The Iron Yard
As of July 20, 2017, The Iron Yard is no longer accepting applications. The Iron Yard is a technology education company that offers software development courses both in person, and through corporate training programs across the US. The school offers full-time and part-time immersive programs in Web Development. Beginners can choose from Web Development Basics or Interactive Web Development courses. For career changers, The Iron Yard's flagship bootcamp is the Web Development Career Path, which takes students from zero to job ready. Graduates of the Web Development Career Path will be well-versed in front end and back end fundamentals, and participate in The Iron Yard's Career Support program.
The Iron Yard team strives to create real, lasting change for people, companies, and communities by equipping a diverse workforce with 21st-century digital skills. Since it was launched in 2013, The Iron Yard has prepared thousands of students for careers in technology.
Recent The Iron Yard News
- 2017 End of Year News Roundup + Podcast
- November 2017 Coding Bootcamp News + Podcast
- October 2017 Coding Bootcamp News + Podcast
The Iron Yard Reviews
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Our latest on The Iron Yard
In our End of Year Podcast, we're rounding up the most interesting news of 2017 and covering all the trends, thought pieces, controversies and more. Many schools are hitting their 5 year anniversaries – a reminder that although there is a lot going on in this industry, it’s still nascent and there is still room for new innovative approaches to the bootcamp model. We’ve chosen the most defining stories, and it was a very eventful year – a couple of big bootcamps closed, a ton of new bootcamps launched, some schools were acquired, and other bootcamps raised money.Continue Reading →
On the Course Report Coding Bootcamp News Roundup, we keep you up to date with the blossoming coding bootcamp industry. This November, we're covering the WeWork/Flatiron School acquisition, over $2M in funding to various bootcamps, and why tech is booming in "Heartland" cities. Of course we also look at new schools, new campuses, and our favorite pieces to work on this month for the Course Report blog! Plus, is The Iron Yard back from the dead? Read the summary or listen to the podcast.Continue Reading →
October 2017 was a busy month for the coding bootcamp industry with news about growing pains in bootcamp outcomes, mergers, acquisitions, investments, a trend towards bootcamp B2B training, and diversity initiatives. To help you out, we’ve collected all the most important news in this blog post and podcast. Plus, we added 12 new schools from around the world to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
Need a rundown of everything that happened in the coding bootcamp industry this September? You’re in luck! We’ve collected all the most important news in this blog post and podcast. This month, we kept up with the status of the bootcamp industry, learned about how bootcamps are thriving in smaller markets, and explored different ways to pay for bootcamp. Plus, we added 7 new schools from around the world to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
Why do journalists and industry leaders think that two coding bootcamps are closing? And despite these “shutdowns,” why do companies like IBM still want to hire coding bootcamp graduates? We’re covering all of the industry news from August. Plus, a $3 billion GI Bill that covers coding bootcamps for veterans, why Google and Amazon are partnering with bootcamps, and diversity initiatives. Listen to our podcast or read the full August 2017 News Roundup below.Continue Reading →
Need a summary of news about coding bootcamps from July 2017? Course Report has just what you need! We’ve put together the most important news and developments in this blog post and podcast. In July, we read about the closure of two major coding bootcamps, we dived into a number of new industry reports, we heard some student success stories, we read about new investments in bootcamps, and we were excited to hear about more diversity initiatives. Plus we round up all the new campuses and new coding bootcamps around the world.Continue Reading →
Shane Sniteman graduated from The Iron Yard coding bootcamp 2.5 years ago and is now leading a team in his second job as a mobile app developer. After working in finance at a Big 4 accounting firm and in graphic design for financial publications, the realization that websites could more efficiently convey financial data spurred him to learn to code. Shane dives into his career trajectory since The Iron Yard, explains how the iOS app he built helped him land his first job for a music app company, and how he got headhunted for his second job at Bridgestone!
What were you doing before you decided to go to The Iron Yard? Describe your educational background and your last career path.
I went to Furman University in South Carolina and majored in political science and marketing. The day after I graduated, I got a job in finance at PricewaterhouseCoopers. I worked at PwC for two years and eventually got drawn to a more graphic design role for finance publications. My dad is a graphic designer, so growing up I picked it up from him. But given that I was at a finance company that didn’t necessarily have the best designers, they gave me a shot and I just learned from there.
I started not to like the whole huge corporate finance world and started thinking, "Hey, if I can make a website or an app that just shows this data, that would be much more valuable.” So that's what spurred the interest of coding.
Did you try to learn how to code on your own using online resources before The Iron Yard?
When you were deciding about changing careers, were you solely looking at coding bootcamps? Had you thought about a four-year degree?
I thought about a four-year degree probably for about a day. I had just finished four years of school, and once I started making money I didn’t want to go to school for another four years. I've always had a mindset that I can learn things very fast if I put my mind to it. You can learn something in a short time if you just go full force – I didn't need two to four years. After ruling out a four-year degree, it was either learn it on my own at night or quit and go to a bootcamp.
