In addition to the classroom hours, students will get 20+ hours of career sessions through the Pathway Program™, which focuses on developing soft skills and connecting you to the right companies through events like Employer Matchmaking. 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
- September 2018 Coding Bootcamp News + Podcast
- Using the GI Bill for Coding Bootcamp: Tech Elevator
- August 2018 Coding Bootcamp Podcast + News Roundup
In PersonPart Time38 Hours/week1 Week
This course will teach participants the concepts and practical tools behind modern front-end development using the Angular Framework. This course is for experienced programmers who are new to TypeScript and Angular. You will learn how to create Angular Components, Services and Pipes and how to design your application to take advantage of Angular's front-end architecture. You will also learn Angular testing techniques so you can test your code while creating your application.
- Start Date
- January 7, 2019
- Class size
- Columbus, Cleveland
- Minimum Skill Level
- Knowledge of programming HTML and CSS experience
- Placement Test
More Start DatesJanuary 7, 2019 - ColumbusJanuary 7, 2019 - Cleveland
In PersonPart Time23 Hours/week1 Week
- Start Date
- November 5, 2018
- Class size
- Columbus, Cleveland
- Minimum Skill Level
- Placement Test
- Start Date
- January 14, 2019
- Class size
- Cincinnati, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Cleveland
- Financing available through Skills Fund.
- Tuition Plans
- $7,750 due on day 1 of the bootcamp, $7,750 due in week 8 of the bootcamp
- Minimum Skill Level
- Prep Work
- 30-40 hrs
- Placement Test
More Start DatesJanuary 14, 2019 - ClevelandMay 13, 2019 - ClevelandSeptember 16, 2019 - ClevelandJanuary 14, 2019 - CincinnatiMay 13, 2019 - CincinnatiSeptember 16, 2019 - CincinnatiJanuary 14, 2019 - PittsburghMay 13, 2019 - PittsburghSeptember 16, 2019 - PittsburghJanuary 14, 2019 - ColumbusMay 13, 2019 - ColumbusSeptember 16, 2019 - Columbus
- Start Date
- January 14, 2019
- Class size
- Cincinnati, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Cleveland
- Financing available through Skills Fund.
- Tuition Plans
- $7,750 due on day 1 of the bootcamp, $7,750 due in week 8 of the bootcamp
- Minimum Skill Level
- Prep Work
- 30-40 hrs
- Placement Test
More Start DatesJanuary 14, 2019 - CincinnatiMay 13, 2019 - CincinnatiSeptember 16, 2019 - CincinnatiJanuary 14, 2019 - ColumbusMay 13, 2019 - ColumbusSeptember 16, 2019 - ColumbusJanuary 14, 2019 - ClevelandMay 13, 2019 - ClevelandSeptember 16, 2019 - ClevelandJanuary 14, 2019 - PittsburghMay 13, 2019 - PittsburghSeptember 16, 2019 - Pittsburgh
In PersonFull Time1 Week
[2 days] Professional Scrum Master (PSM) is a 2-day course that covers the principles and (empirical) process theory underpinning the Scrum framework, the Scrum process and the role of the Scrum Master. These are foundational insights upon which the rules and roles of Scrum are explored and discussed. Professional Scrum Master is THE cutting-edge course for effective Scrum Masters! The focus on the Scrum Master role includes advanced thinking tools for servant-leadership and behavioral shifts, working with people and teams, coaching and facilitation, and scaling Scrum.
- Start Date
- October 25, 2018
- Class size
- Minimum Skill Level
- Placement Test
Tech Elevator Reviews
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Our latest on Tech Elevator
The coding bootcamp industry is always evolving, so at Course Report we closely follow news and announcements in the coding education space. In September we saw a lot of interesting new data around women in tech and how coding bootcamps are increasing accessibility for underrepresented groups. We also read about new apprenticeship initiatives, heard from students about their experiences, and founders told us about taking bootcamps in new directions. There were also articles about the impact of bootcamps on the education industry as a whole, and advice about finding a job after bootcamp.Continue Reading →
As more coding bootcamps are approved to accept GI Bill benefits, veterans are taking the opportunity to learn to code. But why is coding a good fit for veterans, and how do their skills and experience from the military transfer over into tech? We asked veterans and current students at Cleveland coding bootcamp Tech Elevator – Justin Orgeron (Marine Corp ‘96-’04), Brian Siebert (Army Police ‘07-’14), and James Tanner (Coast Guard ‘10-’15) – about the similarities and differences between their military bootcamps and learning to code at Tech Elevator, plus tips for using the GI Bill.
What is your background in the military and beyond, and how did your career path lead you to wanting to learn to code?
Jamie: My military background is in the United States Coast Guard. I started on a boat in the Caribbean on a 378 in 2010, and ended up going to rescue swimmer school.
I left the military in 2015, and applied my GI Bill benefits to an MBA program at Case Western Reserve. I graduated in December 2017, and started applying to jobs, while looking to start my own tech company. There was a shortage of technical people here in Cleveland, and after trying to find a CTO for a while, I decided to use my GI Bill to learn tech skills myself. I reached out to Tech Elevator, and found they accepted the GI Bill so I knew that their Java bootcamp was going to be my next journey.
Brian: I served in the Army National Guard for seven years as a military police officer. I was deployed to Iraq in 2009, and Afghanistan in 2013. I went to school at Cleveland State and Kent State between my two deployments. I bounced around a little bit with different majors, but wasn't really sure which direction I wanted to go.
After the military, I was working at a casino as a Table Games Supervisor. But it wasn't much of a challenge and I wanted to explore my options. I have a few friends in the tech industry so I did some online coding courses and enjoyed it. I was planning to go back to Cleveland State for a computer science degree when I found out about Tech Elevator’s Java class. At 30, I figured a 14-week bootcamp would be more efficient and having the GI Bill help pay for it was a huge benefit.
Justin: I was in the Marine Corps from 1996 to 2004. My specialty was a 0844, which is fire direction control for field artillery. When I left the military, I went to school in Louisiana for a few months, but that was interrupted by Hurricane Katrina. I ended up working overseas as a Program Manager for large federal IT contracts for 10 years. I managed teams of developers, saw the cool work they were doing, and decided I wanted to do more of that.
I created a couple of websites which blew up in a semi-big way. When I returned to the US, I felt I was paying developers for tasks I could do myself. I played around with coding for most of my adult life, but I never really got anywhere with self-teaching. When my wife and I moved to Cleveland, I came across Tech Elevator’s .NET class. When I first applied, they were not accepting the GI Bill, but luckily after I started the program, they were approved by the VA for its use. They helped me put in the paperwork for the GI Bill and backdated it to my first start date. So it ended up being very fortuitous.
It sounds like you all used the GI Bill for traditional education as well as bootcamp. How important is the GI Bill, especially for programs like coding bootcamps?
