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 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 4.43
Upcoming 2018 Cohort Dates: 2/26-6/18 (Winter) 4/23-8/14 (Spring)
- $1,000 *Goes towards total tuition cost of $16,850
- Available through Climb Credit
- Payment Plan
- First Day of Class: $6,000 + Payments over 24 months: $375
- Minimum Skill Level
- Basic Computer Knowledge
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- Yes; 40-60 hours
Skill Distillery Reviews
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
I am back updating my review from 1/12/16 like I promised I would!! I'm a woman of my word.
All jokes aside- I'm not going to lie, the negative reviews that I read on this site bothered me. Paying $16,000 for a school that had a lot of negative reviews while I was still in the program, made me worry about what was to come. They made a lot of changes from the cohort before mine, and so my experience was much better than theirs.
I am honestly so glad I stayed. I had ZERO coding experience before the program, and at times, I truly did struggle and worried about whether the program was for me. But the instructors, the TA's, my fellow students, and our school director, helped me stick through it, and man is that the most rewarding experience to say that I graduated! I am so thankful for the program and people I've met.
I now will be working as a junior java developer at American Healthcare Technologies, where I was doing marketing before.
I wrote the review "Grateful" and needed to write an amended review. (Admin, if this needs to be combined with that review, please feel free to do so.)
I just received a Job offer from a mid sized company for a Java Stack Web Developer.
(I still have 2 weeks left in the program at Skill Distillery and received the job offer.)
I had ZERO professional experience before this school and Skill Distillery was able to assist me in getting to a place that would help me have a career in web development.
**Be aware, many of the negative reviews come from a class that was here while I attended and they quit because they said the program wasn't teaching what they thought was important. Clearly they were mistaken. If *I* can get a web developer job after attending school here, anyone that has a desire to write code can do it too.
After leaving the news industry, I decided to look into a coding bootcamp. Skill Distillery was worth every bit of money. The instructors are very hands on, and help you through the learninging struggle when coding. Not only are you being taught how to code, you have several projects to show potential employers your abilities. I have been told the stack they teach is very close to what is needed in for development jobs. I might not be a veteran, but they do accept the GI Bill, which is a huge plus for veterans getting out of the military. I am about to graduate soon, and am actively looking for a job. Skill Distillery is helping me with the process, looking at my resume, my cover letters, and even suggesting jobs I should apply.
I wouldn't change my bootcamp experience for the world!
My name is Jonathan.
I'm grateful I have attended Skill Distillery. It's opened a whole new world of career opportunities for me to provide for my family.
I'm a Marine Corps veteran that's done mostly manual labor or a service industry job most of my life. I have very little coding background apart from this school. (Veterans...use the GI Bill here. It's worth it)
I've already had multiple phone calls and interviews from potential employers for a web developer position and I still have 2 weeks left in the program.
The staff here are brilliant, very kind and will work with you as much as possible(no they are not bribing me to say this). They will not hand everything to you on a platter though. If you come here to learn, expect to work and study A LOT.
It's worth it.
A little less than a year ago, when I was in the process of finding my next move, I remember browsing this very website for information about different bootcamps. At the core of what I wanted to know was whether a program would be able to plug me into a job with the skills needed to maintain it and begin a career that I could eventually climb.
Not only did Skill Distillery provide that for me, but it was a truly enjoyable learning experience. Like some of the reviewers below, I was in the second cohort that began in July and ended in November. In a relaxed but focused atmosphere, my classmates and I got to know one another well. As Kimberly mentioned, we occasionally got together for study groups on the weekend, hung out socially outside of the school, and enjoyed each other's company. In the classroom, we recognized our individual strengths over the course of the program and gained from the insightfulness and curiosity of one another. Obviously each class will be a different set of students, but I cannot write a review without highlighting what a pleasure it was getting to know and being in class with such a wonderful group of people.
