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Launch Academy Reviews
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TLDR: I completed 1/2 of the program between January-March (averaging ~28 hours/ week). I've been working abroad since April (paused the program), and am learning on my own. LA helped me get started with a strong foundation. I would recommend it to others, particularly under specific circumstances (see below).
- Prior to Launch Academy, my main challenge in learning to code was simply garnering enough knowledge, skill, and practice to 1) start building actual code on my own and 2) cultivate a base of understanding. LA's structured curriculum, mentorship, fellow students, forum, etc. were really helpful for getting over the initial hurdles, and helped to build my foundation.
- Presently, I'm learning on my own (with acquired knowledge via LA that lets me: Break down problems; Perspective and experience to evaluate potential solutions; Ability to troubleshoot; Know-how for finding resources online, and again, the ability to assess their merit (to some extent), etc.), which I hadn't really been able to do previously.
- As I progressed beyond Phase 5, the curriculum forced you to stretch a bit more (partly because there were small gaps in the material, and partly, I presume, to push you out of your comfort zone). The material was still strong, but it wasn't as polished as the earlier Phases.
- The mentors were probably the best part of the program. They are all very friendly, supportive, and knowledgeable. Additionally, experienced developers offer insights that you simply cannot get from tutorials or videos; They often can help you cut through some of the noise, look at problems from a different angle, and share tribal knowledge/ industry practices (which is hard to capture in guides, etc.)
- On the job front, I don't feel confident that I can get a job as a dev right now (based on only completing half the program). I do feel that I can learn what is required to become job ready, and I believe the program will get you sufficiently technically advanced.
- I found that trying to hammer away at challenges for periods longer than 2-4 hours at a time had greatly diminishing returns. Now I do “deep work” for 2-3 hours, then take a break, and completely separate from the problem. I can come back refreshed and be much more effective. When I was paying for the program, I felt constant self-imposed pressure to keep at it, because it was an on-going consideration of ROI.
- One unexpected challenge was the feeling of isolation on a day-to-day basis. I was coding at home, often alone, so the environment had a clear impact. To switch it up, I would go to coffee shops, spent a few days in co-working spaces, and did a few “hack sessions” with friends, which did help. Saying this, I can see the value of an in-person bootcamp, surrounded by other people working through the same challenges and towards a shared end-goal. The Slack channel helped, but obviously has its limitations.
Disclosure: I'm not sure what has been added/ changed about the program, so below are some ideas from my experience.
- To further prep for the real world, I would have liked built-in group projects/ peer programming/ peer review sessions. This would simulate working on a team.
- Share real-world processes for project planning/ outlining builds. Again, with the intent of demonstrating how projects are planned and implemented at a company. Maybe one way to do this would be to have a consistent, additive project throughout the course (which grows in complexity and features as you learn more).
- Incorporation of more real-world tools, like bug-tracking software and user story creation.
Overall, I enjoyed my time in the program and would highly recommend it to others for specific use cases: 1) You've tried learning on your own in the past, and struggled; 2) You need the flexibility of a self-paced program; 3) You're testing the waters of a career switch/ seeing if you actually like to code (it's a relatively cheap test, and it substantially lowers the friction to actually start coding); 4) You're really self-motivated and have a large chunk of time to devote to it.
For perspective, here's another online review:
- Progress is inconsistent: I found many (free) online guides/ courses had inconsistent jumps in the progression of material. Things would be humming along, then I'd reach something that would be way over my head. I'd spend hours, or days, learning about the concept, looking to Stack Overflow or other guides/ tutorials, etc. to help fill in the gaps... I'd eventually figure it out, and then go back to the original course. I understand this emulates real world problem solving, but in trying to learn the fundamentals, this was incredibly taxing and consistently halted momentum.
- Overwhelming amount of material: There are A TON of guides/ courses/ tutorials online; It is hard to know what works well for your learning style without trying it. I found I don't like video-based lectures or in-browser coding, I'd rather "build things," and emulate real programming (I liked "Learn Ruby The Hard Way" a lot). Likewise, I spent much time trying different options. I also had to force myself to trust some of the magic of Ruby, because otherwise I would spend way too much time on things that weren't that important to understand at this stage of learning.
- Isolating: I underestimated how lonely it would feel to go on the journey alone. While I tried The Odin Project and FreeCode Camp (for my foray into JS), and knew there were other students working on the material at the same time, it was rare to find people at the same stage as you to converse with/ who could help answer your questions. To be clear, I think these are great courses with a robust and growing community, but with everyone being at different stages and doing it for varying reasons, it didn't have a team-like environment (which I guess I'm looking for).
- On Campus had great reviews, and the two alums I spoke with raved about it (I figured the curriculum, and teaching methodology would translate well online).
- Dan Pickett (Co-Founder) answered all the questions I had, was responsive to my emails, offered a lot of support while I was self-teaching, shared resources, etc. (all prior to my signing up)
- I would be a part of the first cohort, and figured they'd want to make sure we were successful.
- Much cheaper than on campus options, and allowed me more flexibility to do the work when I want/ am available.
- The curriculum is great! There are 11 Phases in total, each focused on discrete, related concepts. In each Phase, there are 30-40 exercises, which incrementally progress in complexity, which means you are learning by doing, and consistently reinforcing themes.
- Mentors are generally available during the day via Slack, and there is a designated Office Hour period each day specifically staffed by a Mentor. Additionally, fellow students are online, who you can chat with throughout the day.
- As a bonus, every day there is a live workshop led by Dan, where he does a deeper dive into a concept. These are supplemental, and generally offer helpful tidbits, as well as insight into how an experienced coder thinks about approaching problems.
- Weekly 1-on-1's with designated mentor is helpful. I've only had 1 so far, but in the future, I plan on discussing alternate ways of solving exercises, discussing concepts not covered/ more advanced material, using the time to peer program, etc.
- Fellow students are engaged, active, and very willing to help.
- The program is very new, so they are constantly seeking feedback in order to make updates/ improvements. I've seen minor changes so far, and am curious to see how this translates as the program progresses.
