Skill Distillery is an intensive, 16-week Java bootcamp in Denver, Colorado. The course is arranged into three units – Java Programming, Server-side Java, and Front-end Development. The curriculum focuses on the fundamentals of programming, Java (and its libraries), unit testing, Spring, Spring MVC, and using a source code repository. Students will also gain experience deploying web content to a web server and navigating the server file system from the command line. Skill Distillery graduates will be prepared to take the Oracle Certified Associate – Java Programmer exam and will be on track for a career as a web interface designer or a full stack application developer.
No prior coding experience is required; instead, Skill Distillery looks for driven, determined and passionate people wanting to make a change in their life. Prospective applicants must complete an online assessment, meet with an admissions advisor, and finish a logic test.
Skill Distillery’s parent company, Batky-Howell, has more than 25 years of experience training more than 40,000 IT professionals from companies such as HP, Lockheed Martin, Level3, Time Warner and Disney.
Recent Skill Distillery Reviews: Rating 4.45
Recent Skill Distillery News
Upcoming 2018 Cohort Dates: 8/27 - 12/19, 10/29-02/28
- $1,000 *Goes towards total tuition cost of $16,850
- Available through Climb Credit.
- Minimum Skill Level
- Basic Computer Knowledge
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- Yes; 40-60 hours
Skill Distillery Reviews
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I am a Marine vet and I was also a System Administrator wondering how to move laterally into software development. When I stumbled into Skill Distillery, I had 7 years of sys/network admin experience and about 6 months of teaching myself Java. I decided that I needed a hard change in what I was doing if I ever wanted to have a real career change into Software Development and I found this school. I wanted a bootcamp that focused on Java and Skill Distillery promised Java along with a full stack of accompanying technologies to give you the potential to do almost anything once taught. With that, I received and accepted a job offer as a Full Stack Java Developer 5 weeks before the course ended.
I covered the cost of the course with the Post 9\11 GI BILL. This course will take 9 months of benefits and was 100% worth every dime considering how quickly I went from absolutely beginner programmer to employed developer.
Steve is a pationate teacher and he will explain something to you 99 different ways if thats what you need to get it. Sometimes known as the "Java Meister".
Rob is a literal wizard disquised as normal person.
In all seriousness, this is the best team of instructors that I have had for any course. Each instructor has a deep understanding of what they are teaching and often answer questions with additional context that answers questions that you didn't even know you had.
There is a lot of material that is gone through in this course. You absolutely need to do all of the pre-work to get the most out of this course. If you have questions, you need to ask them as soon as you think them up. Sometimes things start moving fast and once you forget that question its pretty much gone forever.
The material taught in the course has more than sufficiently prepared me for my current position. You will do so much coding that it will shock you how quickly you learn a codebase and become actually useful on your first job.
In the time that I have been here, students receive enough training in valuable industry technologies that multiple students received job offers before the course ended. 10/10 would recommend.
I will start off with saying when I first started my journey at the Skill Distillery, I was skeptical and wary. I had done a lot of research before hand and there were arguments for both sides. I am not skeptical anymore. From Day 1 to Graduation Day, I have had nothing but the best experience.
On to the instructors. From Steve to Rob to Andrew and to Kris, I have to say that the Skill Distillery has the best instructors hands down. I have taken a Java course at a college located in Denver (not naming any names) and the experience was dreadful. Steve taught what I had learned in a semester in two weeks and I was able to retain it all. I would like to take the time now to address the anonymous complaint against Steve by saying that it not only pure nonsense but 100% unfounded. There is no instructor who is more invested in the well being and success of his students than Steve. He is hilarious, kind, passionate and he can be stern when he needs to be. Take from me, I have gotten called out for being on Facebook or dozing in class but never once did I think it was inappropriate or like I was being attacked. Steve is the best Java/Spring guru and you will learn valuable information from him. Rob is the terminal wizard. Actually Rob is pretty much a wizard at everything and I learned a lot from picking his brain. Kris and Andrew were our instructors for the latter half of the course. They tagged team what I thought was the most cahllenging subjects which were Angular JS and JS. The way they engaged the students and conveyed the subjects was perfect. Last but not least, I don't think any of the students in my cohort including myself would have succeeded so well if it wasn't for the help of Aaron the TA. Aaron was always there to help you and help put the technigal aspects into layman terms. I could go on and on but the TL:DR of it all is the instructors at the Skill Distillery are phenomenal.
In closing, the Skill Distillery was the best decision I have ever made. It is in my opinion the best Dev Bootcamp out there because it teaches Java for which there are tons of job opportunities for. The instructors are also the best ones out there in my opinion. Cole, the director, works tirelessly to work with students as well as local companies to open up job opportunites. He is the reason I was able to land a job with a well known contracting company. The material taught here will open doors for you as long as you put in the effort. Skill Distillery has a lot to offer and if I were you, I would not hesitate to sign up!
P.S.: If you have any questions feel free to hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm a veteran who has prior professional experience (not coding related at all) in the corporate world. My prospects were quickly turning into a dead end and I had a family to support. I knew programming was the way of the future but I didn't have the time to dedicate to getting a four year CS degree. If coding boot camps like Skill Distillery didn't exist, I would have been a slave to a less than optimal job outlook.
Skill Distillery has given me the tools I need to successfully break into the software engineering/development market. If you have a clearance you will have an immense number of job opportunities. Those who do not have clearances have plenty of opportunities as well. The market is booming! However, I won't sugar coat it. The process to get hired for positions that don't require clearances will require more of a dog and pony show (white boards, live-coding, homework code problem-solving tests, technical question grilling, in-person culture fit interviews) when interviewing with prospective employers.
Now, let's get back to the boot camp. Before you actually get to the boot camp, make sure you go through the pre-work. Attempt to understand as many of the concepts in Java as you can prior to the first day of class.
The boot camp is NOT easy and you should not underestimate it. You WILL be challenged. The instructors are highly qualified and truly care about teaching as well as ensuring that the students progress if they encounter any road blocks. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Even if you think you're asking a dumb question, you're investing time and money to be there. Make sure you do everything you can to understand concepts that are troubling you.