What other bootcamps were you looking at? Were you thinking about moving at all to go to a bootcamp?
There were only a couple of schools I had started researching because I had only heard of Dev Bootcamp in San Francisco. I interviewed with Dev Bootcamp and Turing School in Denver. I was fine with moving to attend either one.
How did you pick The Iron Yard? What stood out about the bootcamp?
I went to college in Greenville, South Carolina, which is where The Iron Yard started, and that was where the only class was when I first started. One of my friends had met the CTO Mason, who was an instructor at the time and told me about The Iron Yard. That spurred my interest because I was working in South Carolina at the time. I looked it up and found it was a lot cheaper than other bootcamps, plus they provided a housing option. The main thing that grabbed my attention was during the interviews, the staff members were way cooler, more down to earth, and made me feel way more comfortable about the whole process.
Other schools seemed to be more cut and dry/ yes and no – answer this coding question or not. I don't really like that approach because The Iron Yard was more like, "Hey, you don't have any coding experience. Can you get through this, push through, and not quit?" Long story short, they were just really cool.
Which Iron Yard courses did you do?
How many people were in your cohort for the front-end bootcamp? Was the cohort diverse?
There were about 15 people and it was definitely diverse in regards to career backgrounds, including quite a few graphic designers. It was about 70% men and 30% women.
Could you share a typical day – what was the learning structure for the front-end course?
From 9am to 12pm we had a lecture, then we had 30 minutes to an hour for lunch. We would then work from 1pm to about 5pm. I remember being there until 10pm at night, and sometimes even 1am. It was cool because the bootcamp housing was right down the street.
Did you have a favorite project that you worked on?
For our final projects, you could team up or work independently on any idea you wanted. My favorite project that I created was Get-A-Gig where musicians can find gigs at various venues. I’m a musician so I took a music idea and merged it with tech. I built half of the web app in that time while having Mason and other TA’s help. It was my favorite because, one, I came up with it myself, and two, it was what I showcased to employers after bootcamp.
Now, it's a full-blown iOS app. I built half of the web app in the front-end course, then I built the whole iOS app while I was in the iOS course in Atlanta. It currently has a few thousand users – I haven't marketed it, and it's going strong. Get-A-Gig ended up getting me the job here in Nashville at a music festival app shop.
How did The Iron Yard prepare you for job hunting and interviewing? What advice did they give you?
The Iron Yard provided advice on how to make your resume relevant, and what type of terminology to use. When making a website, they advised us on what you should and shouldn’t put on GitHub. I also led the cohort in encouraging each other to leave recommendations on Linkedin. At the time, The Iron Yard wasn't as big as it is right now, so Mason and Eric and all of the top level staff were calling companies for us. Because we were still a small group, they had a lot of time to call, send emails, and set up meetings in Greenville. I just went a different route because I wanted to go out on my own, but they help as much as you ask.
How was your job search after the coding bootcamp?
I took the front-end bootcamp about 2.5 years ago and then the mobile bootcamp was 2 years ago. I ended up moving home to South Carolina and finishing Get-A-Gig for about 2 months to get it to the App Store, then I got a job right after. I also started freelancing and creating Wordpress sites to expand my portfolio. I was applying to different positions and making small websites for my resume. For instance, if I was applying to SoundCloud and GoPro, I made my resume website look like theirs to showcase my skills.
I had a persistent mentality, and I think you need to have that in the tech world especially when searching for your first job. I started finding founders on LinkedIn, messaging them my portfolio, and basically saying, "Hey, I'm super new at this but I really think I will excel."
What was the first job you landed after The Iron Yard?
I found a Nashville company called Aloompa and they code all the iOS and Android apps for music festivals like Bonnaroo and Coachella. It was exactly what I was looking for. I applied to them and didn't hear back. A tip for new coders – half the time, companies are not even looking at the places where you upload your resume like ZipRecruiter and things like that. I found out later that they didn't even see my application. I didn't hear back for a week or so, so I messaged the founder on LinkedIn. I said, "Hey, I'm brand new at this. I want to be a junior iOS developer. Here is my Get-A-Gig link and here's all my other links. I'll show up tomorrow morning if you give me an interview." And he was like, "Done." So I drove eight hours. Got there at 8 am, had the interview, and moved in three days!
I got that job, and after a year moved from junior iOS developer to mid-level iOS developer.
How did you transition into your second job?
After a year, I started getting floods of messages like, "Hey, come to our company." I was interviewing at various companies in San Francisco like Facebook and Google, but I knew I wanted to stay in Nashville. Bridgestone, which is headquartered in Nashville, reached out to me – they're expanding within digital tech innovation. They wanted to start a mobile team where they use mobile apps for internal use and the consumer side. So they reached out to me and said, "Hey, will you and one other guy start this whole mobile team? You can hire however many UX, UI, and graphic designers you need." And so as of December 1, 2016, I started at Bridgestone.