Jamie: This is a great question I find myself thinking about a lot. Justin and I both already had MBAs and used our GI Bill, which is great. But I think that opening up the GI Bill to coding bootcamps specifically, is a huge seismic and fundamental shift that needed to happen. The marketplace is ripe for it – if you look at where jobs are heading, tech is the place to be. I believe that as long as coding bootcamps meet certain criteria, then that’s where veterans should go. I think vets are a perfect fit for coding.
Brian: I used the GI Bill at college prior to Tech Elevator, and that was definitely beneficial, and relieved a lot stress. Knowing that my tuition is taken care of, and I won’t have a big loan to pay back when I graduate, means I can focus on my schoolwork and on getting a job after Tech Elevator.
Justin: The GI Bill has been incredible for me. I've taken advantage of the Montgomery GI Bill, vocational rehab through the VA, and when the Post 911 GI Bill came out, I quickly signed up for that. I used it for my MBA and for two graduate certificates from Villanova. Now I'm using the last dregs of it at Tech Elevator – I still have a couple of thousand dollars left.
I wanted to echo what Jamie said about bootcamps accepting the GI Bill. This is something that's needed to happen for the last four or five years. I know the VA’s concern has always been, “Are veterans getting their money's worth from a program?” and “Are bootcamps preparing vets for a career, not just a next job?” As long as due diligence is being done on the bootcamps themselves, I think it's a wonderful thing that the VA has opened the GI Bill to so many of them.
For veterans who haven't used the GI Bill before, could you outline the process of using the GI Bill for bootcamp?
Justin: This has changed over the years. The VA has made huge strides in making it easier to sign up for courses, and more courses are getting approved. The website eBenefits is a tremendous resource for walking you through the GI Bill step-by-step. My advice to anybody who’s doing it for the first time would be to sign up for eBenefits, because they walk you through each aspect. You don't even have to mail in anything. Most well-run coding bootcamps will have somebody on staff who is very familiar with the process.
Jamie: I would add that when you meet with a bootcamp – and we all had this experience – if you're thinking about using the GI Bill to cover any variation, whether it's Montgomery or Post-9/11, really make sure that the bootcamp team itself has an idea of how the Bills work and a general direction, because confusion around that can add a lot of stress to a veteran. Like Justin said, at this point when you use of the GI Bill, there are only a few forms to fill out. It's not a long process – it took me maybe 15 minutes to do it. Just find a bootcamp that cares about veterans and knows the process – that's going to be the place for you.
How is Tech Elevator going for you so far?
Brian: In a coding bootcamp, we learn a ton in a short amount of time. At the end of the day, I go home and continue to learn. There are a lot of valuable resources out there, and instructors give us even more reading material. The instructors are always available if we have any questions or need extra help.
At Tech Elevator, we also have a tutor, who can meet with students one-on-one to go over homework, answer questions, or do practice interviews. I was very impressed with the professionalism of the instructors and of the school in general. It's a lot of work and a lot of long nights, but definitely worth it. I think it'll be very beneficial for my future career. I'm excited to get out there and land a job.
Justin: It's a lot of information to learn in a very short amount of time. There's a part of you that can't wait for it to be over and another part of you that wants it to go on for another six months. The joy of software development is that there is always something new to learn. The breadth of knowledge out there is incredible, so you will never learn everything. Tech Elevator does a wonderful job condensing the material down to ensure you learn the most important parts. When we finally get out of here at 7pm, we go home and study some more. You start the next day smarter than the day before, which is all anybody can really ask for.
Jamie: My experience at Tech Elevator has been similar to a military bootcamp, except it’s not as physical. It's really like drinking out of a firehose and you try to digest as much as you can – a lot of veterans would relate to that aspect. As Justin said, you're never going to learn everything you need to know, especially in this industry. There are so many languages, applications, and nuances to learn. It's really just putting one foot in front of the other, taking it slow, grinding on. It's crazy that we've come this far and can actually build real applications that do something and don’t just look pretty on the screen. That's the awesome part of it.
How do you feel your experience in the military and in military bootcamps prepared you for the intensity of a coding bootcamp?
Brian: The military teaches you a lot of discipline. Military basic training consists of a lot of routines, and it’s the same thing with a coding bootcamp. You go to class, you have your lesson, you have your projects, your homework, and then you have to make sure you continue to search and do extra studying on the side as well. So the military teaches discipline and you definitely need that at Tech Elevator. But if you push yourself, you can definitely do it.
Jamie: Justin and Brian probably had tougher bootcamps than I did! But I think that when you go through bootcamp in the military, honestly, it's really just confusion one day after another. You wake up and don't know what your day is going to look like, except for a lot of push-ups and sit-ups. That adds stress in a way that really prepares you for life in the military. Then as you go through the military, you experience more stress, and you learn to deal with that stress and compartmentalize it, which prepares you not only for coding bootcamp, but also for life in general.
As I learn to code, I like to compartmentalize every task and deal with the stress of it. I look at the next task in front of me, get through it, and keep on grinding. If we need help from our classmates, then we know we’re all in this together. Just like in a bootcamp at your barracks, you're going through it with people and you get through it with people – that's what the correlation was for me.
Justin: Like Jamie said, in a military bootcamp, you have absolutely no control. You're at the whim of the day's events. Whatever gets thrown at you, you do have to deal with. At a coding bootcamp, you'll find that to be true as well. The Marine Corps has a motto "Improvise, Adapt and Overcome." Those skills are absolutely necessary in the military and beyond – if you can get good at those, it sets you up for pretty much everything else in life.
Jamie, Justin and Brian of Tech Elevator share their collective military and coding bootcamp experiences.
Do you find overlap in the skills you developed in the military and programming? Did you learn anything technical in the military?
Jamie: My first task on a Coast Guard boat was to map out all the boat systems. I continued that throughout my Coast Guard career working on Coast Guard assets. If a system went down on a boat, I had to figure out where that system was and figure out what happened. In coding as well – if something goes wrong, you’ll probably have three or four places to check for an error. Coding is about identifying a problem, then figuring out the solution.
Brian: As a military police officer, I didn't have much experience related to coding. But one thing that I believe all veterans have is a “never quit, don't like to lose” attitude. I think that will help a lot going to a bootcamp because nobody likes to lose. Especially veterans, we are definitely very determined individuals.
What have your favorite projects been so far at Tech Elevator?
Jamie: My final capstone project. All the projects were fun and challenging, but this one brings in everything we've learned from database development to back end development to front end development.
Visitors to Cleveland can use our site to create a unique itinerary, or we can create one for you based on your preferences. Seeing it all come together, and knowing that my team is building something that hasn’t been seen yet is pretty exciting.
Brian: My favorite project is our final capstone project. We’re a group of five students and we've been working on it for two weeks. It's a fully functional door-to-door sales app. I thought of this application because I have a buddy who is a financial advisor, who goes door-to-door asking people if they're interested in talking about their 401Ks. I asked him how he keeps track of all the houses he visits, and he said, “Just pen and paper.” I was like, 'Wow, it could be a lot more efficient than that." It's definitely exciting to see it come to life, and see all the different pieces of the puzzle come together.
What are your plans are when you graduate Tech Elevator?
