The Software Guild is an immersive 12-week or 10-month web and mobile bootcamp in Akron, OH, Lousiville, KT, Minneapolis, MN, or online. The Software Guild takes driven beginners, or more experienced students passionate about development, and prepares them to compete for jobs as professional developers. Courses focus on .NET/C#, Java, or Android and do a deep dive into the language fundamentals, server side, data tier, user interface, and tools. Software Guild focuses on .NET/C# and Java because those stacks are stable, proven, and in highest demand in the enterprise.
The Software Guild looks for applicants that are self-starters with high levels of motivation and tenacity. The bootcamp searches for applicants who know when to ask for help, work well with others, keep positive attitudes in the face of adversity, and most of all love learning, problem-solving, and are excited to build cool new things.
Recent Software Guild News
- Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Abbett of The Software Guild
- Instructor Spotlight: Derek Hannah of The Software Guild
- December 2016 Coding Bootcamp News Roundup
Recent Software Guild Reviews: Rating 4.7
Discover a part-time option for a full-time job, with The Software Guild’s online program. This program is ideal for those who want to learn the skills necessary for entry-level software development jobs, but who cannot commit to the immersive, full-time on-ground program. In nine months, students will learn the same skills as those in the on-ground program. All classes are asynchronous, and can be completed when it is convenient. Lectures are conducted via video, and instructors are available via instant messaging or email to answer questions.
- Skills Fund and Climb
- Payment Plan
- $12,000 tuition
- Placement Test
Discover a part-time option for a full-time job, with The Software Guild’s online program. This program is ideal for those who want to learn the skills necessary for entry-level software development jobs, but who cannot commit to the immersive, full-time on-ground program. In nine months, students will learn the same skills as those in the on-ground program. All classes are asynchronous, and can be completed when it is convenient. Lectures are conducted via video, and instructors are available via instant messaging or email to answer questions.
- Skills Fund and Climb
- Payment Plan
- $12,000 tuition.
- Placement Test
Software Guild Reviews
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I have been very pleased with the Software Guild. Their instructors are very knowledgeable, and strike a perfect balance between mentoring you, and challenging you to achieve through your own research and efforts.
First, let’s agree that not everyone is cut out to code. A coder has to be someone who relentlessly works at their code to first make it work, and then to make it better. The Guild and its instructors will push you to discover things on your own, then assist when you are really stuck. Coming out of such a program, you should be able to code on your own, and ask a friend or go online for further input when stuck.
Second, know what you want, and make sure that this is the program for you. They offer a full stack SQL => C# middleware => Asp.Net user interface. Their focus is on data input, storage, and movement throughout the full stack, and they will walk you through numerous ways of achieving the same thing at each level of the stack. Asp.Net can be somewhat cryptic, but the Guild does a great job in walking you through it.
Third, realize that learning this stuff on your own is tough, and near impossible without the Guild. They have a well written and organized path to learning, which consists of an online course for 11 months of intense and rigorous learning. I purchased numerous books to track along with their curriculum, and found their curriculum superior. I also explored a Lynda.com course for MVC, and it paled in comparison to the Guild’s curriculum. Be prepared though to work 20-40 hours a week depending on the curriculum for each section of the course. I have a bachelor of chemical engineering degree, and a MBA in finance, and I found their program as tough or even tougher than either of these accredited programs on a per time basis.
Fourth, persevere. The curriculum will be tough, but if you log the hours and ask questions when stuck, you should get through it, provided you have an aptitude for coding. The Guild really wants each student to learn and to succeed, so they have built flexibility into their program to allow a student to drop back and take more time, on occasion, if need be. Attending an online program probably means that you are already working a fulltime job, and the online program is conducive for that.
I rated them five stars except for the overall experience, giving this a four star rating. The only reason this is not a five is because I was part of the first group of students to beta-test their online program, and as such, did not experience as smooth a curriculum that any new students starting today should encounter. A great feature of the Guild though is once a graduate, you are welcome to review any curriculum that they offer, including revised curriculum and even other curriculum such as Java.
Best of luck with coding, and if you are looking for a solid online coding program, look no further, you should be pleased with the Guild.
The Software Guild is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I decided to attend TSG after a year of CS at two seperate colleges, and neither year comes close to the amount of quality and necessary skills I learned while at TSG. The first half of the course was dedicated to console applications, and during this process I was taught best practices for applications as well as version control and working in a team while developing.
The second half of the course was angled towards front-end dev, while still enforcing everything we had been taught so far.
My instructor was Dave Balzer, and he was great. He, along with all the other instructors, really wanted us (the apprentices) to succeed and it was evident in everything they did. There was always someone ready to jump in and help explain something, or to meet with me for a code review.
If you have any reserves about TSG, I would say put them to bed because attending here was the best decision I have ever made.
The Software Guild gave me the skills, the confidence, and the network I needed to land a great job as a software developer. I heard about the Guild from a friend almost a year before I enrolled. I took that time to find out if software development was something I could actually get into or not. They say you can start the program with no previous experience, but personally I prefer to be a little more prepared. Especially when investing so much time and money.
That time to prepare was not wasted. There are plenty of online tools to help someone learn programming concepts and languages. And though they may not be a complete program in and of themselves, they make for great prep work for someone with no experience with the subject. Anyway, without proper, prior, preparation, I may not have performed so well. That being said, the Software Guild was the perfect opportunity to build on that self study.
The coursework was intensive and structured. There was enough repetition of in-depth concepts that they not only made sense by the end, but became second nature. We built individually and in groups several full stack applications from the ground up. I walked out of the cohort with the ability to set up a SQL database, write stored procedures, connect to the database in my code, swap out mock and live data with factories, move data through layered architecture in a safe manner, and display and manipulate that data in the browser. The Guild also prepared me to work with source control in a team environment, a skill which I now use every day on the job to access and update my own team's codebase. Basically you get 3 months of full time education, experience, references, mentors, and a hiring network to boot. They delivered as advertised.
I attended the .NET cohort on site in Akron Ohio and David Balzer was my instructor. The structure and content were great, but it also comes down to the quality of instruction and Dave nailed it. He presented the information clearly, took the time to answer any question, and would always show encouragement and support. When someone was really stuck, Dave would sit down and walk through the problem step by step explaining along the way. This really helped to understand some of the more difficult concepts.
The rest of the staff was also amazing. I always enjoyed my interactions with the instructors, mentors, and the administrative staff. I honestly can't say enough about this place. If you are willing to put in the work and trust the process you should definitely see the results.
My advice, find out if you really love programming first (this includes working with people btw). If you do, the Software Guild should be a great next step for you. Highly recommended!
Once upon a time, I was in a miserable, horrible situation with my career and knew that something needed to change.
That change was The Software Guild, which — by way of a piece on NPR — made big ‘promises’ that in 12 weeks I could change everything. I could learn a trade [software/web development] and find a new career [via their career development efforts and hiring network].
It sounds too good to be true? For some in my cohort it was, and things didn’t pan out as expected. For me? I found a new life, and I am absolutely grateful to The Software Guild for that.
NOTE: I attended the January 2015 Java cohort. I was employed directly out of the Guild, though working with technology that I hadn’t studied [COBOL and C#].
Far and away, the best aspect of this program is the instruction. My caveat to that is that I only had one instructor [and a TA] of the available instructors. Pat Toner. If you are considering doing TSG, I’d highly recommend that you do whatever you can to be in Pat’s class — even if that means that you have to wait for the following cohort.
Pat’s style is unconventional. He teaches in a conversational tone and manner, which helps to lower the stakes a little in an incredibly stressful environment [more on that later]. Pat is also absolutely brilliant, and getting to watch him in his element of designing and coding was nothing short of inspirational. If it sounds like I’m being overly indulgent on the qualities of Pat, let me assure you that I am not. He made this entire experience worth it for me.
I’m also going to put the aforementioned stress level as part of ‘The Good.’ Why? Because it was motivating. In my class, which consisted of 15 men aged 22–65, at least 12 of us had put everything on the line in order to attend. Several of us were married with children who needed to be successful in this venture or else face pretty dire consequences. At no point did I feel that my situation [I came into the Guild with a 1 year old and a 4-months pregnant wife…] was undercut or belittled. The stress level also somewhat mimicked what life can be like [though isn’t always] in a development setting.
Administration is, frankly, very bad. During my 3 months in the Guild, 3 staff members were turned over [the hiring network leader, the administrator, and one of the teachers]. The hiring network one stung the most, as we found out in week 11 that our fears of not feeling prepared for the hiring events were well founded and that he had shirked 90% of what his job responsibilities were. Unfortunately, we did not even get an acknowledgement from the staff [including the founder] of how we had been really given the short end of the stick. I cannot speak to the new hiring network leader’s work, as I only spent 1 week with him.
On top of that, our cohort was one of the first after TSG was bought by The Learning House. As such, there was a lot of bad communication, and we often felt left in the dark as to what was going on. At times, it felt like we were the guinea pigs. Not a great feeling when you’ve put your life on the line [and a large chunk of money].
If you go in with eyes wide open, you can be successful. This is not a fix-all for your life, and there are no guarantees that you will make it through and find gainful employment at the end. Like everything worthwhile in life, it’s a huge risk. Would I do it again? I don’t know. Am I glad that I did it? Absolutely.
I was part of the Java cohort at the Software Guild from April to July 2016 in Akron, Ohio.
1) The Instructors were great! Pat Toner is a Java ninja with more than 15 years of professional experience.
2) The local employer network is strong: about 12 or so local companies came for speed dating interviews on site.
3) I had 4+ job offers a week after I was finished
a) gain the technical skills
b) learning how to learn
c) approaching software design first and foremost from the problem to be solved and only then getting into the design and implementation of the technical solution which helps to solve the core problem and determines the value of any specific technical aspect no matter how cool.
d) gain the psychological confidence to get out there and interview for my first job in tech.
I recommend the Software Guild as a good stepping stone into the world of Software Development. I am happy to talk with anyone about my experience there and hope it may help you in your own journey.
1) keep my current job, self study, make a project, then interview for entry level developer jobs
2) quit my current job, totally dedicate myself to self study, make a project, then interview for entry level developer jobs
3) quit my current job, go through a bootcamp, then interview for entry level developer jobs
While I think all three of these are valid ways to getting into the software industry ( I know people who have done each), I was leaning towards the 3rd option since it seemed like the quickest way to get into the field, 12 weeks, all in, job change, then get paid to learn more on the job while getting professional developer experience. Option 1 could take up to a year depending on how much time each night I was able or motivated to dedicate to it.
So why the software guild? I researched and read up on many different bootcamps. Some seemed like a scam and probably were. Others seemed more reputable with alumni who are working as developers and becoming senior level people. I was impressed reading some of the reviews of Software Guild Alumni. I was also attracted to the Guild since it introduced you to a more traditional (C#.NET / Java/Spring ) object oriented programing language and framework used by many many enterprise level companies. I wanted some formalized education but not another college degree, so this seemed like a good fit. It also worked for me being from Ohio, close to home, I was able to stay with family nearby, and the tuition was reasonable (10,000) compared to other bootcamps.
I enjoyed the staff, the teachers, and the other students in my cohort. The teachers knew their stuff and were invested in helping you succeed. Not a place to be spoon-fed success, so come with an active spirit (but that is all of life!!), if you are active and passionate in learning AND in your job search, you will find a job. Finding people who are qualified, passionate, and personable is HARD for companies, if you want this and enjoy it and want to work hard at a career of using software and tech as a tool to solve human and business problems, you will be hired!!
Pat Toner, who was my Java teacher, was great! All the other teachers were available and happy to help with questions or give you more side projects.
The curriculum moved a bit slower than I expected but Pat always had a list of more projects and things to work on if we completed assignments, so no time was wasted.
The outcome was proficiency and familiarity with:
web development using MVC design, Object Oriented approaches to programing, the Agile approach to developing a software product as a team, git (a source control tool),
The title of this review is in no way an embellishment of my experience at the Guild. Prior to attending the Guild I was stuck in dead end job with no upward mobility. Two weeks after graduating I had recieved two offers from companies I was excited to join. If you are passionate about programming and motivated to change your career then attending the Software Guild is a no brainer.
I owe a lot of my success to my instructor Pat Toner. Pat was not only an expert in building enterprise business applications but also an expert instructor in this field. I always felt comfortable approaching him no matter what the problem. He is a master at providing non technical metaphors to assist in understanding some of the more abstract concepts in software development.
Pat wasn't the only staff member that impressed me during my time in the program. All the teaching assistants are wonderful people who are always available to help. Not to mention the excellent assistance I recieved from John Manila and Matt LoPiccolo who were in charge of helping students attain employment. They were helpful during and after my completion of the program. These two organized an event that enabled all the students to interview with companies seeking developers. I ended up accepting an offer from a company that attended this event.
I couldn't of been happier after attending the Guild but I must warn prospective students to make sure they are financially stable before enrolling. The Guild does offer options to help students with tuition and living expenses but you must consider the time after the program. You shouldn't expect to have a job lined up upon completion of the program. It takes a lot of hustle to land your first software development job and that might take some time. But overall I am enthralled with the experience and am proud to be a Guildee for life!
I was part of the first online .NET cohort (~May 2016). Initially, I was very excited. I think they do a good job teaching the fundamentals. And I think their material is top-notch. However, the instructors are quite busy. It can be hard to connect with your classmates, because most of them have already full-time schedules (that is why they are in the online cohort in the first place!). The basic premise is that the in-person bootcamp is 60 hrs / wk, so the online expectation is 20 hrs / wk (so 9 month completion vs 3 month completion). However, based on surveys of my fellow classmates while I was in the class, expect to put in more than 20 hrs / wk. I think they were planning on changing it to 12 month completion because the work was taking longer than they had anticipated. It's reasonable, because you are presumably juggling a full-time job and possibly a family at the same time.
I feel like code reviews could have been done better. I think my experience became a lot better once they moved from Hipchat to Slack. I was able to connect with in-person and even some graduates of the program. I think because our cohort had a lot of early drops, we ended up with about 10 students after about a month, and our specific cohort channel chatter dropped to almost zero. Also, I was always told not to talk about advanced math or algorithms (I have a degree in physics, I can't help it....)
I think the reason I might have lost some of my excitement is because I wasn't able to progress faster (being the first cohort, they were still creating material as we were moving forward). Also, I actually have a fair bit of background in programming: just not enough to get into a masters program or get a job in Software Development. So I thought the bootcamp would help me bridge the gap.
The reason I left early was (personally):
1) I started getting interviews from major companies in my area (Seattle) (Expedia, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft). I even made it to the on-site round at Amazon, but my feedback was my algorithms and problem-solving weren't quite good enough.
2) Algorithms are generally de-emphasized and / or completely ignored in this bootcamp. The focus here is to get a Jr. Dev job in the Akron / Louisville / Minneapolis Area, which is a lot different then getting a development job in Seattle or San Francisco. I got many algorithm questions for every interview I did. However, I don't think it is as necessary outside of the SEA / SF area. I think they have a fairly good track record of placing their bootcamp grads into their locations. In response to my rejection from Amazon, I dropped out of the bootcamp and enrolled in the Data Structures and Algorithms specialization from Coursera (which I highly recommend for anyone, but I am an algorithms geek). It looks like it was a good choice for me personally, because Microsoft will be extending an offer to me after my onsite last week :)
I can't speak much about job assistance, but their employment lead was in technical recruiting for 20 years, so that can't hurt. Also, some of their instructors have a podcast called Dev Coaches podcast, I'd recommend giving it a listen for anyone who has an interest in development.
