Startup Institute


Startup Institute

Avg Rating:4.63 ( 72 reviews )

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  • Introduction to Coding (Ruby on Rails)

    Git, PHP, Python, Rails, Ruby
    In PersonPart Time3 Hours/week7 Weeks
    Start Date
    None scheduled
    Class size
    Getting in
    Minimum Skill Level
    Placement Test
  • Introduction to Web Design (UX/UI)

    HTML, Design, User Experience Design, CSS
    In PersonPart Time2 Hours/week7 Weeks
    Start Date
    None scheduled
    Class size
    Getting in
    Minimum Skill Level
    Placement Test

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Response From: Christine Zimmermann of Startup Institute
Title: Marketing Manager
Wednesday, Oct 19 2016

I'm very sorry to know that you had anything less than an amazing experience in our program. If you'd be willing to email us with specific feedback, we take it very seriously and are eager to find ways to improve. Thank you for taking the time to write a review your experience.

Our latest on Startup Institute

  • Instructor Spotlight: Jeremy Branstad of Startup Institute

    Imogen Crispe3/23/2018


    After graduating from Startup Institute in Boston and working as a Software Engineer for some time, Jeremy Branstad has returned to the coding bootcamp as a part-time instructor. The former English professor was surprised to find out how much his previous teaching experience would come in handy. Jeremy tells us why he wants to give back to the community that launched his coding career, how the new Startup Institute schedule allows more students and instructors to get involved, and his advice to novice coders in the Boston area.


    Tell me about your background before you joined Startup Institute as an instructor.

    Before I transitioned into a career in web development, I taught English at North Shore Community College in Lynn, Massachusetts.

    At first, web development was something I did on the side. I volunteered for a lot of nonprofits and it started off with client writing, drafting pamphlets, promotional material, and eventually bridged into building out websites. I realized that I really enjoyed the time that I spent developing websites, so I decided to switch careers.

    I enrolled in Startup Institute’s full-time Web Development program, graduated, and worked in QA with an automation focus for about a year, then at Ovia Health as a Front End Engineer, and now I’m a Software Engineer at Payment Works, a startup of about 10 people. After working for about a year, I also became an instructor at Startup Institute.

    What motivated you to teach at Startup Institute?

    First, it's a way for me to keep teaching. When I was an English professor, I really enjoyed the time I spent in a classroom. I was very good at engaging with students, so I didn't want to completely leave that behind.

    The other reason I teach at Startup Institute is because I’ve gone through it myself and switched careers, so I know that it can be scary and challenging for students. Helping people who take a similar path to mine is something that I really enjoy.

    Teaching at Startup Institute is a nice way to stay connected to the Boston tech community, which is pretty active. Being a part of this community is very helpful when you need to change jobs, for example, or even just to connect with other people who can motivate you to grow professionally. So even though I'm a volunteer instructor, I get so many benefits from being involved with Startup Institute.

    Do students have one instructor for the whole Startup Institute course or a mix of different instructors?

    Startup Institute really tries to introduce students to a variety of practitioners in the tech field so that we can form the beginning stages of a student’s network. So many people get positions in the startup industry based on who you know, in addition to the strength of your skills.

    There's one Lead Instructor for Web Development, David, who is responsible for organizing the curriculum, keeping everyone on the same page and being the primary point of contact with students when they need help or have questions. Startup Institute has a number of different industry professionals, like me, who come and teach throughout the course.  The classes are pretty small; between eight to 12 students.

    David usually gets in touch with me to ask me how the class went. He'll share the curriculum materials beforehand, and I’ll supplement them pretty extensively and give input on them. We usually talk about what worked and what didn't.

    How do you approach each class? What are your goals for your students?

    I'm pretty careful about instruction. I want students to get a lot out of it when I teach a class, so I usually spend another two to eight hours per term putting together sample projects or presentation materials.

    I teach in the immersive program, so in any given eight-week term at Startup Institute, I'll teach three or four classes. In addition, I meet students outside of the classroom for coffee or to answer questions.

    For me, a success story is when a student graduates from Startup Institute and finds a position that they really love and enjoy, and are able to do well there. We've had quite a few students get hired at companies like Wayfair – and I would consider myself a success (my first job after Startup Institute was at Cazena)!

    The Startup Institute teaching schedule has changed recently. What is the new schedule for the students?

    Previously we were teaching between 11am and 1pm with students. But now the immersive program is an evening program, and students have class from 6:00pm to 9:30pm two nights each week, and 9am to 5pm most Saturdays.  

    Students learn via instructional time and experiential learning where they work on real-world projects for startups in the community. We do a lot of fireside chats where CEOs and leaders in the startup industry come in and talk about their company or give helpful advice. There's a lot of coaching around how to find a job in the startup industry, and how to cultivate the soft skills you need to be successful. There is also usually some time for students to work alongside each other as well.

    As a graduate of Startup Institute’s full-time program (you learned full-time during work hours), how do you think this new schedule (evening, part-time class) will impact learning?

    This schedule change allows Startup Institute to teach a different type of student. We can now teach students who are working full-time while they go through the program, if they are very motivated. When it was a daytime course, students had to quit their jobs to go to Startup Institute. It can be really difficult for somebody to quit a full-time job to make an eight-week commitment, in addition to spending a lot of money. With the evening courses, I find we have more working professionals in our classes and they provide a more diverse perspective. So I think that has been a very positive change.

    Startup Institute can also work with more instructors, because instead of taking time off of work to teach, instructors can commit more time after work. I can now teach three to four classes per term, whereas in previous terms, I might have only been able to do one or two. I'm able to get to know students a little bit better and help them out, so I'm really enjoying the new time and structure.

    Is there a specific subject that you teach?

    Yes, I teach a class on how to build automated testing software. I'm a big automated test enthusiast and I'm pretty skilled in that area.

    I also teach classes on Model View Controller (MVC) design patterns. When you look at web development, most frameworks and strategies that people use to solve problems are referred to as MVCs, so I walk students through that, how to break a problem into parts, and how to put those parts together in the context of a real application to perform useful work.

    What differences have you noticed between teaching English and teaching coding?

    It’s interesting – when I taught English, it wasn't really about grammar or how to structure an essay. A big part of it was asking interesting questions, conceptualizing a problem, and bringing domain knowledge to those problems.

    Teaching at Startup Institute is similar in a lot of ways. Software engineering is actually not just about syntax or typing into an IDE (integrated development environment). In a similar way to English, it’s also about asking good questions, thinking through a problem, and being able to conceptualize that problem.

    Before I transitioned careers, I thought that English language and web development were very dissimilar. And there are differences. But in a fundamental way, it's about how you think about a problem. I think that that part of my teaching transferred over pretty nicely.

    What is your personal teaching style? Has it changed at Startup Institute?

    As an English professor, my teaching style tended to be very experiential – figuring out what students could do, and how I could support them in doing it more, rather than just giving lectures all the time.

    At Startup Institute, students tend to be at all different experience levels, so the teaching style tends to be very experiential as well. Because I've been teaching for quite some time, I'm pretty comfortable adapting to what the class needs. With that being said, there's a flow to it. For the first part of the session, I introduce a concept. I'll usually give students time to ask questions throughout, then students work on an activity, and we have a debrief about the topic. That’s pretty similar to what I experienced as an English professor, and one that I think is specifically effective for helping people apply knowledge; especially for learners at different levels of ability.

    How do you assess student progress at Startup Institute?

    The assessment is between classes. There's usually some sort of challenge students do in preparation for the next class. It’s not very formal but when I see them again I can ask them, "How did you solve the problem? What issues did you run into? What questions do you have?" That gives me a gauge so that I can pivot if I need to address areas where they lack understanding.

    Have there been any changes to the curriculum since you started teaching?

    The curriculum has been reasonably consistent from my perspective since I started, but that's because the automated testing and the MVC material I teach is pretty standard in a web development curriculum. One change I have seen at Startup Institute is putting more emphasis on JavaScript in addition to Ruby on Rails.

    As a graduate of Startup Institute and now as a teacher, have you found there are a certain types of students who do well at Startup Institute?

    I think students at all levels can be really successful at the Startup Institute. The students who are most successful tend to have – not a deep background in development already – but definitely some familiarity with it.

    What makes a good junior software engineer is being independent, being able to ask questions but also able to take the initiative to answer those questions to the extent that they can. They need to enjoy solving problems, interacting with coding languages, and be really motivated. I see a lot of people transition into software development, but it's not the easiest thing in the world, and you need to be really committed to striking out for what you want.

    What is the goal for a student who completes the bootcamp? What sort of jobs will they be prepared for?

    I think Startup Institute prepares students towards a variety of roles. I've actually started to see some product management students go through the Startup Institute’s Web Development track just because they want more technical grounding.

    A very typical entry-level career for recent bootcamp graduates can also be Quality Assurance with an automation emphasis. We definitely see some students go into QA. And then we see students get hired as Junior Software Developers at companies around Boston both big and small.

    You mentioned that some students juggle 40 hours of study with a full-time job. How do you and Startup Institute help students balance their commitments?

    In general, as instructors, we give students a lot of information very, very quickly, which can be a challenge. There are two aspects to helping them through that. First, we help them focus on understanding and prioritizing what skills they need to be a junior software developer. You're not going to go through an eight-week program and come out the other end as a Software Architect. You're going to come out as a Junior Developer. So we try to help students understand what that skill set looks like so that they can focus carefully on it.

    The other thing I do to support students is meeting up for coffee and chatting things through. It's a chance to have a conversation, answer their questions and provide advice.

    What’s your advice for students when they're looking for a job?

    One of my biggest pieces of advice to students is to utilize Startup Institute staff. The people who work full-time at Startup Institute tend to have pretty deep connections in the startup industry. They know companies that are hiring, people who have been hired, and people working in the field. So often times, if a student is interested in a particular company, they might be able ask program staff, "Hey, do you know anybody at this company? Can you make an intro?"

    The other advice I have for students is when you're transitioning careers you need to be pretty targeted with your job search. It might not be effective to just send your resume out to a bunch of places, because you might not look like a typical candidate. I advise students to use the resources around Boston to figure out what companies you are interested in. You can utilize Built in Boston, AngelList, BostInno, and LinkedIn to search for jobs. You can also find out if any of their employees graduated from the Startup Institute, or from a bootcamp, and see if you are already connected with them on Linkedin. Be proactive and find the companies that you are really passionate about and speak to them.

    Would you consider hiring a Startup Institute grad?

    Oh, yeah, for sure. If I was ever in a position where I was looking to hire a junior talent, I'd absolutely hire from Startup Institute. It's a good way to find smart people.

    In general, bootcamps are important because they improve diversity in the tech workforce. The bootcamp graduate demographic tends to be more diverse than the computer science graduate demographic, which is something really important for people making hiring decisions.

    For our readers who are beginners, do you have any resources or meetups that you might recommend for aspiring web developers in Boston?

    The Software Craftsmanship meetup is really fantastic. It's run by Steven Vance, who wrote a bunch of books on quality code and testing. Thoughtbot holds a meetup for Ruby on Rails practitioners once a month. There's also Djangonauts and many JavaScript-related meetups. Regardless, choose a coding-focused meetup that's somewhat related to your interests.

    My general advice is, if you're transitioning careers, get in front of people. Getting to know people is by far one of the best things you can do to network and find that first opportunity.

    Find out more and read Startup Institute reviews on Course Report. Check out the Startup Institute website.

    About The Author

    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.

  • Ultimate Guide to Digital Marketing Bootcamps

    Lauren Stewart2/21/2018

    When you think of your next tech job, does “Digital Marketer” come to mind? It should; a solid understanding of marketing, combined with analytical and a few tech skills, can lead to a fulfilling, evolving career. By 2021, US companies are expected to spend $129 billion on Digital Marketing investments. With the increase in marketing buys over the last few years, experts have forecasted that digital will eventually account for 50% of total advertising spend. So what is digital marketing, and exactly what skills do you need to be successful? Check out our Guide to Digital Marketing Bootcamps to find which types of jobs and salaries you could land in digital marketing, the skills you need to excel in the field, and the best Digital Marketing Bootcamps today.

    Continue Reading →
  • Alumni Spotlight: Nikki Pandya of Startup Institute

    Lauren Stewart12/11/2017


    Nikki Pandya was in a 3-year software developer rotation program at Liberty Mutual but wanted to add design skills to her toolbox. She chose to learn those design skills at Startup Institute’s Part-Time UX Design course in Boston while working full-time. And while Nikki ultimately decided to stay in her software development job after Startup Institute, she cultivated invaluable leadership qualities and learned how to incorporate the design process into her code. Read more about Nikki’s career journey.


    What were you up to before you started learning design?

    My degree was in applied math, although I didn’t know what I wanted as a career. My first job in the technology field was in a part-time role in IT administration. Once I graduated from college, I found a really cool three-year rotation program at Liberty Mutual. You start off as an IT Analyst, then move to Associate Software Developer and finally to Software Developer.

    That rotational program at Liberty Mutual is how I worked my way up to my job as a Software Developer today. Prior to this job, I had no coding experience, but I learned software development on the job.

    What inspired you to go to a bootcamp like Startup Institute?

    I was working full-time as an Associate Software Developer at Liberty Mutual. As a developer at my company, I discovered UX design and I completely fell in love with it. Once I discovered that I really liked UX design, I took classes at Northeastern and I started a master’s program in Digital Media Design at Harvard.

    I was just trying to figure out how I could get into the design field, so I talked to a Startup Institute alum, who told me that she used Startup Institute to get into design. I got exposure to and learned a lot about Startup Institute through her. Then I did a lot of research on my own about what Startup Institute involved and and how it could help me. What really convinced me was that they offer a part-time program where I could keep my job and my steady income while learning on the side.

    In my company, it's a hard transition from developer to designer, so Startup Institute was where I went to build my UX skills.

    Was Liberty Mutual supportive of your decision to start the Startup Institute part-time design course?

    I did talk to my manager. My company didn’t pay for it, but my manager supported my participation in the program.

    How was the Startup Institute application and interview process like for you?

    It was pretty competitive. They are looking for passionate people who really know that they want to learn and make a move in their career. I think the application process was a good length. I went through about three interviews and their team was very personable. Startup Institute let me share my story with them; I told them what I was going through and why I wanted to do Startup Institute and what I was looking to gain from it.

    Did Startup Institute’s teaching style match your learning style?

    I definitely think Startup Institute is better than undergrad because it is more tailored to the work I would be doing. Anything we did in class applied directly to what I would be doing in the field. Everything I learned in class was hands-on and I was able to apply it to my job.

    Similar to my rotational program, the learning at Startup Institute was very hands-on. I'm a hands-on person so just diving into the code really helped me. They don't just give you a lecture and expect you to go home and figure it out on your own. They really support you and guide you through it.

    When one person is stuck, the other classmates say, "Oh, let me help you. I did this already.” or "I was having the same problem. Let's work together." It's very collaborative – they challenge you and still support you to get you going.

    Tell us about your favorite project that you worked on at Startup Institute.

    My favorite part of the course was the entrepreneurship track that Startup Institute gives to people planning on staying at their current company. It was amazing; they charged us with creating an innovative solution for one current company process that would make us stand out as a leader.  For that project, I found that we had this major dip in conversion and I wanted to solve that problem. So I presented a solution using company analytic tools and Sketch to my manager and design folks, and I was able to give reasons why it was necessary to make changes.

    For me personally, it helped me realize that I was a leader, I just was not believing in myself. Our instructor, Jaime, guided us and showed us that we are leaders on our own, we just need to push ourselves and take small steps to get there.

    How did you manage your time while working full-time and doing Startup Institute part-time?

    Honestly, it was overwhelming for me. Working full-time and doing projects on top of the workload every day was definitely overwhelming and I did feel a bit stressed. But finding time and dedicating myself to the course was very important. I knew that after work I had to spend at least two hours on my projects. Since it was a part-time program, we did meet on the weekends, so it was hard during the summer to not plan anything for the weekends. But in the end, it was definitely worth it. I don't regret it at all, but I do think it was a bit stressful at times.

    Startup Institute understands how stressful it is so they help us as much as they can. It's not like they just throw material at us and expect us to finish it without help.

    Did you express to Startup Institute that you wanted to change careers or stay in your current role? How did the bootcamp help you with career support?

    I was unsure if I wanted to stay or change careers. During general meetings, they helped with resumes, updated LinkedIn profiles, etc. I didn't partake in that because I chose to go to the entrepreneur track meetings. Even though I didn't get to partake in the resume help, I was still able to send my resume to the instructors and they made updates and suggestions.

    We did practice interviews after class, which was really helpful. If I was applying for a software developer role, they would have a software developer there to help conduct the interview and give us real experience. Once I was close to graduation and I made it very clear that I wanted to change jobs, Startup Institute was very supportive and started sharing my name with companies that were looking for designers. Startup Institute was really proactive about it.

    Did you ever consider changing careers from a Software Developer to become a UX Designer?

    Going into Startup Institute, I had decided that I wanted to switch careers into design, but once I graduated from Startup Institute, I got promoted. As a designer, you don't get to code as much, and I didn't want to give that up. With Liberty Mutual, I'm able to develop and design at the same time – have an input in the design while contributing to the code – whereas with most companies, those two jobs would be separate.

    What do you work on today at Liberty Mutual?

    I’m working on the Liberty Mutual quote app, so users can use the app to get a quote from Liberty Mutual for car insurance. Lately, we’ve been working on creating a better design for users. That's where I was able to piece everything that I learned at Startup Institute together.

    Since you graduated from Startup Institute and learned design, what has changed about your job at Liberty Mutual?

    We are revamping the way we develop and create products. I’ve changed teams to a newly-created, high-profile team that focuses on customer pain points and needs. I think I was added to this team because of all the hard work that I put in at Startup Institute. I got to present innovative ideas that I developed at Startup Institute, so I think it’s been a great change.

    I was part of the initial redesign of our products, but now our UX team is working on the actual design. So I wouldn’t say that I’m a part of the design team, but before this whole restructure I was only using JavaScript. Now I've added some HTML and CSS, so I am able to work with the designers and create the pattern library for them. Lately, I’ve been learning React, which is the direction that we're headed towards. Learning design has helped me think about the user while coding. Sometimes developers don't really think about who will be using their end product because we're usually just building whatever the business assigns to us, but now we're more involved and customer-centric. I think UX design practices are really important to coding because we're building a product for the user.

    How do you feel you've grown as a developer with your new skills from Startup Institute?

    With the skills that I learned from Startup Institute, I'm more involved in my job than I used to be. Before, I just did what I was told instead of pushing to change things. I was too comfortable and thought maybe they didn't want to hear what I had to say, but at Startup Institute, I developed the ability to speak my mind and give differing opinions that my company may not have thought of, which sets me apart.

    I’m continuing to learn. We now do pair programming, which is a new methodology for us. Working with senior developers helps me grow as a developer by gaining more experience and more knowledge.

    What's been your biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to learning UX design at Startup Institute?

    Actually, learning design was a natural fit. And it wasn't just because I was a developer before; I also had taken a few design courses before I started Startup Institute. Startup Institute basically connected all the dots for me. At a university, you take one class and then it’s over. Startup Institute tied everything together for me and showed me how design works in the real world.

    What’s your advice for people thinking about making a career change with a part-time coding bootcamp course like Startup Institute?

    I think it's a great option if you're doing a part-time course because you get to stay in your company, and decide if this is really best for you. It's also great financially. Personally, I didn't have the ability to leave my job for a couple of months and not have any income. If you are still nervous about completely leaving your job, Startup Institute is a great option. It's a great bootcamp with a lot of support and motivation to help you transition smoothly. I was able to fully commit to it and follow with the program without having any fear of quitting my job and not being able to find a new one.

    The one thing that really stuck out to me was that if I ever need help finding my next job, Startup Institute will have my back. They'll support me and help me find work. Startup Institute wants the best for you and they want you to succeed.

    Even if you already have a job you like, Startup Institute is a great place to extend your skillset. It really got me out of my comfort zone in terms of leadership. I think a lot of people get comfortable in their position and feel like they are not going anywhere, but you only go as far as you push yourself. If you want to see how far you can get in your company, it's a great option.