Ultimately, do your best to stay light-hearted while your committing yourself to the intense learning process. It will be hard, but it will also be very rewarding. This is one of the few professions where you can build something from scratch that can be useful and solve real-world problems. Skill Distillery has all of the resources you need to succeed in this field if you're willing to put in the work.
First, I'd like to address the one anonymous review trashing Steve. It's totally bogus. Steve is passionate, smart, and hilarious, but if he sees you doing something you're not supposed to during classroom instruction, he is not afraid to call you out. Not once did he yell at our class or threaten to kick anyone out. If there's an issue with a student, the conversation is always held in private, there is no public shaming at Skill Distillery. Now onto my review.
I can echo just about every other review on here and tell you that Skill Distillery was life changing. Before SD, I was in the military as an Army officer and like many other veterans had no idea what I wanted to do after I separated from the service. After the military I worked a few jobs where I was underemployed and extremely unhappy. Less than a week after graduating from SD I secured a job with a top defense contractor making 36% more than I was making before with a benefits package my previous employers couldn't begin to touch.
The level of instruction at SD is top notch. The instructors and TA are extremely knowledgeable and they are totally invested in ensuring you succeed. Our TA would regularly stay until 9, 10, even 11 at night and come in on weekends to assist students with understanding topics and completing assignments.
One of my favorite aspects of the course was the strong bond my class had - everyone was always helping each other out. The relationships I built in the class were invaluable and consider many of my classmates good friends. The SD alumni network is also great and very supportive.
SD is not for everyone. I have a four year degree and completed flight training for the Army and Skill Distillery was easily the most difficult thing I've ever done academically. I personally put 60-70 hours a week into the course and came in most weekends to complete assignments, though I did find that in the last third or so of the course there's a bit more breathing room as you start to get more comfortable with the material.
Cole, the school director, has lots of connections and is always engaging with employers to help get students a foot in the door. SD is always looking to improve and Cole is constantly looking for feedback.
For those of you reading this that hold a security clearance, especially a TS/SCI, I would HIGHLY recommend this course if you want to be a developer. Since completing the course I get roughly 2-4 phone calls and/or emails a day from recruiters.
I'll close by saying you'll get out what you put in. If you work hard and put in the time you will come out of this course successful.
If you have any questions about the course feel free to reach out to me at gmengler at gmail.com
First off I do want to say that Skill Distillery is definitely not for everyone. If you are willing to put in the time and effort then it can be very rewarding.
I came into the program with probably a lot more to lose than most others that come into the program. I have a wife and 2 young kids, only an Associate Degree in a non-technical field, and no coding experience.
The first part of the program was a deep dive into Java in which I struggled with. The instructors, Steve and Rob, are excellent instructors. They are both very knowledgeable and passionate. Seeing a bad review about Steve upsets me because if it weren't for him I would not be where I am today, a software engineer which I will talk about. With 4 months of instruction from these 2 instructors I was able to take and pass the Oracle Certified Associate Java SE8 Certification. I personally put in a lot of extra hours but it was worth it.
After that you learn a lot more technologies that are highly sought after in the industry. This portion is just as intense as the Java portion because you are learning new technologies every week/few days. In the latter half the instructors, Andrew and Kris, are just as excellent as the other 2. The teaching style was definitely different but they were able to explain things in a different manner that made it easier for me to understand.
With all of the things I was taught I was able to graduate Skill Distillery with a job already lined up. I recieved a software engineer position for a national company. I was able to interview confidently for this job about 4 weeks prior to graduation. I was hired alongside individuals that had Bachelor Degrees in Computer Science with 1-2 years experience and the only experience I had was Skill Distillery. It shows that you are taught a lot and the technolgies taught are desirable.
I will reiterate that Skill Distillery is not for everyone. You will be in class for 8:30am-6:00pm pretty much every day during the week. You will put in extra hours at night and on the weekends. If you struggle like I did you will need to put in a lot more. But if you have doubts like I did, I will tell you it is worth it. You will not regret it.
Without Skill Distillery I would not have the high paying, Junior Software Engineer position I have now. In my new position I will be joining three Skill Distillery graduates already working for my new employer. Before the course my options were to take a position setting up TV dishes on roofs, go back to my old job contracting in Afghanistan, or go to college for another two years. That is not to say you it will be easy for you find a job after completing this course if you do not have a four year degree. In my case I had a particular military background which helped me obtain my current position.
Skill Distillery is an excellent course for professionals who would like to start a career in the programming/Web Development industry. It is challenging, and you will have to work many nights and many weekends. That being said the atmosphere at the school is incredible, the instructors are highly knowledgeable, patient, and supportive. You will be amazed at the skills you pick up in just four months time.
You will have a lot to to add to your resume when you are finished. Skill Distillery pays close attention to the most relevant technologies being used by the industry and focuses on teaching you only those skills you will need to get hired. You will been given an excellent prep-week and an opportunity to be certified by Oracle as an Associate Java Programmer. You will have your own account with Amazon Web Services running a Tomcat server with many, impressive web-apps that you have built, up and running for employers to see. In addition all of your projects will be on a public github account that employers can also reference.
If you are accepted into Skill Distillery, it is because they think you have what it takes to get through the program and start a new career subsequently. Skill Distillery will provide you with the training necessary, in highly productive atmosphere, to enter into the software development field.
Making the decision to restart my career and enter the world of software development did not stop feeling like a crazy decision until the middle of my second week at Skill Distillery. I had just moved across the country, away from friends, family, and continued employment for…what exactly? To work harder than I ever had before towards the idea of coding for decent pay, rather than as a nerdy hobby? Essentially, yes, and it was the best decision I could have made at that point in my life.
I started looking into coding bootcamps after spending several years in other industries, always working hard but rarely making more progress than simply treading water. After speaking with some old friends (and occasionally less emotionally invested acquaintances), I decided that the coding bootcamp that would best fit my needs and goals would be one that focused on learning the full development stack with Java as the base, general purpose language. Thus began my application process: with my search parameters in place, the filtering process was at hand.
