The Software Guild offers immersive full-time, 12-week or part-time, 10 to 14-month coding bootcamps in Louisville, KY, Minneapolis, MN, and online. Courses focus on .NET/C# and Java 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 takes driven beginners, or more experienced students passionate about development, and prepares them to compete for jobs as professional developers.
Prospective applicants must fill out an application, complete an admissions interview, take an aptitude assessment, and complete Software Guild’s Introduction to Web Development. The Software Guild looks for applicants who are self-starters with high levels of motivation and tenacity who know when to ask for help, work well with others, keep positive attitudes in the face of adversity, love learning and problem-solving, and are excited to build cool new things.
Recent Software Guild News
- November 2018 Coding Bootcamp News Podcast
- The New Online Badges at The Software Guild
- 3 Signs Your Team Is Ready for Reskilling
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.
- Start Date
- None scheduled
- Class size
- Minneapolis, Louisville, Online
- Skills Fund and Climb
- Tuition Plans
- Courses range from $10000-13750.
- Minimum Skill Level
- Placement Test
Blended program. The blended approach consists of face-to-face instruction and interaction in a classroom environment, supplemented with online activities on your own schedule. At the University of Georgia’s Gwinnett campus, you can complete the .NET/C# Web Developer Coding Bootcamp certificate program in 24 weeks via a blended learning format consisting of scheduled in-person classes three days per week and online lab work. With classes meeting two evenings during the week and on Saturdays, you can complete the program even while employed. The Bootcamp is rigorous, requiring 13 hours per week in class and an additional 17 hours per week of online coursework. The University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education will provide use of the UGA Gwinnett campus facility and resources, and you’ll have daily access to Software Guild instructors and teaching assistants via email and Slack.
- Start Date
- None scheduled
- Class size
- Minneapolis, Louisville, Online, Atlanta
- Skills Fund and Climb
- Minimum Skill Level
- Placement Test
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Our latest on Software Guild
This November has been super busy in the immersive coding education world, and at Course Report! We read about how Amazon’s new headquarters will impact the coding bootcamps in New York City, we celebrated successful coding bootcamp grads, we were sad to hear that a school is closing, we heard advice for being successful at bootcamp, and found out about new initiatives to improve diversity in tech! Plus we look at new schools and campuses around the world and discuss our favorite pieces on the Course Report blog.Continue Reading →
After offering an online coding bootcamp for several years, The Software Guild is launching a new version of the online program divided into four badges in 2019. We had a few questions about how these new badges would work, so we sat down with The Software Guild’s Director of Curriculum Instruction, Alan Galloway, to learn more. Alan tells us how the new format aims to make the program even more flexible for those balancing other commitments, what the learning style feels like, and how the careers team will work with graduates.
Can you tell me about your role and your background before The Software Guild?
I’m the Director of Curriculum Instruction, which means I’m responsible for our team of instructors and all of our curriculum. I have a bachelor's degree in Computer Science and Math, and after college I worked for IBM’s Global Services team on the hardware services account for 13 years. Then I transitioned to a small startup called SHPS, which did account management for healthcare services. SHPS was acquired by ADP and I became a Design Engineer for ADP, working on their infrastructure and their support services for their development staff.
A recruiter reached out to me about teaching at The Software Guild, I gave it a try, fell in love with it, and have taught here for two years now. I can use my years of experience as a developer in the field and leading teams of software developers to train the next generation coming through.
Software Guild has offered an online bootcamp for a while now. Why did you and the team decide to launch this new format?
We've been running online full stack web development classes in each of our languages – Java and .NET/C#. Those courses were broken up into two sections: the principles of object-oriented programming and database-driven web applications.
While that was successful, we found that the way we broke down the course content presented some hurdles to students who needed a different pace. We’re breaking the course down into a set of four badges in order to make the course material more manageable as smaller chunks; that allows our students to possibly take breaks between sections or better manage their financial commitment to the course. This new format will replace the old format for online students.
We're making this change first for our online bootcamp and we are evaluating whether it'll be a fit for our in-person bootcamps as well.
What is the admissions process for the new badge program?
We consider how each student has completed the test and assignment, then look at whether this program is something they would enjoy, be productive at, and are interested in moving forward with. We do not have a cap on the class size for these badges. We allow anyone who's interested in the program to enroll and we work with them to find a start date that meets their needs.
Can you go over the four badges and what is covered in each of them?
Level 1: Programming Basics (2 months | $2000)
- The first badge is programming basics – the same for both .NET/C# and Java tracks.
- Covers simple programming tasks and teaches students to build a basic developer environment.
- Students explore some object-oriented programming, talk about inheritance and polymorphous, and start testing.
Level 2: Object-Oriented Programming (3 months | $3000)
- We go deeper into object-oriented programming.
- Covers programming templates and libraries, reading and writing to a file system.
- We cover the intermediate and advanced levels, then we move into actual projects.
- We simulate business specs to develop a fully functioning app from scratch.
Level 3: Server-Side Development (2 months | $2000)
- Our third badge is server side development, for both tracks .NET/C# and Java.
- We go over consuming and creating REST web services, hosting a REST for web service, consuming web services from a browser using Ajax and jQuery.
- Server-side programming within server-side development.
Level 4: Full-Stack Development (3 months | $3000)
- A wrap up of our full stack development.
- We cover database basics, SQL modeling, database structures, database interaction.
- The final part of badge four is our capstone project and career support.
- Students apply the skills they learned across the badges to create a full stack app that combines everything.
- We work on the job search with mock interviews, resume help, career counseling.
Our existing scholarships for Women in Tech and Veterans in Tech are available to students taking the badge program. We also give discounts as you complete each badge.
What sort of credentials do students get when they achieve a badge?
Our credentialing partner, Parchment, offers completion certificates for our in-person and online programs, and that will extend to the new badge program. People who complete all four badges will receive a completion certificate for each badge, a cumulative completion certificate from Parchment, and we’ll include linked information to the relevant curriculum they've learned. These badges are our own – they are non-credit bearing and we aren't part of any larger badge or credential standard.
What can students expect from the teaching style online?
The materials are presented to the learner through a series of lessons, videos, and pieces they can use to learn at their own pace via our learning management system, Canvas. Each student is assigned a mentor from The Software Guild – one of our instructors who works with our online apprentices.
Each of the sections has an assignment and is graded by a mentor who provides weekly feedback to the students. We also offer counseling to the students if they're falling behind the ideal pace (the upper-limit is falling one month behind). They can work with their mentor to develop a personalized learning plan, (PLP) so that they can address the areas to improve.
How often are students interacting with instructors, mentors, and other students?
Each level has two to three sections. At the end of each section, students are required to submit their work and have a code review with their mentor. Students interact with mentors via video calls so that the student can share their screen. They'll look at the code together or have a face to face video discussion.
In the early parts of the course, we encourage students to work with their mentor on a weekly basis. We also offer Open Office Hours – a fixed period of time each day when an instructor is available to answer questions and work with students. That's primarily how we provide the same sort of support and interaction we have in the in-person classes.
Students interact with each other via Slack – we have channels specific to students in each language track (Java or .NET/C#). So online students also have the opportunity to interact with the in-person students who are part of The Software Guild.
What’s the biggest lesson your team has learned while operating online programs at The Software Guild? How will you bring that lesson to this new program?
The most critical lesson we've learned from our online program is the importance of building a relationship and community with the students. It's easy to leave someone to their own devices to go through the material on their own, but having that personal touch of a mentor relationship, progress evaluations, feedback, and checkpoints to show they are moving in the right direction, is key to successfully finishing the program and finding a career as a software developer.
Can students start any time on these badges or are there set start dates?
Each online group starts at the beginning of the month. During the enrollment process, we work with each student to find out which start dates will work best for them. We do allow students the flexibility to go at their own pace as long as they can demonstrate their mastery of the skills that are included in that badge. Within each badge, students have to complete each section and show that they’re mastered those skills before moving onto the next section.
Is there a time limit in which a student needs to finish each badge or can they take as long as they want?
There are some constraints. We have an ideal pace, but if a student needs to leave the course for a period of time for life circumstances, then we can offer a leave of absence.
For the overall program, the ideal pace is 10 months and we allow up to 14 months to complete it. But there is some flexibility to work with the needs of the student to complete the material.
What about the pace between badges? Is there an ideal amount of time that students should wait before moving on to the next badge?
