In addition to the classroom hours, students will get 20+ career sessions through the Pathway Program™, which focuses on developing soft skills and connecting you to the right companies. Career coaches and mentors will help with resume building, interview coaching, strengths assessment and more.
The team will work with students from the start of the program to ensure they don't just get a job as a programmer, but that they are on a fulfilling, rewarding career path.
Recent Tech Elevator News
- Episode 12: March 2017 Coding Bootcamp News Roundup + Podcast
- Employer Spotlight: Why JPMorgan Chase Hires From Tech Elevator
- Your 2017 #LearnToCode New Year’s Resolution
Recent Tech Elevator Reviews: Rating 5.0
.NET Coding Bootcamp
- Payment Plan
- $7,000 due on day 1 of the bootcamp, $7,000 due in week 8 of the bootcamp
- Minimum Skill Level
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- 30-40 hrs
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week15 Seats
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week15 Seats
Java Coding Bootcamp
- Payment Plan
- $7,000 due on day 1 of the bootcamp, $7,000 due in week 8 of the bootcamp
- Minimum Skill Level
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- 30-40 hrs
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week15 Seats
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week15 Seats
Java Coding Bootcamp
- Payment Plan
- $7,000 due on day 1 of the bootcamp, $7,000 due in week 8 of the bootcamp
- Minimum Skill Level
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- 30-40 hrs
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week15 Seats
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week15 Seats
.NET Coding Bootcamp
- Payment Plan
- $7,000 due on day 1 of the bootcamp, $7,000 due in week 8 of the bootcamp
- Minimum Skill Level
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- 30-40 hrs
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week15 Seats
In PersonFull Time40Hours/week15 Seats
Tech Elevator Reviews
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I’ll start by saying that this was the best professional decision I’ve ever made in my life. I was hired as a .Net Developer two weeks prior to graduation and started working the Monday after. While I won’t reveal my exact salary, I nearly doubled what I was earning prior (and no, I was not working at minimum wage). I’ve had plenty of highs and lows at companies prior so I just want to start by providing some background information on my journey.
I graduated from high school in 2005 and went to college for one year before dropping out. I took five years off, working odd jobs before returning to finish with B.A. in Political Science. Afterward, I moved to Ohio and worked on several statewide political campaigns, in the state legislature as an aide, and on a U.S. Senate race. The schedule was exhausting, the pay was low, and my morale after so many losses was even lower. I was at a crossroads in my life.
I always had a knack for working with computers but no real programming experience outside of my love of spreadsheets (if you would even consider that programming). During the last campaign, I was assessing an issue with one our routers when a coworker offhandedly asked me why I wasn’t doing this (IT) for a living. I was taken aback by the comment because I just had never seriously considered it. A lot of it had to do with how I decided to pursue political science, not computer science, while in college. The thought stayed with me for days. I browsed Indeed & Monster for IT jobs but was bummed that I just didn’t think I would have any way of figuring out all of the required technologies on my own. There’s a lot to know even for an entry-level job!
So after the 2016 election, my job ended and I was looking for the next thing. I was talking with a friend who works in the tech industry and he recommended I check out coding boot camps and specifically mentioned Tech Elevator. He said that his company had hired from there and that they look for boot camp graduates specifically.
Admittedly, I was nervous. I was tens of thousands of dollars in debt from student loans, car loans, credit cards, random life events, etc. The price tag seemed too high. If it didn’t work out, I don’t know if I would have been able to recover. But I knew that if I stayed in politics, I would be in the same position that I was the year before: overworked, underpaid, and worse – unsatisfied. I was going to have to take out a private loan for the course. Luckily, because my previous job had ended, I was able to stay collect unemployment compensation while taking this course (it’s considered workforce re-entry training). Was it a scam? A money grab? I deliberated for a couple weeks then I did it:
I took a leap of faith.
My time at Tech Elevator:
If you apply for this program with the expectation that it’s going to be easy, don’t even bother. For the entirety of the 14-week program, I was completely consumed in code. Any semblance of free time on nights and weekends was gone, but I was okay with it! I wanted to learn more and grow my skills as much as I could. My instructor John is a bright, passionate, hilarious person. He seemed to be available pretty much any hour of the day when I had a question for him (sorry John’s family). He was patient with students and put in the time to work individually when anyone needed it. I cannot speak higher of John’s knowledge of .Net and his desire to teach others.
As for other staff at Tech Elevator, Katie was every student’s career guidance counselor / guardian angel. She would go out of her way to get students focused on the bigger picture (i.e. finding a job) and would go to bat for us if we felt like we were in a tough spot with an employer.
Around the time employer match-making ended, a recruiting company reached out to me via LinkedIn about a potential opportunity. In my previous career, anyone reaching out like made me suspicious but in technology, that’s par for the course. The field is so in-demand right now! I had to complete 4 separate interviews (3 with the recruiting company and 1 with the company I’m placed at right now) but I got the job! The technologies I had learned lined up almost exactly with what they were looking for.
I have a new career as a .Net Developer at a major energy company in Columbus. Given that I have a non-IT college degree, I needed to follow a non-traditional path to break into the field. Taking that leap of faith was the most worthwhile thing I’ve ever done. If you’ve always had a knack for technology and want to make a career change – seriously – take the leap. You won’t regret it.
- Say goodbye to your social life, say hello to code
- You will not be able to have a full-time job during this course. Part time? Maybe, but I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate enough if I had done that (some did)
- Go to networking events! Don’t do what I did and not attend a single one. Even though I am gainfully employed and loving it, who knows who I would have met or where I’d be if I had gone. Just do it!
- It’s okay to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of what you’re undertaking. You will not leave an expert in any of the technologies and no employer worth their salt would ever expect you to be able to perform the duties of a senior or mid-level developer
- Practice talking about the technologies you’re learning. My biggest hurdle was confidently communicating what I learned to industry professionals. I eventually wised up and did a TON of practicing, but do not underestimate how important it is to do this
- Don’t expect to be the best programmer there. You’ll have to pass aptitude tests to even get in, so they don’t just let anyone become a student. Their standards are high. Every student had strengths in different areas so listen and learn
- It’s worth it
I have to admit that I was pretty skeptical of Tech Elevator’s bold promise to help me get a job with just 14 weeks of training. After talking to a Tech Elevator alum, I decided to take the plunge, and I’m so glad I did. By the end of the program I was offered a job paying about 45% more than I was making before.
Tech Elevator’s greatest asset is its instructors. Josh, the .NET instructor, is phenomenal. His understanding of the material is thorough, and he has the ability to deliver the material in a way that is easy to understand. Beyond that, though, he sincerely cares about his students and their success. He was always available to give students extra help with difficult concepts, provide review sessions, or give advice about projects we were working on. Even in the evenings or on weekends, he would be on Ryver answering questions. Even now, two weeks after graduation, Josh is still sending us messages, and giving us advice on how to keep our skills sharp. His commitment to his students’ success far exceeded my expectations.
Another component of the Tech Elevator program is its Pathway Program, which provides Tech Elevator students with guidance relating to our job search. There were regular seminars focusing on different aspects of the job search (writing resumes, using LinkedIn, etc.), as well as mock interviews. The Pathway director met with students individually and helped us to tailor our job search according to our individual aspirations. The highpoint of the Pathway program was the Matchmaking event, a two-day event involving about 20 companies. I interviewed with 10 companies during the Matchmaking event, and ultimately received a job offer as a result.
On the first day of Tech Elevator, we were told that we would get out of the program what we put into it. This turned out to be true. If you decide to enroll in Tech Elevator, make sure you’re ready to completely devote yourself to the program and to acquiring the skills that will make you marketable. If you’re willing to put in the work, the Tech Elevator staff will be there to support you.
So you're considering a coding bootcamp? I was in your shoes not long ago. I chose Tech Elevator's coding bootcamp in Columbus, OH. I was part of their Jan-April 2017 .Net cohort. Let me tell you a little about my experience.
The decision to attend Tech Elevator was not one that I made lightly. The cost of the program and the time commitment were the largest hurdles I had to consider and clear before attending. I am so glad I made the sacrifices necessary. I was resolute that I would not only participate but I would put all of myself into the 14 week program. It required all of that--and sometimes a little more. Tech Elevator did a good job of letting me know what to expect and the fast pace at which things are taught. A little joke we had was that it would be 14 weeks of drinking from a fire hose. IT WAS.
That is not said to scare you away, so much the opposite! It was an intensive, exhaustive 14 weeks but I was able to learn at an accelerated pace unparalleled by any other education I have had. In my eyes the difference between Tech Elevator and other bootcamps are twofold.
First, the team assembled to assist you along the way are unlike any others in their field. The instructors are a deep pools of programming knowledge and the epitome of what a mentor should be. If I had one word to describe the instructors it would be Invested. They are wholly invested in your success.
The second differentiator that sets Tech Elevator apart is the Pathway Program. This is the career prep portion of the coding bootcamp. It is a streamlined series of events that is planned with precision and ensures that if you are putting in the effort that is advised you will be prepared to launch a career in the tech industry before graduation. Take the Pathway Program seriously and it will pay dividends.
By graduation I had multiple offers from reputable companies within Columbus, Ohio. Thanks to Tech Elevator I was well versed in programming and (equally as important) I could confidently communicate the knowledge I had learned. On the day of graduation I accepted one of the offers I had received. Today (5/1/2017) was my first day as a Software Engineer. I owe everyone at Tech Elevator a substantial debt of gratitude. The program prepared me for a successful career in the tech industry and has drastically changed the trajectory of my life.
I highly recommend Tech Elevator.
When I read the reviews about techElevator they seemed completely fake. How come no one is unhappy? No complaints? Did their relatives review them??
Now I'm going to give another glowing review and you can wonder about this one as well...
TechElevator promises hard work, fast pace, and huge time commitment- and delivers big time. I hardly had time to breath. Said goodbye to my friends and family. Instead, I went to all sorts of tech-related meetups. And learned to be a full stack java developer. And had a blast. AND found a job!
The program was interesting challenging and engaging, but we were guided through it all. The mock interviews I had prepared me for the "real thing" and I learned how to brand my skills and my experience. The pathways program manager is an amazing individual who truly cares about you as a person and how you can get the best possible outcome for yourself.
Now I'm a believer...
Although my journey to becoming a software developer was a twisty road, I knew as soon as I started coding that I had finally found the job for me! Debugging complex code is more fun than anything I’ve ever done as work before! I have been a Massage Therapist, a Truck Driver, and a Customer Service Rep. Though I have a B.A. in Communications, I never found the career I wanted until I came to Tech Elevator.
Every member of the staff at Tech Elevator is invested in helping you succeed as a developer, but they also are invested in you as a whole person. Josh, the lead instructor for .NET/C#, is the most gifted educator I have come across, and believe me, with my varied background, I have had quite a few! His ability to figure out exactly what each individual needs to hear or see in order to understand a concept is unbelievable. But his dedication to looking at each student as an individual with his/her own learning style and individual strengths, is what made it enjoyable to stuff our brains full of knowledge and logic each day.
Craig, another instructor who is available for one-on-one sessions, is one of the most patient teachers I have come across, and spending time in his office was always enlightening even when the material was frustrating. Tiffany, the head of the Pathway Program, was there to help me with my least favorite part of Tech Elevator – the resume and networking. She was encouraging and supportive, but also made sure I worked my butt off to get in touch with the people who would eventually become my employers!
Every single staff member was there to help boost my confidence after receiving a rejection. I had 5 separate people call me aside to talk to me about how I was going to do even better next time and to tell me that I had the skills I needed – it was time to “put my oar in” and keep on applying and networking. These lovely people helped me find a job that puts a smile on my face just about every day.
After a few rejections along the way, and a LOT of help from Tiffany and the rest of the team, I was amazed to find myself with not only one, but TWO job offers on the same day! I was able to choose the job that was right for me, and I have been happily heading downtown to my job as an entry-level Software Engineer for about a month.
Tech Elevator was absolutely a critical turning point for me. After a layoff and being uninterested in pursuing my previous career path I knew I needed to do something different, something more fulfilling and rewarding. I came across Tech Elevator and the rest is history.
I went from absolutely no previous experience in technology( I come from an arts background) to landing my first job in tech prior to graduation. The work was hard and at times I wanted to quit but the staff, instructors, and my classmates were very helpful and encouraging. I have 5 children ( 6 month old twins at the time) but with the proper support system I learned programming and was able to create a really cool web based application along two other students. Not only this, but the professional development aspect, which is a part of the program is really want helps you land a job. They are extremely committed to creating opportunity for the people of the program in every way possible.
Like the saying goes, you get out what you put in. I put in a lot of hard work and long hours to learn coding and how to build applications. At my job there is more learning and training, the journey never ends. None of the journey would be possible if I had not decided to take a risk, change directions, put my head down, work hard and if Tech Elevator did not have such an incredible program to help my achieve my goals. Thank you all so much, my future will be totally different than what it would have been!
For anyone reading this review, like I did a few months ago, I realize they are very critical to making a decision. It's not a cookie cutter, walk in the park situation. You will WORK very hard to learn these concepts but in the end it's all worth it, I would gladly do it again.
The whole point of this program is simple, they teach you the skills needed to succeed as an application developer in the real world. Casey is an amazing instructor who never hesitates to take advantage of a teaching moment. You'll learn how to build a web app from front end to back end and everything in between. The course is very demanding but you will be rewarded with the skill set to succeed.
The main selling point for Tech Elevator will be the job placement. Katie and the team will do wonders that will surprise you. They bring companies in to buy lunch for you just in hopes you will apply with their company. There's also a meeting every week about how to improve your career and manage it after the course and for years to come. They teach you how to be a professional in the workplace and what to expect when you get into your first job.
I found the best of breed of coding bootcamps in Tech Elevator. Their model depends on your success! If their students do not do well it hurts them long-term and you can sense that, so the motivation is aligned. Casey, Katie, and everyone else at Tech Elevator are awesome. I could not be happier. I now have a cybersecurity role where I work for AEP, Battelle, L brands, Huntington, Cardinal Health, Ohio Health, and Nationwide. I get to work for the best and brightest companies of Columbus now doing what I love. Tech Elevator changed my life and I could not have done it without them.
It was not easy, and honestly it can't be. There is a lot to learn no matter what you say. This is also why Tech Elevator won't accept just anyone with a check. They want their students to succeed and only select students they see the most potential in. I can guarantee you if this is what you truly are interested in and you have the drive, it is well worth the investment. The only downside was that I had to quit my job in order to do the bootcamp, but to be honest, I do not see how other models work if you are not truly immersed.
I graduated from the Java program in April 2017. I previously worked as a photojournalist, then freelance photography and graphic design before deciding that I needed to expand my skillset. I attended an open house at Tech Elevator and was immediately sold on the program.
The staff at Tech Elevator is what sets them apart from other coding bootcamps. Every member of the team is knowledgeable, supportive, and committed to your success. The Java instructor, Casey Borders, has years of experience and a teaching style that makes difficult concepts easy to understand while keeping lecture engaging and exciting. He was always available and happy to help.
The Pathway Program exceeded my expectations in every way. It provides a roadmap with resume writing and interview workshops, employer networking events, and both technical and behavioral interview practice. I owe the two job offers I got shortly after graduation to the Pathway Program.
I couldn't be happier with my experiences at Tech Elevator and would absolutely recommend them to anyone looking to start a new career in the tech field.
I couldn’t be happier with my experience. When considering other bootcamps, you might find framework-specific models that seem more advanced; learning Android development, for example. Tech Elevator’s focus on foundational concepts is what sets them apart. This way, students have an understanding of what the new technology is, but they also know how to work in the older technologies that businesses still rely on. I was pragmatic when deciding on Tech Elevator; some online-only bootcamps offer more advanced technology stacks, but I considered it more realistic to complete an in-person bootcamp. I’m incredibly happy with my experience.
I especially want to recognize my instructor, John Fulton, for his tireless work ethic throughout the cohort. Tech Elevator’s .NET curriculum is expansive, and you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who could teach all of it. Since this was his first cohort, John had some serious learning to do. All of my doubts were eliminated after receiving John’s messages on nights and weekends. His innate curiosity drove him to follow up with answers to the smallest and most insignificant questions no matter how full his plate was. After teaching this cohort, I have no doubt that John will lead many more students to successful development careers.
I also want to acknowledge Tech Elevator’s Columbus career mentor, Katie Detore. Katie ended the bootcamp by giving all 28 students her personal cell phone number to ensure they stay in touch throughout the job search. The 98% job placement rate is no surprise after seeing how invested she is in each student’s career. Weeks after the bootcamp, I remain in touch with Katie, and she’s still invested in finding me my dream job.
Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but I couldn’t be happier with my experience.
Tech Elevator is an exciting game changer for anyone looking to make the leap to get into software development.
Before attending Tech Elevator, I was struggling to make progress in teaching myself how to code. I tried things like Codeacademy, Udemy, and countless youtube tutorials, but was never able to get to the point where I felt confident applying to a job as a developer. I knew about the growing demand for people with programming skills, and wanted to bridge the gap as quickly as possible. After a ton of research, I applied to Tech Elevator, and looking back, I could not possibly be happier with my decision to enroll.