In summary, if this review was too long to read, I'd say if you are in the Minneapolis / Akron / Louisville area or in general would not mind relocating, then the bootcamp is a good choice. However, if you want to get a job in the algorithm-heavy areas like Seattle, San Francisco, and I have to guess New York City would also be like this, consider other options.
This bootcamp helped me become excited about development and improving myself. I don't think I'd be where I am today if I hadn't enrolled. The instructors are very friendly! And the people are great. All kinds of different backgrounds, an ice carver, a flight attendant, a VP at a bank, a software tester, and a IT networks professional (just a few of the friends I've made there!).
Anyone looking to have a career in Development should take advantage of this opportunity.
Before the Software Guild, I was a dishwasher(past 4 years), had no degree, and basically no support system.
If you are highly motivated, persistent, and self sufficient this program will be viable for you, regardless of your background.
My experience at the Software Guild
While I was there I took advantage of the short-term sublease to apartments that they offered which was right down the street from the guild. Staying at the apartments was extremely beneficial because it made it much easier to focus on what I was there to do and three other members of my cohort were in the same loft, so if I was ever stuck on a problem, help was near by.
I would say the first four weeks were the most daunting. The first week was pretty relaxed, we spent time getting to know each other and the curriculum for the next 12 weeks. After the first week, we hit the ground running. The next three weeks were the most crucial, there was a lot of information to take in during class and plenty of work to do from home. I dreamt about code the most during this time, surprisingly I actually dreamt up solutions to some problems in my sleep. Basically once you make it through the first four weeks, you'll know if coding is for you.
After the first four weeks, the intensity went down a bit, I adjusted to the lifestyle and we started to focus more on different technologies.
Instructors and Staff
I don't know how my experience would have went without my instructor Pat Toner. Learning how to write code can be very confusing and not so straight foward. My instructor was very good at making concepts easy to understand and taught us the best coding practices. Sometimes it takes a little more for me to learn certain material. I can't just read about something or just have someone verbally tell me how to do something. I need to actually understand what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, and see it being done. Pat does a great job of painting that picture, explaining things in a way so I can actually understand why/how to do something, instead of just going through the steps.
I havn't had a chance to learn from any other instructors but they were all friendly and would go out of their way to help.
The Software Guild does an excellent job at providing job assistance. We focused more on our job search during the end of the program but our employer network director, John Manilla, was always available for mock interviews or to give any advice that was needed. Around the last 2-3 weeks of the program they host an employer networking event where they invite a number of companys to interview with. A number of my collegues ended up with offers from the networking event. Unfortunately I didn't, but about two months later I ended up with an offer from Nationwide thanks to the feedback my instructor gave as a reference.
Ultimately the search is your own, but you are given all the resources you need for it to be successful.
This program should be a serious option for those who are interested in transitioning to a career in software development.
At around May of 2015, I was at an important crossroad in my life: I knew I wanted to pursue a career in software development, but like most others in that kind of situation, I was led to chose between two options: going to a programming bootcamp or atttending a 4-year CS degree program.
Ultimately, I decided that after already having obtained an undergraduate degree (in Physics and Mathematics), a quarter of a medical degree, and comitting four separate years as a tour-bus driver, attending school for another bachelors degree --which you'll learn carries less weight in this industry than it does in others-- felt like more of a risk than an investment.
So I enrolled in Software Guild and thought: whatever-- I can fill in the theoretical deficiencies within 3 years and 9 months of my own free time while getting paid as a software developer. These numbers were based on the assumption that I would actually land a job straight out of bootcamp.
And land a job(s) I did. I applied to 80-some jobs after bootcamp (with most of the non-prestige positions being in Houston, my hometown). Only three companies saw that I was worth their time for an interview. These three interviews eventually led to offers-- one of which was from IBM.
Many of my current co-workers have commented positively on my performance, and not just in respect to my background, but generally speaking for a junior software developer. This is where I must give Software Guild most of the credit. Their program not only taught me the technical skills that the industry needs, but also the soft skills necessary for a budding software developer to scale nicely into a senior-level practitioner-- skills like project management, effective team communication, prioritization, and how to work efficiently.
If you're truly interested in software development, I urge you to give Software Guild a shot. It is a positive, nurturing, and efficient learning environment. It is clear that Victor, Randall, and Sarah were given the gift to teach. They will patiently answer all and any of your questions (even those that are "into-the-weeds"). If you give them the chance, they will also act as your friend and mentor, polishing your soft skills until you are ready to successfully step into a real interview scenario.
In closing, I'd say that the smartest decision would be to give it a try, and if it doesn't work out, then go for a 4-year degree. However, make the most of your time while you're there by obsessing over your work and utilizing all of their resources because this is a very real fast-track to the career of your dreams.
I went into The Software Guild hating and dreading Object Oriented Programming, since throughout the years I had tried and tried and tried to get my brain to wrap around the crazy concepts. What I learned at the Guild though, is that those concepts weren't crazy at all. The best thing that the Guild does for you is break down big concepts/problems into simple small ones you can understand and teaches you to do so on your own too. As soon as you start the bootcamp, boy it does feel like a bootcamp. Things happen so fast and the days go by in a blur. First week in, and I realized I know more Object Oriented than I ever did before. I couldn't believe how much information we were given in 1 week, but at the same time it was NEVER overwhelming. The pressure was there, but it was never so insane that you couldn't keep up. As weeks went by, I realized how comfortable I had gotten with something I had dreaded so much all my life. I even got a job in programming in my 10th week there.
The reason I say it was the best decision I ever made is because it really did turn my life around. The curriculum is designed to help you succeed. Everyone at the Guild is invested in your success. The instructors, the TA's, the alumni, and literally everyone else. I got great advice from each of these at some point that helped me not only in getting a job, but doing well in it. Especially having the support of my instructor Dave Balzer made a huge difference. With him around, I never felt like I had no one to talk to about my struggles and challenges. I could go panicking to him with the stupidest of problems and he would help me calm down and find a solution. That I would say is the best thing about the Guild. The kind of support system you get here is unmatched and if you work hard and want to succeed, this is the best place you could be at.
These guys make programming look easy.
I attended the Java 2015 August cohort with Pat Toner as my instructor. This program was an incredible experience and helped change my career.
After studying programming on my own for roughly a year, I knew that I needed help not only understanding more challenging concepts but also job assistance/advice. The program is designed for complete beginners with no experience in programming, but since I had almost a year of programming under my belt, my experiences may be different than those who come to the program with no experience. I found the pace of the course to be challenging at times, but overall manageable. The program begins with the basics but quickly builds off of that to give students a solid foundation of not only programming skills but also useful and sought after skills like the software development lifecycle (SDLC), Agile, N-Tier Architecture, and methodological thinking. Although the program moves quickly, there was always an instructor or TA that was available during and after class hours to answer questions, give advice, or give a more in depth explanation of things covered in class. Both the instructor and TAs were extremely helpful, informative, and went above and beyond to make sure that everyone understood concepts and themes.
One of the most important and worthwhile things about this program for me was learning how to be a full stack developer. Sure, there are a lot of tutorials to teach you specific things like Java, SQL, or HTML, but this program helps you put everything together to build dynamic web applications. I strongly believe that I would have not been able to learn all of this had I not attended the Guild. Another thing that I really appreciated was that the curriculum was up to date; I learned things that employers were looking for. In my current position as a junior developer, I have been able to apply what I have learned from the Guild and build upon them. The curriculum gave me a solid foundation that prepared me for my job.
It is important to note that you get what you put into this program; you can't expect to master everything if you only work during class hours. Putting in extra hours before and after class and on weekends makes concepts easier to understand and master. Since the program moves rather quickly, it's important to put in that extra time so that you can understand concepts and not get left behind.
On to the one of the most important things: Jobs. Obviously, this program is a huge investment, and every student attends the program hoping to walk away with a development job. The Guild does a good job helping prepare students for interviews and helping them find jobs. During my cohort we had several events to help us prepare for jobs including resume reviews, LinkedIn reviews, and, of course, the "speed dating" event where students were able to meet with employers. Outside of these events, you can reach out to your instructor or TAs for further assistance, which was extremely helpful for me. The Guild also has one person that is solely designated to find employers to higher Guld graduates. Unfortunately, the person that had this job during my cohort did not do a great job helping students, which was frustrating and one of the only bad things I have to say about the Guild. However, that person has since been replaced, and I have heard very good things about their replacement. To make finding a job easier, I would recommend that you not limit yourself to the companies that the Guild partners with; be proactive! I applied to multiple companies before most of my peers, and I believe that it helped me find a job quicker. It's recommended that you apply for jobs around week 8 or 9, but I started looking at job postings around week 5 or 6. Looking at job postings help me understand what skills and qualities employers were looking for, which, in turn, help me know what to study up on more. I received a job offer by week 7 or 8, which I accepted. I believe that most of my peers started receiving job offers after they attended the "speed dating" event.
Overall, I feel like the Guild was a worthwhile investment that help prepare me for my current position. It's given me the necessary skills to be a developer!
TL;DR- Worked my butt off, learned a TON, and ended up with an amazing development job!
The course covers a lot of material and it is very intense. However, the instructors are very approachable and there is additional support from teaching assistants. Be prepared to work hard, push yourself, and definitely take advantage of all available help.
People in the tech industry I have talked to have a positive reaction to the Guild. It appears to be a good stepping stone to getting an entree to the tech industry.
I spent several months researching different bootcamps, languages offered, reviews of bootcamps, and job placement stats. I picked The Software Guild (previously Software Craftmanship Guild) because it had some of the highest ratings, offered a more stable and professional language (Java/C# instead of simply web development), and had job placement %'s as high as almost anyone else.
One thing to be very aware of is that you MUST ask questions if something is unclear. Do not assume that you can catch up later, the course is almost too fast for many students and you will not have time to figure it out on your own and then catch up on new material if you are lagging.
Final note, for some it is possible to learn programming without attending a bootcamp. I probably was one such, however the ability to have instructors to help explain difficult concepts/problems, the solid hiring network, and the pain of having paid money all make a huge difference in where you end up.
I graduated from the Software Guild in May 2016. I was in the Java cohort.
1. It was a tough program. The pace was frantic, especially at the beginning.
2. There were times we were going so fast, I didn't receive the kind of feedback I was looking for.
3. The material, opportunity to practice, my fellow apprentices, and the quality instruction from Austyn Hill made this an overall great decision for me. I had done an online bootcamp that was excellent, but the Software Guild filled in a great deal of understanding I was missing.
I have been working as a full-time software developer since May. My experience at the Guild prepared me for real dev work.
-No programming background
-Bachelors and Masters in another field, non-technical
First and foremost, one of the best decisions I've ever made. Went from manual labor to actually getting paid to think and solve problems. I spent two years learning on my own and by the end of week 2 I covered everything I knew plus more.
This is very very demanding of your time, but if you have the right attitude and self-motivation you'll get back twice as much as you put in... if not more. The best part of the experience was the teacher, Pat Toner in my case, and utilizing his decade + long career and knowledge to help better my understanding of software engineering.
This will be your entire life for 3 months and at times you will feel very stressed. But the guilds reputation and the success I've seen just from my class leads me to be able to say I highly recommend this course to any one serious enough learning how code.
I attended the Febuary 2016 C#/.Net session in Louisville. While the coursework is no cakewalk, the instructor (with ~10 years experience as a .Net developer) was very helpful along the way. He helped us focus on what we're expected to know as a junior developer, and made sure that we had ample amount of time to go over any material that gave us problems. In addition, the classes are small with mine having 6 students.
The Software Guild placed me in front of some of the biggest companies/recruiters Louisville has to offer. Employers were impressed with what we were able to do with sush a short time, I was hired immediately after the program. I currently work for GE Appliances and I get to use my experience from the Software Guild to build and grow their website. With all of the knowledge, technology, and employment opportunities the Guild has to offer, this bootcamp is worth every dollar.
I was part of the Java cohort at the Software Guild from Feb to May 2016 in Akron, OH.
My background: I got my bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 2012 and worked for about 3 years in the offshore construction industry. While working on a side project, I started to learn web development on my own. My interest in programming grew and I decided to pursue a career in software. I considered the option of going back to school to get a computer science degree but it was way too expensive and time consuming. Luckily, I came across information about software bootcamps and immediately started to research into them.
Why ‘The Software Guild’? I spent a long time looking into several bootcamps but I finally settled on the Guild for 3 main reasons:
- One of the few bootcamps that teaches object-oriented programming along with web development. OOP is a very important concept in computer programming and the course is designed in such a way that you will be learn and implement OOP principles.
- Awesome instructors and staff. They’re all pros with many years of experience and a passion for programming.
- Low cost of tuition. Total cost of studying at the Guild including tuition, accommodation, transport etc. is considerably lower than other bootcamps on the East/West coasts.
Is it hard? Yes and no. You will be bombarded with a lot of information over a short span of time. Some concepts are difficult to understand right away and need time to assimilate. However, if you put in the hours and utilize the resources that are available - you will have the “eureka” moment where all the pieces fall into place and make perfect sense.
What’s the outcome? You will learn and implement OOP concepts, unit testing, n-tiered design, web development using MVC design, agile software development and also various other dev tools and technologies. If your aim is to get a job after the bootcamp - rest assured the skills that you will learn at the Guild will put you in a good position to apply for entry level software developer jobs.
Conclusion: The curriculum at the Guild was cohesive and relevant to the requirements of my first job. This helped me transition into my new career as a Software Developer and has provided with a solid foundation of knowledge and skills. I would recommend the program at the Software Guild to anyone who is serious about a career in software development.
I attended the Software Guild's .NET track in 2016 at their Minneapolis location and I had an exceptional experience. The staff is professional and the coursework is very relevent; teaching you the skills that you need to get hired. I already had an MBA before entering the program and this was a fast-track way for me to jumpstart my career in the tech industry. The Software Guild puts on an employer network day where students interview with a number of potential employers and although this was an extremely valuable opportunity I didn't attend because I had already accepted a job offer and this was 2 weeks before graduation.
Don't think you'll be handed a job though. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication (on average I probably put in 60 hours per week) but as long as you put in the time and effort and you enjoy programming then you'll be rewarded in the end.
I highly recommend The Software Guild if you are looking for coding bootcamp that will help you land a job. Before I enrolled I showed the "Full Stack Java" curriculum to a local IT Project Manager and she thought it looked excellent. As it turned out, the Guild did exactly what they said they were going to do. I got a VERY intense 3 month FULL-TIME experience (plus a 6-8 week "pre-work" part-time segment). I agree with other reviewers - you will not have any time to do anything else during this bootcamp.
Within 2 weeks after graduation I ended up getting an excellent job offer and although I just started I can tell that my Software Guild education will serve me well in this job.
The instructor in Minneapolis - Michael Gaffney - was excellent. He was very patient and very knowledgeable. The split of lecture/lab time was good - there was plenty of time to work on Pair Programming (or Group Programming) projects in class. But I also needed lots of time outside of class to work on individual exerices / projects. You should plan to spend about 20 hours per week outside of class working on projects. Some could certainly get by with less but I would not count on being able to do a part-time job while taking this class.