And I extend that statement to include the staff of Skill Distillery – who were open, hard-working, and care deeply about the students and the program succeeding. The instructors have been praised in reviews here: they deserve it. But here is the truth: this is an opportunity for you. This is a serious endeavor, an investment, and (potentially) a career change. The program is laid out for you to develop the right skills, with aid from instructors and TAs, but it is on you, 100%, to make the most out of the materials. Heed Cole R’s advice – one can only recommend this program (or any on CourseReport, for that matter) if you are serious about programming and technology. That’s not to say you need to have a plethora of background experience, or already be a coder, but you do need to have a passion for technology, tenacity, and be ready to work hard.
I chose this program because I was driven to become well-grounded in a tried-and-true object-oriented programming language that would provide me with a springboard from which to launch a career. I wanted to dive in to a difficult subject, invest time, money, and effort, but come out of the experience with a strong capacity to pick up new languages and technologies. That’s exactly what happened. I worked extremely hard, produced a massive personal portfolio, and impressed nearly every interviewer. I was able to apply the jobs that I was actually interested in, instead of just applying to anything I could find that remotely related to my skills. I was employed within a month of sending my first application.
At my current job, I have to understand the full stack. We do not have dedicated roles for each technology – it is thanks to the exposure and opportunity Skill Distillery provided me that I am so diversely capable. Because of this diversity, you have the capacity and opportunity to make decisions about your future career and shape your trajectory in a way that you know will be self-rewarding and right for your skills and interests.
Skill Distillery is an intensive training program teaching in-demand technologies. Being successful in the program requires dedication and hard work. Completion of the program and understanding of the curriculum will give you the skills necessary to build and deploy a full stack Java web application (of relatively small scope). These skills are in demand – after one month on the job market I was invited to 6 on-site interviews with different organizations and received 3 job offers. During these interviews, employers were impressed with my knowledge of Java, the architecture of web applications, and how relevant the skills I had been taught were to the jobs they were hiring for. Skill Distillery has enabled me to begin a career in software development and was a great use of my time and money.
Know What You Are Getting Into:
I chose to attend Skill Distillery because of their focus on Java development for the back-end. Java is not the easiest language to learn – it is sometimes verbose and it is not always as easy to do a simple task (or build a web application) in Java as it may be using other languages/frameworks. Java has great performance, proven scalability, and is in use on a large scale in enterprise applications. These considerations contribute to there being lots of Java jobs out there. Some reviews have mentioned that there is a dearth of entry-level and junior-level Java positions. It is true that there are many more job postings for Java developers with experience than for entry-level positions, but those junior-level positions do exist and are obtainable upon completion of the program. It may take work and time to find those positions, but you should expect and prepare for that; a job will not simply fall into your lap because you complete this program.
You should only do this program if you are excited about the doors that knowing Java might open for you and ready for the challenges and frustrations that you will encounter while learning it. I would not recommend doing this program simply because it is the only coding program that your V.A. benefits will pay for. I would not recommend enrolling in this program unless you have taken some time to determine that you enjoy programming and you have a fair bit of aptitude for it.
Curriculum and Instructors
We had a resume workshop, interview preparation instruction, and the opportunity to do a mock interview. These things were all very helpful preparation for the job search. There were also a number of emails with job leads.
Skill Distillery gave me the skills I needed to land a software development job that I am very excited about. The curriculum that they are teaching is extremely well-geared toward what employers are looking for.
I was part of the second cohort at Skill Distillery (SD) and my 19-week program ran from July through November. Of our initial class of 10 (with an additional person who audited some of it), two people dropped out fairly early, and one person joined us halfway to retake the second half of the course. We had a close-knit group where most everyone got along really well, we initiated study groups on weekends, some went to meetups together, hung out socially, and really got to know one another. Our group was dedicated and worked hard, I was impressed with how much each of us learned and I would be happy to work with any of them again in the future.