Describe your current role at Bridgestone.
Right now I’m the Mobile App Developer, but I'm starting to move more into UI, UX design. That's my title, but it's a lot more than coding 100% of the time now. I'm coding about 50% of the time, then doing client meetings. We're basically starting this small agency within Bridgestone.
Are you using the same programming languages that you learned at The Iron Yard currently and did you have to learn anything new for your role?
I took Objective-C when I was doing the iOS course in Atlanta. Swift was on the rise as I was attending, so we really only learned that in the last two or three weeks of our class. My last job at Aloompa, was only Objective-C, which is was very rare, but I had to learn Swift when I moved over to Bridgestone.
After first graduating from The Iron Yard, did you feel like your company made sure you were ramping up at a good pace? How was that experience being new in the field?
You'll always be scared in your first coding role. I feel like every job you get, you'll feel like, "I have no clue what I'm doing." I was coming in really scared, thinking to myself, "I don't have a formal education," but in reality, none of the other devs had one either. They were self-taught. So I felt scared and felt like I didn't know a lot, but that's normal. I knew I was going to be fine because I told them upfront, “I'm very new at this. I don't know what I'm doing." And that's not because of the education or anything. It's just you won't have practical experience until you're in the role doing it.
Given that I told the founder in that first Linkedin message and in interviews that, "Look, I don't have all the answers, but I'll figure them out,” was reassuring because I told them the truth, and they were willing to take a chance on me.
Looking back, how do you feel you've grown in your knowledge of programming and mobile development?
Coding wise, I actually still feel the same. I feel like I can learn things faster, so it doesn't stress me out if I don’t know how to do something if that makes sense. I know that anything that I get asked to do, whether I’ve done it before or not, it’s going to take some time to refresh my skills. But I know I can get to the answer! The Iron Yard taught me how to find answers. At Bridgestone, I have to create a charting tool and that’s something we never did at bootcamp. I was given the ability to be confident and figure it out.
What was your biggest roadblock or challenge in your journey to learning how to code?
I think there’s a misconception where people think you have to be math oriented, detailed, or have a certain mindset to be able to code. And to some extent, you do have to have a certain mindset, but the mindset just needs to be "I can learn this." I was a big picture, very sporadic, non-detailed, non-planner, non-logical person. Everything that everyone thinks a coder should be, I was not. Even my parents and everyone who knows me, when I decided to go to coding school, thought it was the dumbest idea ever because it didn't seem like me.
To some extent who I was did affect my learning, but what I liked about Mason, my teacher, was he was very upfront and called me out. He knew right off the bat and told me when I wasn’t detailed enough or moving too fast. Looking back, that saved me because I needed somebody to call me out, slow me down, show me the real process, and be brutally honest. I never got that in college. My biggest challenge was to slow down and become more logical, and I'm still learning that.
Are you still interacting with any Iron Yard alumni in the area? How is the tech scene in Nashville?
What advice do you have for people who are thinking about making a career change and considering attending a coding bootcamp?
You have to be comfortable with the unknown and believe that you will figure it out. The day-to-day coding job consists of this: I don't know the answer, I don't know how I'm going to get the answer, but I still have a deadline!
As far as the career change goes, you need to be all in because you have to be fully committed. Lose any reservations that you have that you can't do this. Change your mindset to be a coder mindset. I would definitely recommend a bootcamp because it's the new way of learning. What it showed me is that you can learn anything you want in three months if you put your mind to it. You just need to be fully invested because three months goes fast.
Need an overview of coding bootcamp news in May? You’re in the right place! We’ve collected all the most important news in this blog post and podcast. This month, we read about a number of insightful surveys about employers, programming languages, and learners. We read advice about choosing a bootcamp, learned about efforts to encourage women and veterans to learn to code, and heard about student experiences at bootcamp. Plus, we added a bunch of interesting new schools to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
[As of October 13, 2017, The Iron Yard will no longer be operating.] In the past, The Iron Yard’s students had to choose whether to learn front end or back end development before enrolling in the program. Now with the launch of The Iron Yard’s Web Development Career Path curriculum, students will learn the full scope of coding before choosing which area to specialize in. We chatted with the Director of Curriculum Design, Giovanni Difeterici, to see how these new changes will better equip students for their new career in tech and to learn about his student tips for succeeding at The Iron Yard.
As the Director of Curriculum Design, what is your day-to-day and what do you do for The Iron Yard?
I design the architecture of our curriculum and the instructional design. I do instructional design for all the resources that instructors use to deliver content and to assess students. On top of that, I coordinate with the other departments for delivery. I coordinate with the product team to build out any new features that we might need to support the curriculum or to explain to them how the material should be presented to students. I also lead the content development team where we have a team of writers and curriculum developers.
The Iron Yard has been teaching a bunch of different digital skills for a while now. Why did you make the decision to streamline the curriculum and focus on the Web Development Career Path?
Are there any other important differences with the new Web Development Career Path?