The ideal timing is to go through these in sequence. As long as a student’s life circumstances allow for it, we recommend going from Badge 1 to Badge 2, and proceeding through the flow. There's no constraint on times there, though. If they need to, students can take an extended break between badges, then reach back out to their operations manager when they're ready to pick up the program again.
Do you ever allow (or require) someone to repeat a badge if they need to?
Yes. We allow students to repeat the material if it's needed. If a student wants to retake a badge within their chosen track, that curriculum will be available. They would have access to the larger online curriculum as well as the greater support of The Software Guild Community, our alumni, and instructors, both in person and online. We have a great community on Slack, and keep everyone up-to-date on everything from employment to curriculum.
Can I take just one badge or skip a badge?
The complete program is most beneficial, but we do understand that some folks will just want to learn the basics of Java, so they may be content to stop at Badge 1 in the Java program, or they're only interested in doing object-oriented programming and C# so they might do badges 1 and 2 in C#. We allow for that. We don't have any requirements or obligations for the students to continue on in the program.
Career Services is not offered until badge 4. So if a student only completes Badges 1, 2, and 3, is Career Services not available? What is included in Career Services?
That's correct. Career Services is included as part of the 4th Badge. It includes soft skills training, interview tips, how to work with a team, resume review services, and interaction and connection with our employment network.
When students start working with the Employment Network Manager (ENM), they go through an interview process with a member of The Guild staff, talking about their interests, goals, and how they want to apply their new software development skills to their career.
The Employment Network Manager works with the apprentice to tailor their search towards the type of role and tech environment they want. The team will also invite the student to some of our in-person mock interview events, if they're in the area. If they're in a different location or different situation, then our employment network managers line up mock interviews with members of the staff, or some of our partners in the technology community.
What kind of student would really benefit from this kind of program?
- Someone who's motivated to learn software development.
- Someone who has constraints on their schedule, or is not able to attend an in-person full-time bootcamp.
- Someone who has a job, but wants to commit to the program part-time
- People who are looking to change careers, add some skills to their existing career, or grow their ability to apply their existing skills towards writing software.
Do you think the badges will make students more marketable as developers when they graduate?
I think the badges are a demonstration of each student’s ability to progress through the program. I think each badge on its own is going to show a subset of the skills that they're learning in the bootcamp. The badges provide a way to mark the progress and measure it as they go without striving towards one large goal. Students have checkpoints along the way that show them their progress and the skills they've learned up to that point.
What is your advice for students embarking on this online program? Do you have tips for getting the most out of it, especially if they're trying to change careers?
One of the key pieces is to be an engaged learner. Whether a lesson is in written format, a video, or a code along exercise, be actively engaged with the material. Take notes on the lessons as you go. If you're watching somebody write code, pause the video and write the same code along with them in your own environment so that you're getting the same results. Really reinforce the things that are being presented to you, instead of being a passive listener.
I think that interaction and having the right mindset to engage with the material and cooperate with the mode of instruction is the key to picking up the information and mastering it.
In overseeing corporate partnerships for Software Guild, we work with companies to figure out the needs of the organization, what challenges they’re facing, and how we can help. If you want to really upskill or reskill your workforce in a new technology, sending them some eLearning resources is not going to cut it – today’s tech teams want an immersive learning experience. Here are three motivations we hear from companies who are interested in corporate training – are you seeing any of these signs in your own teams?Continue Reading →
So you’re thinking of hiring a coding bootcamp graduate, but not sure how to approach it. After speaking with 12 real employers from companies like Cisco, Stack Overflow, and JPMorgan Chase, we’ve compiled the best advice and lessons learned when hiring a coding bootcamp graduate. Following these steps will help you build a diverse, open-minded, loyal engineering team that finds creative solutions to software challenges. If you’re a prospective bootcamp student, this is also for you – these employers also explain why they hire coding bootcamp grads!Continue Reading →
After serving in the military, Stephen Cooke tried a number of different careers before he realized he wanted to pursue technology. He went to college to learn software development, but left when he discovered that a coding bootcamp like The Software Guild, in Louisville, KY, would be a faster and more efficient way to accomplish his goals. Stephen tells us how his intense military experience prepared him well for “drinking from a firehose” at coding bootcamp, why he is pleased The Software Guild is now accepting GI Bill Benefits, and how he landed a developer role at El Toro shortly after graduating!
Tell me about your background before you decided to go to The Software Guild. How did your path lead you to want to learn to code?
I had always liked computers, so I started dabbling a little, and playing around with the hardware side of things when I was around 11 or 12 years old.
When I graduated high school, I went into the military doing inventory. After I got out of the military I bounced around different jobs. I worked in factories, did real estate for a while, but decided that I wanted to start pursuing tech.
I made a couple of failed attempts to go to college, but it just wasn't for me. I enrolled at Western Governors University and worked in an IT help desk job at the same time. I was learning software development, but it was too slow moving, and I wanted something more vocationally oriented. After going to school and working for about a year, I discovered The Software Guild here in Louisville. I loved the idea of a 12-week vocational program that would get me trained up on coding and help me get a job. So I reached out, went through the whole admissions process, and was ready to go into the next cohort in two weeks.
Before you decided to do structured learning, did you try to teach yourself how to code?
Yes. Right before I did the help desk job and enrolled in college for software development, I wanted to see how I liked coding. I started teaching myself Java and dabbled with some basic game development for a couple of months. Once I got some stuff to happen on the screen, I was hooked, and at that point I was ready to dive in. When I discovered The Software Guild could provide me with a faster and more efficient path to my goals, of course I had to take that opportunity.
What was The Software Guild application and interview process like? Were you well prepared?
When I was ready, I scheduled an admissions interview, and then The Software Guild paired me up with one of the instructors for a video call where we worked through a problem that the pre-course material prepared me for. Most of the people in my same cohort did not have the same experience as me, but they said the pre-work prepared them just fine. So based on The Software Guild’s assessment of my abilities, they decided whether or not to accept me.
What's the learning experience at Software Guild like? Describe a typical day and teaching style.
The first word that comes to mind is intense. You definitely have to commit to it. To call it a bootcamp is pretty accurate. When you arrive, you’re expected to have read a certain amount of material the night before and at least be familiar with it. Then in class, the instruction was focused on giving us examples of how to practically apply the coding skills. We did exercises that were relevant to whatever material we had covered.
It was definitely not a “come in at 8:30, leave at 4,” and you're done for the day kind of situation. I had to come home and put in more time there too, and expect to work on weekends. We covered way too much material to cram it in 12 weeks if you're not giving it a high level of commitment.
It was extremely fast paced – my instructor, described it as like “drinking from a firehose.” Each week had a different difficulty, so it determined how many fire hoses we were drinking from. So if it was extremely challenging, it would be about four fire hoses.
How did you feel your experience in the Marines impacted your experience studying at a coding bootcamp?
My military experience really helped me because that intensity is exactly how the military is. It's all vocationally oriented, and extremely fast-paced and challenging. There's no time for, "We're going to take a year and a half to learn this." No, we have to get it done in three months – that's the way it is and you better be good at it.
Bootcamps are a great thing in particular for veterans because this is the culture and the lifestyle that veterans are used to. This is how I learned everything from day one of going into the military until the day I left. I don't like to take the time to do it the slow way by learning a little here and there. I want to learn what I need to learn quickly so that I can do what I'm trying to do – accomplish a mission. I feel like this bootcamp model yields well to vets.
So that bootcamp way of learning, the culture, and lifestyle was natural for me. And that's the way I prefer to learn.
Now that The Software Guild accepts the GI Bill benefits, do you have any thoughts on how that will help future students?
Oh yeah, that's great. It will allow a lot more veterans to go through the coding bootcamp and transition from military, or whatever they're doing shortly after the military, into a more valuable and rewarding career. You can make money doing anything, but this job is really rewarding, especially for me.
The whole financial piece to getting a new education is a barrier to entry for people. Another reason why I think it's awesome that they can do the Post-9/11 GI Bill, is because not every veteran is as fortunate as I am. I was unable to use the GI Bill at the time, but I was still able to afford to go to coding bootcamp.
How did The Software Guild help prepare you for job hunting?