The instructors at Tech Elevator were all incredible. Having been through four years at Ohio State, I can still say that my Java instructor, Casey Borders, is without a doubt the most effective, brilliant, and inspirational teacher that I have ever had in my life. He is extremely dedicated to making sure that you are as prepared as you can possibly be for your first job as a software developer. He truly has a talent for taking incredibly complex material and breaking it down into lessons that everyone can understand. He gave me a very strong foundation in coding and the more importantly, the confidence to walk into job interviews and nail any technical exercises with ease.
Along with the intense formal technical training that Tech Elevator offered me, I made drastic improvments to my professionalization skills. Very important details about what specificially to put in a resume, how to build a linked-in page that catches employers' attentions, and how to prepare for interviews are just three of the many skills that Katie and Terry helped me perfect over the past 14 weeks. I had the opportunity to meet with over fifteen amazing companies and was able to build my network in ways that I would never had dreamed of doing by myself. As someone who really struggled to have confidence in stressful behavioral interviews before Tech Elevator, I can look back with a sense of pride when I see how far I've come, all thanks to the countless hours of hard work that Katie and Terry put in to doing practice interviews with me. I owe my success landing my exciting first job as a software developer so quickly to their hard work.
Tech Elevator blew my expectations out of the water. It is everything that a coding bootcamp should be and more. I would reccommend it to anyone who is excited about technology and is looking to make a career out of it.
If there is one thing that sets Tech Elevator apart from any other educational experience I have had it is the People.
And for me, the people that set Tech Elevator so far ahead of it's competition came in three forms:
1. The Instructors
2. The Staff
3. The Students
The Instructors - During my time at Tech Elevator I was given instruction by highly skilled professionals who took the time to meet with me individually, who helped me in areas where I was lacking understanding, and who pushed me to try to solve problems in different ways to develop new skills. It wasn't just the my in classroom instructor who worked with me either, the classes are small enough that all the instructors at Tech Elevator knew who I was, the types of things I was working on, and could jump in to help when I had questions. Working at Tech Elevator and helping students is what these instructors do and they were always available (even late at night) to look at something with you.
The Staff - The staff at Tech Elevator went beyond all my expectations for availablity. From the CEO on down the people who worked there knew who I was, what I was working on, what companies I was interested in working for what, and were always willing to help. There Career Services are second to none, they seem to know everyone. Furthermore, you simply can't ask for more than having a team that is wiling to pick up the phone to call personal contacts on your behalf to help you get an interview.
The Students - Unlike a lot of environment it never felt like I was in competition with my classmates. Whether we were working on projects or individual assignments I knew I had a 15 other people I could turn to if I had questions. The students in my class freely shared there notes and diagrams and worked together so that we all moved forward. Additionally, I felt very confident in my decision to attend Tech Elevator, when I found out there where students attending their classes from as far away as Colorado and Texas. While it may not be typical, I certainly liked that when I came in on a Saturday to do some reading or to complete an assignment I could expect to see at least a couple other students there working on various projects. I never felt alone in this journey, and it was really nice to be able to count on my classmates when I had questions.
I had a great experience at Tech Elevator. I highly recommend the course, and at the very least you should look into the Tech Elevator program so you can use it as a measuring stick to see how other boot camps measure up. This experience is first class and it shows.
I had been trying to become a developer for about 18 months before Tech Elevator landed in my back yard. While that helped contextualize what I was learning, it was by no means necessary. Several of the people in my class of 12 had never coded beyond a few things on Codecademy, and all 12 of us received offers.
Casey was a great instructor - able to dive deep into just about anything we asked him (and we asked a LOT of questions), but also up front when he didn't know something. He was caring, supportive, 100% engaged with the students, and went through the first few weeks with a nasty cold but still showing up every day ready to go. I did a practice interview with the current .NET instructor, and between the two instructors there is something like 40-50 years of experiences in the field.
While the technical instruction was great, from the first day of the program the focus was on getting that first job. Katie and Terry put in an incredible amount of work for us. Columbus was new for Tech Elevator, which meant potentially an uphill struggle for TE to get recognition and respect with area employers, but those two killed it. They both have a background in HR and recruiting, and not only did they know right people to talk to raise awareness for the program, they also were on hand to answer all our (my) slightly panicked questions. After many rounds of practice interviews, LinkedIn and resume reviews and personal branding workshops, I was able to walk into an interview feeling like if I wasn't hired it was the interviewee's fault. I got that much confidence in myself and what I had to offer.
Finally, I am working in Vermont. There was a tech conference here, during the program, and I flew out to attend. For anyone on the fence about TE, wondering if you'll be able to get a job outside Ohio, the answer is yes. While I wasn't able to utilize the network TE has built, the staff helped me navigate the long-distance job search.
Two final points: in my current job I'm using none of the technologies I learned at Tech Elevator, and the same is true for many of the others students. So don't worry too much about what your first language is. Finally, for anyone long hair and a beard - you don't have to shave to get a job! (I wish I had known that earlier)
I quit my high school teaching job of nine years at the end of last school year to pursue a career in technology. I was enrolled at Ohio State part-time but was not looking forward to a 2+ year process. My mother heard the Tech Elevator ad on the radio and encouraged me to apply. They had run several cohorts in Cleveland but this was the first one in Columbus. I checked them out online and everything seemed legit - lots of positive reviews and students who landed real jobs. I completed the online assessment and was invited in for an interview and second assessment. I liked the staff members I met during the interview (on a Thursday), and was excited to find out I was accepted the following Tuesday.
The program is intense. I have multiple graduate-level degrees and this was as challenging if not more than all of those programs (including law school). The good news is that it's over quickly. The bad news is that it's over quickly. I loved everyone I met there - both staffers and fellow students, and once we got into the groove and got to know each other the 14 weeks flew by. The Java instructor, Casey Borders, is amazing. Patient and knowledgeable. A true coding wizard! You will be there from 9-4:30 most days. If you're like me and aren't always the best about getting things done at home, you should probably stay until you get all of your homework finished. Try not to fall behind as things can pile on quickly. The reading may not seem as exciting as the coding but it will help you be a better programmer and pick up the language and vocabulary to be an effective communicator.
Around week 10 is the Matchmaking Event and this is where the job-hunting really picked up for me. Before the event, we worked on our resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and interviewing skills through the Pathways component of the program. Each student has 8-10 interviews back-to-back. I was so nervous, but it was so helpful to be forced to get over the nervousness. After the event, I received 5ish follow-ups from employers who attended and tons of promising feedback. One of my second interviews was about 10-days after the event and I received a job offer about 3-4 days after that (a full 2 weeks before graduation). It is at a large national bank and the pay was at the top end of my anticipated salary range. Today was my first day of work and I'm excited for everything in store for the future. And so thankful to Tech Elevator for their expertise and assistance getting my foot in the door.
As someone changing careers, I felt the need for more formalized training in Web Development to get my skills and knowledge to a level that would enable me to land a job. The curriculum at Tech Elevator was exactly what I was looking for. With a thorough training in full-stack web development I learned all the fundamentals I would need to write a fully functional web application, and more importantly, have the skills to get a job. Another key factor I was looking for was excellent teaching staff. My instructor was everything I could have hoped for: knowledgeable, patient, experienced, and someone who loved teaching. The career assistance at Tech Elevator was also incredible. From major players like Chase and Huntington to smaller software development companies, there were plenty of connections made for us that made the job hunting experience much easier. If you are someone who is thinking about a bootcamp, I cannot recommend Tech Elevator enough. I am incredibly glad I did it.
If you want to pursue a career in software development/programming, Tech Elevator is a great place to help you reach that goal. It’s not cheap (no bootcamp really is) and it’s not easy (harder than any semester I experienced in university), but if you put in the effort, you will succeed. At the start of the course, I had very little technical experience. By the end of the course I had 3 job offers. For the first time in my life, I was able to choose where I wanted to work. I didn’t just have to take whichever job was offered to me. Now I’m working for a great company and I have a career that has a lot of growth opportunity. I mentioned that the course is expensive, but my annual salary increased by more than the cost of the tuition. Everyone’s situation is different, but chances are that it won’t take you very long to break even.
First off, I’ll tell you a little about myself (Skip to the next paragraph if you don’t care about me…it’s fine…I get it.) in hopes that you’ll see that you don’t need to be a computer whiz with a technical background to be successful in the bootcamp or to break into this career field. I took 2 years of Computer Aided Drafting courses in high school, so I was comfortable with technology but I didn’t know anything about programming. I went on to college where I earned a bachelor’s degree in business. After graduation, I spent a few years as a Transportation Manager. After doing the same thing for a while, I reached a point where I got the urge to learn something new, so I enrolled in a Web Development course at a community college. I really enjoyed it, so I started looking at ways to make a career out of it but all of the educational routes looked like they would take 2-4 years since I was a business major and didn’t have many of the pre-requisites. I didn’t have the time to start college all over. That’s when I learned about coding/programming/dev bootcamps. I’m from Cleveland, so I was really surprised when I found that there were multiple bootcamps in the area. I visited Tech Elevator and another bootcamp in the area and came to the conclusion that Tech Elevator was the best fit for me. The deciding factors for me were the instructor and the focus on developing the soft skills needed to land a job (no matter how much I hated the soft skills…I knew that it was a weak point for me that I wanted/needed to work on).
Now let’s talk about the bootcamp. First of all, I think it’s really important to visit a bootcamp in-person so you can actually meet the people that will be teaching you and guiding you through this change in your career and to see the space where you’re going to be learning. You’re going to spend a lot of time in this facility with these people. With that being said, I felt very fortunate to be taught by an instructor that was so knowledgeable and experienced (lookin’ at you David Wintrich). There was also great support from Josh, Craig, Terry, Andria, Anthony, and Carol. The facilities and equipment provided at the Cleveland campus were great and I’m sure that quality will be continued in Columbus.
The course itself was great. We would start the day with a quick quiz so that the instructor could get an idea of our grasp on the previous day’s material. After reviewing the quiz, we would review anything else anybody had questions about, whether it was from the day before or 3 weeks ago. After reviewing, we would typically have lecture until lunch time. After lunch we would have hands-on work for the rest of the day. Sometimes we would work on our own, but we usually had a partner and did a lot of pair-programming (“Pair programming” is a practice where two programmers sit next to each other and work on code. The “driver” does the typing and the “navigator” watches over the code as it’s typed. The two programmers bounce ideas off of each other and they frequently switch roles.) Along with the hands-on work, you’ll often be assigned reading. Sometimes you’ll finish your work by 4:30 or 5:00pm, but you should really expect to put in more hours at night and on the weekends. The course was broken up into “modules” that were a few weeks long. After each module, we would complete a “mini-capstone” project where we would have a chance to build a small application that would encompass the material from that module and any previous modules. This was a good build up to the final capstone project which we got to work on for the final 2 weeks of the course before presenting them to our peers and families at the graduation ceremony.
I went to what I consider to be an academically strong university before I attended Tech Elevator. I’m not saying that to toot my own horn, but rather I want to give a baseline to others who have already attended a university. This program required more time and effort than any semester I ever experienced during my undergrad studies. They say that this program is like “drinking from a fire hose”. Sometimes it’s going to make you feel like you got hit by the fire truck after you’ve had your little drink. If you’re like me, you’re going to be uncomfortable, but it really is a good test of mental toughness. It shows you how much you can really do when you push yourself to the limit.
A great benefit of the program was all of the career assistance that was provided. Each week we had an employer come in to speak to us about their company and we frequently had guest speakers talking to us about topics ranging from LinkedIn profiles to emotional intelligence. The biggest benefit to me was the technical interview practice and the Employer Matchmaking event. The technical interview practice starts with a mock technical interview with one of the instructors and then moves on to a mock technical interview with a volunteer from a local tech company. The reason this was so great for me is that I felt like I flopped on this mock interview, but it was ok cause you’re being given a safe place to fail and the person interviewing you will give you a lot of feedback. After that practice interview, I pretty much knew what I needed to focus on and I felt so much more comfortable. I know that it helped me because I had nothing but positive feedback from all of my real technical interviews. The Employer Matchmaking event was a day where 20+ employers came in and held 30-minute interviews all day. I had 9 one-on-one interviews in a day and while it was kind of scary at first, I had a lot of fun and ultimately met my future employer (we’re doing great, thanks for asking).
Here’s the part you are probably most concerned about… I ended up with 3 job offers (2 before the bootcamp even ended). I actually had to end the interview process with another company and I had pretty much stopped applying for jobs after I received my first offer (I’m not suggesting you do the same, I’m just saying I wasn’t struggling to find people that wanted to give me a shot). One of my offers came from a company outside of Tech Elevator’s hiring network and the company wasn’t even aware of the bootcamp, so I think that’s a pretty good indicator that I was equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to land a job. Another interesting point is that although I was in the Java cohort, I ended up taking a C#/.NET job. So you’re going to learn the language for the course you enroll in, but that won’t necessarily pigeon hole you into that language because you’re going to learn the principles of Object Oriented Programming and you’re going to “learn how to learn” programming languages. You’re not just buying a fast-pass to a job though…you’re going to have to put a lot of blood, sweat, and coffee into this.
I realize this is a lot of information and that some of it might sound intimidating, but if you put in the work and you really WANT to do this, everything will be just fine.
Do everything. Read every page you’re assigned to read. Complete every project. Keep up with the work… you don’t want to fall behind. When you get stuck on something, set a limit for how long you will spin your wheels before asking for help. You’ll learn a lot by trying to figure out problems on your own, but there’s no point in spending 4 hours on one little problem. Take advantage of being surrounded by really smart people. Stick around or meet up after class with classmates to do work together. Do your own work, then compare with your classmate and talk to them about how/why they solved the problem the way they did. Give yourself some time to relax. The class material is important, but kicking ass on the ping pong table is also important. Enjoy the experience, because you probably won’t ever do anything like this again!
Fourteen weeks of intense instruction at Tech Elevator led me to a great opportunity as a web developer in the industry. After 18 years, this was a risky move on my part, but to gain a marketable skill that allowed me to pivot into a new industry, it was the right one.
The experience David Wintrich brings to his instruction, along with an experienced staff, and a space that fosters collaboration and learning, for those who choose to venture through this boot camp, the tools for success are available and present.
The boot camp model isn't easy. But, Tech Elevator is structured for each student to get out of the program, what you put into it.
If you trust the process, focus, work hard, ask questions, and work together, then Tech Elevator will help you gain that marketable skill that will get you a great job in the industry.
You can read more about my story here: https://www.coursereport.com/blog/alumni-spotlight-chris-andrikanich-of-tech-elevator
Over the several years I worked as a scientist for a large corporation, I grew increasingly dissatisfied with my job, largely because I was doing more administrative work than problem solving. After beginning to learn a little programming on my own, I read about Tech Elevator in the newspaper and attended an open house; I then talked with alumni and spoke with people in the tech industry about Tech Elevator. I decided that a Tech Elevator bootcamp would be an economical, pragmatic way to learn an in-demand skill and find a fulfilling career.
My classmates came from a variety of backgrounds, levels of education, and professional experience; Tech Elevator is designed to meet anyone with the aptitude and desire to become a programmer where they are and help them succeed. The instructors break down technical concepts into essential components that can be easily digested by all. Daily quizzes, daily coding exercises, and frequent one-on-one check-ins help the instructors quickly identify if the class as a whole or an individual student is understanding the material. If you need additional help, a roaming instructor is available for study sessions. The curriculum builds upon itself, so each project gives you a chance to practice and solidify previous topics. The instructors, all of whom are accomplished software developers, are respectful, passionate about mentoring, enthusiastic about their craft, and available to answer questions at nearly all hours of the day or night.
The other half of Tech Elevator is the Pathway Program, which consists of soft skills development and career coaching; I think this program really sets Tech Elevator apart from other bootcamps. The Pathway Program helps you craft the narrative about why you want to get into software development and what transferrable skills your past experiences give you; with this narrative in hand, the Pathway Program takes you through a series of workshops that help you write your resume, build your digital presence (e.g. LinkedIn), practice interviewing (both technical and non-technical interviews), and make meaningful connections with industry insiders. Several workshops focused on the soft skills that are valued in the tech industry; while technical skills are important, good communication and team dynamics are just as valuable. The Matchmaking event, when dozens of employers come in to interview students, is a highlight of the program; I had several follow-up interviews that resulted from this event and ultimately accepted a job offer from a company I “met” through Matchmaking.
The bootcamp is challenging but rewarding - you will get out what you put in. I learned a new technical skill set, improved my soft skills, expanded my professional network, and even made some good friends along the way. I started at my new company a week after finishing at Tech Elevator and am now several weeks into my new career; I can attest that Tech Elevator prepared me well and I hit the ground running. I encourage you to explore Tech Elevator as your next step!
Prior to attending Tech Elevator, I had a largely unfulfilling job in sales, while working extra hours in restaurants on the weekends. I had an undergraduate degree from a local university, but didn't seem to be on a career path that I could be excited about.
I, like a lot of people probably reading this, kept coming across articles about programming and what a valuable skill-set it was. So, in my spare time after work, I started learning about the field of software development and programming.