I was especially impressed with the tools we were using in class. The company I'm with is using the exact same Collaboration / Source Code Management tools. And the emphasis on "Agile Development" in class is also very impressive. That's one of the first things my Project Manager friend complemented.
I had IT experience but not in object-oriented programming. So this class was very challenging for me even thought I had some experience. It might actually be easier to learn OO programming if you haven't done other types.
The support given to us - by the Instructor, the TAs, the Career Services expert, and the administrative staff was superb. And it's a very good sign that we're still a part of The Guild even though our Cohort is over. Overall - I was impressed that The Software Guild delivered exactly what it promised and enabled me to land an excellent job in IT Development.
The Software Guild is exactly what it says it is, an intensive program that will pound you with information and you will get out of it what you put into it. If you think you can hold a job while in the cohort, you're wrong. This program is challenging and requires 100% of your focus and dedication, so if you can't take three months to be a full time student this is not for you. That being said, I could not have asked for much more than the education and job placement that I received at the Guild.
I atended a small liberal arts college for 5 semesters before leaving. I did not feel I was receiving a worth-while education from Luther College and began searching for better opportunities. Eventually I came upon The Software Guild and had a great experience with the Instructors, Students, and and every other aspect of the guild. They are very professional and sincerely want each student to achieve their goals of being a software developer.
The one aspect that slightly shook my confidence was the fact I did not have my Bachelor's degree. However, I do want to note that I am currently employed as and associate developer and absolutely love my new job. In my job search, I became slightly frustrated with employees that would overlook my abilities simply because I did not complete my bachelor's, even though I had just completed the same cohort with the same classmates that did have their bachelor's. But I did still get two job offers a week after graduating as did my fellow classmates without degrees.
Bottom Line, know you want to write code for a living and dedicate yourself to the course for 3 months and you will almost definitely have a job at the end of the road. The software Guild has opened the professional world to me and supplied me with any assistance I needed along the way. Absolutely no regrets and I would do it 1000 times over again. They greatly surpassed my expectations and would not trade what I learned at The Software Guild for anything.
I know most of these reviews sound too good to be true, but they're not. I graduated from The Software Guild's Java Cohort, and this is my actual experience. No one at the Guild edited it, or looked it over, or influenced it in any way. It is 100% me.
The Short of It:
Was it worth it? Yes! I now have a salaried job with good pay, benefits, and an amazing career in front of me, and I got this job through the Software Guild. After 4 months of training, and three months of job searching, my starting salary was more than double what it used to be. The other members of my cohort had starting salaries similar to mine. The numbers don't lie. If you can commit the time and effort, it will pay out, and your life will take a change for the better because of it.
The long of it:
My previous experience before the guild was in the education sector. I had worked as an adjunct professor for a couple years, and wasn't even able to cover all of my bills doing that. I was very frustrated, struggling to keep the lights on and the wife and kids fed. Like many others, I believed that having an advanced college degree would make me more desirable and employable, but my career had not taken off like I had expected, and despite years of hard work, I was not seeing any end in sight. I had actually decided to go back to school and become a dentist (like most educated folk, thinking the answer to my problems lay in more schooling) when my sister randomly sent me an article about some guy who graduated from a coding boot camp and started a career soon afterwards. I was initially hesitant to believe such claims, but began reviewing different boot camp, their published success rates, and whether or not attending one of these boot camps was actually a viable option (are these places legit). After a couple months of looking into it, I was unable to uncover very many negatives, and most of the rave reviews I read of these different camps seemed genuine. After the wife and I talked it over, I decided to apply to one of these camps and see what happened. As I was emailing back and forth with a boot camp in Denver CO, I happened across the Software Guild's website, and saw that they were opening a new location in Louisville, where I was currently living. After talking with the guild for a couple weeks I applied and was accepted to Louisville's first Java cohort (and quit my dead-end labor job that same day).
Well, I can't say enough good things about the staff. Here is a quick review on each of the people we had contact with on a day-to-day basis:
She is the lead Java instructor, and is awesome! It probably felt like pounding her head against a wall sometimes, but she never gave up. She would attack things from different angles, and try to find different ways of explaining it so we could all understand. And she only got better as the cohort continued. When I was having problems understanding the course material, she took her personal time after class and tutored me one-on-one. Her commitment to her students was very admirable. Even after graduating I occasionally email Austyn with a question or two, and she is always willing to point me in the right direction.
As Operations Manager, Erin is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the cohort, and she is always quick to answer any questions you may have. When I was drowning in back-logged assignments, I cried out to Erin for help and she arrived the next day with a written plan on how to get me the help I needed. That was very comforting.
Jacob is the hiring manager, and works with you as you job search. What you learn at the guild is phenomenal, but what really sets them apart is their hiring network. You can teach yourself the things the guild teaches you (albeit in a much longer time frame) but you can't leverage the hiring network and skill that these boot camps have access to, and that's where Jacob comes in.
After I graduated Jacob and I sat down in his office, set some goals for my job search, and then Jacob would have me email him my excel spreadsheet every week and follow up with me on every lead I had (or call me to task for not applying to as many jobs as I said I would). We talked over the phone or in person at least once a week, usually twice or more. He would email me jobs he found and thought I would be a good fit for, and was always working to make connections with companies that he could exploit for my advantage. His advice and tips on how to be more effective in my own job searching were invaluable. And he did this with every one of the Guild's graduates. Having Jacob in my corner while job searching was what made the difference between success and failure when it came to finding a job.
It was Jacob's job to build the Guild's hiring network, and he is extremely good at it. A week before the cohort ended he set up a meet and greet with around 12 or 15 companies and we had a sort of speed dating activity where we signed up for so many time slots and spent about 20 minutes with each company. A couple of the guys in my cohort got hired by companies they met at this meet and greet. When it comes to finding a job after graduating, Jacob Knight is the best resource you have at the guild. The job offer I eventually accepted was from a company that Jacob introduced me to.
**A quick caveat: I do not recommend falling behind. My experience graduating late was a very stressful one, and I would not wish it upon anyone. If you are applying to The Software Guild, or any coding boot camp, you need to be dedicated to it 100%. You need to make sure your spouse, or family, or significant other understands that you will be otherwise detained pretty much all day, every day, until the cohort ends. If you are having difficulty in the guild, then clear, early communication is imperative. If you can commit the time and effort required to be success at the guild, you will get a great job and career from it. If you can't, I believe the guild now offers a 9-month, mostly on line program that is a little slower paced.**
When graduation day came, I was not ready. I knew it, and the guild knew it. Erin, Austyn, and myself all sat down and we worked out a plan so I could graduate. I followed the plan, and a month later Erin and Austyn signed my graduation certificate. But the best part about that extra month is I felt like I was ready to work as an entry-level developer by the end of it. That was one of the great things about the guild to me, they don't just take your money and throw you through a program and hope you make it. They are invested in their students. If they hadn't been, I wouldn't have graduated.
I received a job offer right around the time I graduated in January (the rest of my cohort graduated in December) but it wasn't the right fit for me, and I passed on it. 90 days after the cohort ended (to the day) I received another job offer and am now working as a Software Developer with a great company, and my career has no where to go but up. A huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders, I am able to cover all of my debts, and then some. Out of the seven people in my cohort six of us now have jobs in the software field (the last guy was self-employed).
• Apprentices have unlimited access to the classes/computer labs. Every apprentice is issued a laptop with the software required for the program.
• Teaching assistants are available for one-on-one assistance. There's always help online from fellow students from any of the three campuses and even from alumni.
• There's a break area for lunch and every Wednesday night is game night. Several Cleveland area alumni attend to help students relax and learn about life after graduation.
• Alumni are scheduled to sit on a Q&A panel on the first day of every cohort where they share their experiences during and after the Guild.
• Industry veterans familiar with the Guild also sit on a Q&A panel later in the course to provide insight into the software field and how to manage your career.
• Apprentices create LinkedIn profiles, write resumes, and experience mock interviews. Late in the course there's an in-house hiring event in which apprentices get to interview with several companies from the employer network. Several apprentices from my cohort (both Java & .Net) were ultimately hired by these companies.
Junior .Net Developer
I recently graduated from the first Java cohort in Louisville, KY. My experience before attending was next to nothing, with only slight experience messing around with HTML. Before attending I was working a job for the telephone company installing internet and phone services. I was thinking of returning to school and after researching computer science programs at the local universities I heard about Software Guild and their opening in Louisville. After doing some research I decided to go the bootcamp route and I am glad I did.
The course curriculum really starts before the first day of class. There is some pre-work that is essential to being ready when the classes start. I wouldn't even say that I truly understood everything before beginning, but even the familiarity helps once you are in class and working. Upon starting class you will have to dedicate yourself totally to learning and retaining the material. Class is 9 - 4 each day and you will have to spend time outside of class to keep up. It is a lot to take in, but it can be done. There are a lot of times where you won't really understand what you are doing or necessarily why but by the next week you will and it will be funny looking back on your ignorance. The great thing about the curriculum is that you can go back and reference the lessons afterward, which I have done even when working at my paid job after the cohort.
I really couldn't have asked any more out of the Software Guild staff. The Java instructor, Austyn, was patient and persistent. Being the first cohort the building was still being finished and we did not have key card access for most of the cohort length. Austyn went above and beyond, meeting us to let us in the building and spending time outside of class teaching and guiding us in our projects. She spent a ton of time getting us ready for interviews and giving incentives for preparing. She is able to explain and teach abstract ideas to beginners. She also has a knack for making class fun. I really enjoyed my time in class and learned a ton.
Jacob is the Networking Manager for the Guild in Louisville. He's your liason to the employer network. Again, I couldn't have asked for more from Jacob. He was proactive in not only setting up the employer event at the Guild but also getting us leads beyond the event. After graduation as I was finishing up my job search Jacob reached out to me a couple times a week and was always available for advice or just an ear to bounce things off of and really helped me in my job search.
The rest of the staff are great. We got to see them around the building quite a bit. One you will most likely interact with is the Brand Manager, Erin. She is your contact to the guild for payments and helps get the students ready for interviews by offering resume advice and interview practice. She makes invoicing and everything easy so that you can concentrate on your studies.
So this is what everyone cares about. Did it work out? Was it worth it? In my opinion, yes. I came out of this program with several job offers, two locally, and one in Dayton, OH. I did end up taking a job here in Louisville and I couldn't be more happy. I'm no longer doing manual labor and dealing with customers every day, instead I am designing and developing web applications that are accessed billions of times a year. I've went from a topped out telephone company wage with no upward mobility to entry level dev with no where to go but up and I've still added 20k to my salary. As long as you dedicate yourself to the program and do not allow yourself to fall behind in the coursework this endeavor will be worth it.
Read this entire review
Rigor and classroom experince/atmosphere:
My experience at the software guild was overall a very good one. The program began with clear expectations that the experience would be a lot of work, which it was. The first four weeks I tried to work 16 hours each weekend; I made it work, but there was no free time. If you seriously do this, expect that you won't be able to work. It truly is a 60ish hour/week commitment. Getting a private and/or parent loan would be worth it.
My class--the .Net/C# cohort--started with 12 students. One student dropped out the beginning of week three (meaning he only got half his money back). The student seemed really overwhelmed each class, and it wasn't very surprising to me that he dropped out. However, the instructors didn't know he was considering dropping out, and I am sure that if he came to them and said, "I'm having a lot of problems, considering dropping out, etc..", the instructors would have worked differently with him and made sure that he stayed in. I am pretty sure he didn't try to initiate such a conversation. At the time of his departure, he was at basically the same level of two other classmates who finished the program and got jobs within 30 days of graduating. Also, it seemed like he could have been more diligent with the pre-work, which is essential to a successful experience. Anyways, classroom experience:
Effectively there were 11 of us students in the class, with two instructors, Alec and Kevin. During the time Alec was the "lead" instructor and Kevin was technically an teaching assistant, but they effectively were co-teachers with Alec covering a majority of the lectures and providing comprehensive, broad knowledge of the curriculum, and Kevin providing in depth .NET experience, and also being a great rephrase-r, mainly coming from his many years experience as a instructor of community college computer science classes. Small disadvantages that they have--Alec can sometimes forget what it is like to truly be a beginner, and during our cohort, Kevin did not seem as familiar as I expected him to be with the newer technologies--bootstrap, angular, and MVC. He ended up learning a lot with us--I'm guessing the current cohort will be different. In the end, they covered the opposite's disadvantages. (Also there was another teaching assistant which would come in to help us between 4 and 7pm 2-3 nights/week.) Also, both instructors have GREAT attitudes, and I found them very easy to work with.
I looked forward to going to class every day.
I thought the job assistance was the most robust job assistance any academic program of which I've been a part. Firstly, the entire program is geared towards what will be expected of you as a junior developer in 2016. Secondly, there is a clear calendar of events at the beginning of the program. The first activity is a resume writing session four weeks in, then at about six weeks there's something every week, consisting of mock interviews, recruiter meetings, "speed-dating"-style interviews with members of their employer network (employers who agree to consider us, thereby saving money from skipping recruiters), very successful speakers, alumni connect events, etc. Thirdly, I accepted a job four weeks before the bootcamp ended. I think the (1) largest reason why I got one so soon was that I was so well prepared for my interviews (total of 3), partly from the job assistance and partly from the fact that my mom is very business oriented and I've had that shit on lock since high school, the next largest reason (2) yes, is definitely all the technical stuff I learned in the program, and the last reason (3) is that I definitely think that having an undergraduate degree from a well respected liberal arts college helped me. This shouldn't be a huge barrier for people who don't have an undergrad degree, especially considering the experience trumps all in technology, but I do suspect that it helped. The last reason that I think the job assistance is so effective is that 5 or 6 of the 11 of us had jobs on the day we graduated.
General last notes:
- This program absolutely does what it says it does. Important to note that in the twin cities there are way more .Net jobs than Java jobs, however.
- The program is certainly intensive, and the most stressful time is the beginning few weeks. Honestly I was way more stressed out when I was doing the pre-work.
- Everyone is in the same boat.
- This program is best suited and indeed designed for people with prior education or work experience. 12 weeks is not that long to not have a job, you working professionals! Do it! Also, mainly because I think Bachelor degrees are life enriching and inherently open more doors for people than not having them, I would encourage a high school senior to enroll in an undergraduate degree program in computer science instead of this program. That will open the broadest variety of doors in the long term, and getting a job in a professional environment requires a certain degree of maturity that a lot of high school seniors don't have. These young people will still get jobs like the others, but I think it will take longer. Also, they must be damn sure they want to be a developer because it is 100% technical.
- I encourage anyone who vaguely considers this program to do it.
That's all, at the moment! I hope you found this review helpful, descriptive, and not exalting. I might edit it later, just for clarity in writing.
Upon completing the bootcamp one can expect to have a good foundation upon which to build a career in IT/software dev.
People in the cohort I attended arrived with varying levels of experience with java and coding. Any student that applied themselves should have left the cohort with better skill and knowledge than they arrived with.
The curriculum stives to provide each student with a foundation to begin a career. I appreciated the hands-on learning, the intensive projects, the support from instructors and staff, and the support from my fellow students. Overall it was a great experience. I am currently employed in the IT field, using my new skills and knowledge.