As a final thought relating to classmates, going through 16 weeks with my cohort led to incredible new friends bonded by the intensity of this process. We were all in it together, all invested in our collective success, and for all of these reasons I would not only do it again in a second but would (and have) recommended it to close friends.
For those hesitant to enter into a boot camp, I understand. I had concerns about my age, my ability to learn a new skill, not graduating with a bachelor’s in computer science, the possible stigma of being a boot camp graduate by employers/companies, and the duration of my job hunt.
A little about me: I was in the military for 8+ years (non-IT related field), 30+ years old, with a bachelor’s degree in social science. Prior to completing Skill Distillery, I left the military during the summer of 2016 to pursue a second undergrad in computer science at a university located in Maryland. After a semester, I couldn’t fathom another 3 ½ years as I would be 33-34 years old by the time I graduated. Looking for an alternative solution, I started looking around for boot camps though it took me six-months to finally take the plunge and apply to a boot camp.
I chose Skill Distillery because it was located in Colorado, approved by the VA so I could use my GI Bill, and taught Java. After completing their technical assessments (online multiple-choice logic test and a virtual Skype-like face-to-face logic test), I found out I made it and was ecstatic.
The first month was grueling as we focused primarily on Java basics. The first two-weeks of the course, in my opinion, was equivalent to my one semester of Java during my undergrad. Take the pre-work (homework prior to entering Skill Distillery) seriously. I was lucky to have a semester of Java, but as I mentioned before, the semester of Java at my previous university only helped me for the first two weeks of the course.
About a month into the course, the instructors prepare you to take the Oracle Java SE 8 Programmer exam. Majority of my classmates who decided to take the exam passed, to include myself (I mention this because of my initial fear of not being able to learn a technical skill and to quell anyone’s doubts about themselves because if I can do it, you can). Reasons why you wouldn’t want to take the test: one, the cost (~$250) and two, you did not do as well as you wanted to on the six to eight mock exams given prior to the Oracle Java exam.
The months will go by quickly and you will get what you put into it. If you have any questions about a new concept, Skill Distillery’s amazing instructors will give you their undivided attention and make sure you understand it. During the weekends, you will have a weekend project (except for two or three weekends). When you have a weekend project, Skill Distillery will have a TA available to answer your questions during a Saturday or Sunday, in Skill Distillery's classroom, to assist you in your project.
Since graduating the program on the 20th of November, about three-weeks of actively searching for a job, I had a few offers (I mention this as my proof that Skill Distillery will provide you with the skills to show employers that you are junior level material).
I could go on and on and shower Skill Distillery with compliments. It is worth your time if you’re interested in becoming a software developer.
If I had one suggestion, it would be for the program to focus a few more hours on the job preparation and hunt (resume, cover letters, more interview questions, technical questions, and behavioral questions). At the same time, Google’s search box, Skill Distillery’s alumni network, its staff and instructors, and the actual interview process will help you become more comfortable with the job search and give you a better idea of what employers expect from a junior level developer.
Though, to defend Skill Distillery and my comment about the program incorporating a few more hours of job preparation, I want to mention that Skill Distillery does a great job in taking input from students. Throughout the program, at least twice, the founder, Bruce, came into our classroom to ask us for our thoughts to improve the program. The program and instructors continually change their curriculum to meet technical needs of employers and to improve their students’ overall experience. I have a really good feeling with Skill Distillery’s recent staff hire and dedicated time to enhance their curriculum during the month of December 2017 that the program will improve for the betterment of future students.
To give you an idea of how long it took to me to find a job (a prior concern of mine), my experience from the time I started my job search to an actual offer took about three weeks. The process was 1) talk to a recruiter and explain why I was a good fit, 2) conduct an online assessment and/or technical interview over the phone or Skype, 3) complete an on-site interview, and 4) wait to hear back and/or provide additional references.
Some of my classmates found jobs sooner or later. I want to note that I graduated towards the end of the fiscal year (Nov 20) so there was less emphasis on hiring and more emphasis on closing out a company's budget (from what I was told or maybe it was to ease my concerns during my job hunt). Either way, I mention this for future applicants to consider. It’s still possible to find a job during the end of the year, but it may be tougher.
To sum up the program, it’s worth your time and will give you the skills you need to be successful. At the end of the program, you will have your own personal website, a portfolio of projects on Github, a network of peers, alumni, and instructors/staff to reach out to and connect with, and the knowledge to become a junior level software developer.
I wish you the best in your search for a boot camp!
Making the transition into more technical roles in Software, I decided to pursue full stack development at Skill Distillery. While most programs offered only Ruby, SD focused on Java. Skill Distillery provided me the platform I needed to differentiate myself as a developer, and engineer, and learn dozens of new technologies in only 16 weeks, all of which were essential pieces to allow me to launch and design my own web applications.
They focus quality and team dynamics above all else. There was no replacement for hard work, and there was no lack of quality professors and teacher's aide assistance on the side to ensure we all were truly grasping materials as we were moving at such a rapid pace. I couldn't appreciate more the time of the staff: Cole, Erin, Rob, Steve, Andrew, Kris, and Aaron. They are always willing to put the time in to help if you are interested in putting the extra time to learn.
This program is not for those wishing to take an easy way out to become a developer. This program is a lot of hours, and a lot of work, however for those that really want to build an invaluable skillset to differentiate yourself in the market, come to Skill Distillery.
I was an electrical engineer who was looking for a career change. I was skeptical about boot camp but skill distillery has changed my mind.
The staffs are friendly and the course is challenging. As long as you are eager to learn and interested in programming you will do well.
First half you will learn Java and get ready to take in lots and lots of information. Personally, I thought this was the most important and basic part of the class. The instructors are always excited and ready to ask your questions. Always try to come up with questions.
For the second half, we learn front end and in between. It is fun and the instructors make it easy to understand the technologies.
I do recommend skill distillery and I think it is an awesome course as long as you are motivated and excited in programming.
Skill Distillery is the place to join to prepare you to start your dream career as a Software Developer. Before I joined, I researched the various bootcamps available and Skill Distillery stood out for their commitment to effective education and successful career placement.