We’ve decided to adopt a flipped classroom model. The way that model works is, all the things that you would usually do in an individual setting, we're putting those things into the classroom. So when you used to hit roadblocks in your learning while doing your homework, that goes into the classroom. Then things like lectures, which you would usually sit through in class, we're taking that out of the classroom and putting that in the individual setting.
Our new curriculum is based on articles and small formal assessments, with secondary material to supplement that. Most of the students’ homework is the following the day's new course material. Instead of coming into class in the morning and getting a lecture, you would read articles, watch videos, and do small activities to get the information that you need the previous night. Students get their lectures at home, then they come into the classroom armed with that knowledge, and spend all day with their team of three to six instructors working on exercises and hands-on, authentic projects.
Remember when you hit roadblocks and working on tough problems by yourself? Now you have a classroom full of instructors and mentors to provide you with the feedback that you need to make rapid progress instead of beating your head against a wall for hours.
We think that's a very powerful model for supporting a real world experience of learning.
What will students learn in this new Web Development Career Path Curriculum?
The idea is that, after those first eight weeks, the student has a very clear and complete picture of how things fit together. That complete picture is something that is missing from many different bootcamp models. Now we have a way of giving every student, regardless of the specialty they choose, that complete picture of how everything fits together. I think it will give them a better understanding of how they work with their peers once they get into their first job – they'll understand how to move forward and learn new technologies because they'll understand the scope of technologies that they need to learn.
Even though we have one curriculum, the students can choose a specialty in the third four weeks. It's either front-end with React, Java with Spring, or Ruby on Rails. Students all have that same common foundation of knowledge which is great, but they can choose different specialties. It's nice because we don't force them to make that choice early on. Once they've gotten through the six or eight weeks worth of foundational knowledge, they are much more equipped to make a decision about what they want to do in the future.
How would The Iron Yard deal with students who still may not be certain what to specialize in?
We've been telling students that even if they're unsure before they take a class, it's fine. If they know that they want to go into this field, they should give themselves the opportunity to learn as much about the field as they can before making that specialty decision. We encourage them to get through most of the foundation, most of the front-end and back-end instructional materials before making that decision.
If you choose to focus on front-end React, then you're making the decision that your focus will just be to continue doing what you've been doing during the first eight weeks and you will have a single language focus. The benefit of that is that you'll have more time to focus on one thing, but the downside is that you don't have as diverse skills. If you choose something like Rails or Java, then in those final four weeks you won't advance as much in the front end, but you will learn a second set of skills. You'll learn a second programming language.
What should students think about when deciding on which language to specialize in?
The choice for students is – do you want to have a narrow but deep focus on one subject in front end, or do you want to diversify and have a focus on two separate things? It has its pros and cons depending on the market the student wants to go into or what goals they have.
After the first six weeks of the class, we can have a strong conversation about the goals that the student wants to achieve and how best to go about that. I think it's a better fit for the student and for the campus director, who is providing career support, than trying to figure that stuff out before the student has even tried to take that class.
What is your idea of an ideal student for this new Web Development Career Path?
We look for their willingness to learn, not a particular background. The curriculum is designed for the general public. It assumes that students come with more or less zero knowledge of the technology they're about to learn. So it is a zero-to-junior level programmer bootcamp by design.
When I interview students, I look for whether or not they take initiative and pursue the subjects. Have they tried to learn some coding before approaching a bootcamp? What are their motivations? Is it for the love of tech and love of an industry, or to make a strong career change? Or is the candidate just looking for higher salaries that the industry can provide? Salaries in tech can be higher than other fields, but I think that's a bad motivation.
There needs to be a balance in terms of the practical understanding a student is able to achieve here. I look for a sense of awareness of what they're getting themselves into – it's a very difficult program. It's very demanding, it requires a lot of time, and can be frustrating, but supremely rewarding. There needs to be a very clear understanding of the amount of work and effort it will require, then I think they’ll be a good fit for our program.
Will The Iron Yard keep class sizes the same? Has that changed at all in terms of the student:instructor ratio for this new curriculum?
The ratio is about the same, but the composition of our classes is different. In the past, a class composition has been 15 to 18 students with one instructor and potentially one teaching assistant. We now have a different instructional team architecture where two full-time instructors with a diverse set of skills are paired together. One instructor might specialize in Ruby, but have a lot of front end experience. The other might specialize in Java and have a lot of front end and a little bit of Ruby experience. So they supplement and complement each other in terms of their diverse skills.
And then, each campus will have between one and four associate instructors. You can think of associate instructors as super-powered teaching assistants. They are able to assess students, give feedback, and provide mentorship, but they take their cues from the instructor team. So each campus will have two instructors and one to four associate instructors. Because all the students are going through the same curriculum, the team works together. If a class is bigger, we will have more instructors to provide that mentorship.
Does The Iron Yard have a new way of assessing or tracking how students are going to progress throughout this new Web Development Career Path?