Following the course, I took some time to myself to relax for the Thanksgiving holiday and then spent the first two weeks in December getting my resume polished, crafting my website to showcase several examples of code I had written in and out of class, ordering business cards, and starting to network more heavily in meetup groups. But the job market was pretty much shut down for the holidays by that point and it wasn't until the new year that I felt like I really got serious about finding a job. Two weeks from that point I had my first two job offers, and in another week, I had negotiated and accepted a position as a Java Developer I for a mid-size company (I start at the beginning of February). The technical interviews, that I was nervous about when first going in, went great, with questions about Java and object-oriented programming that I could answer immediately and correctly, and I really got the sense that my interviewers were impressed by the depth and amount of what I knew, and that most recent grads from bootcamps do not have as much command of these foundation concepts. While technically it was about 8 weeks or so from graduating to securing a job for me, given the holidays, it seems to me like it was really only two-or-three weeks from when the business world came back to life to getting a job.
Was the Skill Distillery program perfect? No, of course not. There was a TON of information to get through and some concepts went by way too fast, and for others it felt like time was a bit wasted going over older technologies to develop an understanding and appreciation for newer technologies. I thought most of the Skill Distillery-written material was good, but there were some questionable materials which I understand are being replaced in future classes. I think the program could be strengthened by having more consistent teaching (in an effort to introduce us to different perspectives in the industry with guest teachers, I think less of that and more consistency would be better) and having projects that built up with the student's knowledge (i.e., take something simple with console output to eventually have a fullblown website dynamically drawing from databases and providing output where the complexity and techniques used in the backend evolve and mature with new concepts, etc.) rather than "throw away code" from tutorials that was abandoned. I actually think they should have MORE homework and grading and reading assignments, and I say that already recognizing that we were working at a full pace schedule with little time to ourselves already.
But a bootcamp is supposed to be hard -- if you are not in 110%, if you have too many distractions or obligations, this may not be for you. You need a support structure for yourself, resources taken care of so you don't spend study time worrying about things. If you have a spouse/partner, they need to understand what kind of commitment you are taking on. I have always been very big in volunteering my time and serving on the boards of non-profits, but I had to trim my schedule a lot to make room for this course, and in retrospect, I should have trimmed even more off my schedule to dedicate to study. Further, Skill Distillery wants to be able to take someone new to coding and get them through all this at a breakneck speed. I wouldn't actually recommend that -- do a course or two online BEFORE you start a bootcamp, make sure you have the real basics down and that you are committed and self-disciplined and really desperately interested in the subject enough to take this plunge.
But that is what companies want from junior developers: they want someone who knows HOW TO LEARN NEW THINGS. We're juniors - we're not meant to know a ton about anything, we're meant to know how to take in a great deal of knowledge, integrate it into the basic concepts that we understand, and start the practice with good coding techniques. That's where I feel like I am coming out of the Skill Distillery bootcamp.
For me, Skill Distillery delivered what I was looking for and expecting. I have a firm understanding of a fundamental programming language that will always be relevant and useful. I got some experience with integrating databases and using some frameworks and libraries that help me do the work better. I feel like I am starting with good coding practices that will serve me well and an understanding of the importance of testing and working together on a team. I never thought for a minute that Skill Distillery would be the end of my learning, but just the beginning. I am making a huge career transition into something I always wanted to do but never thought I would be successfully able to transition to. Now I'm going into my first developer job and I'm excited, and a little scared, and yet confident, too, that I'm going to be able to build on all I learned and was introduced to at Skill Distillery to make a great career for myself
You had better bring you A game, because these guys are not playing. I'm serious! If you are going to walk the walk and talk that talk you had better be ready to sweat. I'm talking 10 hours a day and catch up on the weekendes. You are going to compress 1500 hours of coding into 16 weeks. If you can't adapt to the needs of the job, if you can't take intellectual pressure then get out of the kitchen. BUT!!!! if you can hang in there and hold on until the end you will be ready to handle anything the job market has to through at you. You wont find better. Easier yes, better doesn't exist. Try, hit up Seattle, San Fransico, New Your, or India. To be honest thier should rename themselves to the IronWorks. So roll up your sleaves and get ready to job.