After researching and learning some basic concepts over time, I began considering the field as a potential career match. And while I was excited at the prospect of one day getting a job in tech, I still thought it was a little far-fetched, and at the very least, far off.
Yet, through the serendipitous ways of the internet, I came across an advertisement for Tech Elevator, and my interest (much like yours I surmise) was piqued. After interviewing on-site for over two hours, and with a healthy dose of cautious skepticism, I was pretty much sold.
I received a call within two days notifying me of my acceptance, and after about a week's consideration, I was ready to take the plunge.
I'd also like to note that the interview was, as intended, persuasive, but at no point was it sugar-coated to seem as though the process wouldn't be immensely challenging. And it certainly lived up to that.
Coming from a non-technical background, you will have to work harder in your spare time to keep up with the core concepts that other students may have already been exposed to. But you won't be alone. And, most importantly, you won't be without resources. From Craig, the 30+ year programming vet who's always willing to help outside of class and sprinkle in stories of the good 'ol days (or dark ages) of programming, to Josh and David, both of whom possess keen understandings of their subject matter, and how to explain high-level concepts to non-CS-degree'd folk; you won't be learning alone.
You'll learn more acronyms than I knew could be composed from the English alphabet, and you will go through periods of self-doubt, but once you find that you have the ability to meet challengesand adapt to solving the problems you face, you will quickly understand why so many people enjoy this career.
I've now landed a job at a major local software company and can't wait to see what the future holds. So, if you are genuinely infatuated with computer programming and IT, and you believe you would enjoy a demanding, fulfilling career in the field, there is no better option than Tech Elevator. It truly can change your life for the better.
Going to Tech Elevator was one of the best experiences I have ever had, and was a very wise choice. I was in the food service industry and really wanted to do something greater for work, I heard about Tech Elevator on the radio and after visiting I was sold. I started my bootcamp May 16th and recently graduated in mid-August.
I was in the .NET cohort and was taught by their lead .NET instructor, Josh Tucholski. Josh is extremely patient and is very knowledgeable about software development. The pace of the class was just right and it is very satisfying to leave everyday with more knowledge. Craig, who is on site just to help students, has over 30 years of professional development experience and is always very willing to help anyone who wants to understand the content better, or just wants to practice solving problems on the whiteboard.
I felt more than prepared to do technical interviews, and was able to answer any question that was thrown at me for junior development roles. The Pathway Program is great and they are always bringing employers into the space, which allows you to network and get first-hand accounts from people in the field.
Tech Elevator would be a great choice for anyone, you will learn a large amount about software development that will leave you extremely prepared for the career that Tech Elevator will allow you to get after your 14 week program is over. You will make a lot of friends, have a lot of laughs, and ultimately be putting your life in a much happier place. The team, atmosphere, pace, and career prep at Tech Elevator is very unique and would be extremely hard to find anywhere else.
You’ve probably read countless reviews and stories involving people who have changed their careers and lives as a result of a coding boot camp. That wasn’t my case. My review is aimed primarily at those who may have a little background in IT but, for whatever reason, aren’t satisfied with where they are professionally. I worked for a Fortune 500 company for years on the database side and got “pigeonholed” into maintaining dead end proprietary applications.
A personal injury sidelined me and I looked into Tech Elevator’s Java program while recovering. I had already had some of the standard self-exposure to the language ( books, online tutorials, community college courses etc.) but what appealed to me when I visited at an open house was the opportunity to learn relevant, real world practices in coding. If you think that things will be limited to “Hello World” and a calculator app, then you might want to sit down.
I had already done some coding so I thought that most of it would be a piece of cake. WRONG! Throw out any preconceived notions that this will be “just another class”. You quickly learn advanced principles, proper techniques, how to apply them and most importantly, why. No need to fret, though, because the instruction is top notch and there is always support available when you struggle.
As for things not related to coding, the facilities were great and we had everything that we needed as far as laptops, software, books and other resources. I’d also like to stress that they went to great lengths to prepare you. This included having many professionals in the community come in and share experiences, answer questions and give advice. Invaluable.
Lastly, the payoff. At the end of the boot camp, I received multiple offers and actually chose to stop interviewing. I opted to work for an industry leader in healthcare involving data analytics for an increase in salary of more than $20K with potential through the roof.
I apologize for the length of this (there’s still so much more I’d like to share) but if you’ve read this far, you owe it to yourself to at least attend an open house and get a feel firsthand. Best of luck to you.
I graduated from the .NET program in April 2016. I was previously working in advertising technology but knew that I'd need further education in order to pursue the more technical roles I was interested in. I attended an open house at Tech Elevator and was immediately sold.
The staff at Tech Elevator is incredible. Every member of the team is knowledgeable, supportive, and committed to your success. The .NET instructor, Josh, has a teaching style that makes difficult concepts easy to understand while keeping class engaging and exciting. In addition to learning more than I ever have in a 3-month time span, I truly enjoyed coming to class every day, even when the material was frustrating.
The Pathway Program provides career assistance through resume and interview workshops, employer networking events, and both technical and behavioral interview practice. I owe the two job offers I got before graduation to the Pathway Program and the team's willingness to go above and beyond to make sure I felt prepared for interviews.
I couldn't be happier with my time at Tech Elevator and would absolutely recommend the school. If you're curious, start with an open house.
It took me 2 years from hearing about coding bootcamps before I finally took the plunge into one. Despite having a college education, I had been stuck doing menial labor jobs, landscaping, cooking, and baking. This life grows old, and we all want to see our hard work blossom into rewards, so I decided to make a huge change into the IT field. I chose Tech Elevator over other bootcamps for a few reasons: 1) Length: Coming from a non-technical background, the extra couple weeks of learning was an invaluable both informational as well as allowing the knowledge to work its way into long term memory a little better. 2) Youth: This is a young program. I don't mean age, as my classes median age was in the mid 30's, rather that Tech Elevator is at least as passionate about giving us the tools to succeed as we are passionate about making our own lives better. 3) Staff: From Carol at the front desk to the instructors to the founders, everyone plays for the same team, and it's a winning one. Who doesn't want to be on that? These praises don't come at a price, the work is hard and at times frustrating. I am a grown man who now knows what it is like to want a hug because a computer bullied me today. You may question at time if you are following the right path, but if you stick it out and listen to what the instructors, mentors, recruiters, and even employers that are brought in, YOU WILL SUCCEED! Having no technical background and mere months of coding experience, I was inundated with recruiters and direct employers calling me. I had an offer from a great tech company on the West side that came from the employer showcase that Terry and Anthony work very hard on setting up. Within a week of graduation I was working full-time, with benefits, and can honestly say I have doubled my income from the previous year. As long as you know that you are worth investing in yourself, sign up ASAP and get your life moving in the right direction. If you read this far and have any questions, please pm me saying that we have worked together at Tech Elevator, and I will be more than happy to tell you more about my personal experience.
This bootcamp is the REAL deal. I came into this with a diverse background from the military, operations management, and sales. Totally off the wall careers, but I realized technology was the driving interest in each. I had researched the bootcamp model for a few years and even tried to teach myself but the book was out of date. So via networking while trying to transition into software sales, I was introduced to Tech Elevator. I had no idea I was about to change my life in just 14-weeks, but it happened!
I attended an orientation and heard from the instructors about curriculum, and the CEO about how this place could change my life, but I think what blew me away was how up front they were about the amount of work that would be required of me and the energy that would need to be invested in order to achieve graduation. I took it as a challenge and went home thinking there was no better place to learn than a place where I am challenged. I had in front of me the very opportunity I had always wanted, and all I needed to do was pass a pre-assessment, and an interview. Sounds easy enough, but it wasn't. I didn’t sleep for almost three days until I finally found out I was accepted, and then I thought to myself "and so it begins!".
From day one there was never a shortage on communication of what to expect and the plethora of resources available to me in order to be successful, but after brushing them off thinking I had this in the bag I quickly learned my second week I needed way more help than those who came from technical backgrounds. I think the feeling of knowing I just paid a bunch of money for something, and the fear of failure kicked in and I quickly started reaching out to fellow students to have study sessions. From week 2 through week 8 a group of us would show up to the 24-hour space and just bounce our problems off each other. It wasn't until I started talking to the instructors about it that I felt like a crazy man for coming in at 6am when class didn’t start until 9am. Looking back now aside from the top-notch instructors, I would say going through this with 14 other people who were going through the same issues made this a lot easier for myself. This allowed me to maximize my time and learning through out the 14-weeks.
The instruction I received was hands on applicable knowledge designed to teach you how to learn versus being hand fed the information. David Wintrich was my Java instructor, and learning from someone so highly regarded in the community as well as the vast amounts of practical knowledge he possessed was a blessing. This allowed me to repeatedly bounce ideas or concepts off the man who had built a BILLION dollar processing application. Impressed? Well I am. Having David alongside Josh, and Craig allowed me to get a feel for how to approach problems that I would see in real world situations, and how to plug away at a problem researching and tinkering until I felt that feeling of victory once it worked. I think having access to the folks who have "been there and done that" allowed me to feel confident walking away and making an immediate impact day 1 at my new job.
The bootcamp opened a lot of doors for me because I lacked a college degree, and it also gave me credibility learning from some of the best folks in the area. I do not think I would have the opportunity / career trajectory had I not taken this step versus going back to college. The technical aspect along with the touch up on my resume / LinkedIn presence from the pathway events set me up for success. Hearing industry leaders read my information and offer insight was invaluable. As a result to taking a risky leap of faith and praying for sunshine, I have stepped into a Technical Consultant role with one of the Software Industries top companies. Without Tech Elevator I would probably still be at that same job I once hated, just because I lacked the motivation to give four years away to a college. Forever in debt to the folks at Tech elevator.
Hope this Helps !
I always had an interest in software development, and before joining Tech Elevator I was interested in transitioning into a new career field. It was by chance that I stumbled upon an article on FreshWaterCleveland.com about Tech Elevator, and they happened to have an open house that evening that I attended.
From that first introduction all the way through graduation, I was extremely pleased with the experience. It is very apparent that every staff member is dedicated to making this the best possible experience for those who are looking to join the software field.
I chose to take the Java development track, and had David Wintrich as my instructor. Out of all the teachers that I have interacted with over the years, David is definitely one of my favorites. He is very easy going, really knows his stuff, and is committed to making sure his students are succeeding and getting the most out of their education. I really appreciated that he made himself available whenever I needed, even after hours. I feel the cirriculum left me well prepared to take on a new role as a software developer.
Outside of classroom instruction, Tech Elevator also helps its students sharpen their soft skills that help them succeed in finding a job and navigating their professional lives. They brought in relevant industry experts to help with things such as resume writing, networking, and interview practice. Tech Elevator has an extensive network of employers looking for tech talent, and held a job fair for students to interview with a wide variety of employers. I was offered a position from a company that attended. They will also help you pursue opportunities with companies that they don't have an existing relationship with if you have a particular company you are interested in.
Overall, I can safely say that attending Tech Elevator was one of the best decisions I have made in my professional life. I encourage anyone interested in a career in software development to apply.
Our latest on Tech Elevator
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 →
When you think, “Chase,” you probably think “banking.” But the tech team at JPMorgan Chase is 40,000 large, and their Global Head of Technology Recruiting Strategy, Chuck Xenakis, sees coding bootcamps as a viable source of tech talent. JPMorgan Chase has hired five coding bootcamp grads from Tech Elevator in Columbus, Ohio, and plans to hire more. Chuck tells us what impresses him about the Tech Elevator grads, and why hiring coding bootcampers is both good for companies, and helps lift the community at large.
Tell us about your role at JPMorgan Chase!
I am the Global Technology Recruiting Hub Strategy Lead at JPMorgan Chase. JPMorgan Chase has approximately 40,000 technologists globally. We have more technologists than most tech companies have employees. People don't often understand the scope of tech here– we're really a technology company that does financial services.
How did you get connected with Tech Elevator in Columbus?
Katie Detore from Tech Elevator came to a Women In Technology event that we hosted where we had a screening of the movie "CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap," and she introduced herself and a couple of Tech Elevator students.
Tech Elevator graduates Caroline and Hilary (now an Applications Developer at Chase) and Pathway Program Director Katie attend a Women in Tech event at one of the company’s largest locations in Columbus, OH.
Have you hired Tech Elevator grads yet?
We have! The first Tech Elevator Columbus cohort was 12 students. We went to an Employer Matchmaking event and we interviewed nine Tech Elevator candidates. Of those nine, we invited seven to come back to meet multiple hiring managers, and we ended up hiring five of those students.
What types of roles did you hire those five Tech Elevator grads for?
Three of them are in App Development, one will be in QA, and one as a junior SCRUM master. All of those hires are working on Agile teams.
Did any of them have Computer Science degrees? Was that important to you?
No! Our Junior SCRUM master had a really interesting background. He was an MD and the CEO of a small medical technology company. He went to Tech Elevator to learn how to code because he was tired of his developers lying to him about deliverables and timelines – he wanted to be able to sniff out the BS and really drive business solutions.
The Tech Elevator group from this first cohort had amazingly interesting backgrounds – another had her JD.
What stood out about those five students that got them the job. Was it their final project? Their interviewing skills?
At our first meeting, the students were about three-quarters of the way through Tech Elevator. So we were initially just testing the depth of their curiosity and retention. We understood the material that they had been taught, and were looking at how people retained the information.
When we had the on-site interviews, they were working on their final projects, so we could focus more on their problem-solving capabilities.
In their second-round interviews, did the Tech Elevator students have to go through a technical interview? How did they handle those technical problems?
The second round was their final round, and it was quite intensive. We had each applicant meet with two panels of four to five application development managers and directors. We knew that the Tech Elevator applicants hadn’t completed their bootcamp yet, so we weren't drilling down terribly deep from a technology perspective, but we wanted to see how the applicants were self-motivated to dive deeper into the material.
When you first started hiring from coding bootcamps, was there a lot of pushback from hiring managers?
The most difficult part of the hiring process was convincing hiring managers to hire people that didn't have a traditional background. But really, it only took a few hiring managers who had open minds and were willing to take the time to invest in the new employee, to get those first few hires. Then once we saw success with them, other managers came on board and were willing to try it.
What are the major differences between your Tech Elevator hires and the recent college grads that you hire at JPMorgan Chase?
At JPMorgan Chase, we have a robust college hiring program and technology analyst program (TAP), so by the time our college hires come through the TAP program, they have two years of experience and are really effective technologists.
Many of the bootcamp applicants have a lot of life experience in other industries. A math teacher with 10 years of teaching experience and a JD isn't going to have that much in common with young adults coming out of college, so it doesn't make sense for them to go into the TAP program. When you're hiring technologists from a coding bootcamp, especially in a large environment like JPMorgan Chase, they do need some hand-holding. They need someone to be assigned to them as a mentor and someone who can have patience to allow them to succeed and fail (and help them to succeed more than fail).
That's the tough thing because everybody also has a job to do and we have clients to service. The easier route is always to hire someone who can come in and start delivering on day one. The more difficult but sometimes more rewarding route is to hire someone that could use a little molding.
How do you ensure that your new hires from Tech Elevator are ramping up and supported in their learning at JPMorgan Chase? Do do you have formal mentorship or apprenticeship programs in place?
We offer a lot of continuing education programs at JPMorgan Chase, but we allow employees to choose their own path. We have multiple technical training avenues to follow for our technologists. As they start gaining leadership skills, then we get them into leadership training and mentoring so that they can be not only the smartest techie in the room, but also a good people leader.
Quite frankly, once we get to talk to students and bootcamps and explain what we do and how many different types of opportunities we have, we really do get our hooks in people. We go to trade shows, bootcamps, etc and students always think of Chase as a “Big Bank” and a mainframe shop, but they don’t think of us as cool or sexy. Once we explain that we have a 40,000-person technology team and a widely used mobile app, they realize that they have the opportunity to work on technology that can change society. You can be working on an application that processes $23 trillion a night. We spend $9 billion on cyber security – there’s a tremendous learning opportunity.
Your employees who graduated from Tech Elevator learned Java and .NET – is that what they’ll use at Chase?
That's where they're primarily focused on. We want to set them up for success. We do use every technology under the sun at JPMorgan Chase, but I would say we are predominantly a Java shop. We first want to onboard them and allow them to experience success in their strengths, then they’ll start learning new languages – Pega or Python etc. A developer can come to JPMorgan Chase and spend their entire career here and never get bored.
Do you have a feedback loop with Tech Elevator at all? Are you able to influence their curriculum?
We're starting to build that relationship. We first wanted to test the waters and judge the quality of those applicants, and I think we've proven that quality is good. So the next step is to deepen our relationship, and that's something that I'm working on with Katie.
Tech Elevator, in general, seems to be very open to direct feedback and influence from the employers that are hiring their students. We're here to hire their students, and they're there to churn out a great experience for their students so that they can get hired.
Do you plan on hiring from Tech Elevator in the future?
Absolutely. We're having an Employer Showcase on February 21, I believe. We’ll also ask some of our recent hires from Tech Elevator to come with us and share their initial experience with the current class.
Tech Elevator has been absolutely wonderful to work with. I'm so happy that Katie came to our event – it shows the engagement that they have with their students which is important to us. We want to make sure that whatever bootcamp we partner with, that they have their students at the center of everything. And Tech Elevator clearly does.