Jamie: When I graduate, I want a job that will utilize my MBA, my sales experience, and my tech experience. I’ll continue to build my own application – a scheduling app for families that links to different networks like babysitters and friends. Hopefully I can launch and get funding for that app and make that my full-time job!
Justin: I'm looking for a company where I can get some firm foundations and best practices on top of what we've learned at Tech Elevator. I'm coming from management roles, but I don't want to go back to management for a couple of years – I just want to do software development.
Brian: I’ll continue to learn and get a job in the field. I would like to be able to help others on the side, doing websites and web applications. My sister is a personal trainer and has her own website and blog, so I want to help her with it. I think that'll be pretty fun.
Is Tech Elevator prepping you for jobs and interviews?
Jamie: That’s something that Tech Elevator does a great job with. Starting in week one, we start the Pathway Program, which is designed to help us get jobs. I think the amount of job opportunities and interviews I'm getting are a testament to that program. To be honest with you, I am hearing more interest from companies now than I did after completing my MBA. I think that says something about the tech community at large, but also Tech Elevator specifically.
Justin: I've hired hundreds of veterans and I tell them that many times, the bar in the civilian world is set absurdly low compared to military life. It's not hard to excel coming into the civilian world if you take the mindset and the discipline from your military life and apply it to the civilian world. There are a lot of similarities. You're working with a team in order to do something larger than yourself.
Coding bootcamps are the future of the tech industry. More and more employers are starting to recognize the fact that there are only so many computer science graduates coming out every year. If they want local, homegrown talent, bootcamps are the answer to fill that demand.
What advice do you each have for other veterans who are deciding if tech or a coding bootcamp should be their next career step?
Jamie: The tech industry is growing and has a shortage of talent, so it's worth a look. You must have a conversation with the coding bootcamp you’re researching (or alumni/anybody familiar with them). Second, you should take some online coding classes. For Tech Elevator, we did some free pre-course work on Free Code Camp before the bootcamp started. So if you’re on the fence about it, dive into coding a little bit. If all those check out for you, it's time to make that jump. Our futures are bright – I would recommend it for everybody.
For vets specifically, you have worked in dynamic team situations, which is what coding requires. Coding bootcamps put you in these teams to conquer these huge challenges, and vets have done that on a regular basis. I hope more and more veterans take advantage of coding bootcamps and the GI Bill.
Brian: Like Jamie said, talk to people. If you know anyone in the tech field, ask them about it. There are plenty of resources out there to explore. Tech Elevator has a free open house where you can come in and ask questions. They even have a former student at the open house who will share their experience. There are plenty of options out there. So, if you’re interested in tech and you're unfulfilled in your current career, a coding bootcamp is definitely a great opportunity.
Justin: For veterans specifically: if you just need to know how things work, if you know that your MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) isn’t directly applicable to civilian life and you’re looking to do something different; if technology really excites you and you want to learn how to create things, then software development is a wonderful industry to get into and the bootcamp model is a wonderful way to achieve that goal. If you like to learn and create, then you'll find a lot of similarities between military life and software development in the civilian world. Then, find a bootcamp that will support veterans and understand how to communicate to employers exactly what veterans bring. In addition to what they're learning at the bootcamp, the work ethic and experience that comes with a veteran is also very helpful.
We are rounding up all of the most interesting bootcamp industry news that we read and discussed at Course Report in August! This month we heard about a $43 million fundraise and a big acquisition, we saw the decline of CS degrees in the tech job market, we read about a bunch of interesting alumni who were featured in the news, we looked at how coding bootcamps can help us avoid “robogeddon,” and we celebrated an initiative teaching women in prisons to code. Plus, we’ll talk about all of the new bootcamps in August and our favorite blog posts!Continue Reading →
So you’re thinking of hiring a coding bootcamp graduate, but not sure how to approach it. After speaking with 12 real employers from companies like Cisco, Stack Overflow, and JPMorgan Chase, we’ve compiled the best advice and lessons learned when hiring a coding bootcamp graduate. Following these steps will help you build a diverse, open-minded, loyal engineering team that finds creative solutions to software challenges. If you’re a prospective bootcamp student, this is also for you – these employers also explain why they hire coding bootcamp grads!Continue Reading →
With companies like Google, Uber, and Amazon opening offices in Pittsburgh, Tech Elevator has added their newest campus to this growing tech scene. The campus is led by Justin Driscoll, who brings 15 years of experience with the Pittsburgh Technology Council and a wealth of connections in the tech industry to his role as Tech Elevator’s Pittsburgh Campus Director. Justin tells us about Pittsburgh’s “third renaissance” as it becomes a tech-focused city, which technologies Pittsburgh students will learn, and which companies are excited to hire junior developers from Tech Elevator.
Tell us about your background and how you got involved with Tech Elevator.
I got to know Tech Elevator in my previous role as the Head of Talent Acquisition and Talent Development at the Pittsburgh Technology Council. I spent almost 15 years at the Technology Council working with the Pittsburgh technology community and helping companies large and small with their workforce and talents needs. I met the CEO of Tech Elevator, Anthony Hughes, in that role. I spent some time chatting with him and others on the Tech Elevator team and it was really a natural evolution to move into this role as the Campus Director for the Pittsburgh campus.
As Campus Director, my role is to represent Tech Elevator in the Pittsburgh tech community and ensure that we have a healthy employer network so that our students get the jobs they’re looking for after graduation. I spend time bringing employers into the Tech Elevator network, and also inviting employers to come in as volunteer mentors, speak on panel discussions, and do mock interviews with our students.
Tech Elevator already has established campuses in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. Why is Pittsburgh is a great place for Tech Elevator's latest campus?
Like the other Ohio campuses, Pittsburgh has a large need for software developers. According to Burning Glass in 2017, there were over 6,500 computer science and IT-related positions posted in the Pittsburgh market. But there are only 600 to 700 computer science graduates coming out of regional universities like the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon.
So with this great need for software developers, companies are looking at alternative education options and avenues to find qualified talent. And Tech Elevator provides that. Tech Elevator focuses on markets in areas where there's a great disparity between the number of available jobs and computer science graduates.
Our first Java class starts May 29th and we are excited!
I'm interested to hear more about the tech scene in Pittsburgh. What types of tech companies are operating there?
Pittsburgh has historically been known for its heavy manufacturing presence; steel, glass, plastics, etc. Today we're known for things like self-driving cars, robotics, big data and artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity. Pittsburgh is going through its “third renaissance” as we would say here. As that renaissance continues in tech and information jobs, we're seeing a great need in the tech sector from companies of all backgrounds.
There’s a huge financial services market in Pittsburgh. Large institutions like PNC Bank, Bank New York Mellon, Federated Investors, and many others have huge IT teams here and are all adopting software and big data to give more technology options to their customers. They need programmers to do that.
Healthcare is another area which needs tech workers. Two large healthcare systems, the University Pittsburgh Medical Center and Highmark, are both incredibly tech-driven and hire a lot of developers.