I graduated two years ago from Launch Academy. First of all I loved my experience there. I learned fast and was easily one of the top performing students of my class. I was also 19 and spent all of my inheritance on the program and paying for rent/food during the program. When it was finished I accepted the first job I was offered rather quickly(2 months) as I was then living off of a credit card. The job was a contract for an extremely small start up(4 people). They told me that the company had experience with jr. developers before(which was not true). The lead developer was a 19 year old German college student. Needless to say it was not a growth experience. After the contract ended I was really in need of another job but didn’t receive help from my boot camp. My computer started experiencing problems and I could no longer run Rails. I found a full time volunteering opportunity with AmeriCorps teaching basic CS to students in low income areas and have been doing that for the last two years. I recently enrolled in a QA program for urban youth of low income and am now on an internship and will hopefully find a job quickly after. As I said I loved the experience during classes, but based on my experience I would say it should have costed $500-$1,000 not +$15,000 forcing me to live paycheck to paycheck and have no financial stability.
If I talk to someone who is remotely interested in computers, I usually ask if they would consider going to a coding bootcamp. Most people seem intrigued by this, and I then follow up with a recommendation for Launch Academy.
I'm not trying to shill for the program, but what they've done for me has changed my life. I've always loved computers, from building PC's to playing games on them. It wasn't until I heard about Launch Academy (from my brother, who recruits engineers) that I seriously considered a career in web development.
After completing the course, I can honestly say that coding is the single best career in the universe... maybe slightly behind astronauts.
Why is it so good? Before attending Launch, I thought computer programming was all about math. This was one of the main reasons why I never majored in computer science, and it's also completely false. True, you can apply math in many different ways when coding, but a better analogy would be to compare coding to LEGOs.
When you code, you're just building something. Sometimes your project is small, like those 30-piece LEGO sets, and other times, your project could be massive and require many different sections. Either way, you're always putting the pieces together (with code) to build a working application. If this sounds interesting to you, then please strongly consider Launch Academy.
Over the 10-week course, you will constantly get your ass kicked. The instructors will teach you a new topic, and then give a challenge to work on that involves said topic. Rarely, it will be easy. Most often, your brain will be completely taxed from trying to solve it. What makes this process so rewarding is that you're not in this alone: Almost every other person attending Launch is in the same boat as you are, and halfway through the course, I started to view these people like family. You'll struggle together, but more importantly, you'll succeed together. Teamwork is an integral part of coding, and it's also the most satisfying.
These challenges and exercises will wear you down, but when you stop and think about how much you've learned, your mind will be blown. There is pre-course work before the actual cohort begins, and by the second actual week at Launch, I realized how much more I knew about coding (Ruby in particular) than when I started. By the end of the course, I was shocked at how much knowledge I acquired.
There are plenty of other things I could praise Launch Academy for, but I'm sure you aren't interested in reading another 2,000+ words, so I'll touch on one of the most important (and my reason for choosing Launch over other bootcamps): job assistance. It's the reason you're here, and Launch delivers. No, you are not guaranteed a job, but after graduating, I had more interviews lined up than I have ever had in my life. It was a truly great feeling to have.
If you're looking for a career change and have any interest in computers or how things work in the magical wonderland known as the internet, you should definitely look into Launch Academy. With such a huge demand for programmers in the job market, this is the best way to get your foot in the door. You'll be exhausted after the 10 weeks here, but more importantly, you'll be empowered.
Place is the absolute worst. After you are out of the program they never help you get a job. They lie about their numbers and barely teach. I should have gone to another bootcamp
Response From: Evan Charles of Launch Academy
I am disheartened to hear you are not happy with your experience at Launch.
I want to resolve this with you and get you to a place of excitement with your decision to attend.
Can you email me directly at evan[dot]charles[at]launchacademy[dot]com so that we can set up a time to talk either via phone or video chat? I am confident I can make things right for you.
If you are not willing to talk, can you confirm that you had access to our Department of Professional Licensure reviewed student outcomes when you received your acceptance letter and within your Student Agreement. For reference, the outcomes are located here: https://www.launchacademy.com/blog/student-statistics
Also, in your initial review you mentioned not receiving Career Services in post grad support. Can you confirm your cohort and whether you had access to our structured grading in Horizon in your Post Grad Support (something added in Cohorts 13 & 14). If not, we can ensure you are re-entered into post grad support as it never discontinues for alumni. Also, have you received the most recent REACT curriculum available to all alumni?
I am looking forward to working to resolve this with you. Our aim is to provide an exceptional experience to all students at Launch.
As for the on-campus curriculum, it’s pretty solid – I only wish we had learned more but in order for that to have truly of happened the entire program would have to be maybe 2 weeks longer – which is something they should seriously consider. You have 6 weeks of learning, each week a new topic. In my cohort it was, IIRC – React, Advanced OOP, Databases, Rails, HTTP and General Front End. The front-end week was kind of useless since they just skimmed over a crap load of material about design and typography and the like. Those topics are so dense, to give them such a superficial treatment was pointless. The time that week would have been better served expanding on existing material.
This is followed by 2 weeks of group projects, which was an amazing eye-opening experience and then 2 more weeks of solo projects, which is very stressful but you will overcome. Again, the curriculum is on point and I learned WAY more than I thought I would. It moves fast and feels overwhelming for the majority of the program but that will soon feel natural and you will sink into a rhythm and get into the zone by the end of the first week.
The entire staff is committed to evangelizing the gospel of social justice. Now, I’m all for equality and I’d like to think I’m very open minded and tolerant but I didn’t pay $15,500 to be lectured about how, because I am a man, I need to censor myself around women. I also did not pay $15,500 to be lectured about how awful Donald Trump is. I am not a political person, I do not care. Leave politics and social justice out of the classroom and teach me how to code. The staff we’re routinely injecting politics into the cohort for no reason. It came off as cringe worthy at times and always forced. Like I said, this is a coding bootcamp, not capitol hill.
On two separate occasions, they sat us all down and gave a lecture on ‘Mansplaining’, I actually didn’t even know what this was when they brought it up, I had never heard of it before. They said that someone made a rude and insensitive comment, but they would neither repeat what was said nor would they be speaking with the individual in question. They actually ended up saying that, if what we can’t tell you was said, is said again then you will be expelled. What? None of us even know what they were referring to, not even remotely. This caused a lot of self-censorship and bewilderment. They ended it by telling all the men in attendance to be cautious of how they talk, because, and I quote “Men have a tendency to talk down to women and assume they know more by virtue of being a man”. Nice. Where I come from, assuming bias based on external and immutable features of a human is what is commonly referred to as bigotry. Not to these people, it’s called social justice.