    Read more Startup Institute reviews on Course Report. Check out the Startup Institute website!

    About The Author

    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.

  • August 2017 Coding Bootcamp News + Podcast

    Imogen Crispe12/8/2017

    Why do journalists and industry leaders think that two coding bootcamps are closing? And despite these “shutdowns,” why do companies like IBM still want to hire coding bootcamp graduates? We’re covering all of the industry news from August. Plus, a $3 billion GI Bill that covers coding bootcamps for veterans, why Google and Amazon are partnering with bootcamps, and diversity initiatives. Listen to our podcast or read the full August 2017 News Roundup below.

    Continue Reading →
  • Why MassChallenge Hires from Startup Institute

    Imogen Crispe7/27/2017


    Boston-based startup accelerator MassChallenge recently hired their new Global Marketing and Operations Senior Director Peter Micali out of Startup Institute’s Digital Marketing bootcamp – and we wanted to find out what made this alum shine. Peter took the 8-week bootcamp to broaden his digital and technical marketing skill set, and met MassChallenge staff at a Startup Institute event. We asked Steffanie Sayce and Mary Schlegel from the MassChallenge People Strategy team, about what they look for in the MassChallenge interview process, why they appreciate bootcamp skills, and their advice to other employers thinking of hiring from a bootcamp.

    Tell us about MassChallenge, what the company does, and your roles there.

    Steffanie: At MassChallenge, we are the most startup-friendly accelerator on the planet. We are not-for-profit, we do not take any equity from startups which come into our accelerator programs, and the sole intent is to provide entrepreneurs with access to our mentor networks, investors, corporate partnerships, and curriculum. Entrepreneurs have access to that network at no cost to them, in the hope that it will propel them to be more successful in the long run. My title is Senior Director of People Strategy, which is equivalent to Head of HR for MassChallenge

    Mary: I’m the Global Talent Developer, which in a more traditional company would be a Learning and Development specialist, so I focus on professional development and our global internship program.

    How did MassChallenge first get connected with Startup Institute?

    Steffanie: The Startup Institute connection to MassChallenge predates both of us – we have had a relationship with Startup Institute for the last 3 to 5 years.

    It’s a multi-pronged relationship. We go to events like their Talent Expos, we hire from Startup Institute into MassChallenge, and we participate in expert panels. When Startup Institute needs experts for their panels, our whole team is quick to volunteer – because we have content experts on the marketing, career planning, and the HR side.

    You recently hired Peter Micali into a Global Marketing role. Can you tell me how you got connected and about his role at MassChallenge?

    Steffanie: We initially connected with Peter during a Talent Preview Day at Startup Institute. We work with an amazing account manager at Startup Institute, David, who has been really helpful in pointing us in the direction of potential talent aligned with our openings. We had a senior global marketing role that would be focused on sales enablement, content, and managing marketing operations for our partnerships team. We needed somebody who was primarily dedicated to making sure our partnerships teams had the collateral they needed to successfully talk to MassChallenge sponsors.

    We connected with Peter pretty early on in the cycle. David was helpful in making the initial introduction, and then Peter was very professional, but also proactive about getting connected into our network during the interview process.

    Mary: I was volunteering at a Startup Institute event about interviewing protocol, and they had a couple of HR professionals come in and do test interviews with the students. Peter jumped in and interviewed with me on the spot, then I met him again at the Talent Expo and followed up with him.

    What did Startup Institute add to Peter’s resume?

    Steffanie: Peter had an MBA, but what Startup Institute did was broaden his digital and technical marketing skill set. In the past, he was more of a generalist or a brand marketer, but the Startup Institute coursework seemed like it was valuable in rounding out the marketing toolkit that he had to make him as successful as he is in his partnership marketing role.

    Other than through Startup Institute, how do you usually find new hires? What other channels are you using?

    Steffanie: We use public job posting websites, and we have our own website career page. MassChallenge is interesting because we tend to get a lot of proactive candidates who are really committed to and inspired by our mission, our CEO, our leadership team, and the startups that we have worked with. We have a really rich network that generally provides a lot of incredible people when we have openings.

    What are you looking for in a new hire?

    Steffanie: We need the applicant to have the technical skills required to be successful in the job, but it’s also really important that they live and embody our guiding principles. One of our most important principles is the goal to help entrepreneurs win. The joke here is, if it’s not benefitting a startup, then you just shouldn't do it. It’s obviously an oversimplification of the decision tree, but I think there is an element of truth to it– our jobs are always about the startups first. The pace, complexity, and the volume of work at a place like MassChallenge, or at any startup, isn’t something that people are always prepared for, but definitely something that we look for throughout the interview process.

    Bootcamps are relatively new – Steffanie, as the Senior Director of People Strategy, have you incorporated them into your overall hiring strategy at all?

    Steffanie: To some extent, yes. Coding bootcamps are more prevalent, and we’re not aggressively hiring for our engineering team right now. When we are hiring for our tech team, we try to connect with people at meetups, who have come from similar backgrounds to a bootcamper. Sometimes that means they don’t have a traditional computer science degree, but they had a later-in-life career pivot, did a bootcamp, or became their own CEO, all of which requires a technical skill set.

    I do think there is a lot of value in bootcamps, but as with any candidate source, it’s almost as important to be diverse about your candidate source as it is about diversity hiring in general. At the end of the day, you don’t want one single source of talent.

    What kind of hiring process do you have? When you were hiring Peter, what kind of interviews did he go through, and how do you test for competency in a marketing interview?

    Steffanie: It depends on the role. Typically, we structure our interviews as an initial phone screen, followed by an in-person interview, if possible, some kind of work project or case study in between, then a final round interview with senior leaders of the organization. That’s a very high-level skeleton of how we typically structure our interviews.

    For Peter specifically, we’d already done the phone screen just by virtue of him being connected to us through Startup Institute, so it was a bit lighter. We had the round one interview where he met with entire marketing organization globally, and he got great feedback from them. Then we had him do a mini case study as part of the interview process to demonstrate the skills and chops that he’d acquired at Startup Institute. Finally, we had him meet with the senior leaders.

    I think he impressed everybody. It was always about the level of professionalism, and marketing knowledge that he displayed, which is why we hired him.

    Did you have to convince your company (or even yourself) to hire a bootcamp graduate?

    Steffanie: Not me personally, but before I worked with Startup Institute, I did hear some rumblings that bootcamps are where people go when they are having a midlife crisis.

    In my experience interviewing applicants, I think that bootcamps are more suited for people who need to refine a specific skill set. It’s not necessarily that they are having some kind of crisis of faith in their career. It’s more like, “I’ve worked in branding throughout my entire marketing experience and carved out this niche, but I’m interested in expanding into another marketing vertical.” If someone can accomplish that by joining a program like Startup Institute, and making the right connections to broaden their skill set, why wouldn’t they do it? It seems like a great educational option and an excellent benefit for future employers.

    I’m interested in what you think of the Startup Institute digital marketing curriculum. Is Peter using the skills they learned at Startup Institute?

    Everybody has to learn the ins and outs of a new organization when they join it, so no one can really truly prepare you for internal complexities, but Peter is definitely putting his skills to good use. He has been able to inform some of our communication strategies, particularly with partners and will soon be helping us expand the website, which is directly related to the course content at Startup Institute’s Digital Marketing track.

    How does MassChallenge ensure that the new hires are supported in that way? Do you have mentoring or professional development programs in place?

    Steffanie: Onboarding is a big focus area for us. Mary is almost entirely dedicated to professional development at MassChallenge, in addition to the curriculum we run for our startup members. In fact, MassChallenge staff can attend all of the Startup Bootcamp curriculum that we offer as well as having access to professional development opportunities that we provide. Startup Institute also provides a lot of opportunities for alumni to get involved, train against coursework, or come and speak as an expert on a panel. So there are a lot of different ways that we are collaborating to help support current staff and graduates from the bootcamp.

    Mary: In the past, employees have found that our Startup Bootcamp curriculum is a great way to further their professional development. We also host regular professional development opportunities, on topics like project management, career development, and interviewing, so we definitely try to make sure our team members are as prepared as possible for anything they take on.

    Do you have a feedback loop with Startup Institute at all? Are you able to influence their curriculum if you notice your hires are under qualified in a certain area?

    Steffanie: We have a strong feedback loop. So far, we haven’t necessarily given feedback on curriculum, so much as help support Startup Institute in delivering their curriculum. Hopefully that’s a good reflection of the relevance of what they are teaching. In general, if I had any issues or if for any reason one of our hires didn’t work out, I feel like we have such a strong relationship that I could call them and tell them my concerns, and they would incorporate that feedback into the next round of courses.

    Will you hire from Startup Institute in the future? Why or why not?

    Steffanie: Absolutely. It’s always dependent on an applicant’s skills, and the positions we have open but, our door is always open for Startup Institute.

    What is your advice to other employers who are thinking about hiring grads from a bootcamp or this bootcamp in particular?

    Steffanie: Honestly, I say go for it. At worst you’re unlocking a new network of potential candidates and a new pipeline. Even if the first hire doesn’t work out, you still have access to thousands of potentially qualified people and those types of relationships are hugely valuable in talent acquisition.

    Find out more and read Startup Institute reviews on Course Report. Check out the Startup Institute website.

    About The Author

    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.

  • Curriculum Spotlight: Part-Time Programs at Startup Institute

    Imogen Crispe4/13/2017


    You probably know Startup Institute for their full-time, 8-week bootcamps in Web Development, Web Design, Digital Marketing, Sales and Account Management. But with increasing demand from students who can’t quit their jobs in order to skill up full-time, Startup Institute is launching part-time programs in evenings and weekends. We asked Startup Institute Director of Admissions Sarah McLaughlin who the part-time programs are best for, how they differ from the full-time offerings, and how part-time students can achieve their goals without forfeiting their jobs.


    Why has Startup Institute decided to launch part-time programs?

    According to Gallup, 67% of employees in the US report feeling disengaged at work. Our mission at Startup Institute is to build an inspired workforce, because we know the world is a better place when people do what they love. Our full-time program has helped over 1,400 people transition their careers into the innovation sector. Students have come from backgrounds in law, politics, finance, teaching, administration and more, seeking opportunities in which they’ll be able to make a meaningful impact on a dynamic and solution-focused team.

    Still, the continuing education market consists of a variety of learners, and we have only been serving a small portion of them. There’s an added barrier for entry to our full-time program because it is intensive – it’s not possible to manage a full-time job while completing the program. During the admissions process, we frequently encounter people saying, “I would love to do this, but I don’t want to quit my job.” We needed to find a way to deliver our program to this broader audience.

    Startup Institute has always been about offering more than just technical skills. The part-time program remains true to what we are best known for: creating individuals with a growth mindset, who excel at cross-disciplinary collaboration.

    What is the structure and time commitment of the part-time program?

    Like the full-time program, the new part-time program will blend technical skill building two nights a week with networking events and two Saturdays a month focused on career-planning workshops, leadership and team skills, and cross-functional projects with local companies. It will also include eight additional weeks of in-person career coaching.

    Students should expect about 10 to 20 hours a week of work in total. The part-time program meets from 6pm to 9:30pm on Tuesday and Thursday nights for 12 weeks. It also meets every other Saturday from 8:30am to 5pm. In addition to class time, students will have the option of receiving one-on-one career mentorship and attending a number of evening networking events. They'll also be assigned lab work and projects to work on outside of class time.

    Who are the ideal students for the part-time Web Development program? What sort of students are you expecting?

    The ideal student for our part-time program is a person who is searching for a way to take their career to the next level, but doesn’t want to quit their current job in order to enroll in a full-time program.

    We have a triad of products to fit the needs of every skill-seeker: our Fundamental Skills Class for the person who’s in the early stages of investigating a new job function, the Full-Time Program for someone who’s ready to make a major career change, and the Part-Time Program for the individual who wants to level-up or stay relevant to their current employer.

    If your students are employed in full-time jobs already, are you expecting to see people skilling up for their current jobs, or career changers, or both?

    We’re expecting both. Our students in the full-time program have predominantly been career changers, but we’ve also had plenty of people who have come to Startup Institute to level-up their skills, build out their networks, and move into the innovation sector. We’re expecting the part-time program to attract a lot more of these people who want to level-up, but it may also be a more viable option for people who want to maintain a steady income while they transition their career.

    How will the admissions process differ from the full-time admissions process? E.g. will you be looking for different characteristics like time management or ability to balance commitments?

    Admissions for our part-time program follows the same rubric criteria as our full-time program. As with our full-time program, our admissions process for part-time is built to find students who will benefit from the program and learning environment. The interview is designed to find applicants who will be high-impact collaborators – the types of people we know entrepreneurial leaders want to hire.

    The next piece is about supporting the applicant to figure out the type of work that they will love. The interview and assessment involve a bit of searching for the “strike zone” to find a field that is interesting and energizing for them – in which the student will be solving the kinds of problems that their brain is really suited to solve.

    Time management skills and the ability to balance commitments will certainly be important qualities for part-time candidates, as well. It’s important to us to help candidates find the right fit for their career goals as well their learning style, so we spend a lot of time making sure people understand what the schedule, commitment, and content delivery look like.

    People considering any of our web development programs are asked to demonstrate their technical ability with a coding assessment. If they have difficulty with the assessment it doesn’t mean that they won’t be accepted. Depending on their needs, we may recommend they first do one of our introductory coding classes in Ruby or JavaScript, or in some cases we offer customized pre-work to get their skills up to the level they need to be at in order to be successful in the program.

    Will part-time students do the same 4-week pre-work module as the full-time students? Or will they have longer to work on it?

    Yes – part-time students will have the same pre-work opportunities available to them as our full-time students. That said, pre-work is customized and assigned on a case-by-case basis, depending on the learning needs of the individual. We’re prescriptive about what each student needs in order to be prepared to take on the program.

    Could you highlight the differences between full-time vs part-time curriculum for the Web Development track?

    The full- and part-time web development programs are very much the same. The curriculum content, teaching methodology, and career coaching elements are all the same. The main difference is in the schedule.

    Whereas the full-time program meets for eight weeks, Monday through Friday from around 9am to 6pm, the part-time program meets for 12 weeks. Two nights a week are spent building technical skills and every other Saturday is reserved for additional coding practice, plus career-planning workshops, leadership and team skills, and cross-functional projects with local companies. Ultimately, students will end up spending a similar number of hours in each program – in the part-time program those hours are just distributed over a longer stretch of time.

    A minor difference in the part-time program is that students do have one lead instructor from the tech industry who will deliver most of the curriculum over the course of the 12 weeks. This is different from our blended mentor-in-residence and ad hoc instructor model in the full-time program.

    Will students be required to do more homework/take-home projects for the part-time program than the full-time program?

    The curriculum for our part-time students will be the same as in the full-time program, but it will be of added importance that they practice and complete projects and lab work outside of class to successfully build skills and deliverables. Students will have access to their lead instructor outside of class hours on the cohort Slack channel, listserv, and in person by appointment.

    How many students will be in each class? Is this more or less than in a full-time class?

    As with our full-time program, part-time programs are capped at 60 people total. This usually works out to around 10-15 people in each skills track.

    Will students be interacting with students from other tracks for their projects as they do in the full-time program?

    Absolutely. The cross-disciplinary elements of our program create some of the highest value for our students in learning how to drive impact on a multi-functional team. It’s one of the things our students say they love most about our full-time program and will certainly be an important aspect of our part-time program.

    How will career services work for the part-time program compared with the full-time program? Will there be an evening Talent Expo so students can attend after work?

    That’s a great question. Our part-time graduates, like our full-time grads, will get two months of continued career coaching after the completion of the program to make sure that they stay on track toward their individual career objectives. If a part-time student joined us in hopes of getting a promotion, we’ll work with that person after the program ends to help them navigate those discussions with their leadership. If they’re looking for a new role, our staff members work diligently to help grads make connections and get the feedback they need to find a job they love.

    We’ll also have a Talent Expo for part-time graduates as we do for our full-time grads. We fill a room with hiring managers, founders, and CEOs, as each of our graduates take the stage to pitch their skills, ambition, and hustle in 60 seconds.

    What is your advice for students embarking on a part-time program? Any tips for getting the most out of it while balancing other commitments?

    A student from our most recent cohort in New York just wrote a blog post on his advice for our incoming students. I recommend it to anyone considering our programs.

    I would say, commit yourself to the process. Whether you choose to do our full- or part-time program, you’ve chosen to invest in yourself and in your career goals. Take time to be reflective about what these are – about where you’ve been and where you’d like to go. Take time to build meaningful connections and to invest the effort in your learning. The people who get the most out of Startup Institute are the ones who understand that the experience is what they make it.

    One of the things that makes Startup Institute unique is that people join the program with a range of goals and expected outcomes. For some people, building a network is the number one priority, so they'll devote the most energy to relationship building activities. Other people are intently focused on honing their technical skills. Between curriculum content, portfolio development, lab work, and the suite of exclusive online learning tools we offer, students could devote endless time and still not exhaust the resources available to them.

    We ask students to define their individual goals, and then we guide them in setting their priorities to meet these. So, there's not one set model. The experience at Startup Institute is designed to be as personal as the individual's unique career objectives.

    If you’re interested in our programs but aren’t sure which is right for you, feel free to reach out. We’re very focused on helping candidates discover if Startup Institute is right for their careers, and if it isn’t we say so – it’s important the fit is right on both sides. You can also download our Program Guide for more information on all of our course offerings.

    Find out more and read Startup Institute reviews on Course Report. Check out the Startup Institute website.

    About The Author

    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.

  • Episode 12: March 2017 Coding Bootcamp News Roundup + Podcast

    Imogen Crispe7/21/2017

    Haven’t had time to keep up with all the coding bootcamp news this March? Not to worry– we’ve compiled it for you in a handy blog post and podcast. This month, we read a lot about CIRR and student outcomes reporting, we heard from reporters and coding bootcamp students about getting hired after coding bootcamp, a number of schools announced exciting diversity initiatives, and we added a handful of new schools to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.

    Continue Reading →
  • How to Get Work Experience Before You Graduate from Coding Bootcamp

    Imogen Crispe3/23/2017


    How do you get a job after coding bootcamp if you have no relevant, real-world work experience? Only 1.4% of bootcampers have worked as developers in the past, but most career-changers have little – if any– client experience when they start looking for a developer job. Some bootcamps help students overcome this hurdle by offering opportunities to work for the bootcamp itself, or with real clients through projects, internships, and apprenticeships. These opportunities can give students substantial experience to add to their portfolios and resumes, and kickstart the job hunt.

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  • Alumni Spotlight: Susan Gleason of Startup Institute

    Lauren Stewart3/13/2017


    With a computer science degree and over 15 years of industry experience, Susan Gleason left the workforce to dedicate time to her family. When she was ready to return, software development had changed. Interested in getting back in the action, Susan chose to re-skill in the Web Development course at Startup Institute in Boston. Learn about Susan’s journey back into tech, the real-world project she worked on with her cross-functional team at Startup Institute, and the gratifying struggle to land a Software Engineering role!

    What was your educational background or last career path before you decided to attend Startup Institute?

    I have a bachelor’s degree in computer science and 15 years experience in the technology industry. I have over seven years of development experience and another seven years of experience ranging from technical sales to product and project management. I stayed home to care for my children and my mother when she was ill.It had been 15 years since I’ve worked in the tech sector, so when I started at Startup Institute, I was coming back into the workplace.

    So you stepped away from the workforce for about 15 years. Was Startup Institute your chance to re-enter the workforce again?

    It was. I had spent some time looking for a job, and a friend told me about Startup Institute and suggested I go to one of their information sessions. I went, and after speaking with the Director of Admissions, I was intrigued. I really didn't think I would be able to go back into software development, but when I talked with her, she was so understanding and supportive. She told me, "you can do this!" She helped me take the first step toward returning to development with her support and innovative thinking.

    Did you consider going back to a traditional university to take courses? Why did you choose to take a coding bootcamp?

    I had heard about coding bootcamps, but I never considered them because I felt that it was probably going to be more of a beginner's level, “let's go back to college” type of thing, and I've done that. Startup Institute was the first bootcamp I stepped into and when I did, I had no need to look further. Startup Institute offers much more than an academic experience, it is a launch pad to a new career.