We do. Like most bootcamps, a lot of our assessments are artifact-based with projects. It's a project-based program that tries to provide students with authentic experiences. In addition to that, we have formalized our assessments around more traditional academic approaches to measuring student growth. Students can expect a much tighter feedback loop because we have a strong mix of informal and formal assessments. Most of the feedback is project-based and there is a lot of discussion with instructors. It's a lot of code review, peer review, and self-review of projects, so it's a very diverse set of assessments over time.
Iron Yard also has a Web Development Basics course – would you recommend students who are applying to the Iron Yard to take that course as pre-work for the Web Development Career Path?
I wouldn't call it pre-work, but taking the course is a reasonable thing to do. When candidates are on the fence, and not sure whether this is industry is for them, we often encourage them to do the Web Development Basics course. It can be a way to assess if coding is a set of disciplines and competencies that they really want to pursue, it gives them an insight into what it's like to be a programmer, and teaches some of those foundational skills.
Programming is its own strange beast and some people love it to death and some people do not. The Basics course is something lower risk with a lower price point that people can do before committing to a long bootcamp that might not get them where they want to go. So sometimes students take Web Development Basics, not as a prerequisite to our regular course but to get a taste of coding.
Is there a different way The Iron Yard is approaching career services now that the curriculum has changed? Should students expect different types of jobs?
In terms of what outcomes students can expect in terms of hiring, I think they will likely go for the same types of jobs that our students have always gone for. We have an amazing pipeline of hiring partners and interested parties looking for talent. I don't think that will change. What has changed is that there's a concerted effort to build a very structured program around career services. It’s not just, "Hey, let's help you get those first interviews," there’s also a strong emphasis on teaching professional skills that will allow students to get through interviews and get the type of job they want.
Another difference is that before, career services was an ongoing thing that happened in parallel to the course. Now, students go through 12 weeks worth of instruction – some flipped classroom time, and some traditional classroom time – and while they're working on their final project, they have much more dedicated time for career services. There is a four-week career services program that is focused very strongly on helping them make that first step into their career. I think it’s a better model for success for students.
Since The Iron Yard was one of the first big bootcamps in the US, what’s the biggest lesson your team has learned throughout the years in terms of creating a new streamlined curriculum?
The biggest lesson boils down to expectation and assumption. Early inclinations of bootcamps, including our own, made a lot of assumptions about what was valuable to a student and to a hiring partner. Those assumptions were from people who originally designed these programs, but were based on their biased love of particular technologies. However, the needs of students and hiring partners is different from what someone might just love about the industry.
What we've learned, which has helped to shape this program, is the thing that most people need, and the thing that most people are looking for, is high levels of reasoning skills. Employers need people who can solve problems using technology, and can learn rapidly in a team environment to evolve their set of competencies over time to meet the needs of the business. The reality is that if we teach a finite set of very specific technologies and skills, like focusing exclusively on a particular stack of Java, then every student that leaves the program only knows Java. The very first thing they’d have to do is learn how the company that hired them does everything, and that might mean learning a completely new stack.
Instead of focusing on the technology, we focus on concepts that guide the technology and the ability for the student to learn those things. Teaching how to function in this industry is equally, if not more important than the specific technology that the student has learned.
What advice do you have for students who are embarking on a coding bootcamp? What are some tips to get the most out of their learning, especially if they're trying to change careers paths?
The most important piece of advice for a student in a program like this is – be your own agent of learning. With traditional education, the agent of learning is the instructor who gives you lectures. It’s a passive experience where they are disseminating information to you, which you consume and act upon. But the truth is, the student should be the agent of learning. Students need to take a very active role in the learning process – they should ask questions and never wait for information to be given to them. Students should consider their instructor to be a resource, and not the principal agent of learning. The more active a role students take in their own learning, the better off they will be. They will learn more, and learn the essential skill of self-learning so they can continue to learn throughout their career. An indicator of long term student success is how engaged and self-sufficient they are within that learning process.
My last piece of advice is sleep! Students have a tendency to grind themselves down and it's less productive than they think because they're mentally not able to absorb information. You need breaks. Don’t feel guilty about taking time to recoup and regenerate when you've been cranking away in a program that demands 70 hours a week for three months.