Secondly, while having a spirited debate on the Launch Academy Slack channel about the issue of women in the STEM field, D.T. – the Vice President of Engineering @ Launch Academy, decided to interject and remind everyone that everything they say is being monitored. Here are some excerpts of what he said, verbatim:
“Do you really want to say things that are open for mis-interpretation that could present a "public" perception that makes you sound callous to the gender/diversity hot button tech issue of the day?”
“It's a fact that there are more white men in this community than any other group, and as such i particularly appeal to those of us who fall into that category to try hard to keep our tone and conversation in line with the Launch Academy cultural norms and guidelines that all of us benefit from.”
Of course, indiscriminately lecturing all men is not something that is explicitly prohibited in the Launch Academy Code of Conduct paper we all signed – because, you know…diversity.
One more example – A fellow classmate of mine was accused of sexual harassment by a female classmate, and without actually investigating the accusation, Launch Academy took it at face value and actually threatened to expel him. They told him that he was sexually harassing another student but refused to give evidence of it ever happening, the date, time or place in question it occurred or the name of the accuser. They wouldn’t even state exactly what it was that he did, just a nebulous “You committed sexual harassment”. They never followed up with this female accuser to press her for details, they simply assumed that she was telling the truth.
This and many other countless examples really irritated me. They treat people like they are fragile, broken creatures’, incapable of accepting the fact that someone has a differing view from themselves. To remedy this, they preemptively tell people to not talk about certain topics and inject BS politics into a program that is designed to teach me and everyone else how-to CODE. One of the staff members actually gave a presentation on how to “cope” with the fact that Hillary Clinton did not win the election. This is absolute garbage. Nobody cares. I want to build websites, not listen to your nonsense. I am here to jumpstart a new career. I risked A LOT to make this move in my life and to have Launch Academy staff show such little regard for the sacrifices I made to be there is very disconcerting.
The disruption and distraction caused by their nonsensical moral high-ground showmanship really put a damper on the latter part of the cohort – a sentiment expressed by well over half of the cohort to myself, personally. It made it difficult to focus on the already difficult course material because everyone was chatting in hushed tones about what we all thought these veiled threats of expulsion were in response to. We never really found out…
Here is the full gist of what I took from my experience. If you want to learn how to code, Launch Academy will in fact teach you to code – even if you are a complete novice. However, you should expect incessant lecturing about how horrible men are and how virtuous a litany of ‘protected’ classes are. Expect lots of political evangelism and expect to be told to conform to their way of thinking or shut up and leave. If given the opportunity to do it all over, I am fairly certain I would go the route of a Bootcamp, but I am not so sure, if I knew what I know now, I would choose Launch Academy.
Even before I had finished the program, I have been receiving requests from prospective students to share my experience with the program, why I choose to attend a bootcamp - and Launch Academy in particular, and what my post-grad experience has been like.
This is a pretty lengthy review. If you're only interested in my outlook on the program, just skip to the conclusion at the end.
My Background Story
Are coding bootcamps too good to be true? It's easy to believe that based on the statistics they tout to prospective students. There are dozens, possibly hundreds of programs out there that offer to take your money and turn you into a coding ninja in just a few short weeks. Most of them also claim that your skills will be so red hot that companies will be lining up to offer you starting salaries that will make your bootcamp tuition pay for itself in just a few months.
My journey as a developer began after I finished graduated from college. Like many students, I went to school for four years for a degree in something that I thought I would love doing (and would lead to a job). After graduating with a B.S. in Urban Studies and Spanish and having nearly 2 years of internship experience under my belt, I struggled to break into a field that had seen layoffs and staffing reductions across the country due to the 2007 recession.
Unable to get my foot in the door, I went back to school for a masters, believing I would be better qualified for that first entry-level job in local government. After two more years I obtained my MPA and another year of internship experience. I applied for hundreds and interviewed for dozens of jobs and prestigious fellowships around the country, but after several months, was no closer to a job than I was two years earlier.
Discouraged, I started thinking about other options. I had spent the last six years in school, studying for a career that seemed out of reach, and accumulating massive amounts of student loan debt in the process - debt that would soon come due. A friend of mine who had been studying for his MBA while I studied for my MPA had gone through Launch Academy to become a developer. I began asking him questions about the program and why he chose to go through a program like Launch Academy after spending so much time studying for an MBA.
Why a coding bootcamp and why Launch Academy?
That summer I took a trip out to Boston to visit my friend and see Launch Academy for myself. After that trip I had made up my mind to become a developer. I started taking courses on Codecademy and readying myself for the admissions interview. I researched other bootcamps in Boston, NYC, and San Francisco. Launch Academy stood out not only because of my visit to their office space (or Mission Control as Launchers call it) but also because of their small size and focus on students. Each cohort is limited to around 35 students (Launchers) with 6-7 instructors (or Experience Engineers) available. Additionally, I had spoken with some alums of the program who were now working as developers, making considerably more money than in their previous jobs, and enjoying their work more than what they had previously did. Lastly, although Launch Academy no longer touts hiring statistics on their website, they claimed a 96% hiring rate for graduates of the program at the time, along with an average starting salary of $55k to $75 (more on that later).
What is the admissions process like?
In a word: competitive. When I applied for the program (7th cohort) the acceptance rate was around 13%. That's more competitive than most Ivy League universities. The admissions process begins with an application that includes some questions on why you want to be a developer. After submitting the application I scheduled a Skype interview with one of the Experience Engineers (EEs). I was told to prepare by reading Chris Pine's Learn to Program. The interview process consisted of two parts. For the first part, I would work through a coding challenge in the book with my interviewer, so they could see how I approach problem solving. This part of the interview is essential for evaluating the problem solving skills of a prospective student. The second part consisted of a 3-5 minute Lightning Talk. During this talk, I would teach my interviewer something - anything - that I found interesting. Bonus points if it isn't related to programming. The purpose of this part of the interview is to assess the student's interpersonal skills, such as how well they can present their ideas to others.
3... 2... 1... Ignition!
Ignition is the first phase of Launch Academy. Each cohort, the curriculum is refined and enhanced in a process of iterative improvement. During my cohort, I spent time learning fundamental programming concepts, the principles of object oriented programming (OOP), and practiced simple coding exercises or code katas. By the end of Ignition I was writing simple command line games such as Tic-Tac-To and Rock-Paper-Scissors.