Do you have any advice for other employers who are considering hiring developers from a coding bootcamp like Tech Elevator?
Absolutely. First, you have to engage the right people in your company to be involved with hiring. Those people need to have the right mindset, be open-minded to hiring someone who doesn’t have a traditional CS background, but who does have the life experience.
You then need to make sure those new hires know how to acquire the softer qualities and skills. That means that you can’t just give someone a test and judge their code, but truly dig down to understand how people think and their capability for problem-solving. If you can get that right, you'll very quickly be able to judge the quality of the folks coming out of a coding bootcamp, and that feeds directly into the quality of the curriculum and the instructors.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience hiring from coding bootcamps like Tech Elevator?
Look, it's a war for talent out there, and we need to explore all recruiting avenues. From a strategic standpoint, I’m hiring in hubs like Dallas, Chicago, Jersey City, New York, obviously Columbus and Wilmington, Delaware. I have to consider all of the channels in those hubs. As long as we see quality applicants from coding bootcamps, we’ll keep hiring them. And hiring from bootcamps is great for the community as well. It gives people in these communities a new opportunity, and we’re happy to be a part of that.
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.Continue Reading →
In our recent Student Outcomes survey, alumni reported that they were working in over 650 different companies! Of course, you may have read recent press citing companies like Google who apparently aren’t willing to invest in junior technical talent from coding bootcamps (we happen to know that coding bootcamp grads have been hired at Google and Salesforce, but that’s not the point)... Here we’re highlighting 8 forward-thinking companies who are psyched about the bootcamp alumni on their engineering teams. Each of these employers have hired multiple developers, and are seeing their investment pay off.Continue Reading →
Jane Gundlach is the IT Manager at Progressive Insurance in Cleveland, and get this– Progressive has hired eight Tech Elevator grads in less than one year! We had to find out what makes this partnership so fruitful, so we sat down with Jane to learn what it takes to land a tech role at Progressive, what’s special about coding bootcamp graduates, and to see how Tech Elevator and Progressive are working together to bring a “brain gain” to Ohio.
First, tell us about Progressive and your role there!
I have the pleasure of being the IT Manager at Progressive. I’m responsible for our intern program and hiring all of our new Associates who will hold positions as Application Developers, System Testers, and Business Systems Analysts. I get to introduce about 30 to 40 new Associates to Progressive every year.
Our readers may think of Progressive as a huge insurance company. But actually, you refer to yourselves as “a tech company that sells insurance.” How large is the development team and what are they generally working on at Progressive?
Our Progressive IT organization is 3,500+ people, which includes infrastructure along with application development. We definitely have a large IT shop, and the reason why we refer to ourselves as a tech company that sells insurance is because the ideas and innovation that come out of our IT organization have really been instrumental in moving our company forward and making us pioneers in the insurance business.
We were the first insurance company to actually offer the ability to get a quote on the internet. Products like Snapshot or Usage Based Insurance are what Progressive is known for, and that's why we like to refer to ourselves as a tech company that just happens to sell insurance, because IT is so instrumental to our organization overall.
How many Tech Elevator graduates have you hired in total?
I've hired eight, and I just started hiring from Tech Elevator in January 2016.
How did you get connected with Tech Elevator?
I actually had a previous business relationship with Anthony Hughes, the co-founder and CEO of Tech Elevator. Before he started Tech Elevator, Anthony knew my role here at Progressive and we talked through what he wanted to create. Progressive was one of the first companies on board, and we hired one graduate from their very first small class.
I was able to talk with him about what I was hoping to see Tech Elevator put in place, as well as my requirements as a hiring manager, and a manager of these students. That increased my confidence in the entire model that they were putting together.
What are you looking for in a new hire for those Application Developer jobs and specifically from a coding bootcamp?
I definitely need to work with a coding bootcamp that actually has stringent entrance criteria. The Tech Elevator aptitude test and their face-to-face interviews are very important. Anthony and I had discussions about finding students who have a passion for technology, not somebody who just says, "Hey, I'm going to go be a developer because I know I can make a lot of money."
Because I am responsible for hiring Associates, many that I hire are recent college graduates. My laundry list right out of the gate is: passion for technology and the ability to demonstrate a strong learning agility. Our new hires have to be able to learn technology, because what we're doing today is not what we're going to be doing in a year from now.
We are extremely collaborative at Progressive; you can’t be a developer who wants to code with your head down. I look for someone who really wants to work in a collaborative environment to develop software. And finally, innovation is really important to us. If you look at us as a company, that has put us on the map. Candidates that have strong leadership and innovation skills are very important to me.
What’s special about your Tech Elevator hires?
When I look at our coding bootcamp hires, I find individuals who have some life lessons under their belt. They're still junior developers, but they come with a higher level of maturity than I get from a student right out of college. Plus, they have some life lessons and business acumen. Progressive is a pretty casual company – we're certainly not a suit and tie company – but you still have to know how to navigate a corporate environment. Coding bootcamp graduates tend to have that.
Do you notice differences in the hiring process from a coding bootcamp versus hiring from a university’s CS degree program?
When hiring from colleges, we attend job fairs and we're connected with professors at the schools. It is a little bit different to work with Tech Elevator for sure, but I think as coding bootcamps continue to grow and expand, it may not be that much different, right?
Next week I'm going down to Tech Elevator to do an employer's showcase. I do that with every class at Tech Elevator. We talk about Progressive, the culture, and what it's like to work here, and I bring recent hires from Tech Elevator so they can share their experience. I also bring seasoned programmers who talk about the projects that they work with and the technologies they're exposed to so that Tech Elevator students can really think about if Progressive is a good match for them.
We also offer a lot of open houses where students can come and see our facility. It's just gorgeous. We have the largest corporate art collection in the country, and we're Top 10 in the world – all of that is to inspire creativity and innovation.
Since Tech Elevator just opened a campus in Columbus, would you ever hire from the Columbus campus?
Progressive’s home office is in the Cleveland area. The bulk of our IT operations are here, but we do have IT operations in Colorado Springs as well. Unfortunately, Tech Elevator doesn't have a bootcamp in Colorado, but I have actually hired two bootcamp students who chose to relocate to Colorado.
Most hires are from the Cleveland area, and one of Tech Elevator’s main goals is to create brain gain to northeast Ohio and not a brain drain, but I do offer both locations to our bootcamp hires.
Let's talk about the developers that you've hired from Tech Elevator. Do those new hires go through a technical interview? How do they do?
For Associate positions, individuals that I source from college go through the exact same process as the individuals that I source from a coding bootcamp. For our Associate hires, we don’t do any kind of a technical interview. I typically have a lead or senior developer sit with them for tech checks, but they're not taking a technical test.
So far my assumption has been correct, because over the last six years, I've hired over 200 Associates. We assume that if applicants are graduating from college with a decent GPA and a computer science degree, or if they're coming from Tech Elevator, that they walk through the door with enough technical knowledge that they then can learn on the job. We have an amazing training budget and facility that really helps employees build upon the technical foundation they have when they walk through the door.
Did you get pushback from Progressive when you started looking at coding bootcamp candidates?
I did hear some of those concerns at first. Some of the new junior developers had studied for a four-year computer science degree, while these students had trained for 12 weeks. But I really did the math about how much students were really learning in those 12 weeks, and once we hired our first Tech Elevator graduate, I would refer skeptics to his manager to be reassured. We have some individuals who knew that they wanted to be a computer scientist because they've been exposed to it from the moment they were born. Therefore, working with someone who's making a career change can make you apprehensive, but Tech Elevator does a great job of ensuring that the people they're putting into their cohorts really do have a passion for technology and are ready to actually make that change. It's worked very well for us. I'm going to continue to hire from coding bootcamps now that eyebrows are no longer being raised!
What stood out about those eight Tech Elevator graduates that got them the job at Progressive?
It was definitely the behaviors that they were able to demonstrate through the interview process. Leadership, communication skills, innovation, creativity, collaboration – all of those things are extremely important to Progressive. In fact, it's easier for me to teach you technical skills than it is to help you with those soft skills.
Tech Elevator graduates and now Progressive developers pose with insurance expert Flo.
Tell us a little bit about how Progressive onboards and supports coding bootcamp graduates in their first few months.
Typically, new hires spend their first week with me, getting acquainted with Progressive practices, policies, and business. In order to develop good software, you have to understand the business: our culture, core values, and how we operate. The business of insurance, although you might not think it's very sexy, is very complex, and that just adds additional challenges. It's a very interactive week.
After that first week, new hires attend a training program at our IT University, which is in a completely separate building from our corporate offices. That distance takes you away from the day-to-day work that you're doing and you can actually concentrate on training. It's so important to us. They spend two weeks taking a technical class specifically on C#, .NET and learning how we code at Progressive, and the specific tools that we use.
Is there ongoing mentorship once a bootcamper starts their job?
Each new hire is assigned a solid mentor, who has the objective of ensuring that this individual is successful. And those mentors are employees who are actually looking for leadership opportunities, not just some guy sitting in the corner that we force to answer questions. These mentors are paying it forward and mentoring those developers who are just coming through the door. I find that works out really well.
A new hire also has a project manager that they're working with in the day-to-day operations of the project. My job is to ensure that they are getting the support, the training, and everything they need to be successful members of our Application Organization.
Have your Tech Elevator grads gotten promotions or moved up at Progressive?
The first promotion from Associate to Intermediate at Progressive takes place anywhere from 16 to 18 months. For example, Daniel (who Course Report interviewed a year ago) has not been promoted yet because he’s been here for just about one year. But he's doing very well, and has been working more and more independently, getting really great work assignments. We're very impressed.
Tech Elevator teaches .NET cohort and Java- does the programming language matter to you as a hiring manager?
It doesn't matter to me. It's all object-oriented programming, and I have found that my Java hires can learn C# quite easily. I've yet to have someone who hasn't been able to. So I hire from both cohorts.
Do you have a feedback loop with Tech Elevator? Are you able to give curriculum feedback if you notice that their graduates are underperforming in a certain area?
Absolutely. As I meet monthly with my hires, one of the questions that I ask periodically is "How could Tech Elevator have better prepared you for what you're doing here?" I think I'm going to continue to get information from my Tech Elevator employees about that. I just met with Anthony yesterday and we had a great conversation about test-driven development and how important that is to us at Progressive. Tech Elevator has now added more TDD concepts in their curriculum overall.
What does the relationship look like between Progressive and Tech Elevator? Do you pay referral fees when you hire their graduates?
I pay no fee to Tech Elevator. Progressive is part of their hiring network – I am very engaged with their staff and I know when their classes are graduating. We do an employer showcase to every cohort, whether I'm hiring from that cohort or not, just because I want to make sure that even if these students start their IT careers elsewhere, they keep in mind what Progressive has going on and may consider us in the future.
Can you tell us about how Progressive worked with Tech Elevator on the Tribe Hackathon and maybe more importantly, why it's important for a company like Progressive to be involved in an event like that?
That Hackathon was amazing. The event is important to Progressive for a couple of reasons. First, anything we can do to highlight northeast Ohio as a tech destination is really important to us. We have the largest IT operation in northeast Ohio, so we need IT folks to think about working here.
Plus, we already have a strong partnership with the Cleveland Indians – the stadium they play in is Progressive Field. And our strong partnership with Tech Elevator as a source for building this talent pipeline for us is very important.
Progressive Insurance, Tech Elevator and the Cleveland Indians hosted Tribe Hackathon where 150+ developers and community members built baseball technology.
Partnering with two companies that we do business with throughout the year to promote northeast Ohio as a tech destination was a no-brainer to us. It was really cool too, because we were able to have a tech meetup at Progressive a couple of weeks prior to the hackathon, and that brought a lot of experienced developers and IT professionals through our doors to see our amazing environment. If there’s an opportunity for them to look for employment in the future, we hope Progressive comes to mind.
What is your advice to other employers who are thinking about hiring from a coding bootcamp?
My advice is if you are currently hiring entry level developers, you should absolutely consider coding bootcamps as a source. Coding bootcamp grads come to the table with a good technical foundation, and on top of that they have life lessons under their belt. They have really strong soft skills already developed that they can demonstrate to you through the interview process.
What’s unique about bootcamp hires is that they're interviewing Progressive too. A lot of the college students feel, "I just need to get a job and pay off my college loan," where a coding bootcamp student has been around the block. They've been employed. They know what's attractive to them in an employer, and they're interviewing us, and I love that because I know what we have to offer is great.
If you're hiring entry level talent, then you've got to consider bootcamps as an additional source of talent. Especially with the talent shortage that we're all facing right now, they really will not disappoint.
Casey Borders has an extensive tech background, working as a developer for startups, Fortune 25 companies, on a variety of software projects. He is passionate about the tech industry, and joined Tech Elevator as a Java instructor to give back to the Columbus tech community. Casey tells us why he identifies with the mission of the coding bootcamp model, why even senior programmers are always learning, and how local companies contribute feedback to the Tech Elevator curriculum. Plus, find out what sort of companies are hiring in Columbus!
Tell us about your background in programming! How did you learn to code?
I've been a professional developer for over 12 years now. During that time, I've had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of different companies- from ten-person startups to Fortune 25 companies, working on mobile apps, web apps, military simulation, and embedded firmware for customer hardware devices.
The reason that I've chosen so many different jobs is because I'm really passionate about technology in general, and I love all the different ways that it interacts with our lives.
Have you taught coding or had experience as an instructor before?
I don't have a formal background in education, but I’ve taken a lot of mentorship roles in my career, and I actually co-founded the Google Developer Group in Columbus five years ago. We like seeing people discover new technologies, discover new ways that they can interact with technology, or learn new things about consumer products that are coming out.
There’s an educational component to that group, and we have done formalized education sessions. Obviously, being a Google Developer Group we're affiliated with Google products. And Google's worked with Udacity to develop Android development courses, and my co-organizer and I have proctored those classes.
Let’s back up a little bit- did you get a computer science degree? Did you take a “traditional” route into tech?
As traditional as it can be, I guess! I have a computer science degree. Initially, I started out at Ohio State University studying architecture, but I was teaching myself C++ at night and at some point I thought, "That's ridiculous!" I transferred to DeVry, and I got both Computer Engineering and Electronics Engineering degrees.
Since you’re classically trained as a software developer, did you need to be convinced of the coding bootcamp model?
No, because the vast majority of my programming skills have been self-taught. I actually started programming when I was nine. My dad taught me QBasic, so I've been tinkering with programming since then.
The value of the degree to me is really only from the companies that require it. They're becoming less and less important now, which is a great thing because really, at its core, development should be a meritocracy. Either you can do the work or you can't. It shouldn't matter what school you went to or how you learned what you learned. If you're passionate and you dig in, and you take the time to self-study, then that should be just as valuable as a degree.
Throughout my career, some of the best developers that I've worked with have not had a degree.
What convinced you to work with Tech Elevator? What’s special about the Columbus coding bootcamp?
Having been involved in the Columbus community and meetup events, one of the things that really excited me about Tech Elevator Columbus is their interest in becoming part of the tech community in the cities they’re present in. They've done a really good job of that at Tech Elevator Cleveland, and I'm excited about helping them do that here in Columbus, especially with our #learntocode Meetup Group.
I already have a pretty strong Columbus network, and I'm really passionate about the tech industry here. I think giving back to that community is a really, really exciting part of our job as a coding bootcamp.
Now that you’re teaching full-time, what have you found is your personal teaching style?
We’re halfway through our first cohort, and I’ve found that I like to keep things really informal. It's very important for beginners to understand that there's not a single person in the world who knows everything about programming. There are some people who spend their whole careers working strictly in Java without knowing about certain libraries and nuances. Learning as you go is all part of it.
Students collaborating at the Tech Elevator Columbus Campus
What makes you a great developer is not what you know but what you can learn because you’ll spend the vast majority of your time learning new libraries and technologies.
I want students to feel empowered to ask questions and do research on their own. I also like to harbor a sense of community because for me the development community has been really important. I encourage students to go to meetups, to talk to their fellow students, and hang out here in Rev1 Ventures, the VC firm where Tech Elevator’s Columbus classroom is located, and where we’re surrounded by startups and engineers.
Is there a lecture component to your teaching style at Tech Elevator or is the curriculum project driven?
It's both. We get that there's a lot of theory to learn, but understanding how to implement that in practice is also extremely important. In my career, I've seen people come out of four-year colleges who crush the technical interview because they can talk theory all day, but when they actually sit down in front of the computer, they struggle to write a line of code.
At Tech Elevator, we start at 9am with a quiz of the previous day's material. Those quizzes aren’t meant to be graded or build a GPA; rather, they’re meant for the student and instructor to understand where we need extra help and time to refocus.
After that quiz, it’s all about instruction – learning new material. That's done using the projector and the whiteboard and through answering student questions. It's actually much more interactive than you would see at a university, where there are 500 students and one instructor with a microphone. Students stop me, they ask questions, and we validate our work.