    What was it about that info session and Startup Institute in particular that made you want to attend?

    I think it was the support that I found. Right off the bat, I was told I could do something that I knew I could do. I could get back into development, but I didn’t expect anyone to actually believe that. I expected to hear that it's been too many years. So I appreciated the support they gave me saying, "you can do this."

    Did you consider any other bootcamps when you were researching?

    I didn't. I didn't look at any other bootcamps because I knew Startup Institute was the right place. The information session spoke to all my needs - technical knowledge, job search preparation and a strong professional network.

    How was the application and interview process for Startup Institute?

    It started with a  fantastic interview with the admissions team focusing on my goals and how they might be a good match for their program. For the web development track, they evaluate your technical skills by asking you to write a program. They gave me one week to write a program in Ruby On Rails that would send a text message to my phone. I took on the challenge, knowing it was my chance. It was tough but I enjoyed it so much that I knew I needed to return to development. What followed was an interview with the program director and an acceptance letter.

    Do you have any Startup Institute interview tips for our readers?

    I think the biggest thing is to be yourself. The admissions team is there to help. They aren't there to judge in any way, shape, or form. Be yourself, and show them what you really want to do. They're going to help you decide what is right for you. If you attend, they will give you everything they can to help you succeed.

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

    There were about 50 people in the cohort, and only six in my web development track. It was a great group of diverse people, all looking for a change.  I'm in my 50’s and would say that I was on the older side. There were probably 5-6 other students over 40. My classmates’ backgrounds were varied. We had people coming back to work, changing their roles, or just graduating from school. Technical backgrounds ranged from beginner to expert. One of my classmates in the web development track had really never done any coding before, and she's now a software engineer.

    What was your learning experience like at Startup Institute? Tell us about a typical day.

    A typical day started out with a fireside chat, where one of the CEOs from a Startup Institute hiring partner would come in and talk. It really opened our eyes to what's out there, the different networks that the Startup Institute works with, and the different options for us. They show you what it takes to start your own company.

    This would be followed by one or two sessions on interviewing, networking, or resume writing. And then we would divide into our own tracks, where I had sessions with my web development classmates. On Thursdays, we went off-site to work on our partner project. We worked with people from other tracks (digital marketing, sales, and design) on a project for one of Startup Institute’s partners. The web development sessions not only covered programming in Ruby on Rails, but included everything from market trends to software tools and the agile development process. This technical training brought me up-to-date with industry issues and trends, which was just what I needed. You might ask how we had time to learn Ruby on Rails – this is a bootcamp, expect long days and nights to keep up with the pace.

    Did you have a favorite project that you built while at Startup Institute?

    I think my favorite project, and most rewarding experience, was the work we did for our partner company. As you're learning code, you’re given very simple projects to learn with, but it was great to dig my hands into real work, solving real problems. We worked to combine data from multiple departments to deliver executive level reports on the state of the business. We used the Tableau business intelligence and analytic tool with a data transformation and integration ETL tool to pull together customer usage and billing information from multiple systems.

    Did you work with a team on that project?

    Yes, we did work as a team. On our team, we had members from the Sales, Digital Marketing, Web Design and Web Development tracks. We all approached things differently, giving us a multidimensional view of the problems and their solutions. We worked well together and learned much from one another.

    How and when did Startup Institute prepare you for the job search? How did you approach it?

    At Startup Institute, you actually start interviewing and networking with companies within the first couple of weeks. We worked on our elevator pitch, resumes and interview techniques. We spent time with our mentor creating and refining job search plans. The process was so well-tuned that I had a three-month apprenticeship position in Boston before I graduated, with a mobile strategy, design, and development company. It was a fantastic learning experience with consulting projects that both broadened and deepened my web development experience.

    The network of alumni and partner company contacts that I built at Startup Institute gave me the means to explore all possibilities, resulting in my current software engineering position at a high-tech company in Boston.  

    Tell us about your new role! How was that transition coming back into the workforce?

    I’m a Software Engineer at an experienced startup company based in Boston contributing to the development of a cloud service management platform for maximizing cloud efficiency. I’ve been in my role for about 8 months and enjoy being part of the link between Engineering and Support.

    To be honest, it was a rough transition at first. The current technology, tools, and development process were all new to me. To put it in perspective, the Internet was brand new when I last worked as a developer, and we were lucky to have new product releases once a year– nothing like the current SaaS environment. Deploying product features at such a rapid pace has changed the entire development process for the better. Although the technology is new, the basics never change and it didn’t take long to get up to speed

    How did your company make sure that you were ramping up and continuing to learn when you first started?

    I have a mentor who has truly been a lifesaver. He helps me with everything from the product to the development process and tools. That does not mean to say he is the only one I can go to. Everyone I work with welcomes the chance to help each other. I am in a role that bridges engineering and support so I work with all components of our product and couldn’t do my job without help from everyone else. Ramping up is a continuous process as our product is maturing just as fast as the company is growing. The challenge makes it all worthwhile.

    You’ve now worked two different times as a woman in tech. Has that experience changed?

    When I first entered the workforce as a software engineer, there weren't many women, but I don't think it played a part in the hiring process. Today, I think being a woman makes it easier to find a new position – everyone is looking to round out their team. At my current company, we actually have quite a number of women developers and our presence is growing.

    How's the Boston tech scene? Do you stay involved with Startup Institute at all?

    I do stay involved. We have 3 or 4 events specifically for alumni and hiring partners of Startup Institute each year, plus evenings to meet their current students. I keep in touch with the alumni and get a chance to meet some of the new students. It's a wonderful organization and it's been very supportive of both my initial job search and continued development. I will say the support from the staff and cohort members is priceless. I wouldn’t be where I am without each and every one of them.

    What advice do you have for people who are thinking about re-entering the workforce and considering a coding bootcamp to make the jump?

    For someone who's returning to the workforce, my best advice is just to believe in yourself. Find a bootcamp that you feel comfortable with, and if possible, find one where they will help you get the contacts you need in the industry. I think having a solid network and knowing that you have a team that will work with you to find a job is necessary to make a smooth transition. Anybody can learn to code, but finding the team that will help you get the job is the hard part. Startup Institute will give you what you need and a way to give back to those who follow in your footsteps.

    Read more Startup Institute reviews on Course Report. Want to relaunch your career in tech like Susan did? Download Startup Institute’s web development course syllabus to learn more about the program.

    About The Author

    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.

  • Your 2017 #LearnToCode New Year’s Resolution

    Lauren Stewart12/30/2016


    It’s that time again! A time to reflect on the year that is coming to an end, and a time to plan for what the New Year has in store. While it may be easy to beat yourself up about certain unmet goals, one thing is for sure: you made it through another year! And we bet you accomplished more than you think. Maybe you finished your first Codecademy class, made a 30-day Github commit streak, or maybe you even took a bootcamp prep course – so let’s cheers to that! But if learning to code is still at the top of your Resolutions List, then taking the plunge into a coding bootcamp may be the best way to officially cross it off. We’ve compiled a list of stellar schools offering full-time, part-time, and online courses with start dates at the top of the year. Five of these bootcamps even have scholarship money ready to dish out to aspiring coders like you.

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  • Alumni Spotlight: Christina D'Astolfo of Startup Institute

    Imogen Crispe12/27/2016


    During her internship, Christina was asked to build a custom website in two weeks. She had never coded before, but rose to the challenge (with the help of Redbull) and says, “It was the most fun I’ve ever had.” Even after starting her nonprofit role, Christina couldn’t get web development off her mind, so she left her job and enrolled in Startup Institute’s Web Development program in Boston. Christina tells us what stood out about Startup Institute’s job support program, why she appreciated the adjunct instructor model, and all about her new job programming interactive videos at HapYak!


    What is your pre-bootcamp story? Your educational background? Your last career path?

    Before Startup Institute, I finished my masters in public administration. During my masters I did an internship, where my boss asked me to build an entirely custom Wordpress website in two weeks, with all of his branding. I had never done that before, but it didn’t occur to me to say “I don’t know how to do that,” so I drank a case of Redbull and taught myself to do it. And it was done when he got back. It was super stressful, I didn’t sleep a lot, but it was maybe the most fun I’ve ever had. From there, while I was finishing my masters, I did some consulting jobs, and even wrote a front end curriculum in conjunction with Google for use in NYC middle schools.

    After my masters, I was a Program Coordinator at a small educational nonprofit in Boston. I was also their unofficial IT person, and still doing web stuff on the side. I loved the organization and loved my coworkers, but I wanted something more challenging, with more room for rapid growth. I realized I needed to do web development full time, because it was something I just loved doing.

    When you were teaching yourself to build that website, what resources did you use?

    I used a lot of Treehouse, Khan Academy, Udemy, Coursera, Stack Overflow, and then I read documentation. So if I was using a framework like Ember JS, or Angular, I would read the documentation for that while I was diving in.

    What made you choose Startup Institute? Did you research other coding bootcamps?

    I looked at the three in Boston: Startup Institute, Launch Academy, and General Assembly. Startup Institute stood out because they had their core curriculum – web development –but they also placed an emphasis on building a network, and figuring out what students wanted from a job. That was really important to me because so much of getting a job that you like, where you fit in, the culture suits you, and you have fun going to work, is who you know.

    I took a Fundamentals class in Ruby on Rails at Startup Institute, to make sure this was something I had a facility for and liked doing. I loved it of course, and it reaffirmed my impression that Startup Institute was a network of incredibly supportive, really nice, fun people.

    Was it important for you to learn a specific programming language or stack?

    I was open to learning anything, because I didn’t really know what type of job I wanted, so it was difficult to pick a language that I wanted to dive into first. I researched what languages are good for total beginners who have no background or foundation in computer science at all. So I knew I didn’t want to start with C. But other than that I was open.

    Did you think about doing a 4-year CS degree?

    No, because financially that wasn’t an option. Also I felt like I wanted to give coding a try first. When I was teaching myself online, one of the reasons I decided to go from online to a bootcamp education is that I wanted that in-person, collaborative, work environment that you don’t get in online courses. I wanted a network, I wanted somebody to review my work and my code and look at this and say, “It worked, but there is a more elegant solution.” So I felt like that was missing. I also didn’t have time or money to go back to college.

    How did you pay for the Startup Institute tuition? Any tips?

    I took out a loan. Startup Institute partners with Earnest. Their interest rate was pretty good and it was really easy to apply for. I filled in the application, and they got back to me a day and a half later.

    What was the Startup Institute application and interview process like for you?

    First there was an online application where they gauged your interest in different courses and asked you a couple of questions. That was followed by two in-person interviews, to gauge the cultural fit. To go to a coding bootcamp, you have to be the type of person who is very ambitious, and a self starter, so those in person interviews were meant to find that out.

    Then we were given a technical homework assignment. I had to build an application that hit Twilio's API endpoint, and if you put in your phone number it would send back a text message. There was a final in-person interview with the director of your program, then you got your decision.

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

    My cohort (Summer 2016) was 36 to 38 people, and generally we were very diverse in terms of age, and gender. Startup Institute is pretty great because of their commitment to diversity. They talk about it a lot, and in their info sessions it’s a question that almost always gets asked. People can say that diversity in tech is “not a problem”, but it clearly is.

    So Startup Institute is always asking, “Are we doing the best we can to create a diverse community?” When you go to Startup Institute events and you’re in the class itself you definitely see that. The Web Development track of the cohort was half men and half women, and the Design track was also almost half and half.

    What was the learning experience like at Startup Institute?

    A typical day starts with catching up on emails until our daily standup. We stood in a circle and talked about what we were working on, challenges, and blockers. Then, the day was divided into cohort sessions, so I was with the Web Development students. After standup we’d have a fireside chat where a CEO of a company would talk to us and answer questions. Then we’d have our in-track session, with a different instructor every day. That is something different from other bootcamps – we had different instructors for every in-track session. I really liked that because I got to meet and talk to a lot of different people, but it’s maybe not for everyone.

    After in-track sessions we’d come back together as a big group, to talk about something like how to brush up your resume, and how to tell your story in interviews. Then in the evening, we would either have another fireside chat, partner fairs, or practice interview sessions.

    With your background in education and curriculum development, did Startup Institute’s teaching style impress you?

    I liked it. I think a lot of educational experiences are very big on lecture, and light on actually doing things. Startup Institute was very practically oriented. We had our in-track sessions and there would be a powerpoint presentation, but we’d get through that quickly to start building products.

    In general, it’s difficult for me to compare the two teaching styles because in college, there is a very long learning period, and then you hope that you’ve been prepared enough for the real world. But with bootcamps and programming in general, tech changes so quickly that you’re never going to feel fully prepared or know everything. And you probably shouldn’t, because what you’ve learned could be obsolete or totally different in a year, and you have to update your base of knowledge. So really the best way to learn is to go and do it and debug as you go. Startup Institute was the kind of experience where they throw you in head first.

    What is your favorite project that you built at Startup Institute?

    I had a couple of side projects I worked on while I was at Startup Institute, and one of them was a social network application in Ruby on Rails, called Otterbook. It’s the silliest thing- Facebook except everything is about otters. You create a profile, you pick your otter avatar, you have otter face emojis, and every time you login there is a fun fact about otters.

    It was something I really enjoyed working on so it motivated me to program and push stuff to Github every day, so I had activity on my Github profile. For developers, your resume should be strong, but your Github is way more important. Since I didn’t have a lot of experience I had to make sure I really built up my portfolio. I worked on Otterbook in my own time. At Startup Institute, we build a reservation application like Open Table, where users could put in restaurants, map them, and make reservations.

    My friends and I also built a blackjack game, which was really fun. I also made a Ruby Gem called “Which Cheese” which will randomly pair a cheese with an alcoholic beverage.

    How did the bootcamp prepare you for job hunting?

    Startup Institute was great at this. The best thing they did was network us very heavily. There were a ton of networking events and partner fairs where they invited tech employers from the community. I would hit it off with somebody at an interesting company, then get introduced to the hiring person by Startup Institute. I don’t think I applied for a single job in the traditional way, it was all via email intros, having coffee, and meeting people. That was fantastic. Other times I’d find a company I liked, and someone at Startup Institute would know someone and introduce me over email.

    The most important thing Startup Institute does is teach you how to craft your story. They encouraged you to research a company to figure out how best to present your experience, and what you could bring to that company specifically. It can be hard when you’re coming in with no computer science experience, to ask an employer to hire you. It can be challenging or intimidating to figure out the best way to present your background, and Startup Institute is very deliberate about helping all of us craft that story for ourselves.

    They also prepared us by making sure we applied for jobs that were right for us. They talked about three important things when you’re looking for a role – company culture, the functional role, and the industry. They told us to pick two out of three that were most important. So I decided I didn’t really mind what industry I was in, but culture and functional role were pretty important. That helped me narrow down my job search when I was figuring out who to talk to.

    Congrats on your job at HapYak! What is HapYak?

    HapYak is awesome. We are a SaaS company, with 10 people. We have an interactive video platform, where users can make interactive videos, hosted on any number of online video players. You can add chapters, quizzes, branching points, choose your own adventure, clickable hotlinks, or a shopping cart, to a video, and users can buy products from a video. There is a ton of functionality included with the platform.

    One of the coolest things we do is we enable users to add annotations and clickable items to 360 videos. We’ve created a safety demo where you’re in a warehouse on your phone, and it says find the safety violations, and you literally circle around this video on your phone, and have to search for them. It’s super fun, like a game!

    What is your role at HapYak?

    My role is a Sales Engineer, so my time is split between talking to customers and creating demos for clients. If a client wants to buy our platform, but is not sure if it will do what they need, then I create a demo. For example we had a client who wanted the products in a video to have clickable hotspots, so that when you click on them, they would go into a shopping cart on the screen. So I created a demo that had all those different elements in it.

    The other part of what I do is development, so creating and coding new features, and fixing bugs. My big project right now is working on our e-commerce widget. I’m doing testing to make sure it works on every browser, and on phones.

    How did you find the job and what sort of interview process did you go through?

    HapYak is one of Startup Institute’s partner companies. They came to a couple of partner fairs where we asked questions about the company and what they were looking for in terms of hiring. I really liked them as people.

    At the end of Startup Institute, one of my favorite things to learn was API integration – figuring out how to communicate with different end points. So I knew I wanted to work with APIs at work. At the Startup Institute Talent Expo, where we all present 60-second pitches to potential employers, Hapyak came up to me and said, “So you like APIs,” and I said “Yeah I do!” and they said, “Do you want to work for us??” A lot of what we do at Hapyak is integrating our product with so many different video players. I had a phone screening with someone at HapYak who had been a sales engineer, I sent them my Github, then they had me create a project using the HapYak platform. I had an interview with the founder and I was hired.

    Are you using the programming language that you learned at Startup Institute in your job at HapYak?

    Not at all! On the front end we are using EmberJS, which I had never programmed in before. Our back end is Python, which I had also never programmed in, so that has been such a learning experience, but has been really fun. I have no background in this, but I can apply concepts I’ve learned in other languages at Startup Institute and I’ll figure it out.

    You chose to work for a smaller startup – did HapYak give you onboarding or mentoring?

    They are so small, there wasn’t really the capacity, but I feel like my workload was reflective of the fact I was very new. When I first started I was making very simple demos, doing a bit of custom CSS, HTML- no heavy stuff. For my first couple of weeks, I was mostly making demos, I wasn’t touching the code base at all, or I was looking at other people’s pull requests, to observe how it’s done.

    Then I started getting tickets that were more involved. It wasn’t a gradual slope, there were moments when they said, “We need you to do something you’ve never done,” but that’s startup life! It was something I very much expected, and Startup Institute did prepare me for that. They told us that if you need hand holding, an early stage startup is not a great environment for you. I like being thrown in and asked to solve a puzzle I’ve never seen or done before.

    How has your previous background been useful in your new job?

    My new job is very different from my previous career. I still feel my background in education has been helpful because I’m very methodical about teaching myself things. From the start, if I was given a bug to fix, I could quickly figure out the problem, because I had a very methodical approach to debugging in the browser. I would see what and where the error was and put a breakpoint in that line – that was because I had written curriculum for middle schoolers telling them to do the exact same thing. That was helpful knowing that even if something seemed overwhelming, I needed to approach it very methodically, step by step.

    How do you stay involved with Startup Institute? Have you kept in touch with alumni?

    We have a Slack channel that is constantly active and we text each other all the time. Startup Institute has a very strong alumni network – once you’ve drunk the kool-aid you are in it for life. I’ve been asked to speak on a couple of different panels at Startup Institute, and a lot of instructors that come back are former students. There are also three other people besides me at HapYak from Startup Institute, and then one from Launch Academy.

    What advice do you have for people making a career change through a coding bootcamp?

    Do your research, and try a couple of courses online. Coding is really hard, and I am still doing a lot of learning at my job – I take work home with me every day, because it has to get done so I’ve got to figure out how to do it. So don’t go to a bootcamp because you want to be in a job that makes a lot of money, or you want to be in the tech field. Go to a coding bootcamp because you’ve tried to code, you really love it, and find it interesting. If you’ve tried Treehouse or Khan Academy and find it really fun, then check out a coding bootcamp and see if it’s the thing for you.

    Then just keep learning, increasing your skills, read books, talk to people. Before I went to a bootcamp, I contacted a bunch of different alumni from Startup Institute, and asked them to tell me about it, from an honest perspective. That was very helpful, so I advise people to do the same if they can. I’m so happy to talk to anybody who wants to talk about Startup Institute, so feel free to get in touch!

    Find out more and read Startup Institute reviews on Course Report. To learn more about Startup Institute’s web development course, download a free syllabus.

    About The Author

    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: Warren Longmire of Startup Institute

    Lauren Stewart11/28/2016


    Think coding bootcamps are only for tech newbies? Warren Longmire has been programming since he was 13, has a computer science degree, and worked in game design, but he realized it was time to take his skills to the next level. He set an ambitious goal to work in web development at a New York startup, so he attended Startup Institute’s 8-week Web Development program in NYC. Check out what Warren took away from his Startup Institute experience, how he’s learning new approaches to technology, and his new developer role at Argo Digital!

    What is your pre-Startup Institute story? How were you introduced to coding?