Then, of course, the big name tech firms are here like Google, Uber, and Amazon. Amazon has a team of 150 people, Google has around 500 to 600, Uber has 500 to 600, and those teams are growing. Pittsburgh's tech scene is really exciting and continues to evolve.
I didn't realize there were so many big names there. Why do you think that shift towards tech has happened? Why are all these big tech companies coming to Pittsburgh?
There are a number of reasons. We have great access to talent here in Pittsburgh. We have 40 regional universities around southwest Pennsylvania, including Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, which both have great reputations around the world.
The other reason is the low cost of living in Pittsburgh, compared to the East and West Coasts. If you look at the price of a home in San Francisco or New York compared to Pittsburgh, the numbers are just staggering. Pittsburgh is made up of small neighborhoods, and people enjoy the characteristics that each different neighborhood has. You can live in one part of Pittsburgh and feel like you're in a totally different place.
The low cost of living, the access to talent, the ecosystem that is being built here, and the small town feel in a large city is really hard to beat. When you work in the tech sector, you really get to know everyone. It's a great way to network and build a great community.
There's at least one other coding bootcamp in Pittsburgh – what will make Tech Elevator stand out amongst the competition?
Tech Elevator prides itself on a number of things.
We will have three full-time instructors in Pittsburgh, who come straight out of industry and have been coding right up until the day they come to teach at Tech Elevator. We average around 20 years of experience for all of our instructors across all four campuses. It’s really invaluable for our students to learn from people with such a wealth of real-world experience, and to get an understanding of what they will be doing day-to-day on the job.
Secondly, we'll have a full-time Pathway Program Director here in Pittsburgh. You can think of Tech Elevator as a two-sided coin: one side is the technical training that students receive from our instructors; the other side is the Pathway Program which involves access to employers in the tech sector, practice interviews, resume writing, and polishing up LinkedIn profiles. We spend a lot of time, often one-on-one, with students, preparing them and making sure that when they leave Tech Elevator, they are code ready and career ready. We were just named the number one bootcamp in the country for job placement at 89% and we intend to exceed that over the coming months and years.
What neighborhood is the campus in and why did you choose that area?
We are in the Manchester section of the Northside. We looked at a lot of different office spaces around town and we found a great building called the House of Metal. It has a lot of character, it's easy to get to, has free parking, and easy access. There are a lot of really exciting things happening in tech on the Northside. We wanted to stay close to downtown and be in the urban center. That allows staff, students, and employers to have easy access to the campus and to be part of the tech community.
Tech Elevator will call Pittsburgh’s House of Metal home, including large classrooms, common collaborative space and impressive views on the rooftop deck.
What's the actual classroom like?
We have our own space with two classrooms, a big kitchen area, and a big common area. Instructors will have an instruction room with lots of whiteboards. We try to create a great environment for students to learn, but also to have collision moments where they can meet with other students, employers, and instructors. We put a lot of time and thought into making sure the space is very accommodating to students and their learning styles.
The Pittsburgh campus will actually be very similar to the Cleveland campus, which is really the Tech Elevator flagship campus. We're using that as a model to make the Pittsburgh campus and other campuses stand out from a design standpoint.
How many students can you accommodate and what is the student:instructor ratio?
Our model is designed to be 12:1 student to instructor ratio. For our first cohort we will have just 14 students – from experience, we know that limiting the first cohort to 14 gives those students a great experience as our local instructors ramp up. We want to make sure we do it right.
At full capacity, we'll have 36 students starting the bootcamp every 14 weeks. Two lead teaching instructors plus another instructor who will work with both classes and do one-on-one mentoring. We bring in employers who act as our mentors as well – we really try to engage our employer network to volunteer and work with our students throughout the cohort.
At the Ohio campuses, Tech Elevator students can choose between learning Java or .NET. Will you be teaching the exact same curricula in Pittsburgh?
For the first cohort, we’ll launch with the Java curriculum. By Fall 2018, we'll teach both Java and .NET.
For the first cohort, the curriculum will be identical to the other markets. In-between every cohort, the instructors from all the Tech Elevator campuses work with our Chief Academic Officer, David Wintrich, in Cleveland to give feedback. We get feedback from our employers to make sure we're making tweaks to the curriculum as needed – it’s very employer driven and never stays stagnant.
Who is the ideal student for Tech Elevator Pittsburgh?
Students come to Tech Elevator with many different backgrounds and many different career goals, and use Tech Elevator as a bridge to get to a new season of life. In their first career, they might have hit a roadblock or never really reached their career goals after college or technical training. When they hit that roadblock and say, "Now, what do I do?" Tech Elevator is that "now what." It's that bridge to help them get to a second or third career and they really use us to land a job very quickly after graduation.
We talked about the sort of tech companies that are in Pittsburgh, but what types of companies are actually looking to hire junior developers?
Already we have seen a huge demand for junior developers from companies like FedEx, PNC Bank, Defense Contractors, consulting firms, and health care – which really justifies our decision to come to Pittsburgh. In fact, two of our Pittsburgh employers are already going to our Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati campuses to hire graduates because they couldn't wait until August 31st when the first Pittsburgh class graduates – which really is a good sign!
We have a two-day matchmaking event that takes place towards the end of the 14 weeks where we invite employers to interview our students for jobs.
For complete coding beginners in Pittsburgh, what kind of meetups or events would you recommend?
Tech Elevator holds free coding workshops and meetups as well as monthly Open Houses for people to learn about the program, see the space and meet the team. Throughout the application process, we spend a lot of time talking with students and walking them through that process to make sure Tech Elevator makes sense for them. It’s a big commitment, so we want to make sure it’s the right time in their lives. Our website techelevator.com is loaded with information as well.
Outside of the 14-week coding bootcamp, Tech Elevator hosts free workshops for students to get a feel for basic programming concepts.
Is there anything else you want to add about the Pittsburgh campus?
It's a really exciting time to be in Pittsburgh right now. We're at the epicenter of this tech renaissance and it's just beginning. When I started working in the tech sector in 2002, the conversation was very different. It’s staggering to watch the evolution of the tech sector in Pittsburgh over the past 15 years.
Tech Elevator is really excited to be part of this and to be able to fulfill the needs of the Pittsburgh workforce. Not only can students land their first job after Tech Elevator, but we will hopefully set them up for a career in Pittsburgh. We're excited to be here.
A lot happened in the world of technology education in February 2018! In case you missed it, we put together a roundup of all the coding bootcamp news we found interesting at Course Report. We read about government support for bootcamps and vocational education, we heard about companies training their employees at bootcamps, we saw coverage on the debate between colleges and bootcamps, and there was an in-depth article about the pros and cons of income sharing agreements. We also enjoyed hearing about the achievement of bootcamp grads, and what sort of initiatives are helping underrepresented groups get into tech! Plus, check out our updates about new bootcamps and campuses.Continue Reading →
Rebecca was a high school math teacher for 4 years before deciding to pick up coding. Inspired by her programmer mom, Rebecca went to Tech Elevator’s Women, Wine & Web Design event in Columbus, Ohio to dip her toes into the coding bootcamp world. She really enjoyed it, and enrolled in Tech Elevator’s full-time Java bootcamp. Rebecca tells us about her experience learning to code, how she landed her job as a tech consultant at Cardinal Solutions, and why it’s so important to her to encourage more women to get into tech!