Missed out on coding bootcamp news in April? Never fear, Course Report is here! We’ve collected everything in this handy blog post and podcast. This month, we read about why outcomes reporting is useful for students, how a number of schools are working to boost their diversity with scholarships, we heard about student experiences at bootcamp, plus we added a bunch of interesting new schools to the Course Report school directory! Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast.Continue Reading →
Learning to code at an intensive bootcamp takes dedication and focus. And even though you’ll reach that finish line (we promise you will!), it’s important to remember that the learning doesn’t end at graduation! Whether you’re acclimating to a new technology stack on the job, or you’ve decided to add to your skillset through online resources, there’s always room to grow. A great developer's job is never done, and the learning will continue. So how do you stay on top of the ever-evolving tech scene? We’ve collected advice from bootcamp alumni and employers in our 8 steps to keep learning after a Coding Bootcamp.Continue Reading →
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 →
[As of October 13, 2017, The Iron Yard will no longer be operating.] We’ve got the scoop on the new #YesWeCode Fund, a scholarship fund led by The Iron Yard, Code Fellows, and We Can Code IT to promote diversity and inclusion in coding bootcamps (and subsequently tech). See what it takes to get the scholarship and why we love it.Continue Reading →
Eric Sendelbach is the CTO of MOBI, a mobility management platform, and we met recently to talk about hiring four developers from The Iron Yard in Indianapolis (and his plans to hire more)! Eric tells us about MOBI’s role on The Iron Yard's Advisory Board, why self-learning can be even more important than a degree, and how other employers should shift their mindset when hiring coding bootcamp alumni. [As of October 13, 2017, The Iron Yard will no longer be operating.]
Tell us about MOBI and your role as the CTO!
MOBI is a mobility management platform that enables companies to centralize, comprehend, and control their entire device ecosystem (ie. smartphones, tablets, data cards, etc). More recently, we've seen the market expand into Internet of Things (IoT) devices and even laptops as the line is becoming blurred between what is a laptop and what is a mobile device.
We’re based in Indianapolis and we have a 30-person engineering team.
How did you get connected with the Iron Yard in Indianapolis?
I've been involved with The Iron Yard since they opened their Indianapolis campus in 2015. They reached out to tech companies around town to get a feel for the different languages and technologies that were being used in the tech community. We were brought on early in the advisory board.
How many Iron Yard graduates have you hired so far?
We hired two graduates out of the first cohort in October 2015, and then we hired two more graduates in March 2016. We're looking to hire more as we speak.
The Iron Yard grads are being hired into back end roles. We call that role an Associate Software Developer.
Can you give us an example of what one of those Iron Yard graduates is now working on at MOBI?
We have our Iron Yard grads working on all kinds of things. A couple of them recently did a lot of heavy lifting on a new feature of our software called “support requests” which is a Zendesk-like system for supporting the employee bases of our customers. A significant part of our business is support and this replaced a less than ideal shared inbox solution with a robust web based solution that allowed us to balance the workload, track our performance against our SLAs with our customers, give a new level of visibility to the work we’re performing, and gain tremendous operational efficiencies.
As an Advisory Board company, do you have influence over the curriculum in Indianapolis?
Yes. We have influence over the curriculum to the extent that The Iron Yard gets a feel for what the market need is. At MOBI, our back end is in Ruby on Rails and our front end is in Angular.
Other than The Iron Yard, how do you usually hire engineers? What are the most important qualities that you're looking for in new hires?
We're not necessarily looking for developers with a CS background. We're looking for people with experience outside of class work. It's one thing to be committed to engineering when it's set out for you in your college curriculum. It’s another thing to take the initiative, have the curiosity, and try to learn something that’s not necessarily taught at college. We’re looking for developers who have that self-learner mentality.
As an employer, do you notice differences in the hiring process between The Iron Yard versus using recruiters or hiring CS majors from a university?
It's a better experience to hire from The Iron Yard. Immediately, each of the Iron Yard grads works on a project at the end of their term, and that's published on GitHub, so you don’t have to track down code samples. When looking at traditional candidates versus other candidates, it’s much less consistent.
Another important thing that we've seen from The Iron Yard is that they do a great job at weeding out the people that “can’t make it.” The students who are accepted and make it through The Iron Yard have a high level of maturity, which isn't always something that you'll find when looking at college students in general.
Someone who goes to a coding bootcamp is making a pretty good life decision. You’re making significant economic and time commitments and sacrifices, so we know the student’s passion is there. I think that brings an additional seriousness to Iron Yard candidates, and it pays off as they grow out of associate roles and move up.
When you think about the 4 Iron Yard grads that you hired, what stood out about them? Was it their final project, their technical interview performance, a certain background?
Yes, to a certain extent, it’s all of those. They all had great projects at Demo Day, and it’s always attractive if the applicant was the leader of their group project.
We do technical interviews at MOBI. We already have a baseline because their projects are published on GitHub in public, and we can take a look at it. So that's really nice.
We also look for individuals that are a cultural fit, because culture is really important to MOBI. We won TechPoint’s Culture Of The Year award for 2016, which made us extremely proud. Culture is something that weighs heavier than it might in a different company, when we’re looking for engineers on our team. We have a very tight-knit group.
Do you adjust the technical interview for Iron Yard grads?
We'll adjust it to be more specific to their background. Instead of an exploratory interview, where we’re running through their resume, we can ask more specific questions. We may even pull up the project that they worked on at Iron Yard and ask, "Hey, why did you implement it this way? What was the most challenging aspect of this project? How did you go about implementing this feature?" Those more specific and targeted questions lead to a better understanding of their capabilities and skills.