    I've been programming as a hobby since I was about 13 years old. In undergrad, I earned a computer science degree and I worked very specifically in tools- development and game design. After being in the industry for a while, I got interested in educational gaming, mostly through research organizations. I worked in that field for about 5 years, but then once again felt unfulfilled. A lot of the research institutions were headed by people who weren't that interested in results, or putting together something that would actually sell as a product.

    I’m from Philadelphia and I'd never lived in New York before. I was interested in moving to a new city and pursuing my career ambitions. I hadn't worked in pure web programming, so I wanted both an introduction to the New York tech scene and to see how programming was done specifically at high-growth companies. That's what brought me to Startup Institute.

    Since you have a computer science background, and have been working in the field, what made you want to enter a learning environment like a coding bootcamp to re-jumpstart your career?

    I've been programming for over a decade now, and technology has changed a lot over that time. When I was first getting started, programming was application-based. You had one programming language available to use, and it was well-documented. The structure of programming was very different. Now there are a lot of interconnecting pieces, and there are a lot more programmers focused on different things all at one time. At the same time, we have smaller and faster teams. I went to a coding bootcamp to get a refresher in tech.

    In particular, I liked that Startup Institute wasn’t as concerned about my background. I felt that having programming experience at the very beginning put me at an advantage because I could concentrate on connecting with other students, figuring out how to work with marketers, and on the cross-disciplinary projects. The projects that we did off-site for hiring partners were attractive to me.

    Did you research other coding bootcamps? Why did you decide on Startup Institute?

    It was the personal touch. I looked at General Assembly and App Academy, but Startup Institute was the one that seemed to have more of a professional development environment. I knew how to code. I needed a coding bootcamp that would help me figure out how to move forward with my career.

    What type of career goals did you set before attending Startup Institute?

    I was thinking about going into a UX position. I came pretty close to learning UX. At the same time, I knew there were some holes in my skills as a web developer so I wanted to round out that skill set, so I chose to participate in Startup Institute’s web development track.

    We know that Startup Institute's admissions process has changed since you've attended– the bootcamp now offers resources to help beginners skill-up so that they can be successful in the assessment and program. When you attended, it was required to have an intermediate level of coding experience. Can you tell us about your Startup Institute application process?

    I had two personal interviews, and then one take-home challenge. Compared to App Academy and General Assembly, I thought Startup Institute had a much more difficult take-home assignment. They throw you right into a coding challenge and had me build a full-blown web app using a modern API. I was actually pretty impressed by that. The application took me about two days and the whole interview process was about two and a half weeks.

    Who else was in your Web Development track at Startup Institute?

    My Startup Institute cohort was super diverse, way more than I expected it to be. There were about three other black people with me in my cohort, which is more than I expected coming into any tech environment. It was pretty even when it came to men and women. There were only three other developers in my track, all of them were men and one of them was Hispanic.

    After working on projects with startups and high-growth tech companies, the second best thing about Startup Institute was my connection with the other students. Everybody had a lot of professional experience, but each person was looking to turn their career around in some way.

    I loved how many older people were on my team- people who had 20+ years of sales or marketing experience, but we're still searching and trying to figure themselves out. It was great to be able to work with them in particular.

    What was a typical day like at Startup Institute?

    Every day starts with a standup, just like you would have at any actual tech company. Standup is at 9:30am so I tried to get to the classroom at about 8:30am. After standup, depending on the day, we would either break off into individual instruction or a lecture.

    For the Web Development track, over the course of one week, we met with an instructor for a  session about a particular focus or about one larger project. Towards the end of the course, the teacher was just there for consultation or whatever issues that we had. That was about three days a week, and then two days a week we'd meet with our teams to help out at the different companies we were partnering with.

    On Tuesdays, we would usually skip standup to go straight to our companies to work on our projects. The company I worked with was actually in New Jersey, so there was definitely some difficulty with that. Days would end around 5pm or 6pm, and could easily go longer depending on what your workload was with your personal projects. I had all-nighters that I spent over there trying to get things done. I actually ended up on two different projects when one team lost a programmer. It was a really great experience.  

    Did you face any challenges learning in a coding bootcamp environment?

    In this type of environment, there will always be a lot of pushing, and a lot to learn outside of what you're being taught. I liked a lot of our teachers at Startup Institute, but at the same time, the program was loose enough that the instruction wasn’t always as focused as I would’ve liked. That was something that I had to get used to, and I had to rely on myself to put the effort and time in.

    Did you have a favorite project that you worked on?

    Yeah. We were working with MediaMath, a marketing company based in New York, on one of their internal tools that focused on educating marketers. There were many different articles about new techniques in marketing that MediaMath needed to add to their current curriculum. Their team needed a system to find different resources, tag them, bring them together, and notify each other about them. We built that from the ground up, and it was my first Rails app. That application and that process got me the job that I have today, still working on internal tools.

    What are you doing now? Where are you working and what's your role?

    I'm a full stack developer at Argo Group. The digital team is making client facing products and internal tools, and I'm working on an underwriting system to help research companies. I started in August and I am based in New York.

    You had a career in tech before this, but how do you see tech differently since graduating from Startup Institute?

    Before this job, I still had the notion from working in corporate environments that there's always a clear leadership structure. Startup Institute taught me that no one really knows what they’re doing. You throw yourself out there and try to do the best you can.

    From day one at Argo, I had to really throw myself into the work. The group I was working with had only existed for about a year and hadn’t really decided on their direction. Over the past few months, I’ve seen so much improvement- the product that I'm working on right now has been named; we have a task management system and a new manager. I recently went to Denver to do user interviews with a new division of the company. My role is definitely expanding and I have a front end developer that is a contractor working with me for the past four months.

    Are you using the same type of technologies that you learned at Startup Institute?

    You know what? Honestly, no. We concentrated on Rails at Startup Institute. I had only done a little bit of Node work at Startup Institute, and that was only out of necessity. Thankfully, at my job, they were looking for people who could code and they expected that we would learn on the job. Now I'm doing full stack Node, which is what the cool kids are using, and what we are using at Argo.

    What’s your advice to other people with a long career in technology? Can a coding bootcamp be right for them?

    I think so; for sure. I've been through a lot of different cycles with technology at this point. You get to a point where you either learn on the job or you work on antiquated technologies at work  while teaching yourself new coding philosophies at home.

    I got to a certain point where I knew it was time. It's always good to humble yourself and to put yourself in a place to learn. Startup Institute helped me concentrate and learn about the people and roles inside of a business. I'm definitely very happy I did it.

    Did Startup Institute help you with your job search?

    I still say that I got my job through Startup Institute. I was talking to Shaun Johnson, the co-founder, and he recommended that I get onto a platform called Hired. That's where I started getting interviews. I would not have been hired if it wasn't for that conversation with Shaun, so I still credit Startup Institute for that.

    Is there anything that you would like to share about your experience as a black man in the tech space?

    It's been four months in my new role, and I’ve been given a little bit more flexibility as far as being able to take on responsibilities with work, but it's an ongoing process. It's always difficult as a black male. You have to be very careful asserting yourself. It's also difficult because you’re faced with hard situations, but you really can't put your finger on it. That's just the stress that comes with being a black male in America, but I'm working it out.

    In the workplace, there’s sometimes a strained relationship when people are talking black slang at you, just trying to connect. I’ve had to say several times, "I'm here to do work. I'm not here to be someone that can show you how down you are." All that said, Argo is definitely one of the better corporate environments I've worked in, as I’ve experienced past situations in other workplaces that led me to leave the company.

    Thank you for sharing that. Are you still involved with Startup Institute in NYC? How is the tech scene in New York?

    I still go back to Startup Institute when they need help. The thing that strikes me about New York’s tech scene in comparison to Philadelphia’s tech scene is that it's just very opening and welcoming. No matter where people are at in their career- whether they have tons of money, they're VCs, or they’re just getting started- everyone is really supportive of one another’s dreams. Everybody is about making dreams come true in a way that I didn't see in Philadelphia.

    Now that you’ve been through Startup Institute and landed a job, do you have advice for those looking to attend a coding bootcamp?

    Find a coding bootcamp that fits; in particular, know what you're looking for. For example, if you know that you have zero tech skills, but you know how to work with people, then choose a bootcamp where they're just going to give you tech skills. But do keep in mind that tech is so fluid and it’s about working with people just as much as it is knowing any particular technology stack. Technology will change and you’re never going to know everything. So learn how people work first, and go to a place that supports that.

    To learn more, read Startup Institute reviews on Course Report and check out the Startup Institute website.

    About The Author

    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.

  • 5 Minute Snapchat Intro to Coding Bootcamps

    Liz Eggleston7/21/2017

    On October 26th, the Course Report team took over the Women in Tech Snapchat Channel and had a blast introducing everyone to coding bootcamps, Course Report, and even took followers along to tour three NYC coding bootcamps!

    Continue Reading →
  • Alumni Spotlight: Liz Holzman of Startup Institute

    Imogen Crispe9/26/2016


    Even while Liz was getting promotions at her administrative job in Health and Human Services, she knew she needed something more. After a personal life crisis, Liz decided to reevaluate her career goals. She drew inspiration from a past tech project, worked hard to save money, and got accepted to attend Startup Institute in Boston, MA. Today, she is a software engineer at WeSpire and loving it. Liz tells us about networking with her Startup Institute instructors (one of those instructors even offered her the job at WeSpire!), falling in love with hackathons, and why the Startup Institute community is so important to her.


    Tell us about your previous education and career before Startup Institute.

    I was a 3D Art major and got a BFA from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. However, in art school I realized that while art is always going to be a part of who I am, that style is really more of an outlet for me and not how I want to make a living. When I graduated, I ended up temping and bounced around until I landed in a health and human services company. I held a lot of different positions there, as I kept getting promoted. I loved my teammates, but at the end of the day, the job wasn't fulfilling in the way I wanted it to be. I wanted a challenge.

    How did you get interested in coding?

    My company at the time hired a local Boston startup to rebuild our customer information platform. I found that I could understand both the computer side, and the communication side, so I ended up liaising, translating between the two worlds for my company.

    I worked really closely with the lead developer on that project. The more I worked with her, the more I realized that she had the job I wanted. She was a mentor to me. She convinced me to join coding workshops here in Boston like RailsBridge Boston, where I met lots of people in the industry. At those workshops, I kept hearing about Startup Institute, and finally decided to research it.

    When did you realize that coding workshops and self-study weren't enough, and that you needed to do a coding bootcamp?

    I know that I learn best when I immerse myself. I was spending so much energy on my job, that I was too mentally exhausted to be able to start learning something new. I knew I didn’t have several years to dabble in new concepts until I was ready to make a career change. If I wanted to do this, I needed to make a clean cut, leave my job behind, and put all of my energy into learning programming.

    Did you research other coding bootcamps before you decided to go to Startup Institute? Did you consider other options in the Boston area?

    Yes. I was planning on applying to Launch Academy and General Assembly, because I met a lot of their alumni at the RailsBridge Boston workshops. It seemed that those other two programs focused heavily on coding, and at that point, that's what I thought I needed.

    What factors made you decide to enroll at Startup Institute?

    As I kept researching, I realized that Startup Institute’s focus is broader than those coding skills; they want to help students understand what they want in their life. Startup Institute values networking and giving back to the community, and they understand that monetary success doesn’t necessarily make you happy. I could get a job that pays loads of money and be successful, but will that make me as happy as I could be? The staff at Startup Institute really value making relationships with and helping people around you in order to build a stronger, happier community of people who are going to be better at their jobs because of that community.

    This resonated with me in a lot of ways. It actually reminded me a lot of art school, in a way. Everyone had their own strengths, the medium they were best at, but that didn’t stop anyone from helping fellow artists in whatever project they might be working on. I saw the same community at Startup Institute; I can't do sales, I'm not a marketer, but I can help people in other departments using my development skills. I wanted to give back and feel camaraderie with the rest of the community, and I felt Startup Institute would support that the best.

    Were you looking for a specific coding language or technology in the curriculum?

    Not specifically. I had dabbled in Ruby, and Ruby on Rails is the language that Startup Institute teaches, so I felt like it wouldn't be a completely new concept going in.

    We get this question all the time- how did you pay for the Startup Institute tuition?

    Because of other life events, which I actually wrote a blog post about, I was $40,000 in debt and looking at bankruptcy before Startup Institute. All of a sudden, I had no money, no house, and my fiancé was gone. It was chaos. But I was determined to gain more control over my life; I needed to be happy with my job. I wanted to be comfortable again and I wasn’t going to settle for less than that.

    I was lucky enough to be able to move back in with family, so wasn't paying rent while at Startup Institute. Every cent I could possibly save was for Startup Institute. I had a strict budget, and a very specific goal. I knew that if my cohort took 8 weeks, and it took another 1-2 months to get a job, I would need to save X amount of dollars. I stuck as closely as I could to that goal because I didn't want to take out more loans. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this.

    That's an amazing story! What was the Startup Institute application and interview process like for you?

    The application process included five conversations with two or three different people. We discussed where I’ve come from, what I want in life, and what I’m interested in. They asked questions like "What do you not like about your old job? What are you looking for? What kind of relationship do you want with your co-workers?" I think they were trying to get a feel for if I would fit into the Startup Institute community. The community is very much about helping each other, being there for each other, and giving back.

    Some of the conversations were more technical, asking about my programming experience. They gave me a week-long technical challenge, in which they challenged me to build an app and launch it online using the resources and instructions provided. If you don’t already have the development skills necessary to pass the assessment, it doesn’t mean you’ll be rejected. Startup Institute has online learning resources to help you build your coding skills before the program, so you’re ready to tackle the curriculum.

    What type of app did you have to build during the application?

    It was a web app which enables a user to go to a website, put in a phone number, and then get a confirmation text on that phone number. I could write the code however I wanted, as long as it worked. It was quite tricky and here was some stuff I had not done before. But for the most part, I was able to figure it out.

    Once you got to Startup Institute, how many people were in your cohort and was it diverse in terms of gender, age, race, and backgrounds?

    There were between 40 and 60 students split up into the four different tracks: Sales, Marketing, Web Design, and Web Development. My class was pretty diverse across the board. There was a diverse spectrum of personalities, and a definite age difference. And in the web development track, we thought it was very cool but surprising that there were more females than males.

    That's awesome! What was the overall learning experience like at Startup Institute? Maybe you can give me an example of a typical day.

    “Typical” is not exactly the right word to use. There was some routine to our days-a standup at 9:45am and lunch at 1pm. Within each day, though, there was a lot going on. There were fireside chats, in which a CEO, or Boston startup founders would speak to us about their journey. We had what they called “in-track” learning courses, lab work, and classes that brought together each of the four tracks. For the in-track sessions, we'd split off with our specific tracks (Sales, Marketing, etc) and do work specific to that track..

    In my Web Development track, we built a restaurant app over the eight weeks in which users could search for restaurants, make a reservation, or map out the location of the restaurant.

    We also got to participate in a “Partner Project” where we were assigned, in small groups, to work with one of the innovative companies that partners with Startup Institute. Once a week we go work on-site, for the partner company on a particular project. This was great, because it gave us a chance to really see the way startups operate and also gave us hands on experience working with on a small team.

    And how did you interact with your Startup Institute instructors?

    All of our in-track sections were run by an instructor, who was actually a developer volunteering their time to talk with us about each day's topic. One instructor specialized in web security, another one taught us how to make categories in the Ruby language, and another instructor taught us how to debug our Ruby code.

    There was a lot of self-learning at Startup Institute, too, and the instructors were fantastic about being there for questions. They weren't giving us the typical "how to." Instead, they would let us work through our Restaurant App project and be their for guidance, as they taught us new concepts. We each had our own goals, and it was really useful to get information and honest feedback from people who were already in the field.

    What did you think of the adjunct instructor style? Did it fit your learning style?

    I'm not sure every student would enjoy that style, but I liked it. Startup Institute is only eight weeks long, and in that time you're getting exposure to many different styles. By pulling in different instructors to talk about their strengths, we were getting the highlights of all of their fields, which was very cool.

    In a way, Startup Institute was like a type of therapy for me. It was all about learning what makes you happy and knowing who you are and who you want to surround yourself with. In learning from all of these different instructors, you're also learning about their different jobs, you're figuring out what teaching style you learn best from, and what you should be looking for in a job. It really helps in the process of figuring out what you do and don’t want for yourself.

    I went into Startup Institute thinking I would be a Back End Developer, but through interacting with different instructors, I realized I want to do more Front End Development.

    What was your favorite project to work on at Startup Institute?

    My favorite part was the hackathons, because we got to work with other tracks. We didn't choose our own hackathon teams; Startup Institute would randomly split us up into different groups for each one.

    One of the hackathons was only four or five hours long, which was super fast and really fun. Another hackathon was two or three days long. During hackathons, we got to showcase our own skills while learning what our classmates can do. I've always liked that collaborative feeling of knowing that you're boosting somebody else's strength, and that they’re boosting you as well. And it was fun, during final presentations, to watch how different teams’ solutions were when presented with the same problem.

    How did Startup Institute prepare you for job hunting? Were there career coaching or hiring events?

    They had hiring partner fairs throughout the program. There were networking events, and more importantly, we got to network with all the instructors, and the startup CEOs and founders who came in to speak to us. So we were always getting exposure to different jobs and people. Startup Institute also taught us how to network on a more casual, one-on-one basis.

    We also had “speed-dating” rounds where you learn about lots of different jobs opportunities with the hiring partners. We learned how to have conversations and how to actually listen to somebody and hear what they're saying without always worrying  “what is the next thing I have to say?” Being able to listen and digest everything somebody else is saying, and figure out whether or not it resonates with me was huge for my job search. It's not just, "Here's a pool of resources. Go find a job." There was a lot of guidance and they teach you how to sift through everything to identify the right opportunities.

    What are you doing now? Can you tell me about your new job?

    I started as a QA developer for WeSpire. I learned onsite by QA-ing the full time engineers’ work. I was getting exposure to code while I was QA-ing it, but then I could fill in extra time by learning through a curriculum they had set up, or going through Treehouse tutorials.

    About four or five months ago, I transitioned out of QA, and into a full time software engineer role.

    Congratulations! And how did you actually the find the job?

    It was through one of the Startup Institute instructors, actually. I was interested in WeSpire pretty early on. Our instructor said to me, "We're not hiring, but if there's anything I can do for you, any introductions I can make, let me know." He came back and taught two more of our classes, and did a mock interview night with us, where we could test our interviewing skills. And through those networking events, I ended up talking with him more and we got to be friends. Then, towards the end of my cohort, WeSpire suddenly had a position open. At our Startup Institute Talent Expo, he came up to me and said, "We have this job, and I want you to interview."

    Wow that’s awesome!

    Yeah. I got the offer three days after our Talent Expo. The Talent Expo is a culminating day at the end of the program where all the students present their new career goals and explain, "This is who I am; this is what I want."

    Tell us about your role at WeSpire.

    The last few months, I've been doing more coding than I was the first few months. It was a good transition because this is a huge career change for me, and everything was brand new. For the first few months, WeSpire let me get more familiar with what the code is supposed to look like, and how to approach their app, was really great

    Are you still using Ruby on Rails in your job or have you had to learn a new stack?

    Yes, we use Ruby at WeSpire. I'm able to build on that knowledge more and more. I did mostly learn back-end development in my track, so now I’m trying to build on more front end skills.

    What has been the biggest challenge in your journey to become a software developer?

    Time. Both in saving the money for Startup Institute and the time it takes learn a whole new skill. The challenge of Startup Institute, and learning programming, feels different though; It feels like an energizing sort of challenge because I’m doing it in order to make myself happy. It’s something I really want.

    Have you been able to stay in touch with Startup Institute and keep in touch with other alumni?

    Yes. My cohort was pretty close, which was really fun, so we all try to hit the Startup Institute networking and alumni events. My current roommate was even in my cohort with me. I think that sense of community is something that was part of all of our decisions to go to Startup Institute in the first place. We all continue to stay in touch as much as possible because it's something that’s important to each of us.

    What advice do you have for someone who's thinking about making a career change and going to a coding bootcamp?

