni panel. That was actually the day that I got my job offer, so it was fun to be able to talk about that. I became really close with the group of friends that I met at Launch Academy and we still talk all the time and meet up occasionally. Unfortunately, my cohort didn't have many women in it, so I think the women in our group became pretty close.
Any advice for other people in your position about to graduate from college? Would you recommend doing a coding bootcamp?
Yeah, I would. If you’re willing to put in a lot of effort, then I recommend it. If you think about it, coding bootcamps are remarkable. They allow you to learn a marketable skill in a relatively short amount of time– that's crazy if you step back and think about it. But I think it's definitely worth it and I'm really glad I did it.
How do you get a job after coding bootcamp if you have no relevant, real-world work experience? Only 1.4% of bootcampers have worked as developers in the past, but most career-changers have little – if any– client experience when they start looking for a developer job. Some bootcamps help students overcome this hurdle by offering opportunities to work for the bootcamp itself, or with real clients through projects, internships, and apprenticeships. These opportunities can give students substantial experience to add to their portfolios and resumes, and kickstart the job hunt.Continue Reading →
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 →
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 $11,400, 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.
You've just finished your bootcamp experience (con-grad-ulations!) and now you’re ready for your first job in tech. This is not the time to power down; in fact, today is when the really hard work begins. While finishing a bootcamp is an accomplishment, graduation doesn’t get you a job. You’ll need to stay focused, hungry, and diligent on your search. Here are 7 ways to spend those crucial weeks between graduation day and your first day as an employed developer!Continue Reading →
"Can I be a programmer if I'm not a math genius?"Continue Reading →
We’ve heard the success stories from coding bootcampers, but attending a software development bootcamp is undoubtedly a brave endeavor. There's a lot at stake, including:Continue Reading →
With a degree in journalism and a job in communications work for a nonprofit, Julissa Jansen had the chance to do basic web development for a site redesign and she was hooked. She did online tutorials, but decided to make a career change, so Julissa applied to Launch Academy, a top coding bootcamp in her local Boston. She met her future employer, Constant Contact, at Launch Academy’s Career Day. We sat down with Julissa to discuss the benefits of pair programming at Launch Academy and at her job, the front end work she does for Constant Contact, and supporting women in tech with RailsBridge and Boston Ruby Women.
What did you study in your undergrad?
I went to Simmons College, a liberal arts school, and got my degree in Journalism. After graduating, I did Marketing, PR, and content at a university working for a nonprofit. I designed fliers, posters and marketing materials. After about a year and a half, I realized that I didn’t feel fulfilled working in a communications job.
Did you ever take a Computer Science class as a journalism student?
No. As a journalist, we learned more about video. I actually did want to learn to code but the only way to do that was be a math major and access to programming and coding was really hard.
What made you start thinking about a bootcamp or switching your career? When did you apply to Launch Academy?
About six months into my job, my bosses decided we needed a website redesign. Our site was built on Wordpress and was pretty ugly; of course since it was a nonprofit, we did not have the money to hire someone outside.
Eventually, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to grow professionally and that I could probably be getting paid a lot more for what I was doing. That’s when I took the plunge and decided to leave my job and apply to Launch Academy.
What online resources were you using to teach yourself to code?
A lot of online tutorials. I started doing Codecademy, and a Python course online called Learn Python the Hard Way.
When was that?
I applied in September 2013. I got accepted into Launch for their October cohort but I delayed my admission until February.
Was it easy to delay your admission?
It absolutely was. I just emailed them and they were super accommodating. I told them I needed more time to save money.
Did you research any coding bootcamps besides Launch Academy?
I first heard about Launch Academy. I did look at other bootcamps but I really wanted to stay in Boston. I’m a Boston native so it was just easier to live here. I know Launch Academy has been here for a long time and that they’re one of the oldest bootcamps in the city, if not the oldest so I knew they had a good track record.
Was Launch Academy’s focus on Ruby on Rails important to you when you were looking for a bootcamp?
The language wasn’t important. The first programming language that I really got into was Python. I heard that Ruby was very similar to Python as far as readability. Honestly, I had no idea about programming and things like that so I had no preferences as to what language I was going into.