How does MOBI support new developers from The Iron Yard in their first few months at their jobs? Do you have mentoring programs or apprenticeship programs in place?
With those we’ve hired so far, we’ve had an apprenticeship program in place. For example, the last two Iron Yard hires were part of a group of six new hires. They all went through a three-month MOBI bootcamp apprenticeship program.
As much as I would like to say that an Iron Yard grad knows everything they need know to be productive developers at MOBI, there are still some tangential technologies that they may not have hit on in the curriculum, so they spend some time learning those. We do a lot of pair programming. Then we also spend time incorporating the new hires into our software delivery teams because we want them to get exposure to actual bugs and features that are coming through.
Do you have a feedback loop in place with The Iron Yard? Are you able to give them feedback when you notice that your new hires are underperforming in certain areas?
We've been lucky enough that the engineers we’ve hired haven’t been underperforming. However, we do give feedback about new and different technologies that Iron Yard could offer in new courses.
Were you skeptical at first about hiring coding bootcamp grads?
Yes! There’s this notion that you can take somebody with a non-tech background, put them in a room for a few months, and then they magically become a fully productive engineer, just as if they got a four-year degree in computer science. I’m still skeptical of that notion; but what I came to understand was that you don't have to achieve that level of accomplishment in order to be productive and actively make significant contributions to an engineering team.
My hesitation was that we would bring somebody on board, and then we would be teaching them and paying them to learn for a long period of time. We are not really in a position to do that. But honestly, the caliber and readiness of the folks coming out of The Iron Yard is higher and more prepared than I expected. The Iron Yard’s Ruby instructor in Indianapolis, Chris Vannoy, is great, and it’s rare to find somebody who has highly technical skills and is also a good teacher.
Is there a tradeoff in skills that you expect when you hire a coding bootcamper?
Coding bootcamp grads lack context. But I don't even think you get context from a four-year degree. It's one thing to go through a four-year degree, and it's another thing to be part of an active engineering team that is regularly delivering code and pushing to production. To some extent, all of us have had to do learning on the job.
Do you plan to hire from The Iron Yard in the future? Why?
Yes. MOBI is at a point in our growth where we’re able to add developers by the team instead of individually. We have five delivery teams, consisting of senior devs, product management, UI, UX, and associates devs to achieve a really good balance. Now we’re ready to hire our next team, and Iron Yard is absolutely the place to go to look for that junior level talent.
Finally, what is your advice to other employers who are thinking about hiring from a coding bootcamp or even from the Iron Yard in particular?
We thought going into this that the majority of developers being hired out of a bootcamp would need very significant mentorship from our senior engineers. We found that that's not really the case. The mentoring that ends up happening is through pair programming and other normal interactions. We have really strong senior engineers who have the heart of a teacher- kind and patient engineers. So through the process of pairing, a lot of that teaching happens naturally while being productive at the same time.
I think that a lot of employers expect that they are hiring a bootcamp grad just to pay them to learn. That thought crossed my mind once or twice, but my advice is to change your mindset.
[As of October 13, 2017, The Iron Yard will no longer be operating.] Since 2012, The Iron Yard had been offering immersive back-end and front-end bootcamps around the US. After getting feedback from students and the community who had different goals than their immersive students, they are now launching two part-time offerings – Foundations Courses and Sprint Courses. We talked to The Iron Yard CMO Eric Dodds and Director of Front-End Engineering Tim Whitacre about the differences between these short courses and the immersive courses, the ideal students for these courses, and how to get the most out of your part-time course at The Iron Yard.
- The Iron Yard is now offering part-time courses called Foundations and Sprint.
- Foundations Courses are for coding beginners who want to go beyond online tutorials to learn how to build a real website from the ground up.
- Neither course offers job placement because both are geared towards a different audience than the immersive programs - that’s a key difference between these and the immersive courses.
- While you won’t need to quit your job as you would in an immersive course, The Iron Yard team suggests planning your goals and putting in your all to get the most out of these part-time courses.
Is this the first time The Iron Yard has offered part-time courses? That seems surprising!
Eric: Yes, until now, we had not offered part-time courses, and that’s because we wanted to perfect our immersive courses for career changers – that was The Iron Yard’s goal from the beginning.
Along the way, we’ve encountered many students who have different learning and career goals than our Immersive students. We want to help those students on their journeys as well, so we've been carefully planning expansion into part-time Foundations and Sprint courses.
The initial feedback we're getting from students is great, so it was worth it to take the time to make sure we go everything right.
Who are the ideal students for each of these courses?
Eric: We have actually built these courses based on a ton of feedback from actual conversations that we've had with students about what they're looking for.
Foundations Courses are built for people who are just learning to code, and are interested in going beyond online tutorials. Maybe they’ve done some tutorials and built a basic website or done coding exercises in the browser, but many of those people are running into dead ends, and they just can't seem to break through that barrier.