    Talk to as many alumni and developers as possible. There are a lot of networking events in Boston, not just through Startup Institute. For example, She Geeks Out is a group that has events for women in tech once a month. Speaking to people who have jobs in your field can be amazing. Hearing that somebody else has been through this process can really make all the difference.

    If you’re deciding which bootcamp to go to, reach out and speak to alumni- I haven’t come across one person from Startup Institute, Launch Academy, General Assembly, or any other bootcamp who doesn’t want to speak to future students. This may be a scary career change, but fear is not a reason to avoid something; talking to other students will give you the information you need. The entire experience was pretty amazing.

    Find out more and read Startup Institute reviews on Course Report. Check out the Startup Institute website.

    About The Author

    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.

  • Choosing the Right Career Track with Startup Institute

    Liz Eggleston9/14/2016


    Our team at Course Report heard about program changes at Startup Institute—from pre-work to instructors to outcomes—so we sat down with Vice President of Admissions Katie Bickford to get the details. Read what we learned about the additional support Startup Institute is building into their curriculum, how they help guide students into the right career track, and their new, 4-week online pre-work that’s opening Startup Institute to all levels of learners.


    As VP of Admissions at Startup Institute, can you tell us how you interact with students?

    Startup Institute is a community-based program and the values of our program are important, so I built out our admissions process to find students who will benefit from the program and learning environment. The interview is designed to find applicants who will be collaborators and high-impact, high-accountability members of a team.

    The next piece is about supporting the applicant to figure out the type of work that they will love. The interview and assessment involve a bit of  searching for the “strike zone” to find a field that is interesting and energizing for them—in which the student will be solving the kinds of problems that their brain is really suited to solve.

    How is culture fit important to the admissions screening process?

    Culture fit is non-negotiable. Culture can be a is a very dangerous term because you can hide bias under “culture,” which is why we’ve developed a very defined rubric of what culture fit means for us.

    A love for problem solving, a desire to make a bigger impact in the world, and the need to be an active collaborator. We are looking for applicants who are humble, self-aware, sincere, will hustle to achieve their goals, and have a strong desire to make a change in their lives.

    Aside from culture, is a coding challenge still part of the application?

    Yes. We have a different type of assessment for each of our skills tracks. We also give additional help and resources as needed, working with applicants one-on-one to figure out if this is the right career path for them.

    There are four skills “tracks” at Startup Institute: Students can enroll in Web Development, Web Design, Digital Marketing, or Sales and Account Management. Do you find that most applicants know which skill set they want to build before they apply?

    Great question. When we added the option of being “undecided” to the application, we were surprised by how many applicants chose that option. I think  this is great, because these students are all making massive career changes. Without exploring properly, an applicant may not realize which career path is right for them.

    For example, one woman at Startup Institute was an accountant who became a UX designer. There was no sign in her prior career path that she should be a UX designer, but she loved doing creative work back in high school, so we had to uncover that during her admissions process.

    Even if somebody does know which track they want to take, I'm still going to work with them to test it out. We've had people apply for back-end web development, and after looking at some projects they’ve done and the way they reason through problems, it becomes clear that the person is more suited to being a front-end developer.

    If I were to invest time, faith, and tuition in something like Startup Institute, I would expect a very real and supportive transition into a satisfying career. Everything we do is about getting our students to great career outcomes, so we start by ensuring that they’ve chosen the right path.

    The final stage in  our application process is a conversation with the local Campus Director, because this is the person who owns the results of the program. The director looks at the results of the candidate’s assessment, the person's background, and our notes from the admissions process, and they work to set realistic expectations with prospective students. That’s an important conversation.

    Startup Institute recently added four weeks of online pre-work. What drove you to make that change?

    We used to have a certain bar that applicants had to clear in terms of skills or aptitude in order to be able to make it into Startup Institute. We were getting a lot of applicants who were wonderful from a culture perspective, but whose technical skills weren’t ready for the rigor of our curriculum.  We asked ourselves, "What if we could extend this opportunity to even more people?” The idea for the pre-work emerged so that we could accept more people into Startup Institute.

    And what sort of material is in the pre-work?

    Everyone does different pre-work assignments depending on their backgrounds and the skills track they are pursuing. We started by creating really well-curated materials for the person to look through, and then we began giving them a project. Now, we’ve added different online learning components. Some of the materials have been  developed in-house, and these are combined with a list of online tutorials, curated especially for each student, case-by-case. We’re prescriptive about what each student needs in order to be prepared to take on the eight-week immersive.

    Who is primarily supporting the students during pre-work?

    All of the members of our team are incredibly involved in this process, from our technical director to our designers and our alumni. In fact, the UX designer/front-end developer who built the Startup Institute website is an alumna of the program (a speech pathologist in her former life); she now gives individualized feedback to applicants on their Web Design assessments. Our team has a lot to do, but this is why we’re here; we’re all passionate about these students.

    Now that you have this pre-work, will you be widening your acceptance standards?  

    That's a really great question, and the answer is “yes.” Our acceptance rate right now ranges from 11% to 18%— these numbers are too low for us.

    We don’t pride ourselves on a low acceptance rate; we want to have as many people benefit from Startup Institute as possible, but we're not going to admit someone unless we're really confident that this program is right for them.

    Now, we’re able to cater our program to people to just start building their skills, as well as to more people who are further along.

    What does that mean for the in-class experience? How will students work side-by-side if they start at different levels?

    Startup Institute has always catered to a wide variety of students because of the collaborative nature of the program. We see senior students pushing their skills forward, and they crystallize these skills by supporting more junior students.

    Our recent introduction of technical mentors will also help us to bridge students’ gaps around skills, ensuring that senior students are adequately challenged while junior students can learn at their own pace.

    Startup Institute has always had part-time, AdHoc instructors who are industry professionals. Tell us about these new Mentors in Residence.

    Yes, we have two instructor types.

    Our students have always benefited from learning from and networking with the ad-hoc instructors we bring in, and from the exposure to their different perspectives. In surveying our students, we were also getting feedback like, "It would be really great to have somebody watching my development throughout the course." Our Mentors in Residence are people who we specifically bring in as industry insiders, who have deep networks and want to help bring people up in their industries.

    We had this eureka moment— “let’s do both!” So, the new model gives students a point-person who is tracking their individual skills development, alongside ad hoc instructors who introduce diverse perspectives and expand their networks.

    How does Startup Institute report on those outcomes after you’ve helped students get jobs?

    If you're advising somebody to do something that's going to disrupt their life, you're advising in good faith that it's going to lead them to a better outcome. So we measure our outcomes, and then put them through a third party audit. We’ve found that 92% of our students find new jobs within 100 days, 76% got offers within 60 days. Even more gratifying—88% say they’re happier in their new jobs than in jobs prior.

    This outcomes survey does not belong to us; a third-party auditor conducts the entire thing. We provide contact information for alumni and we step away. To be counted as a success, grads have to get the jobs that they did the program to get—if a student leaves our program with an unpaid internship, for example, that internship is not part of the 92%.

    People are trusting Startup Institute to get them to a good outcome, so this is honestly so important. If you compare this to students who go through other advanced education programs, such as law school, where they’re unable to see outcomes, they often feel burned and cynical about that education.

    When does the next cohort of students start?

    The next cohort starts October 17th. Our last application deadline is September 19th. The sooner a candidate applies, the more time they’ll have to complete the pre-work and get support through that process.

    Anything else you’d like to add about supporting your students?

    Startup Institute is a mission-based organization.  We want to do this the right way. We're very passionately and personally committed to helping our students be happy and fulfilled in their work. At the crux of all of the new improvements to our program is a goal to make this experience available to more people—to help more people find satisfying careers.

    We’ve just launched five new scholarships with this same goal in mind. We want this experience and this community to be accessible to as many people from as many different backgrounds as possible, so we've designed these scholarships to support inclusion and diversity in tech.

    To learn more, read Startup Institute reviews on Course Report or visit the Startup Institute website to start your application.

    About The Author

    Liz is the cofounder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students considering a coding bootcamp. She loves breakfast tacos and spending time getting to know bootcamp alumni and founders all over the world. Check out Liz & Course Report on Twitter, Quora, and YouTube

  • What are Hiring Managers Looking for in Junior UX Designers?

    Christine Zimmerman6/9/2016

    User experience is a science as much as it is an art. This makes it an attractive career choice for technologists who enjoy working with people as much as they love building products. What does it take to launch your career as a user experience designer? What skills and experiences are most important to hiring managers seeking junior UX designers? We went straight to hiring managers to find out. The instructors at Startup Institute’s web design course are experienced practitioners who have hired designers and built product teams. Here’s what they had to say about what they look for in junior-level UX hires.


    Continue Reading →
  • Landing a Job after Startup Institute

    Imogen Crispe5/19/2016


    Multidisciplinary tech bootcamp Startup Institute aims to prepare all their students to find great jobs they can excel in after they graduate. Startup Institute has already published an outcomes report detailing their job placement rates, but we wanted to know how they achieve those impressive statistics. We spoke to the Startup Institute Career Placement team, to find out what the career process looks like, what employers like about Startup Institute grads, and what sort of jobs grads are already in.


    What does the Startup Institute Career Placement team look like? How large is the team?

    The career placement team is comprised of the same individuals who you’ll work with most closely throughout your Startup Institute experience – your program team.

    Led by your city’s program director, the program team is responsible for creating the career growth opportunities we’re known for.  They curate instructors and guest speakers, connect you with companies looking to hire, facilitate career planning workshops, chart your individual progress, and meet with you in weekly one-on-one’s to discuss your goals and develop action plans to achieve them. Once you graduate, we’ll continue to support you, providing in-person career counseling, résumé review, and salary negotiation.

    At Startup Institute, we believe it takes a village. The program team in your city will consist of three to four full-time staff members who are committed to helping you land a job you’ll love. But it doesn’t end there. Our alumni and instructor community, by extension, is incredibly supportive—helping in the effort to connect our students with the opportunities and people they need to meet in order to find that right fit.

    The Job Search

    When does the job placement/preparation process start at Startup Institute?

    The job placement process begins during our admissions cycle. Every element of our program is focused around the end goal of getting you to a job you love, so the very first step in that process is to answer one big question—is this program a fit?

    Currently, about 18% of people who apply to Startup Institute get accepted. Why are we so selective? It’s because we’re outcomes-driven: we want to make sure we can help you achieve the outcome you seek.

    Your interview process will focus in part on your goals and interests so our team can understand what you’re looking for and if our program can help you get there. Being outcomes-driven means we won’t move forward with your admissions process unless we see a match in terms of where we think you’ll realistically land once you finish the program.

    Your acceptance into Startup Institute, kicks off our job placement process in two ways—it ensures we understand what your career goals are, and it confirms you’ll be a culture fit for many of the companies that hire graduates of our program.

    What have you found are some of the unique challenges bootcamp students face when starting the job search? Are there any benefits to being a bootcamp student (over a CS grad for example) in the job search?

    Bootcamp education is still relatively new to the market—we’re in the early-adopter phase. While respect and acceptance for alternative education models is on the rise, some less innovative companies will be slower to come around.

    There’s a learning curve on the part of these employers—they’re used to the traditional undergrad to graduate school model. But that model is becoming less relevant in the fast-moving innovation space. No matter how good the college that you went to is, chances are in the 21st century, by the time you’re five years out of college, your education is not relevant enough for you to continue to be successful in your job. People who don’t continually learn, and sometimes go back to school, are going to lose their edge.

    To that point, companies also need to learn and adapt in order to keep their edge. This is where the bootcamp grad can really shine. These are people who’ve proven they have the grit and desire to learn—building a brand new skill set in a very short time. They’ve focused on building the skills that matter to the companies they want to work for.

    In the words of a senior software engineer at Startup Institute hiring partner, WeSpire

    “A computer science degree gives you a lot of background and a lot of context to lean on, but I have yet to see a college that is teaching modern languages. You’re not going to have a course in building web apps on Rails in a software engineering degree.”

    Theory and lecture are great, but the old model doesn’t move fast enough for the modern innovation economy. The new economy is agile and efficient—just like bootcamp grads.

    What sort of advice do you give your remote students for creating their online presence (LinkedIn, Twitter, personal website)? How important is that in the career search process?

    A successful job search involves knowing how to position yourself within the market. At this point, LinkedIn is essential for all tech and business professionals, and Github is standard for web developers. Twitter and a personal website or blog can be great tools to develop your personal brand, learn from and communicate with industry leaders, and to share your work. Our in-class immersive trains students to leverage these tools effectively.

    Does Startup Institute host a hiring day or demo day for employers?

    We do! Talent Expo is our signature recruiting event. We turn the traditional career fair on its head to showcase our graduates in a room full of CEOs and hiring managers. As a student, you’ll take the stage to pitch your skills, ambition, and hustle—in 60 seconds—to a talent hungry audience. Then, you’ll work the room to meet potential employers and schedule interviews.

    Talent Expo is a wonderfully energizing event, and is a great way to kick-off your post-program job search. Learn more about Talent Expo with this video about our eight-week immersive.

    How do you help with negotiation and job offer consideration?

    We’re very hands-on throughout the career placement process. We’ll help you navigate the market, understand the different roles available, and ensure you negotiate a favorable salary. Throughout the program, you’ll participate in workshops centered around negotiation skills and etiquette. Then, once you graduate, you’ll have the dedicated efforts of our program team at your disposal for another two months.

    Startup Institute Employers

    What types of companies have hired Startup Institute grads? Do you ever work with recruiting firms? Can you give some examples of the sort of jobs your graduates are in now?

    Startup Institute graduates land a wide range of jobs at high-growth companies, mostly in the innovation sector. We rarely use recruiters to help our grads find employment after the program. Our objective is to help our graduates find a job they love—not just any job—and we find this isn’t the case with many recruiters.

    The list below will give you an idea of the types of positions our graduates end up in. Keep in mind that, because graduates end up working in companies ranging from 2 to over 2000 people, titles can be somewhat deceiving in terms of that alum’s actual impact and job function.

    • Web Development Track: Ruby on Rails Developer, JavaScript Developer, Front-End Developer, UI Engineer, Junior or Senior Software Engineer—depending largely on the level of experience you had coming into the program (Alumni Success Story: Annie Ingham, Web Developer at Reelio)
    • Web Design Track: UX Designer, UI Designer, Information Architect, Front-End Developer, Product Manager Associate, Product Manager, Designer, UX Researcher, Program Manager (Alumni Success Story: Hamy Pham, UX/UI Designer at Fresh Tilled Soil)
    • Digital Marketing Track: Digital Marketing Manager, Content Marketer, Social Media Manager, Digital Marketing Manager, Director of Marketing, Marketing Manager, Performance Marketer, Paid Acquisitions Specialist, Community Manager (Alumni Success Story: Franklin Ramirez, Mobile Advertising at Twitter)
    • Sales & Account Management Track: Business Development Manager, Business Development Representative, Customer Success Manager, Business Operations Manager, Account Manager, Affiliate Marketing Manager, Director of Customer Relations (Alumni Success Story: Charles Chuman, Sales Executive at ContextMedia)

    In your experience, what do employers like about Startup Institute graduates?

    Employers love hiring our graduates because they’re high-impact people who put the company mission first. The thing we hear again and again is our graduates have the skills and attributes that really matter—the qualities they attribute to the highest-performing people in their organizations; qualities that map to great leaders, such as adaptability, strong collaboration skills, and a desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

    The interdisciplinary nature of our in-class immersive means that graduates of our program also have a well-rounded understanding of their role in the big picture of an organization. Whether web development, UX design, or digital marketing, they’ve built skills in their individual learning tracks, but they’ve also applied these skills to real projects on cross-functional teams. The result of this is our graduates are able to communicate and work synergistically with professionals across departments and be more effective agents of change.

    We’ve interviewed our hiring partners about what they like most about Startup Institute grads. Check out the video interviews to hear it from them.

    Do you have formal agreements with hiring partners? Are they paying to be part of your hiring network?

    Yes—we have a robust network of hiring partners who are actively seeking talent to grow their teams. Our hiring partners pay for access to our student and alumni communities and are granted exclusive invitations to certain networking events, in-class workshops, and career fairs. We’re selective with our partners. It's our goal to bring in companies that are growing, and looking for the type of people graduating our program. It's all about fit.

    That said, our mission and priority will always be helping our students find jobs they love. Students are not limited to our partner companies in their job searches. Ensuring our graduates find the right job is more important to us than our high career placement stats, so we’ll actually advise a graduate against accepting an offer if we believe the opportunity won’t be the right fit for them. We encourage and help our graduates to explore opportunities within our partner network and beyond in order to find the best opportunity for their career goals.

    Have you noticed that employers are looking for a specific programming language knowledge or specific soft skills?

    We’ve done extensive research on this topic. 92% of hiring managers and executives we surveyed report that soft skills are as or more valuable than technical skills. Of this number, 25% say soft skills are more important. We’ve developed our curriculum to target both.

    As far as programming languages go, the market is constantly changing. What was the hot language last year will not be two years from now. Regardless of whether you have a CS degree or built skills at a bootcamp, much of coding is learned on-the-job. At Startup Institute, we want our web developers to be impactful as quickly as possible, which is why we make our curriculum as authentic as possible. Working on real-world projects, our developers get to see the challenges that arise, and our interdisciplinary approach means they become better problem-solvers, and more forward-thinking about creating scalable products that anticipate the needs of the business.

    Do employer partners have influence over the Startup Institute curriculum? Is there a feedback loop in place?

    Absolutely, we’re constantly iterating on curriculum in response to student surveys and market feedback.

    Our reputation for providing employers with top talent is critical for maximizing opportunities for our students and alumni. So, we listen hard to feedback from our hiring partners, and if they’re identifying a shortcoming in our curriculum or job-readiness, then that’s something we’ll take very seriously as we iterate for the next cohort.

    We also have partners teach classes, since all of our classes are industry-led, so we've built in opportunities for companies to teach the skills they know graduates will need.

    Job Placement

    What is your current job placement rate at Startup Institute?

    According to our most recent audit with edBridge Partners, 28% of students get jobs before completing the eight-week immersive. 54% of students have jobs within 30 days, 76% have jobs within 60 days, and 92% have jobs 100 days out.

    What statistics do you have about job satisfaction?

    88% of respondents in our third party audit reported they’re happier in their jobs after doing Startup Institute than in any jobs prior. This is the data point we’re most proud of.

    We think a big part of this might be in the amount of choice our graduates have coming out of the program—in this study, 57% of our graduates received two or more job offers. When people have more choice in their career, it will increase the chances that they’ll end up doing something they love. We are focused on finding ways to create even more choice for our grads.

    For more information on our career outcomes and how we arrive at these, check out our outcomes report.

    Do you have a job placement guarantee at Startup Institute?

    No, we do not have a job placement guarantee—no organization can promise that. This is a team effort, and one in which you must be an active participant.

    We won’t accept you into Startup Institute unless we truly believe the program will successfully launch you into a great new career path. The people who are not successful are the people who don’t put in the work.

    How long do you continue helping your graduates find jobs after they graduate?

    Our dedicated career support program lasts for two months beyond graduation. During this time, you’ll have weekly one-on-one and small-group mentorship sessions to check-in on your progress, develop personalized action plans, get introductions to people in our network, practice interview skills, get tough feedback, discuss the pros and cons of different opportunities, strategize through negotiation processes, and more. We’re here to help you through every step of the process, as is your cohort and the community you built throughout your Startup Institute experience. That may be the best advice we can offer an incoming student—don’t hesitate to ask for help. You’ll be amazed by the support you get in return.

    Find out more and read Startup Institute reviews on Course Report. And check out the Startup Institute website.

    About The Author

    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.

  • Instructor Spotlight: Meng He of Startup Institute

    Imogen Crispe5/2/2016


    Meng He is a volunteer instructor for part of Startup Institute’s immersive Web Design program. She has been a UX designer for eight years, and joined Startup Institute as a way to give back and help out other budding UX designers. Meng tells us about how she grew into a UX designer, why she was drawn to teaching at Startup Institute, and what she sees in her most successful students.


    Tell us about your background and experience as a UX designer.

    I’ve been a UX designer for eight years, helping early-stage startups find product/market fit. I’ve led product strategy and design at early-stage startups in e-commerce, social media, travel, security, mobile payments, and dating apps.