The first week of Launch Academy was a mind-blowing experience. My cohort spent the first week drilling through more katas in Ruby and reinforcing everything we learned in ignition. I remember looking back at the end of each day and contemplating how much more advanced the project from that day was compared to what I was struggling with just a day or two earlier.
During the second week of this phase I started learning how to build simple webpages in Sinatra, which is a barebones Ruby MVC (Model-View-Controller) framework. By the end of the week I had built a simple to-do list app in Sinatra that saved data to a csv file.
Bravo Phase began during the 3rd week of Launch. By the end of this phase, I had build my first simple website with the Sinatra framework and was busy learning how to write manual SQL queries so that my app could query a database of movies and actors. One of the most notable challenges to come out of this phase was a pairing challenge in which we had to write a command line Blackjack game that conformed to the principles of OOP. It was during this time that some of the concepts that I had read about during Ignition really began to sink in as I put them into practice.
Having spent the last few weeks learning how to build websites in Sinatra gave me a great appreciation for how much more complex and powerful Rails is. Rails is like a big black box. You can tell it to do something and most of the time it just works out of the box, whereas even simple tasks such as compiling a SASS stylesheet become massive undertakings in Sinatra requiring a thorough knowledge of the entire process.
During Delta Phase we continued learning the basics of Rails, including user authentication with Devise, namespacing, RESTful conventions, email, TDD (test driven development), and how to secure our Rails apps against common security threats. Last but not least, we learned how to deploy our apps through Heroku.
Unlike previous phases, there were few daily challenges or katas during Delta Phase. Instead we were tasked with a group project. In groups of 4-5 we would build a simple Yelp-like review site for anything of our choosing using Rails and TDD. The project had to be minimally styled and conform to RESTful conventions. The primary objective of the project was to experience what it's like to work on a team of software developers using tools such as Trello for project management and Git for version control.
We were originally told that the projects would be due the following Monday (beginning of Echo Phase). On Friday at 4 PM however, we were all informed that our projects would be due at 5:30 PM that day, and that we would be presenting them to the entire cohort. Looking back, this was one of the most stressful moments at Launch Academy, but an excellent exercise in prioritizing tasks and working as a group effectively. Despite most groups having planned to spend the weekend finishing the project, every single group successfully presented a styled and functioning site at 5:30 PM, even if some of us were still deploying to Heroku just minutes before our presentation!
This was the final phase of Launch Academy - the home stretch. Everything up to this point had been to prepare us for our capstone project, or breakable toy as we call it. The focus for this entire phase was on building our breakable toys to present to hiring partners on career day. The only lectures during this phase were on computer science theory and job hunting skills that would help us land jobs after the program.
During this time I became a lean mean programming machine, spending 12, sometimes 14 hours per day, 7 days a week working on my breakable toy to get it ready for career day. Whenever I wasn't coding or sleeping, I was studying computer science theory and practicing my interviewing skills with the EEs.
Some of my fellow classmates and I even held a 24-hour coding marathon in Mission Control, which was among my fondest Launch Academy memories.
Despite record snowfall that would go on to be an all-time record for Boston, career day proceeded more or less as planned. For ten weeks we had practiced our coding skills, built apps, and helped each other along the way. Now it was time to present our work and ourselves to hiring partners who were all looking to hire junior software developers.
For my cohort and the cohorts since, career day was split into two separate days with approximately 20-25 companies represented on each day. We were divided into four groups of 6-7, as were the hiring partners in attendance. Each Launcher would have just 2 minutes to present their project and explain why they are passionate about coding and would make a good fit on a company's team. After each person had presented, there would be about 20-25 minutes of time for networking with the hiring partners that had been with the group. Each group of hiring partners would then rotate to the next group of Launchers to repeat the process. After about 2 hours, all the presentations had concluded we were free to network with the hiring partners and eat pizza.
The Job Hunt
While I knew coming in to the program that I likely wouldn't find a job for at least a month or two after the program, the first few weeks after career day were the most difficult. It took me nearly two weeks just to land my first interview. By that time, over half a dozen of my classmates had already received offers. The next month or so saw a slowdown in the hiring rate for the cohort. It seemed as though many people, myself included, were being interviewed weekly, sometimes two or three times per week, but not receiving offers. I watched as the hiring rate slowly ticked upwards to around 30%. During the second month post-grad, the pace of hiring began to pick up, with nearly 60% of the cohort hired by March. As of this writing, around 80% of the people in my cohort have found jobs as programmers, myself included.
Reflections: The Good Stuff
Although I sometimes doubted myself, I know that I made the right choice in going through Launch Academy. It was a stressful and expensive process that has only just begun to pay dividends. Three months after graduating, I landed a role as the Lead Developer for a startup company in Boston. While some of my classmates obtained high-paid roles with flashy startups or larger companies, many such as myself did not. I opted to work for a pre-seed startup, sacrificing a high salary for the potential to make more money later, but more importantly, to gain experience working as a remote developer on a team of one. More on that later. Others in my cohort also worked for small pre-seed startups or went on to become freelancers. A few are still searching.
Reflections: The Not So Good Stuff
Going in, my expectations were perhaps a little too high. I really did expect that everyone in my group would get a high paying job. That didn't happen. Several of my classmates weren't endorsed for career day, and for many of the rest of us, finding a job was no easy task, even for the best of us. It is true that the demand for programmers is nearly insatiable at the moment. That said, companies are as picky now as they've ever been about who they want to hire. Completing a program like Launch should not be seen as a guaranteed ticket to a job, but merely a launching pad to a career. Finishing Launch Academy opened the doors for me to a career in programming, but I still had to work every day for months afterwards before I finally got the job.
Improving the Curriculum
The curriculum for each cohort is an improved version of that from the previous cohort. Cohorts before mine did not begin working with Sinatra until the fourth week. My cohort began working with Sinatra during the second week. The cohort after mine started working with Sinatra on day one. Now it is part of Ignition.
While I can't speak for the curriculum of the current cohort or those to come, there were some things that I wish my cohort had been able to cover that would have prepared us better for the job market. Chief among these things is responsive design using popular frameworks such as Bootstrap or Foundation. We touched on these frameworks only minimally during my cohort. Designing a flashy website says little about a developer's programming skills, but a lot about their presentation skills. This is especially important when presenting work to non-technical hiring managers.
Launch Academy was one of the best decisions I've ever made. It's opened the doors for me to a career I love, and as an added bonus, one that pays decent wages. Launch Academy is not for everyone though. If you're lazy, lack motivation, and are only interested in landing a high-paying job as quickly as possible, then Launch Academy is not for you.
