Recent Skill Distillery News
- How Skill Distillery got VA-Approval to Accept the GI Bill
- June Coding Bootcamp News Roundup
- Founder Spotlight: Skill Distillery
Recent Skill Distillery Reviews: Rating 4.31
- Available through Climb Credit
- Payment Plan
- First Day of Class: $6,000 + Payments over 24 months: $375
- Enroll at least one month early and save; Scholarships available for women.
- Minimum Skill Level
- Basic Computer Knowledge
- Prep Work
- Yes; 40-60 hours
Skill Distillery Reviews
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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.
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.
After I got out of the military I went straight into a private University, I did not know what I wanted to do but I was aware that I needed a bachelor's to do it. By my second year I was already hesitant on what I could do with a bachelors in Economy. By accident I stumbled upon Skill Distillery, a coding bootcamp where I could use my GI Bill! I did some research and applied to the school with Zero knowledge in coding. After many, MANY hours of coding, I have to tell you the program is not easy, it asks a lot of you and requires a lot of your 'free' time if you want to actually understand the topics and truly learn to code.Thankfully the instructors and the TAs were ALWAYS there to answer those pesky problems where not even the internet could help you, they always took the time to go over our code and help us understand what we were doing wrong and how to better think about the problem, so the next time we came across that situation we knew how to handle it. I must have asked dozens of questions everyday and everyday they answered me with the same enthusiasm and motivation as me. It truly was a pleasure to come into class everyday, I was learning to do something I loved with good people! The classes are small so a camaraderie is built really quickly, specially since you are all beginners and you can lean on each other to help you get over those hurdles.
I recently started to actually look for work and the feedback I get from employers is astounding, constantly I get told that my skill set is very impressive and they cant believe I was able to grasp it so quickly. Comments like those help me feel a little more like an actual programmer and its all thanks to the tools I obtained thanks to Skill Distillery's instructors and TAs. I will always carry this institution close to my heart, they helped me reach the career of my dreams.
I cannot say enough great things about Skilldistillery, but if made to choose the top three; the curriculum was spot on, I learned Java inside and out, and it doesn't stop there--SD prepares students for real world coding complete with backend, frontend, and middleware experience. How to pariticipate in SCRUM, Agile methodology and much more then I can easily list here. Staff, Cole Frock keeps his finger on the pulse of the industry and is continually involved in each students success, Jamie and Rob (head instructors) were knowledgeable beyond compare in their fields, always willing to put on the extra time and effort to see their students progress, succeed, and explore every avenue of software development, I would be remiss if I didn't give a huge shout out to the teaching assistants--these guys put in the hours and research to be there when you need them. Atmosphere. Relaxed yet fast paced. It felt comfortable and I never felt any hesitation from faculty to accommodate me in anything I needed. I've made new lifelong friends and colleagues at Skilldistillery.
Just completed the program at Skill Distillery. I had very little background in coding, just minor self exploration. Left with a solid base understanding of Java as well as basic web development. The team and instructurs were awesome, especially the director Cole Frock. The bootcamp challenged me and forced me to work in team scenarios as well as solo. Overall a very benefitting experience. I would recommend this bootcamp to anyone looking to get a head start in the field.
I would like to preface this review with the fact that before this bootcamp, I had zero experience and only an extreme interest in the idea of coding.
Application Process/Why I Chose Skill Distillery
After searching for about a week through different bootcamps across the country, I decided on Skill Distillery. I was prior military in Colorado, so going to school in Denver sounded like a great place to be. The fact that they accepted the GI Bill was a bonus factor for me, but not the primary.
The application process was fairly straightforward and quick. After sending an email to them, I heard back within one business day (I had applied on a Saturday evening). They had answered all of my questions and concerns, and within the next two, maybe three days, they had me take a 'creativity and logic' test of sorts, all done virtually with one of their administrators. After that, I believe it was another 48 hours when I received an email stating that I had been accepted and I began the course pre-work after I made my deposit. Total, I say about a week and a half had passed for me to finish the entire process and receive my pre-work once my deposit was made.
The classroom is pretty small, but comfortable. You're close to your classmates, but it isn't overbearing. We had 13 students in our class, and during the first half of the program there is almost always at least 1 instructor and one TA, or two of either, to help. This was important to me, because I knew I would have a lot of questions and not be afraid to ask them.
There were a couple TAs each day that would stay behind after normal class hours and often I would be there with several other students well past 7pm continuously asking for guidance, and they would stay there with us until the last student left. This includes the weekends, even when snow storms slowed down most of the Denver Metro area.