What was the Launch Academy application process like for you?
I interviewed with Bill Rowell who was in admissions. I told him that I was teaching myself some Python so he gave me this line of code and said, “What do you think this does?” It was super basic and I said that the line of code he gave me was a method that alphabetized everything on a string.
He was super helpful if I got stuck, he would poke me along the way and lead me in the right direction. That was an interview done over Skype.
Then they wanted you to build a website so I used HTML and CSS for that.
How did you pay for Launch Academy?
That was really hard. I don’t think that’s specific to Launch Academy but any bootcamp. I live with my girlfriend and she was a huge support. She has a full-time job so she helped me pay for it. We put it on credit cards and Launch Academy also allowed me to pay in installments but there was a due date for admissions payments and I paid in installments up until that due date.
How many people were in your cohort?
I think we started out with 36.
How many instructors were there?
Our instructors were called Experience Engineers and there were five of them. Our group was split up into three different groups of 12 people.
Did you think that it was a very diverse cohort in terms of age, gender, race?
I would say that most of us were in our mid-twenties. You definitely feel the gender gap because there were only about 6 girls and one of the girls dropped out. But as far as education background, there was a good diverse atmosphere.
Who were the instructors and what was the teaching style at Launch Academy?
In our group, I had a senior Experience Engineer, Adam, and a junior Experience Engineer who would rotate around each group. It was really good because I always had someone to go to. Of course, everybody was there to help but when someone is there along with you for those 10 weeks, it’s a lot easier to go to that one person who knows you.
Did the instructors ever do lectures?
We would have big lectures called ‘deep dives’ with everybody then within our group we would sometimes go over things we might have not understood.
Were you satisfied with how deep you went on the curriculum?
Were there exams or assessments? Did you have to pass tests?
There’s this one big exam two weeks into the course. If you’re comfortable with it, then that’s an indicator that you should stay at Launch Academy; otherwise the bootcamp might not be right for you. We would have systems check-ins every weekend.
Then the bigger exam was during Week 8 and if you passed that exam, you could be endorsed for the Career Day.
Was there a heavy emphasis on Pair Programming while you were there, and what did you think about that approach?
Pair Programming is super helpful because at the company I work for, we pair program most of the time, so it was really useful.
As far as pair programming at Launch Academy, there were times where you could work by yourself. If you needed help you could go to someone and start pairing on it; the dynamic was really good.
What kinds of projects did you work on throughout Launch Academy?
We were assigned projects throughout the course. One project we had to come up with on our own was our ‘breakable toy’, which is what we show off at our Career Day.
What was your Breakable Toy? What technologies did you use? How long did you work on it for?
Mine was a social network for bootcamps called ‘Faceboot’ for bootcampers to find other bootcampers in the area.
Did Launch Academy do other job prep besides the Career Day?
Towards the middle of the course, our Talent Director Corinne helped us with our resumes. Especially because none of us had technical backgrounds, it’s really important to show what we’ve learned and the technologies we used. Also towards the end, we would prepare for interviews with whiteboarding questions.
Are you using exactly what you learned at Launch Academy or do you feel you’re learning on the job?
We work on a Rails app but our code base is huge and we have a whole bunch of technologies for the front end. For example, we use Coffeescript for the front-end, so I’m learning something new every day for sure.
I work a lot on the front-end using Backbone as our library and using Coffeescript. I work on the part of the app that users use to add people to an address book.
Tell us about your new job!
I graduated in March, and got hired as an Associate Software Engineer (aka junior developer) at Constant Contact in June. The Constant Contact app itself is built on Java but our team specifically uses Rails. I work on the front end and the back end.
How did you find the job at Constant Contact?
They’re a hiring partner with Launch Academy. We talked during our Career Day.
Did Constant Contact hire other grads from your class?
My current co-worker Emily, she works with me on the same team and we both came out of the same cohort.
How was your technical interview with them? Did you feel you were prepared for it?
One of the things about the interview was that there was no whiteboarding question! Instead, I paired with one of the senior programmers here, which is awesome because I had already pair programmed a bunch at Launch Academy. Instead of algorithms or computer science theory questions, we paired to create a blog using Rails; it was just awesome.
