Prospective applicants can fill out an online form, and will then participate in a 60-80 hour prep course, finishing with an assessment that is part of the selective application process.
Working with experienced teachers, SPICED Academy students will receive an extensive education and unique industry insights. In addition to programming, students also learn personal and professional development skills in self-awareness and career development. Students will build a portfolio, get interview tips, and create a resume that will get them noticed. After graduation, students have the opportunity to meet SPICED Academy partners, with the aim of getting jobs as junior software developers.
Recent SPICED Academy News
- Instructor Spotlight: David Friedman of SPICED Academy
- Alumni Spotlight: Mike Smith of SPICED Academy
- Alumni Spotlight: Karen Nemeth of SPICED Academy
Recent SPICED Academy Reviews: Rating 4.7
Our Data Science Program is a full-time, 12 week intensive course based on-site in Berlin. You will develop all the skills needed to begin a successful career as a data scientist; known as “the sexiest job of the 21st century”. Our rigorous course will hone your abilities in Pythonprogramming, pandas, NumPy, Scikit-learn, TensorFlow, PostGreS, MongoDB, Docker, data visualization andmore. You will complete exciting projects each week, individually and in small teams, allowing you to learn the most effective way there is: by doing.
- Payment plans available
- Minimum Skill Level
- Basic Python, College-Level Maths
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- 40 - 60 hours
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week10 Seats
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week10 Seats
Application Deadline:September 24, 2018
Full Stack Web Development
- Options available
- Minimum Skill Level
- Prep Work
- 40 - 80 Hour preparation course material is provided.
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week20 Seats
Application Deadline:May 21, 2018
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week20 Seats
Application Deadline:July 2, 2018
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week20 Seats
Application Deadline:September 24, 2018
SPICED Academy Reviews
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I attended the Full Stack Bootcamp at SPICED Academy between Sept.17 and Nov.17.
The experience was hard, I worked every single day for 3 months, between 10 and 12 hrs a day, I suffered under stress and banged my head against the laptop when I couldn't figure out how to solve the problems. However, I did not regret any single minute of it. It was an extremely gratifying time, where I changed from my old me to this new me that I am right now (professionally speaking :-) ).
The atmosphere at SPICED was great, I went very gladly to school every day, looking forward to meet my classmates, the teachers, the school team and the students from other cohorts. I hold the teachers (Dave and Matt), as well as the other employees of the school (Shilpa, Paul and the CEO Frederik) in the highest regard for the job they do running the place. Besides their professionalism, they were always extremely freindly and helpful, always taking care of us making sure we had the best time possible at school. My classmates were also amazing people. We developed a great and tight relationship and learnt to work together, help each other and count on one another when needed. The body of students at SPICED is amazingly diverse, coming from all corners of the world, but somehow they all turn out to be really great and funny people. We worked and studied together, but we also played together, partied together, ate together, chilled together... As the weeks went by I found myself more and more comfortable at school and it began to feel almost like a big family.
Thanks to the preparation I received at SPICED I am to say that I was able to find an entry-level position pretty quickly after the bootcamp. Within just two months, even with Christimas and New Years in between, I got offered a paid internship as Fullstack Developer. Currently (Mar.18) I am beginning my second month of internship, I am learning tons of stuff, frontend and backend, and there is much more to come. If everything goes well I will be hired as junior developer right after the internship. As far as I know, all the students from my cohort that graduated with me have landed a job as developers of various levels.
I can say that my life has completely changed after doing the bootcamp at SPICED. Before I had a job where I was terribly unhappy and which I could not see myself performing any single day more. Now, after some months of hard but gratifying work, I have a job with great prospects, in a firm which offers me a chance to learn and grow, and with a team I cherish and admire.
If you are not affraid of a challenge, if you are ready to work hard for a certain period of time and you are looking for a change in your life, do not hesitate and take part in SPICED Academy's program. You will not regret it a single day!
Before I came to SPICED I graduated in Communication Sciences and Sociology at University and had almost no experience at all in programming. 6 weeks after the graduation, I land a 12 months internship as Junior Software Developer.
