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SPICED Academy

Berlin

SPICED Academy

Avg Rating:4.68 ( 41 reviews )

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  • Data Science

    Apply
    MySQL, Data Science, MongoDB, Git, Python, SQL, Machine Learning, Data Structures, Algorithms
    In PersonFull Time40 Hours/week11 Weeks
    Start Date
    None scheduled
    Cost
    $9,800
    Class size
    10
    Location
    Berlin
    Financing
    Deposit
    N/A
    Financing
    Payment plans available
    Getting in
    Minimum Skill Level
    Basic Python, College-Level Maths
    Prep Work
    40 - 60 hours
    Placement Test
    Yes
    Interview
    Yes
  • Full Stack Web Development

    Apply
    HTML, JavaScript, SQL, jQuery, CSS, Node.js
    In PersonFull Time40 Hours/week7 Weeks
    Start Date
    None scheduled
    Cost
    $7,800
    Class size
    15
    Location
    Berlin
    Financing
    Deposit
    N/A
    Financing
    Options available
    Getting in
    Minimum Skill Level
    Beginner
    Prep Work
    40 - 80 Hour preparation course material is provided.
    Placement Test
    No
    Interview
    Yes

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Our latest on SPICED Academy

  • Instructor Spotlight: David Friedman of SPICED Academy

    Imogen Crispe3/5/2018

    spiced-academy-instructor-spotlight-david-friedman

    With 19 years of experience working in startups in San Francisco and New York, David Friedman moved to Berlin, Germany two years ago to be the first instructor at SPICED Academy. David built out their JavaScript bootcamp curriculum from scratch and now leads the teaching team. As a self-taught developer, David believes that anyone should be able to switch careers, and immersive programs are the best way to learn. David tells us about the demand for JavaScript skills in the Berlin tech scene and how SPICED Academy supports students in the job search.

    Q&A

    What brought you to SPICED Academy?

    I joined SPICED Academy in May 2016; before I moved to Berlin, I worked in San Francisco for about nine years at various startups. I spent three and a half years as a developer at Klout, almost a year at Digg, and I spent six months at Yelp. Most recently I worked for a health and wellness startup called Whil. Prior to all these jobs in the Bay Area, I worked at Razorfish for 10 years, primarily in their New York office. I started in web development back in 1997.

    I came across SPICED when I was taking a German class in San Francisco. My classmate was a technical recruiter in Berlin and she put me in touch with the CEO of SPICED, Frederik Aldag. I was between jobs and looking to do something different, but still related to my experience in web development. Since SPICED was brand new at that time, the idea of starting a school from scratch was a big draw for me. I was more attracted to being the first faculty member at SPICED than joining a preexisting startup or bootcamp that already had a curriculum.

    How did you become a web developer? Did you get a computer science degree?

    No. When I was about 10 years old I would mess around with my home computer and program in Basic for fun. In college and graduate school, I studied the classics. I was going down that road until 1996, when I bought a computer – the web was just starting and it blew my mind. I decided to drop out of grad school and become a professional web developer.

    One advantage I had was that web development was new at the time, and so there was much less to learn. After about a year of teaching myself, I learned HTML and some JavaScript. I knew enough to get a job, start working, and be surrounded by people who knew more than I did. Once I was in a professional environment, the learning took care of itself. I think most long-time developers have learned most of their skills on the job.

    After teaching yourself to code and learning on the job for 18 years, what did you think of the coding bootcamp model?

    I came across the bootcamp model when I was interviewing candidates for web development positions. My initial reaction was very positive. As someone who made a career change myself, I believe that the decisions you make early in life shouldn't always be lifelong decisions. I'm very supportive of resources which allow people to make a career change.

    When I was studying classics, I joined a summer Greek language immersion class where you cram a couple of years of material into an 11-week class. I came away from that experience feeling that immersion – eating, drinking, and sleeping something for a few months – is the best way to learn something new.

    Did you have any other teaching or mentoring experience that you bring to SPICED Academy?

    I ended up teaching that Greek language immersion program, so I had experience being both a student and a teacher in an immersive program. The idea of teaching programming immersively was very attractive to me. I believed it would be a great way to learn what you need to be a professional web developer.

    When I was in graduate school at the City University of New York, I also taught classical literature and translation, and a course on Greek and Latin roots in the English language.

    How did you design the SPICED Academy bootcamp curriculum from scratch?

    I started with the skills I needed to do in my previous jobs; the things I knew employers would want new hires to know.  Then I deconstructed those skills into smaller tasks that we could teach to beginners. I was also inspired by ideas from other bootcamps. I did a competitive audit and looked at other bootcamp curricula available online.