If you decide to go, you will work like a dog for months on end. you will struggle day and night trying to understand complex data structures, SQL queries, and RESTful conventions. You will grow grey hairs trying to understand Git workflow. You will spend many hours stuck on T trains that smell of urine as you commute to Chinatown. You will likely gain weight eating Chinese food because you won't have the time to cook proper meals. You may even get to wade through 4 feet of snow and slush in freezing temperatures to make it to your career day presentation.
If you decide to go, you will make new friends and colleagues who will help push you along and keep you motivated. You will experience moments of joy each time you finally understand a difficult concept. You will cheer when you deploy your first app to Heroku. You will learn that most programmers survive on a diet of coffee and beer alone. Every day you will learn something new and be challenged to grow as a developer. Lastly, you will be part of an elite group of Launch Academy alumni who are active on Slack and constantly helping each other with coding problems and help requests, or just meeting up for lunch and a beer.
Should you pay $12,500 to go through 10 grueling weeks of the most intense learning experience of your life for the chance to become a junior web developer? Only you can decide!
Overall, I had a great experience. I learned the entire stack to build fully functional websites with impressive tech behind them. The curriculum is difficult and requires motivation on the part of the student. If you work hard, follow the guidelines, and keep up with the material, it is very likely that you will land a great job as a software engineer shortly after the class ends.
There were a few times when we were lectured on things like "mansplaining", which felt out of place for a class meant to teach you how to build websites. The school strives to educate the students on being professional in the work environment, so presentations like this felt downright odd.
These are minor gripes, and overall the experience was a positive one. For anyone willing to focus on the material and put in the time necessary, a job as a software developer is well within your grasp after Launch Academy. I landed my dream job after taking the course, and I couldn't be happier with it.
Every time someone asks me what I thought about my Launch Academy experience, I give them the same answer: it was the best 10 weeks of my professional career so far.
Warning: wall of text incoming. Skip to the end if you want the cliff notes version.
I, like many of my fellow classmates, did not come from a CS background. I had been working as a project manager at a translation company for the past two and a half years. I had moved into a more technical role, though I never wrote a line of code (and would not have known how, in any case). While I had liked my job at one point, I no longer did, and it had become clear to me that it was just that: a job. I wanted a career. I applied to both General Assembly and Launch Academy in Boston, was accepted at both, and after a painstaking couple of days, decided on Launch Academy. And gave my notice immediately after making that decision.
Launch Academy has a pre-work curriculum that every Launcher does at home in the weeks before the cohort starts, called Ignition. With our cohort they placed a lot more emphasis on learning as much Ruby as possible during Ignition so we could really hit the ground running on day one.
The first six weeks are well-structured and give students a practical understanding of core web development and use techniques that really force students to digest what they're learning. Evening assignments were on new concepts and accompanied by a reading. Sometimes this reading included a step-by-step guide that you could follow to build something, but the assignment (which students were required to turn in by the next morning) always required some extra thinking. Often, though, the assignments required a good deal of outside research in order to complete. Students returned the next morning and broke into smaller mentor groups where an EE (experience engineer, as the instructors were called) would address any specific problems a student brought up. The morning facilitation (a lecture-like presentation by an instructor) then went over the concepts from the previous night's assignment in more detail.
Afternoons were less structured. Almost everyone worked in pairs on the afternoon assignment, and each day a couple of EE's had office hours where students could get some dedicated one-on-one time if they wanted. Optional clinics were available for extra coverage of certain topics or more advanced topics.
This style of teaching was key. I had to figure out how to do something before I was taught. I was never given all the tools, but I had the means to acquire them. If I struggled with a concept, one of my fellow Launchers was there to help me. If I managed to complete something quickly, there was someone else I could help. And this is the kicker: the best way to learn something is to teach it. If I made something work by trial and error, all well and good. But in order to teach someone else, I had to go back and really understand what I had done and help my fellow Launcher make their code work.
The last four weeks were more open-ended: two weeks were dedicated to group projects, and two weeks on our own breakable toys. EE's still had office hours every day and held optional clinics. We received some guidance on group projects but the EE's became much more hands-off toward the end, really making us take the reins and lead ourselves to success. We met with Corinne, the wonderful, amazing, talented, insanely hard-working career services director, several times, and had mock technical interviews. We practiced (and practiced and practiced) our presentations for career day. We were as prepared as we could be.
We were not guaranteed jobs. We were guaranteed assistance in the job search and guidance. The staff will prepare you as best they can, but you have to want to succeed. Launch Academy's job placement rate after graduation is extremely high... almost ridiculoulsy so. Check out their website. I had booked 8 interviews in the first week after graduation, and accepted an offer just a week and a half after graduating. I could not be happier with my overall experience and where I ended up.
- great pre-work program (Ignition) prepares you before day 1
- course designed to make you really digest as much information as possible
- last half of cohort really emulates a real working environment
- Corinne (career services) really works hard to help you find a job
- GREAT experience, lots of fun, lots of hard work, lots of struggles, but a sense of accomplishment every day
In the end, you really get out of it what you put into it. This is not school. No one is forcing you to be there. If you're there, it's because you want to be, and this is what you want to do. Don't expect to coast along. But, if you put in the time and the effort, it will pay off.
Overall, I had an amazing experience at Launch Academy. I learned enough to land several interviews and my first job in a new career in software development. If you truly enjoy software development, are hungry to learn and grow, and are ready to work really really hard, Launch Academy definitely delivers on its promise to prepare you for a new career as a developer. You get what you put into it though, so don't expect to slack off and then expect Launch to work a miracle for you. It is an excellent program for anyone who has a passion for development and is ready to truly dedicate themself to levelling up.
The preparation for interviews, resumes, networking, etc. was all excellent, and the two career days where you meet prospective employers looking to hire junior developers is amazing. Getting this personalized job preparation and coaching and introduction to hiring parters was one of the most valuable parts of the entire experience in my mind.
Having done a lot of research, I think Launch is the best bootcamp you can find in Boston. The personalized attention and focus on one cohort at a time I think really sets it apart from some of the other bootcamps.
TL;DR: Attending Launch Academy was one of the best decisions I've made.
I'd been trying to break into a career in software engineering for a while, and the practical skills and education I got through Launch Academy put me over the top.