When I decided to enroll I was sceptical about how much it is possible to learn in 12 weeks with no prior experience. Today I can say that I am amazed on how much I learned at SPICED. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't an easy journey, I had to work a lot but everything is made for you to success if you put the right amount of work.
First, the teachers are amazing. I think there is a well balanced teaching team between Matt, David and now Ivana. They know what you will experience and they will push you out of your limits so that you will progress fast and learn the right skills to get a job.
The job assistance teached by Shilpa is really usefull! I started with very little professional experience and had no idea on how to behave in front of interviewers and after the training and the advices we got, I felt more confident in my interviews and I was able to set my goals in order to find the right position for me.
Finally, I would advice anyone that is ready to work hard to change his carreer path to study at SPICED!
Before i came to spiced i had been studying towards a degree in computer science. I knew alot of theoretical stuff, and had a little experience with some languages, but i did't feel i was ready to get a job.
The ciriculum was great. I got alot of support from the teachers and other staff members, and my classmates were awesome.
Although i had been studying before signing up to Spiced, some of my classmates had never coded before, and went on to make amazing apps. Regardless of your current experience level, if you work hard, and your prepared to leave your comort zone, you'll be amazed at what you're capable off after graduating.
Learning coding at SPICED was such a great experience! You work together with like-minded people and learn from the great teachers at SPICED - your goal: to learn how to code for the web in a professional capacity.
I graduated SPICED in September 2017. 6 weeks later I got a job as a Full Stack Software Developer. In just 4.5 months I basically turned my life around. But don't expect to just cruise through it - you will only truly succeed if you put yourself into it 100%.
The 3 months at SPICED felt like a true bootcamp experience for me - I didn't have much time for anything else, but it was 100% worth it for me. The great staff members and the helpful teachers were always there to help.
All things considered: If you want to learn how to code and are dedicated to that cause, then go for it. You won't regret it!
Being a student at SPICED was such a great experience. You will have a great place to work, a cohort of like-minded people who have the same goals as you and great teachers to give you a well-rounded education.
I graduated from the course in November 2017 and got a developer job only a few weeks after graduating. I would recommend everyone with the right mindset to apply for the course to become a web developer.
Be prepared to work hard. You should be willing to put in extra work. It will not be enough to just work the minimum required hours. This is a commitment for 3 months and you should use this time to put in 100% of your energy. If this is what you are looking for SPICED is the right place for you.
To sum up, SPICED was an awesome experience and I really learned a lot. I can only recommend joining the Bootcamp!
I graduated from Spiced Academy's full stack developers course eight weeks ago, and today I have signed a contract as a Frontend developer at an established start-up in Berlin. I feel that Spiced Academy's course was very relevant and up to date and that the curriculum prepared me well for the technical questions that came up during the interviews. I would not have landed this job without Spiced Academy.
The course is fast moving and you do need to be somewhat self-reliant. The lectures and course notes are clear and well organised and guide you in completing the exercises and projects but you a given a lot of freedom in your approach to the solutions. It was important to ask for help when stuck as the instructors do not always check in with you. I liked this style of teaching as I feel it is more realistic of the real world and increased my confidence of tackling technically challenging problems by myself, although it may not suit everyone. When I did need additional help, both instructors, David and Matt, were approachable, friendly and extremely supportive. I was impressed with their knowledge and like their different approaches to problem solving and teaching. I learnt a lot from both.
The first half of the course focus on learning the basic and fundamentals of web development. There is a lot of information to learn and I didn't realise at the time how important so of it was. During the second half of the course, the projects become bigger and what we had learnt in the first half came together and I felt like a full stack developer. I found that the projects from the second half gave me a good portfolio to put on my GitHub to showcase my abilities but most to the technical questions in the job interviews were based on what we had learnt in the first half of the course. .
I had completed a couple of free online coding courses before joining spiced and this definitely helped and I would recommend this. However, without Spiced I think I would have struggled to know what I should be focused on learning and I would have struggle to stay motivated. I definitely would not have learnt so much in such a short time.
My favourite part of the course were the React projects, my least favourite part of the course was the Backbone project. However, having said that, the interviewers seemed to like that I had knowledge of an older library such as Backbone and could compare working in it with the more modern React. For that reason alone I am now glad it was included in the curriculum.