BTW Rob and Jamie are the bomb!
look here's the deal. Skill distillery is worse than second rate. It's the red headed step child that has always dreamed of becoming the first rate biological first rate loved first born. I do t know what to tell you, every accurate review thus far ? All negative reviews) have already stated the truth. Skill distillery does not deserve your 16k. Go to Turing or otherwise. You'll be glad you did.
Response From: Bruce Batky of Skill Distillery
We have a pretty small cohort of students in each class and we strive to provide a lot of individual attention. Since we dont know who left this review, I cant respond to any specific challenges you may have to our program. Were you a student here? Our door is always open if you would like to share your experience with us.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or ideas you may have: bruce(at)skilldistillery.com
PLEASE READ THIS ENTIRE REVIEW IF YOU WANT A 100% IN DEPTH ANALYSIS OF COHORT 3 AND THE REVIEWS POSTED BELOW
First off, because Mr. Anonymous two reviews below mine is suspicious of the five star reviews, lets ignore ALL of the positive reviews on this page. That leaves SIX reviews, of which FIVE, I believe were written by students from my cohort (SD3). Some of their comments are justified, but I feel that they may have been decieved by their own expectation of a program that was never offered to them. I only say this because I was one of the people who complained constantly, requesting more changes to be made. I now realize that the program structure is in tact and the program need not make changes for one particular cohort. In this review, I will attempt to address all of the grievances that the previous reviews have mentioned. I will discuss EXACTLY what happened throughtout my time during the course of my enrollment.
1. Quad 1 was by far the most promising portion of the program. The instructors were great (which EVERYONE else below me has confirmed) and everyone felt confident with program structure, as well as course material. Labs and keyboard time was abundant and 5 of 9 people who took the exam, including myself, passed the Associate Java Programming certification, which I felt was a good percentage based on the difficulty of the test. I came into this bootcamp with zero (AND I MEAN ZERO) programming experience and learning Java was an ambitious task. Yet, I managed to pass the Oracle certification with the help of extremely knowledgeable TA's (Andrew and Kris) and instructors (Jamie and Rob). As a prior Air Traffic Controller, I thought controlling live aircraft while adhering to hundreds of pages of rules and regulations was hard. I expected to cake walk through this bootcamp. That was most certainly not the case!
2. Quad 2 was when things became more difficult. Some of that was due to the difficulty of course material. We were warned numerous times that quad 2 is the bottom of the curve in regards to “The Pain Cave". As if the program couldnt get any harder, learning SPRING MVC was an @** whooping to say the least. I feel that it was in this section that everyone lost motivation. Many of the complaints were about dry material and long lectures. I can say that based on our classes feedback, changes have been made and were made at the time of complaint! It hurts me that they would write reviews saying that the school did not attempt to adjust course content based on student feedback. I am seeing those changes every day. I wont say that im not disappointed seeing others reap the rewards from my criticism. Its discouraging in a way to see the next cohort benefit from these changes, but thats how life works right? I do want to mention that I am MORE than comfortable with building full applications using Spring and Java! Yes, Quad could have been taught in a more interactive (meaning more keyboard/lab/project time) manner. However, that has changed and I feel that we were given enough tools to learn the material.
Also keep in mind, from my understanding, NO other bootcamp teaches you SPRING MVC. That already puts you ahead of the competition if you can mention that you have built (even small) applications front to back using these technologies.