Our latest on Software Guild
Sarah has been a flight attendant for 20 years, but taught herself to build websites as a hobby. After the birth of her son in 2015, she realized that she needed a more flexible career, so she decided to pursue her interest in web development and enrolled in The Software Guild’s online coding bootcamp. Sarah tells us how she learned to code from airports and hotels around the world, how The Software Guild’s detailed curriculum helped her build difficult projects, and how she'll work her new tech skills into her future career.
Tell us about your career and educational background before you decided to learn to code at The Software Guild.
I graduated with a degree in international management and Spanish, and then became a flight attendant about four years out of college. In 2000, four years after I started flying, I started a master's program for software design at the University of St. Thomas. I took five courses which gave me a certificate in information systems. I could’ve continued and received a master’s degree, but it became a cost issue. It didn’t work out at the time, and I ended up leaving the program. What I was looking to learn didn’t seem like it was a good match with formal education.
In 2005, I started creating websites for airline ski clubs in my spare time. First, I designed the website for the Northwest Airline Ski Club, then the North American Airlines Ski Federation asked me to design their website because they liked what I did for Northwest. Then once Northwest and Delta merged, I did the Delta Ski Club website.
What resources did you use to teach yourself how to build those websites?
My brother who does web design, suggested I use Joomla to build the websites. He helped with the first one, and I figured out the other two on my own. I learned a lot by trying things, poking around, learning how to do CSS, and using the different components. I used Joomla.org – there is a lot of info there. I also did a lot of Google searching, finding info on how other people did things, and looking at other templates. It was pretty fun.
At what point did you decide you wanted to do a coding bootcamp and begin a career transition?
Because of my young son – I’m a single parent – I decided I need to change my career a little bit. The trips I usually fly are international. I do a lot of flights to Paris and Amsterdam, and to be away from him is hard. The cost of childcare is expensive, and when you’re doing overnight trips it’s much more expensive than 9am to 5pm childcare. I don’t think it’s working for me or for him, and right now I have help from my family but that isn’t a viable long-term solution.
I’m looking for something different, and I’m looking for the opportunity to do something challenging. At the airline it’s the same thing every day. I go to different destinations, but it’s the same job, not much has changed. There are good things about it like getting to see lots of destinations. Yet, I’ve been there 20 years, and when the top of the payscale is 12 years, there's no opportunity for advancement. The only way to increase your earning potential is to work more hours. Also, I'm looking for an opportunity that gives me more of a mental challenge
My brother actually said I should really become a programmer– he knows what my skills are, and that I’m good with languages. So when bootcamps started popping up, he recommended I do one.
How did you find The Software Guild and why did you choose their online program?
The Software Guild was listed as part of Concordia University, St. Paul. The in-person class that I would have enrolled in would’ve started in 2015, and my son was born in May 2015, so he would’ve been 3 months old when I started. I was on leave from the airline for 9 months, and thought maybe I could do a bootcamp while on leave. I soon realized that you can’t do much with a 3-month old at home, and you don’t really sleep much. I knew it was too intense for me to try and do both so I put it on hold, and thought that if they came up with an online course I could do that. They launched an online program, so I signed up.
Did you consider any other bootcamps?
There were some others I considered. When The Software Guild was still trying to design their online program, I looked at some other online courses that were out there. Some of them seemed too intense for someone who was also working. The Software Guild requires 20 hours of work per week, which was pretty much all I could handle. I’m still working, and I’ve got a baby, so I can’t do more than that. I saw some online courses that want you to study 8am to 5pm online with the class, and that was not what I was looking for– I liked the part-time aspect of The Software Guild.
Were you working full-time or part-time while doing The Software Guild? How did you find time to study?
I was working full-time. Typically, I fly 12 to 14 days a month. Towards the end of the program in January, I flew 9 days and in February I flew 10 days. But overall it’s pretty much the same each month. I would try and take whatever opportunity I had to study. If I was in an airport for a few hours, I’d pull out my laptop. If I had a layover in a hotel, I’d try and work– which was sometimes challenging if I was on an international trip and had been working all night. When I was home, I had my mom to help me with childcare so I would go to the library. I would get a lot more done at the library without distractions– at home I was sometimes easily distracted.
What was The Software Guild learning experience like? How did they present the material?
Everything was broken into sections. The Software Guild had pre-course work which was about eight weeks, then you had three sections, broken down into three-week courses. They would open up one section at a time, and you’d go through the readings, watch videos, do quizzes, and sometimes have labs for that section. Toward the end of a bigger section, they’d have a project you’d have to submit.
How often did you interact with other students? Did you ever do projects with other students?
There were times where it was hard to sense that you were working as a class. Everyone is working at their own pace, so it’s hard to ask questions to other students because they might be ahead or behind you. That was a little tough, because I would’ve liked to be on the same page as everybody, but it’s hard to do when everyone is working at home. There were about five or six of us who had a separate chat group, we would check in, ask each other questions, and help each other out a bit.
Did you actually have a cohort, or could people start at any time?
Everyone started at the same time, and The Software Guild wanted us to do three weeks per section. But somewhere in the middle, they switched to four weeks per section, because people were having a hard time keeping up with the pace. If you didn’t keep up with the three weeks, you could drop back to a separate class which was a month behind our class. You could drop back three times, and after that you would drop out of the program. When working full-time at a job while also studying, things come up, and there are times when you are too busy to study.
There were about 20 students in my class at the beginning, and at the end there were six. A lot of people either dropped back or dropped out. I really didn’t want to drop back, and I didn’t. I thought, “No, I’m not going to drop back. I’m going to get this done.” Even if I was working really hard on the last couple days before a project was due, I would do it.
How often did you interact with instructors or mentors?
It was mostly through the online chat. I would send a chat message saying “I’m getting an error message, what does this mean?” Or I’d ask a quick question for clarification about an assignment. I would usually get a quick response, but sometimes it was hard if you’re working on the weekends because there weren't as many instructors available. Towards the end of the program, The Software Guild made sure more people were available to help students on the weekends.
Did you ever do calls with the instructors?
If I had a quick question, they would usually answer via text, but if it was something more complex, we would do a screen share call, they would look at your screen and walk you through and explain things. We did that a lot.
In the beginning they were trying to have scheduled calls. It was like a flipped classroom so you would submit questions before a scheduled time, and then they would do their lecture based on that twice a week. But they weren’t getting enough questions, which I think is partly because of the pacing. Some people were ahead and others were behind, so it was hard to get a classroom idea to work. Then they switched to have more availability, so mentors would be available from 3pm to 8pm Monday to Friday. You could look for someone who was online if you had a question and request a private chat or video chat.
What was your favorite project or assignment you worked on?
My final project. Going into the assignment I was thinking, I don’t know if I can do this– this is big. We had an example project which was broken into 60 pieces, and for each piece you could watch a video with the steps to follow. That really helped. I would watch the video, then use the example as a model to build the final project. I could make sure I didn’t miss any steps, add integration testing, and do validation. I would look at what the instructor did, and see how I could use that in my project. In the end you feel good that you built it the right way, and you have a pattern to follow. I like the idea that if I had to do it again, I’d have a sense of the best steps to take to get there.
You mentioned the program was supposed to require 20 hours per week. Did you end up usually working at that pace?
It’s hard to say because it feels like some weeks were a lot more that 20 hours of studying. If I had to guess, it would average 20 hours per week. There were some weeks where I didn’t do anything– over Christmas I went on vacation. There are times when you do more and other times you can’t get anything done.
How long did it take you in total? Is that how long you expected it to take?
It ended up going longer. Originally they thought 9 months, but there was also the pre-coursework which was 8 weeks. Then at the end, because they went from 3 weeks per section to 4 weeks per section, the overall program got extended. The final project was due February 8th. We had four weeks to work on it and I don’t believe anybody submitted it on time. One person got it in 3 weeks later, I got it in 4 weeks later, and I was the second one to get it in. You want to put in your best effort, and make sure you covered everything, so I took my time with that. In total it was almost a year, the pre-coursework started March 14, 2016, and I finished on March 8th, 2017.
What was your biggest challenge going through the program?
There are times when you get frustrated not having the ability to get quick questions answered like you would in a classroom. Sometimes I knew I missed something silly, like punctuation, but not having someone to help me find those little things was when I probably spent more time than I should have on something. You have to be pretty resilient to say, “Ok, I'm just going to keep plugging away.”
What kind of career guidance or preparation did you receive from The Software Guild?
They have an employment specialist, and we worked together on my resume over email. I’m having a conference call with him tomorrow to talk about my career goals, and how he can help me. The Software Guild also has a career fair coming up on March 29th and 30th at The Software Guild Minneapolis campus. The employment specialist has been sending emails to ask me which companies I’m interested in interviewing with, and emails with jobs from LinkedIn in the area. They are doing a good job trying to help students find what we’re looking for.
That’s great you can take part in the in-person career fair.
Yeah, it is an advantage, definitely. I think they are doing speed interviews, and talking with employers. Of the six of us in my cohort, two of us are in Minneapolis, and one in St. Cloud near Minneapolis, so we can all go to the career fair. Another student is in Ohio, and there is also a campus for The Software Guild there. When they had an in-person class going on in Minneapolis they told me I could come in and talk to instructors, but I didn’t have time– that would’ve been a good resource.
What sort of job are you hoping to get?
I am looking to work as a junior web developer. Although we learned full stack development, I'm more comfortable with back end than front end development. At this point, I'm ready for a change but I also am hoping to leave the airlines with a buyout or early retirement package.
Would you consider doing freelancing while you’re still working at the airline?
I think so, that would be really fun. My brother who does web design lives in Germany, and he said he’ll think of some projects for us to work on together, since he’d like to help me get started.
Will you continue to code and work on your portfolio in the meantime?
Yes. You get to the end of the program, you’ve learned so much since you’ve started, and you want to go back and fix other projects– you’re not sure if they are as clean as they could be. So I want to go through everything and make sure it looks really good. I’ve seen examples online of what kind of portfolios other web developers have put together, so I want to work on that, and make it look really nice. We did a few projects that The Software Guild said would look good in my portfolio.
What advice do you have for people considering an online bootcamp? How do you stay motivated and get through it?
You have to be very persistent as far as working through things. You can’t give up, you have to keep pushing through. You also can’t be afraid to ask questions, because the instructors will have heard it before. Sometimes you think you’ll look silly because you don’t know something, but that’s what the instructors are there for– to help you.
In the beginning, things are coming at you so quickly– so much information and new terminology. You feel like you’re not understanding, but you actually are learning it. It’s interesting how your brain works that way. You think you’ll never keep all this in, but then you get your hands to do it, and realize you do understand, and it does make sense.
The Software Guild said that some people get into this and don’t realize how much work they have to do on their own. But that’s also what it’s like in this profession. You do have to do a lot of research, and find answers for yourself, and The Software Guild wants you to be prepared for that. They know that’s how the job is, so the bootcamp is really preparing you for the real world.
The Software Guild has been teaching .NET/C# and Java at the Ohio coding bootcamp for years, but with the increasing demand for mobile development, they’re launching a new, flexible, part-time Android bootcamp in 2017. Curriculum Developer and Lead Instructor Derek Hannah has experience as a web and mobile developer whose interest in mobile development was sparked by the first iPhone. Today, he’s an expert in both Android and iOS, and tells us about his teaching style, the online format of this new Android bootcamp, and why The Software Guild offering is best for students with some programming experience.
What was your background and experience before you got involved with Software Guild? How did you learn to code?
I've worked in a wide breadth of different kinds of programming. I went to college for multimedia which was a lot of animation and after effects including broadcast graphics, with a little bit of web development and programming.
After school, I was really into animation. I was working for an e-learning company developing courses to train employees. We used a lot of Flash animation and coded in ActionScript. That’s how I was introduced to object oriented programming.
What’s your background in mobile development?
I started getting experience in mobile development as soon as the first iPhone came out. I got the beta release of iOS and started working with XCode, which is the IDE (integrated development environment) you use to develop iOS applications, to tinker with before the first iPhone went on sale. I made a couple of mobile applications early on for a company called Moen, and one for Marathon Gas while I was still working at the advertising agency.
After working with the advertising agency, I worked on a grant-tracking application called AmpliFund at StreamLink Software. Then I worked at Realeflow, a company that made SAAS products for real estate investors to track their properties. My last position before working with The Software Guild was at KeyBank, a large enterprise bank in Cleveland, where I worked in both native and hybrid mobile development.
It sounds like you basically taught yourself mobile development.
Yeah. I feel like I really taught myself programming because I went to school for multimedia. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, and did not get a computer science education at college. So I really am self-taught.
A lot of my former bosses – very experienced people I've talked to who have computer science degrees – say that after a four-year computer science degree, you really only know a lot of theory. You don't know what it takes to build an application from concept to production. There are a lot of vital parts in working on a software team that college does not teach – like version control. Whereas bootcamps are teaching those things. If I had decided to go to a coding bootcamp earlier on in my career, that would have been a better choice than going back to college and paying much more.
How did you get involved with The Software Guild?
Are you just developing the curriculum or will you be teaching the program when it starts?
I'm both the lead instructor and curriculum developer. But unlike The Software Guild’s .NET and Java courses, this Android course is going to be completely online. The students will take it at their leisure and can sign up at any time as there are no specific start and end dates. Eventually, I will be both teaching and writing curriculum. After I finish writing this Android program, I'll teach it for a bit until we bring on another teacher. Then I'll move on to writing the iOS curriculum.
Why did you decide to offer the Android program before the iOS program?
When I was hired, I actually had a lot more iOS experience. I had worked with Android, but I was nowhere near as proficient as I was with iOS. In May 2016, Apple announced that Swift 3 was coming out and there were a lot of breaking changes, so I didn't want to start designing the iOS course and then have to change everything when Swift 3 came out. It made more sense to wait for those things to iron themselves out, then come back and teach iOS.
How has your experience in e-learning and developing online material for high school and college students been useful for writing this Android curriculum?
Throughout my whole career, I keep falling into education, even though it was never intentional. Education is such a big industry, there's so much opportunity, and it just keeps drawing me back. When I first started in e-learning it was to teach employees, then I taught high school and college students, and now that experience is proving valuable in developing a course that is going to teach a wide range of students.
Why does The Software Guild want to introduce a mobile development curriculum?
We see mobile development as an important skill. The Software Guild started out with core curricula like .NET/C# and Java because they knew graduates could easily get jobs working in one of those two languages. Now, mobile development is big enough that there are a lot of jobs out there. The demand for mobile developers is getting closer to that for .NET/C# or Java developers.
This Android program is also more of a supplemental course, because it’s really targeted towards people who already have experience developing in Java.
Tell us about the prerequisites to join the Android program.
You have to pass a basic Java test. Maybe you are an experienced programmer– you know other languages than Java, so you can take our introductory courses to prepare for the Android course. The Android program is also intended for people who are graduating from The Software Guild Java cohort. A Java graduate who wants to learn mobile development would be the perfect student for this Android course.
Would you ever accept beginner-level programmers into the Android course?
If somebody had a lot of experience in a couple of other languages and they didn't know Java yet, they'd probably be able to get up to speed and start the Android course. However, it would be way too hard and confusing to teach yourself the entire Java language while you learn the Android framework. I'm not going to go over things like multithreading in Java. You have to know that already. There are certain things we expect students to know already before they come in. That way, the course isn't gigantic and overwhelming.
What is your workflow or process for putting this Android curriculum together?
