Recent LEARN Academy News
- How to Get Work Experience Before You Graduate from Coding Bootcamp
- Alumni Spotlight: Jenny Pletner of LEARN Academy
- 8 Traits found in the Ideal Coding Bootcamp Student
Recent LEARN Academy Reviews: Rating 4.63
Full Time Ruby Bootcamp
Application Deadline:May 15, 2017
- We are now offering partial Scholarships & Military Discounts
- Minimum Skill Level
- Mostly we find that the best candidates are students who have been learning on their own via online learning for a few months. They are now at the point where they want to take the next step.
- Prep Work
- We are now offering partial Scholarships & Military Discounts
- Minimum Skill Level
- Mostly we find that the best candidates are students who have been learning on their own via online learning for a few months. They are now at the point where they want to take the next step.
- Prep Work
$500 LEARN Academy Scholarship
- Full Time Ruby Bootcamp (San Diego)
LEARN Academy Reviews
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A year ago, I was a wedding planner. Today, I am a software engineer at a Fortune 50 company.
People laugh when I tell them that…like they think it must be a joke. Let’s be real: it does sound like a joke. But it’s 100% true, and that is in large part due to my experience at LEARN.
I had a background in math and computer science, but life took me in a different direction, and a few years after college I found myself running my own wedding planning business. Fast forward almost a decade, and I had come to a crossroads. It was time to switch things up, and that meant either pursuing event planning in a different avenue, or returning to my roots. I chose the latter.
Obviously, my college education was outdated and, in the world of tech, pretty much obsolete. I needed some help to get back in the game. So I started to look into boot camps. I researched my options, and was pretty set on the fact that I was going to have to leave San Diego for several months in order to pursue this dream. Then I found LEARN.
From the moment I met Rob, Chelsea, Lisa, and the other staff, I knew these were my kind of people. When your interview feels more like catching up with an old friend you just never happened to have met yet, you know you’re in the right spot. Which is not to say that they don’t take this seriously. It’s called a boot camp for a reason; you will be challenged, at times your brain will be fried, and you will wonder, “what on earth have I gotten myself into?” But you will also find yourself surrounded by a community of people who are interested in not only seeing you succeed in the course, but who are committed to your overall well-being long after you’ve graduated.
Full disclosure: Everything about my experience wasn’t just peaches and cream. There were difficult personalities to work with. My internship experience was not the perfect fit, and I didn’t get a job from it like I had hoped. It took me 15 minutes to figure out how to turn on the computer on my first day, and I was sure that I’d just made a huge mistake by signing up for this thing…
But it turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made. LEARN gave me a foundation in web development, and more importantly, taught me how to learn web development. After all, that is what a career in development is all about: constant learning.
Three months after graduating, I interviewed for a software engineering position at a Fortune 50 company. It was a full-day interview with multiple coding challenges and technical interviews with various senior engineers. Because of LEARN, I was confident in my technical skills, and made it through each challenge happy with my performance. I got the job offer that night. Scratch that. I got a job offer that night which was far beyond what I had let myself hope for.
I’m now six months in to my job, and loving every second of it. I can’t believe I get to do something so fun as a job, and that I get so well paid for it. Going to LEARN catapulted me into this new career, and I will be forever grateful. Not to mention, I made some incredible friendships with the other students and staff which go far deeper than just working together in tech.
Go to LEARN. Gain an education. Leave with a family.
LEARN was absolutely instrumental in getting me to where I am today. Before I attended LEARN I was stuck in a marketing job with little opportunity for advancement and days full of busywork. Now, I am a junior engineer at the beginning of a (hopefully!) long and productive career. My employment outlook is significantly brighter: I have a better job that's more fun and engaging, pays better, is more stable, has more room for internal growth and advancement, and values my personal and professional growth. And should I ever choose to leave it, there are tons of great opportunities in the industry to move on to other organizations doing exciting work with an ever-evolving technology stack. Changing careers was a big and scary step, and it isn't easy, but LEARN has consistently supported and empowered me to make this change, and that support continues today, more than a year after I graduated from their program.
The coursework was fast-paced and at times overwhelming. 3 months just isn't enough time to learn it all, and you finish the program with a sense that there's a lot more work to do. However, the biggest value of this program is the process. You learn how to ask questions, and how to search for answers. I spent a lot of time feeling frustrated and like I didn't know what I was doing, but LEARN does a good job of normalizing that discomfort and teaching you to work it without getting discouraged (which is one of the toughest parts of trying to learn something so new and foreign as an adult!). The program uses project-based learning to get you practicing writing code from day 1, and consistent pair programming teaches you how to collaborate and has the added benefit that you're never alone with a problem. The instructors do a great job of balancing giving you the answer versus guiding you to find it on your own via research. LEARN also introduces its students to the agile process, which is widely used in the industry today, and this iterative approach means your project doesn't have to be perfect on the first pass.