The first two quads were hell, especially for someone with no prior experience such as myself. But with the additional guidance and constant paired programming as well as plenty of hands-on labwork, I would say that most of us were able to keep up without issue. Anyone who did have issues would put the time and effort in on their own time and during the weekends and they were fine.
Overall, I believe the instructors (Jamie and Rob especially) and the TAs did a great job of holding our attention, addressing our issues and weaknesses, and learning from previous cohorts to improve maximize our experience and Cole and Bruce will continue to improve this for the cohorts going forward.
Not much for me to say here, as I'm pretty easy going about this type of stuff. The only things I would have to say here would probably be that the last quad be locked down a bit better regarding the MEAN stack. Even though I am putting this here, it's fair to note that this is also being addressed, as we had our end of school sitdown with the director in regards to our concerns, and it's being worked on to improve for future cohorts.
** Again I will note that I had zero experience in programming before this. Prior to this bootcamp, I had worked as a medic in the Air force and a Customer Relations manager in the Healthcare Technology field. I don't have a college degree, and did about a year and a half of college courses toward my AA before I decided I wanted a change. **
Due to my unique situation, I started looking for jobs about a month before school ended. Within about a week and a half of applying to a number of jobs, I had three interviews that I had gotten past the phone screening stage. Two of the three were impressed with what we had learned from a bootcamp, and they continuously stated that it seemed we knew more than most CS grads fresh from college. About three weeks into my job search I got my first job offer and I currently work for them here in Denver.
If you have any questions regarding this program, feel free to shoot me an email. I'll gladly answer what I can.
I graduated college from UNC here in Colorado in 2015, and struggled to find a job for 6 months before a friend of mine graduated from a bootcamp in her state and couldn't say enough good things about her expirence. I looked around and Skill Distillery at the time was the only bootcamp that took the GI Bill, and it was nearby. The acceptance process was quick and easy.
The job assistance is pretty decent, all things considered. I was sent several hand-picked positions to apply for that had clearly resulted from a recruiter or other hiring official emailing the school to inquire about potential fits in their company, all of which resulted in an interview at the end of the course. The director would also send out a blanket list of good fits he had found on job websites and the like. I was concerned that the school would end up being one of the many money traps that commonly prey on veterans to take advantage of their grants and GI Bill, but can confidently say that everyone at the school absolutely has the best intentions and has their student's interests in mind. The only way I can think of to improve is perhaps to offer some sort of deferred payment plan, similar to App Academy or other bootcamps on the west coast.
All in all, attending Skill Distillery was one of the best decisions of my life. After graduating college, I still felt like my knowledge was limited to useless student projects, and that my technical skills were so lacking I was almost embarassed to show up for interviews. After just three weeks at the school, I had already learned more than I had learned in my 4 years of college, and could finally see how these skills were actually relevant in the real world. The knowledge I gained and the projects I created and added to my portfolio allowed me to speak with confidence in my interviews, and I was offered a position the day after I interviewed with only the third company I had applied for.
As a final note, I'd highly recommend looking into getting a Workforce grant if you're able. The $6000 scholarship I was given really helped, and not very many people I spoke to even knew it existed.
There are lots of coding bootcamps out there, and picking one can be an extremely intimidating process. There are all these schools to choose from that all teach different coding languges and all seem to boast a phenomenal hiring rate. So, how are you supposed to choose?
Making the decision to attend a coding bootcamp was one of the most difficult I have had to make. The bootcamp model is relatively new and there are mixed opinions everywhere about the merits of a condensed and accelerated programming regimen. I approached the beginning of the program with a fair amount trepidation, and I knew that I was taking a risk, having no idea if it was going to pay off. I can now say, after watching previous students and fellow classmates receive high paying job offers from reputable companies, that the model and curriculum that Skill Distillery has instituted is world-class and without peer. The Skill Distillery team has repeatedly shown that they can take anyone with a logical mind and turn them into quality programmers.
I’ve just recently accepted a full-time job with a leading digital agency out of New York City where I’ll be working with large Fortune 500 companies on optimizing their web and mobile delivery. The short time that I was able to spend at Skill Distillery contributed to making that happen. From the leadership team with Cole and Bruce to the instruction with Jaime, Kris, Andrew and Cayle; this a group that is relentless in both ensuring their students knowledge is on the forefront of an evolving technical spectrum and also broad enough to win competitive employment across a variety of opportunities in the digital space.
What I’ve personally experienced to be the best quality of this bootcamp is not just the education you will receive but a group that treats their students with respect. Skill Distillery is an organization that will have your back when push comes to shove. I know firsthand. Things don’t always go as planned (they didn’t for me) but what I can say is you can count on these guys to be there for you in the end.