    Of course, no plan survives first contact with the enemy! As soon as we started running the program, I found that I was doing too much of one topic and too little of another, and had to adjust the curriculum. So the curriculum we use today comes out of this evolutionary process over the last year and a half. What we taught on Day One bears little resemblance to what we teach now. At SPICED Academy we cover full stack JavaScript, HTML, CSS, JQuery, MVC Frameworks, NodeJS, databases, and more.

    How do you and the other SPICED instructors iterate on and make sure that the curriculum is always up to date?

    Overall, the latest trends guide us. We have to make sure that we are teaching the technologies that employers are looking for now. There are a couple technologies that are a little passé these days, but that we still teach because we think they're important. For example, I've always been a big believer in Backbone, which is now kind of passé, but it teaches some good lessons. When SPICED Academy launched, the Berlin market was particularly interested in Angular, so our team spent some time going back and forth between Backbone and Angular, and now both seem to have become outdated.

    It's a balancing act as new technologies become hotter and bigger. As more job listings say you need a particular concept, it becomes more important that we teach them. The most recent change we've made to the curriculum was to use VueJS instead of Backbone and Angular in a project. I really liked how it went and I think we’ll teach VueJS for the foreseeable future.

    A few technologies have come and gone, but right now I'd say we teach very hip things in our curriculum!

    Do employers in Berlin look for the same skills/technologies that American employers look for?

    I've never looked for a job in Berlin (except for this one), so my orientation is towards the United States. Most of what I know about the Berlin job market is from my graduates who report back to me about their job search. My overall sense is that Berlin is similar to what I know is going on in the United States. For example, when I first got here, React was not as big as it was in the United States, and Angular was bigger here in Berlin too. But now that doesn't seem to be true anymore, so I think the two markets are basically in sync and following the same trends.

    Does SPICED have any plans to expand beyond web development?

    Yes. We have new faculty members joining us to put together a data science bootcamp.

    What can future bootcampers expect from your personal teaching style in the classroom?

    My personal belief is that I should spend as little time lecturing as possible. We have discussions everyday, where I or the other teachers present new material and a new project to work on. The way you really learn these coding concepts is through doing. Once you're working on a project, you can come to me or other teachers with questions, so you can move forward. I think that's the best way to learn.

    Since you’re teaching in a German-speaking country, do you ever have to deal with translation issues or anything like that in class?

    Occasionally. We're an English speaking faculty, we conduct business in English, and we don’t admit students who can’t conduct business in English. But we do have many students for whom English is not their first language. The technical subject matter is difficult to put into words and to discuss, even for English natives, so I think when two parties do not speak the same first language it just gets more challenging. So far we've never had a case where it was insurmountable. Sometimes I’m told to slow down or to repeat myself which I'm always happy to do, but it's never been a major blocker.

    In Berlin, most locals speak English. Whenever I attempt to speak German, people can detect it, and switch to English right away, so I never get real practice speaking it!

    How many teachers and instructors do you have at SPICED Academy and what kind of student-teacher ratio do you aim for?

    We have two other faculty members who teach the course. I recruited one American instructor who is a graduate of an American bootcamp. There weren't many bootcamps in Berlin, and I wanted to have someone with that perspective. We just hired a new teacher who is a graduate of the SPICED Academy program in 2017. She is teaching her first cohort and it's going well.

    We aim for a ratio of around eight to 10 students for one instructor – that’s optimal. It varies depending on our cohort size.

    What makes the ideal student for SPICED Academy? Is there a certain type of student who does well in this class?

    I’ve noticed a couple predictors of success. Generally, people who ask a lot of questions do very well. When a student gets stuck on a project, they can ask for help. If you're not willing to ask for help, you'll stay stuck. So curiosity is good, but the willingness to ask a question is critical.

    The other core predictor is the desire to code night and day. If you don't get a little enjoyment out of it, there's not enough reward in this career. If it doesn't thrill you to make something appear on the screen – it's going to be tough like climbing a mountain when you hit a roadblock. Overall, if you're interested in coding, be prepared to show up to class, and do what it takes to get the answers you need. That's how you succeed.

    How many hours a week do you expect the students to commit to the bootcamp?

    My expectation is that students will be physically working in the classroom during normal business hours. I assume there will also be work to do when they go home at night, so I try to make myself available as much as possible after-hours and on weekends. The time commitment will vary from person to person. It's not like I want everyone to work 60 hours a week; my expectation is for students to be able to get these projects done.

    Throughout the bootcamp, how do you assess student progress? Do you give assessments or test students to make sure they're keeping up?

    We don't have quizzes or tests – there are no grades. The criterion for success is that you can complete the current task. If you're able to complete the actual project that we're working on, everything is fine. When a student can't perform or do what we're currently doing, that's a problem.