After 3 months in the classroom, LEARN placed me in a one-month internship with a local startup. I got to push real code to their production application the first week! My particular internship did leave something to be desired, as the developer who was supposed to be managing me and two of my classmates wasn't very available, and we were assigned tasks and left to pretty much figure them out on our own. So the collaboration skills we'd learned in class and the support of the LEARN community proved to be vital to our success. Our instructors, classmates, and alumni were all just a chat message away, and we used our network a lot to get our work done. Even though I wasn't that well managed, I still learned a lot, and at the end of the internship our boss was impressed with how much we'd accomplished.
After graduation, I was nervous about getting a job, but Lisa, LEARN's outreach coordinator, was diligent about passing on job opportunities to recent alumni, and just about every interview I went on was thanks to her referral. While I was searching for a full-time job she even got me connected to someone who was looking for a part time independent contractor for web development work, so I was working (and practicing my new skills) while I was looking for work! I was hired on for a full time job about 2 1/2 months after finishing my internship.
I can't say enough good things about LEARN. It's honestly changed my life. I'm so, so glad that I attended and that I'm still involved in the ever-growing, ever-supportive LEARN community.
I had been programming as a hobby and to help in my profession as an internet marketer for several years and wanted to switch to progamming as my career. After a lot of searching for a bootcamp help with this change in career I found LEARN in San Deigo. It appeid to me for a few reasons. I wanted to move back to the San Deigo area where I grew up, the bootcamp focused on full stack development which was what I wanted to do, and it was less expensive than the other bootcamps I was looking at and appling to.
The actual program was fantastic. The teachers adapted the curriculum to my experience level and really gave me confidence in my ability. Another thing to note is that LEARN is deeply involved in the community and it provided many opportunities to network and meet people in the San Diego Technology community.
After the class part of the bootcamp came the one month internship, which is guaranteed for every student. Form that internship I got the job I have now and couldn't be happier with how things went. The staff at LEARN really care about every student and will do everything that they can to help you succeed.
I attended LEARN! Academy from July 2016 to November 2016. I looked into the various bootcamps here in San Diego and the internship that is part of the curriculum set LEARN apart from other bootcamps. I can't say enough about how awesome my experience was. It was very challenging, but at the same time it was manageable.
The people at LEARN truly care about the students and the school. LEARN isn't trying to push as many students as possible through the pipeline just to make a quick buck. They work hard with each student not only through the classroom time but also throughout the internship and through the hiring process.
The curriculum for my cohort was Ruby. It was fast-paced and challenging, but the instructors were fantastic. There is lecture time each day but the bulk of the experience is coding challenges. The instructors give you just enough guidance to help you in the right direction. They encourage you to solve problems and meet the challenges on your own, (which is more like the real-world working environment).
The daily routine at LEARN mimics a real-world work environment, so the transition to full-time developer for me was seemless. I was placed at a great company for my internship and was hired as a full time developer at the end of the 4 weeks.
Another note on the internships, the companies that take interns are all great. I would have been happy at any of them. The LEARN staff took great care in placing students in the right internship environment. It worked out great for me as I was hired by my internship company.
Going the LEARN was the best decision! I highly recommend LEARN if you want to go somewhere where you will be more than just a number. You will be a part of a great community!
If you are looking for a career change, have invested some personal time exploring the field, and are ready to take action - LEARN Academy is the place for you. My time at LEARN was great and I have no regrets. I would not be where I am today without the school so I am forever greatful for this.
I would say the positives are: it is cheaper then most other schools, it was the first school in San Diego, smaller classes, one-on-one attention, internship for the last month for real life experience, and we had group projects which really prepared me for the real world.
LEARN ACADEMY SIMPLY ROCKS!