How were you supported in your first months at Constant Contact?
I was hired as an apprentice for the first six months and I would always pair program with a senior developer on everything. It’s a very welcoming environment when it comes to learning. Our manager would give us accounts to Code School, Upcase and thing like that and allowed us to learn.
I think the first two months I was here, I didn’t program at all, I just looked at other people programming and learned the code base.
Why did you choose to accept an Apprenticeship over a full-time job?
That was the most important distinction for me. There were other jobs I was interviewing at and I was very close to getting a full time position, but I had to wager whether I wanted to start out as a junior developer right away or hone myself for 6 months, then be hired and get a higher salary once I had that experience under my belt.
What was your experience like with Launch Academy alumni support after you graduated?
I always got emails from Corinne when there were any positions that I might be interested in. The team knew that I was looking and they would send me information. After I was hired, they invited me to panels at Launch Academy to talk to current cohorts.
Have you stayed involved at Launch Academy and in the development community?
Very much so. Actually, our team here at Constant Contact goes to Launch Academy to pair with the students there.
Also, RailsBridge is very near and dear to my heart. I went to my first RailsBridge event in October after I deferred my admission to Launch Academy. After that I started TA-ing and now I’m the sponsorship coordinator for RailsBridge Boston.
I think RailsBridge was the most important group for me as a woman and a developer because I got to meet other people who had gone down the same path. They had no programming experience, they went to a RailsBridge event and within a year they had full-time jobs.
Has Launch Academy partnered with RailsBridge as well?
There’s no official partnership, but they have sponsored every Rails Bridge workshop since I’ve been there. There are also a lot of people who go to RailsBridge events not knowing whether the bootcamp scene is for them; then they later apply to bootcamps.
What has your experience been transitioning into the tech world as a woman?
I went to an all-women’s college so I was really prepared to enter a sexist work environment and deal with those issues. Then I came to Constant Contact and it’s one of the most welcoming environments I’ve been a part of. I utilize RailsBridge Boston to funnel female developers into the community. I also go to Boston Ruby Women and that’s a great place to meet up with other female developers. We talk about code and what it’s like for women in the workplace, but I haven’t had any problems here.
Does Constant Contact do anything from an infrastructure perspective to make sure that you’re supported as a woman?
There was an article in Harvard Business School saying that high performing teams have more women on them, and I think Constant Contact is very aware of that.
Just a couple of weeks ago, a couple of female co-workers and I went to a women’s hackathon so we could recruit some women. It’s definitely something that companies need to be aware of and they need to work towards creating a more balanced workforce.
Did you give feedback to Launch Academy after the course? What was the feedback loop like?
I never really gave feedback because I felt like I was satisfied with my education. I think I went into Launch Academy with the expectation that I knew I wasn’t going to learn everything. I knew that I would have to keep on teaching myself things after those 10 weeks.
I was afraid I wouldn’t learn enough computer science algorithms but then I realized that the only time I’ll ever need those is for an interview when they ask you to whiteboard an algorithm.
What type of person would you recommend Launch Academy to?
The person would have to be super determined. They’re going to have to know that for 10 weeks they have to sacrifice a lot to learn. I think if you go into that with the expectations that you’re going to be working your ass off for 10 weeks, I would recommend it.
The people who didn’t do well were those who come in late and left early, people who checked out after two weeks and they’re not sure why they’re here anymore.
Whether you are at the very beginning of your career in programming, having been coding for decades, or anywhere in between, it’s likely you would find some benefit from pair programming. Humans are naturally social and collaborative creatures, and pair programming looks to take those attributes of humanity and use it to enhance not only our code, but also our knowledge.Continue Reading →
Launch Academy is a 10-week, full-time, immersive bootcamp in Boston, Massachusetts. Launch Academy’s web development bootcamp instructs students in the language of Ruby on Rails and focuses on long term education and real project based learning. Students are granted access to an extensive career support system after graduation and leave with a strong, marketable portfolio of projects.Continue Reading →
Giuseppe Frustaci is passionate about using technology to connect with people, tell stories, and educate. A graduate of Launch Academy and now its Marketing Manager, Giuseppe spends his days writing about coding and how people learn to code. Here, he explores reasons for a bootcamper to pick up roots and move to a new city for a code school (and why it's not for everyone)!