    This actually causes some consternation with students because it’s tough to know that you understand a concept. As far as I'm concerned, if you did the project, you know the material. Even if you feel like you didn't understand it, it sinks into your mind through an unconscious process. Things that you found difficult the first time – the third time you do it, it just snaps into place.

    What do you do if a student is falling behind and is unable to complete a project?

    It's a very tough situation. We try to identify those situations as early as possible so that we have more flexibility to fix them. My first instinct will always be to help a student catch up. I have to really believe that catching up is impossible before I recommend any other solution.

    If we feel a student has fallen too far behind, but it’s early on in the course, then it's viable for the student to restart the course in another cohort.

    Overall, what's the goal for a student that graduates from SPICED Academy? Which jobs are they prepared for?

    My belief is that someone who is able to complete the projects that we do here could add real value to companies as a junior, entry-level developer. Most startup companies I worked for hired developers with an understanding that they’re new to the industry. I think SPICED graduates would be a perfect fit because they have what I looked for when I was interviewing developers for technical positions.

    What jobs are you seeing your students get?

    I can say with great confidence that there is a very large demand for JavaScript-focused developers in Berlin who can work in the Node environment and in React. That seems to be what employers are looking for. Most graduates seem to go to startups, and we've certainly had a few that got into very well established older companies such as Babbel, Soundcloud, and Geeny.

    Do most students stay in Berlin to work as developers or do they move to other cities?

    It feels to me like the majority of students stay in Berlin, but we do have a large number of students that are not from Berlin. We've certainly had no shortage of students who are coming from America and only have the 12-week or the 90-day visa which fits in nicely with our 12-week program.

    What sort of support do you provide to students during the job search?

    During the course we run a career development program, which aims to help students develop their online profile, their CV, their interview techniques and more. After the 12 weeks are over, students are invited to conduct their job search from our offices, and it’s a great pleasure to have them here during that period. It's rather informal but we're available to answer any questions, and help with resume polishing. The most frequent questions I get asked are about projects students worked on which they want to troubleshoot and deploy, and how to do salary negotiations. Everyone on our staff can help out where needed.

    For our readers who are beginners, are there resources or meetups that you recommend in Berlin?

    Choose something you want to build and then work backwards to create it. SPICED Academy is certainly a course for beginners and we welcome people who are learning everything for the first time, but having some familiarity with the subject matter is an advantage. If you're interested in becoming a programmer, then start programming!

    Before the course begins, we require students to complete exercises on Codecademy and Free Code Camp. We also give them a little assessment, which consists of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript exercises to complete at least one week before the course begins.

    If you're interested in a bootcamp, I am personally very excited about what's happening at SPICED Academy!

    Find out more and read SPICED Academy reviews on Course Report. Check out the SPICED Academy website.

    About The Author

    https://course_report_production.s3.amazonaws.com/rich/rich_files/rich_files/1586/s300/imogen-crispe-headshot.jpg-logo

    Imogen is a writer and content producer who loves writing about technology and education. Her background is in journalism, writing for newspapers and news websites. She grew up in England, Dubai and New Zealand, and now lives in Brooklyn, NY.

  • Alumni Spotlight: Mike Smith of SPICED Academy

    Imogen Crispe12/7/2017

    spiced-academy-alumni-spotlight-mike-smith

    Most coding bootcamp graduates boast new salaries that blow their past careers out of the water. But for some, it’s less about money and more about quality of life. For Mike Smith, who spent years unfulfilled as a London banker, a career change meant finding a job he wanted to spend his time doing, and programming was the answer. He moved to Berlin for its lifestyle, learned to code at SPICED Academy, and now works on a 120-person engineering team at SoundCloud! Find out what projects Mike is working on at SoundCloud, and how he’s grown as a developer since graduating from SPICED Academy.

    Q&A

    How did your path lead you to SPICED Academy?

    I graduated from university with a degree in philosophy, which means I didn’t study mathematics or computer science at all. After university, I worked in banking for many years in London in a well-paying job. In fact, I earned twice my current salary (although in London, that meant that I broke even each month).

    I always enjoyed the analytical and technical side of my education and my career. Even when I studied philosophy, I was strongest in logic. I asked myself, “Do I really want to spend the next 40 years of my life working in banking?” – the answer was no. I looked into new careers that I would be successful in and that I would actually want to spend the next 30 years doing. Programming was definitely the answer.

    A lot of bootcampers go into coding to double or triple their salaries, but you mentioned that you actually took a pay cut from banking. Why?

    You’ve got to love what you do. If I step back and think about what I did day-to-day in banking, it was so boring. I didn't get into coding for the money. I got into it to have a job that I enjoyed. That was far more important to me. Plus, Berlin is so easy to live in; my quality of life is so much better.

    How did you choose SPICED Academy?