What mattered to me the most were the people. I found out about LEARN from attending an SD Ruby Meetup. One of the people, Rob Kaufman (co-founder of LEARN) was giving a talk that broke things down in a way that made it easy for me understand how parts of Rails functioned. That was huge because at that time, I did not have a clear idea of what Rails was. I think it also says a lot about how LEARN is so heavily involved in the San Diego Tech scene. The lead instructor of my cohort was influential with his style of instruction. It was not so much the learning of languages and how to use a framework but the building of good programming habits (both technical and with concern to general programmer happiness). Instruction had more to do with learning to think and communicate like a programmer. Without the insights of Lisa (the outreach coordinator) and Chelsea (CEO), the transition to becoming a software developer personally would have been stifling. I’ve been working as a junior software developer now for about five months and to this day, I find myself with so much gratitude for this community of great people.
I did hit some rough patches with parts of the material, and that's natural - it happens to EVERYONE. However, I always had someone to ask for help during and after my time at LEARN. Another beautiful thing about the people at LEARN is that they are also very concerned about burnout prevention. They want you to still have a life outside of the bootcamp because they truly understand that humans are humans; that our brains can only handle so much input before you collapse into a burnout—you learn better when you’re not stressed out. This was a very winning point for me because I’m aware that programmer burnout is a real thing. I experienced something similar to it when I was in architecture school. I appreciate intensity but I just don't think being at a computer for 15+ hours a day is conducive to maximized learning or good programming. And LEARN did a great job at providing a healthy environment.
LEARN provides an internship after three months. I cannot emphasize how important this internship was both in terms of what I learned and how I used it to build my resume. My peers have gone on to work for companies that partnered with LEARN to provide internships. A month after my internship ended, I had four in-person interviews (plus three phone interviews). I received three offers. The job hunting process was no joke. It was a constant hustle, but I was prepared for it because of all the groundwork that was laid during the Professional Development week at LEARN. Did I happen to mention that I work at a pretty cool fin-tech startup in San Diego Downtown? That’s right — Thank you, LEARN.
They have it down when it comes to helping you build a network of people who will help you not only get your foot in the door, but also one that will help you throughout your programming career. LEARN is a co-op space for alumni. I've been back many times (and I wish more), to ask for help, to share my knowledge, to attend meet-ups, and to just be there and work among other programmers. I have seen that they have made an already amazing program even better.
I have no doubt that LEARN will be the right choice for anyone looking to take the leap into the world of web-development.
The thing about Learn is that they realize there's a burnout point and once that is reached you can't learn anymore at that moment. That's why their course in M-F 9-5. It gives you a weekend, and free time to recoup, and work on your own things. The other part to LEARN is that they teach you how to learn, and how to get unstuck. I loved LEARN. The people are great, and once school was over it's not like they go away. We still talk, have great friendships, and are actually working on an alumni project together.
Bootcamps are not intended or the faint of heart. I went to Learn because I know some of the Ruby developpers in San Diego and I really like the inclusive and friendly ethos (MINASWAN!). Learn offers soiid full-stack immersion and it will surely kick your ass to cover material this fast but the team is flexible and fully involved in getting you through. The instructors and administrators really care about the individual students in the class and how where they are going after the end of the course.
Attending Learn Bootcamp was one of the best things I could have done for myself. The adminstrators, teachers and fellow students were great to work with. I was able to learn a tremendous amount in a short period of time from people who are knowledgeable and passionate about coding. Learn not only provided the education, but also the motivation and support to get us all through this type of intense learning. They are very open to feedback and work very hard on our behalf to get us placed in the most ideal internships. I will always look back on my time at Learn fondly. I plan to stay in touch and continue to be a part of the Learn community.
I was apart of LEARN's third cohort. As many of my classmates and instructors would say, we looked forward to (almost) every day :)
I'm also glad that they got rid of the instructor because he wasn't the right person to be teaching coding to total beginners. He was impatient and demeaning to those that needed support that most. Isn't the point of attending bootcamp in person is to have hands-on experience and get support when needed?
Overall, I had a good experience at LEARN and learnt some but it would be a mistake to assume to you'll come out prepared to be a developer from day one. Once you start your first job as a developer, you'll realize there's a huge of gap between what you need to know and what you learnt in short 12 (actually 8 weeks because of "1 week of professional development and 3 weeks of final project").
I attended this bootcamp on a scholarship in which the entire tuition was waived. So first I wanted to express my gratitude for the people at LEARN for providing me that amazing opportunity. I probably would have not attended had it not been for this scholarship. I just wanted to preface my review with that so you understand the context of it since it might not contain the same kind of cost/benefit complaints that many other reviews contain.
I think the great thing about this bootcamp is that it's run by a husband/wife team and that the wife is actually the CEO. I think that is quite inspiring for many women coming into this industry filled with sexism. She advocates for inclusion and has given talks on such topics in the community which I think is something different than other bootcamps. This place feels like a safe environment.