I am in my late 30's and I was concern that my age may be an issue as tech is a young person's game. During the course, my age was not an issue at all and all ages mixed well together. Afterwards, during the job hunt, I do believe I possibly did not progress with some job application because of my age, however where I was offered an interview I was told that they saw my age as a positive and liked that I had previous experience in a different field.
The career works shops was more relevant for people that have not had much experience in the job hunt process so a lot of it I already knew but I did take away some good tips that helped during the job search and it was also a useful refresher and motivational component.
My cohort was also amazing people from many different countries and I am glad to have had this experience with. They made it easy to stay motivated through the 12 weeks and the job search.
In summary I found the course to be fun, interesting, challenging, relevant and believe it offers good value for money. However, it is hard work and you will need to take responsibility for your own learning and success. I would not hesitate to do it over again.
I have a background in HR and I had worked in couple of tech startups and in IT consultant resourcing. I however realised I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of software development and be able to code myself. I was already living in Berlin and I was researching the different bootcamp opportunities here. I soon noticed that SPICED and its Full Stack Web Development program would be the best option because of its interesting and encompassing curriculum and the positive reviews I read about it.
I haven´t regret my decision a single moment. I could never have been able to believe how much you can learn in only 12 weeks. I still remember watching the previous cohorts´ final projects and thinking I could never be able to build anything like that. But as the 12 weeks passed I noticed I had grown from someone who was struggling with Codeacademy´s exercises to being able to create full stack web applications. Many thanks to the excellent teachers David and Matt!
If you are determined, willing to work hard and want to learn to code in a supportive and encouraging environment, SPICED is the right place for you.
I had studied product design and wanted to go from making physical products to software. I did a bit of studying on my own through codecademy and such but had a hard time keeping up my own pace and knowing what to do next. I started looking at developer boot camps and SPICED caught my attention, I was a bit causious as I didn't believe that three months was enough time to fully learn what was promised but decided to reach out and book a meeting with Shilpa. She was happy to meet me and answer any and all questions i had, i got to meet with the teachers and even sit in on one of the lectures.
I made the decision to do the course and since the first day I haven't looked back. David and Matt, the two teachers are competent and willing to help at all times, the curriculum feels tailored for the job and is constantly updated to match the fast changing job market. The career workshops helps prepare you for getting a job when you graduate and most importantly, SPICED feels like a little family, you spend 8-10 hours a day in school so having a good atmosphere and work environment is very important.
If you feel willing and ready to really dive inte coding then this course is for you. With that said i wouldn't recommend it to anyone who wants to take a lot of days off or keep a job on the side, the course really is full-time!
I entered SPICED Academy a couple of months after graduating from a bachelor's of economics. I am passionate about development economics and technology and I want to work in social entrepreneurship. I had been trying to learn how to code for a long time, so I chose a bootcamp for an intense learning environment, and I decided on Berlin both because I adore the city and because its tech scene is thriving (and it's great for beginners, so many meetups!). I fell on SPICED by chance but it’s after my Skype call with Shilpa, the Director of Programs and Community, that I knew SPICED was the right fit for me.
I believe that the most important thing about SPICED is the quality of teaching, as it is the reason you would choose a bootcamp over an online course. David and Matt are incredible teachers and form a great team. They were always there for us if we needed them, whether it was for a quick question, or to save us after a couple of frustrating hours facing a bug we were initially determined to solve ourselves. Other than learning a programming language from scratch, I realised that my problem solving skills immensely improved too. Following David and Matt’s example, we slowly learn how to identify where the problem comes from and how best to solve it, and soon enough you know why your app is crashing, on your own! Another key skill you learn is simply how to learn on your own - which is something that you will have to continuously do as a developer.
Another thing I loved about SPICED was its community. The cohorts are small and cohesive. Your classmates come from very different backgrounds and countries, but everyone sticks together and helps each-other during the bootcamp and even beyond the 12 weeks. I have made friends and good memories during my time at SPICED, and now away from Berlin I miss our well-deserved beers and a chats on Fridays.
Overall, I recommend SPICED because of:
- Its quality instructors.
- Its curriculum that teaches the best practices to be a good programmer.