    First, cost was a big factor. I looked at bootcamps in London, but because of the expensive cost of living, studying in London for a few months would have absolutely destroyed me. Whereas, a few months at SPICED was something that I could pretty much afford.

    At the time, SPICED was a bit of a risk because it was new, so there were no online reviews to read. I had to do my research and talk to people at the school. I spoke to Shilpa Rodriguez, the Director of Programs and Community, quite early on and she was great and made me feel really comfortable with the idea.

    I'd been to Berlin a few times in the past and loved the idea of moving here. So I quit my job, packed my bags, and arrived here. This may have all been a bit risky; I wasn’t making any assumptions about the bootcamp, but I did tell myself that I needed to put everything I had into it. Thinking that way really paid off.

    You mentioned cost was a factor. Was SPICED Academy in Berlin considerably cheaper than bootcamps in London?

    Yeah. Because SPICED Academy was so new, the tuition was at a reduced rate to offset the fact that the course was not quite proven yet. And the Berlin living costs were cheaper. Studying at a London bootcamp for a few months with no salary was not feasible. Whereas a few months in Berlin, which has much cheaper living costs than London, was something that I could pretty much afford.

    Isn’t college in Germany free? Did you think about getting a Master’s Degree in Computer Science?

    I did look into it, but the consensus was that it would still take several years and I would learn a lot of redundant information. Programming is a skill that you learn more practically than academically. I’ve never really want to be an academic; I wanted to build something and have the ability to code. Going back to school just seemed like a huge waste of time. A coding bootcamp appealed to me because I could condense that learning as much as possible and expand my professional role. I didn't want to wait for another few years before actually getting into the workforce.

    As well as your chat with Shilpa, what else was involved in the application process for getting into SPICED?

    First, there was an interview with Shilpa with a coding challenge. I took a couple of months off right after I left my job and spent some time in Budapest teaching myself to code using online resources and getting the absolute basics down. So the actual coding challenge wasn't too difficult.

    I definitely had a head start for the first couple of weeks when I got to SPICED. Preparing beforehand put my nerves at ease and made me feel a lot more comfortable with the whole idea. I recommend that anybody who wants to take the course spends some time learning all of the basics and figuring out if you're going to like programming or not. Coding means spending many hours each day staring at a screen with your headphones on. It's not for everybody.

    What were your classmates like?

    We came from all walks of life: Spaniards, Americans, Germans, Norwegians. Not only were we from all across the world, but we were all coming together for different reasons and from different backgrounds and ages. Some had artistic backgrounds, others previously had a tech background. It was really interesting to meet everyone and see their take on life. But everyone had the same commitment to learning. It was a great experience.

    What was a typical day like?

    We would come in around 9:30am each morning, climb five flights of stairs, grab a coffee, and have a morning lecture covering the topics of the day. Then we’d break up and do a challenge or project about what we’d learned in the lecture that morning. Everything built on the previous lessons and built more momentum.

    We would work on the problems together. Basically, I just used to stay there until the end of the day until it was done.

    Who were your instructors?

    Our instructors were a good mix of people with different backgrounds. David, our tutor, was brilliant and answered our questions immediately. He used to work in Silicon Valley and he had 20 years of past web development experience.

    We also had a couple of experienced teaching assistants who were always around, willing to help if you hit a problem, and really relatable. Matt graduated from an American-based bootcamp and had worked for a couple of years in a junior developer position. Julia was German and only learned to code a few years ago.

    Can you give me an example of a project that you worked on that you really liked?

    One project I liked was building a hangman game using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. That project introduced so many things about updating a page. We were given a very strict framework about how the game should act, but the way it looks was completely up to us. I had quite a lot of fun and enjoyed the freedom of making this game look the way I wanted.

    We had just spent the previous two days making an image carousel of cats. I had been staring at these pictures of cats for about two days, so I made the hangman hang a cat because I was so sick of seeing cats.

    How did SPICED Academy prepare you for the job hunt?

    We had workshops to develop our LinkedIn profiles. As SPICED has grown, they’ve probably got a better realization and structure for job preparation. I found my job via a job posting that Shilpa saw on a Slack channel. I probably would never have found that job if she hadn’t passed it along.

    Oh, wow you got the job before you graduated?

    Yeah, which was an incredible weight off my mind. I basically got the first job that I applied for!

    What was it like trying to get a job in Germany without speaking German?

    SoundCloud is a Berlin-founded company but everyone uses English and most of my teammates actually don't speak any German. That makes life pretty easy. I don't really need to speak it.

    Companies like SoundCloud offer German lessons and we have set hours when we can bring in documents to get translated. So in my actual day-to-day life I don't really require much German, to be honest.

    What was it like applying for the job at SoundCloud?