My cohort was small and we all managed to bond very well with each other. This bootcamp was very adamant about not studying any new material once we left after 5pm. Though I definitely think that reviewing some material for a while when you go home by yourself is great to solidify the concepts.
Now this kind of segues into why I titled my title the way I did. During the course we pair program everyday. We would have a standup sessoin in the morning where we talk about what we 'Mad, Sad, Glad, or scared' about and check-in. then we would have a presentation on a topic, and after that we would pair up and practice what we just learned.
In certain respects, pair programming is great because if you get stuck, your partner is there to provide an alternate perspective and you are able to keep moving fairly quickly. The thing in my mind that I felt like could have been improved and this is might be a more a personal issue, is that you inevitably come to a point where your stuck and your partner may find a way to get unstuck for you but you might not understand how they came up with the solution they did. Asking questions and requesting them over and over to explain something to you sometimes isn't effective and isn't in the best interest of time. Some people work very fast, and some things click for them more readily whereas others learn differently. People going into bootcamps come from VASTLY different backgrounds, some may have had exposure to programming, some have math degrees, some have no exposure whatsoever. I found myself taking a backseat a lot and letting the other person drive because I just didn't think I was grasping things as quickly as they were. In this short time period, your going to have vastly different outcomes depending on the student.
This is where the time-based nature of the course comes to the forefront and I think is the biggest obstacle to truly learning concepts for some people. Keep in your mind that this is a BOOTCAMP, with all the implicatoins that that entails. You will be exposed to concepts and then PUSHED through the curriculum whether or not you understand them fully. There were times where I felt like I was just going through the motions and was completely lost but didn't feel like reaching out realy helped me out either. The TA's couldn't really provide the personal attention needed to truly help, they always seemed to be pre-occupied with other things, or perhaps they are just introverted. This is the problem with time-based education, or the factory model which bootcamps emulate from the traditional school system. You need to realy dig into these concepts that your learning and your going to need repetition, and when your only their for a few months, your inevitably going to feel pressure.
What I wish was that they had more instructors who had experience in the industry. We had one head instructor who was very knowledgable but I don't think he knew how to relate to people too well despite having a degree in counseling. I perceived him as being impatient, elitist and authoritarian. He would frequently 'hush' or interrupt what they were saying to people when they would try to explain their disagreements, or get quite short with them when they weren't getting something as quickly as he wanted. This kind of behaviour doesn't encourage students to want to ask questions if they feel they are going to be attacked subtly by doing so. I'm not the only one who felt this. The TA's were helpful at times and not so much at other times, as they were also grads of the same bootcamp.
This bootcamp is also unique in that they provide a one month internship with a local company. These companies rotate every cohort. Some were looking to hire someone, some weren't. Some are paid, some are not. Some companies came and gave presentations and we would rank them. After the rankings the LEARN team then setup interviews based on wht we ranked, though not everyone gets what they want. Then after the interviews we would rank them again, and the companies would rank the the interviewees, and again LEARN would try to find the best fit.
The companies are vastly different in size, ranging from startups without office space with 5 employees, to established companies. But I think on the whole the internship is valuable to providing real world experience that you can use on a resume'. There is also a group project during the last two weeks where we built out a complete web app from scratch utilizing the Agile process with daily scrum sessions. At the end of the two weeks we had a demo night to the local community. This experience was very valuable as well, as now we have an app that we can use in our portfolio.
The bootcamp industry needs a lot of work and I don't know how much longer it's going to be around, but despite my criticisms, I am grateful for the exposure I received to a new field. I feel the large part of the value of being in a bootcamp is being dropped into the middle of a pre-existing network of people who are in the industry and who can help you navigate the waters of moving into a new industry. You can go to meetups with people from your cohort, find out about jobs through your network of peers, and for that the experience is valuable.
Thanks to a presentation that the CEO Chelsea gave about finding your motivations. I was able to really clarify what motivated me to be in the tech industry. This clarification was something that definitely boosted my confidence and helped me figure out a way to present myself to people that I felt was true to what I am passionate about. I think that was one of the most helpful things during the course because there were times where I was questioning myself asking 'What am I doing here? '. I discovered and connected my passion for open source, with sustainable agriculture, social justice and worker co-ops. Now I have a clearer picture of where I want to go in the future.
Overall I am very grateful for my experience and I feel confident in the direction I need to go now in my learning.