I joined the school in January, 2017 and graduated in May, 2017. My experience has been life changing. Skill Distillery has a fantastic team of instructors who are highly experienced in what they teach and very passionate about software development and seeing their students succeed.
During the 4 months of the program, I have learned a solid and effective software development skill-set and developed a portfolio of over 7 applications that showcase the value I could provide to future employees.
Close to graduation, the staff prepared us for our job search with various tips. And following exactly what they recommended and leveraging what I learned in the program, I got and accepted an offer as a full stack software engineer after just 1 month from graduation.
Skill Distillery is a great place to learn and prepare for a great career as a software developer. Join and don't look back.
I graduated from Skill Distillery in May and I have to say that attending the bootcamp was an extremely rewarding experience.
I came into the program with a B.S. in Economics and some technical work experience but no programming outside of a 101 C++ class 5 years ago. The program is very fast paced and it's easy to fall behind if you're not keeping up on the labs and projects. If you decide to attend then I would recommend doing all of the assigned pre-work and as many Codecademy and HackerRank courses as you can stomach. Getting familiar with loops and methods before you attend will be extremely helpful as the first few weeks can be pretty brutal if you’re starting from scratch.
The instructors at Skill Distillery are excellent. They deliver the course material in a very clear, accessible way that makes learning how to code exciting and rewarding. Programming is complicated but they do a fantastic job of explaining very complex subjects in a simple and concise way. Class sizes are small so it’s easy to get help if you’re struggling with a lab or project. My class had 13 students and we formed a pretty tight bond amongst the cohort and our instructors by the end. Class is actually a lot of fun and I looked forward to going everyday. Class time is broken up into periods of lecture followed by hands on labs so the days actually fly by and you’ll always be engaged.
There are easier bootcamps out there. If you want to go to an easy bootcamp then Skill Distillery probably isn't the right choice for you. The biggest thing I can say about the course is you will get out of it what you put into it. If you expect to coast and do the bare minimum then you won’t learn much and you won’t enjoy the program. Expect to put in 60 or 70 hours a week. My cohort had students who showed up in morning at 7:00 AM and didn’t leave until after 10:00 PM, including weekends.
I’d hazard to guess that the negative reviews that you read here are from people who didn’t have the right expectations going into the program. Either they thought the course was too hard or they thought that they were going to be handed a job with their graduation certificate as they walked out the door. The program is designed to teach beginners how to write clean, functional code and it does a very, very good job at exactly and only that. If your expectations are different Skill Distillery probably isn’t for you.
If none of that scares you then I hope that you decide to attend. This course has been a great investment for me personally and if you’re willing to put in the time and hard work I know it will be for you too.
I graduated from this course in March and can't say enough good things about it.
For starters, if your primary concerns are the same as mine, I found a job within two weeks making six figures (individual results may vary).
Regarding what I realized was really the important part while I was in the course - the instruction was top notch and the class atmosphere/chemistry was extremely positive and engaging. Make no mistake though, this is challenging. I've got an undergrad from a top university and the better part of an MBA and this was by far the most challenging thing I've ever done academically. This being the case, the instructors' ability to make it fun and engaging is absolutely critical and these guys nailed it.
Since there was a bad review that mentioned Steve by name, I'll say specifically that this blew me away. I liked everyone, so I don't want to play favorites, but Steve was my favorite. Legitimately probably the best instructor I've ever had, and again, I've been through a fair bit of "traditional education" including a degree from a top ranked university and countless military courses in my previous career. The man literally has "JAVA" tattooed on his knuckles. Ok, he doesn't, but he should.
Give Cole a call today if you're considering this course.
You are likely scanning reviews on this site because you would like to make a better, more informed decision on how to best prepare for a new career as a Java developer. A few months ago, I too was in your position trying to develop metrics to help me weigh the pros and cons of each bootcamp offering. I recently graduated from Skill Distillery with no regrets.
I enjoyed the experience because the staff presented a well designed curriculum with great detail and attention toward the skills employers are looking for in software engineers. It wasn't just the knowledgeable instructors and thoroughness of the various web technologies presented during each instruction block, but also the bonding and friendships which developed among my classmates.
I interviewed and was offered a developer position shortly before graduation. Comparing what I learned at Skill Distillery to my current employer requirements; my knowledge and skills are on par with fellow coworkers in most areas and more advanced in others. I have to admit, at Skill Distillery, you won't get fancy tables or snack bars, but you will get the best instructors, a quality education and the best Java bootcamp experience of those offered in the Denver area.
Skill Distillery is one of the best educational courses I've ever taken.
The content and the execution are both excellent. Maybe these things were lacking in previous cohorts, but at this point it is very polished and is a great learning environment. My cohort is only a month out from graduation and about half are already employed in full time Java developer roles.
What makes Skill Distillery great?
1. The instructors (and admin):
- Always someone available. Whether you're having trouble with a concept, or you want some overall wisdom for a particular design decision you're trying to make, they are there and can help you keep moving forward. One of the most valuable things was understanding their debugging process. If I was stuck on something for way too long, they could come over and not just show me the error, but show me how they would find the error. This led to many "Aha moments" for me.
- They all have different teaching styles and skillsets, and this is good. For me this kept lectures engaging and allowed me to learn from different angles.
- The admin-side was great as well. They were always there for personal help or even just to hang out and relax the brain for a minute.
2. The environment/structure
- You are absolutely immersed in all things code for 50+ hours a week with daily assignments and weekly projects. The combination of reading, listening, and learning about code followed by actually writing your own code from a blank editor really helps cement the concepts learned.
- Everything you learn early in the course you continue to use throughout. So even if you don't fully understand something, you're going to keep using it until it finally clicks in your head. That is the coolest moment.
- The overall energy and focus in the course is intense and part of what makes it great. Of course this isn't forced on you, but you're there with 10+ other people who have dedicated the next few months to living, breathing, dreaming code. This comes with its exhausting moments but it's totally worth it.