    About 30 people went to the interview day at SoundCloud. Job experience wasn't as important as showing that we had motivation and had tried to learn independently. I think that was probably what got me the job; they could see that I was committed and that I really wanted it. A lot of companies in Berlin are quite happy to train people as long as they show the aptitude and ability to pick up the technology.

    Why are Berlin companies investing in training? Is there a shortage of coders in Berlin right now?

    Yeah, definitely. SoundCloud is always asking employees for referrals. It's incredibly hard to find good coders. I think a lot of German companies are quite happy to train developers as an organization, so they’re looking for the aptitude and the ability to pick up new languages.

    What types of developers are you working with at SoundCloud?

    We have about 120 engineers at SoundCloud, and our teams are centered around clusters of seven to 10 people. For example, we have one team that’s focused on Listening and another team that focuses on Creator Tools and another that focuses on Playback.

    Because we work in clusters, there's always somebody there to help you. Someone always has the capacity to help when you hit a wall. SoundCloud was open to the idea of hiring a coding bootcamp grad, but when they hired me, it was a test to see if they could successfully train up somebody from a bootcamp. My teammates have more of a computer science background, and most developers have quite a few years of experience. They’ve moved from San Francisco, Barcelona, etc to work here.

    What kinds of projects do you work on as a developer at SoundCloud?

    I've rotated between projects at SoundCloud. At first I was working on their back end tools team. I helped rewrite a front end service using the React and Redux framework – technologies that I didn't actually learn at SPICED Academy (although they do teach those now).

    After that, I worked on rewriting the RSS feeds. SoundCloud hosts podcasts using Scala (a functional programming language that’s completely different from anything that I learned at SPICED). Every time you listen to a podcast from SoundCloud, my code is used. As a big podcaster myself, that’s pretty cool. Now, I'm working on the iOS team, so I’m picking up app development skills.

    Moving to a new team always involves new people, new ideas, and new ways of working. As I rotate, seeing a problem from different perspectives is always really useful. My experience picking up a set of skills in a short amount of time at SPICED Academy has definitely helped me when I’ve switched teams. I’ve had to learn several new languages since I got here. The only technologies I use at work which I learned at the bootcamp are HTML and JavaScript. It was more important to SoundCloud that I had the ability to code and to absorb new information quickly.

    How did you learn all of these new technologies?

    A professional programmer can basically pick up a new language in a few days. I wouldn’t say that it’s easy but you take what you do know, apply it to this new language, and fill in the gaps. You learn slight differences in the syntax.

    It's really important to have a mentor and somebody who knows their stuff. I’m fortunate to work with people at SoundCloud who are really investing in my development, are always there to help, and listen to my problems every day. That’s the reason I wanted to do programming for a living; I knew I’d be learning new things every day.

    Since you graduated from SPICED and joined SoundCloud, how do you feel you've grown as a developer?

    I look back and cringe at some of the code I've written in the past. Knowing how to build reliable, structured and maintainable code is definitely something that I've learned as I’ve worked in the real world. Making products that the public consumes and that are expected to work 24 hours a day is a world away from putting a website live. I'd definitely love to go back and rewrite everything I've done, but I also know that I’m always moving forward and learning new things.

    How do you think your experience working in banking has translated to your new career as a programmer?

    Because I work with engineers who have been coding since they were 13 or 14, I think I bring different skills from my past experience that are useful. My background was focused a lot on analytics and I think having the capacity to understand complex issues quickly is really important.

    Working in banking also prepared me for working under pressure. Markets open and close every day, so there’s a lot of pressure to do things efficiently and quickly in those hours.

    What’s been the biggest roadblock or challenge in your journey to becoming a developer?

    The biggest roadblock is finding the time and money and energy to do it. It's not easy to quit your job and learn to code full-time. Time and financial commitment are definitely the biggest stumbling blocks. But you should look at a coding bootcamp as an investment.

    Do you feel like you’re still part of the SPICED Academy community?

    I became quite close to the people whom I took the course with, and I still see the people who live in Berlin. I don't live too far away from the SPICED campus so I go back when new cohorts are graduating and see how things have changed. It's good to see what students are achieving and I enjoy giving them advice.

    I know that SPICED has developed and grown quite a lot since I went there. I wish I could have had alumni support when I was at SPICED, so now I want to give that to future students.

    What advice do you have for other people who want to make a career change by going through a coding bootcamp?

    Going to a coding bootcamp is definitely not a quick fix to anything; don’t look at it as a fast pass to riches. It's something you have to prepare for and enjoy. Be sure that you’re prepared and know that you like learning and understanding complex ideas; new ones will be thrown at you every day. At SPICED, there was a focus on intensity and new information was thrown at you all the time. If I had decided to learn everything online on my own, it would have taken me two years rather than three months. The bootcamp lasts three months, but once you get a job your learning will last another three years.