First, I spent a couple of months researching; reading as much as I could on the Android documentation, and on the Android developers’ site, until I felt I was a master at Android. Then I built five or six different Android projects, and decided which of those projects I would use as part of the course. I picked the two that covered the most material, but wouldn’t be so complex that the course was too huge.
Then I started to write the curriculum outline. I started by asking myself, "What do students need to know before they can actually build these two Android projects?" Then I started developing high-level lessons about the topics needed in order to build the applications. From there, I started making all the lessons, including step-by-step lessons to build layers of a final application.
The main goal of this Android course is to take an application from a concept all the way through to production, and being ready to put it on the Google Play Store.
What technologies are you going to be including in the curriculum?
We’re using Git for our version control for software, and Bitbucket as a remote Git repository. I'm making a ton of different version control branches for every single lesson and video. That way a student can check out a branch, see what code we've added, then I explain the code that was added in that branch. Then students learn to write that code on their own, use it in their own app, and move forward. When students go to the next branch, we talk about what's been done in that branch.
As far as the technologies for actually building the apps, we’re using Android Studio which is Google's recommended IDE (integrated development environment). The Android framework is really powerful, so we don't have to incorporate a lot of other libraries, although I do have a few select Android-specific libraries that I'm teaching
How long is this Android program going to be?
This course is delivered online, at a student’s own pace, so it could be anywhere from 12 to 18 weeks if they devote 10 hours per week. There are deadlines, but one student could finish more quickly than another student, based on how much time they spend working on it.
What sort of interactions will these online students have with instructors and staff? Are you going to be delivering live lectures or pre-recorded videos?
Students will be taking the course through an online learning management system (LMS), and there will be detailed write-ups accompanied by screencast videos. Students will be watching me code, watching me explain the code, running the app using the IDE, and then students can see a detailed write-up that goes along with that video. You can choose to either read the write-up and watch the videos, or just read the write-up.
What is your own personal teaching style? Do you like to let students struggle on their own, or do you like to be more hands-on and walk them through concepts?
I'm an obsessive person, so when I learn something, I tend to go a little deeper than I probably should, so my teaching style is very detailed. Developing this course, I know that “less is more,” but I still want the student to get a foundational understanding of how the Android operating system works and how to use specific APIs in it.
I will also direct students to great research material that talks about the task that they're trying to accomplish. Students are encouraged to read through that material, see if they can apply it to their own app, and then I will physically walk them through and show them how to set it up.
When you just show a student something, they don't go through that struggle of making mistakes, having to fix those mistakes and then understanding what went wrong. I like to point students to a good resource to figure it out, and to learn a concept.
When you start teaching this course, will you have TAs or mentors working with you in case students need assistance or guidance?
Yes we will have TAs/Developer Mentors but right now I'm the only mobile development brain here.
How are you going to assess student progress as they go through the Android course?
First, students need to check the code into the repository that we've set up for them, so we know that they're writing their code and they're building their own project. And secondly, students have to correctly answer questions at the end of each lesson about what they’ve just learned, before they can move forward.
Will there be a final project that you will assess to see if students are going to graduate from the program?
Students get to build their own final project. It's going to be similar to the projects that they create during the course, but they have a little more leeway in designing it. The students are going to end up with three to four apps by the time they graduate the course, including one they designed and built themselves.
If students want to find jobs as Android developers afterwards, is there any job placement or career advice included?
Students can always ask me about career advice. I'm always willing to help out a good developer. However, Software Guild isn’t putting as much stress on job placement on this course as they are with the full-time .NET/C# and Java coding bootcamps.There is no guaranteed job placement with this course. The course is targeted less towards job seekers, and more towards developers with experience who want to upskill. So you're probably already in the field, working and doing Java right now. You just want to learn Android.
What is the career goal for a student who completes the Android program? What sort of jobs will they be prepared for?
After this course, students could get at least a junior-level position with Android, if not mid-to-senior level, if you have some previous experience.
You’ll also be prepared to take the Google Android Developer Certification. My goal for this course is to cover everything in that certification, so at the end of this course you should be confident that you can pass that test. It costs about $150 to take the test online. They give you a couple of apps, and ask you to implement features or find errors in the apps and fix them.
Do you think there is as much demand for Android developers as iOS or vice versa?
It depends on who you hear it from, because I hear it both ways. I decided to focus more on iOS work early on. Google didn't review the apps going in the Google Play Store as much as Apple did, and I was turned off by that. Early on, iOS had all the market share, but now if you look at worldwide market share, Android has 80% of the mobile market, so it's definitely changing. Android is offering things that iOS isn't, like being able to write apps for cars.
From an employment perspective, I’m approached 50/50 by iOS job recruiters and Android job recruiters. I feel like it's harder for people to fill those Android jobs because iOS is more appealing to developers. Especially with the new Swift language, it's a much more pleasant experience to develop apps than Java. I feel like the demand is the same, but there's less Android talent. So if you're deciding to learn iOS or Android first– and this is coming from a guy that loves iOS– I would consider learning Android first.
Do you have any suggestions of resources where people can find out what Android development is like?
Yes. Androiddevelopers.com. They have a lot of training guides. That's where a lot of the documentation for Android is too; and that's where I go when I have a question.
Is there anything else that prospective students should know about this Android course?
If you still consider yourself a beginner in programming, or maybe you've been programming for a couple of years and you're thinking about getting more into mobile; I would warn developers that mobile is very specific, and if you decide to learn mobile too early on, you're almost limiting yourself.
Welcome to our last monthly coding bootcamp news roundup of 2016! Each month, we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to fundraising announcements, to interesting trends we’re talking about in the office. This December, we heard about a bootcamp scholarship from Uber, employers who are happily hiring bootcamp grads, investments from New York State and a Tokyo-based staffing firm, diversity in tech, and as usual, new coding schools, courses, and campuses!Continue Reading →
The Software Guild recently decided to offer their pre-work course for free to anyone who is interested in applying to the coding bootcamp. We asked the Software Guild admissions team to explain the new pre-work offering, and give us some tips and hints for getting through Software Guild’s unique admissions and interview process. Find out about the written part of the process, the coding audition, and the Software Guild interview. Plus try out a mini aptitude quiz to see if coding is for you!
How long does the Software Guild application typically take? What are the general steps that an applicant should expect?
The initial application only takes a few minutes to complete. After we receive the application, we will contact the applicant to set a time for the interview over the phone. The next step after that would be to complete an aptitude test. After the aptitude test, the applicant will submit an essay. After we receive the essay, the applicant's file will be considered complete, and we will forward it on for review.
What goes into the written application? What types of questions do students answer?
The application itself is quite short. However, the essay portion of the application process involves answering the following questions/prompts:
- Why have you chosen to learn programming?
- Why have you chosen the bootcamp approach over other educational options?
- What kind of learner are you?
- Tell us more about yourself.
We recommend a minimum of two paragraphs per question. The essay is a formal essay, so grammar and spelling are important. We also encourage applicants to let their personalities shine through the essay. It is their first opportunity to make an impression on the instructors.
Does the admissions process involve a technical challenge, or any type of aptitude test?
Yes, the Software Guild requires a quiz as part of the admissions process. Check out our small sample aptitude quiz.
The aptitude quiz is an online quiz with a time limit of 60 minutes. Once the applicant begins the test, they will have exactly one hour to complete it. The questions relate to problem solving, attention to detail, pattern recognition, spatial awareness, and basic algebra. There are a total of 29 questions, and applicants must correctly answer a minimum of 16 in order to move forward in the process.
We will also be conducting an audition before final acceptance is granted. This will consist of a code-along with an instructor, utilizing skills the apprentice will have learned in the Introduction to Web Development course.
Audition & Interview
What happens in the “audition” part of the application process? Why is this better than the typical bootcamp application process?
The audition is a live, but virtual, sit-down with one of our master instructors where students will be asked to work on a code-along applying knowledge from the Introduction to Web Development course. This is not only a chance for us to see someone code live, which eliminates the ability to Google the code and submit it as their own, but is also a chance for our instructors to get a read on the individual.
Can you give us some sample questions from the interview?
Some sample questions from the interview are:
- Why are you interested in doing our program at this point in your life
- Do you have any previous coding experience?
- Are you willing to make the time commitment?
- How would you describe your learning style?
- Do you consider yourself to be more of a leader or a follower?
How can beginners get ready for the Software Guild interview?
Beginners can prepare by doing some preliminary research about which coding language they would like. They should be ready to talk about their employment and education backgrounds, their personalities, their goals, and how the Software Guild fits into those overall goals. It is important for applicants to remain professional during their phone interview and to honor the times they set up with their enrollment counselors, just as they would an interview for a job.
Tell us about the new pre-work. Why open up pre-work to everyone?
Our pre-work, or Introduction to Web Development course, has been an invaluable tool for students to determine if coding and development is right for them before they have the monetary and time commitment of the full bootcamp. Our plan is to move the pre-work to the beginning of the process, before someone even applies, to allow them to get their feet wet and decide if coding is right for them before they go through the entire application process. This will be free and available to anyone because you never know who will have an aptitude for coding!
What does the pre-work curriculum cover and how long should it take?
Can someone be a complete beginner before starting the pre-work? If not, what are a few resources that you suggest applicants use before Day 1 of pre-work?
Yes, it is possible, but it requires focus, dedication, and determination. One resource we suggest for complete beginners is Codecademy.com. There are free courses available, and it is a user-friendly site. It is important for students to understand the type of work they will be doing in the program before they begin it.
How well does the pre-work prepare students for the application/audition process? How likely are they to be accepted to Software Guild after completing the pre-work?
The Introduction to Web Development course should provide all of the knowledge a student would need to pass the audition and start the bootcamp. We do not know how the acceptance rates will be for this new process, but if they complete the Intro to Web Dev course and are ready to do the code-along, they are likely to be accepted unless any other red-flags are present.
How does your team evaluate an applicant’s future potential? What qualities are you looking for?
We evaluate based on motivations, past experiences, and professionalism. We look for students who are ready to dedicate the necessary time and focus to completing the program and are not just interested in coding because they heard it can be a lucrative career option. We want students who are passionate and enthusiastic. Students who enjoy working in groups and solving problems tend to do well in the program. Prior exposure to coding and technology is also helpful.
What types of backgrounds have successful Software Guild students had? Does everyone come from a technical background?
We have had students from all backgrounds and age ranges excel in the program. Many of our students have not come from a technical background but have been interested in getting started or turning a hobby into a career.
What is the current acceptance rate at Software Guild?
Currently we are at a 25% acceptance rate from students that interviewed.
Are students accepted on a rolling basis?
Does Software Guild accept international students? Can Software Guild help international students get student visas/tourist visas to do the program?
Yes, we have had several successful international students. However, we do not assist with the visa process. It is up to individual students to make their own arrangements for visas.
Should I do a coding bootcamp? This is a question we hear all the time, and for good reason. As more coding bootcamps launch (not to mention the rising media coverage), you’re probably wondering, “should I jump on the bandwagon and learn to code?” A recent TechCrunch article implored you not to learn to code unless you’re ready to put in the work to be great, whereas President Obama wants every student to learn computer science in high school. So what types of people are opting for coding bootcamps? And should you be one of them?Continue Reading →
Corbin found his passion for coding in his late 20s and has worked as a developer in Minneapolis since before the dotcom crash. He always loved mentoring and with all his experience at startups and consulting, he was a great fit to become an instructor at The Software Guild’s Minneapolis campus. Corbin tells us about how he learned key coding skills on the job, why he wants to be flexible with his teaching style, and how quickly his students are getting hired with the high demand for developers in Minneapolis.
Tell us about your background and experience before you started teaching at Software Guild.
I’ve been in Minneapolis my whole tech career. My first jobs were startups back in the day, before the whole .com crash. I survived that and the last startup I worked on was acquired by SAP, so I became an SAP employee for a while. After that, I went on to do consulting. I’ve had a lot of different challenges, different projects. I started teaching at The Software Guild in April 2016. I finished my first cohort a week ago. It was amazing, I feel very lucky.
How did you originally get into coding?
I was actually a sous chef at a restaurant in my mid-to-late 20s but I knew I needed a change. I went to Japan and Southeast Asia, and tried to figure out what it was I needed to do. I came back, took some classes, and one of them happened to be an introduction to programming. I met a wonderful instructor, Mike B., who was very supportive. He helped me realize that coding was what I needed.
How did you go on and learn how to be a professional software developer?
I did get a Bachelor of Science degree, but I got a job first. I started at the University of Minnesota and graduated from Metro State University. In one of my classes with Mike, I asked him, “Do I need to wait until I have a degree or can I start programming right away?” He introduced me to one of his friends, and that’s how I got involved in the first startup. I worked and took classes at the same time.
How did you become aware of the bootcamp model and what did you think of it at first?
An old friend of mine saw that I really enjoyed mentoring and presenting. He knew Dave Clinefelter at The Software Guild. As I was transitioning from a gig, he recommended I check the school out. I sat in on a class, and before you knew it, I was teaching.
I’d definitely heard about bootcamps on Hacker News, and people had a lot of strong opinions. I was optimistically skeptical, because having worked while I was going to school, I certainly learned more about programming from my job, than I did from my academic classes. The only way you’re going to learn to program is by programming. You have to do the work. Bootcamps are fantastic in that they make you do the work. We write a lot of code, and students get to see it in action.
Did you have teaching or mentoring experience prior to teaching at the bootcamp?
I had mostly mentoring experience. Once I transitioned into a senior role, one of the things I really enjoyed was working with other developers, learning and teaching new technologies, improving coding techniques, and improving the development process. As a consultant, a lot of times a client would say, “hey we’ve got a good team and we know we can do something really great but we’re not firing on all our cylinders – what do we do?” Then and now, my job is mostly helping people get out of their own way.
What’s your background in C# and .NET specifically?
The Microsoft stack is what I’ve been using primarily for the last 10 to 12 years. But, I’ve also used Java, Python, and PHP. So I’m technology agnostic. For the next cohort I’ll be doing some teaching in the Java classroom as well.
What have you found is your personal teaching style?
I’m still learning for sure, but I really want to focus on the fact that everyone is coming at coding from different angles, and to have some rigid way of doing things can really hinder people. So I try to be flexible. If I feel like you’re going a different route than I would go, but you’re making progress, then I want to encourage that and I don't want to tell you what I would do it because maybe that’s going to confuse you in the long run. I try to be flexible, give a lot of feedback early, and make sure we’re headed in the right direction.
What’s the learning structure at Software Guild?
We really focus on learning by doing. There are structured lectures that serve as scaffolding. That’s very important because it gives us a place to start and build from. But then ultimately, to learn that material, you’re going to have to do the work, write some code, try some things out, maybe bloody your nose on a topic or two, and just keep working at it.
Have you contributed to the bootcamp curriculum? If so, what was your role?
We’re pretty agile with the curriculum, so as we go through the cohort we’re noting things that aren’t working great or are working really well. Sometimes we’re able to take ideas from something that’s working well and use it somewhere else. Right now, we’re reworking our Intro to Web Development course. It’s a free online course for prospective students that will be open to the public by the end of the year.
How many instructors, TAs and/or mentors are there? What is the student:teacher ratio?
We have two .NET instructors, a Java instructor and a TA who goes back and forth between the two classes. In this next cohort, I’ll also float between the classrooms a little bit, so we’ll have lots of support. In the last .NET group, we had 13 grads and that was with two instructors. There were 10 students in the Java classroom so that was 10 to 1, but then you also have the TA support.