What is your pre-bootcamp story?
I went to Ohio State and studied math because I really enjoyed math classes in high school. I then tutored and taught college classes as a TA because I loved helping people learn; and I got a lot out of it. So I decided to go to graduate school to be a teacher. I made lifelong friends and enjoyed my students, but it turned out that teaching wasn’t the profession for me. After four years of teaching high school math, I started looking for different challenges.
What motivated you to start coding?
My mom was also a math major and then went into programming. I looked to my mom and said, "We have similar interests in math, maybe that extends to programming." I did a little research by going to Tech Elevator’s Women, Wine & Web Design event in Columbus, Ohio.
Tech Elevator’s coding bootcamp had been on my radar since I started searching for how to get into software development. My mom actually heard a commercial on the radio for Tech Elevator on NPR – so that planted the seed and I jumped at the chance to try it out. At the Women, Wine & Web Design event, I got to try out a little bit of HTML and CSS, and I really enjoyed it.
Did you start learning to code on your own before you did Women, Wine & Web Design at Tech Elevator?
I took one programming class in college, but I didn’t remember much.
As a young teenager, I had a MySpace account, and if I wanted a sparkly background or something like that, I would copy and paste from somebody else’s HTML code and tweak it. When I went to the Women, Wine & Web Design event, it felt kind of familiar. I had definitely played with HTML before, but I was a 13-year-old with no idea of what I was doing.
Tell us about Women, Wine and Web Design. What tools did you learn?
When I went, it was two Tuesday sessions, which were 2 hours each. The instructors walked us through setting up our own websites – the HTML and the corresponding CSS that added the style to the website. Before the class, we were given some prerequisite material to review as a reference point, which gave us an idea of what the content of the website would look like. We used really basic, free tools like Sublime Text.
At the end of the class, our final product wasn't hosted online, it was on a local machine. We could open the HTML file in on our computer and click through our website.
Over 200 women attended Women, Wine & Web Design workshops in 2017.
Was it a unique experience for you to learn with all women?
Looking back, it was. As a teacher, I had a lot of female coworkers, but now as a developer I have almost none. It was a funny first experience with coding to work with all women, but I enjoyed it. We were all in the same boat – we didn't know anything and we all felt comfortable asking each other questions. There were a bunch of volunteers walking around to answer questions, so it was a comfortable atmosphere.
What made you decide to do the full immersive Tech Elevator bootcamp?
I wanted to get to work quickly. I looked into grad school, but it would be a two-year process. It would’ve been more than two years until I got a job. I really liked that Tech Elevator and the bootcamp model was only 14 weeks. Tech Elevator also has a high job placement rate so I was hoping that I'd have a job soon after graduation – and I did!
Did you consider any other bootcamps or were you sold on Tech Elevator?
I was pretty sold on Tech Elevator. Although Women, Wine & Web Design was an isolated event, I did do my research on other bootcamps. Tech Elevator appealed to me the most because I already had a sense of the instructors’ personalities and my expectations were set from the event.
I also wanted to stay local and the reason that I went to a bootcamp was to change careers and get a job. With Tech Elevator, I was pretty positive I was going to get a job afterward, which was the most important thing to me.
Did you go through the full application and interview process at Tech Elevator?
Yeah, I did have to go through the full interview process. Compared to grad school, which required pages and pages of information, Tech Elevator’s application was simple. It was a quick aptitude test. Most of us had zero coding experience, so they don't expect you to know that much about programming. They just wanted to know that we were teachable. After that, I got a phone call for an interview.
It was nice already knowing some of the Tech Elevator staff members from Women, Wine & Web Design, and knowing the location and the classroom helped a lot.
Do you have any tips for the Tech Elevator application process?
Tech Elevator is looking for somebody who loves to learn; someone who is going to work hard under pressure. Because of the time constraint at bootcamp, you learn a lot of information really quickly. They're also looking for the right personality, which is someone who works well on a team.
Tell us about your cohort. Was it diverse?
We had around 36 students and our bootcamp was split between two different coding languages: Java and .NET. I did the Java bootcamp. Out of all the students, there were five women.
Age was all over the place. There were students who had just finished college and then there were people who had pretty long careers, but decided they weren't fulfilled anymore – some had been working for 30 years. It was really nice because we got to learn from each other – we all had such different experiences.
Rebecca with fellow students in the Elevate Space during a Pathway Program™ session.
Tell us about your learning experience. As a former teacher, what did you think about the bootcamp teaching style?
I think Tech Elevator did a great job teaching. My instructor knew so much and was really good at relaying that information. It's definitely intense because of the amount that you need to learn and be able to use, in such a short timeframe. It's not for everybody, but within those constraints, Tech Elevator does a lot with the time that they have.
At the beginning of the day, there’s a lecture with the whole class to teach us the information we needed for projects. We didn’t spend much time in a classroom because most of it is hands-on work. Three instructors are available to answer any questions. I wasn't on my own with the homework – I could always ask a classmate or an instructor.
How did Tech Elevator help you prepare for the tech job hunt? How did you transition from bootcamper to full-time developer?
That's one of my favorite parts of Tech Elevator – how well they prepare you for the job search. We had major support from their Pathway Program, which started the first day of bootcamp. It began with getting to know ourselves – what are my strengths, what can I talk about in an interview, what can I put on my resume that's going to really highlight what I’m best at etc.
We had homework assignments for the Pathway Program throughout the entire 14 weeks. The job search really kicked in at the end as the intensity of coding assignments mellowed out. We had a really unique experience where they brought employers to Tech Elevator to interview us. Tech Elevator helped us with resumes and interviewing, told us how to apply, and how to follow up. I learned so much about applying to jobs from Tech Elevator.
Tell us about your new job! How did you get the role? What was the interview process like?
The company I work for has a relationship with Tech Elevator, but I didn't meet them at Interview Day. I actually found them by Googling job postings in the area. I had a classmate who went to an interview there the day before I did, and he had great things to say about the company. It was a really quick process. I applied for the job on a Tuesday, I heard back from them on a Wednesday, scheduled an interview for Thursday and got a job offer on Friday!
It was super easy, but that timeline was not a normal experience!
Do you have any advice for bootcampers going through the job search?
Apply to a lot of jobs. Don’t just apply to one and consider it done. Tech Elevator suggested that we apply to three jobs a week. The people who got jobs the quickest applied to way more than three a week. Also, reach out and talk to people at the companies that you're applying to. Get to know more about the company before you interview.
What do you do day-to-day – are you learning on the job?
I work as a consultant at Cardinal Solutions, a consulting agency in Columbus. I’ve been working here for just over a month.