The cohort was divided into two sections – the first six weeks and the last six weeks. During the last six weeks, in addition to the same level of intense coding education, they started implementing more career-focused material. The Employer Network Manager in Louisville, would critique our resumes, and we’d get edits and advice on formatting. There were also mock interviews, where local industry professionals would come into the classroom to conduct practice interviews. The Software Guild also brought in a bunch of people from the industry to talk about what it was like working in a real software developer job, to help set our expectations.
Probably the most beneficial aspect of the career help was the roundtable interview sessions. Software Guild brought in a bunch of companies that were actively hiring developers and we would could book “round-robin” interviews to meet new contacts and get our resumes out there. It really helped plug us into the network and that's actually how I got my job at El Toro now. They brought me in for a 15-week internship, then they hired me on as a dev, and now I've just recently moved into DevOps.
Congrats on your role at El Toro! How long did it take you to find that job when you graduated?
During the group interview process, almost the whole Java cohort got selected for second interviews at the actual El Toro office. We didn't hear back from them until the last week of bootcamp. I got an actual start date for that internship shortly after graduation so it all took around two to three weeks. From there, I was determined to get the job. There was no way they weren't hiring me!
There were eight of us that got second interviews and we all ended up here. So we all went straight from graduation to a job.
Describe El Toro and your role there.
I was a developer for about four months before I moved into DevOps. Now it's my responsibility to set up the continuous integration and deployment pipelines for the developers, and I’m working on monitoring solutions. On the DevOps side, I've learned Jenkins, which is for the continuous and deployment of the code. And I've been doing a lot with Bash.
You learned Java at The Software Guild. How did you learn all these other technologies on the job?
It’s almost a year since I started the internship, and I've learned so much stuff that I never dreamed I would have been able to touch. It's actually pretty incredible. I haven't actually used Java at all in this job, but I continue to learn new things every day. I learned all the fundamentals at The Software Guild so even though my learning was all in Java, that doesn't mean there's not a huge portion that's completely transferable into other languages.
I tend to be extremely intrinsically motivated, so my style is to dive in. When I'm trying to learn something new, I read the docs and start playing with it. And luckily, where I'm at, we have the flexibility to do that. We're very team-oriented at El Toro, so I can lean on the experience that's around me. If I have questions that I can't figure out on my own, everyone is always more than happy to help. We have some really great talent here.
At El Toro you've shifted roles from intern, to developer, to DevOps. How do you feel you've grown as a developer?
I wouldn't say I'm at a senior developer yet, I guess I'm teetering into the intermediate level. I don't feel like there's anything that I can't learn! It's a matter of how long it will take me to get something done, as opposed to whether I can do that thing or not.
How do you feel your background in the military has been useful in these software development roles?
For starters, being in the military, you find yourself in scenarios where you may not know all the details going in, but you're still expected to perform. So you get comfortable diving into something and working the details out as you go. That skill serves me well every single day because when I start something, I'm not so overly focused on the details that I can't get started if I don't know them all. As long as I know enough, I can dive in and the rest will sort themselves out as I go.
And then on the job, the attention to detail, discipline and other skills are useful because the learning is continuous in this industry – it doesn't stop. So you have to have the discipline and the motivation to keep learning.
Are any of your other past experiences helpful in your role in DevOps?
When I was working at the help desk doing enterprise-level support, even though I was at a very low level, it introduced me to how that industry was structured. Now that I'm in DevOps, it helped me a lot more than I thought because I know what the space looks like – I can draw from that experience.
What's been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to becoming a fully-fledged software developer?
For me, it was the financial aspect of attending a coding bootcamp because I have three children and a wife. Going through The Software Guild, and having that 12-week period with no income was extremely challenging. When you have such an intense workload, the financial worries become a distraction. I was stressing about bills and everything else, and trying to invest 180% into the coding bootcamp, so I didn't have time to worry about other aspects of my life. It was really challenging for me to navigate all that and muscle through, but we made it.
When you look back at the last couple of years, what role did The Software Guild play in your success?
I think the possibility exists that I could have gotten to where I am without The Software Guild, but there's no guarantee for that. I could’ve finished college and been right there in that same boat, except I wouldn't have been plugged into a network. If it would’ve been possible, but it would have taken more years to accomplish.
I learned way more through The Software Guild as far as coding is concerned, than I ever did through the college track.
What advice do you have for other people, especially veterans, who are thinking about making a career change through a coding bootcamp?
Don't wait, just start doing it – that's the key. And don't be intimidated. Coding is really hard for everyone at first because it's literally like learning a foreign language. None of it makes any sense until you start doing it. Also, be sure that if it's what you want, you're ready to commit fully because it takes a lot of work, especially if you decide to go the bootcamp route.
Do you still keep in touch with The Software Guild?
Yes. It's a tight community and it's completely open. I can still stop by there anytime, and I still use the Slack group. You don't just train and then you're done – it's a community that you’re plugged into.
Software Guild is more than just the vocational program. The guys that I studied with and with whom I still work, we're more than just coworkers, we’re friends. We're Guildies so there's camaraderie there too, which is big for me coming from the military.
If you’re planning to take out a loan to pay for your coding bootcamp tuition, READ THIS FIRST. Borrowing money can be confusing and stressful, but there are a number of ways to make sure your debt doesn’t pile up more quickly than you were expecting. The team at Climb Credit, a student lender focused on career-building education, drew from their experience working with bootcamp students to put together this list of ways to be smart about your loan, and avoid accruing unmanageable debt by the time you graduate.Continue Reading →
Think coding bootcamps only train newcomers to tech? Think again. This Minneapolis financial services company has employed the corporate training arm at Software Guild to update their current employees’ skills. We spoke with their IT Manager about why they wanted to retrain their team to build more consistent Java code and UI design. Plus, learn how he worked with Software Guild to build a custom curriculum that fit his needs and why the return on investment of employee training is a “no-brainer.”
What is your job and how are you involved with developers?
I’m an IT manager with a team of about 20 application engineers. We are decentralized from our main IT division and work directly in the business supporting our customers with the software they need to do their job.
We work in an agile environment which means people on my team get their work direction and priorities from their product owners rather than from me. My actual role is a people development leader – I hire, coach and develop the skills of my team.
How does your company work with Software Guild to train and hire your developers?
We work with Software Guild in two ways. First, we've interviewed their students and we've hired one. We've come close to making offers to other graduates, but you've got to be really fast with some of those grads because the students at the top of their class are in high demand!
Secondly, we’ve enlisted Software Guild instructors to create a customized training for current employees.
How did you get connected with Software Guild?
When we interviewed our first Software Guild graduate who applied for one of our open position, we heard about the Software Guild program through that interview. Our offices are in Minneapolis and Software Guild has a campus in downtown, so we learned that there is an opportunity to hire their candidates.
Since then I've had a pretty close working relationship with their team. We are informed when they do speed interviews with upcoming graduates and have been involved in a number of those. Companies like ours are invited to come in and interview Software Guild graduates so we can get a jump start on hiring. It's been a good working relationship.
Did you have to convince your company to hire a programmer from a coding bootcamp?
There's always a bit of hesitation when considering a candidate who is making a change into their second career, but I think of them as I do any other candidate new to this profession. We take a look at their unique backgrounds and what they bring to the table.
One of our philosophies is to look for candidates who are a good match for our company and who also bring diverse elements to our teams. If we look to hire only straight-out-of-college-computer-science-graduates, then we may miss opportunities to find unique developers who bring new insights to our processes. To us, that’s very intriguing.
Why did you decide that your team needed training? What was missing?
I have 20 IT employees who are federated out of a division of 500-600 IT employees. So as a satellite IT group, we saw a need to create our own unique consistency in the way that we do Java programming and create user interfaces. We have three different development teams and people on our teams have different backgrounds and learning experiences. We started to see some inconsistencies between our teams and the way they wrote code in Java and built UIs. We’ve also seen some hesitation to use Java or HTML when they may have more familiarity with other technologies like Microsoft Access.
We wanted to get our entire team on the same page with their Java skills, and we knew one of the best ways would be to attend a class to learn the same curriculum. Our team members have been asking for this training for some time. The need and the opportunity have come together nicely with the Software Guild partnership.
Tell us how Software Guild is helping to train your current employees?
We have a strong partnership with the Software Guild, but we couldn’t send everybody in our division to their three-month bootcamp. Plus, we are not training beginner developers; they’re already engineering professionals in a software career. So we shrunk three months down into four classes. Each of these classes is four days long, and spaced out every two months. So an employee does all four classes in about six months.