You’re at that point in your life where you want to make a change in your career. Awesome! Now you have to figure out which bootcamp you want to go to, and you have so many to choose from. Hopefully you’re not pulling out your hair trying to make a decision, but if you are, we’re here to help you narrow down your options.Continue Reading →
Located in the heart of Boston Chinatown, Launch Academy is a vibrant, open space that invites learning around every corner. We got to take a tour of the classroom- check out our photos below!
Keep Calm & Code!
Launchers gather in the open classroom for the morning and afternoon guided teaching sessions:
Students pair program at each computer station, rotating often between "pairing" partners:
Launchers can take a break and grab a snack in the open kitchen:
When we visited, the most recent cohort of Launchers had just graduated. They have a special ceremony and get these Launch Academy T-Shirts:
Evan Charles and Dan Pickett founded Launch Academy to help build the tech community in Boston, and their immersive and intentional approach to learning has resulted in a high-quality, full-service bootcamp. We sat down with Evan & Dan to learn about the "Secret Sauce" in their admissions process, their commitment to outreach in underrepresented communities (woo!), and how they connect their aspiring software engineers with great employers.
How did you get into the coding bootcamp industry?
Evan: After coming out of school, I spent 10 years in high finance in LBO’s and ownership stakes in businesses with “hair” on them. Although it was fast paced and exciting, I was never able to rest my head on my pillow at night and feel like I had actually helped anybody do anything other than make money. So I decided to change course and started a promotional product company from which I used the funds via a successful exit to finance a company that actually helped people. While building this new company in the medical field I found out that I could satiate my desire to build something and help people at the same time. While doing so, I found myself now feelling fullfilled when I put my head on my pillow. After a successful exit in this business, I pondered my next chapter by considering the key variable I’d like to have within my next venture. From past learnings, I knew I wanted to build something that helped people. I also added a new wrinkle by including my passion for technology into list. In February 2012 I was sitting at a Starbucks at Harvard Square- this was a week after Shereef Bishay started Dev Bootcamp as a bet with a friend and I thought, ‘hey, I’d like to learn how to program’ and since I love technology- this would be a great way to enter the development industry. 30 seconds later, I thought, “actually, I’ll just start a program and make it the best.” The original bootcamp model allowed me to marry up my interest in building something, helping people and building relationships within the developer industry. Launch Academy was conceptually born. I’ll let Dan pick up the story of how we met.
Dan: I got my start in high school. I was fortunate enough to start doing some contracting and IT consulting early on in my career. I quickly realized that people only call you when stuff breaks. I had gotten a few wonderful opportunities to create small databases and pieces of software for our clients and I totally loved it. Around graduation from High School, I had a strong conviction that I would major in CS. I managed a few software teams and it was there that I really fell in love with building software teams and products that make lives better. I fell in love with cultivating this culture of continuous improvement. Gazelle grew to a place where I was really happy with, so I started full-time consulting, and started a small consultancy based out of Boston. That’s when we actually prototyped a lot of the methodologies that you see at LA. At my consultancy, I brought on two individuals who didn’t have computer science backgrounds, but they were passionate and interested. I took the time to teach them best practices and helped them level up. Soon, they were contributing valuable time to our clients. I also started to take some training engagements, and realized I really enjoyed those- we were exploring ways to see if recruiters might be interested in taking on some risk and helping developers with a PHP and .NET background transition to be Ruby developers, something more marketable to startups. It turned out, recruiters had no interest in that. Then, I got a call from one of my favorite people in the BostonRB, who told me about Evan Charles, this really smart guy who introduced me to the bootcamp model. We met for coffee and founded the company shortly thereafter. The founding team was complete.
Do you have Launch Academy cohorts in NY and Boston?
We looked at doing the landgrab that we’re seeing in the space, but we feel really at home in the community in Boston, and we hope to expand our marketing into different areas, but we plan for the learning to remain in Boston for the current time. Quality over quantity really resonates within our team.