Throughout the whole afternoon, students work on projects. We teach Agile Development, and we teach Pair Programming (students alternate pairs each week). The whole course is divided up into modules, and at the end of each module, there's a mini-capstone project, so they use what they've learned in that module to work with their partner on a project. At the end of the entire cohort, there's a two-week capstone project where they build a full stack application. They do back-end, front-end, database, user authorization, all that stuff.
Everything that I read about Java makes it sound so hard! Is 14 weeks actually enough time to learn Java?
There's absolutely no doubt about it: Tech Elevator is hard. Just yesterday, one of my students was telling me that the bootcamp makes her feel like her master's program was sitting around the fire singing Kumbaya.
We have a pre-screening process to invite applicants to take an aptitude test. If they do well in the Tech Elevator aptitude test, then we invite them in for an in-person interview. Part of that is a behavioral interview. If they do well in the interview, then we have them take a longer aptitude test because we don't want to accept tuition from someone if we don't feel like they're going to be successful.
Programming in general is objectively a really difficult thing to do, and it's not for everyone. On top of that, there’s the stress of doing it all in 14 weeks.
Can you tell us about the ideal student for Tech Elevator Columbus?
What I love about the class is the huge variety of backgrounds. Some people have studied a bit of programming; others have done absolutely none. One of our students was a professor of film at University at Buffalo. Another studied math as an undergrad and then went on to get her law degree; and another was doing landscaping.
I think that the wide variety of backgrounds is really beneficial because the more diversity we have, the more different perspectives people are going to have around solving problems. Seeing how different people learn actually expands your toolset and improves how you attack problems.
We're not looking for a technical background or for the smartest person in the room. We want students who are creative problem solvers because ultimately that's what developers are – the people who solve problems using code.
We’re also working hard to promote diversity in the development space; we host an event called Women, Wine & Web Design, led by a fantastic female dev who is going to teach people of any technical background how to build web pages. We want women at the front of the classroom so that students can see these really strong tech women who are up there doing their thing and making it a much more welcoming environment.
Have you contributed to the Tech Elevator curriculum? How does it evolve as technology changes?
In our Cleveland campus, they've built an entire advisory board of companies that are looking to hire junior developers, and they're advising us on the curriculum. We're working on building the same advisory board in Columbus because we don't want to assume that all employers have the same needs.
The great thing about a coding bootcamp (versus a university) is that we can pivot really quickly because we don’t have red-tape. If employers tell us they need developers with specific skills, we can teach that.
We're constantly changing the curriculum. After every cohort, we'll discuss what went well in the cohort and what didn't. For example, in this cohort, we rearranged the order of some of the modules to give the students a better path. We feel like it's important to give our students the best chance to be successful and give them the smoothest path.
Are most of your students from Columbus or are they coming from other parts of Ohio or around the US?
Most of our students are from Columbus. In Cleveland, they actually offer housing options, so they have students from all over the place.
What makes Columbus a great tech city?
More generally, Columbus is a great city because it's big enough to have a lot of the great opportunities that you see in larger cities – great art and science museums, zoos, parks, and tons of festivals. It's a very creative city. But it's still small enough to have a friendly Midwest vibe. People who come to Columbus talk about how friendly the people are here.
Columbus is a great tech city- first because it's home to a lot of headquarters. We have huge Nationwide and Chase offices, along with a lot of banks and insurance companies.
We're also building a strong startup scene. Rev1, for example, is incubating 40 startups- that’s where the Tech Elevator classroom is! Rev1 also hosts a lot of meetup events, so it's a great opportunity for our students to get ingrained in the tech community right from the start. There's another venture capital firm here in Columbus called Drive Capital that's incubating startups and making investments to startups. There has been a lot of advancement in bringing entrepreneurial, tech people into Columbus to improve the tech scene here. Columbus was also recently awarded a $140 million Smart City grant to promote technological solutions to improve transportation throughout the city.
Has the City of Columbus been supportive of Tech Elevator?
Columbus has actually been pretty good to us. I know that we're partnering with a company called JobsOhio, and the Central Ohio Area as a whole understands that tech is very important and they realize that Tech Elevator is in a really unique position to be able to provide developers to fill the gap that the whole city is experiencing.
What types of jobs can those Columbus Tech Elevator students or graduates expect? Who is hiring for junior Java developers right now?
Our job here is to create really solid Junior Developers who will be effective from day one. We have a lot of interest in our graduates. Every week we actually have a new employer come in and present to the students. They buy students lunch and they talk about their company culture and the benefits of working there. We also bring employers in for employer Lunch and Learns. For example, last week we had a representative from Safelite, and the week before that was Nationwide Insurance.
Everything we're teaching our students is driven from demand that we've seen from employers. For example, we've noticed that Columbus is much more focused on Agile Methodology, which we weight more heavily here than at Tech Elevator Cleveland.
How do you assess students as they’re learning at Tech Elevator?
At the end of each module, we assign mini-capstone projects, and then the project pairs will come in and do a code review with me, which is something that they're going to experience in the field. We'll talk about any problems they've run into, how they work together, how they decided to divide up the work in the project, how they decided to tackle the project, how they're going to break the code up, etc.
And then we'll actually run the project to make sure that it works and meets the requirements. Finally, we go through the code, and give feedback about how things could have been organized a little differently or cleaned up.
What resources or meetups do you recommend for beginners and aspiring coding bootcampers in Columbus?
In Columbus, aspiring developers are extremely fortunate, because we have a very rich tech community. Meetups.com is the best place to look for a variety of meetups that are focused on specific technologies.
If you want to start online, I would recommend Udacity. A lot of their video tutorials are actually sponsored by developers who developed the technology. If you’re interested in Android development, the videos on Android development are actually created by Google. It's a really great resource, and it's all accessible for free.
Welcome to the October 2016 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month, we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. This month we are also covering our Women In Tech Snapchat takeover! Other trends include new developments in the industry, new outcomes reports and why those are important, new investments in bootcamps, and of course, new coding schools and campuses.Continue Reading →
Chris taught himself to build websites during his 18-year career as a Cleveland book publisher. Knowing that his background in marketing and sales wasn’t his most favorite part of his job, he realized it was time for a career pivot, and enrolled at Tech Elevator. We chatted with him to learn why he chose Tech Elevator’s 14-week web development bootcamp, how he adjusted to the fast-paced learning environment, and how he landed a new developer role after graduation.
What is your pre-bootcamp story? What were you up to before you attended Tech Elevator?
I went to Ohio University and got a degree in English. After school, which was in 1998, I got a job working for a local interest Cleveland-based book publisher. It was a small book publisher, and my role was mostly marketing but I eventually ended up being a jack of all trades working in marketing, sales, event planning, customer service, and warehouse management; I even drove a forklift. We were a small publishing house with less than six employees and I worked there for 18 years.
The technology hook of the story is that basically at that time, everybody was starting to get on the internet. My boss said to me, "Hey, everybody else has a website. I need a website. Can you make me one?" I told him, "I've never made one before," so he said, "You're young, just go figure it out." So I taught myself the basics of HTML and CSS. Every time we had to reinvent the site and any time he wanted some new feature, I had to figure out how to do it.
What were you using to teach yourself HTML and CSS?
I think, originally, it was probably a couple of books that I had found. Back then, there weren’t many online resources. I think used a book called "Creating Killer Web Sites" or something like that. I'd used a couple of books to learn, and then as we got into more CSS in the early 2000s, I could find more blog posts and online resources. I think I used Lynda.com at one point to learn how to use Dreamweaver and HTML. Anywhere I could find a resource to match whatever functionality my boss wanted, that's where I went to go find it.
When did you realize that you were ready to enhance your coding skills?
I kept thinking, "All right, what am I going to do next?" I was concerned with being a jack of all trades for a small book publisher because it was going to be hard to market myself to another company. How do I say, "All right, I can do anything?" There's not really the sales point.
What led you to attend Tech Elevator?
My wife heard an interview with Tech Elevator on NPR, and she encouraged me to try it out since it was right up my alley. It made sense for my next pivot because internally I kept thinking about writing my resume and getting on LinkedIn, but didn’t know how to pitch myself. I couldn't figure out what is it that I want to do? What do I want to market myself as?
I went to a Tech Elevator Open House and listened to Anthony Hughes, and David Wintrich give the pitch, and I thought it was amazing. I wished this was available in 1998 when I left college, because to get into code and the internet back then, you had to really want to go out and find it. And then nobody ever said, "Oh, by the way, you could do this as a career." I pretty much was sold immediately after that Open House. I took the assessment, the online aptitude test and did well on that. I then applied and tried to get in to do the interview as best as possible. I was ready to get in there and do it because it made perfect sense for my next step.
When you were introduced to Tech Elevator, did you start researching any other bootcamps?
I think I was sold on Tech Elevator. I was also really sold on the bootcamp model, but a quick search in Cleveland doesn't yield too many options. I think the selling point for Tech Elevator was David Wintrich and his background with working at the Fed, building Pay.gov and all his years of coding. Also, I was looking at Tech Elevator back in April, and I needed to have a plan in place come May. Their next bootcamp started in May so the timing was right.
Did you consider getting a four-year computer science degree or getting an MBA?
Those conversations were definitely started by my wife on a regular basis because we both understood that the job I had was going to come to an end at some point. I didn't want to deal with it, but she did. She's a professor, so she was kept saying "You could come and get a master's for free because you'd be a great teacher," or "you could take coding classes."
I just kept wondering how that would work spending two to three years on a master’s and possibly needing to get a part-time job. We have two small kids, a house and a mortgage. So the timeframe of university schooling wasn't as appealing. The cost wasn't necessarily that big of a deal, because she's working at a university, I could receive a spousal benefit. It was really that the timeframe wasn’t something I wanted to invest in. The ability to get two years of coding experience in 14 weeks made the most sense. I mean literally, the timing was perfect. It was one of those stars aligning moments for us because I needed to learn quickly. My main goal was to come out with a skill that I could market myself with to attach onto my 18 years of marketing and sales (and all that other stuff).
How was the Tech Elevator application and interview process?
Tech Elevator starts with an online aptitude test, which was 12 logic-based questions. If you score well enough, Tech Elevator invites you to come in for an interview. The interview was mostly behavioral to get a sense of your background. I think most people they accept do not have a technical background, so there really isn't a coding challenge. It's all logic and aptitude-based. After you go through the behavioral interview, there's a larger, 30 question aptitude test. If you score well enough on that, Tech Elevator offers you a spot in the next cohort. It's relatively simple and you can't really cheat an aptitude test, so it's basically "do you have the aptitude?" The behavioral interview is to see if you’re going to be a good fit with the other people in the cohort.
Any tips on how to ace the Tech Elevator interview?
I don't know if there's a way to do it. I think you truly have to be yourself. If you're going into a coding bootcamp, you probably have already decided to make the jump to change careers or do something that you're just currently not suited for. If you can show that you're passionate about your decision, and show that you're willing to learn, and open to the process, I think you'll do fine.
What was your Tech Elevator cohort like? Was it diverse in terms of gender, race, and career background?
I was in the Java web development cohort. It was definitely a diverse group, yet we had one female. There were many different backgrounds including one guy who had just received a doctorate in clarinet performance. There was another guy who worked in children's camps and another who was an accountant from Atlanta. One classmate had been a consultant for SAP and just wanted to add Java to his tool set. We also had a recent graduate from Harvard who just wanted to come learn. Ages varied, but I was probably on the older end. It was a really interesting group of people to meet, to learn about, and to see how they brought their backgrounds to code.
How was the learning experience at Tech Elevator? Describe the teaching style and a typical day.
To sum it up in one word, it was intense. Class time is Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 4:30pm, but you’re really doing 60 hour weeks of learning. It’s definitely something to get used to because you're being thrown two years of information in 14 weeks. Our mornings were mostly spent with lecture instruction, going through new concepts in small groups. There was a lot of opportunity for questions, and a lot of opportunity for reposing a concept. Someone would say, "I just don't understand that," and that would give our instructor a chance to re-explain it from a different point of view, and that was always helpful.
Some days we would go to a lecture after lunch, but a lot of times there were multiple exercises to complete. You could start working on these exercises and then collaborate with other people in the cohort. The instructor was always there for if you needed further explanation, or if you had questions about how something worked in a particular exercise. It ends up being a long day of really pushing through various concepts. But at the end of the day, I think between the instruction and then between the exercises, it really helps drive home the point.
Was there a favorite project that you built while at Tech Elevator?
I think every project we built when we were building it was my favorite until we did the next one! Because of my HTML and CSS background, I was the front end guy that everybody kept referring to. My first favorite project was when we were given a file that had National Park information in it, and we had to build a website that would dynamically generate pages based upon that file of park information. It was a pair project. I think we had like three days to work on it, and I really pushed the CSS to the point where people were coming over and saying, "So and so says I need to look at your site because you have the best-looking site out of all us." That was constant validation, and my confidence was building because I was doing something well. We had a good looking site that worked well!
My ultimate favorite project would be our two-week capstone project. I had proposed a meal planning app because my wife and I have the same conversation every week, "What are we going to get at the grocery store?” We ended up always picking up the same things as the week before. I proposed it as a project because it solved a problem in my household. There were four of us on the project, and it was way more complicated than I thought it ever could have been or expected it to be. However, we had an amazing demo on graduation and everybody was very impressed with it; we received great feedback. So actually, I think the meal planning app was my favorite project because it was my proposal to solve a problem in my household, we got good feedback, and I got to show it to my parents and wife, which was exciting to me.
How did Tech Elevator help with job preparation?
One of the selling points of Tech Elevator, is that they have The Pathway Program, which is basically this underlying job prep curriculum. Tech Elevator helps with various things such as enhancing your LinkedIn profile, editing resumes, and helping you practice elevator pitches. The school also helps you with behavioral and technical interview prep. Tech Elevator has their own network of hiring partners, so they help you with your job search.
Tech Elevator brought in industry professionals who were current or former developers who told us, "If you're going to get into this, here are some tips about how you sell yourself." They also brought in recruiters who talked about how to conduct yourself in interviews. Tech Elevator brought in outsiders to review people's resumes and hold mock interviews. So it wasn't like you were inside a bubble, it was actual recruiters from recruiting firms coming in helping you prep and talking to you about necessary changes you needed to make.
The most beneficial Tech Elevator prep for me was when they brought in managers to do managerial interviews. I picked a woman who is president of a software company, and she gave me some of the best advice out of the entire cohort about how to sell myself in an interview. That outside access, and those mentorships were hugely helpful and important. Tech Elevator really focuses on getting you ramped up for the job search while you're learning. And then, of course, their big event is the Matchmaking Event, which is week 11 where they bring in 20+ companies over two days to interview everybody. You get a 25-minute interview with 8 to 10 companies over two days, which gives you a leg up in the hiring process.
Tell us about your next steps now that you’ve recently finished Tech Elevator.
Tech Elevator’s matchmaking event is where I received my technical interview with a company called Dealer Tire. From that technical interview, they presented me with an offer. My next step is that I will start a job as a web developer with Dealer Tire here in Cleveland. It is a six-month contract, so it's an opportunity to get out and get experience and make sure that I'm a good fit for them, and they're a good fit for me. Their current headquarters are not far from my recent job and not far from my son's school so I know the neighborhood already, and they're building a brand new headquarters, which is literally across the street from Tech Elevator.
Tell us about the interview process for your new web developer role!
At one point in the interview, I thought that they liked me because they were tailoring the technical interview to my background and the conversation started to get more comfortable. Also, I had been warned that there was going to be a logic question because somebody else from Tech Elevator also went through Dealer Tire’s technical interview. I was ready for it, but of course, they gave me a totally different logical question. The fact that I was able to push through it and actually solve it, made me very confident. 48 hours later, I got the call that they wanted to extend an offer.
What has been the biggest challenge or roadblock for you on your journey to learning code?
I think there's probably two challenges for me. I kept having these discussions about impostor syndrome. I've got 18 years of work experience, and I knew what I was doing in my job, and now I am pivoting into a new industry, and I'm only taking 14 weeks to learn. I kept thinking, “Is somebody really going to hire me and pay me to do coding?” I had this issue of feeling like an imposter and always asking myself "do I really know what I'm talking about? Am I really going to be able to go in and contribute as a developer to some project?"
It was nice that we would meet biweekly with Tech Elevator staff to discuss our feelings about the course and our progress. We were reassured by David, someone with decades of coding experience, as he would tell us that we do know what we’re doing. Yet, we were learning so much, so fast with the hopes of a job opportunity at the end. It was hard to get past feeling like an imposter.
Then the other thing was that I graduated from OU in 1998. It's now 2016, so having to go through large amounts of learning took my brain a little while to get back on track. I had to get my brain back up and running in order to figure out how to take notes again, how to ask questions, and how to think things through. In my exit interview for Tech Elevator, I told them how this course turned my brain back on to not only being able to learn more stuff but also wanting to learn more stuff. That was a big roadblock for me, getting the brain back up and running again to not just learn, but also to be able to take in information in this fast, intense way.
What advice do you have for people thinking about attending a coding bootcamp?
My advice is that you have to not only be committed to the idea, but you have to be able to focus on the content, on the process, and on the bootcamp. At Tech Elevator, I focused on three things only for 14 weeks, and that was Tech Elevator, my wife, and my kids. That was it. Everything else just had to just hit pause. You have to focus, you have to be committed, and you have to be willing to ask questions, learn things, and be open-minded.