My developers and I talked through what the curriculum might look like with Software Guild, and we designed this series of four courses. We've now completed all four courses.
How did you structure the four day classes? Which languages do you cover?
The second class taught basic Java and object-oriented programming – getting back down to the basics. For some of our team members who didn't know Java at all, that class was really helpful for them.
The third class teaches more advanced Java, and then the fourth class ties it all together. Employees actually build applications using both UI development and Java back end, and the course is about services and accessing data.
Once our employees tie those four classes together, they might think of themselves as full-stack developers.
Why do you think it’s important to invest in the future of your current employees?
We owe it to our business users. Every time we create code, we want it to be built for the long term. We want to build products that will last and can be supported for 10 years of more.
We approach employee training with the mindset that we’re investing in our employees in order to create long-term supportability with low technical debt – it’s a no-brainer.
Why did you partner with Software Guild instead of training your developers in-house?
The proof is in the pudding. I've seen the Software Guild candidates and their caliber of skills, and I knew that their curriculum is solid because of it.
We have employees that are willing to mentor, but don't have anyone skilled at putting together curriculum and training. Standing in front of 15 of your peers and instructing a lesson is a very specific skill, and it’s asking a lot from somebody. We're one department at our company, so if there was a need for this training across the whole company, we could scale it by hiring a trainer on a more regular basis.
Are your employees who have attended Software Guild classes getting noticeably better at their jobs?
After the first training class, one of our teams took the initiative to create a list of all the applications that could be upgraded with this new learned technology. Some of these applications have had a very long life, and employees wanted to upgrade them into the 21st century. The team had conversations with their product owner and now they've prioritized those updates, which is exactly the kind of behavior we were hoping for.
Did they rush out right away and start building web pages? No. That, of course, doesn't happen unless the demand is there. What I'm seeing is internal team conversations around our existing applications and what it would look like to make modifications or rewrite them. The level of maturity in those conversations is growing.
Is there anything that you would change going forward with this Software Guild partnership?
We hold a retrospective at the end of every class, and the feedback has primarily been positive. After the first class, we heard that we should incorporate more pair programming, so we applied that in the second class. That’s been a very positive impact on the learning atmosphere in the class, so we’ll continue incorporating pair programming. We’ve also learned that our team thinks the Software Guild Instructor, Corbin March, is incredibly knowledgeable and very easy to learn from, so we've been blessed by that.
We talk a lot about the right pace – is it going too fast for the people who are less experienced and too slow for the more experienced developers? Experienced programmers are relearning some material, but we still see that as a big benefit.
There are a lot of coding bootcamps now – how did you decide to work specifically with Software Guild?
Software Guild was looking for companies to train and we had just started looking for a partner to build a custom class. When we first sat down and started talking about what we were interested in, I was amazed at how willing they were to listen to our needs, and then customize a curriculum that would work for us.
I was appreciative that they didn’t say, "Here's what we offer. Take it or leave it." Instead they said, "Here's what we can teach. Now let's figure out how to optimize your employees’ learning." It felt like a partnership. Like I said before, the proof is in the pudding. You could have a company that partners and plans really well, but executes poorly. But that has not been our experience with Software Guild, and our employees in class have reinforced this – this bootcamp is teaching quality material.
What is your advice to other employers who are thinking about retraining their employees?
It really depends on the needs of your company. It’s never too late to invest in your own employees if you believe they can bring value to customers, particularly in the software space. Invest in and train employees in the areas that match the needs of your business partners – that's very important.
It’s wise for a company to sit down, calculate the cost of training, and determine the return on that investment. If you already measure things like supportability of software, core management, and the cost of technical debt, then it doesn't take very long to see that there's a positive ROI on the cost of training. When you eliminate your technical debt, the return comes back pretty quickly.
In terms of your employee morale, you definitely get a win from your employees when you invest in them and show them that their future matters. I've gotten feedback from our employees who publicly say, "I just want to thank our management team for investing in us and being willing to spend the money, a chunk of change, on helping us do what we do better for the sake of our customers."
We don’t make theoretical decisions. We've heard it directly from the participants.
Oh Summer, one of the best seasons of the year! While it’s a time to relax, bask in the sun, and plan trips with family and friends, summer is also an awesome time to learn. If you’re a current student, teacher, or professional looking to learn to code, a summer bootcamp is a great way to learn new skills in just a few months. We chose 28 coding bootcamps that offer summer courses to help you launch a new career in tech. Check out the following courses to help you #learntocode this Summer 2018.Continue Reading →
In Louisville, Kentucky, recruiting quality junior developers is not an easy task. Amanda Marburger, who directs the software team at Atria Senior Living, has tapped into a new recruiting pipeline with The Software Guild. She has now hired four graduates from The Software Guild’s .NET Bootcamp who are working on apps that are crucial to the comfort and wellbeing of Atria residents. Amanda tells us how these new developers are contributing to the Atria team, how she supports their ongoing learning, and why she wants to hire more Software Guild grads!
Can you tell me about Atria Senior Living and your role there?
Atria Senior Living manages assisted living and life guidance facilities. We help seniors as they age, through difficult times of transition. We are very passionate about what we do for our seniors – we provide not only housing, but also a loving environment where they can connect with other residents and connect with the caregivers, and we aim to make the experience very pleasurable for them.
I am the Director of Software Engineering at the Atria support center in Louisville, Kentucky. We build a lot of custom software that allows our employees to shape the environments in which our residents live. We build systems and applications to show our caregivers what care should be provided to each resident, what time, and how often. We also have other custom systems that integrate with third-party partners, and help our sales staff to bring in new business.
How many Software Guild grads have you hired and for what roles?
We have hired four Software Guild developers within the last year. Three of them are in a programming/developer role and one of them is working towards becoming our database administrator. That person had some interest in SQL and data.
We are a team of 13 and that includes six developers (the whole company is around 14,000 people and growing). We're not a huge development team, but we do produce a lot of applications and a code base that we have to support. We also have three or four employees on support staff or on the data team (part of the database team). They are all part of our development shop.
How did you first connect with The Software Guild? Had you worked with any other coding bootcamps before?
I was mentoring a .NET class at Code Louisville, which shares a space with Software Guild in downtown Louisville. At that time, we were hiring and we found that The Software Guild was graduating a good group of developers. It was an avenue that we had not explored as an employer, and it meant we could interview several people at the same time who may not have known much about Atria, or even that we do software development. A lot of those folks were starting new careers or redefining their careers, so this was an opportunity to meet them and to tell them about our business.
We had not worked with any other bootcamps. I had heard the term “bootcamp” when I was looking to sharpen my own iOS skills, but we didn’t realize then that The Software Guild was actually right next door to us! We realized that we could build a partnership with the bootcamp and create a recurring talent pipeline.
Did you have to convince your team (or even yourself) to hire coding bootcamp graduates? Was it a concern that they didn’t have a traditional CS background?
The nice thing about our company is that there are no real restrictions from where we pull talent. We thought: worst case scenario would be that we try it, it doesn't work, and then we don't continue. But it did work out very well for us.
When we interviewed most of those folks, they seemed to have a good reason for switching careers. In our environment, we can always teach you the tech, but a candidate’s soft skills are way more important to us. Do you present well? Can you communicate your efforts? It's the other environmental attributes that you pick up working as a professional that really matter here.
Other than The Software Guild, how do you usually hire developers in Louisville?
We recruit through several avenues. We have an in-house recruiting team at Atria who recruit for the IT team. There's a constant need for hiring. Unfortunately, in Louisville, not many developers are unemployed, so it’s definitely difficult to find good quality developers. It is even difficult to find junior developers. Because Software Guild is so close proximity wise, it gives us another area to source talent.
We’ve primarily found that the best results come from job listing sites like LinkedIn and Indeed, and then our recruiters continue to actively recruit. We've looked at potentially hiring our interns full-time. We’ve also reached out to Bellarmine University and the University of Louisville to try to access that talent pool of recent CS degree graduates.
How is hiring from The Software Guild different from those more traditional recruiting channels?
First, it’s completely free to hire from The Software Guild. About two weeks before students are going to graduate, The Software Guild holds a set of 20-minute speed round interviews where interested companies can sign up to meet students. That 20 minutes gives us a gauge to know if we want to bring a candidate in for a more formal interview. It is an easy way to talk with several great candidates without wasting time and money.
When you think about the Software Guild grads that you did hire, what stood out about them?