During the job interview, I asked if they had hired coding bootcamp students before because we have different knowledge and skill sets than somebody with a four-year college degree. It turned out that one of my interviewers was a bootcamp graduate who had been working at Cardinal for a few years. So the company understood my skill set and knew my limitations. My interviewer ended up being on my team and he was excited to help me get onboarded. He had a plan ready and provided me with resources to keep learning.
On a daily basis, I do pair programming with somebody who knows a little bit more about coding and the project. It’s been very helpful. My coworkers are really willing to answer questions and explain what they're doing and thinking. Sometimes I pair with the other new consultant who was also a Tech Elevator classmate – we work through code together and come up with answers to problems. Multiple people on the team have told us, "If you ever need any help, ask me." Coworkers constantly say, "Come work with me. I'll teach you about what I'm doing right now." So they've done an excellent job. I'm really happy.
Are you using Java at Cardinal Solutions? Have you had to learn new languages?
Do you feel confident in learning these new languages even though you may not have been taught them in Tech Elevator?
Yes. The learning you have to do on your own at Tech Elevator really prepares you for a new job. Because of how quickly we had to learn the material at Tech Elevator, I already had a lot of experience in how to Google good resources to use. I use a lot of Stack Overflow, and I'm learning how to use the documentation that Microsoft provides to answer questions as well. My confidence in learning on my own has increased tremendously since going to Tech Elevator.
What has been your biggest challenge or roadblock in this journey to learning how to code?
Getting comfortable with not knowing. As a teacher, you're the one person in the room who is supposed to know everything. And now I feel like I'm one of the people in the room who knows the least. So I had to get comfortable saying “I don't know,” and asking for help. That was a big transition.
Are you still connected with the Tech Elevator network?
Yes. Tech Elevator holds a regular happy hour meet and greet with other alumni, and I’m volunteering at the Women, Wine & Web Design event this year. I love volunteering with that event because there really aren’t a lot of women in technology and I'm not really sure why – I have read a couple of theories, but they don’t really make sense to me. I think women offer a unique perspective in the workplace and software development is definitely lacking in that.
What advice do you have for someone thinking about making a career change and attending a coding bootcamp?
Definitely go to meetups in your area. In Columbus, there's a great meetup community and so many software developers are willing and excited to share their knowledge and to help out. The next Women, Wine & Web Design event is in Cincinnati, Ohio on March 8, 2018.
I know that it takes a lot of bravery to quit your job and to put your trust into a whole new career that you really know nothing about. So to do that, I would say – have courage, but also work very, very hard.
Coding is not something that falls into your lap. Going through a bootcamp and getting a job takes a lot of work, studying, and practice.
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Tech Elevator has a track record of quality outcomes in Columbus and Cleveland, so we’re excited to see them expand to a new city – Cincinnati! We sat down with CEO and co-founder, Anthony Hughes, to learn more about their decision to open a new campus in Cincinnati, Ohio. We talk about what makes a successful expansion, why Java and .NET will dominate the Cincinnati curriculum, and get a sneak peek at the new Tech Elevator campus. Mark your calendars; their next cohort starts on October 2, 2017.
As the CEO and co-founder, what inspired you to start Tech Elevator?
I’ve worked in technology for a large part of my career on the business development side of things. During that time I developed great admiration for the individuals who were building the software applications. These folks were tackling really challenging problems and developing solutions to really help drive businesses forward using technology. Afterwards, I founded a mentoring program in partnership with MIT which supported promising entrepreneurs as they built tech start-ups. In both worlds, I got to see amazing things being built but I also witnessed first-hand the struggle to find tech talent. When the bootcamp model started on the coasts and started to get traction it was clear to me that the model could be translated to the tech talent needs of the Midwest. I paired up with my co-founders and we’ve been building ever since.
It’s been incredible to work in this space. It’s so gratifying to work with smart people, help them acquire valuable tech skills, and coach them into a new career.
Why does Cincinnati need a coding bootcamp?
We look closely at market needs when we consider expanding into additional markets. In Cincinnati last year, there were over 5,000 software developer positions advertised and many thousands more for software related roles. When you compare that to less than 400 computer scientists graduating from schools in the area, we knew had the opportunity to offer an incremental source of quality talent to fill the tech skills gap in the region. Cincinnati has a fast growing tech economy both in terms of large companies who are tech enabled, and tech-driven start-ups. However, the region’s ability to keep growing its tech economy is at risk because of low overall digital literacy and a shortage of tech talent.
We’ve seen a couple of bootcamps announce they’re closing, and these were schools that expanded really quickly – how are you preparing to move into a new market?
We’ve taken a very deliberate and steady approach to expansion. It’s one focused on quality and the ability to meet a real need in the market. It wasn’t until we had a proven model in Cleveland that we embarked on our first expansion. At that point we felt very comfortable that we had a high-quality curriculum in place, a proven teaching methodology established, and an effective career coaching process developed. That solid foundation enabled us to expand to the Columbus market a year ago and we’ve been able to make a big impact there quickly. The same logic extends to Cincinnati. We’ve got this career-focused model that’s proven to be highly effective and we’re proud that as a result Tech Elevator has some of the highest placement rates in the industry according to CIRR. We feel comfortable expanding to Cincinnati because we know we can deliver a high-quality experience with a high return on investment for our students.
The ROI is ultimately tied to students getting jobs in the field. To lay the groundwork for our launch in Cincinnati we’ve been building relationships with hiring partners in the area that are significant acquirers of tech talent. We’re now at a point where major hiring partners such as Progressive Insurance, Key Bank, JP Morgan Chase, PNC and Nationwide and others have hired multiple graduates and return consistently to Tech Elevator to hire more talent. Because of what we’ve been able to do for hiring partners in our other markets, we’ve been able to initiate new hiring relationships easily.
Tech Elevator has been teaching Java and .NET/C# skills for a while now - will the Cincinnati campus offer the same courses?
Yes. We’re a demand driven-program and are very pragmatic about what we teach. We want the skills acquired to lead to job placements for our students and that starts with teaching what the market wants. The tech talent needs in the Midwest, particularly on the enterprise side, are largely the same. Java and .NET/C# are the languages most often tied to larger enterprises and most often are the skills they are hiring for. In Cincinnati, companies like Kroger, US Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Anthem, GE Aviation, Great American Insurance and many others are looking for developers working in these languages.
What is the Cincinnati campus like? Is it in a co-working space? What neighborhood is it in?
We’re located at HCDC, which is a co-working space that provides 24/7 access and great event and conference facilities with dedicated classroom and tutoring space for our students. Students will be surrounded by other businesses and potential hiring partners – it’s an exciting facility to be a part of. The campus is located right next to Xavier University and between two key technology hubs of the city– Mason, an area with a lot of tech companies, and downtown. The location has free parking, is accessible for students and convenient for employers.
Tech Elevator Cincinnati will hold Java and .NET/C# classes at the HCDC building, a business incubator and co-working space in the area.
How many instructors will teach in Cincinnati? How many students do you usually have in a cohort?