Feel free to connect and message me if you have any questions: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tedkubach
I'm currently 8 weeks in at SD. So far it's been a great experience. There is tons of information to learn, extremely taxing mentally. However, I can personally attest to each and every TA and teacher taking extra time to help me out personally.
Coming from a corporate real-estate development background, I am surprised how much of a challenge it's been. People come to a coding bootcamp expecting many different things. SD does a nice job up updating curriculum to stay current w/ technologies that are being used in the real world.
There are always things that could be improved upon. The school doesn't promise a job, and in all honesty doesn't "place" people. Rather, they prepare people to be successful enough to get an actual programming job and not get "placed" at a help desk somewhere.
Overall, it's been a great experience and I'm glad I came here.
I am currently halfway through the course at Skill Distillery. Prior to this, I was attending college using my GI Bill. I had taught myself a little programming, but I had no direction and it was a very slow process. I found Skill Distillery and decided to take a chance on something new, and I have zero regrets! It has been a great experience so far, and I am amazed at the knowledge I have gained from this school.
The classes are a mix of lectures, labs, partner projects, and individual projects. I noticed some of the other reviews said that there was not enough hands on time, and that is definitely not true. The instructors always make sure to balance lecture, examples, and hands on time as needed. The material is not easy, but it is manageable if you are willing to work hard. Very knowledgable and helpful instructors and TAs are always available and willing to assist you. There has not been one day where I went home with a question unanswered. Overall, it is a very relaxed and friendly environment with all of the resources you could ever ask for.
Also, for the veterans - Skill Distillery offers a great value for your GI Bill, and I would encourage anyone that has the opportunity to consider this school. I don’t think there is any other place where you can use part of your GI Bill benefits to gain such profitable skills.
If anyone has any questions about my experience here, feel free to email me at email@example.com. I will also be updating this review after I complete the course.
My experience at Skill Distillery has been top notch. I feel as if the team, the curriculum and mission are strong and resonate throughout the culture and results that the bootcamp provides. I am about halfway through the program and I am continuously impressed by the depth of topics covered as well as the responsibility that we are taking on in such a short amount of time.
In my latest blog post on Chadington.com https://chadington.com/2016/04/12/codingbootcamp/ I have shared a more in depth perspective on my experience and what one should consider especially if they are coming from a "sucessful background" but are either looking to recareer or launch a tech startup company. Please feel free to reach out at ChadingtonChat@gmail.com to continue the conversation. Thanks!
Excerpt from my blog post: Coding Bootcamp! It was the “______” decision of my life!
...While that 4-year CS degree served as a gold standard entry point into the aforementioned career trajectory, there are certain forces at play that have changed the dynamic. The demand for a technical workforce has exploded. Specialized technical talent is hard to come by.
I've wanted to break into the web development industry for probably about two years now. After graduating college in 2008, I spent 5 unfulfilling years working in the insurance industry and then 2 years working for a small business and trying to teach myself code on the side.
I needed professional guidance!
Since beginning my training at Skill Distillery only 9.5 weeks ago, I am amazed at how much I've learned already and what I've been able to accomplish!
Skill Disitllery has proven to be everything I wanted in a coding Bootcamp. It's extremely challenging but there is no short supply of guidance and personal assistance when needed. The instruction has been of the highest level I've ever experienced!
It is challenging and certainly not easy; but if you're looking for easy then you've probably picked the wrong field! So far I believe I've been given everything I need to succeed and am confident it will continue! The days are a perfect balance between lectures and hands-on coding along with group and paired coding projects.
It was a great decision choosing Skill Distillery!
I am about half-way through and will look forward to posting an update upon completion!
I'm not a math person. I'm not a science person. I've always had a book in hand, and would rather spend 10 hours reading than 30 minutes doing calculus. When I told people I was going to do a coding bootcamp, they all said, "Wow, really? That's going to be hard." And they were right - but I don't think they could have ever imagined how rewarding my experience at Skill Distillery has been.
I looked at a large handful of bootcamps before deciding upon Skill Distillery. They were the only program in the Denver area that personally followed up on my application, responded to all my inquries within the same day, and accommodated my completion of the application process while traveling abroad.
The classes are extremely hands on, extremely thorough, and taught by phenomenal, passionate coding veterans who will work as hard as you will to ensure your success.
This program is all about what you put into it. If you're looking for a bootcamp that pushes you past the point you thought you could push yourself, and inspires you to create projects that you never would have dreamed of, then this is the place for you.
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 Dev Bootcamp and 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.