Each one had a little something special, whether it was their communication skills or the excitement about their career change. These folks are uprooting themselves for a certain period of time, quitting their jobs and taking a leap forward to really refocus on tech. To me, if you're taking that kind of leap, that means you're really passionate about it and you really want to better yourself. And that takes a strong person. Not everyone has that confidence within themselves.
We hired some of our Software Guild developers based on the way candidates communicated and presented themselves and spoke. Others had some background in tech, but not with the particular stack that we use today. In general, we are looking for developers who are driven to continue learning and thriving outside of their day-to-day work.
Have Software Guild grads done well in the Atria interview process?
Yeah. We had two hiring sessions. In the first session we interviewed about 11 folks and found two grads we wanted to hire. Then in the second session there were about eight candidates, and we also found two well-fitting developers to hire.
In the interview, we like to ask a lot of situational questions. We are not big proponents of giving a test that the applicant has to pass. Instead, we want to know why you’re switching careers, what interests you about working in software development, what type of environment you thrive in, etc. That gives us a sense of how they would cope in a high-pressure situation, and whether they can keep up with the ever-changing demands which come with IT in general. If they seem to respond well to change and understand that tech is not a constant, then we know they’ll be able to thrive in our environment. We are very upfront about the pace at which we work at Atria.
We find out a lot about a candidate’s technical skills during conversations about the projects they’ve worked on – we always ask to hear about a project that didn’t go well. We can understand their logic, their thought process, and the technologies/tools that they can use in that conversation, rather than saying, "Write a SQL statement for me” or “Write a program to do X, Y, and Z."
At The Software Guild, students learn Java or .NET. Are they using those languages now at Atria?
We hired .NET graduates because we are a .NET shop. We did not interview any of the Java folks. I've seen the .NET curriculum that they teach at The Software Guild and it meshes with our stack at Atria. Our hires are still using their .NET skills here and greatly expanding as we hit multiple technologies. We don't use just .NET; we intermingle with other client-side technologies as well. So they're growing vastly as programmers with the new knowledge they are gaining.
You mentioned how important it is for developers to be able to keep up with change and keep learning. How do you support new developers in that goal?
That's a great question. We have an open door policy at Atria and I hold one-on-ones twice a month with each of my employees. In those one-on-ones, they have time to tell me how things are going, and which areas they would like to grow into. I ask how I can better support each of them as a manager, and we set out a plan for wherever they want to go. If they really want to move into a senior role or do extra training, then I want to help out with that.
Just recently, several of our developers went to a conference here in Louisville. As a company, we provide tuition reimbursement after you've been here for a certain amount of time, so you can continue your education. If someone wants to get a bachelor’s or master's, then we can help with that. We also have subscriptions to online tech resources where our developers can watch videos and learn about new technologies. We try to give our developers a foundation to learn and to thrive, not only professionally in tech, but also personally.
Can you tell us about the projects that your Software Guild hires are working on?
One of our Software Guild grads has been on board for almost a year, and they are now a primary lead on an important culinary application. This app allows our support staff to define the menu for our communities, and then our chefs at each of the communities put their own local flavor into it. For example, a chef in Maine could change the menu from fish to lobster. That's really important because Atria residents tell us that one of the things they love the most about living here, is the food we serve – we take such pride in that.
Before we built that app, our culinary staff were managing that process in an Excel sheet, which didn't really give the business any understanding of or introspection into how we can maintain and control costs.
That's such a great, practical example. Since you hired these four Software Guild grads, have any of them moved up, or changed roles since they started?
They're all still in the roles that we hired them for, but every six months, we assess whether each person is still fulfilled and progressing toward their goals. They’re all still growing professionally, but as far as I'm concerned, all the grads that we've hired are on track to be promoted within 2-3 years.
Do you have a feedback loop with The Software Guild if you notice your hires are underqualified in some area?
Yeah, I talk closely with Jacob from The Software Guild about their curriculum. He's trying to build an open forum for companies locally that have hired Software Guild grads, almost like a roundtable. I had suggested that to him and he's trying to work with his team to see if he can put that together.
What is your advice to other employers who are thinking about hiring from a coding bootcamp?
Try it! What can you lose? Most companies don’t even acknowledge bootcamps as an opportunity, but you can find a lot of gems in bootcamps. It could totally change the way your company runs and hires developers.
There has been a stigma around bootcamps. While you can’t cover everything that you could get in a four-year college degree, bootcamp students go through 12-weeks of intensive, full days. That was enough to convince us to try hiring from Software Guild.
It's also given us another hiring avenue that we may not have used traditionally. I think we made good choices with our Software Guild hires. The grads are happy, and we are happy to have them. I think there's so much potential in them and they are so excited to come into work every day. And hopefully, we've had a hand in that based on our culture and the way we run things.
I can't say enough good things, not only about Software Guild as a bootcamp, but also as a hiring option. As we expand, we’ll continue to hire folks from Software Guild.
Which coding bootcamps are approved for the GI Bill, and what is the process to use it for your tuition? In this podcast we talk to Maggi Molina, who helps veterans get into tech at Operation Code; Erin Frazier, the Director of Operations at The Software Guild coding bootcamp, which was recently approved to offer VA benefits; and Eric Dowty, a Turing School of Software and Design grad, and 8-year Air Force veteran. We look at the history of the GI Bill, what it’s like transitioning from the military to a coding bootcamp, why veterans excel at bootcamp, and the future of the GI Bill. Listen to the podcast or read the transcript!Continue Reading →
A lot happened in the world of technology education in February 2018! In case you missed it, we put together a roundup of all the coding bootcamp news we found interesting at Course Report. We read about government support for bootcamps and vocational education, we heard about companies training their employees at bootcamps, we saw coverage on the debate between colleges and bootcamps, and there was an in-depth article about the pros and cons of income sharing agreements. We also enjoyed hearing about the achievement of bootcamp grads, and what sort of initiatives are helping underrepresented groups get into tech! Plus, check out our updates about new bootcamps and campuses.Continue Reading →
What will your salary be after coding bootcamp? Coding bootcamps are judged almost entirely by their ability to find students high-paying jobs as software developers. Some schools release data about alumni jobs, others offer money-back job guarantees or deferred tuition, but how much are students earning when they graduate and how does their earning potential change as they gain experience? Every year, Course Report surveys real coding bootcamp graduates to better understand who is graduating from coding bootcamps and how successful they are in the workforce. In our second post of this series, we explore the lucrative data about salaries after a coding bootcamp.Continue Reading →
Alex Nugent was already working in tech as an Applications Engineer, but when he wanted to transition into full-time programming, he knew he would need more structure to change careers. Alex soon discovered the world of online coding bootcamps, and continued working full-time, while studying part-time with The Software Guild’s online Java bootcamp. Alex tells us how gratifying it was to learn online, and how The Software Guild’s speed interviews helped him land a software engineering role at a local Minneapolis IT company!
What were you up to before Software Guild’s Online Coding Bootcamp?
I have a bachelor’s degree in physics and math from a small liberal arts college along with a master’s degree in electrical engineering. I considered changing my undergrad major from physics and math to computer science, but I stuck with the plan instead of listening to my gut. I worked for Seagate Technology as an Applications Engineer for about seven years, working with the engineering teams and customers who purchased enterprise-class Seagate products.
Six years into my career, I realized I didn't want to stay in my current position for the rest of my life and decided to figure out how I could be a programmer full-time. When I looked back at internships and previous jobs, I realized that the basic coding skills I learned in college computer science courses had helped me land those roles. I started looking online at resources to learn new programming languages; I focused on Java and Python. I also took a couple of courses on Coursera. Once I started programming regularly in my free time, I became more confident that software development would be my next career.
It sounds like you already had some experience in tech – what made you choose a coding bootcamp as a way to upskill?
I needed a structured program that was more rigorous and challenging than self-teaching. I wasn't sure what I would find when I started looking, and I seriously considered registering for computer science classes at the university. If I had done that, it would’ve been mostly theoretical learning instead of the practical skills you learn at a bootcamp.
As I continued researching and working through tutorials on Codecademy and Coursera, I came across coding bootcamps and a couple of schools that offered online programs. At bootcamps like the Software Guild, you're learning from people who’ve had many years of experience as developers and they know what skills employers are looking for. You can make an impact quickly and that kind of education model was ideal for me.
What stood out about The Software Guild’s online program?