Our initial cohort will be deliberately limited to 12 students to ensure a quality experience. At capacity, we’ll have 16-20 students in each program and we will have 3 instructors, a dedicated Campus Director, a dedicated career coach who oversees our Pathways Curriculum, and an Admissions Coordinator all in support of the students. The way that we grow is a very deliberate and steady pace – we don’t like to rapidly expand. We want the opportunity to grow the Cincinnati hiring network in a meaningful way and give students a really high-quality experience right out the gate.
We’ve built Tech Elevator with high-quality instructors who have significant industry experience. We require a minimum of 10 years of experience to teach but our instructor staff actually has an average of over 20 years experience. They come from leading banks like Key and the Federal Reserve, and Fortune 500 companies like Cardinal Health and Hewlett-Packard. When you are going through an intensive learning experience like the one we offer it makes a huge difference who your instructor is. We focus on finding instructors who are mentors at their core and are passionate about helping people enter a field that has given them so much professional satisfaction.
What kind of hours will successful students need to dedicate to Tech Elevator?
A typical student will be doing 60 to 70 hour weeks during the course of the program – this is a full-time commitment. Our perspective is that you will get out of the program what you put into it. If you are the brightest student and technical concepts come to you easily, that doesn’t mean you get to take your foot off the gas. It means you have an opportunity to do special projects and additional exercises on the side to really reinforce what you’re learning.
Our advice is to not sign up for Tech Elevator if you don’t plan to work hard. Making it through our program, gaining the skills that can set you up in the field as a junior developer, learning to code, and adding value from day one for an employer – that all requires hard work. We’re okay with telling applicants that Tech Elevator is one of the hardest challenges you’ll ever have. We want students that are committed, driven, and determined to exact the change in their lives and careers that can lead to satisfaction, enjoyment and career mobility. Those traits that we seek in our students – determination, drive, perseverance, a passion for technology and learning, and a real desire for growth – those are things that will equip them well as they go into the technology field.
How is your campus similar or different to the other Tech Elevator campuses?
The campus will have its own unique characteristics but the experience will be identical. We believe in a very consistent experience in terms of how we educate the students from a technical standpoint and how we prepare them from a career readiness standpoint. The consistent results that we have in both existing locations are a testament to the thoroughness of our process and the resources we put towards supporting students.
What meetups or resources in Cincinnati would you recommend for a complete beginner who wants to learn about coding bootcamps?
Tech Elevator hosts local open houses that are designed to give a big picture about the opportunities in tech and educate folks about the coding bootcamp industry. They are free to attend and informative. As people are trying to discover if this could be a good direction to take their career in I always encourage people to look at Codecademy, W3 Schools, and Edex and just start to tinker – there are some great free resources out there. If you’re interested and want to learn more – there are many resources to pique your interest to determine where your potential passions may lie.
We make significant investments in the communities that Tech Elevator has campuses in. We believe in giving back to the community. We host free educational events like our Intro to Coding workshop, because we genuinely believe these are wonderful careers for people passionate about tech and learning. If we can shine a light down the path to a career in technology and breath greater digital literacy into the community, that can only be a good thing for the cities we support.
Any other information you would like to share about Tech Elevator’s new Cincinnati campus?
We’ve been having great conversations with students in the region and are excited to meet more. If your readers or people they know are considering a career in software development we’d love to talk to them or host them at an Open House.
Amanda was a special education teacher for 10 years before deciding to make a change. She was ready to build her love of logic puzzles and problem-solving into a technical skillset, so she decided to join Tech Elevator’s .NET coding bootcamp in Columbus, Ohio! Learn what Amanda enjoyed about her Tech Elevator learning experience, how the “matchmaking” sessions helped shape her job search, and see how she landed a new role as a Business Intelligence Developer!
What were you up to before you decided to attend Tech Elevator?
Growing up, I really liked learning about any and everything. I was a linguistics major for a while because I loved learning about languages and about the world. I decided I wanted to help kids love to learn, so I went into special education. I taught middle school special education for just under 10 years.
I decided it was time for a change. I needed to learn something new, so I decided to try Tech Elevator. At my school, all of the teachers came to me when they were having trouble with their computers, or if they couldn't figure out how to make a spreadsheet work. I was comfortable with computers, but I didn't really have any experience coding before deciding to jump in.
How did you go from teaching special education figuring out that software development was a great career for you?
I’ve always liked logic puzzles, word games, and problem-solving skills, which is definitely a part of teaching, but I felt like that wasn't really being utilized as much as I wanted it to be. I heard about Tech Elevator on our local NPR station. I went to their website, and there was an aptitude test. I had about 10 minutes until my students were coming back to the classroom, and I thought, "What the heck, I'll just take the test and see how it goes." It was a lot of fun! It was a logic challenge, and I really enjoyed it. My students laughed at me because I thought it was fun to take a test and they think that's really ridiculous. So I took the test and went from there.
Did you try teaching yourself to code before deciding to attend Tech Elevator?
I didn't try to code at all before I was placed at Tech Elevator. They did send me pre-work to help get me ready – this consisted of links and resources to get your feet wet for three or four weeks. That was really the first coding that I ever did.
There are a lot of bootcamps now (and tons of ways to learn how to code) – why did you choose Tech Elevator?
I have a mortgage and two kids and didn't think it was really possible for me to go back to school for four years and not work full-time. So that was part of the reason I chose Tech Elevator.
I did some research to make sure that Tech Elevator was the real thing. I didn’t want a bootcamp that was going to take my money and not care about my success. I didn't really research a lot of other bootcamps because I was so impressed once I found Tech Elevator.
The price and location were reasonable, and their schedule worked with my schedule. Their placement rates were so high, the staff seemed really supportive, and all the reviews I read were really positive. The biggest factor in choosing Tech Elevator was looking at their job placement success. Because of my mortgage and two kids, I can't take six months to find a job. I needed to get working pretty quickly, so I was really impressed with their success rate in getting people into a tech career.
What was the Tech Elevator application and interview process like?
I took an online aptitude test, then I went to an open house to get to know the Tech Elevator team. The interview itself was a little under two hours and consisted of an hour-long discussion with Katie Detore, the Pathway Program Director for the Columbus campus. She asked me a bunch of questions about why I wanted to do Tech Elevator, the skills I had that would help me transition, my past experience, and how that would affect my coding career. Then there was another written aptitude test.
How many people were you learning with? Was your cohort diverse in terms of gender, race, and career backgrounds?
The whole cohort, both Java and .NET, was about 28 people. I was in the .NET cohort and our group had 12. There were 3 women in my .NET cohort. Out of the entire cohort of 28, I think we had people from about six different countries; I knew students from Jordan, Puerto Rico, Somalia, Ukraine, Brazil, Israel, and Syria.
In terms of backgrounds, my classmates had been landscape designers, accountants, bartenders, and tattoo artists. Others had tech backgrounds, like one woman who had been a developer in the past and then took 12 years off to raise children in the foster care system, and then was going back into programming. Another student was getting their master's degree in computer science, and also did Tech Elevator.