When was your first cohort?
We conceptualized Launch Academy in early 2012. Our big thing back then was getting it right. We spent time with the guys at Dev Bootcamp to get their thoughts on the model. We were able to trial and test, and subsequently build out our curriculum in early 2013. Our inagural cohort started May 1, 2013.
How many students have gone through Launch Academy?
About 100 Launchers have graduated. We don’t do overlapping cohorts, we do one cohort, then we recalibrate during our “off-seasons” where we consider ways to reinvent the learning model. This process of consistent ineration on the education has really separates us as being unique within the space. It’s where we truly geek out.
Why did you initially decide to use Rails as your teaching language?
Dan: I am a recovering .NET developer, and I fell in love with the framework because you could do so much with so little time. I learned Rails before Ruby, which is what we now consider the “wrong way.” We teach Ruby first, and we believe that Ruby literacy is what makes a great Rails developer. When we started thinking about more teaching, we looked for what learning materials were in the market that we could use. I was thinking we would start with Python. But we found a book, Learn to Program (https://pine.fm/LearnToProgram/), and I felt really strongly that we should base our prework around this book. So between Pine and my natural affinity towards Rails, that decided it for us.
What are you looking for in potential students?
We take a lot of pride in the secret sauce of our admissions methods, but to share a bit about our methods, the main thing that we look for is internal locus of control. We’re looking for individuals who feel like there is an infinite wealth of knowledge and it’s theirs for the taking. It’s important for people to know that we are the best fit for those who want to own their experience.
Do you accept beginners?
In our competitors’ vernacular, we are a “zero-to-sixty” program, so we admit people with zero programming experience. The interesting phenomenon that we see, because we’re getting more and more applicants and because the market is maturing, we’re seeing an increasing level of technical sophistication before people are admitted. It’s important that people spend some time learning on their own to assure themselves that they are indeed passionate about the craft of software development.
What makes up the precourse curriculum?
We’re heavy on Ruby and Git, and there are two ways to develop Ruby literacy before you enter an immersive program. One is acquiring the knowledge. For example, understanding what the concept of an array. The other means is through practice. For example, how do I work with an array? We use Chris Pines’ Learn to Program because there are exercises for people to complete- it’s one thing to study, and another to practice it. We also incorporate sites like RubyMonk and CodeWars for additional practice. We do review Ruby fundamentals in the class, but it’s great to have everyone come in with a high bar of Ruby literacy.
What is your ideal cohort size and how many instructors do you have?
Dan: We’re at 35 now. I facilitate the program, and our 5 other software developers teach closer with students via our mentor groups. We try to keep ratios around 6 students to every 1 Experience Engineer (our teachers).
Do you have numbers on how many women & underrepresented minorities go through Launch Academy?
Evan: We take that really seriously, for two reasons. First, for the better good of the community and to diversify the community. Secondly, especially from the female side, the makeup of our cohorts, from a collaborative and helpful perspective, has dramatically improved as we’ve balanced those scales. It’s progressed- in our first cohort, the ratio was skewed male. In our second cohort, it was about 50-50. We work a lot towards those goals. We offer the same scholarships that most everyone else does, but we think that gender inequality is an issue that’s worthy of doing even more. We work directly with Girl Develop It- we hold a 5-part evening event for GDI which is purely voluntary from our part. The program is facilitated by Launch Academy alumni and has been a huge success this year. We wrote and facilitated the curriculum. Secondly, we work with RailsBridge, and I was told they had to shut down TA registration because there were so many Launcher alumni who signed up. It’s that involvement that gets us excited, and we hope the result is that we can play a small part in balancing the scales.
Dan: Somewhere between 35-50% of our graduates are female, and it’s trending upwards. We’ve found that the hiring partners in Boston love seeing this diversity, which makes Evan and I feel great that we’re working with the right companies here in the city.
Give us a rundown of your curriculum!