I wasn't quite ready to quit my full-time job to do the bootcamp full time, so going to Software Guild part-time and working full-time worked out really well.
How did you pay for The Software Guild tuition?
Fortunately, since I had a couple of years of work experience under my belt, I had money saved. I paid for half the bootcamp out of pocket and financed the rest of it through Skills Fund.
Describe the application and interview process for The Software Guild.
The process went very quickly and smoothly. First, I applied through The Software Guild website. I then set up a phone interview with their Enrollment department. After that initial interview, I answered more questions and took an aptitude test online. After the aptitude test, you have to write a couple of short essays about why you want to go to a bootcamp, what got you interested in this kind of change, why you think you could be successful in the program, etc.
The application process has changed since I experienced it; The Software Guild now has a free course you can take online. At the end of the course, you go through a code review and they assess your performance. It’s more involved than before, which is good because it gives applicants a better sense of how they should approach The Software Guild coursework.
Walk us through a typical day and tell us about the teaching style for Software Guild’s part-time online bootcamp.
The Software Guild program is divided into two main sections – object-oriented programming and web-based technologies. At the beginning of each section, you get a deadline for completion. Once a section opens up, you read the material, watch the videos, and work through the assignment at your own pace. For the first three weeks of the program, we had synchronous sessions, which were live video conferences with other cohort members and instructors to get us up to speed with tools and course expectations. After that, we were on our own with no more scheduled live sessions. If you didn't finish all the coursework in time, you could drop back and repeat that section.
In addition to the online material, videos, and readings every evening, there were also mandatory weekly meetings with an assigned mentor, which was very helpful. On Slack, you could ask a question, and either an alum, current student, instructor, or your mentor would help you out. So even though I did coursework at night, I never felt like I couldn't get help if I needed it.
Did you find this online style of learning effective? Did it fit your learning style?
Absolutely. Every time we'd finish a section I would sit back and say to myself, “Just three weeks ago I had no idea what any of this stuff was and here I am building an application using new technologies." It was very gratifying. With the structure of the coursework and the content, I believe that if you make a concerted effort to learn and understand it, then you can be successful.
Tell us about the other students in your cohort.
When we started, the Java cohort had 14 or 15 students, including three women. As we went through the different sections some people had to drop back. It took some people longer than others to go through the coursework, so as time went on, I was interacting with a diverse group because different people were starting and finishing the course.
Did you have a favorite project that you built during Software Guild’s online course?
My favorite project was my final project. We designed an entire application called Superhero Sightings where we created the database design and the server database connection – everything from back-end all the way up to the front-end design. We got to play around with all the technologies that we had learned about. The app allowed users to add, view, edit and delete information about "Heroes" and associated organizations – it was a typical CRUD application. There were also two extra challenges for that one – rendering photos and receiving photos and utilizing an external Google Maps API to render location on a map. That was really fun.
How did The Software Guild help you prepare for the job search?
At every location, Software Guild has an employee network manager. Our local Minneapolis employer network manager helped me revamp my resume, made sure I incorporated all the skills from my background, highlighted things that I learned, and prepared me for what kind of salary to expect. I also did a lot of mock interviews with the instructors which really helped me prepare for technical job interviews.
Towards the end of every cohort, The Software Guild has speed interviews at each location; and I was able to participate at the Minneapolis campus. That's where I got connected to my current employer, so that whole process was incredibly valuable.
Congratulations! Tell us about your new job.
I am a software engineer at a local IT consulting company in the Minneapolis Metro. I've only been here for two weeks and so far I have done work on the front end in ReactJS and back end in Java. The Software Guild Java curriculum prepared me really well. I can look through the codebase of existing work and understand what's going on even though at first glance the content seems intimidating. React was new to me, so I'm still getting my feet wet, but thankfully there are many resources available for learning new frameworks. I started with two other bootcamp grads from different schools and it’s been great so far. I'm very happy.
How large is the software engineering team? What was the onboarding process like?
We have a manager, a senior developer, and a project manager working with us. The two other bootcamp hires and I worked on an internal project together for the first couple of weeks as our onboarding training. We have daily stand-ups, tasks for individual developers to work on, and we meet to discuss if anybody is having any issues. We're getting really good day-to-day experience on what it is like to develop actual projects.
Do you feel any of your previous background is useful in your current role as a software engineer?
Yes. At any job, there are always going to be situations where you don't understand how things are done, or you're working with tools, technologies, or equipment that you’ve never worked with before. But you ask questions, do some research on your own, and based on that, ask more intelligent questions so you can learn as you go. Leverage the resources that you have to get you over the hump. That basic approach is pretty much the same case here.
Do you think it’s important to encourage more people of color to get into tech? Have you found any networks or groups along the way?
I do. It is important for anyone, younger or older, who is thinking of pursuing a career in tech, to see that there are other people of color working in the industry, thus so can they.
What has been your biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey becoming a programmer?
One major challenge was preparing for technical interviews. It had been seven years since I had gone to a job interview, and technical interviews tend to be particularly challenging – you never know what will be thrown at you. Projects at bootcamp are mostly focused on actual applications that people use, whereas coding interviews can sometimes include random coding challenges that may not require the same thought process as a real-world application. You just have to practice and be prepared for curve balls. Utilizing resources like Codewars or HackerRank definitely helped.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking about making a career change by attending a coding bootcamp? Any words of wisdom?
If you're thinking about going to a bootcamp and don't have a technical background, computer science experience, or experience in programming, then take some time to get your feet wet. Don't jump right in right away. Learn some things on your own, take a couple Codecademy or Coursera courses, and talk to some friends who work as developers about their journey. It's not going to be easy. It's going to take a lot of time and a lot of effort.
I knew what I was getting myself into, but other applicants should think through why you want to make this career change. With my technical background and from computer science courses in college, I knew that programming wasn’t easy. If you don’t have that background, make sure you are self-motivated, and realize that you are not going to know everything and won’t be able to figure out everything on your own. You'll have to utilize resources at your disposal to get help and work through roadblocks.
Read more The Software Guild reviews on Course Report. Check out The Software Guild website!
Is learning to code on your 2018 New Year’s Resolutions List? It should be! There will be 1 million more computing jobs than applicants who can fill them by 2020. And a coding bootcamp could be just what you need to make a fresh start in 2018 as a developer. We’ve compiled a list of 16 full-time, part-time, in-person and online coding bootcamps which have upcoming cohorts starting in January and February 2018. Most of these have approaching application deadlines, so submit yours quickly if you want to get a head start in 2018!Continue Reading →
Greg Demaline was no stranger to IT – he spent 17 years programming ice carving machines. But when he decided to transition into web development, he found employers were looking for more experience than he could get from self-teaching. So Greg enrolled in The Software Guild’s online bootcamp and kept working full time while studying. Greg tells us how helpful it was to chat regularly with other Software Guild students, and how he landed a job as a QA Developer at Key Bank, working alongside other coding bootcamp grads!
What is your pre-bootcamp story? Your educational background? Your last career path?
I have two associate degrees in Information Technology. For 17 years, I programmed and ran a CNC machine for an icehouse (basically a programmable machine that can carve ice sculptures). I took care of the website, the servers, and all the technical work.
About four years ago I decided I wanted to get into web development. So I started going to meetups and networking. I took some Coursera classes, did a few projects on my own, and then I went out and started interviewing, but I didn’t have much luck. The companies I interviewed with all said, “What you’re doing is great, but we would like to see more experience.”
Why was a bootcamp your next step rather than continuing to study on your own?
I think I could have eventually gotten a job in coding on my own, but it would have taken a lot longer. The Software Guild provided an organized way to get experience in many aspects of development, which I may not have gotten otherwise.
I first heard about The Software Guild on Facebook from a friend who works there, Sarah Dutkiewicz. So I checked it out, took the aptitude test, and talked to their team about the online program. I couldn’t quit my job to take the in-person, full-time bootcamp, so the online option allowed me to keep my job while studying, which helped out a lot.
Did you research any other coding bootcamp options?
I heard about another coding bootcamp on NPR, which would have been convenient if I’d decided to go to an in-person bootcamp, but it didn’t offer remote classes. The Software Guild had the Online option, which was my main reason for going there.
It’s also nice to be in a locally-based program. I had friends who went to The Software Guild, I knew Sarah who worked there, and it was close enough for me to stop by the classroom. They host a bunch of meetups and job fairs, so I was able to go to the classroom and meet people. I also met with my mentor a few times in person, which was nice.