- The care and work they put into improving themselves and making each student’s experience the best it could be.
- Their career workshops that help you be more self-aware, confident and job-ready.
- And finally because you want to take your first steps as a Full Stack Developer in a kind and caring family.
Before SPICED, I had been working in the Berlin tech/startup scene for about two years as a journalist. After a startup I was working for went under, I knew I wanted to expand my knowledge and find a new comfort in the industry. I stumbled across SPICED by chance, but I'm so glad that I did.
I'm not going to lie to you. My time at SPICED was frustrating, exhausting and emotionally draining... but it was also equally fulfilling, rewarding and empowering. Learning a new skill can be rough, especially if you're starting from literally nothing. Fortunately, you're immersed in a supportive environment throughout the entire process. The cohorts are small, so it's easy to become close and ask for help from your classmates - plus David and Matt are always there if you get stuck.
That's why, for the most part, SPICED receives top marks from me. But not everything is perfect, so there are some downsides: SPICED is still a growing community, so the network you gain is pretty small compared to other big boot camps like General Assembly. This is changing, and there are some alums trying to plan meetups for graduates and current students outside of official SPICED events. I also wish there had been more on pair programming, testing or other workflow aspects of development within the curriculum. But hey, there's only so much you can do in 12 weeks!
Overall though, 12/10 would suffer through it again.
I am a musician from France, and decided to join the full-stack course at the SPICED Academy in April 2017. I just finished the course and I'm now focused on finding a job in France.
I was a beginner and was wondering what we could learn in just 12 weeks. I had now idea about front-end, back-end, databases and large concepts of web development so that was really a new start for me... And we learnt a lot ! That's crazy, I feel now prepared to find a job of developer, and this is because of the amazing work of Shilpa, David, Matt, Frederik and Paul.
In a cosy atmosphere, Matt and David were very involved and passionate teachers, extremely supportive, giving me more confidence. They were always available to help, and I really enjoyed the content of the course. Big point for me : I see all the time on the jobs offer the languages and frameworks we learnt, and I have the feeling that part of the course is useful in the daily like of a developer.
I had to work a lot during my experience at SPICED, to don't feel overwhelmed by all the new technologies, concepts that we had to use everyday. Obviously, 12 weeks of coding doesn't make you an experienced programer, so you will have to keep being curious, working on new projects, all the time, but it's an habit you can easily take during the course, because it's a part of Matt and David's pedagogy.
As I was not used to look for a job, to write a CV and a cover letter, the career workshop was super useful for me and I learnt a lot from Shilpa and everybody's experience. I still using all the tools, tips, and references she gave us, for finding a job that fits with your expectations, and I'm already seeing the positive results.
During those three months, I learnt something I wanted to learn since a long time, and I had way more than what I expected. I also met amazing people, teachers, other students, that I consider now as friends and I will keep tons of good remember of my experience there.
That's why I give the max rate for the SPICED Academy !
I've been a tech recruiter in Silicon Valley (with companies such as Facebook) for many years and I must say that if you've been wanting to start a career in web development while wanting to explore new cultures, there's no better place to be than the Spiced Academy. Spiced has some of the best curriculum and teachers focused on critical thinking/fundamental skills needed in both interviews and when on the job. They'll help you go from knowing very little about the digital world to securely programming your own ideas in less time than a typical college internship. After graduating, they'll help you to successfully navigate the exploding Berlin tech scene.
Lastly, Spiced is a great way to get introduced to a new city and make new friends. There are hosted meetups, hackathons, and happy hours to get to know one another and the larger community. If you're looking for a reasonably priced entry into a new career in a fun, vibrant, international city, the Spiced Academy is the place to be.
I am an architect but a couple of years ago I became very interested in computer science and coding. I decided it was something I definitely wanted to learn, but I couldn't find the will to do it by myself online, nor the time to take a university degree.
After reviewing several bootcamps both in the US and in the EU, I finally found the right one! Much better than anything in London, Barcelona, Madrid... Why?
- First of all, they have a great professional team. Everyone, from the CTO to the teaching assistants will be there to help you and give you advice.