- Studying for (and passing in my case!) the OCA exam. This is kind of a pain in the butt in the moment because you just want to make stuff! But it really does help you learn some of the weird, less intuitive parts of Java, which you then end up remembering when you're writing some method that doesn't behave how you thought it would, and you're able to much more quickly understand and fix it. About half of our cohort passed the exam, and most were pretty close. Being able to learn a topic that is typically studied for 6+ months, and pass or even come close to passing in 8 or so days we had, is pretty cool in itself.
3. Learning Java
4. Classmates and alumni
- I sincerely enjoyed meeting and working with everyone in class. I consider them friends and hope to keep in touch and see how we all continue to grow as developers. The alumni network has already proven valuable for me as I'm getting in front of hiring managers thanks to alumni referrals.
I highly recommend attending this coding bootcamp. It was very worth it and I am highly grateful I got to attend! I haven't found a job yet but I'm confident I will, and I'll update this when I do.
In just a few months, I was able to acquire the skills necessary to land a job.
Skill Distillery was a challenging course, but I am so thankful to have gone. There were times when I felt ready to give up, times I didn't know what I was even learning only to finally understand it a week later.
I really enjoyed having multiple teachers present information coming from different backgrounds and experiences. The multiple rotating teaching styles helped as well, especially since different students learn in different ways.
As a USAF Veteran who had a bad experience with attending a school that claimed to be "Veteran friendly", I was thankful for the care Skill Distillery gave to its prior service students. It was also fun having Vets from all four branches in my class, providing comradery and an easy way to get to know one another through shared military experiences.
Sprinkled throughout the program were several pair, group, and individual projects ranging in difficulty and time allotted to accomplish. These projects instilled the skills learned and helped me get a sense of how to work together on a team, a skill essential to today's tech industry workplaces.
Although the school lacks the flashiness of some of the other local boot camps, in the end, it helped me (as an extrovert) remain focused on my studies without distraction. I also enjoyed the small class size allowing the teachers to spend more one on one time with each student.
Again, Skill Distillery was super challenging but I am thankful for the skills learned, the relationships made, and the opportunities I now have going forward.
My first goal is to besmirch the haters. The only thing I can imagine is that they weren't willing to put in hard work. It sounds like Clayton Boyle had a "winning" personality that convinced others in the class to leave with him so that he could feel less defeated by his decision(sorry not sorry). My class was a bunch of normal human beings that worked together and encouraged each other to push through the hard work.
I recently left the Army, and wanted to start a career in programming. Although web-dev is enjoyable, I was really looking for skills that would make me more versatile. I feel I can confidently say Skill Distillery provided both.
After the first five weeks of study, I took and passed the Java OCA exam. The take/pass rate for the class was about 50% and involved a lot of hard work. Normally the Java OCA is taken after someone has held a programming position for at least 6 months, so those that didn't take/pass were by no means behind in class. That anyone passes is a huge gold star for the excellent instruction provided.
The course is a lot of hard work, and entirely worthwhile. I've been dabbling with programming for years, but the structured approach and necessity to finish projects took me further than I would have been able to take myself. If you are looking for a challenge and want to be a great programmer, I highly recommend Skill Distillery.
Skill Distillery is much more than a coding bootcamp. They do not want to produce a mass amount of "coders". They want to produce competent software developers ready for the workforce. How they do it: The class sizes are smaller, allowing an effective student : instructor ratio. The curriculum has great depth and is influenced by market demand. The instructors are all vastly knowledgable and truly love what they do. Every single student is of concern to the entire Skill Distillery team. They have a growing alumni. One of which I am now proud to be part of. The alumni is a key component to obtaining a quality job after the program is over. Companies throughout the United States are growing confident hiring new graduates from Skill Distillery due to the reputation of the alumni. This reputation is a direct reflection of the amazing job Skill Distillery does. This is an intense program and takes a great deal of work and commitment. 19 weeks is a short time to go from never touching code before, to becoming a software developer companies want to hire and keep. With the instruction and guidance from the Skill Distillery team, I did just that.
Skill Distillery is what every bootcamp should aspire to be. The combination of teachers took our class, almost none of whom had any background in programming, and gave us the technological exposure, hands on training, and expert instruction to turn is all into capable full stack developers.
We spent the first few weeks learning Java. We covered the basics of programming in a strictly typed language and object oriented programming. As a wrap up to the completely Java focused portion our class spent a week reviewing for the Oracle Certification Exam and half of us passed it. A typical Java programmer is writing code for a year and half before taking this exam.
That feeling of personal attention and focus is what really stood out for me at Skill Distillery. Unlike other bootcamps I’ve heard of, they’re not out to just make money off of their students. They look good if they put out quality programmers, which works out great for the students too! If I needed additional help or resources on anything, the instructors were more than equipped to help me.
On the subject of job placement, they did all they could. They helped us revamp our resumes, they put us in touch with recruiters and local groups, and they gave us the knowledge base to expand our skill set to accommodate specific job requirements. Perhaps the biggest asset was the portfolio of web projects we put together starting about halfway through the program and we put them on an AWS page that any hiring staff can go look at. The only thing they couldn’t do was guarantee placement, but that’s a rule with how the school is set up, not a weakness of the program. Four out of eleven students in my class had jobs before graduation and a fifth had a job two days after graduation.
If you are serious about getting started in a programming career, I really can’t recommend Skill Distillery more highly.
I'm in my last week here as a student, and it's been a long, difficult, and rewarding journey. I am incredibly glad that I took the opportunity to attend here, and I've truly enjoyed my time with my fellow students and staff here at the school. I was apprehensive about my decision, both concerned with dedicating several months of my life to a career transition and also dedicating the money that boot camps cost. That apprehension passed quickly.
You'll want to study hard. Keep your brain fresh. Work together with your classmates and develop a sense of camaraderie. It makes the time at the school much more enjoyable. Pressure, stress, and self-doubt are your biggest opponents here. Attend class, ask questions, and prep with their recommended Java instruction or your own. It will definitely pay off. They'll help you here, but they can't do everything for you. If you have a sense of curiosity and self-sufficiency, there's no reason that you can't succeed here (or in life in general, right?).