Our latest on LEARN Academy
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 →
Jenny Pletner worked as a program manager in the tech industry and even managed teams of developers, but she always wanted to work on the software development side of the industry. See why Jenny decided to learn to code in San Diego at LEARN Academy, how she’s navigating the career change as a woman in tech, and how she landed her job at Parallel 6 through an internship during LEARN!
What was your educational background and your last career path before you decided to work in software development?
I graduated from UC San Diego with a degree in Management Science and I worked as a program manager for about 15 years. The last gig that I had before LEARN was managing a team of Integrated Master Schedulers for SPAWAR 6.0. Prior to that, I managed a software development team for several years.
When did you decide that you wanted to transition from management to being a hands-on software developer?
I was always interested in math and software development, but something held me back from pursuing it. I actually started college as a math major and then switched to a degree that offered a combination of business, economics, statistics and corporate finance. Back then, there wasn't much encouragement for women to learn to code like there is now so I chose the career I thought would give me the most stability instead of pursuing my passion. Hindsight is 20/20, but in the same token, maybe I wouldn’t appreciate what I have now if I had taken that route. With my past experience, I know how good it is to be doing what I love.
I loved the people I worked with, and I was lucky enough to have amazing bosses, but something about my job was just never challenging enough. I really admired the developers I worked with and envied their ability to create tools that directly enhance people's productivity and quality of life. I really enjoyed introducing efficiencies by creating automated Excel forms and MS Project Schedules but it just never seemed to be enough. I was hungry for more knowledge.
You have a unique perspective, with a background in managing developers. How’s that shift in perspective?
It's nice to have that background because I know what my bosses are looking for and I understand their unique perspective. Though now that I’m a developer, I see another side and it’s definitely been eye opening. As a manager and a scheduler, I didn’t really understand how difficult it is to estimate how long a project is going to take, but because of my past experience, I am able to understand why those estimates are so important.
As a program manager, did you learn or teach yourself any programming?
I definitely did some self-teaching, but I treated it more like a hobby and something I thought was fun. I never really thought that after 15 years, when I was in the prime earning potential of my career, I would throw it all away and go back to be a junior-level employee! I wouldn’t have believed that I would have the guts to do that, but my husband saw how much I enjoyed programming and encouraged me to pursue it. If it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't have found my way to LEARN.
Were you considering other coding bootcamps in San Diego? What stood out about LEARN Academy?
I looked at a lot of options: online bootcamps, community colleges, going back to get my master’s degree, and even extension programs at UC San Diego. Meeting with Chelsea and Rob, the founders of LEARN Academy sealed the deal for me. You could tell they really cared about what they were building. They are passionate about nurturing the growing tech scene in San Diego and truly want their students to succeed. You're not just a dollar sign to them, I could feel that, and wanted to be a part of it. Choosing LEARN Academy was the best decision I ever made.
What was most important to you when choosing a coding bootcamp: programming languages taught, location, price range?
I definitely wanted to stay in San Diego since my family is here. The price range seemed reasonable for three months of all-day schooling, and then a one-month internship– which was invaluable.
Could you tell me about the LEARN Academy application and interview process?
They had an online application with essay questions and a coding test. The coding test was great because it gave me a taste of what I’d be learning. I found it pretty reasonable, so that was exciting to me.
After that, I heard back from them a week or two later to schedule an interview. In the interview, it seems like they are assessing your willingness and desire to learn. They can teach anyone as long as you're willing to do the work. I definitely was and still am now. The learning really never stops. Shortly after the interview, I was accepted into the program and the rest is history!
Can you tell me a little bit about your cohort? Was it diverse in terms of gender, race, life and career backgrounds?
Yes, yes, and yes. I think I had the best cohort. We had one of the largest classes with about 22 students and about 30% were women. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to dedicate 4 months, full-time to pursuing my passion. Those were some of the best 4 months of my life. I really had an amazing experience. The people that were in my class all came from different backgrounds and different levels of experience but shared the same passion and gratitude for being there. It was a bonding experience that I’ll never forget. A lot of us became friends who I still talk to on a daily basis.
I didn't expect to get that out of a coding bootcamp– a big support system to help each other if we have problems. We all stay in touch on Slack, and we help each other with daily work issues and personal projects. It's been really nice to be a part of such a supportive network of bright people.
How has it felt transitioning into the tech industry as a woman?