We also have a system where anyone can book remote time with instructors or TAs outside of classroom hours. So we have TAs that are remote, and some instructors in Akron and Louisville who are available too. We’re hoping people take advantage of it because especially in the evening when you’re at home struggling with a problem, it would be nice to have a little nudge in the right direction.
How do you assess student progress? Do you give assessments or tests at the bootcamp? Why or why not?
We mainly do weekly code reviews – there are assignments emphasizing certain goals every week. Then students submit assignments via a crucible code review, and present their code to the class. Instructors go through the code as much as we can, line by line, and try to find issues early. As we’re building up in complexity, we can nip bad habits in the bud.
Feedback also happens throughout the day. If we have a new topic, we’ll talk about it, and then work on a little lab and make sure everyone is moving forward. There are also optional quizzes. Students can take the quiz to self-assess, and instructors can determine if anyone is having a hard time. If you complete all of the assignments and have a professional attitude, you graduate.
What happens when someone is really struggling to keep up with the class and falls behind?
It’s definitely person by person, but right away we try to dig into the problem. If there’s a conceptual misunderstanding, we find exercises that emphasize that concept, and work on those. We book time with a TA or instructor outside regular class hours so you’re getting a little more attention. We have this idea that some big concepts just take a couple weeks for people to understand. So we keep plowing ahead as much as we can. Sometimes we find that a week later, all of a sudden that lightbulb will come on and students get it. It comes down to extra practice, extra time with the instructors, and patience. The final option would be to wait a little longer. Maybe a student needs a little more background before they’re ready for the bootcamp pace. If so, they’re welcome to study up and repeat the course.
How many hours a week do you expect your students to commit to Software Guild?
They are in class officially from 9am to 4pm. Most of my students were in the space between 8am and 8:30am, and then didn’t leave until 5pm; some stick around even longer. Most students are committing, depending on the week and the projects, a couple of hours a night and coding on the weekend as well. I had a group that booked a room at the library and they would get together every Saturday, which was a really nice peer support group.
What’s the goal for a student who completes the bootcamp? What kind of roles can they get?
We are shooting for a junior developer, someone who has been writing code for a year. There is enough experience in this program that you could safely apply for a job which requires a year’s experience with .NET or Java. But it’s a junior position, someone who knows the fundamentals, but who hasn’t used them in too many projects. Not only are employers looking for the technical expertise, they’re also looking for enthusiasm, and professionalism. Our graduates are going to be great team members as well as technical contributors.
Do you have a hand in job placement at all?
There is a dedicated person, Kipp, who makes contacts with employers, and tries to decide which jobs will be the best fit for students. Instructors are brought in to offer feedback on whether a student is a good fit, and if we think they have the skills for this position. I’ve had a few students use me as a professional reference, so I have employers calling, asking me about their background, and what I think of their work.
What’s the tech scene like in Minneapolis? What sort of jobs are students getting?
It’s an exciting time because Amazon just opened a development shop, and they are going to hire 100 developers. They recently had a meet and greet for software developers, with no press or recruiters; they just wanted to talk to software developers directly. So that was exciting. Then there are a lot of other tech firms, health firms, like United Health Group, Medica, and HealthPartners. There’s also 3M, General Mills, Best Buy, and other companies which have all been hiring. There are many cool small startups coming, so it’s pretty fun.
Tell us about your biggest student success story!
One of my students went to school in Madison and decided it wasn’t the right fit. He joined the Guild and before the cohort was over, had already interviewed and found a job. We have our own employer event, where employers come in and do quick interviews with all of our students, but this was outside of that process, he had taken initiative and found a job on his own.
About half of my recent cohort has already found jobs. Some students wanted to wait until they were completely done with their course work to look for jobs. For the others, since they had already met employers, there was an opportunity to accept positions in the last week of the cohort. A lot of people actually started the Monday or Tuesday after the cohort finished. The tech scene is out of whack right now, there’s more demand than supply.
For our readers who are beginners, what resources or meetups do you recommend for aspiring bootcampers in Minneapolis?
There are a lot of meetups, but they tend to focus more on the practicing professional. Off the top of my head, the only local group I know that really is beginner friendly is Girl Develop It. They have a mix of meetups, some focused on professionals with some intro to development.
There are a ton of free online resources like Khan Academy, Codecademy, and Coursera. They all differ a bit in what they teach and how they teach it. Depending on your learning style, they can be a great place to start.
Before the end of the year, The Software Guild will offer an online Introduction to Web Development with no assumed prior knowledge. It’s a good way to test the waters. We have an open classroom, so when potential students want to take a look, they are welcome to sit in for as long as they want to see what we do and how we do it. We want to be very open and let people get a feel for how we work.
Is there anything else that you want to make sure our readers know about the bootcamp?
I was very surprised by how dynamic the classroom could be, and how everyone learns from one another. It’s a very different experience than online learning. You can interrupt a lecture with a question. If an instructor sees a couple people struggling with the same material, they can pull an impromptu group together and hash it out. It’s hard to put your life on hold for 12 weeks, but if you can, I think a lot of people would enjoy the eye contact and how fast you learn when you can remove obstacles in real time.
Emma’s love for linguistics and solving puzzles led her to The Software Guild in Minneapolis. Her background in analyzing language processing tasks using a program written in Python got her curious about learning code. A former member of the Conservation Corp and former English teacher in South Korea, see how this programmer utilized her past skills to transform her career and land a junior developer role at Best Buy!
What is your pre-bootcamp story? What were you doing before Software Guild?
I was kind of a free spirit before enrolling in the Software Guild. I grew up in the Twin Cities area, moved away for college at the University of Wisconsin -- Madison. I majored in Classics and Psychology. Because I was studying Greek, Latin, and Psychology, my path was to go to graduate school, and I wasn't ready to do that. I came back home to Minnesota after college and, like everyone else who graduated during the recession, ended up taking an office job, which I really hated.
So I quit, and ended up doing a lot of different things for awhile; mostly to try something new and challenging. I joined the Minnesota Conservation Corps, taught English in South Korea, and worked in a school as an AmeriCorps Promise Fellow. As a Promise Fellow, my job was providing additional support to students who were struggling and tracking that data to figure out what interventions were successful. I found that I liked analyzing the data more than doing the actual interventions.
Did that data analytics work inspire you to learn to code?
I found the website Quora and started reading about ways to become a data scientist, and ended up taking an R programming course on Coursera. I found both really interesting and really difficult. Around this time, through a family friend, I got a part-time internship at Pearson Vue working on a natural language processing task.
Did your background in Classic languages prepare you for that internship with Natural Language Processing?
For me, what I was most passionate about in college was studying linguistics and understanding how people understand language. In the internship I acted like the business analyst, so I helped to propose the model that we wanted to analyze with my experience in linguistics. Then I worked with a researcher who wrote a program in Python to analyze data using those requirements. After doing this I saw the power of programming, and knew I wanted to learn how to do that.
How were you introduced to Software Guild?
I had started looking at Python coding bootcamps, but I would have had to move to San Francisco, which was really expensive. I was researching bootcamps in general, and I heard about the Software Guild from some other people I served with as an Americorps Promise Fellow. Actually, in my cohort of ~200 Fellows, there were two people who had already found Software Guild. They were going to enroll in the Software Guild after graduating, and it matched my own ideas about what I should do with my future.
What were some of the other factors that you were specifically looking for when you were researching these bootcamps?
I knew I didn’t really want to go the Microsoft route, Java was more appealing and I actually had taken a Java class in college, although it didn’t really click with me then. Also something that appealed to me about the Java track at the Software Guild is that you use a Linux machine. I was excited about learning Linux a little bit more and diving into another totally new thing. Getting outside of my comfort zone is a big theme my life.
Did you think about doing a CS degree?
I had looked into getting another four-year degree either in computer science, math or statistics. But then I thought about it, already I have two undergraduate degrees and I don’t really use either. Why should I get another one and maybe not use it? It's a lot of time and money. Going back to traditional school didn't seem like a good fit. Especially after finding the Software Guild which wasn't a crazy time or cash commitment. And at that time they had a partnership with Concordia and there was also an opportunity to transition into a four-year computer degree at the end of my bootcamp if I wanted to.
How did you finance your tuition at Software Guild?
I had some AmeriCorps education award money built up (If you serve one year as an AmeriCorps volunteer, you get around $5,500 to use towards education), so I used that to pay for the boot camp. Since Software Guild was affiliated with Concordia University, they were able to accept that.
What did you actually learn at Software Guild? Tell us about the teaching style.
One of the huge benefits to me about attending a boot camp is the accountability that you have by being present in the classroom. I don't think you're learning anything you couldn't pick up on your own through online courses, but working in the classroom, we did a lot of teamwork and pair programming. It was beneficial to growing as developer because tech is a collaborative field. I really appreciated that.
The Software Guild is a 12-week course. You spend the first half of your time learning your core language fundamentals. For me, it was six weeks of straight up Java; no graphics, no UI, no frontend. That was a really good grounding in logic and computer science. After the first six weeks, you move on to making full-stack applications. You learn how to use a database, how to develop the front end website, and how to develop the Java program that ties it all up together.
When you worked through certain challenges, did you have enough support from your peers or instructors?
I was super lucky that my cohort was an amazing group of motivated people. Everyone struggled, it’s a lot of information to absorb in a short time. But I believe that the outcome that you have in a bootcamp depends on the amount of effort you put into it, and how willing are you to ask for help. I noticed in my peer group, the people who didn't fight for their own education weren’t as successful. Parts of it, especially because we were the first Java cohort in Minneapolis, were frustrating at times. But I think it worked out in the end.
Was there a favorite project that you worked on at Software Guild?
During the last two weeks, we separated into groups of three or four to make a capstone project. I really liked the capstone project that we did because we tried to simulate a real world problem. There were four people in our group, and we worked like a little agile development team; with our instructor as our client. We had to ask questions about their requirements, and collaborate as a team to get it done. It was fun because it wasn't structured, so it was whatever we wanted to make of it.
What was your job search like after graduating? How did Software Guild help in that search?
It was stressful. I invested $10,000 and I knew there wasn’t a job guarantee. Software Guild alumni are lucky because a huge benefit of attending that bootcamp is the employer network. Although since we were the first Java cohort, there wasn’t a ton of history with new employers who were looking for people with Java experience.
I really got pretty lucky. Best Buy is headquartered in the Twin Cities, and they heard about The Software Guild, and were interested in the bootcamp model. Our entire class did a 15 minute interviews with some Best Buy staff, then the staff invited a few people for second round interviews, and I was one of them. Best Buy created two new positions for our cohort.
Wow, that's great. Were those interviews hard?
They were more like behavioral interviews and personality fit, focusing on soft skills. There were some technical questions. I didn't know what to expect and neither did they, so we were both feeling each other out. I know not everybody who goes into software development wants to work in a corporate setting, and Best Buy is a little corporate, so I wanted to ensure it would work for me. After the interview they ended up offering me one of the positions.
Describe your current position at Best Buy!
I have been with Best Buy for about seven months. The team that I am on is the Search Product team, which means we power the search bar- it’s actually very exciting. Because it was an experimental position, my position was a contract to hire position as a trial test. After about six months, just recently actually , I got converted to a full time employee.
Tell me about your day-to-day as a developer. Are you using the skills you learned at Software Guild?
Definitely. My job is more complicated than what we learned at Software Guild, but it's the same structure. We were using Spring MVC at Software Guild, and we use Spring MVC at Best Buy. It’s a way more complicated Spring MVC. Additionally, at my job we use an Oracle database which is similar to but way more complicated than database we used at the Software Guild. But in the end making a table is making a table. It’s the same stuff, just different complexity levels.
I’ve been comparing the two experiences as I’ve worked at Best Buy. The first six weeks of boot camp was Java. When we moved on to learning web applications, it was like the world opened up. There was so much to learn. But we got used to it. It’s the same experience when you start your first job. You feel like, "Oh my gosh. There is so much to learn. I'll never figure it out." But you will. If you can make the first hurdle, you can make the second hurdle, and you can make the next hurdle. It's just about learning and experience.
What was the ramp up period like at your current position?
There was a lot of pair programming and shadowing people, which was helpful because we use a pretty complicated tech stack. It took a full day to set up all the applications that we used on my laptop. We are an agile team so every week we do a planning meeting about what stories are on deck and how many points they will take to get done. Everybody has a point capacity and they get assigned stories based on that capacity. For the first couple of meetings I had a smaller capacity, which meant I would do like three points each week, while everybody else would do eight. As time went on, I was assigned more responsibility. It was the same process as other new hires on our team go through.
Describe your current development team at Best Buy. Do you have a lot of support?
We have about eight developers and about eight business people. Out of the business people there’s about half women, but I am the only female developer. Everyone is extremely supportive, and our team is awesome. We are pretty conscious about creating a culture of collaboration and mentorship.
What was your experience as a female developer at Software Guild? Any advice for other women interested in coding?
I was really lucky in the boot camp because there were four women in our cohort, which was about a third of my classmates. And they were trying to increase those numbers. Actually, the only people that I still talk to from Software Guild are other women. They are some of my closest friends.
I think the bootcamp was pretty egalitarian because everyone started the class saying the same thing: "I don't know anything." You realize that it’s important to just pair up and attack the problem. I think for women, you have to be very assertive, especially in a field where you are the only woman in the room. Sometimes, men and women don’t speak the same language, and you just have to figure it out; which is sometimes hard and terrible, but it's worth it in the end.
How is your experience as a female developer now that you are in the work force?
I think it's hard to say if being a woman in the tech industry has really changed my experience. My personality has changed; I’ve grown as a person, and become more assertive than when I first graduated college, and that has shaped my experience. Before Software Guild, I worked in the natural resource field, which is also extremely male-dominated, so I learned some of those skills earlier. Now, I'm on a team that's really amazing, and my supervisors are already empowering. I don't feel like I'm treated any differently.
Do you have advice for prospective students thinking about making that career change into technology and coding?
It's been the best choice I've ever made. I was a volunteer before this job, so by moving into this career, my salary multiplied by six! It’s a crazy jump when you think about it in a purely financial way, but you shouldn't just change careers for the financial reasons. You should get into tech because it's something that speaks to you.
My advice is to take an online course and to figure out if you must have the personal drive and interest to learn coding on your own. It's definitely not a field where people give you all the answers. You have to fight to teach yourself a lot of information. In general, I’d say if you are the kind of person who really likes solving puzzles or if you’ve ever been obsessed with Sudoku, then you probably will fit in the technology world. It's not necessarily about how intelligent you are or how “book smart” you are. It's about having drive and liking solving things.
Kathy has worked in software testing for 15 years, but realized she needed to update her skills and learn web development, so she enrolled in The Software Guild Online Program, a part-time option ideal for students who aren’t ready to quit their jobs. Kathy shares her tips for learning to code online and why she appreciates the motto, “Once a Guildy, always a Guildy.” Plus, Kathy gives us a live video demonstration of The Software Guild learning platform!
Tell us about your pre-Software Guild story. What were you up to?
I've been testing software for the last 15 years, and as development has changed and become more agile, there's a need for automation. If you want to stay in the testing industry, you need to know how to code. So I started looking at different options. I already have a four-year degree, so I didn't really want to go back to traditional school. I was looking for an online option, and The Software Guild actually worked out really well for me. I work full-time and commit about 20 hours a week to The Software Guild.