Dan: Our favorite topic! It all starts with the interactive prework- we want students to engage with each other and with the staff for 8-weeks prior to the start of the program. We use a tool to communicate with each other, form in-person study groups, and pair together before student’s arrival on-site. We also provide office hours, so when they get to their program, they’re in a great place. And of course, everyone can always attend our Thursday guest speaker series socials where they can mingle with alumni, hiring companies and current Launchers to learn more about the program or accelerate their pre-learning.
That’s a breakdown of the curriculum, but what we get most excited about is the andragogical approach that we have here; when we get all of the students in, we take them through our curriculum and processes, and then we get in this rhythm, where they’re consuming assignment material in the evening, and putting it into practice immediately the next day. There’s course content and our own produced video that they can consume in the evening, and we give them a pair programming challenge the next day. It’s the concept of learning on their own. We’re big on pairing because we believe that it helps level the playing field from a skillset standpoint; those pairs can help each other grow.
Evan: Dan and I really geek out on the educational aspect of the program. Previously, our program looked a lot like other bootcamps, and we had to think about whether or not that was the best way to learn. We started to challenge ourselves to rethink the learning paradigm. We have evolved over the years into things they’re doing in New York and India and South America- with learning through discovery. When I went to school, I attended big lectures with a teacher at the front of the classroom. There were very few questions, and those questions could derail the lecture. After twenty minutes, I would lose focus. The thinking behind learning through discovery is that students get a problem and resources. The magic of bootcamps in general is that there is human help available to get you unstuck quicker than you could through self-teach or online MOOCs in their current non-collaborative form. So, when you get good student:teacher ratios, like we do, it really accelerates the learning.
Dan: The program is equally focused on technical skills and problem solving. We challenge our students, sometimes to their annoyance, by not giving them the answers right away.
How do you help students get jobs in tech once they graduate? Do you work with hiring partners?
Evan: This goes back to our relationships with the students. This starts early on, during the admissions process. From there, we’re building that story of the Launcher. Our Admissions Director, who is also an engineer, starts to craft that story so we can understand their specialties and where their interests lie. Our full time Talent Director is involved in the process early on, understanding their goals. We do that with one-on-one time, soft skills practice, and interview prep. The other side of the equation is the hiring companies themselves. We typically have at least one opportunity for each student in the room on hiring day. We’ve had close to 100 hiring partners over the course of all our cohorts. Their feedback was that these companies wanted to get more involved earlier in the process. First, they wanted to give back to something they thought was good for the community. And secondly, they wanted the opportunity to get to know the Launchers earlier. We do that now via our weekly guest speaker series, by inviting guests to teach new technologies, provide overviews about their company, or explain their own personal stories from when they were coming up in the developer ranks. Our career day probably looks similar to most- we have a couple of tweaks to make it more efficient. A unique aspect to the program is our 6 months of post-grad support for every alumni. For six months, they have access to office hours with our engineers and career services with our Talent Director. They also get a lifetime of free workshare space after 2pm and all day on weekends. Our alumni group is very involved in the community- on Monday nights we have an alum who teaches yoga here at Mission Control. Alumni participate in our Ship-It Saturday hackathon events as well as many other events outside of Launch Academy in the community such as our involvement with the Harvard iLab, Railsbridge, Girl Develop It, etc.
Are those hiring partners paying upfront to be a part of your network?
We don’t charge to attend the hiring day.
Do you take a recruiting fee if students get placed with a company?
We do take a fee, and we share a portion of proceeds with the student.
Is there a published Job Placement Stat?
Our first two cohorts placed 94% of graduates.
If a student doesn’t want to get a job when they graduate, but they have entrepreneurial goals, do you support that?
We get most excited about providing a very unique learning environment to people that they can’t receive elsewhere. If they are willing to dedicate themselves and have an interest in continuing their learning post graduation by building things with other developers, then we want to support them.
Course Report is featured on the Kapor Center blog!
Coding bootcamps are producing graduates that enter the workforce almost immediately, so their approach to recruiting and retaining students from underrepresented backgrounds may quickly start to define, and potentially diversify, the landscape of the tech industry. One way to reach out to potential students is through scholarship programs. Check out the full article on the Kapor Center blog to see a full list of coding boot camps currently offering scholarships specifically to underrepresented minorities.Continue Reading →