Well, I am the only female developer on my current team but it hasn’t really bothered me. The team of guys I work with is supportive, collaborative and extremely smart. They’ve been great mentors so it really hasn’t mattered much. The team of .Net developers that I used to manage were all women oddly enough. I see the ratio of women growing in tech so hopefully some day we’ll have better representation.
In class at LEARN, the women banded together. We try to get together regularly and created our own Slack channel to stay in touch. Some of us are even planning to go to a Rails or Ruby conference together this year.
Did the teaching style at LEARN Academy work with your learning style?
LEARN prioritizes teaching students how to collaborate and how to learn. Typically, our teacher started the day with a demonstration and a discussion period. Then we would go back to our desks and pair program.
LEARN Academy’s whole goal is not to have you memorize a bunch of syntax. Instead, they want to teach you how to learn and how to solve your own blockers. The project-based learning made it so much more interesting than a lecture type setting. It was fun to be hands on and I really enjoyed it.
LEARN had a couple of TA's and a teacher or two walking around at all times. They were always there to support you, but they didn't spoon feed you the answers. So if you asked a question, they would guide you to reach the answer on your own. Their goal was to prepare you for real world experience. Now that I've been working for a year, I'm grateful for their approach because it set me up for success in my current position.
The internship is a unique part of LEARN Academy- how was the intern selection process?
It was a really interesting process, and LEARN Academy put in a lot of work to make it successful. The intern companies came in and presented to the whole class. Then we put a list together of our top rated intern companies that we wanted to interview with. I wanted the interview practice, so I interviewed with about five companies. When I was done interviewing, I made a list of my final selections and the internship company made a list of their top students that they wanted. LEARN looks at you and the company’s preferences and matches you up.
What were you looking for in an internship?
Tell us about Parallel 6- what was your first internship like?
Parallel 6 has a platform that is primarily focused on patient enrollment, engagement, and management of clinical trials through websites and mobile applications. For the internship, myself and one other student from Learn were in charge of planning and executing the upgrade of their Rails platform from version 3 to 4.2. It was a big project for us and we were completely and totally overwhelmed at times, but it was a great experience, and we learned so much more than you can ever learn in class. Plus, I ended up getting hired and am still here a year later!
How did the LEARN Academy team support you throughout the internship?
The LEARN team was available to us via Slack, ScreenHero or by phone throughout the experience. My partner and I did use our LEARN phone a friend lifeline a few times!
Did you have to learn anything new during your internship that you didn't learn at LEARN Academy?
We were upgrading the Parallel 6 platform from Rails 3 to Rails 4.2, and that's a huge jump. It was a pretty large, complex platform, and there were over 2,000 RSpec tests at the time. Once we got the platform up and running after making several changes to the configuration, syntax and various gems, several of the tests were still failing. To get the tests passing again, we had to refactor a lot of code and replace unsupported gems as needed. It was a really good way for us to get familiar with the P6 platform since we touched so many aspects of it.
Congrats on being hired on full-time after your internship! How was your transition from an intern to full-time employee?
I feel really lucky because I get to work with a great team that is invested in my growth. Someone on our team is always available to answer questions or work through an issue with me, though I try not to take up too much of their time. It's been challenging but fun and I absolutely love what I do every day.
I feel like I have so much more to learn, but when I look back over the past year, it’s hard to believe how far I've come. I can't imagine how much more I’ll know a year from now. My biggest challenge is being patient. I want to know everything I need to know immediately, but I’m learning to accept that it takes time. I work hard on adding to my skill set by reading books and articles, listening to podcasts, and doing tutorials on new languages. As a developer, you can’t ever stop growing. Even the mid and senior level developers are constantly teaching themselves new things– it’s just part of the job.
How well did LEARN Academy prepare you for your role at Parallel 6?
I didn't learn everything I needed to know at LEARN Academy because it's impossible for them to teach you everything in three months, but I definitely learned how to find the answers to my questions. Also, Parallel 6 is using Angular as a front-end framework, and we didn't learn Angular at LEARN, so I've had to learn that myself. LEARN gives you the confidence to be able to teach yourself new languages. Every day I'm learning something new- a new syntax, a new design pattern, etc.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking about making this career change and attending a coding bootcamp?
My advice would be to think about the “why.” I think a lot of people may hear that programming is a lucrative career, but if that is your only motivation, then it may not be the career for you. Programming isn’t for everybody. This is just my opinion, but writing code has to be something that you at least like, or even love.