Something I also appreciated about their instruction is that they don't tolerate lazy coding. Often, there's a quick way to get something done that will get something working now, at some significant cost later; Launch was very clear about doing things in the *right* way, not just the *fastest* way.
It is INTENSE, though. I dropped as many obligations as I could to make room for the 50+ hour weeks. Learning so much in such a short amount of time requires dedication.
I'm not sure how they managed it, but the culture there was great. The instructors are all super-friendly and helpful (and badass), and the entire student community was mutually supportive. I felt that Lauch really invested it me, and that they cared deeply about my personal success.
I've also been impressed with their Career Services. Part of the curriculum is focused on what it takes to get hired: your resume, profssional profiles, interview skills, and so forth.
As for the actual hiring process post-graduation, Corinne is tireless. About two dozen companies looking to hire came to Career Day, and she's been in touch with many more since, setting up interviews, phone screens, etc. And even though the gig I eventually landed I got through my own connections, Corinne was still incredibly helpful.
So yeah, I feel pretty good about having gone through Launch.
Attending Launch Academy was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I had recently relocated and unable to get any momentum in a new city with no professional network. Coding was always in my peripheral, but I had never actually taken the plunge until I started to look into bootcamps. Launch Academy really focused on Web Development moreso than others, so I dove in.
You'll initially spend 8 weeks online learning fundamentals, slowly ramping up to the 10-week online program where you'll be taking on a different topic each week. The pace picks up really quickly from there, and it's not only challenging, but you'll be surrounded by people who fast become very close friends. By the time you're done, you'll know enough to build your own small apps and what you do from there is up to you. I personally kept the moment going and started to teach myself other languages I never could "figure out" before without the experience Launch provided.
Launch's curriculum changes very dynamically. Technology changes faster than fashion, and Launch keeps up. After graduating, they've got a pretty intensive job assistance program to keep you busy and active on the job hunt. It's a great experience.
Hey! So I was a student in the Summer 2013 Cohort of Launch Academy. I had absolutely ZERO experience going into the program, and was a bartender up until I moved to Boston to start the bootcamp.
I've always been a fast learner so I kind of thought that it wouldn't be as hard as it sounded. I was soooo wrong. It was super hard, probably THE HARDEST THING I'VE EVER DONE IN MY LIFE, and intense, and totally immersive - I was eating, breathing, sleeping code..literally, I dreamed about writing programs. I probably cried close to everyday (not to sound like a baby). I learned SO much and going to Launch Academy changed my life. I went from being a bartender not knowing a single thing about programming, to being a full time developer at a super cool web and mobile apps development company in Raleigh, NC..IN TEN WEEKS.
The instructors and everyone involved are amazing and so invested in helping you learn and have the best experience possible. I am living my dream life right now and it is due in large part to Launch Academy.
I enrolled in Launch Academy on a whim, and I have to say it was the best decision of my life. I was pretty skeptical of their claims to begin with, that they could really teach me to be a web developer in only 10 weeks, and that they could find jobs in the industry for almost all their graduates, but I've seen it happen, and it works! My programming experience before Launch was limited to a half-forgotten C++ course I took in high school, but with their help I was able to graduate as a confident coder with the knowledge and good instincts to tackle any project. I was hired as a developer by one of Launch's hiring partners almost immediately after graduation. Almost needless to say - although there's some sticker shock, in my case it very easily paid for itself.
Dan Pickett, Launch's co-founder and one of the senior instructors, is a fantastic guy who is both the guru on all things web development with Ruby on Rails, and also someone who has a real passion and gift for teaching. The curriculum he and the other Launch staff have put together includes a huge amount of information, but presented in a very accessible way, and with a strong emphasis on the students' actually understanding the most important concepts, as opposed to simple rote memorization.
The other Launch staff are all very enthusiastic and knowledgeable teachers, and genuinely great people to hang out and have a beer with. Like most web-dev positions, the "Experience Engineers" have a fairly high rate of turnover, so I won't give out any specific endorsements (also just don't have room!), but everyone that Dan and Evan hire is going to be someone whom it's a real treat to get to know.
The other students in my cohort were not only intelligent and motivated, but also one of the most down-to-Earth and friendliest groups of people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. Many of us had genuinely awesome talents and careers outside of coding. We had everyone from MIT grads to someone like me (22), with no college degree or paid white-collar work experience. Launch doesn't just choose the applicants who look best on paper but really do their homework to make sure it's a great mix of people. As it turns out, I ended up being one of the strongest coders of the cohort, but I wouldn't have had that opportunity if Launch hadn't been willing to take a chance on me.
Launch (and Dan) has a great reputation in the Boston tech community for graduating developers who know the necessary Ruby fundamentals to immediately start improving a Rails codebase. They have by far the best reputation of any Boston-based bootcamp; they're one of the first and one of the best, not some sketchy cash-in operation (*cough* General Assembly *cough*). That alone opens plenty of doors in the job market. But Launch also has relationships with dozens of hiring partners whom we present to on Career Day, and from whom most of us had multiple interview requests soon after. But best of all Launch has Corinne, who puts in a superhuman amount of effort to helping every member of the cohort find a job. She handles almost all the communication with employers so we don't have to, and will advocate tirelessly on your behalf. I can't praise her enough.
Now, in the interests of presenting a complete and unbiased picture, I would be remiss if I didn't mention there are a few downsides. Please don't be scared off; I just want you to know that I'm an honest reporter and all my praise is completely justified.
- A couple Launchers in my cohort who really did work hard and try their best were not invited to Career Day, because it was determined they had not progressed far enough in the curriculum. I understand that it is a necessary evil; it's not fair for the other Launchers trying to find jobs if Launch's reputation amongst the hiring partners is hurt by people who get hired and then can't do the work. The bootcamps that guarantee a job generally require prior experience as a programmer and/or are much more aggressive about kicking people out entirely. But applicants should know that while coding is great for many people, it isn't for everyone, and also that the time commitment is greater than a full-time job. Expect many days where you stay late into the evening, and lots of working through the weekends.
- As someone who progressed through the material pretty quickly, I often wanted the ability to learn about more advanced and in-depth topics. For the most part I was able to teach myself new concepts at my own pace, and the instructors were happy to help, but it still would have been nice to have that opportunity in a structured environment. I've heard they're adding an optional seminar to that effect in the new cohort.
- The junior instructors are, well, junior. Many of them are Launchers from recent cohorts. The first few weeks it will seem like they know everything, but by weeks 7-10 they might start to get a little shaky if you start asking them about advanced topics, and it can take a while before you can get ahold of a senior instructor.