- Second, they have a great curriculum: for the first time in my education life I was learning actual USEFUL stuff. Things companies require the moment you start applying for a job. And it's not a few weeks, it's actual months, so we go deep into everything we learn.
- Third, they have a great space in Berlin, really beautiful offices full of light, space to work, a really nice kitchen...
- Last, but not least, the price. It's an investment, and it's much cheaper than all the american bootcamps, and quite well priced among the europeans. If you work hard on it -and they'll make it easy- you can get a job after graduation in a matter of weeks!
Looking back, I can say it was one of the best choices of my career. Completely worth it!
After several years as a Customer Success/Account Manager in the B2B SaaS sector, I decided to learn how to program and code. I was first drawn to SPICED because it's located in Berlin, but I ultimately decided to join its Full Stack Web Development program because of its people.
The entire team at SPICED is determined to help you reach your goals, whatever those might be. Personally, I knew before joining SPICED that I did not want to become a developer. I wanted to complement my business experiences in tech with real life coding knowledge. Additionally, I knew that I wanted to join a company in a hybrid role that combined client relations and product management. I was able to land this job after one month of graduating from SPICED.
I highly recommend SPICED academy!
For me personally SPICED was a life changing experience, I never expected to be a web developer, especially after only 12 weeks and now I found a job as a Software Engineer.
It could be stressful at times and students could get lost and even decide to drop out, but this is a part of the experience when at the end you see the outcome of your coding skills you forget all about that and it will be totally worth it.
so my advice would be that you keep going no matter how hard it gets!
The teaching part was great and clear as the teachers are always around and would happily help regarding any questions.
Not to forget mentioning the atmosphere, we were like a family there spending 8 to 10 hours together every day. I still miss being there!
Tbh, it's not easy to become a web developer, and to be even more honest, it's certainly not easy to learn it all within a few months.....three to be exact. SPICED does a great job of giving you all of the necessary resources and access to learn, but as with everything, it was up to my colleagues and myself to make it a priorities.
With that out of the way, it was an incredible, harrowing, difficult, worthwhile, trying, and enlightening experience. There were a thousand times, honestly, that I thought about dropping out because my background and life beforehand had absolutely no bearing in computer science, web development, or programming at all. But, staying in and pushing through was by and far one of the best decisions I ever made. My cohort was a diverse group of people, not only in backgrounds but also in interests and motivations, and they ultimately were the support group that I needed to make it through this 3 month course.
Of course, there are a thousand things that I would change in the last few months, like studying more, applying myself to the coursework, and probably having a social life outside of it....LOL.... but I would not change any of my decisions to attend SPICED or change my career path to that of a developer -- I mean, shit, I went from a bartender to now a full stack developer working on hella intense projects now.
So --- if you want to change your career path and want something more, and you have the drive / determination to stick with something difficult despite it being tough sometimes, apply and get to it. But, if you're not one for putting in the hard hours and diving deep into the coursework, don't. Just want to make that clear, because again, being a web developer is tough and doing it in 3 months is even more so. You've been warned...but if you like the challenge, then welcome to it!!
I graduated from SPICED Academy in Berlin and got a job in the US within 1 month of graduation. I have been working as a software developer for a company that makes math and science simulations for schools.
Before deciding to learn web development I was a high school science teacher. A couple of years ago I knew I wanted to leave the classroom and saw web development as my next venture. I started studying on my own and I made some progress, but it was slow. I knew that I needed a mentor and someone who could scaffold the learning for me so that it was easier to progress There’s a lot of information out there – some of it digestible and some of it not. With a bootcamp you get a curriculum, a solid path and person to whom you can ask questions. I knew that I was going to quit teaching at the end of the school year so it seemed like a great opportunity to go live abroad for some time. Both my husband and I have always want to live in Europe. I thought the best way to keep studying and get the European experience was to attend a bootcamp in Europe. So we looked for an English boot camp that had the right curriculum and the right timing. SPICED was it.
tl;dr SPICED is great, definitely go there, if you are really up for it!
I was part of SPICED's full stack cohort from July to October 2017 and I am very happy I decided to go with SPICED. Already one month after graduation, on November 1st, I started my new job as a Full Stack developer at a digital agency in Vienna, Austria.