The great thing about this field is that there are a lot of online intro courses that you can take to see how you feel about it. It's definitely a unique thing to do all day- sit in front of your computer and code. Personally, I think it's the greatest use of my time. I absolutely love it. Even though sometimes it can be frustrating and challenging, I still wouldn't want to be doing anything else. If you enjoy it, you absolutely have to pursue it.
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What makes for the ideal coding bootcamp student? Experience? Perserverence? Natural Skill? We've compiled advice from instructors and founders at top programming bootcamps like gSchool, Dev Bootcamp, Wyncode, and Fullstack Academy- aka the folks making admissions decisions every day. Read on for the 8 qualities that bootcamps tell us they look for in potential applicants.Continue Reading →
After founding Notch8, a Ruby on Rails consultancy, in 2007 and working with several Epicodus graduates, Chelsea and Rob Kaufman decided to expand into education, launching Notch8 LEARN. We talk to Chelsea and Rob about the LEARN Ruby on Rails bootcamp, why they're excited to teach new programmers in San Diego, and their partnership with Epicodus.
Tell me about both of your backgrounds!
Rob: I founded Notch8 in 2007, but I’ve been working in Ruby full-time since 2003 and started doing Rails in 2005, during that very first wave of Rails. My goal at Notch8 was to work with startups as well as larger companies to build really cool web applications and get them out into the world. I care a lot about the craft of software development.
Chelsea: My background is actually in the theater arts; my degree is in theater education and arts administration. Most of my background has to do with community-building and bringing groups together and creating a community around a craft.
I am most excited about infusing the community with some new talent and then connecting some of the different communities with the tech scene. There is a thriving art scene and there's a thriving tech scene but they don’t connect often so that’s exciting to me. I’ll bring my education background into the school and support the community so that our students know that we are investing in this community and a making a long-term impact on it.
Rob, how did you get involved with programming and with Ruby in particular? Were you self-taught?
Rob: I’m a second generation software developer. My dad works in NASA and has been if software development since college days, so it was always available to me. I went to school for it and got a CS degree. Then I had to overcome that degree in order to actually program! That’s how I got started in it.
I interned for Johnson & Johnson and I was tasked with building tools for the developers to help speed up their efforts. I just knew too much about programming to write bash scripts for a living. I wanted a language that was good at integrating systems, and that was one of Ruby’s original purposes. At the time I started, there weren’t a lot of American Rubyists; it was a cool language but I was young and just finishing up college so it was the perfect market for something brand new; I got really into it from there.
What motivated you to create Notch8 LEARN, the coding bootcamp?
I run the San Diego Ruby user group right now, so people kept asking me about classes and longer courses. San Diego is booming as far as startup companies go and we just don’t have enough developers to fill the demand so we had to get busy training more.
We were looking to grow Notch8 and we had partnered with Epicodus in Portland. At the end of their program is a one-month internship, and we brought on six interns for a month. I work with these folks every day and they’re outstanding. That convinced us.
Tell us about the partnership with Epicodus.
Rob: Epicodus has been really fantastic about keeping their curriculum open. We went to Michael Kyser-Naiman at Epicodus and asked how we could arrange a partnership. Their curriculum is open, and he offered to give us advice. The key motivator is more about community building and location and less about hoarding that knowledge.
Is there anything that you decided to exclude from or add to the Epicodus curriculum?
Rob: Yes, we absolutely are expanding on it. One of the things that we feel really strongly about is working more with legacy code. One of the things about a class like this is that you build something and then you throw it away.
That’s really good for learning but a real world situation is working on an application that’s already started or has three years of history. I want to give our students more experience with that – because especially junior developers are often tasked with maintenance.
The class is four months long but does that include three months of learning and one month of internship?
Rob: Yes. We had some preliminary talks about who’s interested in hosting interns, their thoughts on the program and how can it serve the community; the response has been overwhelming.
There’s definitely some serious demand for interns in San Diego and everyone I talked to so far is really hoping to bring on several people, really get a good feel for them during that month and make some hiring decisions.
How many students will you have in the first class?
Rob: Our current target is around 15, though if we were to get overwhelming demand we would start adding assistant teachers. We want to keep the first class on the smaller side so we make sure the students are getting the personal attention that they need.
Tell us about the job market in San Diego and the Ruby community and what makes you particularly excited to do this bootcamp in San Diego.
Chelsea: I think that the community is really growing right now. Forbes named San Diego the best place to launch a startup last year so there are lots of small companies growing here and we want to make sure that they’re hiring local. By giving these companies quality talent I think that we will just continue to grow. And it would just be good for San Diego as a whole.