3. It is ABSOLUTLELY FALSE that the school did not consider our feedback! Approximately two weeks into Quad 2, and realizing the difficulty of learning SPRING MVC, many people (INCLUDING MYSELF) began to complain about the teaching methodologies of the program. This was completely disregarding what we were told multiple times that two other cohorts had gone through the same program structure/curriculum/course material. Due to our persitent requests from class organized/one on one feedback sessions, the school attempted to cater to our needs. We asked for more lab/keyboard time. WITHIN 48 HOURS this was created for us. The TA's also spent time outside of work to create a lab that they felt was more accomodating to what we wanted. Ultimately, we were unsatisfied (AGAIN INCLUDING MYSELF) with what they had orgainized. Everyone wanted to do a project that showed individualism and creativity, rather than showcasing a project similar to everyone else in the class. However, what we failed to realize, is that it is extremely difficult for instructors to control the scope of everybodys project when students are given free reighn to determine what they want to build. I realize now that the ideas we were confident in implementing were not realistic based on our capabilities at the time. I also realized that although individuality shows creativity, most employers are concerned with collaboration and team work. We were offered this opportunity in Quad 3.
4. In quad 3 the complaints kept building and the school made, in my opinion, too much of an effort to cater to what we felt was good for us in hopes that we would be satisfied. This is something that will NOT happen again because they have realized that their structure is solid and produces legitimate programmers. We have had countless hours of feedback during quad 3 and changes were made within 24-48 hours. This is not to say it was exactly what we wanted. And I feel this is one of the reasons for everyones departure.
5. Paired programming has now been implemented in the course structure starting with SD4. Although that may not have been the case throughout my time at Skill Distillery, it is something that will be focused on moving forward. Also, what the other reviewers failed to mention was that paired programming and Agile was expected to be implemented into quad 4 of our class. But its hard to see the results of the feedback if you leave prior to giving the school a chance to making the appropriate adjustments.
And by the way, a university will not spend money, nor train you for a week, for an Oracle Java certification. You'd be lucky if you were capable of even taking and passing a java certifcation test after an intro to java course!
7. NO ONE GUARANTEED JOB PLACEMENT! The school DOES care about your job placement and they actively work with employers to assist you after completion of the program. Their network of employers may not be as big as some of the other bootcamps. However, I just went to an event in Denver and multiple employers were familiar with Skill Distillery and personally mentioned that the school has been in contact with them regarding employment! Keep in mind, we were told ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL that there is no guaranteed job placement. However, this is the case for every bootcamp that I have talked to (Hack Reactor, Dev Bootcamp, etc.). This is not to say that they arent pushing for you to find a job. Why would ANY institution care about enrollment and not about job opportunities? They wouldn’t be in business for very long.
One of the complaints below mentions marketability as a java programmer. I WANT TO NOTE that one of my classmates was one of 15 students to SUCCESSFULLY complete Dev Bootcamps New York program, a class that began with 40. I asked him why he decided to spend another 16k to come to Skill Distillery. His response was that upon completing Dev Bootcamp, he asked his instructor what the next best step would be to take in becoming a successful programmer. His instructor said to GO LEARN JAVA!
Skill Distillery doesn’t pride itself in students becoming expert Java developers. They pride themselves in producing smart and capable programmers that can be groomed to learn any language based on their exceptional fundamentals in Java!
If anyone has any questions, feel free to contact me via email.
I attended the SD program prior to the authors of these other reviews, and I feel compelled to add my thoughts to the discussion.
Following the same format…
Pros: I like the location and the building SD is housed in. There is a common area, kitchen, and additional space for students to study. Garage parking is free for students, and there are restaurants surrounding the school. The program started out very promising, with the first quad’s Java instruction being top notch. Spirits were high during and immediately after the Java certification exam, but this enthusiasm didn’t carry through to the remainder of the program.
Cons: I agree with the thoughts of other students that Java EE is not suited for bootcamp instruction. While the material presented was fascinating and well taught, there are fewer job opportunities for entry level Java engineers than for entry level coders of different languages. Modern technologies were not covered, and students leaving the school are at a disadvantage competing against other boot camp graduates when interviewing for local jobs. Job placement assistance was non-existent, and the program's voluntary attrition rate looks to be extreme.
I find suspicious the five star reviews from students that have yet to complete the course. The shortcomings of SD appear after the first quarter and I suspect some damage control is taking place. I wish everyone the best and hope that things improve for current and future students.
I cannot recommend the school at this time.
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.