- 10 weeks is maybe a little too short. 12 or 14 weeks, like some other bootcamps, is probably better to make sure you have a really solid understanding of Rails. Of course, Launch is a big commitment in terms of time and money as it stands, and the online pre-work gives you a pretty good framework before you even come in the first day.
- All things being equal, you will have an easier time finding a job, and will be paid more, if you have a Computer Science degree vs. attending a bootcamp. There are important concepts that CS degree programs teach that bootcamps aren't able to. If your choice is between a 4-year CS degree and Launch, and you can afford the cost in time and money, the degree is the better option. Remember of course that many people have become very successful, skilled and senior developers without a CS degree.
Overall, I really could not be happier with my decision to attend Launch, and I strongly recommend that anyone else who's interested do the same, and sooner rather than later! Please do not hesitate to shoot me an email if you're interested in talking with me about my experiences in greater depth; I'd love to help out anyone who wants to join me in this fun and fast-paced industry. You can reach me at
rayghamel at-sign gmail period com
In terms of getting bang for your buck I found that that my time at Launch Academy was more valuable than any semester I had in college, but at half the price. It's not an easy road, but if you're willing to put in the effort and embrace the life of a software developer than this is undoubtedly one of the best places to make the transition. More importantly the relationships and alumni network that Launch creates are immensely valuable, and the co-operative aspects of the program helped me not only become a better programmer, but a better person as well.
A fantastic program - Dan Pickett is one of the most well-regarded leaders in the Boston ruby community, and he has put together a really great team of instructors. Awesome people, curriculum second to none. More than that, the 6-month post-grad support is real. The experience engineers at LA are really genuine people as well as stellar engineers - ping them with a question a month after the program is over and you'll get a response. If your heart is 100% in it, you'll get quite a bit more from LA than you could from comparable programs.
A look back: 6 Months After Graduation
Everyday there is a reference back to something I learned at Launch Academy. The day to day workflow of working in a Ruby web stack is very similar to what I learned at LA. Our engineering team practices test driven development, another core competency of Launch. Even the environment of Mission Control(the physical space of Launch) mimics the open floor collaborative environment that I currently work in. In addition to the parallels between Launch Academy and career after Launch, I was fortunate enough to have been able to make enough mistakes in a learning environment of LA (dropping production databases, losing git branches, overwriting entire repos) where the cost was low that I didn't lose my company any money.
At Backupify I started as an Associate Software Engineer, where I worked on several projects (upgrading API's/rails, refactoring code, making systems improvements, rewriting tests, customer bugs/requests) which were very manageable task for a young developer. After 2 months, started getting mentoring opportunities to bring brand new engineers up to speed on our technology. I was able to leverage my experience with mentoring my peers at Launch to help bring these new teams members up to speed quickly. After 6 months with this team, I was promoted to Software Engineer and Team Lead managing 3 engineers.
All of this was possible because I had worked hard to meet the day to day challenges of Launch Academy and learn as much as I possibly could. I am truly thankful for the great patience, knowledge, and experience of the mentors and of the staff of Launch Academy. I look forward to a continued professional relationship with all of my co-Launchers past, present and future.
I graduated the LA program as part of the Fall 2016 cohort. Overall, my experience was terrific - the staff, curriculum, environment - everything exceeded my expectations before I joined. I originally signed up to launch academy as a way to change my career path - I had been stuck in the same job for a few years, and it felt like the right fit. The school did a great job introducing basic concepts and easing students into the course with the part-time program before the on site weeks, but that being said it might have been nice to have one or two meetings before hand as well.
Once the full time program started, the pace really ramped up - each week is focused on a new aspect of web development, and the program did a great job breaking the weeks into learning, doing and testing. By the time we were getting started on our final demo projects - I had felt like I'd learned more in the weeks prior than I did the 4 years I was in college! The project portion of the course as good, although I will mention some issues below. Preparation for the final presentations was very helpful - I think this was more useful when it came time for interviews than for when we did the presentations.
Before starting, and in the weeks we are learning the development skills - the final presentation/career day is billed as really being a big part of us getting a job after the course. When the time finally came, it was a little disappointing seeing the number of recruiters/companies that came to visit the school. I'm not sure if the program and companies are 100% aligned on this format, there might be a better avenue in my mind.
So all told, the course was very strong - I learnt an incredible amount, and most importantly the school embedded the idea that to make it in software, you really have to never stop learning. It is a huge 'get out what you put in' type of place, they give you the resources and time, but you really need to make the most of it. Stay late, read extra, work on the weekends - it all pays dividends by the end, and carrys through to the post-graduation phases. Keep trying to build things even when you dont think you know how, you'll be surprised how much the base level skills can translate in to some much higher level concepts.
Most of the people in my cohort were not hired/interviewed after the career day. Luckily, there was a group of us that spent time meeting in the city and working together - keeping skills sharp and creating new projects was important for hiring and interviews down the line (keep those git commit bars green!!). I can't imagine trying to pitch a breakable toy to a hiring manager 3 months after graduation as being a great way to geat picked up. New ideas, quick projects - this seemed to be what got attention from companies and I started seeing more responses to my applications. In the end, I was contacted directly by a recruiter from a software company, and I went through the process independant of LA - that being said their skills in sharpening resumes and online profiles really went a long way, and their push to get you to events helped me feel comfortable just talking to people about technology. I thought the post graduation curriculum was great.
All told I was thrilled with the program, but there were a couple issues. As mentioned above, the format of the career day was a little off putting, and didn't seem to get much traction with the companies attending. I was also a little disappointed by the project I was encouraged to work on - we were asked to present two or three ideas, the first of which really pushed my own boundries, something I thought was cool and was very different than what we had focused on. In the end, the staff pushed me toward what was essentially a rehash of the projects we had worked on during the course, and when that happens across 30+ students, you get a lot of similar looking projects. I wish they would have let me push my boundries a little more, potentially fail, but have something unique and a little different to present in the end.
The culture at Launch is interesting, and as mentioned in a couple other reviews was at times a little heavy handed. We were all big boys and girls in the program - and sitting down an entire cohort to walk us through 'mansplaining' was a pretty eye-roll worthy experience. The post-graduation Slack channel was also a great encapsulation of the programs approach to points of contention - when friction developed between two graduates, instead of the normal approach of muting or banning the trouble maker, or asking evryone to remain civil/explain why what they were doing was wrong - the entire channel was shut down. Not great, especially with the way graduate community it was touted before starting. It was really disappointing also to hear the head of the program while we were there was leaving, but the staff overall were really fun and knowledgable.