    My most recent role was as Chief Product Officer at, a WiFi marketing company which helps bridge the online-offline gap of retail. I’ve spent years helping others build companies, and now I’m excited to do the same for myself.

    What did you study at college? Does a “UX Design” degree exist?

    In high school, I didn’t know what career options were available to me or what I wanted to do with my life. While school counselors encouraged students to not box themselves in by recommending general liberal arts schools, I attended Parsons School of Design in New York City, originally to study fashion. In the first year, Parsons requires students to enroll in a foundation year to expose you to all facets of design. That’s when I was first introduced to what we now call “UX Design” and realized my strength in this area over what I had idealized in a fashion career. I graduated as valedictorian in Communication Design from Parsons in 2008.

    How did you first get interested in UX Design?

    “UX Design” is a relatively new term for something people have practiced for much longer. UX design is essentially problem solving and exercising empathy. After Parsons, I worked with a professor who built a small design studio with an impressive client roster. Although it wasn’t called UX then, this is where I began my career in understanding customers, and designing technology experiences and products to encourage behaviors to meet both the customers’ goals, and business objectives.

    How did you first hear about and get involved with Startup Institute NYC?

    I met John Lynn, Startup Institute’s New York Program Manager, when we both worked from the Techstars office. John invited me in to give a brief talk and Q&A on the unglamorous lessons learned as a designer in tech. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and wasted time, money, and resources over the years. I hoped to speak on those experiences and help people avoid the same mistakes.

    What drew you to get involved with the Startup Institute?

    No one makes it alone. I owe my career to the people who gave their time to teach me, open doors for me, and take a chance on me. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to do the same. I had already been volunteering as a mentor and judge for Startup Weekend and AngelHack, led workshops at TED, and mentored companies at Startup Next. But, I was still searching for a forum where I could contribute in a long-form way, yet still be fully comfortable with how the material is structured.

    The reason I was drawn specifically to Startup Institute was their trust in my judgment to tailor the class and allow me to develop my own material. I don’t believe in teaching to a specific, restrictive formula—the industry is young, and I prefer arming students with the knowledge of how others do things now, but encourage them to chart their own course, think for themselves, and optimize the process in their own way.

    Startup Institute has a really interesting volunteer, adjunct teaching model. Did you think about doing paid UX teaching?

    I’ve been a fan of the adjunct teaching model since college. At Parsons, the majority of the faculty are adjunct professors (like at Startup Institute). This allows the school to attract world-class instructors for two main reasons. One, this allows flexibility for active professionals to balance work and teaching. I strongly believe students benefit from a curriculum that’s designed by a team who has their finger on the pulse of what’s practical in the industry. The professors don’t make any pretensions about the industry, and I found their incorporation of real world experience reassuring that I’d graduate with not just academically-sound skills. Two, top talent is hard to find and recruit, and instructors not only get to train the next generation entering the profession, but also get first dibs on this candidate pool with the rapport they’ve already built.  

    Did Startup Institute’s model of adjunct teachers resonate with you?

    My college Parsons was always proud that the majority of faculty are people who are outstanding and active in their field. Students received exposure to not only the relevant hard skills expected of them in a professional setting, but also got a better understanding of the current industry landscape.

    Startup Institute is very much the same. All of their teachers are professionals who I deeply respect, who tailor their classes to what they experience today, and where they see the industry moving. This helps prepare student expectations for working in the industry, and not purely focus on a checklist of academic skills.

    Startup Institute’s team and instructors are also some of the most connected in the NYC tech community. Whether a student or instructor, each team member becomes your friend and develops a deep understanding of what your goals are, what your strengths are, and what skills you’re seeking to develop. With this awareness, they’re able to exercise careful judgment to slot you in where you can be the most valuable—the right class, for the right person, at the right time in the program.

    How do you get support from the other instructors at Startup Institute?

    NYC tech is a close-knit community, and I’m proud to call several of the other instructors my friends. Sometimes we'll audit each other's classes, share tips on how we conduct our classes. I’ll often ping a few friends before I teach a class to learn more about the cohort or hear any lessons learned from their sessions. We’re all constantly working on our own personal development and I appreciate everyone's openness to help each other succeed.

    How often do you teach at Startup Institute? How long are your classes?

    My class is a one-off, two to three-hour class as part of the intensive Web Design program, but the timing often is not a hard stop. Students have different schedules depending on the track they are on, so sometimes we’ll continue beyond the scheduled time to cover all the questions. Especially when students have individual questions that aren’t relevant to the rest of the group, I’m more than happy to stay after class to address them. After class, students are encouraged to follow up by email, or even meet up for coffee or other events I’m hosting.

    What’s the teaching style like at Startup Institute?

    I never felt lecturing in person was helpful—that could easily be recorded and watched at home in an online program. Instead, I structure my class more similar to workshops I’ve run previously at TED and tech accelerators. The emphasis is placed on applying what we learned in class together to unearth questions that come up in practice. My goal is to help students walk away with more confidence they can run with their new skills after practicing it once or twice together.

    What topics are most important to cover in your Startup Institute class?

    In the beginning, Startup Institute approached me to teach more of a skills-based class, like HTML or CSS, but we realized I would be a more valuable resource teaching process. Through student feedback, my session has been moved up early in the curriculum timeline, and has now evolved to focus more on taking the group through how to tackle a project from ideation to launch.

    I try to lay a foundation for students, beyond how to use the software and how to do X, Y, and Z. You need hard skills to get in the door. Period. But that alone isn’t competitive. Startup Institute understands this better than anyone. My goal isn’t to cram you full of facts and figures and teach you a trade. Instead, the focus is on helping you develop the skills you need for a successful career—learning how to be resourceful; lay a foundation so you have the tools to develop your skills as technology changes; learn networking skills to open doors and find mentors to accelerate your growth; and build the soft skills that make you indispensable.  

    How do you prepare for classes and work out the curriculum?

    Startup Institute always prepares me well ahead of my session with individual dossiers for each student to help me individualize the class. I’ll revise my general lesson plan based on the students’ experiences and professional backgrounds. In class, I’ll learn more about each of their current challenges and projects, and make the most of our time together by working through the themes most pressing for the group.

    Startup Institute truly cares and sets up all the instructors for success, which translates to success for the students. The team promptly answers my questions thoroughly, reviews my slides, and gives me helpful feedback after every class to improve the session for next time.

    Bootcamp curricula are often very iterative and adapt to the needs of students- can you tell us about a time you experienced this? What did you notice needed tweaking?

    The curriculum is iterative like a startup – you’ll teach your class, then get feedback from the students. This helps shape my next class. For example, when I first started, my class was scheduled towards the end of the Web Design program schedule. As we evolved the class to become more process-oriented, I’ve been moved up the schedule allow me to give the cohort a broad overview and set their foundation for the rest of the program.

    As for the class itself, I have the same approach as I take on product strategy inside a company. I tweak (and sometimes completely overhaul) my presentation from session to session. My first time teaching, I realized I focused too much on theory. Now, for every method I teach, I give a practical case study of how I’ve used it in practice on a real client product, then allow the students to run an exercise to understand how it fits with their own project.

    Can you tell us about your most successful student from Startup Institute? Do you follow their progress and hear about the sort of jobs they are getting when they graduate?

    The people who are most successful at Startup Institute are the ones who take the reins and make it their own. They come prepared for my lesson, aren’t shy, bring great questions, then follow up with me. I always say in class, email me if you have any questions. Very few people do, but those who do, I always follow up, answer questions, or meet them for coffee. It’s up to the students to ask for help and make use of the resources.

    I’m incredibly proud that one student I taught, Melanie Smith, is starting her own company to help automate investing for kids. Melanie previously taught math in NYC public high schools and graduated from Startup Institute’s Web Design track. She’s an inspiration as someone who persistently followed up for feedback, jumped on opportunities I forwarded along, and worked hard to deliberately carve her path. I was more than happy to help introduce someone with this much grit to accelerator programs and other friends who could help further her progress.

    Tell us about the partner projects that students work on!

    This is one thing I really love about Startup Institute. You can’t truly learn to become a great developer just by learning the rote skills of coding. You also can’t become a great designer just by learning the programs and understanding the theory. You need to put it in practice.

    When I was in school, one way to accomplish this is with “fake” projects. You create an imaginary client with a self-defined (and likely unrealistic) project brief, then create a design solution to this problem you’ve created. Though this is good practice to hone your skills, it misses the reality of how vastly more complicated a real professional challenge is. Specifically, it’s too easy for your self-defined project to be a single aesthetically-pleasing deliverable.  

    A real project comes with limitations—small team, impending launch date, budget constraints, churning members, customers not behaving as they originally hypothesized. The design now needs to weigh multiple thought processes, think through interactions, and work to try to understand your customers. It’s nearly impossible to simulate the interpersonal skills needed to present to your client, speaking to the customers to correctly define the problem, understand business implications, and iterate through tradeoffs and solutions.  

    The partner project gives students a real project to immediately apply their learnings. At the start of the program, students are paired with a local tech startup, and are assigned a specific project. In class, after reviewing a concept, we'll run through this process with a student's partner project so they have an understanding of a practical application.

    What resources or meetups do you recommend for aspiring UX Designers in New York?

    A few books and articles I’ve read and re-read:

    What do you like best about being an instructor at Startup Institute?

    I’ve always felt calling myself an instructor was ironic because I learn just as much from my students as I hope they take away from my classes. Startup Institute’s students are world-class, driven professionals from all walks of life: corporate America, teaching, marketing, sales, graphic design, and more. I leave feeling inspired hearing their journeys here and what they hope to accomplish after this program. Especially as a consultant who works across industries, our relationship becomes less like a teacher/student dynamic, and more of a knowledge share community. We’ve continued to keep in touch to continue helping each other and opening doors in our own ways.

    Find out more and read Startup Institute reviews on Course Report. And check out the Startup Institute website.

    About The Author

    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.

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    Full transcript below!

    Tonight we are joined by Aaron O’Hearn and Kailey Raymond from Startup Institute. Aaron is the CEO of Startup Institute and he’s going to share their approach to learning and he’s going to give an overview of the program. Then Kailey is going to take us through the best ways to land a job at a startup, which we all know can be really hard work. Also, we will have Jerome who graduated from Startup Institute and he’s going to talk us through his experience and how he actually got a job at a startup.

    I want to remind everyone that we are going to be doing a couple of Q&A sessions throughout the webinar; one with be with Aaron and another with Kailey. Please use the questions tab on the side of your control panel to send in any questions that you have and when it’s time for Q&A, we’re going to try something new this time. I’m going to call on people to ask their questions and give you the opportunity to actually ask them.

    So with that, I’m going to pass it on to Aaron and we can hear all about Startup Institute.

    Aaron: Right on. Thank you, Liz; I appreciate the introduction and the time to help educate folks on what we’re trying to do. I’ll try to keep this short and certainly open it up to any questions that folks have. I think that Kailey’s component will have a lot a lot of tactical and certainly valuable advice in terms of how it can help speak to – just evidence of what we’re really trying to do.

    I just want to explain what Startup Institute is, ultimately what we believe ion, share a couple of different facts that would be particularly interesting and then open it up for questions.

    Ultimately, Startup Institute is a career accelerator. I think if you were really to boil that down and really try to understand what we do; the best way to think about it is that we are here to help people find jobs they love. Everything that we do, all the work we put in, our entire team’s mission for being is to help you be fulfilled in your career. Our belief is that startups represent an incredible opportunity for people to really be fulfilled with purpose within their jobs.

    So when we’re looking at this we’re saying okay, how do people become fulfilled within their jobs? Well ultimately, they do something they’re passionate about and act with that purpose.  For us, early stage companies and other growth companies represent the best opportunity to do that.

    I think a short genesis of where we came from might be helpful to explain how we got here. Myself and a few others including our cofounders were part of Tech Stars here in Boston and also nationally. Over and over again, we kept hearing from companies who were raising money, growing faster than their investment and their capital could support. They were saying, ‘Look; we have money, we have great resources, customers are coming to us. The one thing that’s missing is talent. How the hell do I find amazing people who are able to be self-directed, who understand what it’s like to work in this environment, to really push through ambiguity and just constantly make progress?”

    So over and over again, we’ve heard from companies, “We really need a specific mindset and approach. We need people to be acculturated and ready to adapt in this environment.” And at the same time with these companies talking about their needs to us, my job especially was to be lout in the community and out in Boston just talking to people about how Tech Stars can be a better platform and how it can do a better job connecting people within the community.

    So over and over and over again, a common question popped up which was: how do I find a job at a startup? I’m technical but I’m not sure what I want or I have QA experience but not development experience. Or especially on the non-technical side which bios, “Hey, I hear every day that startups just need engineers. I’m not technical; I have a marketing background, I have an arts background. How do I break in, how do I find a job? Can you help me?”

    So we put some of these pieces together; what we did was put together a program. The curriculum was based entirely on the hiring needs for all of these high-growth companies. We set up an application process and an admissions process which has evolved to help understand what people’s motivations were, understand their level of approachability, understand their intentions and expectations and really help bring them through this program and help them find an incredibly awesome job at a great startup.

    We started here in Boston - We’re on different locations on the webinar - but we started here in Boston; we have programs that also run in New York City and Chicago. We’ll have a program off the ground in Berlin as of next Monday. Something that might be unique components here with us is that there are actually 4 tracks that are part of the program. Web development is a huge, huge component as is product design and product development. We also have technical marketing which is a huge area for a lot of high-growth companies, and sales and account management which contrary to many people’s belief is an incredibly critical place for companies to invest in to grow.

    We developed a program called Ramp Up which also helps people without technical skills really get up a ramp; in a skill ramp for 3 to 4 months to the point where they’re ready to join our fulltime web development program and propel themselves into that job.

    I think we’re proud – I know we’re proud at some of the results we’ve been able to push, and I’m certainly happy to talk about and happy to introduce Jerome later on.  But over 90% of our grads are going on to work at startups after the program. We are just totally psyched about that. That is why we are here. Early on, we said hey, we can really help companies grow and we can help change the way companies do professional development and bring in people but that’s really shifted into us being able to say, hey, you know what? We’re really here to help people find jobs they love. We’re really here to help folks be fulfilled in their career. We know that within startups, people can really work with purpose and that’s ultimately what we want to push people into doing.

    That’s basically my spiel. I apologize if it’s a little bit awkward talking into a screen where I view myself. It’s sort of strange but… I’m happy to kick into Q&A mode if there are questions, or Kailey or Liz, if I missed anything I’m happy to jump back to that.


    Liz: We’ve got a question from Adam in the audience.

    Adam: Hi, I was wondering – two questions. Cold you say a little bit more about how the tracks work, like how they interact or how the overlap. The second question; when you think about successful applicants in the past, what makes someone stand out to even get in, in the first place?

    Aaron: Number one, what’s up with these 4 tracks? How do they work together, what’s my experience like when I’m in the program? Two, what makes a stellar participant and applicant in Startup Institute?

    Number one, when we designed the program, a lot of this was designed by us literally going out and hiring managers to founders to CEOs, people at different levels at different stage companies and saying, “Hey, when you’re hiring an engineer, what’re you looking for? When you’re hiring a marketer, what’re you looking for?” We worked with probably 30, 35 companies and the responses varied. On the one hand, you had an overwhelming amount of responses that were really focused on harder technical skills like, okay; I want people to understand Rails. I need people to pair program, I need people to understand Github really well…” and I’m like, okay, this is great; really hard skill-focused.

    On the other hand, people are saying “I really want my engineers to be able to talk to customers. I want them to be able to work with product people; I want them to understand what marketing is doing. I’d actually like for the to be able to talk to the sales folks and help sales do a better in speaking about our product and how we implement it with customers.”

    So you’ve got a lot of technical skills and a lot of soft skills. So I said, okay, if we build this in a vacuum and we build a program that’s only teaching development to engineers, we’re going to miss out on all this amazing stuff that companies are literally telling us this is what they look for when they look to hire people.

    So the tracks work really closely together. We do a lot of collaborative work. Every person on the program participates in a project team for the duration of the program; project teams are cross-disciplinary so we’ve got engineers working with product peopled working with marketers working with sales people, all focused on the same project.

    So it’s really providing that real life experience where people are saying, “Okay, I came out of the program and yes, I was in the web development track and yeah, I worked with the customers, I spoke to marketing, we collaborated with products…”

    There’s a couple of components that make a good applicant for us we were actually going through an exercise pretty similar to this recently. If you looked across all of our graduates, I’d say a huge, huge, huge component of what we’re looking for is coachibility; we want to understand how adaptable people are. We want to understand how comfortable they are with change, how comfortable they are without really knowing where they’re headed but still being able to make progress against something.

    We want to understand when they were in some areas in the past and they wanted to go differently, what could somebody have said to change their mind? How could they have received different coaching to push them in a different direction?

    The other thing that we look for is aptitude. We’re of the belief – and this is largely shared within our network of 250 or so partners across the country and globe at this point – companies can teach people hard skill when they have a good foundation; and I think that’s what a lot of the boot camps out there today, us included, are trying to do, it just trying to really build a strong foundation for people.

    But companies and we as well are looking at aptitude for learning; we want to see how quickly you can learn something, how quickly you can prove that you can go out, learn, implement, understand where you made mistakes, learn, implement, understand and repeat that cycle. For us, what that does is ultimately show to our partners that these people, while they might not have the exact hard skill set that you’re looking for today, they are absolutely aligned culturally, they are tuned in to your environment and they have an aptitude for learning and they’re going to be able to succeed with your company.


    Liz: Very cool. Thank you for those answers. Mitchell has a question about the make-up of your students so I’m going to unmute him and let him ask that.

    Mitchell: Good evening Aaron and Liz; thank you very much. I was just curious; what is your largest target market? Is it recently graduated students or career changers and does that matter or make a difference to the course tracks?

    Aaron: That’s a good question. What’s the largest segment of our students and does that matter or impact their ability to participate in the program and specific tracks?

    The largest segment for us is professionals in transition as we would call them; career changers. These are folks who like many of you I’m sure, are really considering what they’re doing in their career, where they’re headed, what they care about, what they love, what they truly enjoy doing. Many people follow a path of I graduate from college, I take a job because it’s the first one available and my parents put pressure on me. And two years later I realize I’m burnt out god damn, and I’m taking a new job. I’m so anxious to get out of my first job that I just take the next one that’s available to me.

    Not too long after that I start to recognize, hmm…this job looks an awful lot like the first one, and a lot of the things I complained about in my first job I’m also experiencing here – and that sucks because I just made a change.

    So for us, a large portion of our students are folks coming off of that and they’re saying, “Okay, I’ve got a couple of options in front of me. I could go to business school, I could do a more formal graduate school program, I could go travel for a year and explore and find myself and discover what I care about and understand where I fit into the world. Or I could stay in the status quo and sort of ride it out.”

    I think what brings a lot of people together in our program is that common bond that they were really trying to find themselves and were having a really hard time doing that on their own.

    Their ability to participate in specific tracks based on what their background is, is less tied to the stage of their career and more tied to their current experience and what they expect to get out of the program.

    I think a good example would be if I’m a recent graduate who’s ultimately coming straight out of school or maybe I’ve worked for a year at an agency or something like that, I shouldn’t expect to come to startup Institute and be hired as the VP of acquisition marketing at a really rapidly growing company earning $200,000 a year. I should expect to leave the program, have multiple job offers and have those be at levels and roles that are tight for me and are going to provide a platform and growth opportunity, earning depending on the market from $50,000 to $80,000. I think if you’re coming out later and you say I’m 29 or I’m 30; instead of going to business school, I’m taking this opportunity to really define myself, develop a new professional network, a new family, people you can count on. Also to tell my story to the world, what I want to focus on.

    We definitely have instances where people are hired at executive levels, VP levels, earning much more money than I earn and much more money than other folks in our company earn. It’s awesome to see that happen; it’s really tied to where people have come from and what their expectations are coming out of it.


    Liz: Awesome. We’re going to take one last question from Rico- is a bachelor’s degree required to join Startup Institute?

    Aaron: No.


    Liz: Thank you so much, Aaron. I am going to change it over to Kailey who’s going to give us some tips on how to actually get a job at a startup.