    Find out more and read SPICED Academy reviews on Course Report. Check out the SPICED Academy website.

    About The Author

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    Imogen is a writer and content producer who loves writing about technology and education. Her background is in journalism, writing for newspapers and news websites. She grew up in England, Dubai and New Zealand, and now lives in Brooklyn, NY.

  • Alumni Spotlight: Karen Nemeth of SPICED Academy

    Lauren Stewart2/27/2017

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    After a tech industry career in project management operations and recruiting, Karen Nemeth decided it was time for a change. She was ready to build out her own app ideas, so inspired by several friends who were developers, she figured the best route was to learn to code herself. See why Karen moved away from the U.S. and ended up learning to code at SPICED Academy coding bootcamp in Berlin. Read about her learning experience at SPICED Academy and see how she landed her new job as Product Owner at Genie!

    Q&A

    What was your educational background and your last career path before you decided to attend SPICED Academy?

    I majored in civil engineering during college, then worked as a construction project manager at museums around New York City. I loved it, but there were a lot of problems, so I left. Then I went into a project management role within a software company. I also worked for the Huffington Post as a project manager managing the machine learning, natural language processing, and video chatting teams. Then they transferred me into recruiting.

    I also worked at Facebook in New York for a little while, then decided to move to San Francisco. In San Francisco, I started consulting for various different startups. I worked with a lot of startups from the graduate programs at Stanford where students used their master's degrees to launch their own companies. I also worked for the company Airtime founded by Sean Parker where we created a new video chatting social network.

    Wow, that is quite a career trajectory. Why did you want to switch careers and learn to code?

    I worked in operations and recruiting, and always had so many app ideas that I wanted to build myself. Most of my friends were developers, so up until then, when I wanted to do something, I could go to them for help. But eventually, they all got real jobs and no longer had time for ad hoc side projects. My lack of coding knowledge had been such a limiting factor in my life, but I knew I could do it. I just needed a good introduction to learn how to code. I moved to Spain for a little while, then decided now's the time. I found SPICED and moved to Berlin.

    Did you try to learn to code before attending SPICED Academy?

    Yes, a little bit. I had been coding on the front end of things since I was probably 13 years old from the Zynga days before Facebook, and we got to program our own sites. When I was at Airtime in Silicon Valley, I tried to learn Python, but I found I didn't have the self-discipline to teach myself. It's good to have someone behind you helping you and making sure you're on top of things.

    I found online blogs didn’t have a good layout of what projects you should be doing at any given time. While there was a good amount of resources and people to ask for questions, the online community is very extensive but not the most welcoming place. It's really great to have teachers dedicated to passing off their knowledge.

    How did you decide between attending a coding bootcamp versus going back to a university?

    Being from the states, I couldn't really afford another four years in school. There's no way I could’ve afforded the price of schooling, and four years out of the job industry. Master's degree programs are $100,000 – there's no comparison to a $10,000 bootcamp. I could’ve gone to university here in Europe, and that would’ve been free for the most part, but it's just not the same dedication towards the skill set that you’d have in the industry.

    As a recruiter, and working with developers, I've noticed that people who come out of bootcamps have been taught the skills they need to know on the job – which is what you need in the real world. An academic master’s degree is more about algorithmic development and low-level skills. For 90% of development jobs, a bootcamp is exactly what you need. A bootcamp was a much better choice from an efficiency perspective.

    How did you decide to take a chance on attending a Berlin coding bootcamp? Why did you decide to study internationally?

    I came to Spain because of my boyfriend in all honesty. I was able to get a remote job with a company called Hired so we moved to Spain. Part of living and attending the school in Europe was because of him, but also because I liked the lifestyle a lot better. The food feels healthier and it's a lot less stressful. It's a nicer quality of life than it is in the States. When you've lived in New York it’s hard to live anywhere else, but I felt Berlin had that essence. Berlin really does feel like Brooklyn, but you can actually afford to enjoy your Friday night. It's a fun city with so much going on. The people are free to be themselves. In that respect, I'm really happy that I came here. I highly recommend SPICED Academy to anyone.

    Were you looking to learn a specific language when you were researching bootcamps? Did you consider any others outside of SPICED Academy?

    Yeah. One of the reasons I wanted to go to SPICED Academy was because I wanted a full-stack JavaScript curriculum and SPICED had one. I know most schools do Ruby but having been in tech for a very long time, I knew that JavaScript is pretty much what everyone wants to see nowadays. When coding bootcamps started a long time ago, there used to be many startups working in Ruby, but many of them have moved away from Ruby, and the vast majority of startups are working in JavaScript. So I thought that this would be the most relevant language to learn.