How did you pay for the tuition? Did you use a financing partner?
I was lucky in that I was in the first online bootcamp so it was discounted by 50%, and then my parents offered to pay for it. But I did have a backup plan to take out a student loan. I’ve talked to people I work with about why they wanted to do a bootcamp rather than a college education, and money is always a big factor. I even thought about going back to get a CS degree, but the cost had more than doubled since I went to college. A lot of my friends took out loans, even to do a bootcamp.
What was The Software Guild application and interview process like for you?
It’s changed since I’ve done it. I filled out the application online, then I completed an aptitude test. After I took the test, I had to write an essay, then did an interview with The Software Guild admissions team, and they helped guide me to figure out which program to choose.
After I was admitted, we did a month of online prework before the cohort started. We did the prework together as a cohort when I took the class. But now you have to do a free Intro to Web Development prework before you get accepted, which is another determining factor for admission.
As an online student, how did you stay focused and motivated?
I did most of my coursework from home, usually after I got my daughter to bed. I would work two to three hours every night, so that I didn’t have a big mess of work to do at the end of the week or on the weekends. I think it’s better to learn something every day and have the material fresh in your mind.
In the winter time my job at the ice business got pretty busy with winter festivals, but I was able to bring my laptop with me and work on The Software Guild at night. One time, we were doing a job in Michigan, and we worked from 5am to 10pm, then I still worked until 1am on a Software Guild project.
What was the online learning experience like at The Software Guild? How were the days structured?
The cohort was divided into two halves, OOP (object-oriented programming) and Web Development. Each half was divided into sections and ended with a final project. At the end of each section was an assignment that had to be completed within a set deadline. You could not move onto the next section without fulfilling the previous section requirements. If you did not complete the assignment, or what you turned in was not satisfactory, you would get held back to repeat that section. You could be dropped from the cohort if you were held back more than three times. Luckily I always had the assignments down within the deadline.
How did you learn at The Software Guild Online? Did they guide you through the curriculum?
The Software Guild has a web interface to interact with where you work through the curriculum section-by-section. Once you’ve mastered a section, the next one is unlocked. You can’t move on at your own pace if you finish early. But you can ask for additional work, which was an opportunity to learn more about that sections topic.
The class material was presented through web portals like Moodle and Acatar. We used GIT for version control, Slack for communicating with instructors, mentors and other guild alumni/students, GoToMeeting for class lectures and to meet with mentors/instructors. We were the first cohort, so they were trying out different things on us. That actually helped prepare me for my job because that’s how it is at my job now – the tech is always changing.
How often did you communicate with other students? Did you collaborate on projects?
We messaged each other pretty much every day. A group of us used Google meetups, and we messaged on that, and then we also messaged each other using The Software Guild’s Slack channel. There were six of us who kept in good contact with each other, and if we had a problem we’d send a message and one of us would respond. We tried to replicate the in-person experience for each other. We were able to see how other classmates were progressing and help each other solve problems.
We didn’t work on projects together; we had our own projects that we had to work on. There’s a point at which you’re helping a person too much if you say “here’s how I did it.” So we would work problems out together without giving the answers away. My favorite project was building Battleship. It was a console app built in C# and Visual Studios.
How often did you interact with instructors or mentors?
We had meetings once a week with our mentors to go over what we worked on for the week (code reviews), give a quick progress report, and ask any questions. For the first half of the course we had lectures once a week. In the second half of the course we didn’t have any lectures, but we still met with our mentors once a week. If we had any questions in between those meetings, we could use a Slack channel, and I would usually get responses right away. I sometimes sent questions through at 1am and got a response from Eric Wise, the Chief Academic Officer.
How did The Software Guild prepare you for job hunting?
They did prepare us for interviews by doing mock interviews and study cram sessions on interview questions. They gave me a spreadsheet where I could keep track of which jobs I’d applied for.
If we wanted to be successful in finding a job, The Software Guild said we needed to apply for at least 40 jobs a month. I did that and I got 6 interviews. I actually got two job offers within a week of each other! I think as long as you go out and make your contacts and follow The Software Guild’s advice, you’re likely to get a job.
Tell us about your new job at Key Bank!
I graduated at the beginning of April, and I got hired on June 26th. I work for Key Bank in the Quality Assurance department as a Software Developer Engineer Tester (SDET). My department at Key Bank is made up mostly of other coding bootcamp graduates who have Java backgrounds, including one other Software Guild grad who finished in April.
I write scripts that test the functionality of applications at Key Bank, which is behavioral driven test development. We use Node as our main programming language, along with Selenium and Webdriver. We write tests in a language called Gherkin, in a framework called Cucumber. For example, to test the bank deposit system, Webdriver will log on as a person, make a deposit, then make sure the balance changed in the system.
Did you learn those programming languages at The Software Guild, or have you learned those on the job?
Key Bank gave us eight weeks of training assignments. I also spent the first week reading documentation and doing my own research online.
Do you think your previous background in IT has been useful in your new job?
Knowing how to set up servers and having a general IT background has been a big advantage, because I can understand Key Bank’s infrastructure. A lot of coders starting out aren't familiar with that type of work. My previous Cisco training, and Windows Server Administrator training comes in handy when working with Jenkins, the framework that runs our tests. We build the tests during the day, run the tests at night, get results the next day, then build more tests based on that.
How do you stay involved with The Software Guild? Have you kept in touch with other alumni?
Yes. A lot of people still message on Google hangouts or on The Software Guild’s Slack channels. I know one of the other alumni already had two different jobs, and a woman in our cohort got a job right away with the company she already worked with – she was able to switch positions.
What advice do you have for people thinking about going through an online coding bootcamp?
You can learn as much as you want to learn. The resources are out there, it all depends on the time available and your willingness to do it. If you want to get into coding, then that’s what you should do. But before you start you should at least have an interest in it. You definitely have to have the ambition to do it, otherwise you won’t be able to finish a bootcamp like The Software Guild.
Need a rundown of everything that happened in the coding bootcamp industry this September? You’re in luck! We’ve collected all the most important news in this blog post and podcast. This month, we kept up with the status of the bootcamp industry, learned about how bootcamps are thriving in smaller markets, and explored different ways to pay for bootcamp. Plus, we added 7 new schools from around the world to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
Wondering how to get accepted to The Software Guild? Their team just launched a new, free Introduction to Web Development MOOC, and it’s the perfect prep course to prepare you for day 1 of coding bootcamp. We sat down with The Software Guild Founder and Chief Academic Officer Eric Wise to find out what students will learn in the MOOC and how this change affects the admissions process. Plus, we get the scoop on what exactly goes into an Admissions Interview at The Software Guild.
- The admissions process includes an application, an interview, an aptitude test, followed by the MOOC.
- The Software Guild currently has an acceptance rate of <50%, but hopes that the MOOC will widen their application pool. Apply today!
First, tell us about the new admissions process at The Software Guild!
In our previous admissions process, everybody who enrolled in the 12-week full-time or 10-14 month part-time apprenticeship program had to pass an intro course. There were a lot of hoops to jump through before they got to try out any code at Software Guild, so we’re moving the intro course into a free MOOC to give any person, whether they have applied or not, the chance to experience The Software Guild before they enroll.
To be accepted to The Software Guild’s apprenticeship program, everyone must complete The Software Guild’s admissions process. Due to high demand, we recommend you complete your admissions process at least five weeks prior to your preferred cohort start date. The admissions process for the Java and .NET/C# tracks consists of the following steps:
- Fill out an application
- Complete Admissions Interview
- Take the Aptitude Assessment
- Complete the Introduction to Web Development MOOC
The aptitude test is the key decision point. If applicants don't score high enough on the aptitude test then they are required to pass an audition, but if they do score well they are automatically admitted into the program.
What does the application, admissions interview, and aptitude assessment cover?
Our admissions process is intended to help us gauge if students have high enough aptitude, drive and preparedness to succeed. When applicants enroll, we want to be confident that with proper effort and dedication to our program, they can meet expectations and standards of tech jobs.
The application involves a written essay, to demonstrate basic communication skills. The admissions interview is with one of our enrollment counselors and is the first real impression we have of you as an applicant. We are looking for applicants who show an interest and commitment to learning to code via timely responses to scheduling, and approaching the process with enthusiasm. The interview will cover any questions you might have about the program we will ask some of our own to ensure that you as an applicant understand what you are getting yourself into.