You have to be prepared to get in there, push forward and see it through. Fourteen weeks seems like a long time, but it's going to go fast. There will be moments where you're going to get bogged down, but you just have to push forward because in the end, you will be rewarded.
Lyndsey worked in marketing and graphic design for 10 years, but wanted to grow and have more challenges in her job. She read an article about Tech Elevator and learning to code, so she tried out coding, and enjoyed the logic and problem solving. Lyndsey enrolled at Tech Elevator’s Cleveland campus and has now graduated and started a job as a developer at Level Seven! Lyndsey tells us why she wanted to learn .NET, what her favorite project was, and how Tech Elevator helped her find a job.
What’s your pre-Tech Elevator story, your career and education background?
I didn't know what I wanted to do when I went to college. I ended up getting a business degree from Kent State University, but didn't really find my feet until I started working. I got into interior design at Lay-Z-Boy Furniture. From there I got into marketing for a commercial real estate company. I was using design tools and doing some graphic design work on the side. I did that for 10 years and really enjoyed it, it was a great experience.
Eventually, I found myself not feeling challenged anymore. I wasn't using my brain the way I wanted to use it on a daily basis. I was working for a really good company. I just didn't feel like I was growing. So I decided I needed to do something for my own growth and advancement. That’s what led me to look at Tech Elevator.
Why did you think going towards tech and coding was a good move for you?
I read a newspaper article about Tech Elevator coming to the Cleveland area. I didn't really know a lot about the field but I was really open minded to new experiences. I did a ton of research on what it's like to be a developer day in and day out. Once I got past the stigma that developers are people who sit in basements for 12 hours a day, knocking out code, and not talking to anybody – once I realized that it's very creative and collaborative, I was definitely more intrigued. Also, one of the things I enjoyed most about marketing and design was the problem solving aspect – bringing multiple pieces and parts together to create a more dynamic whole – which I felt would translate really well into coding.
I went to an open house at Tech Elevator and listened to the instructors and the CEO speak. They were just so passionate about what they did. They talked about how the field is always advancing. It's a place where you can continually find new things to learn and new things to challenge you. That's what I wanted. I wanted to know that if I mastered a concept, there would still be a new concept to master after that. They definitely let us know that this field is full of new opportunities every day.
And at that point did you try out a bit of coding yourself, before you decided to take the plunge and do the bootcamp?
Yeah. My company had actually paid for me to take a few HTML and CSS classes when I was working in marketing so I was somewhat familiar. I started dabbling online, reading, and trying to get a feel of whether it was something I could get into.
Did you consider any other coding bootcamps?
I did. There is another one in the Akron area, but the location of Tech Elevator was more convenient to me. I researched the pros and cons of a couple of different programs.
Did you specifically want to learn .NET?
I was actually really torn. Tech Elevator offered .NET and Java, and I didn't know which direction to go in. So to make my decision, I started looking into companies in Northeast Ohio that I might be interested in working for, and they trended towards being .NET shops, so that sealed the deal for me.
That's smart. Did you at all consider going back to college to study computer science?
I did not consider going back for computer science. I did for a while think about going back for graphic design, but the time and money investment wasn't feasible. It wasn't practical for me to go back.
What is the Tech Elevator interview and application process like?
Initially you do an online logic and problem-solving test. From there, I was invited to an open house. They explained the bootcamp model and their curriculum, and introduced the instructors. Then I filled out a more formal application and they invited me in for an in-person interview. Going in, I didn't think that it would be too difficult, but it was actually one of the most in-depth, thoughtful interviews I have ever had. I left there feeling like they really dug deep, and got to know me as a person. Prior to sitting down with them, I also did a written logic and problem-solving test which was more in-depth than the one that I had initially done online. Within a few days, they let me know that I’d been accepted.
What was the logic test like?
They were tough questions but they were good. In my interview, I said, "If the person actually enjoyed working through the problems on the test, is that a good indication that they would enjoy the thought process that's involved in programming?" And they said yes. I liked thinking and using my brain in that sort of way.
What was your cohort like at Tech Elevator? Was it diverse in terms of gender, race, and backgrounds?
Our cohort had 21 students. There were seven in the .NET class and the rest were in the Java class. It was incredibly diverse. In our .NET class we had four women and three men. One of the women was in her 60s, one of the women was in her mid-20s, and there was every other age in between. There were different cultures represented. There was a guy from Ireland, and a guy from Russia. And the diversity in everybody's career backgrounds was pretty spectacular too. It was a really good melting pot of people.
What was the learning experience like at Tech Elevator? Maybe you can give me an example of a typical day and the teaching style you experienced.
My instructor was Josh Tucholski. We'd usually start with a quiz to review the previous day's materials, and have question and answer time for anything that people weren't grasping. Then we’d have a lecture about the day's new materials. In the afternoons we had practical hands-on problems to work on. At the end of each module, we would do a capstone project. It was a big group project to bring everything together that we learned in that module.
Classroom hours were 9am to 4:30pm, but people were often there earlier than 9am and later than 4:30pm. I usually got to class around 8:30am, and would leave around 5pm or 6pm. But for the most part, every night I was back on my computer working through homework problems again. There were a lot of weekends where I put in quite a few hours as well. They definitely cram a lot of knowledge into your brain in those 14 weeks.
Do you have a favorite project that you worked on at Tech Elevator?
My favorite project was our first group capstone project because it was a fun concept, and I got to use some of my background in marketing and design to spice it up. It was a website for national parks where you could click through links to see new information about the different national parks. You could also find out the weather forecast in the parks. It was my first experience taking all the new things we had learned, and bringing them together into a real application that worked, and that was really exciting.
Did you build it all with .NET?
Yes, we used .NET and it was built using the MVC architecture; then we were able to implement some HTML and CSS as well.
What kind of career coaching and job preparation did you get at Tech Elevator?
I cannot say enough about the Tech Elevator pathway program – that's their career development side of things. Towards the end, they do a great job of helping you with everything career related. They assisted us with LinkedIn and our resumes. They brought in professionals from the industry to do mock interviews with us – not just technical interviews but behavioral interviews as well.
Throughout the entire program, they brought in employers from the area that would be eventually looking to hire junior developers. They would talk about what they were looking for, what the company was like, and what their onboarding process looked like. Towards the end of the 14 weeks, we did something called employer matchmaking, which is basically speed dating for employers. Most of the students in the cohort met with 10 to 12 companies and had 20 to 30-minute interviews with each of them over the course of a few days. I'm pretty sure that at least 75% to 80% of the students found employment working with the companies that Tech Elevator introduced us to.
What are you doing now? Did you find a job?
Yes! I had two offers within a few weeks of graduation, and I ended up taking a developer position at a company called Level Seven. It’s a consulting company which does custom application development for a number of different industries. The first product I worked on was a dealer portal where clients could go in and order parts for their machines on a web-based application. We're working on a website redesign for a major local company right now. I'm also working on an application that car rental companies use. We have a large scope of projects, so it’s fun to be able to experience a lot of different technologies and applications this early in my career.
That's so cool. How did you find the job?
One of the instructors at Tech Elevator, Craig, had done some consulting as a developer at Level Seven. He had some contacts there, who came in to meet with some of the students, and do some initial interviews. I made it past the first round, and ultimately got an offer.
Now you're at Level Seven, are you still using mainly .NET or have you had to learn some new technologies and languages?
What are your coworkers like? Are they supportive of you?
Oh yeah. Very supportive. It's a great team work environment for sure. I have a manager who is very experienced and is really patient, great at explaining things. He has a lot of development experience across multiple technologies. I was assigned a mentor who had started in a similar place as me, and had worked his way up and learned a lot through the company. They’re trying to give me the same sort of guidance and tools.
Are there many other women in the company?
I am the only woman developer. There are a few other women in different roles in the company, but yeah, I'm the only woman on the development team.
What’s that like?
I think I was used to the marketing environment, where there were lots of women, and we communicated differently. There was definitely a learning curve. I had to establish myself as somebody who knew what they were talking about, and who could really contribute and produce good work. But so far it's been going really well.
Congratulations. Now you're working, what’s a typical a day for you?
A lot of my days I still try to spend 20% to 30% of my time on my own training and development. I am working in a lot of different technologies that I'm not as familiar with. And the other 60% to 70% is spent hands-on on projects.
So far, what do you like best about being a developer?
I think this comes full circle. I'm challenged every day now. I have to use my brain. I'm thinking logically all the time and I really feel like I'm solving problems for companies. I definitely feel like I'm accomplishing more and achieving more personally and professionally, than I was nine months ago.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge in your transition to becoming a professional developer?
I think along the same line, it is sort of a new way of thinking, and you have to retrain your brain in some respect. Especially for me, I felt like I was coasting along in previous positions. It's definitely different now. I wake up every day, and I know I'm going to work hard instead of just coasting along.
How are you staying involved now with Tech Elevator?
Our .NET class was very close, and we became friends, so we've been to a couple of happy hours together.
Tech Elevator invited me to an Open House a few months ago to speak to prospective students. I've also gone to the Tech Elevator space to work out of there a few times and been able to mix and mingle with some of the current students and catch up with the staff. They're really a great group of people. You don't feel like they're running a business so much as they're actually trying to work with you till you become a better person.
I was wondering what advice you have for people who are thinking about making a career change and going through a coding bootcamp?
I think you have to really know what your motivations are. I think bootcamps sometimes market themselves as this place you can go to increase your income in a really short time span. And it's not always apparent that you're going to have to work really hard. So I would definitely advise future bootcamp students that this is a true investment. It's an investment of your time, your brain, and sometimes your emotional ability. You really have to be able to give it your all, and I think that you get out of it what you put into it. You have to be prepared for the full investment.
Welcome to the July 2016 Course Report monthly coding bootcamp news roundup! Each month we look at all the happenings from the coding bootcamp world from new bootcamps to big fundraising announcements, to interesting trends. This month the biggest trends this month are initiatives to increase the diversity in tech, some huge investments in various bootcamps, and more tech giants launching their own coding classes. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast!Continue Reading →
Tech Elevator in Cleveland, Ohio bills itself as a coding bootcamp for career changers with a soft skills curriculum that runs parallel to the hard coding skills taught by their instructors. As part of their Pathway Program, Tech Elevator runs resume and LinkedIn workshops, expert-led panels, mentoring events, one-on-one career coaching, and employer matchmaking events. Students are seeing an average salary increase of $25,000 compared to their previous careers. Tech Elevator founder and CEO Anthony Hughes tells us how the job placement program works, and why career prep begins during the admissions process.
What are the goals of your students? Are they career changers? Fresh-out-of-college developers? Entrepreneurs?
We work with career changers, career upskillers, or those who want to start afresh in a technology-based role. Each student brings a different background to Tech Elevator. That’s part of what’s great about the bootcamp model – our employers really value the diversity of experiences they get from our grads.
In terms of recent college graduates, we see two scenarios that lead to enrolling at Tech Elevator:
- Those struggling to line up their college studies with the needs of the workplace who use Tech Elevator as a conversion course to give them relevance;
- And those who don’t want to pursue a career in their degree.
For example, a recent .NET bootcamp grad, Brendan Thomas, graduated with an accounting degree from Ohio University, but wasn’t excited about being an accountant. He spent 6 months learning to code online and applying to jobs before eventually coming to us. After 14 weeks, he got a job as a software developer for a healthcare IT company.
When does the job placement preparation process start?
Career preparation at Tech Elevator begins in the admissions process. In the behavioral interview we get to know our students, learn about their unique journeys, and determine how we can build on their background to help them move into a new career. Once accepted, before the bootcamp begins, students take a personality test. That marks the initial self-discovery phase of our Pathway Program. They start to dig deeper into who they are, what values drive them, how they relate to others, and what strengths they should lead with as they develop themselves.
Students also upload current resumes and update their LinkedIn pages before class begins. Along with the coding pre-work, we want them thinking about their career goals from the beginning. We then start career development sessions and workshops in week 2.
What is the most important thing Tech Elevator does to help students find jobs?
We have a huge hiring network. We continuously work to strengthen relationships with hiring partners as we know that once companies understand the quality of our program, the hiring process will be easier for our grads. These companies come onsite to meet and interview students through our Employer Matchmaking sessions, similar to speed-dating for jobs. Students have an average of 12 interviews during this process. We do a lot of preparation leading up to our matchmaking events to connect students with the right employers.
We believe each student is different, so we need to work with them in different ways. Through one-on-one career coaching we work to accentuate strengths and combat weaknesses to support their “career readiness”. The personal attention we give to each student is a huge differentiator, especially versus the traditional 4-year degree. The recent McGraw Hill report shows how dissatisfied college grads are about their career readiness.
What soft skills do you teach to help prepare students for success in a job? Tell us about the Career Pathway Program!
At Tech Elevator we believe a great career exists at the intersection of employer demand, a student’s passion, and what they can be excellent at. In most cases, our students come to us underemployed – they’re really bright but have been moving through a series of unfulfilling jobs. Our goal is to put them on a rewarding career path.
Our Career program is broken into 3 phases:
- Self-discovery (weeks 1 - 4)
- Career prep & personal branding (weeks 5 - 9)
- Connections & careers (weeks 10 - 14)
Each phase has panels, workshops, and one-on-ones with our career team and mentor network. We’re lucky to have a vast network of experts in their field willing to donate their time to help students.
How does Tech Elevator prepare students for job interviews? Is there whiteboarding practice, mock interviews, etc?
We like to start our career coaching with a high-level overview from industry experts, then move into specific one-on-one coaching. Our interview preparation begins with our Pathway Program’s panel discussion: “Landing your Ideal Job by Interviewing Like a Pro”, which brings in very experienced technical and non-technical folks with thousands of interviews under their belts.The discussion is designed to share insights with students about how to be successful in an interview, what to expect, and how your answers, actions, and follow-ups are perceived. We always have a great (and often hilarious) Q&A session.
After the high-level overview we move into the coaching phase. We have interview prep sessions with both mentors from our network and Tech Elevator career coaches. We do basic interview prep, and technical interview prep, including whiteboarding. Mock-interviews and feedback sessions help build their overall confidence in how they present themselves.
What sort of advice do you give your students for creating their online presence (LinkedIn, Twitter, personal website)? How important is that to landing a developer job?
When you consider that 92% of recruiters use social media as a primary tool to find candidates, it makes sense to focus on LinkedIn and other facets of a digital presence. Some students already have a good presence and just need a little tweaking, but others are fearful of getting started and need guidance. We hold a workshop around digital branding and the importance of their online presence for their job search and future career. We then move to individual coaching and teach students how to use tools like LinkedIn to actively drive their job search efforts.
Career changers often have past lives in business, retail etc. Should they hide this past or do you find that past careers help in the job search?
They shouldn’t hide it but they need to know how to tell their story. As a bootcamp for career changers, we work closely with students to help them define an individual narrative that speaks to their experience so far, and translates into their new technology roles. We practice elevator pitches and hold sessions on how to talk about where you were, where you are and where you’re going. All of this builds confidence so when students are interviewing, they feel prepared and ready.
A lot of times past careers definitely help, because they’ve been part of a team or worked on real-world projects. This makes a big difference compared to a graduate with a CS degree, or even someone else with the same exact skills. Those past experiences all contribute to making our students well-rounded employees, and hiring companies love the maturity it brings.
The Job Search
Where and when do you suggest students start their job search? Should they wait to graduate to send out their first resumes?
Definitely do not wait until you graduate, but don't start too early either. At Tech Elevator students start their active job search in week 8 of the program, so two-thirds of the way in. We’ve developed a good balance, allowing them to focus on learning to code but recognizing that they're here to launch their tech careers. We want to give them a head start on the job search, with enough time to start curating their network and connections prior to graduation.
We’ve built a great reputation so sometimes recruiters can get pretty aggressive with our students early on. We coach them on how to manage interest and how to set expectations. In earlier weeks they can take initial HR screens or meet someone for coffee, but we advise them to hold off doing full technical interviews until week 10. This allows them to best represent themselves with extensive technical interview practice with us before taking on a demanding interview.
How do you help students narrow down what jobs (and companies) to apply for?
The self-discovery phase of the Pathway Program is designed to help our students develop their own unique lens to look at opportunities. Roles vary widely even at the junior level and what might be the dream job for one person could be another's nightmare. We preach the importance of picking a manager over picking a company, and emphasize they should look for work environments that support ongoing skills development.
Leading up to the active job search, Students evaluate our hiring network of 80+ companies to narrow down a list of 20 that seem interesting. They also target companies they find on their own based on their unique experience or goals. Our approach is to meet with them throughout the program, constantly evaluate target companies, and strategize their best approaches.
While bootcamps have gained popularity in the last 3 years, most job postings still require a CS Degree or equivalent. Do you suggest that graduates of Tech Elevator still submit their resume?
When you consider that the majority of folks working as developers today don't have a formal CS education, it makes sense to encourage students to submit resumes for job postings with a required CS or equivalent included. A quality bootcamp program qualifies for the “equivalent” label. I’ve seen companies shift their hiring away from local CS programs towards Tech Elevator because they like the amount of practical experience our grads have. Sometimes it's about Tech Elevator educating an employer about what we teach and the kinds of students we have. But the best way to get an employer on board is to get just one grad in the door. We call it the “Trojan Horse” approach, we just need to get one behind the fortress gates! For example, Progressive Insurance hired one grad in January, the next cohort they went on to hire five.