Instruction and the Staff
The staff here are outstanding. Our cohort was primarily instructed by Jamie, Rob, Kris, and Andrew. Jamie has since left, and the school replaced him with an instructor named Steve. Although I didn't have much opportunity to work with him, he seems like an excellent hire and I have no doubt that he'll add to the already tremendous quality of instruction that you'll find here. The instructors are enjoyable, both as teachers and as people, and they care a lot about your personal development, and the development of your development skills. I struggled initially in the program, but evolved quickly to feeling great about my skill set and my capabilities. This is a direct result of the hands-on curriculum and awesome instructors.
I cannot emphasize enough how comfortable it is to work with the staff. Cole is the school director, and he's great with the students. Bruce, the owner, is easy to talk to and is often present. Janet in the back is usually busy at her workstation, but she's diligent about ensuring that snacks and soda, which the school makes available to students, along with special events (lunch parties, etc) go smoothly. She did a great job of handling our finances, including VA. The school here is very vet-friendly.
Jamie (who left recently to return to the private sector), Rob, Kris, and Andrew were all terrific to learn from. They are a group of instructors that love coding and teaching. I can't say enough as to how much I owe them; the time spent explaining concepts that I didn't understand, always being available to help, and staying on top of technological changes (distributions, frameworks, dependencies, etc). They took me, a former marketing manager, and guided me through some very hard material and some challenging projects. My thanks goes out to them. You don't have to worry about distant instructors that check out and leave you hanging. They're top notch.
What you learn
You learn full-stack development here, and it's not easy. Java and JS developers are needed in the job market, and you'll spend more time than you'd imagine on every link in the tech chain. By halfway through the program, you'll be creating fully-functional web applications using everything from SQL to JavaEE to Spring to HTML/CSS. I still can't believe how fast I progressed. By the end of the program, we were creating even better web applications by adding front-end development with JS (and jQuery, Angular, etc) and even some MEAN stack projects as well!
My brain, which I'm sure atrophied since college, was re-energized. Intensive and immersive learning, like studying abroad to learn Spanish for example, is a proven effective method for "re-wiring" a brain, as long as it's done right. The program moves fast because it has to: the concepts and technologies here are difficult. Weekend projects, both solo and in groups, along with some self-study and in-class keyboard time reinforce what you learn in lecture. Our class was just shy of a dozen people, and we almost always had 1-2 instructors available for help during labs/projects. This isn't something that you'll find at every boot camp or coding academy.
This review is getting long. The summary here is easy: if you're serious about wanting to be a developer, and if you're up for the challenge, SD will do it's best to get you there. They're still a new school (most schools like this are), and they're still networking with companies and alumni to create more comprehensive job placement assistance. This might be their biggest point of improvement, but they're aware of it and continue to work on it. In my interviews so far, employers have been impressed with the fundamentals of my knowledge and my experience with industry tech that I worked with here. I'll update this review when I take a position after I've officially graduated from here in a few days, but I feel confident about that side of things. To be honest, I really enjoyed learning again, and I'm pretty excited to keep learning even when I'm working. I'm a developer now, it's what we sign up for when we go into the profession.
Choose your boot camp carefully. It's a financial investment into yourself, so make sure that you understand what languages, technologies, frameworks, curriculum, etc that you're getting yourself into. Do more than just google salaries by language. There's nothing gimmicky here. No feeling of profit-over-student. I was worried about both, but so glad that I made the decision to attend because neither was an issue.
Thanks again, to both the SD staff and my fellow students. I had a blast during my time here and it was quite a ride.
I chose Skill Distillery because they teach Java and because Batky-Howell has been around for 25+ years training IT professionals. I echo the other positive reviews here regarding the thorough curriculum, the extremely knowledgeable instructors (who also love to teach), and the rest of the dedicated staff of the school.
I had been an accounting professional for about 20 years, and I decided to transition to a programming career. The boot camp model made it possible for someone like me, with no prior coding experience, to become a full-stack Java programmer in a matter of a few months. It was a difficult program, and we all had to work hard at it for long hours every day and most weekends, but it was worth it. In the world of IT, I’m obviously still a beginner. But, Skill Distillery gave me a broad foundation from which I have the tools I need to continue to learn and grow in my new career.
Most importantly … ALL of the interviews (and subsequent job offers) I had until I found my new job were a direct result of Skill Distillery. Most of the companies had already hired former students, and those students referred me to the hiring managers when they had more openings. The school staff also actively reaches out to area companies to establish relationships that end up connecting their students with local hiring managers, which is how I ended up with my job.
I have no regrets choosing Skill Distillery, and I whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone who is considering attending a full-time coding school.
Our latest on Skill Distillery
Since the White House Department of Veterans Affairs hosted the first coding bootcamp roundtable in September 2014, it's been clear that the use of the GI Bill for bootcamp tuition is on the minds of both educators and government. Recently, Skill Distillery, a 19-week Java Coding Bootcamp in Denver, Colorado, was VA-Approved and began accepting the GI Bill- huge news! Skill Distillery CEO Cole Frock talks to Course Report about the process to become approved, why veterans make excellent transitions into tech, and how the Java bootcamp is training civilians and veterans in valuable tech skills.
What does the GI Bill have to do with coding bootcamps?
We look at the GI Bill as many different bills. The most common is the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which is for current military all the way back to the end of the Gulf War. When a veteran was in the intelligence division or had a technical background in the military, they get out of the military they have to go through a program called TAP (Transition Assistance Program) for transitioning back into civilian life.
When a veteran wants to go into IT, the VA tries to place them into the correct education program, but there’s nothing really built around IT programming. Doing admissions, we had a lot of people asking if we accept the GI Bill, so we started to see it as a priority. Bootcamps are the most current and modern way of training programmers. The most up-to-date skills are not taught in college. When you get a computer science degree, you learn philosopy and the process, but it’s not necessarily going to land you a job. A veteran doesn’t reall have time to go through a 4 or 8 year program.
What does the GI Bill cover at Skill Distillery? Tuition? Room/board?