Finally I want to stress again how much I enjoyed the program - but being out in the industry now, there was a bit more of a relience on packages/frameworks than there should of been. The big two that stood out were Devise for authentication, and Foundation for CSS/styling. Relying on these to quickly get things set in a project was understandable, but there wasn't much of an understanding given to us as to what was happening under the hood.
All in all, I have encouraged friends and coworkers to attend Launch Academy multiple times, I think it was a great course - well designed and executed - and it helped me make a drastic career change. I have been back to events held there after, and its encouraging to see the community grow - I hope they can continue on the right path and build on the success they have had.
I had an excellent experience at Launch Academy. I came in with very modest programming experience (one free online course and a couple months of hacking on various projects in my spare time) and Launch Academy absolutely fulfilled its promise to teach me what I needed to know to get a job in web development.
Dan Pickett and his teachers have developed a curriculum that manages to teach a huge amount of information in a very short period of time and actually make it stick. Literally every week you start a task that seems impossible, and by Friday morning it seems simple.
Launch Academy also offers incredible career support, both through their formal network of hiring partners, and through the less formal Boston tech scene. They have an excellent reputation, and they offer the resources students need to succeed, not just in learning the mechanics of programming for the web, but in finding a job and succeeding in that job.
I am a former Launcher who decided to attend the bootcamp with minimal experience in coding. Overall I would say I had a great experience at Launch Academy. My goal was to expedite the process of learning to code and transition into a new career, and Launch helped me do both of those things. The curriculum covers a lot of information and the group and individual projects gives students the chance to test out their new skills.
This is not a bootcamp for people who aren't self-motivated or expect Launch to just hand them a job after graduating (although I think the same thing is true of any bootcamp). You get out of it what you put into it. But if you're willing to work hard for the few short months you're in the program the instructors and career services will do everything they can to support you.
I definitely think I made the right choice by attending Launch Academy and would certainly recommend it to anyone I know thinking of attending a bootcamp.
I'm a graduate of Launch Academy's [LA] 5th and final Philadelphia cohort. During my time, LA was able to deliver a comprehensive plan to develop my foundational development knowledge. At first, you will be taken for a whirlwind of courses designed to instill a deeper responsibility of writing code; writing for other developers to understand your intentions. We are encouraged to practice DRY, test-driven programming in two languages. There is a context switch mid-course that will break any syntax habits you may have which drives the point of understanding the reason behind the code and refrain from 'commanding' the CPU. *It is very important to have an obsession with technology, compulsive curiosity, and a growth mindset. you will not make it in the SWE world if you do not possess these 3 traits.*
This is a revised review, as initially, I had been less than happy with the job prospects given to me. By communicating my frustration with the LA team, I had begun to understand that there may have been internal issues, given the fact that LA Philly was an expansion. There may or may not have been internal strife, but the compassionate leaders Dan and Corinne have done their best to resolve any concerns that I had. I understand owning a business is not easy, but in my prior review, I had let my anger get the best of me. Working more closely with the LA team, I've been able to get further in my job search, and have been given two separate opportunities to begin my career as a direct result from LA.
In conclusion, you must understand that, as a junior developer, your entire career will be an unquenchable thirst for more knowledge of underlying technologies. Nobody will hold you accountable except for yourself. You have to strive to be the best version of yourself. LA promised me a career change, and while a little bumpy, they never broke their promise. I'm not going to discredit the invaluable knowledge that a CS degree provides, but for 15,000, I had doubled my earning potential in less than a year. That's one hell of a RoI.
I just recently graduated from Launch Academy, so I've had experience with both the curriculum as well as the post graduation support. I can only say good things about both! They crammed as much as could fit in our heads, and have been working hard to find us positions since graduating. The one complaint I have is that the coursework could be a little rough around the edges at times, due to the fact that they're constantly changing it to keep up with trends and new tech. Generally it was minor things like examples not working, or tutorials not being quite accurate. The mentors were always there to address any issues though. I think my favorite part of Launch is that I'm now a part of a really dedicated and friendly community of web developers!
All in all, I had a great experience!
I joined Launch Academy in February 2014 after realizing that coding was something I wanted to do. While I had very little experience with coding and most programming languages I was familiar with Ruby by attending free workshops in Boston
I decided on Launch for a couple of reasons; it's located in Boston, they are active in the Ruby community, and I had met Launch Academy alum who had only good things to say about the boot camp model.
One of the greatest things about Launch Academy are the Experience Engineers who teach and mentor. It's an amazing support system that I don't think I would've gotten at other bootcamps in the city.
By the end of the 10-week program, I had built a couple of apps using Rails and Sinatra and was exposed to many of the methodologies and technologies full-stack developers use. The most important thing was not just what I learned but HOW I learned. I know feel like I have the tools to learn any new technology at an accelerated rate.
I had interviews for 5 different positions and accepted a job offer within a month of graduation.
Launch Academy was a great stepping stone for me. I had just graduated college, and during my last semester i began transitioning to web development. Started doing Codecademy and other tutorials online.
I knew I lacked any prior, both educational and work, experience in computer science, so I figured the next best thing was to do a bootcamp. After doing my research and investigating, I decided Launch Academy was the best fit for me.
I think Launch Academy excels at the instructors. Dan Picket, Johnny Borsiquost, and the Experienced Engineers, are really smart, can explain things very well, and are there to help whenever you may need it.
To be very honest and blunt, this is a bootcamp. If you have the drive and work ethic, you will thrive. If not, maybe take a different approach. 10-weeks goes by really fast, and the amount of knowledge you absorb is unlike anything else.
My advice if your are thinking of doing this or are going to do it, is this. If you are learning something, and dont understand it (after you have tried to figure it out), ask ASAP! 10 weeks really goes by fast. Embrace the confusion, and always look for clarity. Understand your learning style, and make sure Launch Academy is catering to that style. Last time i checked, my batch (the 2nd), had about an 80% job placement within 1.5 months.
Live and breath this stuff for the 10 weeks. Most importantly, seek to understand what, why, how things are happening. Everything builds upon the old stuff, so make sure every step of the way you are understanding what is going on.
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 →