So, I am writing this review with a bit of time having passed since graduating from SPICED and already having gone through the first couple of weeks as a professional developer.
Having had very little experience with coding prior to coming to SPICED (except for tinkering around with a few courses on codecademy), the curriculum was challenging from day 1. But after all, I was signing up for something called a 'boot camp', so I already had a feeling that it wasn't going to be a walk in the park.
The two teacher David and Matt were a great help throughout the entire journey and are one of the great assets of SPICED. They do not spoon feed you answers, but rather try to steer you in the right direction when you are stuck.
Personally, I absolutely loved this approach of them being there whenever you need help, but otherwise letting you figure out your stuff at your own pace and in your own way.
That being said, I would not recommend SPICED to you, if you are not fully committed because no one will spoon feed you answers and ultimately it is your responsibility to make sure you keep up.
I have made the experience, that I learn the most, by actually writing code. Some of my fellow gingers (ginger was the name of our cohort ;)), took the approach of first wanting to read up on documentation and trying to understand the topic they were dealing with. This approach didn't really work for me. I tried to struggle my way through an exercise line by line. If I had no idea where to start, I tried to come up with the first line of code as a start and worry about the rest then. As you progress as a programmer, you start thinking out solutions prior to writing your actual code, but especially in the beginning, this approach proved very valuable to me.
My favorite project I worked on at SPICED was the petition project, which started around week 6 or so. Prior to that, we had been working on small exercises that taught the basics. The petition project was the one project where it finally all came together, we built our first full stack web app and we got to apply pretty much everything we learned in the weeks prior to that. I still remember the moment, when I successfully deployed my petition to Heroku - that was when I realized how much I was learning and how fast I was progressing.
Even though SPICED is great and all, the first couple of days on the job were quite intimidating, but that quickly gets better. Of course, I am still the most junior developer on the team, but I never really feel like I am completely lost or less appreciated because of that.
One thing I did not yet mention but which makes my time at SPICED very memorable are the people there. The SPICED family is quite small and cohort sizes are not too large (I believe we were 8 people in our cohort at graduation), so you really get to know the people around you and the atmosphere in the office is always very warm and welcoming.
The course at SPICED was beyond expectations. Although a lot of work had to put into learning complex and advanced coding in 3-months, the instructors David and Matt are great and teach and teaching you the logic behind things. Not only did SPICED teach you how to code but you also form friendships with the people in your cohort as well as other cohorts. You all become part of a big family that is helping each other out. The best part of the week is 17h00 on Fridays when you open your first beer and just enjoy the end of a hard working week.
Moreover, there is Paul who is open to showing and suggesting places to go to around the city and of course, Shilpa who is taking care of every concern that comes your way.
Overall, very satisfied and great experience that helped me land a job in 2 weeks.
Would recommend to anyone!
All the instructors are really good, and will constantly try to gain the most out of you.
The result is that you'll learn the most in-demand skills out there (React, NodeJS), as well as build up a great Github portfolio to be shown to the employers.
But I warn you: there's no magic in it, meaning that, first of all, you really need to master the prep course they assign you before starting the academy, and, second, you need to stay fully focused on your programming tasks during the entire period.
Big sacrifices, big achievements
The course was brutally hard at times but ultimately the experience was rewarding beyond anything I'd imagined. Learning to code in a bootcamp environment is tough and you need to draw deep on your resilience at times, but Spiced offers excellent teaching standards in an incredibly supportive environment. Fellow students and the Spiced staff give you all the support you need to take a leap into the great unknown (!) and if you show up and put the work in you'll come away armed with a wealth of new skills.
It's true that as a newer arrival on the scene than some other bootcamps, their network is smaller, but this is changing as more of their cohorts graduate and maintain links with the college. Because cohorts are reasonably small and they have a couple running at once, you have an opportunity to really build bonds with your fellow students which I feel is a real benefit vs choosing to learn with a more established provider eg General Assembly.
The career workshops, while of benefit primarily to those earlier in their career, still offer some themes of interest for 'older' students and are a great added extra to the course.
Finally, they offer great help if you're relocating to Berlin for the course and are full of advice for finding places to live and getting established.
Thanks Spiced - I look back on my time there very fondly!