    Aaron: Thank you Liz and thank you, everybody.


    Kailey: Cool. Hi everybody; my name is Kailey. I’m am associate director here at startup Institute, mainly working with components of the program and I’m also an alum, so I definitely know what the experience is like as a student, so feel free to ask any of those questions.

    I’ll be walking through some more tactical and practical skills in order to win that job at a startup. We teach a lot of our students these skills in the first couple of weeks of the program so hopefully, you’ll pick up some new ones.

    I guess starting out, talking a little bit more about Aaron was saying about what people are looking for when they join a startup company. They’re looking for somebody who’s willing to learn. Somebody who is willing to put their all into those organizations and really optimize for learning. So a growth mindset is really what we call that at a startup. That’s certainly something that is super important because things are changing and your role now has changed and that certainly has a lot to do your ability, willingness and capacity to learn quickly.

    Another thing that startups are looking for is emotional intelligence and I think Aaron also touched on this. It’s part of our core curriculum in order to put some color around the difference between an IQ and an EQ. Emotional intelligence has a lot more to do with self-awareness, with communication skills. So emotional intelligence is really what sets a lot of people apart in terms of becoming a part of a startup. It’s really one of those things that we focus on here at Startup Institute.

    there’s tons of articles online that you can read that have a lot more to do with the importance of that and how they link up to a startup.

    I think that one of the last things that we’re really looking for at startups is just a pay it forward attitude. So it’s somebody who is willing and ready to be what we call a go-giver. One of your students actually came up with this term but we really like it. It basically means that you’re willing to share your network. You have a pay it forward attitude; when somebody asks a question, you also ask how can I help?

    Always having that attitude of mutual respect and understanding that you are constantly learning and constantly giving back.

    These are just some of the bullet points but certainly learning, risk-taking and paying it forward are a few of the keys to take away from this.

    Next, which is a little bit more technical/practical is how do you even know if a startup is hiring?

    The number one thing that’s really a great indicator to know if they’re hiring or not is if they’ve raised a round of funding. That means that they are building a new product; that means that they are working on sales or they have found product market fit and that they are probably hiring at a more rapid rate.

    Some of the different main sources from which you can find out if a company is indeed hiring are Angelist and Cruncbase. I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with these websites. Angelist, you can search regionally and these are typically early stage startups that you’ll be finding on there so you can definitely look at some of the really cool things that are coming up.

    Crunchbase is actually Tech Crunch’s database; so any of you Tech Crunch fans out there, if you have been reading any of the news all of that data gets logged into Crunchbase. What happens is you can search the really cool parameters like within average distance to a certain area code; funding dates so you can understand the most recent funding rounds and also the ones that are relevant based on where you are geographically. That’s a really cool tool that I would definitely recommend.

    And then I guess the one thin g to remember, there’s a caveat to this and that caveat is that startups are always looking for great people. So despite the fact that they may not have raced around recently, if you are a great fit both culturally and in terms of what their product is and you share their passion and their vision, they might try and make room for you.

    Startups are always looking for great people and it’s always a great idea to put your best forward and get to know the network.

    We’ll go a little bit more into understanding how to see which roles they’re hiring for and I’ll run through the story quickly. A business model canvass is a great way to understand a little bit more about the company. What are their key partners or key resources, what relationships do they have, how are they getting revenue?

    If you understand the way a company runs, it’s going to give you insight into what they’re hiring for. Once you figure out the way a company runs their different revenue streams, go to their team page. Figure you what different roles they have. What is the number of people in client services? Do they have a really big developer team? You can probably find the gaps on their team.

    One of the really unique things with startups is that they’re probably going to list every single person in their company - and maybe even the company dog on their team page; so you’ll definitely be able to figure out who’s who in it and figure out where you might fit. So this is a good way to find the gaps and where you fit in, in terms of what their business model actually is.

    You can find this online, I think it’s It’s a good resource for you to be able to figure out where you fit in.

    One of the very important things when you actually figure out is if in fact they are hiring and what they might be hiring for is how you fit into that. So take a self-assessment. What skills do you currently have? What projects have you been working on? What was your previous role in the company that you were working for? If you were in school, what classes did you take and what did you learn in them? So take an inventory of your current skill set. That’s super important; hopefully it will align with a lot of the roles that you are seeking.

    What you have to do is find your sweet spot so the intersection of where you're are an expert, what skills you have, what you’re really great at, what you really love doing. So what are you enthusiastic about? What have you always been naturally gifted in? What makes you tick; what makes you happy? So ideally, finding a job at a startup that you love is all about finding a place in which you can give your expertise but also align it with something that you really love to do with enthusiasm.

    Hopefully, based on the fact that you’re taking inventory of your skills, and understanding what you’re really good at naturally and from your studies and past work experiences, you can begin to craft an ideal job description. I think that there are three things that are really important when crafting this:

    First as we talked about, take that inventory of what industries do you have our connections in and what you understand really well. What functional role do you see yourself in? Are you a marketing manager? Do you love data? Where do you fit? And then what is the work environment and culture like?

    That is something that is extremely important and not to be overlooked, particularly in a startup environment. What is the work environment like? Is it a work hard, play hard culture as many startups will say? Or are they more quiet and heads-down and have on their headphones on all day? What are the things are important to you?

    So if you can write down these three things, you’re crafting a really good description of the kinds of companies that you’re looking to seek. So:

    Areas of expertise,
    Functional roles
    Work environment/culture

    Three pints of what make the ideal job description.

    After that, figuring out what you have been doing, what you’d be interested in doing and then finding the gap. So I think that for us, a lot of people have been saying, “We’re on a career change; who’ve been in finance or consulting or nonprofit” or wherever they’re coming from for a few years and they really liked it but they’re interested in finding something that they’re a little bit more passionate about and they’re understanding that there’s a gap. So they’re coming to our program for 8 weeks to fill that gap with both hard and soft skills and also a network to help them succeed.

    So I think that’s in many ways what our students are doing – but there are so many ways to help fill that gap. So do something that is going to help you in your own career Trajectory. Does that make sense?

    And you actually have to start looking, right? There’s definitely a few things that you have to do in order to start looking for a new job. Resumes are actually really important, but I would say more important than a resume is LinkedIn, especially in tech and startups. LinkedIn is probably the first thing that’s going to be shooting over in terms of position to see if they’re qualified. So definitely make sure that what you’re looking for is skills that align with the jobs that you’re seeking.

    LinkedIn – also a hot tip with that is to make sure that you have a unique URL; not everybody does that. They have jumbled numbers and letters after but you can actually create Super important if you want to put it on a business card or anything.

    And then always have something you’re passionate about. We talked earlier about doing the assessment; do you have a project that you’re working on? Can you start talking about it at networking events? So filling that gap and understanding your trajectory; have something you’re actively doing to make yourself better to get to the place where you need to be.

    And then last, this is probably the most important thing for networking events next to putting your personal brand out there – really nailing your personal pitch. We definitely make this a key component of our program in the first 2 weeks. I’ll go up to all my students and ask them about their personal pitch on the spot for a few weeks until they have it absolutely nailed.

    Basically, you can think of this as your 30-second pitch of who you are, what you’re doing and what you want to be doing next. Tell your story; make sure you add elements of where you came from, what you’re doing today, why it’s important to them and what you ultimately want to be doing. This is your key at networking events to be able to succeed and make really good connections.

    Some hot tips: Actually start looking; that is definitely really important in a job search. Super important for us, we make sure that all of our students are actively going out to networking events, local ones on a weekly basis; we recommend at least two per week. {34:55 Inaudible} are probably the best resources that we know of to find all of those local events but within your region there are certainly ones that are really localized but within Chicago or Boston those are two that we’re quite familiar with.

    Attending those local networking events really have to do with your specific interest and skill set. So if you’re interested in being a Rails developer, go to a Rails meet-up; understand who’s in the ecosystem. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never tried it before, go meet them, talk to them; get a better understanding of what it’s actually like to do that.

    The part about doing the research before is also super important because most of these event sites actually list who’s going to be in attendance. If you can pick three names before and just have a strategy, go in and introduce yourself to those three people. That could be the difference between having success at a networking event and standing in the corner. It’ll give you more of a prompt to be able to succeed.

    Never leaving a meeting without intros is all about you making connections and making sure that you are making your personal brand known. So be sure that going to networking events, everybody’s looking to meet people and they’re also looking to make connections between people.

    Oftentimes, the person you’re talking to isn’t going to be immediately important to what you’re seeking – but their friend might be. So figuring out a little more about them and who they might know is also super valuable.

    One thing that is different about startups is that a lot of them are looking for volunteers or interns and that can be important in your career. There’s always work to be done, so being very open to starting new projects. Maybe this is your projects that help you with your trajectory and your career. Being willing to volunteer for these companies for a couple of months to gain a skill set and actually understand the culture of a startup could be really great. I’m sure if they have a great time with you on their team, they’d be more willing to facilitate those introductions as well.

    So get to know them because they didn’t know that they were hiring until they met somebody like you, and the first step is actually getting out there and meeting the people.

    So some really tactical tips and tricks. I used to be a terrible networker – it’s true. But then I gaining confidence and meeting a lot of people who are just so helpful. So never underestimating who somebody is and how you can help each other is probably the best tip I can give anybody at a networking event. You might not think that you have anything in common and it turns out that there’s a whole world of possibilities and ways that you can work together. Even if today isn’t valuable for you, maybe two years from now they’re starting something that is super exciting and the fact that you have that relationship helps you in the future.

    So finding common ground, taking interest in what they’re saying, definitely asking a lot of questions is obviously super important.

    Here’s a funny one but a tactical one – always having something in your hand; having a glass of water or a beer or whatever at a networking event in your hand actually makes you less nervous and you don’t feel awkward. Hands were never so strange until you don’t know what to do with them at a networking event. So always having something in your hand, a crumpled up napkin or a beer seems to help with nerves, at least, so try that next time you’re out there.

    And then a really simple one: Starting conversations can be really hard and stressful; you don’t know who to talk to. Really, just go up to anybody. Everybody is there; they’re there to meet you. They’re looking to meet people in tech and startups. So a simple “Hey, my name is Kailey; what brings you here?” that’s the easiest way to start a conversation. That’s honestly the best tip and trick I can give around actually starting it.

    Once you’re in the conversation; you’re having that good talk and you’re 20 minutes in and you’re totally blanked on their name and they’re about to leave; don’t ever forget somebody’s name – just ask them. It’s never offensive if you say, ‘Hey, I totally forgot your name but I really want to remember you so what’s your name again?” That is honestly going to make them feel really great. So just ask them; ask them for their contact info, ask them for their name so that you do remember that conversation that you had.

    It’s really important that if you have one genuine conversation, know that it’s better off than if you talked to 10 people for 30 seconds. A lot of people go into a networking event and they try to meet everybody in the room but we found that the most effective way to actually go into these rooms is to meet one person and have a really genuine conversation with them for 20, 30 minutes and really get to know them. If you do that, you’ve been successful.

    The one thing about networking events that is probably hardest to remember is following up. So you go, you have these conversations but it honestly didn’t do anything for you unless you have a follow up conversation. So grab their contact info, grab their email, their phone number and make sure that you follow up. It’s crucial; otherwise the relationship ended that night.

    Some more really, really tactical practical things: One of the things that we teach our students is that there’s a huge difference between warm emails and cold emails. Warm emails are from somebody that’s a mutual contact. I know somebody who you want to know; ask me to introduce you, that’s a warm introduction and it’s always better to get a warm introduction than just send a cold email. It gives you more clout; somebody’s more likely to open that email.

    So if you are looking to meet somebody from a company and one of your friends knows somebody who works there, ask them if they can give you an introduction. It’s definitely going to help you get in the door a little bit quicker.

    So cold emails obviously not preferred but don’t worry; you can totally do them. Cracking them is also super important to networking and ensure that you are meeting some great people, so don’t fear cold emails. If you can’t get a warm introduction, please always do a cold email.

    Always keep the short and sweet, so it’s three lines; that’s pretty much the maximum with emails. People tend to blank out if you give them really long ones so make sure to keep them really short.

    Some really cool tools that we love here at Startup Institute, we can walk through each of them for a couple of minutes – I would really encourage you guys to all write these down and definitely install them; they’re all Gmail plugins so they’re really cool applications.

    The first one is called Yesware; it allows you to create email templates. It allows you to BCC to CRM systems. But really fun and really cool is that it allows you to track when somebody has opened your email.

    This is really cool when you’re sending all those warm emails or cold emails to be able to see if somebody’s actually even reading it.

    So I’m sure that we’ve all experienced this where you send an email and you haven’t heard back and you don’t know why. With Yesware, you can actually see if they’ve even opened it.  An interesting way to use that is if you have noticed that they’ve opened your email, if you can hit them at the moment in which they’ve opened your email, then you know they’re in and cranking on some work so they’re more likely to open it. It’s a really useful tool that we train all our students to use. It can definitely help with a lot of stress that goes with emailing, so I definitely recommend it.

    Rapportive is also one that we use every single day here. It allows you to figure out anybody ion the world’s email address. It pops up a profile of somebody right next to their email address with their picture, all of the social profiles from LinkedIn to Twitter, etc., if you get it right. If you get it wrong, none of the information will show up.

    You can figure out somebody’s email address by the fact that certain social links are actually connected to it and Rapportive will show you that.

    The best way to reach anybody at a startup is their first name @ their company So you can definitely test that out and I’m sure you can test out all the other combinations of names as well on Rapportive.

    Chorlio send you reports of all of the different meetings that you have going on that day an hour before they happen. So you have a phone call with somebody, it’ll send you an email of all of their tweets, what they’ve been up to with their company so you have really relevant things to talk about and really engage them in a conversation that’s meaningful. So it’s a really great tool for particularly sales people, nut really anybody.

    Boomerang is the last one, which is fun and it basically allows you to schedule emails. I don’t know if there’s anybody who’s a really late crowd out there, working until 1 or 2 a.m. but you can schedule your emails to actually send in the morning, 7 a.m., be the first person up. It’s a really cool tool in different environments. Not everybody likes to send an email late at night so Boomerang can allow you to schedule the time, impress the boss and say you send them at 7 a.m. – well, Boomerang did but you were good enough to set it up.

    Those are four really awesome plugins that we totally recommend and that I use myself every single day.

    Again, with an email, short and sweet. All you have to do is say who you are, what you’re doing, why it’s relevant to the person that you’re trying to email. then if you’d like to meet them, always have an ask in the email. If you’d like to meet them, have a really specific date and time. “I’d like to meet you at your office at any time or at a coffee shop around you between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m.” Be very specific do people can say yes or no.

    The last one is really all about community. I think that Aaron talked about this earlier; what we do is really leverage and develop communities and we’re looking for students to help do that as well.

    Being a part of ecosystems and actually being able to get a job at a startup has to do with the people that you know. So building out community relationships, knowing the ecosystem, being able to talk about it in an educated way, knowing who locally has been funded; that’s really going to set you apart. It’s going to make you seem like you really know what’s going on; you’re really abreast of what’s happening. So keeping on top of that, going to all these networking events, making sure people know you, you’re going to become top of mind when they have a position open.

    Keeping yourself open to the startup community through all of the different things that we’ve talked about today really has to do with your long-term strategy and being a part of this ecosystem.

    I think that is really all that I have today, Liz. I know we’re going to go on to Jerome soon so…


    Liz: Thank you so much, Kailey; that was awesome. I feel like a lot of those Gmail plugins, I’m gonna go download immediately! Very cool.

    I have a couple of questions from some of our audience members. One is from Paul but he doesn’t have a microphone so I’m going to read it: What is the experience of international students getting jobs after finishing the program and have they been able to get assistance? Have you had any experience with that?

    Kailey: We have international students go through every single program. We do not ourselves sponsor any visas so that has a lot to do with the student who’s coming in. We have had success with international students getting jobs at startups and companies after graduation. It is more difficult, to be super frank, but we never discourage international students from going through our programs and attending.

    We also have options for abroad now, so Berlin and London; those are definitely great options. Great question; always have international students, yes we have had success, yes it is more difficult.


    Liz: Cool. Kamal asked does Startup Institute help with choosing a track if you’re confused about which track to choose?

    Kailey: Yes; absolutely. We look at our interview process a lot as a discovery phase. You may have applied to our web development track because you’re really interested a little bit more about how to code. Through the process we put you through, we ask you to do some homework or something, you realize that it might not be the right track for you. Well, that doesn’t eliminate you from our process.

    We like to recommend other tracks to people based on conversations that we have, what they’ve done, what they’re looking for. Definitely we encourage anybody to apply, take your best guess at what track, let us know that in the interview process that you’re interested in a couple of different tracks and we can talk to all of them.


    Liz: Awesome! We’re going to pass it on to Jerome now. Thank you so much, Kailey. Hi, Jerome.

    We’re really excited to hear about your story and your experience. I’ve got a question that someone sent me in an email, so if you can answer it in your talk, I feel like it really applies to you: how has Startup Institute helped you develop your brand and develop your pitch so that you could talk to startups. And also, what your final project was and what you were actually able to accomplish. So those are just a couple of things to think about and I will give you the mike.

    Jerome: Okay, great. I guess I’ll start a little bit about what I was doing before I got into Startup Institute. Actually, I’ll start with school. I went to the University of Missouri, studied business and economics and after school; I really wasn’t looking forward to work. So I was fortunate enough to be able to travel for about a year and a half and really, I was kind of delaying the inevitable.

    Eventually, the time came when I had to come back and get a job. I was able to get a job as an analyst at a brokerage firm which was okay for a while. A lot of heavy Excel-based work and that was fine for a little while but I got bored with it pretty quickly.

    I was always a little bit of a computer geek and always tried to be interested in what was going on with this code craze that I’d been hearing about. So I {52:28 inaudible} and building lout my first app.

    And right about the time I finished with that, I had read an ad – I believe it was the tribune or it was Tech Crunch. It wasn’t really an ad, actually; it was more of a story about startup Institute and I thought it would be really awesome so I reached out and was able to get my first interview with them and I was able to get in and it was really awesome.

    I was in the web development track and…gosh, where do I begin? It’s like a nonstop whirl for 8 weeks; you’re going incredibly hard, harder than you ever thought you could but it’s great, you’re learning things the whole time, you’re networking, you’re meeting amazing people and you’re really just learning – it’s amazing.

    One of the most fun things and also I thought one of the most important things that goes on in the program is your partner project. I was able to get with a company called Mobile XYX and what they do is build mobile apps; basically a lot of different games and they try to hop on different trends and make things that are really popular, and that was a really fun experience. The people who work there are great. It was really awesome just to be around their developers and be around the owners of the company and get to watch them actually make deals.

    They secured a large round of funding while we were there; being able to watch them and listen to them negotiate some of the things while that was going on was really helpful. So that was great.

    Another thing that was really important – and every student’s going to go through this is called the talent expo, demo day, kind of, sort of. If you ever attended a demo day for startups, it’s basically a demo day except for you’re representing yourself instead of representing a company. They put you in a room full of hundreds of people who run companies or represent people who are looking to hire, and you give a pitch about yourself and why you think you would be the right candidate for their company.

    That’s a great exercised and building up your confidence as well as building up your own personal pitch for your brand. Because if you draw on more and more of these networking events, you’re going to find yourself pitching yourself very often because you’re meaning to apply to new people and none of these people know anything about you. So you’re going to end up saying the same thing over and over. You may as well get good at it and make it sound nice so that people actually enjoy talking to you. So they’ll help you out with that and get you a lot more confident about networking, which is very, very important.

    Getting a job after the program… I was very fortunate enough to be able to land a job with this very awesome company called Earlybird. We’re a software development company, basically a dev shop. We work with a whole lot of different clients, everything from small nonprofits to large oil companies down in Texas, doing all kinds of different projects.

    It’s been an eye-opening experience. I’ve gotten to learn a whole lot about various aspects of the business because it’s a very small company, so I kind of play more than just a web developer; I do a lot more other things as well.

    It’s great. It’s almost like you’re owning a business but you don’t really have to deal with the other things over your head – but you are responsible for a lot. So it’s a really great process that helps you grow as a person and as an employee overall, it definitely makes you more valuable.