I was really impressed with the cohort because I think it speaks to the intensity of the interview process. My classmates, in general, were really impressive. They were fun to hang out with, they were easy to get along with, and they were ready to work, dive in, and move quickly, which meant that the whole program could move quickly. We didn't have to slow down for people who really couldn't cut it. Everybody was ready to really push and learn a lot quickly and that was fun.
Have you reflected on your experience learning to code as a woman in tech?
I know that Tech Elevator really tries to recruit a lot of women to the program. They held events like a viewing of a movie about women in technology and the gap. I’m aware that the gap for women in tech exists, but I didn't feel at any point that I was being treated any different because I was a woman. I'm pretty confident, and people treat me like I know what I'm doing because I act like I know what I'm doing even when I don't! I think that goes a long way.
Could you tell us about a typical day at Tech Elevator? Describe your learning experience!
At 9am, we took a survey to talk about how we felt about the previous day's lesson, giving the instructors feedback about pacing and how comfortable we felt with the material. After that survey, we took a quiz about the material from the previous day. The instructor would either go over questions that a lot of people missed, or jump right into the current day's material if everyone was feeling strong in those concepts.
Then, we had lecture until about noon. During lunch, there was usually an activity; for example, Katie would talk about a pathway skill like how to interview, advice on writing your resume, or using LinkedIn. We also had employer showcases where an employer would be invited to lunch and present about their company.
The afternoon was an opportunity to practice daily exercises, either individual or paired exercises. If you needed help, there were instructors available in their office. Sometimes you were finished quickly by 4pm. Other times, you’d really struggle and end up staying till 6 or 6:30pm. But you do what you need to do to get the code done.
Every couple of weeks, we were assigned a mini-capstone project where we had a couple of days working with a partner on a larger project. At the end of the whole program, we had two weeks to work with a group on a capstone project.
Did you have a favorite project that you built during that time?
Our final project, Tour Columbus, was pretty cool. My team of four people worked on building a website that helps users design an itinerary for a tour of Columbus, Ohio. If you’re visiting Columbus, you could create an itinerary and use a Google API to search for attractions within a certain radius of where your starting point was, and then you could add those attractions to your itinerary.
You could also find out more detailed information about those attractions and use the Google API to map a route for you for all of the locations on your itinerary. You could also look at the details of different attractions and put down comments and rate them. It was a pretty cool website and fun to make. I had a really good team so we worked really well together.
What technologies did you use to build that last project?
I was in the .NET cohort, so we used MVC and C#. I was mainly working in SQL Server so we had to write to the database. I worked a lot on the models and the controllers. I focused on how to get the information that the user was inputting and making sure we could write it to the database, and then pull that information as needed back out again. I also worked on the routing of information and the pathway through the website that users could take.
Amanda and her classmate work on
a mini-capstone project during the .NET cohort.
Tell us about your new developer role!
I am a Business Intelligence Developer (BI Developer) for a company called PriorAuthNow which helps facilitate the communication between doctors offices and insurance companies to get prior authorization for medications. As a BI developer, I'm working with our databases and helping pull information for the business side of our company, so that they can better make decisions for the company going forward. I'm enjoying it and I'm having a lot of fun. I really like the people I'm working with and I could not have done it without Tech Elevator.
How did Tech Elevator help you with your job search?
What was amazing about the Tech Elevator career placement were our “matchmaking sessions.” Tech Elevator arranges a group of employers who come to the classroom, we have 10-30 minute interviews with the employers we’re interested in, and those employers are actively looking to hire people out of the bootcamp.
These employers knew coming into the interviews what we were familiar with, so their expectations were to hire developers who may not have 6+ years of coding experience. There were big companies, small companies, and everything in between.
Out of 12 companies that I met with, six companies called me back and said, "We want a second interview." I ended up with two offers. It's nice to feel like you’ll not only have a job, but you’ll also have some options. I could not have done that without the matchmaking sessions because it's hard to get anybody to interview you if they don't meet you in the first place. It's easier to convince somebody you can do the work if you actually talk to them as opposed to just throwing out your resume.
Tech Elevator also did a lot to help get me ready for interviews. They had students do multiple practice interviews, including both general and technical interviews. They helped me feel prepared going into the job market.
Do you feel like a developer yet? How have you acclimated to your new job and career?
Tomorrow will be the end of my third week, and part of the reason I chose PriorAuthNow was because I got a chance to visit their workspace and really spend a couple of hours seeing what the company is like. I had a pretty good sense coming in that I was going to like the work environment, and that was one of the big reasons I chose this company over the other offers.
The other reason I chose this company was because I liked the people who I knew I would be working with. My boss, who I work directly with a lot, has really done a great job of mentoring me and making me feel like I can do it. I really enjoy my position.
Are you using all of the technologies that you learned at Tech Elevator in your role now?
I feel like Tech Elevator did a pretty good job preparing me with what I needed to know when I started my job. There's just so much to learn coming into a new position like this.
I'm mainly doing database work, so I'm using SQL server. I'm not actually using C#, but I am using skills that I learned at Tech Elevator. I need to be careful because although I like the database work a lot, I am not positive that that's the only thing I ever want to do. So I need to make sure that I am keeping up my C# skills so that I can branch off in a different direction in the future.
Do you have any advice for bootcampers who are in the job search currently?
My biggest advice is, don't get discouraged if you don’t land a job right away. There were a couple of times when I was convinced that no company was ever going to call me back and that I was going to get no offers. It can change in a flash. I had reached a point where I was very worried about getting a job, and the next day, I got calls from four companies saying they wanted second interviews.
So you can't let it get you down, and you have to stay positive because that certainly comes through in your interviews. If you feel like an impostor, and you let that come into your next interview that will show. If you don't have confidence, then a company won’t have confidence in you. So don't let yourself get discouraged, especially after hard technical interviews. Just because it's difficult, it doesn't mean that you did badly.
What has been your biggest challenge in your career change?
At the beginning, my biggest challenge was trying to change my set of tools. I had a good set of problem-solving and strategy tools for teaching, but figuring out how to get unstuck while coding requires a whole different set of skills. The instructors at Tech Elevator helped me develop those skills by working through problems, and not giving up.
Developing that toolbox of strategies to get unstuck was difficult, and took a lot of time and effort.
Have you stayed involved with Tech Elevator and other alumni?
Yeah, there was a happy hour last Friday where new students and alumni came to hang out! And every couple of weeks, people get together at Rev1 (where Tech Elevator classes are held) and play board games.
Do you have any advice for other students who are on the fence about attending a coding bootcamp?
My advice is, don't do it if you don't like a challenge. You’ve got to jump in and be willing to take a risk. If you're not a risk-taker, then this might not be the best career choice. It’s not only about the risk of changing careers, but also the risk-taking that’s involved in coding and web development as a field.
You have to be comfortable with the feeling of not knowing exactly what you're doing, and not feeling like you've got control over a situation because, in code, there are always things you don’t know. There are always things that you're not sure of, and that's okay. You have to accept that, but that's a feeling a lot of people aren't comfortable with. A lot of people want to be masters of what they know and they're not comfortable with the unknown. So my advice is to be a risk taker and be comfortable not knowing everything.
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!