    In addition, front-end is all in JavaScript. Even if you go to a bootcamp that has a Ruby curriculum, you're still learning JavaScript but you’re not getting as focused on it as you could with a JavaScript curriculum. So I thought I would get a much more useful and more knowledgeable skill set by doing a JavaScript curriculum. I'm really happy I did, because, especially in Europe, there's almost no one using Ruby anymore, and from what I've heard in the States it's the same. Almost everyone I know from SPICED Academy has gotten jobs right away, but it's much more difficult for people from Ruby schools.

    And as far as other schools, I looked at one school in Lisbon and one in Barcelona, but they were in Ruby. It was a choice of location as there's a lot more going on in Berlin, so if you're going to get a job somewhere, I think Berlin is probably the third largest startup scene in Europe besides Paris and London.

    I want to know about the SPICED Academy application process. Was there an interview? What did that process look like and how long did that take?

    There was a short questionnaire that we had to fill out about what we were looking for and whether we had any portfolio work. Then the Director of Programs, Shilpa Melissa Rodrigues, scheduled an interview. We discussed what I had done previously in my career, what I wanted to get out of the school, what I had done before in trying to code and what I could bring to the table. There was an understanding that the school was new, so we were trying to help SPICED determine their curriculum.

    How many people were in your cohort and was it diverse in terms of gender, race, and life and career backgrounds?

    There were about eight people in our cohort. And yes, it was pretty diverse. I think at the beginning it was a 50/50 women-men split. So they really did strive to hit that number. I had come from a tech background and there was another person who came from a block chain background. There was an architect, an artist, two people from finance, one from marketing, and there was another person from the journalism field. It was interesting.

    Because we had all come from different areas, Shilpa had really picked up on how we all were really interested in using our coding in order to help our chosen industries. She put together meetings once a week with someone from the Berlin tech industry who came in and talked about how they coded within that industry, and how it had improved. It was wonderful because then you start to make the connections and see what's happening in the tech scene. It was a great introduction.

    How many instructors did you have total?

    There was one main instructor, and a few TA's. I'm so happy because SPICED Academy has wonderful teachers. The main teacher, David Friedman, has probably 20 years of experience – coming from Yelp and other very large companies, he really knew everything. I've worked with coding schools through some of my consulting, but I hadn't really met a coding instructor who was as knowledgeable or as passionate about coding as he is.

    You’ve been in the tech industry for a while, so I'm wondering if your perspective has changed now that you’ve been to a coding bootcamp? How was that experience as a woman in tech?

    Honestly, I've been in engineering schools my whole life. For the most part, I've been in engineering schools since 6th grade. I've always been the only girl. I've never been to a school that has more than 30% women. This was actually the highest percentage because it was 50/50. There's a lot of pain with it. I have horror stories from my time in San Francisco, but I think Berlin's pretty good about it. For the most part, I find zero sexism in the Berlin tech scene, which is really nice.

    Can you tell me about a typical day at SPICED Academy?

    We typically started around 9am. The first part is a lecture, and that would typically range from two hours to the whole morning until lunchtime. Then we’d have small projects. In the beginning, there were very small exercises that would relate to what we did in the lecture. Then in the afternoon, we would usually have another lecture and then more small exercises.

    As we learned more and more, it transitioned to the one lecture in the morning, then you’d have one project that you’d complete throughout the day. Then it started becoming one lecture in the morning, and then one project that would last the week. On Wednesdays, they would add another lecture with another idea, and you’d add a second part to the project. It grew incrementally as you learned more and more.

    SPICED was really flexible if you had to leave for any reason because it was a lot of project work. That was really nice because a lot of people did have interviews or meetings to go to. Everyone was working hard and trying to help each other, and the teachers were there, or on slack to answer any questions that you had.

    Did you have a favorite project that you worked on at SPICED Academy?

    We made a project that was a petition site and I'm pretty sure that we used jQuery for it. You would make a petition and then have people sign the petitions. That one was fun because we worked with a canvas element and we could draw things, see how the drawing techniques worked, and we were able to interact with it. It was probably one of the more fun projects I've seen because everyone's petition was completely different.

    Tell me about the career prep or job search help that SPICED Academy offered.

    Once every few weeks they hosted different meetups and happy hours with people from the Berlin tech scene. They also offered tutoring sessions for the general public to come and get an introduction to what the SPICED teachings would be. It was part of a larger organization within Berlin so it was a great networking opportunity.

    They offered resume prep and interview practice. The interview practice by the head instructor was really great because he’s done so many interviews during his career. Once a week he would give us practice interview questions and ask them exactly like he would in an interview setting. He helped us get into the thinking behind whiteboard coding and what interviewers were looking for, which can be tricky for people who are new to coding who’ve never witnessed this type of interview before. It’s really an oral examination and it's more about your logical reasoning than it is getting the exact correct answer. He was really great about emphasizing what they were looking for in those situations. At the end of the course, in the presentation of the final projects, they had a lot of different companies come. I know a few people that got hired simply through that experience.