The aptitude test is a mix of SAT math and IQ questions to test your logic and reasoning. We don’t accept or deny students based on the aptitude test, but we use those scores to help the student understand how it correlates to a general ability to learn to code quickly.
Why is The Software Guild launching the Introduction to Web Development MOOC (massive online open course) and how does that fit with the admissions process?
The biggest question we get from incoming students is, “What is it like to go through a bootcamp,” and this free Introduction to Web Development gives them a feel for what the Software Guild curriculum is like. We hear from a lot of students who say other online tutorials are too easy – if you get something wrong, it immediately gives you the answer. In the real world, when you don’t know an answer, you’re stuck with your code until you figure it out.
So we deliberately created a curriculum and structure that challenges students to do projects, exercises, research, and explore the process of learning to code. The students that do well in this learning format will do well in the course. Conversely, the students who find it too frustrating or too difficult can filter themselves out of the process – and avoid wasting their time. As a member of CIRR, one of the metrics we track very closely is our Graduation Rate. We really don’t want to take money from people who aren’t suited to the program, and it’s not for everybody.
What technical concepts does the MOOC cover? How far will it get students in their coding journey?
How long does the MOOC take to complete?
How are you teaching the MOOC? Do students interact with instructors and other students?
The MOOC consists of written materials, videos of our instructors writing code, interactive practice exercises similar to Codecademy, and some project work.
We’re also setting up a Slack community that people can log into for help from alumni, staff members, and other students. Software Guild alumni and instructors will moderate the channel, but you’ll mostly interact with other students going through the MOOC.
Is the MOOC suitable for a complete beginner? Could they use it as their first experience learning to code?
Absolutely. Keep in mind that the MOOC does require you to go do some external research. It will teach you how to learn, and how to teach yourself. A big difference between this MOOC and some of the other online tutorials, is that we require students to go out and do developer things like research and learn on their own.
If a student doesn’t score high enough in the aptitude test, there is an Audition – what can applicants expect for that?
The Audition is done over video call. You’ll share your screen in a session with an instructor, usually over GoToMeeting. They’ll give you the audition problem, then give you 5 or 10 minutes to think about it, and plan out your solution. Once you start actually working on the problem, you’ll pair program with the instructor, who is talking to you, asking you questions, and giving you hints if you get stuck.
Some people think they need to ace the Audition, but that’s not the case. We’re looking for your understanding of basic concepts. If you forget a semicolon at the end of the statement, the interviewer will prompt you. You’ll pass the audition if you can do that with a little bit of prompting. We want students who are “wheels,” which means that when you give them a nudge, the wheels roll. You might need to course correct a little, but that wheel will make forward progress. When a student or applicant is a box, that means the instructor is telling them what to do and they are pushing the student along, but as soon as we stop pushing, the progress stops. If you’re currently at the box stage, you’re not ready.
How will you test students to make sure they have understood the concepts they learned in the MOOC?
During the first week of class, students will be asked to review a project from the MOOC as part of a code review.
Can people do the MOOC even if they aren’t planning to enroll at The Software Guild?
The MOOC is open to everybody. All you need is a GitHub account (which is free). That’s one of the major changes from our old admissions process, which was preventing people from giving coding a shot before they applied; now we’re removing that barrier.
If someone has successfully completed the MOOC, why do they still need to do an admissions interview? What qualities are you looking for in addition to technical skills?
On top of your success in the MOOC, we are also looking for people who are good to work with. It’s a little bit of a job interview, because if you come into the admissions interview and you’re mean, short tempered, or don’t take feedback well, we may not accept your application. We’re looking for coachability.
What types of backgrounds have successful students at The Software Guild had? Does everyone come from a technical background?
All sorts. Success doesn’t require a specific background; it’s about a temperament. People who are lifelong learners, who enjoy problem-solving, have patience, and have programmer meta-skills do really well. In our recent CIRR report, 0% of our students had Computer Science degrees. One of my top students from the last cohort was delivering pizzas before Software Guild. It really doesn’t matter where you came from, it’s just where you want to go and what you’re willing to do to get there.
Will the open access to the Introduction to Web Development MOOC widen your application pool?
Our hope is to make test driving coding more accessible. I hope to see conversations with students who are thinking about learning to code, but they are not really sure what it’s like, and they take this free MOOC at the Software Guild to figure out if it’s the right direction to take.
What is your advice to someone thinking of applying for The Software Guild?
Bring the enthusiasm. We tell applicants that this program is really rewarding, but it’s really hard, we expect a lot out of you, and it’s going to be a lot of effort. The people who embrace that challenge are the people we want at The Software Guild.
Haven’t had time to keep up with all the coding bootcamp news this March? Not to worry– we’ve compiled it for you in a handy blog post and podcast. This month, we read a lot about CIRR and student outcomes reporting, we heard from reporters and coding bootcamp students about getting hired after coding bootcamp, a number of schools announced exciting diversity initiatives, and we added a handful of new schools to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
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.
You’re probably familiar with the term “hacking,” but do you really understand the importance of cyber security? Did you know that by 2019, it’s projected that globally we’ll need 6 million security professionals, but we’ll be short by 1.5 million? Cyber security is comprised of technologies and practices to protect networks, computers, software programs, and data from attack, damage, or unauthorized access. The need for technical security talent is increasing and Security Bootcamps are launching to fill this void. If you’re deciding on which coding bootcamp route to take, and you’re interested in learning cyber security, there are a few things to consider (and we’ve listed where you can learn these skills!) Check out our Ultimate Guide to Cyber Security Bootcamps.Continue Reading →
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 Development 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 coding bootcamps get acquired by a range of companies from for-profit education companies (Capella Education), to co-working companies (WeWork), and other coding bootcamps (Thinkful + Bloc)! With rapid market growth in the bootcamp industry, for-profit education companies are taking note. These acquisitions and consolidations should come as no surprise, and some have been very successful, with schools going on to increase their number of campuses and course offerings. As coding bootcamps become more mature, we are seeing them get snapped up by more well-known companies, for increasingly large sums (e.g. General Assembly for $413 million!) We’ll keep this chronologically-ordered list updated as bootcamps announce future acquisitions.
Continue Reading →
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 →
How much do coding bootcamps cost? From students looking for free coding bootcamps to those wondering if an $18,000 bootcamp is worth it, we understand that cost is important to future bootcampers! While the average full-time programming bootcamp in the US costs $11,906, bootcamp tuition can range from $9,000 to $21,000, and some coding bootcamps have deferred tuition. So how do you decide what to budget for? Here, we break down the costs of coding bootcamps from around the USA.
When coding bootcamps started gaining popularity, we wondered if tension would arise between traditional universities and these alternative education providers. On the contrary, a trend arose and universities have now been partnering with coding bootcamps for a few years now. When the Department of Education announced the EQUIP Initiative in October 2015, these collaborations were formalized by the US government; but EQUIP is just one example amongst the myriad of strategic and independent partnerships between universities and coding bootcamps.
Curious about EQUIP? In essence, a university partnered with a coding bootcamp and a quality assurance entity (QAE), and as a result, students could effectively get financial aid and/or college credit for completing a coding bootcamp. The DOE called these partnerships “test sites” and announced awarded $17M in grants in August 2016 (see Trend #4 for more information). We haven’t heard an update on EQUIP since August 2016, but we’ll update this article if that changes. Some say that financial aid is a great idea for coding bootcamps. Others, like Jordan Weissmann at Slate, say that expanding the financial aid system will “ruin coding bootcamps.”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 →
Let’s face it, coding isn’t for everyone. There is a certain breed that thrives from the challenges associated with programming and web development. Before you initiate the hunt for the perfect daycare find the time to take an online course or experiment with online tutorials and different software. Prepare yourself for the experience. Research front end development, web design and full-stack development. Test the waters and see if any of these spark a passion within.Continue Reading →
Welcome to the April 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 →
Google’s Android OS is the most used mobile operating system in the world, and the little green robot has been winning hearts and minds for years now thanks to its high customizability and flexible open source developing options. Android programmers work in the Android Studio and develop Android apps using SDK manager, earing up to $155,000 per year. It’s no surprise that you would want to learn how to develop for Android – do your research with Course Report’s list of top Android bootcamp and developer classes.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!