Did you try to teach yourself to code first?
I have. I have done proto site training and I actually did another online webinar-based class with exercises. I was able to learn the basics of C# enough that I could use some automation. The drawback to webinars is that you don’t always learn best practices.
The company I work for does .NET stack development and I was looking specifically for something like that.
Did you ever consider doing an in-person coding bootcamp? Did you research other online bootcamps?
There aren’t in-person bootcamps in my city, the St. Cloud Minnesota area. The closest bootcamp would be an hour’s drive, so I would have to take a three-month leave of absence from work. The cost was also way more than I was willing to spend.
Once I started researching online bootcamps, I realized that it can be tough to know if they’re worthwhile and valid. When I found out about The Software Guild, I found that they were associated with Concordia College, which is here in Minneapolis. Concordia actually will give credits to bootcamp students. That showed me that this is obviously a good program, so I started going through the application process. The application process convinced me even more that it was a good program.
What was the application and interview process like for The Software Guild Online?
When I started, I had to do a phone interview. The questions were geared towards figuring out my goals. I also had to take a test to see if I had the analytical abilities to code, and then I had to answer four questions in an essay format. It was pretty intense, but that convinced me that The Software Guild was serious about making sure that students can do the work to get into the program. They're going to make sure that we succeed.
Once I was accepted, we were given a lot of pre-work, which was really helpful. They're going to eventually make the pre-work available to the public and applicants will have to complete all of this pre-work before they can start. They do an interview with people to make sure that they are actually ready to do the program. I can tell that they really want people who can do it. They don't want somebody to sign up, pay the money, and then not be able to actually do the work.
What has the overall learning experience at The Software Guild been like for you? Perhaps you can give me an example of a typical day?
When we started, The Software Guild said that they expected us to put in 20 hours per week. I made the goal to work on The Software Guild 20 hours a week at a minimum. I spend three hours a night during the week and then the rest of the time on the weekends to get the work done. There are reading materials, webinars, and coding exercises to complete.
When I applied, they also sent me pre-work that was pretty intense; sometimes it was even intimidating. What I really like about The Software Guild is that the experience is the same as having real-world development work.
There are times I would throw my arms up and be so frustrated because I couldn't figure something out that I spent two days on. I would go to my day job, where one of our developers would throw his arms up behind me and say the exact same thing: "Oh, I've been working on this for two whole days." It’s really encouraging to see that we’re getting a similar experience. If you don’t like The Software Guild, you’re probably not going to like being a developer.
With your background in testing and QA, do you feel like you have an advantage or already know some of the information?
Sort of. One of the things that I didn't expect is that you have to love living in ambiguity. My friends laughed at me because I don't typically like living in ambiguity. I'm learning to appreciate it because when you're doing development work, things change so much and you're not going to know everything. You have to learn how to find the answers. I'm learning how to develop really good skills that help me to weed through all ambiguity to get to the answers.
How often do you interact with mentors or instructors?
I'm meeting with a teacher's assistant twice a week, for half an hour, but they're also available almost 24/7. We use HipChat, so I sign into HipChat with other students and an instructor or teacher's assistant. If you have questions, or you get stuck on something, you can ask questions in the chat.
Do you have one instructor who teaches you?
When we're on HipChat, we can talk to whoever is available, but for my weekly meetings, I'm meeting with a specific teacher's assistant. That's mostly because his hours were the ones that were best suited to my schedule.
Do you learn from the other students in The Software Guild online cohort?
We do but there are students from Florida, Seattle, etc, so it just depends on when you're online. When I'm online in the evenings, there are maybe three or four other people on. We have classes twice a week and then the teachers and the teachers’ assistants go through the questions that we have to help us understand things.
When do you expect to graduate?
I'm nine weeks through, and I'm expecting to be done in December. It is pretty intense, but it's going well for me so I would like to stay with this level of intensity.
Is The Software Guild’s online program self-paced?
Yes and no. We have three-week units for each topic, and we have a curriculum that we have to get done by the deadline. If we finish that work before that time period, then they have additional work that they'll give us (instead of going on to the next level).
We’re in the first cohort of this online program, so they're in a state of flux. The Software Guild team is always reevaluating and changing their approach. That’s one thing that I like about this program: they pay attention and they want this to be successful for you.
Okay, Kathy! Would you share your screen with us now and show us what The Software Guild Online platform is like?
We use a program called Acatar, so I log in and see my dashboard and it shows you which instructors you can access. When you go into the class, you see navigation on the left-hand side, and within that, each topic that will be covered in the section. For example, right now we're in Section 5: Intermediate C#.
Then there’s a section with our exercises. There we can download exercises and see required readings. And when I'm done, I can mark it as “complete,” which is nice because then I can keep track in the UI.
We do two weekly classroom sessions, and then those classroom sessions are posted on the platform. I like that I have access to past classroom sessions.
The Task List shows all of the lessons and readings, which I can read online or print as a PDF. I'm old school, so I still print. I can also see if I need to take any quizzes. I like this because when I start my section, I know all the work that I need to get done by the due date, can track that by checking off tasks with a green check mark, and make sure I get it done in the time period that they have allowed.
Could you show us one of the videos that you would watch in Lesson 5?
Sure, here’s an example of a video. Some of the videos are interviews, others are like roleplay, and others are designed for us to code along with it.
Could you show us a quiz?
Sure, we have quizzes that ask you questions like, "What's the proper way to create anonymous type in the code?" This keeps track of the scores, and you can review your questions and answers later.
You meet for live training online twice a week- how does that work in Acatar?
We get an email with a link to a live training and an instructor runs the classroom session. We can ask questions either through HipChat or we can ask questions directly in the classroom, and then they record it so that we can see it later. Then they put the recordings here in the Acatar platform.
What does it look like to communicate through HipChat?
All these people in green are online, and you can search through all the history. This school is called The Software Guild and they look at it as an apprenticeship. They say, "Once a Guildy, always a Guildy" so we will have access to this network forever. We can communicate with people and ask questions even once we're done with the class and they'll give us access to even more groups once we're done. I thought that was really nice because when you're doing development, it's always helpful to be able to communicate with people online and know how to ask questions and get good responses.
When you're working on projects or assignments, do you work on them through the Acatar platform?
We're actually using Visual Studio to do our coding work, and then once we have our coding work completed, we're using Git Bash and Bitbucket. Then we use Jira to track issues, and Crucible to submit code reviews.
That process is the same process that you use when you're actually in a development environment. At my current company, we use Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server. It's really nice. They're teaching us the process that we would be experiencing once we get out into the real world.
Do you have a favorite project or assignment that you've worked on at The Software Guild?
I don't know if I would say it's a favorite, but it was challenging! This is another thing, for the first set of assignments they gave us, they had us create the logic for 100 methods. They had written unit tests for each of these methods. We used these to validate our code was working. When they passed, we knew we had succeeded. This was to teach us the basics of C#.
The Software Guild had created a battleship program where they created the business logic behind the UI and had completed unit tests. Then we had to create the UI portion to make the game work. That seems like the real world – you're never going to go into the world and start from scratch. You're going to be using someone else's code. They were teaching us how to learn how existing code works and then how to work with it.
How long did you have to do this project?
We had three weeks to do this project, to get it initially submitted for code review and then another three weeks to have it completely done and considered meeting their expectations. It's a lot to get done in that period of time that they've given us, but it is doable. It's just a lot of work.
What's been your biggest challenge so far at The Software Guild Online?
I think the biggest challenge is getting overwhelmed but not letting the overwhelmed feeling stop you. We were warned that this feeling would be one of our own worst enemies; but that really encouraged me to start coding something at the point when I felt overwhelmed.
The other challenge for me is working full time and doing The Software Guild. I have to be really dedicated to making sure I'm putting in the time that I need to get the work done. I saved all of my PTO for the year so that I could do this. If I need extra time for school, I take time off of work, but one of my biggest challenges is still learning new things and making sure that I'm putting in the same effort at work.
What are your plans after you graduate. Are you hoping to stay with the same company in a different role?
I am hoping that I'll be able to stay with my current company. We do web and software development, so I would love to start more development work and software testing projects. I have talked with my managers and they're pretty excited about it- they think it’s a great idea.
What advice do you have for people who are considering taking an online coding bootcamp like The Software Guild?
I think that the most important thing is to understand what you're committing to and make sure you can commit time to this. The program works better if you spread your learning over a week instead of trying to cram it all into one or two days.
Also, when the school gives you work to do ahead of time, make sure you do it! Pre-work will only help you. And try to make connections with people within your program. My best advice is to be dedicated to getting the work done because being online, you really have to push yourself. I really, really like the program, and it is hard work, but it's worth it.
Welcome to the July 2016 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to big fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. This month the biggest trends this month are initiatives to increase the diversity in tech, some huge investments in various bootcamps, and more tech giants launching their own coding classes. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast!Continue Reading →
Austyn graduated from MIT and worked for Microsoft for three years before joining the Software Guild as a Java instructor in Louisville. She is now dedicated to enhancing the tech scene in her hometown, and loves passing on her passion for coding. Austyn tells us about the different coding skills you gain at college versus a coding bootcamp, why she uses llamas as examples in her teaching, and how the Software Guild continually iterates on the curriculum.
What is your background and experience before you started working at the Software Guild?
I was at MIT from 2001 to about 2006 and graduated with a computer science degree. It was a pretty awesome experience. I got into computers because that's what I really enjoyed the most there. When I graduated I got a job as a software developer engineer at Microsoft on the PlayReady Team and moved to Seattle. I did a bunch of test and architecture design for their DRM manager Playready, stuff that worked in Silverlight and Xbox.
I worked at Microsoft for about three years, when my mom got sick, so I decided to come back home to Louisville. She's doing great now, but at the time it was a fairly scary diagnosis. When I got back, I was self-employed for a while. Then I got a job at a shipping tracking company called SMC3 where I worked on their Java web services and applications.
I also started to get very involved in the Louisville tech community. I worked with local meet-up groups, I helped found Louisville Makes Games, I volunteered at CodepaLOUsa, and worked with Girl Develop It Louisville.
I had started looking into mentoring with Code Louisville, but they weren’t interested in server-side/back-end mentors at the time. Then I heard that the Software Guild was looking for Java people, and I love Java. I was not entirely sure about switching to full-time teaching because I love development, but I really wanted to help grow our local tech industry. So we started talking, and they made a good case, so I started there in August 2015.
Did you already know how to code before you went to MIT? Had you taught yourself?
Yes. I knew some HTML, and I had fiddled around on my TI83 as a kid – I used to program choose your own adventure games. But I didn't know Java or anything like that. When I got to MIT I was a little intimidated at first because you get all these people who've been coding since they fell out of diapers. But most of them were always very interested and happy to share their knowledge so that was good.
Having done a computer science degree, did you feel you needed to be convinced of the effectiveness of coding bootcamps when you first heard about Software Guild?
Not exactly. I've met people who are threatened by coding bootcamps, which I find strange because we're in an industry that also loves the stories of the self-made coders who have taught themselves.
It's a different approach from college, and doesn’t produce exactly the same result. While I love my breadth of knowledge from MIT, as a junior developer, I didn't have as many job-ready skills. We didn't really cover source control, or MVC models. We spent a lot more time on algorithms, how to build an operating system, and fundamental architecture. That gives you a nice understanding of how the pieces fit together and the problem-solving attitude. But at the same time, you don't use any algorithms research for at least the first five years of your career.
What’s your specific background in Java?
I worked in Java WebServices at my last place, some of my own personal projects have been in Java, and then we also covered Java at college. I’ve worked in a few other different languages too. We used mostly C at Microsoft, with some .Net and SQL Server, and then I used SQL Server when I was self-employed, and SpringMVC and MySQL Server at SMC3.
In your role as the Lead Java Instructor, how do you contribute to the bootcamp curriculum and how do you iterate and improve on it?
We're constantly going back and forth on what the new things are coming out because there is almost always new tech. We ask ourselves “is this something that we want to include into our curriculum?” Because we only have 12 weeks, we know if we introduce something new, we will have to take something out.
We also always talk about what are good examples that have worked in one class that we want to incorporate permanently into the curriculum. We have our curriculum director who is the main manager for all that, then we work with Learning House to finalize everything. But we constantly read over, edit, write, and can always propose new ideas.
Do you ever come across situations where you noticed something about the curriculum while you're teaching and feel that you have to alter or change something on the fly?
While presenting the curriculum itself, we always have slides and notes that are set in stone regardless. Every once in awhile, we'll change it up a bit. We have personal discretion as to what examples we give. The long-term goal for the bootcamp is to develop full-stack web applications with MVC and a CRUD application. I generally talk a lot about llamas because my family has a farm with a small llama herd. Those come into a lot of my personal examples which is a bit different from the other instructors! But the general trajectory stays the same.
What’s your personal teaching style? Do you prefer to do more lectures or let people get stuck and then help them?
I like to do lectures just because I want to make sure we have a visual representation that we can refer back to. I like to get students involved, get them up in front of the class, draw on the whiteboard, and make sure they're talking to each other. We have warm-ups most mornings, then depending on how much trouble the cohort is having with a concept, I might go back and do more on that concept. In the warm-ups we do some pair programming, pair design, and individual implementation.
The hardest thing when I first started teaching was getting used to leading students down the hard path first, before showing them the easy way – because you really want to make sure they understand how something works. If you can't understand why it's working, then when it breaks, you're not going to understand how to fix it.
We also want them to learn how to ask the right questions. We have a question template which says "Tell me what you expected to do, what you're actually doing and how that's different from what you expected it to do.” You don't have time to sit there and get stuck on a problem for hours.
Are you the only instructor teaching Java or you have TAs who help you as well?
I'm the only Java instructor here in Louisville. And then we have one other .NET instructor here. We're only two cohorts here. Akron has a few more instructors each and the Minneapolis campus has three main instructors – two .NET and one Java.
How many students do you usually have in the class or cohort that you're teaching at one time? Where do they come from?
Here in Louisville our average is between five to eight people at this point. We've not crossed the double digits. It's always really good. Unfortunately for me, because Java is not the most popular language here in Louisville, most of them end up going back to where they came from. It's always a bit sad. We have a lot more local students taking .NET but we have a slightly higher .NET job percentage here in town, so most locals end up going .NET side.
What hours do students usually put in each day and each week?
Class time is from 9am to 4pm or 4:30pm every day except for weekends. Typically I see students put in at least 15 to 25 hours during the week.
Do you guys give assessments or tests to see how students are progressing through the course material?
Yes we have several. We have a mastery project in week 5 where students show us that they've mastered a lot of the language specifics, structure breakdown, problem-solving techniques, and how to develop a console application for that. Then we move into web, and work on individual mastery projects for the MVC breakdown, where students can demonstrate their front end skills, and make websites interactive between the server side and client side. Then there is also a database modeling project to show they understand how to structure and connect databases.
The last portion of the bootcamp is a team capstone project where they design and build a full stack application from scratch in teams. They have to use Agile development methods, set up sprints, have an iteration plan with their user stories, and get that approved.
What happens if students do the mastery project, but they're not getting the material?
It depends. We've had some students who just aren't interested in doing the work in which case we have to talk to them. Students must pass a professionalism and a communication component to be able to graduate. As long as they are in good standing in that respect, we will continue to work with them – so they can come back and repeat certain aspects of the course. Students can work with me or one of the other instructors to make a structured plan of what they need to work on in order to graduate, and perhaps work on an individual capstone project. As long as students do that and continue to be professional, continue to communicate, and ask questions effectively, then we'll work with them on campus until they are ready to graduate.