    What has been the biggest challenge or roadblock for you in your journey to learn how to code?

    It's a very personal one, but it's been self-discipline. It hasn't been something that's been absolutely required of me because I've always had someone there who would be able to code when I had the idea. I simply hadn't needed to grow my career. I'd still be perfectly fine if I hadn't learned how to code. So I'm very fortunate to say that that is my road block- not having something pushing me to go forward.

    What are you up to now that you’ve finished SPICED Academy?

    I actually just signed on to a new job earlier today. I'm working at a company called Genie, and we’re part of a startup that is branching off of Telefónica, the largest telecommunications firm in Europe. We're building an IoT ecosystem for developers and companies that are looking to quickly build new internet consumer products. So if you're Nike and you're building new shoes that you want connected to the internet for all types of data tracking and such, rather than hiring a whole team of embedded engineers, security engineers, and people who can write off systems, you could just come to our platform and within 100 days have the whole thing ready to go and launched. It's a new standardization for the internet of things.

    Congratulations! What's your job title at Genie?

    I'm the product owner on the developer platform. It’s a platform for all the coders to interact with, from an individual tinkerer who is playing around with an Arduino in their home office, all the way up to the engineers working at Nike who are actually building out these shoes. So I'll be writing documentation, working to define what this software development kit is going to look like, deciding how these software developers will be interacting with the product, and traveling a lot to different conferences to speak with developers about using our platform to build new ideas and new products.

    This sounds like a great role for you given your background! Were you looking for a specific industry when you were thinking about what types of jobs you wanted after SPICED Academy?

    Not in particular – I honestly wasn't even looking for this job. I marked myself as active on Angellist, but that's all I did, and they contacted me. In the end, I've always been about really pivotal infrastructure movements, so that's why a lot of what I did in the early days was in big data. Working in WebRTC and video chatting had all been very infrastructural ideas behind it. Even at Facebook, that's a lot of what I did.

    I like looking at the core elements of what's going on, so I knew that I had to be in a field like this and not just create another app. I had hopes that it would be something in VR or AR as that's where my personal interests lie, but this is so closely tied.

    What advice do you have for people who are thinking about making a career change and thinking about attending a coding bootcamp?

    Just do it. I think that if you're debating it and you think that it's the right thing to do, just splurge and do it because when you think about it, the gain that you're going to get from it is just incredible. If you're feeling stagnant and you think that a life in coding would be better for you, you have to do it because it gives you the skills to pursue anything that you want. If you come from a background in journalism, if you don't like any of the journalistic outlets out there, you can build your own once you go to coding school and say, "screw it," and just do your own thing. You could do that from any industry that you're in. It doesn't matter.

    Coding is going to become a new required language within the world and so even if you're just looking to get a new job at a startup or at one of these larger firms, it's so much fun. There's so many possibilities when you're in this industry for a little while that you can't really get in many other industries.

    If it's about the money, yes some bootcamps can be expensive, but in the end, the amount of money that you're going to make in this field is going to make it worth it 100%. I think you just have to do it. And once you get into it- Google everything. You can bug Google as much as you want and Google will not get mad at you.

    Do you have any advice about learning to code internationally?

    SPICED Academy itself is really a great program to go to especially for Americans looking to do a bootcamp abroad. Living in Berlin is much cheaper than living in just about any other city in the States. I highly recommend it because you can fit in the course portion of it into the required visa period, so you don't even have to worry about getting a visa to be here. For three months, you could live in Berlin. It's a really great opportunity!

    Read a SPICED Academy review on Course Report. Check out the SPICED Academy website.

    About The Author

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    Lauren is a communications and operations strategist who loves to help others find their idea of success. She is passionate about techonology education, career development, startups, and the arts. Her background includes career/youth development, public affairs, and philanthropy. She is from Richmond, VA and now currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.

  • Data Science Bootcamp: Which is Best for You?

    Harry Hantel4/16/2018

    You don’t have to be a data scientist to read into these statistics: A McKinsey Global Institute report estimates that by 2018 the US could be facing a shortage of more than 140,000 data scientists. The field of data science is growing, and with it so does the demand for qualified data scientists. Sounds like a good time to pursue data science, right? No kidding! Data scientists make an average national salary of $118,000. If you’re looking to break into data science, or just trying to refresh and hone the skills you already have, Course Report has you covered. Check out this comprehensive list of the best data science bootcamps and programs in the U.S. and Europe for technologies like Hadoop, R, and Python.

     

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