The GI Bill pays for tuition to Skill Distillery, which is $16,000. Plus, in Denver there’s the Basic Allowance Housing (BAH), which is $1650 per month for housing and a couple of other perks. Anybody who has the GI Bill and who qualifies for Skill Distillery can use those funds.
Using the GI Bill for Skill Distillery does take time off total GI benefits, but when you compare the average junior developer job (which pays around $65,000 a year) and compare that to other programs that the VA offers, that’s an exceptional opportunity.
How many unemployed veterans are there in the US?
The statistics are surprising. The unemployment rate amongst vets is actually better than the unemployment rate against the whole country. Getting a job is not necessarily the issue, but a job with a great salary is the issue. The White House is recognizing that there’s a massive shortage of developers and has launched the federal Tech Hire program, which we’re also a part of.
Why are veterans a particularly good fit for technology jobs?
A lot of vets are coming to us with top secret clearance. For defense contractors, that’s a huge deal. If you can find a vet who has top secret clearance and can program, it bypasses a lot of the standard process that they would have to have a regular citizen go through.
There are also a lot of tax breaks for companies that hire veterans; upwards of $20,000 per vet. We couldn’t care less about the benefits to the corporation, but if veterans have a wonderful job to transition into, then it’s beneficial. There are 50,000 Java jobs right now in the US, on top of the 90,000 Front-End Developer jobs. Our intention is to give students the most options for job placement. If you don’t want to do front-end, then you still graduate with your Oracle certification from the Oracle Corporation, which holds a lot of weight with these companies, especially when it comes to a junior level person.
How did you get approved to accept the GI Bill?
The VA cannot promote any particular VA-approved school. Long story short, Skill Distillery’s parent company, Batky-Howell, has a 25-year history in Denver. We’ve educated more than 40,000 people. That played a very large role in getting the approval.
So if a bootcamp opened tomorrow they couldn’t get on the GI Bill?
The VA required that we’re state licensed and bonded. While Colorado requires this as well on a state-level, not every state requires that, so some bootcamps could go under the radar for years and then when it’s time to get VA approval, they’ll hit a roadblock.
Bonding is the most important part- if you pay $16,000 in tuition and we close in week two, the student will have no recourse against the school to get their money back. Being bonded gives students the assurance that they’ll be refunded.
The VA really wants to see that a bootcamp is not a fly-by-night scheme; you’re actually an established company that has results and provides quality to their veterans.
Was there a personal motivation to get VA-approved? It sounds like a long process- why go through all the trouble?
It’s not a purely business-driven decision; we have a maximum class size of 15 people, which is on the smaller side. The motivation comes back to why we started the Skill Distillery. We already have a successful corporate training company, publication company, and online learning company called Batky Howell. We could’ve just continued to pursue that- Skill Distillery was a departure from our standard way of doing business to accommodate students and lower our prices. The ability to completely change a non-technical students’ life is what we really enjoy. The instructors at Skill Distillery are world-class and have been teaching for 15 years and been developers at corporations all around the country.
When we heard applicants tell us that there was no way they could do Skill Distillery unless we accept the GI Bill more, we knew we had to figure out whatever we needed to figure out to accept that bill. These applicants were super sharp and talented. They have experience and we talk about motivation and working on a team and dealing with stress- these guys have all those qualities.
Applicants using the GI Bill are still going through the Skill Distillery admissions process?
Correct. Having to go through the 4 part interview process throws some of the applicants off, but Java is not like Ruby. It’s extremely difficult and the way we teach the program is extremely difficult. I’d like to accept everybody who applies, but in the long run I’m doing people a disservice if I let them into the program and they don’t have the ability to get through a 19 week bootcamp.
Why choose Java as the teaching language?
There are more Java jobs right now in the nation than any other programming language. The statistics speak for themselves. People think Java is going to go away, but the important note here is just that breaking into the Java job market gives people the most for their money.
Are there special requirements or any details we should know?
Legally, we can’t run an 100% VA class. We have to have a certain percentage of civilian students in each class.
Another rule with the VA is no scholarships or discounts.
There are no geographic limits; because the class is here in Colorado, students just have to come to Colorado. If we ever open up another location in another state then we’ll have to get VA approved in that state, but students can be from anywhere in the US.
How much interest are you getting from veterans? Will people be taking advantage of the benefit?
We thought that after we got the VA approval, we’d have to get more people to answer the phones, but that’s not been the situation. One of the biggest hurdles from any bootcamp that’s going to get VA approved, is educating the educators. The whole movement of alternative education and bootcamps is new to a lot of educators. This is a brand new concept for the country, and extremely new to a military base! However, as we get the word out, this is a very attractive option to a lot of people.
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With over 40,000 alumni from their Batky-Howell training courses, Bruce Batky and Cole Frock have recently launched their 19-week Java bootcamp, Skill Distillery, in Denver, Colorado. We catch up with Cole and Bruce to discuss their hands-on instruction, how they constructed the Java curriculum, and the types of companies Skill Distillery is partnering with to place graduates in jobs!
Tell us about your background and how you got involved with Skill distillery.
I started working in the training industry in 2006 with Batky-Howell. Batky-Howell offers private and public schedule classes for those who want to fill in some knowledge gaps by attending 2-day to 5-day classes. I also worked for ITCourseware which writes and distributes training courseware to training companies all over the world.
Seeing the need for those who want a career in IT we have developed a curriculum specifically for that. What is unique about us starting Skill Distillery is we have been in the training industry for over 25 years and have over 40,000 graduates.
Through Skill Distillery’s sister companies (Batky-Howell and ITCourseware), anybody who goes through our program has access to over 200 courses that we offer to advance their career. This is a true advantage as not everyone wants to just do web development. There are many potential paths such as Mobile Application Development, Java EE, and Microsoft .NET.
Are you still running those shorter form training programs for corporations in addition to Skill Distillery?
Yes, Batky-Howell Training focuses on corporate new hire training programs as well as shorter 2-day to 5-day training classes.
Will this upcoming Skill Distillery cohort be the first cohort that’s structured around this 19-week program?