Can you give some examples of the sorts of jobs your graduates are in now?
Roles our students are offered include:
- Junior software developers (e.g. Alumni Daniel)
- Software engineers
- Applications developers
- Test engineers
- Business analysts
Can you give an example of a student who has really benefited from your career services/Career Pathways program?
Everyone benefits in different ways, but students with little or no career experience stand to gain the most since everything is new to them. One example is Michael Howe who studied in our Java bootcamp. Michael enrolled in the military right after high school, then got his associate’s degree at a community college. After working in various jobs in retail and manufacturing, he decided he wanted a better career path for himself and enrolled in Tech Elevator. Michael had the aptitude and determination to be a programmer, he just needed guidance and polish in terms of his career readiness. We helped him craft his narrative by bridging his military and job experience with his future goals, and also helped improve his communication skills. At the end of the program, Michael was offered two jobs from companies in our network, and now works as a Software Developer for an enterprise mobile applications company with a salary increase of over 200%. Pretty cool story of how the bootcamp model, and our career prep program, can truly be a catapult into a lucrative and rewarding chapter in your life.
How do you help with negotiation and job offer consideration?
There’s a lot of crazy talk in the industry right now about bootcamp grads getting six-figure salaries: $140k for a barista from Starbucks, AirBnb paying $250k for someone recently, etc. That grabs the headlines, but it’s not really helpful for students’ perceptions of what they should reasonably expect.
That’s not to say that we don't help our students think through how to negotiate, or give them market data on what to expect, but we encourage them not to be greedy. They should think about more than just money. We filter our students on the intake side, and if it's only about the money, we know they’re not a fit. Passion for technology, a drive to improve oneself, those are much more important success factors. We pride ourselves on the fact that the average offer to a Tech Elevator grad is higher than the average salary. Our messages are being heard, opportunities are being broadly evaluated and money is not the only deciding factor.
Employer Partners/Hiring Network
In your experience, what do employers particularly like about your graduates?
There are a variety of things our employers tell us they like about our graduates:
- Their diverse backgrounds and experiences, allowing them to collaborate and join teams easily.
- Their hunger to learn and keep growing. That’s ultimately what they’ll be doing their entire career and good hiring managers are not just looking for what our grads can do today but how they will evolve and improve going forward.
- Their maturity. Compared to someone just out of college or just beginning their career, someone who has real world experience, genuinely appreciates the opportunity, and can contribute other career experiences, can bring a lot more to the table.
Do you have formal agreements with hiring partners? Are they paying to be part of your hiring network or to hire your students?
We do have formalized relationships where the hiring companies in our network and their team members get actively involved in mentoring our students, but we don't charge the companies to hire as we don’t want that to be a restricting factor for job opportunities.
Have you noticed employers are looking for specific languages or specific soft skills?
Almost every mentor and presenter in our network says the same thing: hard coding skills will get you in the door and provide the foundation to grow technically, but soft skills are what determine your career trajectory. That’s why we emphasize being able to communicate and collaborate as part of a team. Soft skills will always be beneficial at all stages of your career.
Do employer partners have influence over the Tech Elevator curriculum? Is there a feedback loop in place?
Yes. Definitely. We take a demand-driven approach to educating, and developed our initial curriculum with heavy employer input. Going forward we are constantly talking to employers about what skills they want to see in junior developers and understanding how their needs are evolving. Whether it’s test-driven development, pair programming, or even our security module, we stay on top of what skills, tools and best practices employers value.
What are Tech Elevator’s current stats on job placement and salary increases?
85% had a job within 2 weeks of graduation, students have an average of $25,000 increase in salary compared with their pre-bootcamp job, and 33% receive multiple job offers. Here’s a recent infographic we made highlighting the success we’ve had with students.
How long do you continue helping your graduates find jobs after they graduate?
To date we haven’t had to worry about extended career support. Our grads are getting hired quickly. However, we’re prepared to support them for as long as it takes. Once you are an alumni of Tech Elevator, our career services, and employer network are always available to you.
Can graduates use the Tech Elevator space to do their job search after graduation? For how long?
Of course! Alumni are welcome back in the space 24/7. A lot of them stop by from time to time, hang out and chat with current students. They also come back for events we hold in the space. As our alumni network grows, we love hearing updates about student’s career paths.
A coding bootcamp can propel your career in tech to new heights, but that often means quitting a job, uprooting your life, or moving to a new city. Maybe you’re moving to a new city to become a developer and need a short-term housing option. Or perhaps you’re an international student without credit history. Regardless of your background, funds can become tight when committing to a full-time, intensive bootcamp, and suddenly expenses like rent and food can be stressful. Luckily, there are coding bootcamps that make housing easy.Continue Reading →
Josh Tucholski is the Lead .NET Instructor at Tech Elevator coding bootcamp in Cleveland, Ohio. With more than 10 years of experience as a developer under his belt, Josh tells us why he wanted to teach motivated Tech Elevator students, why Java and .NET are ideal first programming languages to learn, and why Microsoft certifications are no longer essential for programmers.
Can you tell me about your background and previous experience before you came to Tech Elevator Cleveland?
I have been developing software for a little over 10 years. Prior to joining Tech Elevator in October 2015, I was a Solution Architect at Key Bank for their Community Bank division. I designed a lot of the software used inside their call centers and branches. I worked there for about three years and before that I was a Lead Developer for Rosetta, a digital marketing agency. There I worked primarily with C# and Objective-C to build dynamic web and mobile applications.
I'm interested in how you learned to code. Did you get a computer science degree?
I studied and received my degree in computer science from the University of Toledo. I've been around computers since I was five or six years old. At that time, my father actually studied for a CS degree at Toledo as well, and I always enjoyed working with him on his homework assignments.
At college I learned a lot of fundamentals and theory that most CS degrees cover: mostly C++ and Java. I picked up C# on my own, and kept learning it during a student internship. I learned a lot of skills on the job and in my own time. The majority of my work – from internships, to full-time positions, has used .NET as the primary language.
How did you first become aware of the coding bootcamp model and Tech Elevator?
The bootcamp model is really new to me. I was not aware of it until I was approached by Tech Elevator to be an instructor. They had done a lot of research to find the right instructor so when they contacted me, they educated me on the entire bootcamp model. Then I had to make the decision whether or not this was a career path I wanted to follow.
What about Tech Elevator convinced you that this was the right position for you?
One of my favorite parts about working at Rosetta was mentoring junior developers coming out of college. Sometimes it’s difficult when you have a mentee who didn't really want to learn, and was instead being told to participate. When I heard about the bootcamp model, and Tech Elevator specifically, what appealed to me most was that every student came in with an open mind and a thirst to learn as much as possible in a short amount of time. So for them, it's something new and exciting, not something an employer is making them do.
Were you convinced at first that people could become software developers in 14 weeks?
I was convinced. And after going through a cohort recently, it still holds strong that you can learn to program in 14 weeks, with the proper instruction and the proper exercises.
What does your role as Lead .NET Instructor include?
One of my main responsibilities is developing and vetting the curriculum for our .NET track. David Wintrich, the Lead Java Instructor, and I try to keep both curriculums in sync. So even though our students are learning different languages, at the end of each day they've both learned the same fundamental concepts and they can share those experiences with each other. Once we're in class, my time is spent teaching students the new material for the day and coming up with different exercises and solutions to apply what they’ve learned. The other part of the role includes meeting with students one on one, so we can collect feedback throughout the course and adjust things accordingly.
How many instructors do you have at Tech Elevator?
We have three at present but are always looking for great additions to add to the teaching team. We’re very picky about who we add as we’d rather grow slowly with the right people than expand quickly by compromising on the quality of our instructors. We believe a low instructor to student ratio is key to a great learning experience and we keep it around 1:10. Our most recent instructor, Craig Castelaz, is a 35-year veteran who worked at Oracle for 10 years. He’s mostly dedicated to tutoring students individually.
Tech Elevator teaches .NET and Java, which are pretty complex programming languages. Why are those good first programming languages to learn?
.NET and Java are two great languages to learn because they apply solid fundamental principles that are essential to have as a programmer. You can apply those across any other programming languages you might run into. Here in Ohio, .NET and Java are the most in-demand languages for employers, and beyond this region, the demand is also really strong because most big companies are powered by these languages . In short they offer a great starting point for your career. The other factor in .NET’s favor, is that it has been around for almost 20 years, and it's gone through a lot of iterations by Microsoft. They've brought it to the point where it's simple and easy to learn as a first programming language while advanced enough to run in enterprise environments.
I have heard before about people learning .NET earning certifications. Does Tech Elevator offer training in passing those certifications?
We do not, and to be honest, I’ve actually let mine expire. Those certifications might have helped my standing with employers, but have actually never gotten me a job. I've studied for them and they're often very intensive in terms of memorizing the language or the libraries that you can use. Our students are taught to understand the language, and upon graduating if they wanted to become certified in Windows Azure, MVC, Security, etc., they could study specifically for the certification and take the exam.
So are those certifications usually required by employers or is that becoming less common now?
I think it's becoming less and less common. You often see that requirement in systems roles involving managed services. But software development is more of a meritocracy. People are recognized for good ideas, and that leads to good opportunities. In today's world, if you're a developer and you're passionate, you can go online, create open source repositories of code, and that becomes your public portfolio for future employers. I think that holds more weight than a certificate from studying for a course.
What size are your cohorts? And what kind of diversity do you see in the Tech Elevator classroom?
Our average class size is 15 students, with our supporting instructors we strive for a ratio of 1:10. We continue to work to bring more diversity into the program, and at present about 30% are female and minority students.
We often hear about the highly iterative nature of bootcamps and how they can react to feedback. Could you give us an example of a time where you experienced this when you noticed the curriculum need tweaking?
Absolutely. Every day after I teach a concept, I can usually tell from the students’ reactions how well it was received and how well it was understood. I leave myself notes of things I need to address, then I can adjust the curriculum. We also have daily poll surveys that we give to students where they provide us feedback on the prior day's material from the perspectives of understanding, pace, and difficulty. We factor that in as we prepare the curriculum for the next cohort; what worked well, what didn't work well, and where can we swap things out.
What have you found is your personal teaching style? Do you prefer lecturing? Are you hands-on?
My goal is to stop talking before lunch every day. We have a good time. It's very open, it's very animated, it's light hearted, and there are jokes, which keeps it engaging. In the morning I usually teach a new concept then put it on the screen and have students code along with me. In the afternoon students break off into pairs and begin applying the concept on their own by working through a number of exercises.
The other thing that really helps our students is great analogies that are not computer or technology related and real life examples of a website that they may have used before. When they see how something works, they are more excited to learn it.
I'm interested in what jobs you see your .NET bootcamp graduates getting and what companies you see them working at.
The jobs our graduates are qualified for can vary a lot. Students can expect to receive job opportunities as junior developers using either the language they learned here, or another language because of the fact they have a fundamental understanding of programming.
Many students receive offers for junior application developers. We have some students who receive offers for business analyst roles, and also test engineers, which is something that requires development skills as well. Being able to write code to run automated tests is just as critical as writing code for an application. You basically have to come up with all the different ways to ensure the software is working as it's expected to.
What kind of background do you think the ideal bootcamp student has?
The ideal student, regardless of their previous experience, is someone who is extremely enthusiastic about wanting to learn, and is always asking questions. In most cases they’ve tinkered with code, often online and found they really enjoy it.They need to be great communicators because they're often working with teammates. If they understand something, they can help others understand. If they don't understand, they ask the right questions until they do.
They also need patience. Coding takes a lot of mental effort, especially in the beginning where you can spend many hours on one problem. Patience helps to avoid frustration by working through a problem until they come out on the other side with something that they're proud of.
What kind of hours do students put in at Tech Elevator over the 14 weeks?
Class hours are from 9 am to 4:30pm. But we've had students who show up at 6 am, and there are days where students are here until 10:30 pm. Our average student probably puts in anywhere between 50 to 60 hours per week.
How do you track students' progress? Do you give regular assessments or tests at Tech Elevator?
We have quizzes each day with the goal of understanding, first, how well the material was understood from the instructor’s perspective. And second, for the student to understand where there may be additional opportunities for tutoring.
But you don't have tests they have to pass to get to the next stage, or pass the program?
No. Our quizzes are not intended to exclude someone from proceeding forward. They are modeled after interview questions that our graduates have heard as they go out for job interviews. So we choose them to make sure our students are becoming familiar with those types of questions, but it's not intended to weed people out.
So you wouldn’t ask someone to leave if they are not keeping up with the Tech Elevator curriculum?
We do a very thorough job of vetting the students in the first place to make sure we avoid finding ourselves in that situation. We do aptitude testing and behavioral interviewing to find the right fit in the first place. During the cohort, the quizzes, one-on-one discussions, and tutoring are so frequent that if you're not a correct fit, or if someone is really struggling, then both parties will realize, and come to the table for a discussion.
What resources or meetups do you recommend for aspiring bootcampers in Cleveland?
Tech Elevator hosts a public meetup called Learn to Code in Cleveland doing regular hours of code and developer meetups. We also open up some of our career development events to the public so that outsiders can get a feel for the mentors and speakers in our network and can talk with current students. A few times a year, we host larger events like the hackathon we organized with Progressive Insurance and the Cleveland Indians.
As for other meetups in the area, there are so many different ones. Regardless of whether you like to make things, work on open source projects, or nonprofit projects, or if you want to learn about C# or Java, they all exist. They can just sometimes a bit intimidating to go to for absolute beginners, because you're joining along with other programmers who have been practicing for years.
Is there anything else you want to add about Tech Elevator?
Daniel had been working in retail at Target for 15 years, but realized he needed a more exciting and promising career path. Within six months, Daniel had made a complete career 180 and doubled his salary. He enrolled at Tech Elevator coding bootcamp in Cleveland in September 2015; and today, Daniel is a developer at Progressive (and loving it)! Daniel tells us about his exciting experience at Tech Elevator, and how Progressive’s onboarding process encourages him to continue learning.
What is your educational background or your last career path?
I have an economics degree from Cleveland State University. I’d already been working in retail at Target part time while in school, so after I graduated I moved up to supervisor and took on more leadership roles. I was at Target for about 15 years.
When did you decide to quit your job and change careers?
For a while I’d had this feeling that my job at Target wasn’t something I could see myself doing until retirement. I wasn’t particularly interested in moving up to be a store manager – and that’s the only career path in retail. So I was looking for a change and that pushed me towards coding bootcamps and Tech Elevator.
Did you look at coding bootcamps in other cities or just Tech Elevator?
I was looking entirely local because I didn’t want to move to a new city to attend a school. Initially I was looking another bootcamp in Akron, but it’s a bit far to commute. Tech Elevator is right in Cleveland so if I wanted to go to the classroom to be with students or ask an instructor something, it wasn’t an issue. Tech Elevator is the only coding bootcamp I eventually applied to.
What technology stack does Tech Elevator teach? Was that important to you?
They now teach Java and .NET. When I was there they only offered Java, and it was intense. Had they offered both of those languages, I probably would have gone towards Java anyway, which is ironic because I now have a job doing C# and .NET. But I like the mobile aspect of Java, since Android is built in Java, and I’d like to get into mobile eventually. Even after getting some experience with .NET now, it seems like Java is a bit more involved.
In your undergraduate degree did you ever take any computer science or coding classes? Or did you try to learn on your own?
What was the application process like at Tech Elevator?
It was pretty beginner friendly. I was part of the very first cohort, so the application process may have changed, but for me they had a short logic-based online test, then a more involved test I took when I went in for the interview. My interviews with Dave (the instructor) and Anthony (Tech Elevator CEO), weren’t too technical. They did ask what kind of experience I had in coding, but there weren’t questions like “can you write a piece of code to accomplish this task.”
What was the learning experience like at Tech Elevator?
There were six of us in my cohort, and class was from 9 am to 4:30 pm each day. In the mornings we had lectures and Dave would go over the concepts for that day. Then in the afternoons we would work on projects. We would learn something new and start the project on Monday, then Tuesday we would add additional stuff to the project we started on Monday, then keep building on it throughout the week. It was something we could really sink our teeth into, get used to working with the same code, and see the advantages of writing good code. The last two weeks we worked on our capstone project where we used everything we had learned.
What was your capstone project?
We built a library application for a tool lending library. The concept was that a community could have a bunch of tools and go to this library and borrow tools. Our app allowed the librarian to check out tools, check tools back in when people returned them, calculate late fees, and look up which tools were on loan and when they were due back.
Dave split us into two groups and gave us background about what the application should do. We could ask Dave if we had any questions but we more or less got to build it on our own, which was really cool. Up to that point I felt like I knew the material pretty well but I felt nervous actually going into my first job. This longer project really cemented in my mind that I don’t know everything, but it made me feel a lot more prepared. The capstone project for me was definitely the best part of the course because it really tied everything we had learned together.
Did you have to learn new technologies for the project?