At first I was skeptical about taking a coding bootcamp but then I talked to Shilpha in an interview to hear each other out including potential concerns I had. After talking to her I was sold on SPICED despite being accepted into others as she was honest about expectations on me and what the school could deliver.
They sure did deliver. If you want to go to a school where you are spoon fed all the answers and have lectures all day instead of writing code yourself then apply elsewhere. If you want to go to a bootcamp where you learn-by-doing then apply for SPICED. From the learning facilities and environment to the top-notch staff who really know their stuff and always want to help and see you improve.
Be prepared it won't be a "holiday" in Berlin but a learning experience you'll have for life helped kicked off by the awesome people at SPICED.
Be careful with this school: it can turn sour. The CEO convinced me to join their programme unprepared. Subsequently they did not help me catch up. One of the teachers advised me to consider ‘joining the next cohort’, instead of helping me figure out exactly what I was having difficulties with.
After attending the first few days of this bootcamp, I felt defeated and have now decided to spend my energy elsewhere. Spiced uses an external tool, Codecademy, as a prep course for their full stack program. When I worked through the Codecademy track, Codecademy had updated and shortened some of the tracks, which led me to being un-prepared for the Spiced assessment, which they want you to complete. I had therefore done a stripped down version of the track, which was missing some critical concepts that I needed to know, and so instead of completing the assessment in 4-5 hours, I ended up horribly stuck for a few days and feeling incredibly incapable. This mishap, in combination with the frustration during the first weeks’ classes has led me to the decision that the quality of the bootcamp is lower than expected and promised.
Dear Spiced, if you use outside resources like Codecademy, it is important to make sure to know about any changes to the material being taught. I feel it would be wrong to expect the student to know that they're missing something. Codecademy clearly posted about these changes to this specific track on their blog over a month ago.
Furthermore, from the words ‘from beginner to ready-to-hire’ on their website and the reviews available online, it seemed like we would get a lot more explanations of the concepts and hands-on support early on. I felt I needed this, but I did not get it. The work is independent and I did not feel a good enough connection with the teachers; I also felt that they were not going to be able to provide me with the pedagogical teaching methods it seemed Spiced offered. I might as well be sitting at home, working through freeCodeCamp. Their communications staff member and I discussed that some people do need more thorough explanations, or maybe some simpler challenges to fully grasp certain concepts. I did not have the right foundation from the prep course and we were already moving onto newer subjects which were building on this. Sitting there feeling completely overwhelmed during the second and third day was emotionally exhausting and I was doubting my capabilities, and felt incompetent. Due to the aforementioned circumstances I hoped they would consider refunding me the full seven thousand and eight hundred euros, but no. I’m now left feeling ripped off.
Their ‘registration’ fee is a massive €800 euros, which you do not get back if you are forced to ‘drop out’. Before the course started I trusted the CEO as he reassured me that others before me had not completed the assessment and had gone on to do okay. I was told the teachers would sit with me and once the bootcamp started and during the first few days, to make sure I felt okay. Unfortunately this has not been the case for me and I feel as if these were false promises made. Spiced runs two cohorts at the same time, so with only two teachers for two cohorts, this means the teachers are not dedicated only to supporting your cohort. After not feeling listened to and asking for the full money back, and writing that I would be writing a negative review, the team at Spiced responded to me by saying that they felt I was blackmailing them. Thanks Spiced.
These are the reasons I am disappointed and feeling ripped off. Be careful too, the CEO is unreasonable and after explaining my frustrations over a Skype call as he was not on campus, he did not seem interested to want to take in my feedback at all. Thank you for reading, you’ve been warned.
Spiced was a great jumping off point for learning how to code. The curriculum is rigorous and challenging, and the staff and teachers are extremely supportive and are always available to help, when necessary. Looking back, I feel that the knowledge I gained from this course is invaluable, as I have been able to get many interviews just within the first few weeks of finishing my studies.
I would recommend this school to anyone who is ready for a career change, or wants to dive deeper into their coding skills.
Our latest on SPICED Academy
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.
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.
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?
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!
If you're interested in a bootcamp, I am personally very excited about what's happening at SPICED Academy!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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?
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!
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