Yes. One of the things I’m always trying to point out is that a lot of bootcamps are brand new. They’re basically one or two-year startups. This is the first time we have run the Skill Distillery, but we’ve been in this space a long time and have over 40,000 alumni.
How are you fitting the Java curriculum into 19 weeks?
The program is not just about Java since the jobs that graduates get will probably be front-end web developers (HTML, CSS, JS). Java is just the server side component. Most schools teach Ruby on Rails or Python but there is a huge demand for Java.
From our corporate experience, we know that a lot of the companies we provide training for Java to support their websites as well as for a multitude of other uses. It also opens you up to a variety of different back-end server side jobs as well. Once you get your foot in the door with companies, knowing Java is one of the most critical skills that you can have for an actual career in IT, as opposed to just a web developer.
I think we’ve written 10 or 12 courses on Java that we sell on our publishing company. ITCourseware website. Basically kind of wrote the book on Java as far as training materials. What we’re doing now is just a natural extension of that. As far as giving people options, you have the option of being a lot more than just a web developer moving forward.
If your true goal is to change your career, this is something that really gives you the best opportunity and the most options for long term career success.
Would you expect that somebody who learns Java with you would then be able to learn another object-oriented language like Ruby or Python?
Yes, once you learn any programming language other languages will be much easier to grasp. For that reason, it’s always a good idea to choose a language that gives you the most longevity for your career goals.
Why did you decide on 19 weeks and what was the reasoning behind that?
If you look at Hack Reactor and similar schools, you’re going in there and you’re being fed from a “fire hose.” Our experience is that you can’t can cram that much information into the average person’s head in such a short period of time. This is especially true of a harder language like Java.
While this is a bootcamp style program, it’s not necessarily like a full-fledged boot camp where we’re going to be doing a hundred hours a week, and if you don’t get it then you just starve to death. We want you to understand the concepts and put them to actual practical use and show that you have mastery of it and the confidence of knowing that you are fully capable before you enter into your new job.
How many students will you have in a cohort?
One of the things I’ve seen out there in many situations is classes of 40 to 60 people – it’s just insane. Even on our corporate side for our training, we’ll have corporations who will want to put 30 people into a 5-day class; it’s overwhelming. It’s hard on the instructor and the students never take as much from it.
We have a maximum of 20 students per class. We plan to have multiple instructors so everyone attending has as much access to support as they need.
Tell us about those instructors.
The instructors that we use are the same ones that we would use for corporate training and the same ones who also write materials for our publishing company.
Most of our instructors have at least 10 years of experience as actual programmers in the field, as well as at least 5 years of experience as an actual instructors. This way they can provide real world advice and give actual examples of what students will face once they go to work.
Are they employed full time with your company or are they just on board for the 19 weeks?
We actually use a combination and bring in experts for select subjects. Over the years, we have built a large pool of instructors and special resources that we utilize. We’re also leveraging our many years of curriculum design. In addition to teaching classes, we also hold many instructor workshops to teach instructors how to teach, so they are not just technical experts.
What we’re trying to do is blend teaching and doing to keep the frustration down and the experience better. We’re not trying to have our students just totally burn out; and that comes from our years of doing this. The biggest risk of any bootcamp is not the tuition cost; it’s about taking the time off of work and paying for a place to live and everything else. We want to be very careful on our selection process.
Tell us about the curriculum. Will there be projects or is the class based on more lecture?
It is heavily project based. In our experience, that’s how newer people learn best. The projects will also be used as samples of their work that they can show to prospective employers.
How much experience should an applicant have in order to get into Skill Distillery?
Some of the most brilliant programmers never went to college. We’ve put together an interview and testing process that helps us decide who to accept. What we want to see is that your brain works in the way of a programmer and that you’d be happy being a programmer. If you can show the commitment and those skills, then we are hoping to take the rest of the way.
Will you have pre-work to get everyone on the same page before they show up for day one?
Will you have assessments throughout the course?
Yes, we’ve broken everything up into four-week modules we’re calling “quads.” Each quad has an assessment and then there are smaller assessments within those quads. If there’s somebody struggling who’s not asking for help, we can actually focus on that person and get them the help they need.
And if it is way too easy for them then we can give them some additional material, to challenge them more; so that everybody is actually getting what they want out of the program.
For example, at the end of the first quad for example, you go through a mock Java Associate Certification exam to prepare you to take the official exam and get certified as a Java programmer.
If someone “fails” an assessment, are they kicked out of the course?
We are not a hard-edged company where someone fails once and they are out. We have the resources to focus on those students more to make sure that they’re understanding everything and moving forward.
Are you working with employers or hiring partners to match students with hiring companies?
It’s a good question and it’s one that we’ve discussed frequently. There are some companies that guarantee jobs or compensate a student if they take a job through a “hiring partner.” What it boils down to, and if you read the fine print with a lot of those schools, is that they have placement fees established with those companies, which is almost a limiting factor.
The people who have those established placement fees are favoring those companies who agree to pay them that fee. We’re not guaranteeing you a job but we are working with our existing clients as well as local and national companies to get you placed. We don’t get paid to place any student and therefore we will submit students to any and all interested employers giving them a much better set of potential employment options depending on their goals. In the end, if we don’t place all of our students then we wouldn’t be in business so we obviously have solutions in place.
Are most of the companies enterprise or do you work with any startups at all?
It’s a whole range. We have a lot of big companies as well as smaller companies. We work with some incubator type companies in Denver as well. So it’s the whole range; it depends on what people are looking for. Plus, we have a lot of recruiter relationships that we’ve established over the years as well.
When does the next cohort start?
We are accepting applications now for the cohort that starts in a couple of months.
Are there plans to expand outside of Denver or to different languages like a Python bootcamp at any point?
We’ve chosen Java for our first class because of the reasons we mentioned. It sets us apart from a lot of other places as there are no other actual Java bootcamps to my knowledge and there are nationally more Java jobs out there than any other programming jobs.
It is too early to say, but we could probably launch 10 different programs that are all 19 weeks long utilizing content from our publishing side to support it. We have everything from Agile to Oracle as well as end-user programs.