Was there a good feedback loop? Since you were the first cohort, did the Tech Elevator team change and iterate as you went?
The team was very responsive, and things were changed because of our feedback. But rather than feeling like Tech Elevator didn’t have a pre-planned curriculum, it felt like the curriculum was being adapted to what was working and what wasn’t. Initially things were changing regularly, but as we got deeper into the course we hit a rhythm.
Tell me about your job at Progressive! What’s your role?
I started in February 2016 as an Applications Programmer Associate, which is Progressive’s term for a junior developer. I’m in a team of six or seven developers for the specific project I'm on now, but that’s going to change over time as more people get added. Our project is part of a larger project, with at least 100 people involved, including developers.
How did Progressive train you in the first few weeks of your job?
I’ve been really satisfied with the onboarding process. Progressive knows that I’ve never been a developer before so they’ve provided me with a lot of learning resources. I come from a Java bootcamp, and now I’m programming in .NET and C#, so the first couple of weeks was just heavy learning.
The majority of the training is online training with a bit of in-class. The first few weeks was learning C#, .NET, and how to use Visual Studio. I also had to learn Progressive terminology, because I’m also new to the insurance industry so there are lots of insurance terms I didn’t know. My mentor has been assessing where I’m at, then feeding me little tiny projects to work on to get me up to speed using their different tools and source control system. I’ll be with my mentor for quite some time, but it’s been good so far with that slow intro to learning new things.
When I was looking for jobs, I think larger companies kind of appealed to me because of that more fully fleshed out onboarding system where they can take their time to make sure you’re learning the material.
How did you get the job at Progressive? Through Tech Elevator?
It was a combination of putting out resumes, and contacts within Tech Elevator. When you go through a bootcamp you don’t really realize how many companies hire developers and you may never have heard of some of those companies. One of the things Tech Elevator did to help with the job search was to give us introductions to lots of companies, and invite companies to come speak to us.
I found a posting for an intermediate developer job at Progressive, and even though it wasn’t a junior role, I applied because I figured that would get my resume in their system. I mentioned to Anthony that I had applied for that job – I knew I wasn’t qualified for it, but just to see if he had any contacts. He did happen to know the hiring manager so he put in a word that I had applied. I had a phone interview with them first, then some in-person interviews.
What did the Progressive hiring manager think of Tech Elevator and coding bootcamps?
My hiring manager had already started hiring some people from bootcamps, so she was familiar with the model. She met Anthony when he ran another bootcamp, so she had a good rapport with him and faith in what he was doing.
I also interviewed with a technical senior programmer and he had a lot more questions about the bootcamp experience. He wanted to know what topics we covered, how in depth we went with particular topics, how much time we spent on each language etc. He has a computer science degree. I’ve met a few other hires and I’m the only person of the new hires who is a bootcamp graduate, everyone else has computer science degrees!
Even though you’re not working in Java at your job are you finding it was a good foundation for your new job?
Looking back on the last six months of your life, how do you feel about setting and reaching your goal of changing careers and becoming a developer?
It’s pretty amazing. The whole process feels like it hasn’t taken that long but at the same time, it feels like August was 40 years ago. One of the things I’m probably happiest about is actually getting to know what it’s like to be a programmer. Now that I’ve done it for a month, I actually look forward to going to work and working on new things. It’s a refreshing change for me; in retail, although I didn’t hate my job and there were parts I liked, I didn’t have passion or enthusiasm for the job.
I would be lying if I said the salary increase was not a strong factor in my satisfaction – I’ve doubled my salary since I was in retail. But long term, the most important thing for me is having a career that I’m interested in, rather than just a job to pay the bills.
Could you have learned this stuff on your own? Why did you need a bootcamp?
I did a fair amount of self-learning this past summer, and there are plenty of great resources out there in textbooks and online. But there are a couple of key factors that really set apart Tech Elevator and bootcamps in general:
- It gives you a more structured learning environment. When I was learning on my own I was just learning things as I needed to use them, so my learning was out of context.
- Bootcamps help you find a job. After you’ve learned to code you still need to find a job. Having the connections at Tech Elevator was obviously pretty huge for me. You get introduced to companies, you get help with your LinkedIn profile, redoing your resume, and practice interviews.
So having that in one package really gives you something you can’t get as easily on your own.
What advice do you have for people making a career change after bootcamp? Could anyone do what you did?
It has worked out really well for me, and I think there are a couple of reasons for that. First, I have an actual interest in computers, so I’m willing to put in all these crazy hours to learn to code. I also have a logical mind so I naturally gravitate towards writing programs. I wouldn’t say anybody should do this. But if you have an interest in computers and have a desire to learn how to program and if you have the aptitude for it, absolutely do it. Tech Elevator has an aptitude test online, and there are other aptitude tests you can find online too. I took one from a college program.
If you’re looking to get into a career as a developer, I think a bootcamp is a great way to go. If you’re already part way through a career, you’ve already graduated from college, or you’re working in an industry that you’re just not thrilled with anymore, there are lots of barriers to changing careers. But bootcamps compress the curriculum so it’s good for career changers. I think bootcamps are a great option – Tech Elevator in particular.
We’ve picked five cities which are up-and-coming in the tech scene and have a great range of coding bootcamp options. When you think of coding bootcamps you might first think of cities like San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Seattle and Austin. But those aren’t your only options. There are now bootcamps in almost 100 cities across the U.S.
We recently sat down with David Wintrich, Chief Academic Officer and Lead Java Instructor at Cleveland’s newest bootcamp, Tech Elevator. David tells us why Tech Elevator teaches Java and .NET and the benefits of attending a bootcamp in Cleveland.
Tell us about your background and experience.
I’ve been developing software professionally for over 12 years. Immediately prior to Tech Elevator, I was the Application Architect for the the US Treasury Department’s Pay.gov project. Pay.gov is not an application that many people have heard of, but it’s basically like PayPal for the federal government. During my time as architect, we rewrote most of the application, which was quite an undertaking as it’s over 1 million lines of code. Today the application processes hundreds of millions of payments worth over $100BN a year for everything from National Park campsite reservations to federal student loan payments. Prior to Pay.gov, I worked for the Sherwin-Williams Company in a variety of roles, and before that I was a programmer at a small software product company.
Did you get a Computer Science degree?
I did, though it wasn’t my first major. I entered college as a broadcasting major, but realized within the first year that it wasn’t likely to lead to the career that I wanted.
My exposure to computers and software was later than most folks my age because we didn’t have a PC at home. During that first year in college I got my first real exposure to computers and got hooked really fast, so I switched to a Computer Science major.
The educational model has forced people who are 18 years old and just out of high school to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their life. I was obviously not equipped to make that decision; I thought I was going to be on TV! Fortunately, I was able to find my passion early on, but not everybody’s able to do that.
I’ve seen lots of kids come out of school having spent a tremendous amount of money on a degree that they weren’t excited about. That’s one of the reasons I was interested in the bootcamp model when I first became aware of it. I see coding bootcamps as an opportunity to give people a second chance to choose a career path that they can get excited about.
Did you end up teaching yourself the fundamentals of software development?
I will give my degree credit for teaching me some of the underlying theoretical concepts and exposing me to the programming language, C. Fortunately, the college I went to placed a big emphasis on getting work experience through internships.
Where did you get your undergraduate degree?
I went to Cleveland State University. At one of my internships after college I learned a lot of code by just teaching myself what I needed to do. I studied and applied the things that I learned in class on my own time because I had a genuine interest in the subject matter.
I don’t claim to be completely self-taught, but a lot of the practical skills that I was able to use on the job were self-taught.
You mentioned becoming aware of the bootcamp model. How did you get introduced to Tech Elevator?
I’d become interested in coding education options through working to grow the skills of my team and in my research for teaching methods had begun to hear more about the bootcamp model. Around the same time my company hired a bootcamp graduate from the Software Guild in Akron. Anthony Hughes was president and asked me to consider joining the team. They ended up selling the company and I decided not to pursue the opportunity with the new ownership but he reached out a few months later and told me that he wanted to start a bootcamp in Cleveland. It was such a perfect fit for me and the things I was looking for at the time so I jumped at the opportunity.
In working with that Software Guild graduate, were they a contributing member of the team?
Absolutely! That was one of the things that really validated the bootcamp model for me. Robert, the graduate, was a hard working and well-rounded hire. Everyone that interviewed him said, “How long have you been doing this? This can’t be true!” It was an experience that sold me on the model.
What is your role at Tech Elevator?
I’m the Lead Java instructor and Chief Academic Officer, so I’m responsible for the day-to-day teaching of our Java bootcamps, but at the same time I’m responsible for taking a broader view of everything we do academically and making sure we are maintaining a high level of quality and consistency. We also have another instructor, Josh Tucholski, who leads our .NET track. Initially, Tech Elevator will offer programs in both Java and .NET.
Do you have a class going right now?
We’re in the final week of our first Java cohort.
When building the curriculum did you start from scratch?
Yes and no. In general there’s agreement throughout the industry and amongst employers with regard to what’s expected out of a junior developer, so we were able to start from there. But in terms of the actual curriculum, the type of exercises to reinforce the concepts and the cadence of the education, we had to start from scratch.
In my previous position, working as an application architect we hired 15-20 new Java developers in two years, which was quite an undertaking. That experience opened my eyes to how hard it is to find quality talent. I had the opportunity to interview a lot of developers and work with a number of junior developers.
When thinking about how to structure the curriculum, I drew on my personal experience and what I looked for in a junior developer. If somebody walked in with this skill set, what would make me happy?
Really, we started with the end goal and asked the question, “What does the ideal junior developer look like and what do we need to teach him or her to get there?”
I think that’s really smart because some of the best bootcamps design their curriculum with the employer in mind.
That’s a big emphasis for us. At the end of the day we’re not successful if our graduates are not getting jobs that they’re happy with and can grow in. Everything we do is geared towards what we can do to make sure our graduates are successful when they land their first job.
What does a junior Java developer look like?
A junior developer is somebody that has a good grasp of the Java language, understands CS fundamentals, object-oriented programming, data structures and related concepts. They know enough to hit the ground running. In other words, I don’t have to sit down with them and teach them source control. They can teach themselves the particular technologies, frameworks, and architecture of the system they’re working on.
We expect our graduates to be able to write a web-based application from scratch using Java – which is actually more than I can say for my classmates and I when we graduated from a CS program. We try to give them as much exposure as possible to the tools that they’ll use on the job, like Eclipse and Git.
How long is the bootcamp?
Our program is 14 weeks.
The average bootcamp is 12 weeks, how did you decide that you need an extra two weeks?
A lot of the bootcamps are teaching Ruby, which is a little bit easier to learn than something like Java or .NET. Maybe 10 weeks or 12 weeks for Ruby is just fine, but with the extra complexities of Java and .NET, the additional two weeks is a big help for us. Beyond that we get the chance with the extra time to hit on some of the things that are increasingly being sought after by employers like data security and cloud configuration.
Did you register and become regulated with the state? Tell us about that process.
Yes. Having someone hand us a worksheet with all of the things that we should do to start a school was actually helpful. We were doing it in a fairly condensed time frame because by the time we realized that we needed to do this, we only had three weeks until the submission deadline.
A lot of the things that we had to do for the regulation process would have eventually come up anyway. Rather than waiting for a problem to create a policy, we were forced to do it right at the start. I don’t really have any complaints about that process.
The state gets a lot of flak for being a huge bureaucracy, but it was all fairly easy to understand. All in all, we actually appreciate that Ohio mandates that new schools go through this process, and we found it helpful to go through it.
That’s a really cool perspective. How many people are in the first cohort?
There are six students in this Java class, which is exactly the number we wanted. We intentionally kept it small because we wanted to use this as an opportunity to put the curriculum through its paces.
Can you tell us a little bit about the ideal student for Tech Elevator? Are you looking for somebody who has a little bit of experience or a total beginner?
All of our students go through an interview process. The kind of people we’re looking for are those that have a genuine interest in the field. Someone that says, “Well, I heard that coders can make a lot of money,” is not the type of person we’re looking for.
We’re looking for someone who’s history or background suggests that they’re interested in the work itself. Prior experience is not necessary to join Tech Elevator, but if students have shown the initiative to learn on their own, that’s certainly to their credit. In other words, someone who has experience with programming through self-teaching and would like to take it to the next level by attending an in-person bootcamp is ideal.
Is there a coding challenge during the interview?
No, there’s no coding challenge, but there is pre-work that we assign to everyone that is accepted. We look for folks that have a genuine interest in the field. We’re looking for people that can demonstrate creativity in their backgrounds, whether it’s being a musician, photographer or gourmet chef.
Someone that can overcome challenges and has fortitude to survive what can be a pretty intense experience is also important. Learning to code from scratch in 12 to 14 weeks is not easy and it’s not for everybody. There are a lot of different ways to learn how to code. We think the bootcamp model is a really good one, but it’s not necessarily for everybody.
How many hours a week are these students putting in?
Between class hours and after hours study time, it’s probably around 60 hours.
What have you found is your personal teaching style?
I try to keep a mix, so we do some lecture and of course students are assigned projects. It’s a very hands-on course.
On a typical day, we introduce a new concept in the morning, a little bit of lecture and group work and we walk through an example together. In the afternoon it’s labs, assignments, challenges and things like that.
As for my personal style, I like code. That was one of the reasons teaching a coding bootcamp was so appealing to me. I had become an application architect which was very interesting and challenging, but I was not coding very much on a day-to-day basis. I still get a kick out of writing a line of code.
In the classroom, we write code as much as possible. In other words, my lecture notes are comments in code. I don’t have PowerPoint slides or anything like that. We talk through an example and I write code with them and comment on it in the way that professors write something on the chalkboard.
Do you give assessments or tests at Tech Elevator?
During the admissions process there’s an aptitude test where we try to suss out natural problem-solving ability.
Throughout the course, we don’t have graded exams, but we do give a quiz first thing in the morning on the previous day’s material. As an instructor, it’s an opportunity gauge “Did you get it yesterday or are there still some areas that we need to go over?” We don’t do it for grading purposes.
What about attrition? If somebody fails a certain number of quizzes are they kicked out?
No, no because that’s not the point of the quiz. It’s not to pressure them, but more to get information from them.
That's a really great idea, to check in every morning to see where students are at.
We also give a survey every morning to assess the pace of yesterday’s class—was it too slow, just right, too fast, was it interesting? Again, we want to make sure that what we’re teaching is relevant and interesting.
Sometimes when you ask people, “Did you understand everything from yesterday?”they’re a little reluctant to raise their hand and say, “No, actually that didn’t make any sense at all.” By giving them a quiz you get real feedback.
How are you approaching job placement? Obviously, that’s one of the goals of the bootcamp. Do you have hiring partners?
We have over 40 local companies in our hiring network and we’re continuing to engage local companies as well as national placement firms. On Monday afternoons or evenings we have speakers come in to talk to students about careers in technology, interviewing advice and a variety of related topics as part of our Pathway Program™, a career development program we developed to run parallel with our coding curriculum. The speakers are all real-world developers working at the types of places our students want to work, or career professionals that can help build students’ soft skills.
We’re continuing to grow and there’s usually a couple new hiring partners every week. We’re also looking outside of the area to companies on the coast that we can partner with. It’s extremely important to us because at the end of the day, that’s why students are coming to us. We consider job placement as important as the actual Java or .NET curriculum.
I feel like a mother hen! These are my babies and I want them to all do well. I think they’re all great and I’m sure they’re going to do well in the workforce. I’m excited to see it happen.
Is there anything that you want to make sure our readers know about Tech Elevator?
One thing that we think is an advantage for us is being in the city of Cleveland. It’s kind of gotten a bad rap. It’s part of the rust belt renaissance, you know? Cleveland’s really got a good story to tell and from a bootcamp perspective it’s great because it's got a super low cost of living. Students who come here can get an apartment for $500 to $1000 a month and can live on less than they could at a bootcamp in San Francisco or New York.
We’ve seen a number of people come from outside the state to attend bootcamps in Ohio and about 50% are staying. Once people get exposed to what we have to offer on the North Coast, they like what they find. Cleveland was long overdue for a bootcamp so we’re really happy to be here and the city’s very excited about having us.
Are the majority of jobs in Cleveland Java- centered?
We chose Java and .NET because even nationally the most programming jobs are in Java or .NET by far. It’s kind of strange to us that everybody’s teaching Ruby. When you look at the number of jobs available, Ruby’s just a tiny fraction of Java or .NET.
In Cleveland or northeast Ohio, .NET actually has a slight edge over Java in terms of the number of jobs, but like everywhere else in the country, those are the two most prominent types of programming jobs.
Programming jobs are growing faster in the Midwest than in any other part of the country. Traditional companies that you don’t think of as software companies are employing tons of programmers. For example,Progressive Insurance is local and they employ over 3,000 developers. There’s a huge demand for developers here.
I think that's something that people forget about or don’t realize, that every type of industry is looking for developers.
One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about this field is that I have the ability to get into different industries and learn so much. I think good developers tend to be people who like to learn, so the opportunity to work in different industries is a very interesting and rewarding thing about being a developer.
Interested in learning more about Tech Elevator? Check out their Course Report page!