How are you are approaching job placement at Software Guild?
For the first eight weeks we encourage students to just concentrate on the code – if you learn it, jobs will come. Then once they have a certain amount of mastery, and can verbalize their understanding about what's going on, we have employment network managers who specialize in helping the students judge their job trajectory. If they love front end more, let's look for those kind of opportunities. If you're loving backend more, we’ll help you find that kind of job.
We also have a job fair in week 10 where companies and recruiters come on site to talk to the current students. Last time we had some employers come in to help students with mock interviews. In the last few weeks, I start asking students more technical interview questions, because knowing the tech and being able to explain the tech, are two separate skills.
We keep in touch with students as they start looking at different jobs. I try to make sure they know, especially in the first couple of years, that while money is great, a mentor and a great junior development program in a company is worth its weight in gold. That's going to be the best payoff for them.
What’s the tech scene like in Louisville? What sorts of companies are hiring developers?
We have several. UPS, Zirmed, Papa John's, Humana are our big ones. There's a growing startup scene. SMC3, where I worked previously, ended up hiring one of my first graduates and loved him. We have our fingers crossed because Google Fiber is looking at our city, so we’re really hoping that will open in the next 18 months
What sort of roles are students prepared for when they come out of Software Guild?
We aim for Junior level web developer type roles. Depending on their passion about certain things, we'll also counsel them and have them work towards specific jobs like front end. But our main thing is to get them job-ready for junior level web development, which provides them a larger versatility. With most juniors, you're hiring them for their passion and quick learning skills, not for their backlog of experience.
Who is the ideal student for Software Guild? Are you looking for people with a bit of experience or what kind of attributes?
A little experience helps, because the more understanding you have coming in, the more likely that you can concentrate on higher level concepts and learn new languages. The main skills needed are problem-solving, pattern matching, identifying common elements, being able to break down large problems into smaller problems, then being able to solve those. Being able to put in a lot of effort but also knowing when to ask for help. Being able to understand your own pace requirements, and being able to take care of yourself. I have a lot of people burn at the candle at both ends. You can only do that for three or four weeks before you just hit a rock wall.
I don't think experience is necessary. I've had people who come in with next to no experience, but they're really passionate, so they've done great. That's the other thing – being excited enough to identify new tools and then going, "What else can I do with this?” You don't want to just follow a pattern. You want to sit there, identify the pieces and figure out different ways to use these tools.
How does the application and the interview process work to make sure that these kind of students are going to get through the program?
First of all our enrollment team starts talking to people. We have a test for applicants which tests pattern matching and problem-solving skills, and some basic math-based stuff. That’s just to indicate aptitude, it’s not necessarily a cutoff. After that they have to write an essay which is graded by all of the instructors. Then there is a phone interview if we really want to talk about what the applicant’s motivation is and why they want to do this program.
After that, there is the intro to web development pre-work that they have to complete before they can actually come to the in-person cohort. It’s good because it gives them an introduction to what coding is like, problem-solving and hitting deadlines. Throughout the pre-work they have access to a chat room with all the instructors and TAs. After the pre-work, some of them come and do the full program, but others realize they don't like sitting in front of the computer all day. And it's good to have that happen before they get in person because that's awful to have people hate it once they get here.
What resources or meetups do you recommend for aspiring bootcampers in Louisville?
Everybody here in Louisville is pretty excited about anybody who shows up to a meetup. It's okay to go and meet people and ask questions because if anything, people here in Louisville love to talk about tech. Even if you've never coded you can just meet really passionate people.
Since the first bootcamp acquisition in June 2014, we’ve seen several bootcamps acquired by for-profit universities and even other schools. These acquisitions and consolidations should come as no surprise. With rapid market growth in the bootcamp industry, for-profit education companies are beginning to take note. And as existing coding bootcamps think about expansion, consolidation through acquisition is certainly on the horizon. We’ll keep this chronologically-ordered list updated as bootcamps announce future acquisitions.
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A coding bootcamp can propel your career in tech to new heights, but that often means quitting a job, uprooting your life, or moving to a new city. Maybe you’re moving to a new city to become a developer and need a short-term housing option. Or perhaps you’re an international student without credit history. Regardless of your background, funds can become tight when committing to a full-time, intensive bootcamp, and suddenly expenses like rent and food can be stressful. Luckily, there are coding bootcamps that make housing easy.Continue Reading →
Welcome to the August News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Do you want something considered for the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
Welcome to the August News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Want your bootcamp's news to be included in the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
David Basarab is a hiring manager at Cinemassive in Atlanta who works with the Software Craftsmanship Guild to hire talented .NET developers. Find out what he's looking for in a junior developer, how his relationship with SWCG is structured, and why he sees bootcamp-grads better prepared for his workforce than even recent college grads.
Tell us about Cinemassive. What does your company do?
Cinemassive is a visual solution company that primarily sells video walls to corporate and government agencies so they can visualize their data better. Our primary use cases are conference rooms or if you think about NASA’s command and control center. Each problem is slightly different for each of our customers- we have software that we customize to their needs.
What is your role at Cinemassive?
I’m the software development manager, and as a result, I’m a direct hiring manager.
When did you hear about SWCG? What attracted you to them?
I knew their founder, Eric, before he started the guild. Eric was an ex-director of software development and I’ve been a software development lead, so we both knew the problems with college graduates- they don’t learn the right lessons. The bootcamps, and the Guild in particular, teaches the right lessons. The proof is in our hires- We actually hired someone from SWCG, Anna, and she’d worked out tremendously. She came in right off the bat and was starting to contribute very quickly. She’s been very valuable to our team.
If you can write code in a maintainable way, then you’re extremely valuable to me. One of the biggest problems is that a lot of people can write code, but you get to a curve where you can’t ship anymore because you’ve written code in an un-ideal way. The Guild teaches the right way from the beginning, so students don’t have those bad habits.
On your site, I noticed that Cinemassive is generally looking for CS degrees, or even a masters in CS. How do bootcamp applicants compare to others from a CS background?
In my opinion, I think they’re equivalent. I’ll actually put applicants who went to a bootcamp higher than someone potentially coming out of college. I know that Eric tests intelligence to make sure the students have the capability to write software. Also, it’s an intensive 13 week course which is similar to working for 12 weeks- I’m a believe that you learn more from working than sitting in a classroom all day. They’re not just committed from 8-5, they’re committed afterwards as well. You have to put in those extra twenty hours a week, or else you’ll stay stagnant. Someone with a nice degree from a nice university may not have the right attitude to write software in the way it needs to be written and agile enough to support our business.
Do the bootcamp graduates that you hire start as interns with Cinemassive?
They’re full on in the team, we call them Junior Developers. I don’t believe you have to work for X number of years to be promoted. Once you’re doing the skills of the job, I’ll give you that job and the money that goes with it. We have five levels of developers. The woman, Anna, who we hired from the Guild, came in after Christmas Break, then went into full-blown testing. She’s done a better job at QA than our other full-time QA person. She has a very methodical point of view; she doesn’t let anything slip by. And she’s only been in the software world for 13 weeks- before that, she was teaching English in China and nowhere near the software world. Eric also teaches the students communication skills, which is something that college graduates may lack, and teaches them to conduct themselves professionally.
What is the starting salary for a junior developer?
For junior developers, they start at $50,000. The next tier is $60,000. Then mid-level engineers will be paid around $80,000, and seniors are $100,000. We’re taking a little bit of a risk on junior developers, but we quickly move them up if they’re working out, within 6-12 months.
What is the hiring process like? Is there any interaction with students throughout the camp?
In the Guild, you pay to be a member, so you get first choice in hiring. Eric will usually give you a quick assessment of the student- he’s a very good judge of talent. A good bootcamp will have an instructor who interacts with the hiring partners, because you don’t want students in a role that’s not right for them. I was looking for a QA person and software engineer- a bridged role. 2 or 3 weeks from the end of the program, we interviewed Anna over Skype.
Do you recruit from any other bootcamps?
No, there aren’t any other .NET in the Atlanta area. Actually, the owner of our company is looking into getting Eric space to open a SWCG here in Atlanta. His methodology is better than some other bootcamps and he teaches .NET and Java, which is unique. He gives students rockstar fundamentals.
In addition to paying the membership fee to the Guild, did you also pay a recruiting fee when you hired Anna?
We paid an additional $5,000 that went back to the student.
What are your new hires working on now?
They’re mostly writing automated tests right now. It’s a really important job, but it’s also a great way for someone without a ton of experience to cut their teeth without becoming too overwhelmed.
Does it make a difference to you as a hiring manager that SWCG is accredited in Ohio?
Nope, not a huge difference. I’m looking more at the student- are they smart and can they get things done? I can teach certain things, and I know that I’ll have to teach someone from the Guild some things, but I’m willing to make that investment. You can find some really good talent that makes your software and business sing, just by teaching a little bit. Too often, companies get caught up in years of experience rather than noticing that a person is really bright. You can’t teach smart. And anyone coming from the Guild is smart. Once we have room for a next junior developer, the first place we’ll go is to the Guild.
With the recent attention on coding bootcamps in California and pressure to comply with the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, we wondered if any coding schools in the US had gone through this accreditation process and what it meant to them. Turns out, the Software Craftsmanship Guild took the steps to become regulated by the Ohio State Board, and they think it's important that other schools comply as well.
We talk with Eric Wise, founder of the SWCG in Akron, Ohio, about his .NET bootcamp that's helping to fill open tech jobs in the Midwest, the importance of working with your state's regulatory agencies, and exactly what it means to be a "compliant" coding school.
Tell us about Software Craftsmanship Guild and how you got into the coding school space.
I was a Microsoft .NET developer for many years, and had worked my way up to being a director of application development for an insurance company. When we went to hire, it didn’t matter what was going on in the economy, people who knew what they were doing were impossible to find. In Ohio, we have Ohio State, Akron U, and other big colleges, so we were trying to hire college students, but they never learned how to hook everything up together in their undergrad. Talking to these college students, I realized that they were teaching the same things they taught 20 years ago. A lot of companies were responding to this by not hiring junior level developers anymore. So when the market started heating up, the only option for those companies is to poach each other’s employees, which ends up driving salaries way up. Small businesses can’t afford to hire senior people anymore, but no junior people were being trained, so a lot of companies were stuck. With all of these problems and people not being properly trained, we had to start training employees ourselves. I successfully trained and placed several non-technical staff members at my company into technical roles. Between that and having worked with people in my career without CS degrees, I realized that the degree isn't necessary and that I enjoyed teaching people more than I enjoyed doing the work myself.
Do you recruit for your school from universities in Ohio?
Nope, that was most shocking to me. About half of our students come from out of state. In this cohort we’ve got Idaho, Michigan, Texas, Chicago, and one from San Diego. That was a hard thing to manage when we were getting started- we started getting out-of-state interest, so we started subletting apartments for out-of-state visitors. Finding a short term lease is difficult! Now that we have local partnerships with nice apartments nearby, it’s a smooth experience for out-of-state learners.
When was your first cohort?
June of 2013.
And when did you decide to start working with the regulatory agency in Ohio?
In June, we started filling out the paperwork right away. We were in the process during our first cohort. We were working with the Akron Global Business Accelerator, a tech incubator. And they suggested we get an accreditation, so when we talked to the state of Ohio (the Ohio State Career and Colleges Board), they said we could continue operating the school while we were filing (although they would have preferred the filing be done in advance) and start teaching, because the accelerator gave us credibility. The state was really good at working with us, and saying that as long as we were in the process, we could open up.
What does it mean to be compliant (logistically) in Ohio?
There were a lot of things we had to do for consumer protections. They reviewed all of our policies, especially around tuition payments and refunds. We have to comply with their refund policy- originally we had a $1000 non-refundable deposit. The regulatory agency said that everything must be refundable if the student doesn’t start the class- things like that. They review marketing literature; you can’t promise someone a job. Which we weren’t doing anyways.
We had to submit biographies for all of our instructors, to ensure that our instructors were qualified to teach the material. You have to create a course catalog. For that, they’re not really interested in the content of the catalog, but they want to make sure that whatever you tell students you’re teaching, you’re actually going to teach.
We had to put up a surety bond to reimburse students if we happened to go out of business in the middle of the cohort. If we make any major changes in the curriculum, we’re required to file that change with the state. Most of this is about consumer protection. The things they asked us to do, in the age of diploma mills and fly-by-night cosmetology schools, was logical.
Do your instructors have to have education degrees?
No, but they have to be qualified in their field. This is a place that I’ve been really aggressive on the forums. I know that a lot of the bootcamps hire students as their TAs- we do not. We have a policy that you must have at least 10 years of experience in the field, or you’re not allowed to teach here. If you’re paying that amount of money for a bootcamp, you want a professional teaching the class. We have two and a half teachers. I’m the .NET instructor, Eric Ward runs the Java cohort, and Sarah Dutkiewicz is a generalist instructor.
Why do you think it’s important that other schools become accredited or compliant in the US? What do you think about the tension between the regulatory agencies and the fear of “stifling innovation?”
I think being compliant outweighs that fear. When I talk to potential students and employers about this program, the first thing I get is: “Twelve weeks? That sounds too good to be true.” I feel that regulatory bodies actually help us with our legitimacy. Anything that protects the consumer, I’m all for. I see new bootcamps popping up every week- some are popping up that are a lot of money for part-time instruction for 9 weeks. In my experience, there’s no way you’re going to become a professional developer in that amount of time. I think oversight is good and will shake out pretenders from legitimate businesses.
How long did it take to become compliant with the Ohio State Board and how much did it cost?
It took 60 days. We did have our lawyers involved, and with the cost of the surety bond, the process cost about $25,000 here in Ohio.
The Guild does not guarantee jobs, but have you found that you’re able to place your graduates more easily because you’re compliant?
To be honest, our companies don’t even care. The biggest selling point is that we put a junior developer in front of them and they can actually do things. There’s such a demand for people who can actually do the work. A lot of companies tell me that when they hire out of college, it takes months to ramp them up. The companies hiring our graduates are not really looking at college grads anymore, they’d rather hire our graduates because they’re productive in the first 30 days and it’s less risky.
Do you place students mostly in Ohio?
We are, but we have a hiring network around the country. Because most of our hiring network is built through our professional network, so most of our companies are in the Ohio region. We’ll work with anyone- we just want to get people employed.
Tell us about the Ohio tech scene!
It’s exploding. The Midwest has a problem, because for so many years here when companies weren’t hiring Junior Developers, all of the talent was going out to the Coasts. So now that there’s an explosion of demand, we don’t have people to fill the roles. I don’t think Ohio is alone- if you talk to people in St. Louis or Detroit, you’ll hear the same thing. There’s been a big brain drain to the coast. Plus the standard of living is great. We place students from Chicago who are working in Ohio- every one of them comes back to me a week later and they’ve found an apartment in the center of the city for $600/month, which would be a $2000/month in Chicago.
Why .NET and Java instead of Ruby?
If Ruby becomes the #1 desired language, we’ll start teaching Ruby. But if you look at job sites, .NET and Java combined are so much more in demand than Ruby jobs.
Want more information about the Software Craftsmanship Guild? Check out their school page on Course Report!