    I’m not sure if I’ve covered everything because I kind of started talking, and it is really weird with me looking at myself the whole time, so if there’s anything that I’ve forgotten or anyone that has any questions, I’d love to answer them.


    Liz: Jerome, did you find your job through the demo day or did you do it on your own?

    Jerome: It was kind of a mixture of both. Before the demo day I had set a coffee date with the head of operations of our company and that went really well. And after the demo day, I was able to meet with our technical director and set up an interview with him from there. So it was kind of a mixture of both. I met the technical director at the demo day but I’d been talking with them.


    Liz: Very cool. Did you feel like during the Startup Institute program that you did that you were being prepared for that, for those interviews and for those pitches?

    Jerome: Oh, 100%; 100%. They give us lots of different opportunities to mock interviews and you also got feedback on those interviews and what you need to work on, so you knew exactly what you needed help on and areas where you can improve.

    And also, throughout the program, you’re very likely to be going on real interviews at the same time as well. Your first ones may be a little shaky because most likely you’re going to be entering a new field so as a first-time web developer, you have no idea what to expect. But if you go on more and more of them, you’re going to get more and more confident; you’re going to know what to expect and you’re going to get better. So you’ll definitely be very well prepared throughout your time at Startup Institute.


    Liz: Very cool. One last question: What did your day to day at Startup institute look like? Kamal had that question.

    Jerome: We would get there in the morning; I’m not sure if it was 9:30 or 10:30 but either way, it’s kind of irrelevant. So we would get there and have a stand-up meeting; we would talk about what we were going to do for that day. That would usually last not very long, about 10 minutes maybe.

    Then from there we would have about 2 hours in tracks, so each of the 4 tracks with time to split up and each do their own thing for about an hour or two hours. After that we would come back and we would all have an all-hands. We would all get together and go over our lessons that way for about 2 hours, learn various things and have people come in and give us presentations; maybe some CEO of So-and-so Company would come in and talk to us about what it’s like to be a CEO. Those happen pretty regularly, almost every day and that would go on for another couple of hours.

    Then we do lunch; after that we’d come back and have another hour or so of in-track work. At the end of that it was usually wither someone would come in and give us a talk or we would have a presentation about something or there was a networking event that we were encouraged to attend.


    Liz: Very cool. Thank you so much Jerome, that was awesome; it was good to hear your success story. Love to hear what you’re up to in the future.

    Jerome: Awesome; thanks for having me.


    Liz: No problem. Everyone thanks so much for joining Course Report and Startup Institute for this webinar. Aaron and Kailey, we can’t thank you enough for being here. If you have any additional questions for Startup Institute, please send any of your questions to info@startup and I’ll be sending out the contact info after this. If you have any questions about Course Report, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me and we will send out a recording of this webinar so you can check your inboxes for that and share it with your friends who might not have been able to attend.

    Please visit and sign up for an email request and you will get all of our future updates on webinars and interviews and all of that good stuff.

    Thanks everyone for joining and we will see you at the next webinar.

  • Instructor Spotlight: Jamal O'Garro, Startup Institute

    Liz Eggleston4/9/2014


    Jamal O'Garro is a bootcamp pro- he has taught at General Assembly's Web Development Immersive and now teaches at The Startup Institute's Web Development track. On top of that, he runs Code Crew, a New York organization that encourages collaborative learning and coding. We got to talk with Jamal about his path to coding and the differences he notices between the GA and Startup Institute approaches. 


    Tell us about your background and how you got involved with Startup Institute. What attracted you to the school in particular?

    I have been coding for a little over a year, so I was one of those crazy people that decided to take the plunge to change careers, change my life, etc. Before I went into software development, I worked in finance for roughly 7 years. I decided to leave that industry because I wanted to do something I really enjoyed. I taught myself Ruby on Rails, Javascript, HTML, CSS, and then just started knocking on doors looking for a startup to hire me. I started working for a boutique dev shop and eventually started doing my own freelance work.

    I run an organization in New York called Code Crew for people who are learning how to code. We host weekend collaborative coding sessions and form study groups around different programming languages and frameworks, give workshops, form hackathon teams and try to provide an open community for beginners. I met people from Startup Institute through my work with Code Crew and that led to conversations about how we could work together. Eventually they invited me to teach a few sessions for their web development track and that’s how I started teaching Ruby on Rails there.


    Do a lot of people who participate in Code Crew also go to boot camps?

    People come to Code Crew’s collaborative coding sessions to prepare their applications for General Assembly, Startup Institute, Fullstack Academy and other schools. We have a ton of students who are going through the boot camp process from applying, currently taking a course to recently graduating and looking for jobs.


    Tell me how the Web Development Track is structured. What are students learning in their 8 weeks at Startup Institute?

    They’re mostly learning the Ruby on Rails framework. They have several modules that teach various web development topics using Rails and labs to practice what they learned in the modules. Students usually complete the modules, readings, exercises and begin work on their projects before I would come in and lead a lab.

    I’ll start with a basic lecture that covers everything they were supposed to cover during the week and then we’ll do a lot of hands-on exercises. For example, we built a database from scratch using SQL and went into Active Record queries. I showed them the actual SQL Active Record writes on the backend so they can get a clear understanding of the magic that happens behind the scenes.

    Then there’s a lot of answering questions about what happens in the real world, how you actually use certain tools in production, how to scale applications, etc. It’s a mixture of lectures, hands-on work and then a lot of Q&A , answering student questions about what can they can expect in the real world.


    A lot of courses at boot camps are between 12 and 24 weeks; but Startup Institute is 8 weeks. Do you think that that is long enough? Where are you finding efficiencies to create an 8-week curriculum as opposed to a 12-week one?

    I think that 8 weeks works with Startup Institute’s Approach. At General Assembly’s WDI or the Flatiron School, two other programs that I’m familiar with, they cram a lot into that 12-week period. So you’re learning HTML, CSS, Javascript, Rails and Sinatra, Backbone, tons of technologies. They expose students to a lot of different technologies but I think with Startup Institute they really focus on teaching you Ruby on Rails and how to use it to build and scale applications. 

    Startup Institute is more hands-on, it’s more project based. In an immersive program, you’re being lectured to from 9 to 5 then you have a ton of homework during the week and on the weekends. But with Startup Institute, we’re suggesting the course of action that should be taken, and the students work together in a collaborative environment while Startup Institute  brings in industry professionals to lecture, answer questions and help you work through the assignments. At Startup Institute, the curriculum is full stack but I would say it’s a little more backend heavy than some of the other programs.


    The way that the instructors work with Startup Institute is that there are multiple instructors lecturing on different topics, right?

    Yes. They provide us with a schedule and ask for instructors to teach particular topics; instructors sign up for a topic and then teach on their specified date.



    Are you a fan of that teaching model?

    I think it works for the right students. A lot of the students have some kind of programming background but I think Startup Institute’s mission is to take professionals and get them ready to do really well at a startup by making them “startup ready.” For example, if you have a computer science degree or if you’ve already been a developer for 5 years and you don’t know Ruby or what Rails is you can spend those 8 weeks learning that framework inside out; understanding what the best practices are and getting yourself ready to hit the ground running when working at a startup.

    I think because the majority of the students have some kind of programming background, it works out. But take a group of students who never coded before like the people I have coming to Code Crew and put them into Startup Institute, it may not work out as well because you need to first understand the basics.


    Well that’s good to know for potential students- if they have no experience, then Startup Institute is probably not the best use of their time and they probably need to do something before.

    They could do it but they would have to understand that they’ll have to do a lot of the work on their own. A person like myself, I’m really good and teaching myself things and something like Startup Institute would have been awesome for me starting out as a beginner. Having the structure and having experts come in several times a week would’ve definitely been ideal for me but I’m more of a self-starter, so it really depends.


    What do you think the advantages are for Startup Institute graduates that other bootcamps might not be able to offer their students?

    You are working in a startup environment. You are there with people on a sales track or people on a marketing track, and you get to network with those people. After working at several startups and working as a consultant for startups here in New York, I’ve learned that you have to be a self-starter. Your learning experience at Startup Institute is all about being a self-starter, figuring things out and making it happen; it really prepares you for working at a startup.

    I have experience working with graduates of bootcamps that have more of a traditional academic environment, and some of those people did have a rough time transitioning into working for a startup. I think Startup Institute really prepares you for the transition because it puts you in an environment that really resembles what it’s like to work at a startup company.


    What’s been the most difficult part about being an instructor at a boot camp? Have you had any challenges or has it been all positive and rewarding?

    If I can compare and contrast Startup Institute versus a program like General Assembly versus Code Crew… At Startup Institute, most of the students already have backgrounds in programming, at least this was the case in the cohort that I was teaching. They were professionals who know the basics already and were asking really good and difficult questions about the material.

    It’s a little different when students are on a slightly different level. In the full-time web development program I taught, though we did have a few students that had programming backgrounds, for the most part, everyone was a newbie; no one had ever coded before outside of the pre-work. The challenging part about being an instructor in that capacity and what keeps it interesting is that you have to be good at explaining very complicated technical topics to non-technical people. It’s a different kind of dynamic. Same thing with the Code Crew workshops. We’ll produce intro classes on HTML and Javascript for people that never have coded ever before. The challenge lies in figuring out how to bring this very technical thing that everyone’s afraid of and intimidated by and make it sound fun, interesting and easy so they can continue to learn and not be discouraged. I would say that this is the most difficult and rewarding part of the job.


    Are students at Startup Institute working on projects throughout?

    Yeah; they’re building a clone of the website Open Table, so they’re rebuilding that from scratch and I believe they have their own personal capstone project. Open Table is a pretty good web application to rebuild when learning because there are a lot of moving parts to it, a lot of associations and a lot of functionality. You hit almost every aspect of building software for the web. At the very end of the program students participate in a demo day where employers are invited to see what they have been working on for the past 8 weeks.


    Are you involved in the hiring day or the hiring process at all?

    I’m not sure if other instructors are but I currently am not. Last cohort I stopped by the demo day and the after party to show support. I don’t participate in the hiring process except for when students have personally reached out to me for advice or to make introductions. I definitely have made introductions for graduates.


    Is there anything else you’d like to add?

    I think Startup Institute is a really good place to be. I think all the people there are really awesome. The staff is top-notch, they’re very passionate about making sure students get what they need to succeed. The students are pretty awesome as well, the cohort that I worked with in the web development track and the other students I met in the other tracks all seem very passionate, enthusiastic, excited to learn and become part of the startup ecosystem.


    Does the Startup Institute Web Development track sound like the school for you? Find out more on Course Report or by visiting their website

  • Instructor Spotlight: Giles Phillips, Startup Institute

    Liz Eggleston3/20/2014


    At Startup Institute, a variety of "tracks" let students specialize in areas like Sales, Web Development, and Product/Design, creating an environment that mimics a real startup, and instructors work together to teach each course. We sat down with Giles Phillips, one of the instructors in Startup Institute's Product & Design track who has been involved with the program since it's inception. 


    Tell us about your background, how you got started with Startup Institute, and how long you’ve been working with the school.

    I got involved with Startup Institute around the time that it was conceived. I was working at Brightcove at the time and and Bob Mason, one of Brightcove's founders, introduced me to the team and described their mission. They were in the process of building out their first curriculum for their first class, they had the idea all established and they were searching for people who could help structure curriculums and break apart the different topics and key learnings in each of the different areas of the boot camp that they were designing.

    So Bob introduced me to Aaron O’Hearn, the CEO, and we started working on design-focused curriculum for the product track and it really grew from there.  So I’ve been involved as an instructor, occasional speaker and also I’m a hiring partner with Constant Contact so I’ve been a part of the Startup Institute community for a few years.


    Startup Institute is an 8-week course, right? Can you tell us how the 8 weeks are structured and how 8 weeks is enough to learn all that information?

    I think one of the operating theories around the 8-week model that they’re implementing is that you gain a lot of benefit from an intensive curriculum. I have a lot more experience with the Product/Design track and there has been an interesting evolution over time. Initially, we would spend a few weeks looking at fundamentals of design and product strategy, thinking about things like user personas, how to formulate a market strategy, and interaction design. How do you implement a good, elegant workflow, what different parts of the user experience do you need to think about in formulating a product? We started with just basic theoretical fundamentals over the first few weeks and then quickly got into more of the advanced and applied concepts.

    Lately, we actually found it to be more performant to start with the traditional jump-right-into-coding techniques at the beginning of the boot camp to make sure that students have sufficient foundation in the technical skills to be able to actually generate functional prototypes or working code to deliver their product concepts.

    So there is this notion of applied learning. We do a lot of intensive learning sessions. For example, my regular touch point with the product students is that I’ll come in for a few sessions to talk about wireframing and navigation in flow; those will be structured as basically half-day or day-long intensives where I’ll work through some content and the students all have done some pre-work and then we’ll talk about some of the implications of their work. It has a very studio-based mentor model in terms of the way the instruction is delivered. Which is probably a unique component compared to a lot of the boot camps. It was interesting to be involved in the curriculum over such a long period of time, it’s evolved some, so we’ve definitely be iterating it. We found it to be better to give students the skills upfront.


    When was the first cohort at Startup Institute?

    It would’ve been around mid-2012. One thing that’s been fun for me, being involved as an instructor and curriculum architect is that Startup Institute really employs an iterative model. So being a few cohorts deep into their own evolution, there’s been a lot of refinement in the way they go about trying to deliver instruction and content and learnings into the student cohort.


    You are mostly focused on the Product and Design Track but there are a number of different modules with Startup Institute. Can you explain the differences and how they interact with each other?

    There’s the core curriculum that all Startup Institute students partake in. That involves a lot of networking and soft skills and just general readiness and preparedness for a career within the startup ecosystem. Then each of the students are focused on one particular track that guides a lot of their intensive work over the course of the boot camp. Those are Product/Design, Sales, Technical Marketing, and Web Development.

    There is a lot of cross-functional work that occurs. One of the things that happens is every one of the individual students is part of a cross-functional project team. That team is comprised of people from across the full spectrum of tracks – which if you think about it is really compelling because it emulates, in its purest form, the startup ecosystem. You’ve got a product person, you’ve got an engineer, a sales guy and a marketing person and they’re kind of getting together as a working group trying to create and craft out a solution that’s addressable to the market. That creates a lot of really compelling opportunities for our students. For example, a student who’s in the developer track to get insight into the sales side of things and the marketing side of things.


    How many students are in a typical cohort?

    It’s about 60 and in each of the tracks, around 8-12.


    Is Startup Institute looking for applicants who have experience in their respective tracks that they’re applying to or are you looking for beginners?

    That’s been something that we have certainly seen evolve. We’ve had students of so many different ranges of background experience. One thing I can say, and this is just my own perspective as an instructor, I’ve seen that there are two large populations in the cohorts. One of them is fresh grads and the other is career-changers.

    Both of those subgroups don’t necessarily have a lot of applied domain knowledge in whatever tracks that they’re learning within, so I think it’s safe to say that there’s not necessarily an expectation that you have a lot of applied work in the domain. For example, one of my students in one of the product courses was a marketing guy who wanted to get into product- he had a lot of domain knowledge, just didn’t have necessarily as much applied knowledge. Those student types are really interesting because they’re highly-motivated and highly-focused.


    So how does it work to be an instructor at Startup Institute? I’ve heard that there are multiple instructors for a course; how does that work?

    The instructors are focused on the specialized tracks. So as an instructor, I come in and teach some subset of the concepts around Product. I think for Product there’s probably about 15 or so instructors lined up to deliver content just for the product track alone. As an individual contributor, you have the pieces of content that you’re responsible for but you have to think about that in a broader picture. So there’s an interesting negotiation that happens between instructors and you have to adapt your learning module around the relative readiness of the group. But it also creates this instructor ecosystem, which is really interesting, where you throw ideas off of each other, and you challenge each other.


    I think that’s one of the things that’s made the Startup Institute really resilient- all the different instructor voices that have been compelled to come together around this unified mission.

    What I picked up on anecdotally from the students who I’ve stayed close with, is that it’s been a compelling part of their experience because every day, you have a new instructor, and some of us really resonate with some students and in other situations maybe less so; there’s something interesting there around the diversified experience, a lot of perspectives and voices. And it creates a networking opportunity as well.


    Is there one mentor that stays with a cohort throughout the eight weeks?

    Across each individual track, there’s a dedicated Program Manager who is available and present and creates that stabilizing and guiding presence. They really become the go-to person for any work-life balance or bandwidth challenges or questions around the track is going or uncertainty coming out of a specific session; so they do have that consistent guiding presence.


    And you have a full time job with Constant Contact in addition to SI.

    Yeah, I do!


    Do you leave work to go give a lecture?

    Oh yeah, absolutely. From Constant Contact’s perspective, there’s a tremendous amount of value in these touch points. For one, it creates access to a really interesting, talented and passionate community of potential prospects. The actual teaching time commitment is not necessarily full day. Sometimes it’s as short as 4 hours but I usually carve out the whole day just to be onsite and engage in longer conversations or follow up conversations, so that I’m present. We treat it like a really high-value external engagement into the local startup community, which is really what it is. It helps Constant Contact to be seen as part of that community.

    Because instructors are not full-time, It makes it totally manageable for professionals in the field to come in and teach. It keeps the instructors fresh, so we’re a group who have applied skills and are actively working to build stuff.


    What is your teaching style? What does a typical day look like for a student?

    My undergrad experience was all studio-based design learning so I suppose I bring some of that. One day before I teach, I’ll send out some focused pre-work. Some subset of that work will be flagged as the really important stuff that you should try to get to. Based upon how far students get, we’ll essentially kick off a learning lab. Usually it’ll start with just introductions and then a few minutes of dialogue with the students and then 30 minutes or talking about some of the key challenges they experienced with the pre-work. Then I like to get really hands-on, so less lecture and more applied, hands-on learning. And for a lot of the product and design stuff, we’ll actually embark on low fidelity prototyping and user testing. We’ll break up the class into small groups and they’ll design product concepts then leverage each other as small testing cohorts. That gives them a chance to develop applied skills and not only product formulation but prototype development as well as user testing methodologies and then findings, analysis, things of that nature. Then there’s discussion and reflection on the heels of the actual applied learning.  You reflect on the things that you did and discovered and learned about.


    How does the hiring process work? Are all of the instructors coming from companies who are also hiring partners?

    All of the instructors are not hiring partners, some of the instructors are. For example, I’m a hiring partner and I come in and do instruction. There’s a lot of other touch points for hiring so I typically don’t approach class as a hiring point at all. In fact, I find it better not to. But there are a lot of networking touch points for the hiring partners. They’ll organize a hiring day where all the hiring partners come in and get a little bit of a pitch. Hiring managers and recruiters actually get on a panel and talk about how they go about trying to source and find candidates, which is a tremendously insightful session for the students usually.

    Hiring partner’s also have a cross-functional group of Startup Institute students from each of the tracks – they’ll come out to the partner’s office every Thursday of each week so they have a full day of immersion with one of the hiring partners over the course of the boot camp. It’s actually part of their diversified learning experience. Here at Constant Contact, we set them up with one of our innovation projects- an open-ended but very relevant problem statement and give them 8 weeks to formulate a product proposal. Even though that’s part of the work, it feels like a potential hiring or recruiting touch point. We’ve had students that we’ve hired out of that, we’ve had students who’ve expressed a lot of interest in joining Constant Contact on the heels of that experience.


    Anything else you’d like to add?

    I would just add that being involved in this has been really rewarding for me as a professional to get engaged as an instructor and to find ways to give a little bit back to the broader technology community. But honestly also, I’ve been challenged a lot and learned a lot. Startup Institute does an amazing job at finding talented students.


    To learn more about Startup Institute and their upcoming courses, check out their school page on Course Report or the Startup Institute website

  • Which New York Coding Bootcamp is Best for You?

    Liz Eggleston2/2/2018

    How do you choose a coding boot camp in New York that's right for you? New York City is home to 13 full-time coding bootcamps, teaching everything from Web Development to Mobile App Development to FinTech. With so many options to choose from, you should consider factors like your learning style, professional goals, and language preferences.  

    Lucky for you, we've done all the hard work!

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