Rob: There are also some fairly large players in town that are doing national recruiting campaigns, trying to fill their open seats. Places like Sony and HP and Intuit all have Ruby teams now. They’re hiring headhunters and searching the world to get developers. The more of our folks that work there, the more engaged they are in the community. They tend to live in ivory towers a little bit so we want to break those walls down and get the larger companies more involved as well.
Rob, are you the main instructor for this class?
Rob: I’m not the main instructor. We’re bringing on an instructor. His name is Guyren Howe. He’s a local San Diego developer and has been doing Rails for six years with other web experience before that. He wrote a book on object oriented programming for Real Basic once upon a time. He’s got a really great background for the day-to-day instruction. I’m going to be in the space every day as well, helping students. They’ll essentially have the equivalent of two fulltime teachers in that first class to make sure that we have more than enough person power to make it happen.
Chelsea: I think it’s really important that we aren’t the main instructors, so we have that outside eye. We can see the bigger picture and make sure that the course is excelling in the way what we want it to and the students are getting what they need out of it – and it’s really hard to do that when you’re the teacher. It’s hard to evaluate yourself and it’s hard to evaluate the progress of a class because you’re so close to it. It was important to have this outside eye to make sure that the class is really excelling in the way we want it to.
How will the class be taught? Will it be lecture-based or lab-based? What does a typical day look like?
Rob: We’re using an inverted curriculum so students will have a lesson plan that they can do either in the evening or first thing in the morning, depending on if they’re an evening or morning person. There will be a video and an explanation of what you’re going to learn and work on each day.
The majority of their time will be spent in the classroom working in pairs. Programming is very much about getting really stuck and then figuring out how to get unstuck. We joke about how programming is really 60% good Googling these days – and we want the students to experience that from day one because we want the curriculum to be as close to actually doing the work as possible.
Is the LEARN course intended to get graduates jobs? Can somebody do it if they’re not looking for a job?
Rob: The goal is to get students to a place where they can build Rails applications. That’s going to translate into jobs for a lot of people but we are seeing some students who are interested in programming as a hobby and want to just learn and get over that hump.
We’re also seeing some folks that are managing technical teams; serial entrepreneurs that struggle with finding technical co-founders, which is a common story. They just want to have a little more expertise because when you’re working with a dev team, just knowing a little bit about what you’re doing can go so far.
Are you looking for applicants who have experience or a technical background?
Rob: We’ve put together a really simple application process. It’s two essay questions and then a really straightforward programming exercise that we kind of guide you through.
It’s as much about desire as it is about technical knowledge. We’re not expecting students to start with a ton of knowledge but what we’re finding is that many students have some experience. I think before you sign up for something that’s this intensive, you try other things first. There are so many free or fairly inexpensive online resources out there.
But the truth is that not everyone is a solitary learner. Most people are social learners. Up until fairly recently, the most accessible way to learn programming has been to be a solitary learner. You can’t really expect the community to be super diverse if there’s that barrier in front of it. Your solitary learners turn out to be solitary workers a lot of the time. So we think that bringing a more social learning environment where you’re collaborating from the get-go will really help us bring a wider audience to development.
Will you assign pre-work that student need to complete before they start the class?
Rob: We’re going to keep that fairly minor. If we do have applicants that seem like they’re further behind, then we absolutely would assign prework. So far we haven’t had any applicants that don’t have any HTML experience. Almost everyone that’s applied so far has built a web page or two at least. But if we did have applicants that were starting from zero we will work with them.
Chelsea: I think it has a lot to do with aptitude. There are so many people out there that don’t even realize that web development is something that they would be good at. If you have that kind of aptitude then you can be successful in this class. The exercise we put together helps us see what their aptitude is and whether they’re able to work through the problem then we know they have the right skills in order to succeed.
Are you making an effort to get more women and underrepresented minorities involved with LEARN?
Chelsea: I’ve been very excited that we’ve had more women apply than we’ve had men. Honestly, I don’t know at this point why that is- it may have something to do with our marketing.
Rob: It’s subtle things, really. Our involvement in the community is strong, so the audience we’re pushing for hears about it. It’s also little things like making sure that our site has some female examples on it. We try to be really clear and open that this really is for anyone. It’s a hard enough thing to commit to and there’s enough social stuff out there that gets in your way and we want to make sure that none of our things are adding to the social barrier.
Chelsea: And I think that having the both of us working on LEARN makes it easier for either gender to come in, talk to us and see that it is a world for anyone.