At the same time, they're also not necessarily sure that they want to launch a whole new career in programming. They're trying to get their head around it and understand the craft enough to know if it's something they want as a career. Going through our Foundations course will give them a taste of what real programming is really like.
Give us an overview of both the Foundations and Sprints.
Tim: Our Sprint courses are made to help developers get to the next level. All of these courses will have some prerequisites, and will focus on specific topics rather than a range of them. These courses will be ideal for anyone who is already a developer or comfortable with programming tools and is looking to add a new skill to their toolbox.
Eric: Our Sprint courses dig past the visual aspects of building websites and teach you the basics of building web applications that run in the browser.
Will Sprint Courses work for somebody who's graduated from an immersive coding bootcamp and wants to level up in a specific area?
Could the Foundations Course function as prep for the full-time Immersive Course?
Eric: Absolutely. Our Foundations Courses are a great way for someone to get a feel for what it's like to learn in a classroom environment and complete homework or assignments at a fast pace. We’ve already had several Foundations students decide they wanted to explore a career in programming after completing the course.
Taking a Sprint Course could also be helpful, but students dive much deeper than foundations and aren’t starting from ground zero. Sprint Courses do assume students have some knowledge of HTML and CSS beforehand.
That being said, our immersive program is really fast and really intense, so even if a student comes in with some background in development, we find that everyone is on a level playing field by about week two because we push everyone super hard so they are job-ready by the end.
So then what are the prerequisites for those Foundations and Sprint courses?
Tim: For the Foundations courses, the only prerequisite is basic computer skills. We teach everything else! We’re still, of course, looking for students that show problem-solving skills and are excited to learn. But the Foundations course lowers the barrier of entry to experiencing The Iron Yard.
Tim: Sprint Courses are designed for people who already have a little bit of knowledge about coding and want to level-up in their career. You don’t have to be an expert or a developer at all, but you should be familiar with HTML and CSS and have idea of what version control tools like Github are used for.
For Sprint courses, will applicants need to take a coding challenge?
Here’s a good gut check: if you have a basic skill set that you would get from graduating from the Foundations course, then you are a great fit for the Sprint course. The ideal candidate is someone who probably has had exposure to these things in their professional experience.
Is job placement included in the Sprint or Foundations courses?
Tim: No, and that's a really critical distinction. The reality is that if you want to get a developer job in three months, then then Immersive format is the best way. Format has a really big influence on outcomes and we hear time-and-again from our Immersive students that there’s no way they would have accomplished what they did in a part-time course. We don't compare the Foundations and Sprints to the Immersives at all. They're completely different experiences, and they're courses designed for students with completely different outcomes goals.
Even though it’s a deep-dive, there's no career support element to our Sprint Courses because they’re designed for someone who's advancing a career they’ve already started by adding a very specific skill to their skill set. Sprint Courses are a part of a career path that students have already put themselves on, whereas an Immersive student is usually using The Iron Yard as the launch pad to a new career path.
We’ve already run several Foundations Courses and they’ve been great. Some of our students determined that they wanted to continue to pursue coding as a career. And for others, they walked away saying, "I feel better because I know how to build a website, but I don't think I want to do this as a job," and that's also a great outcome.
Will these new Foundations and Sprint Courses be taught by the Immersive instructors too?
Tim: Neither of those will be taught by our Immersive instructors, and for good reasons. Our Immersive instructors are full-time employees, so asking them to also teach on nights and weekends is too much and would take away from the attention they commit to students pursuing a career change. So we'll be hiring new instructors for Foundations and Sprint Courses.
Tell us about the teaching style for these courses? Will there be a lot of homework? Projects? Lecture?
Tim: Foundations Courses are seven nights over a two-week period, roughly three hours per night, so ~21 hours total. Those three hour classes will be broken up into a mixture of lecture and instructor-led lab time. We're shooting for an hour or less of take-home homework.
Sprint Courses will look very similar to Foundations, but are longer—16 nights over 4 weeks and about 50 hours total.
Both courses take commitment, but we are doing our best to respect the fact that students are most likely working full-time jobs. So far we’ve received great feedback on the balance between the amount learning that happens because of a fast pace and the ability to manage the workload.
Which cities can students expect to start seeing Foundations and Sprints in?
Eric: They’ll be in Charlotte and Salt Lake City in February. Then Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville in March. You can keep up with future cities on our locations page.
What is your advice for students embarking on a part-time course? Any tips to get the most out of it while balancing other commitments?
Tim: The preparation is not quite as heavy as the Immersive– you don’t need to tell your family and friends that you’re going off the grid. But you still need to have a level of discipline, and we still stress that during the registration process – even though this is part time, you still need to give 100% to the course to get the most out of it. We still have specific outcomes we want our students to be able to achieve at the end of their course and one part of accomplishing that is for students to complete the exercises and the assignments in a timely fashion.
For the Foundations course, there is one weekend session in that class, so don’t plan a weekend trip then- use it to get your homework done and get ahead.
Eric: My advice is to step back for a minute and think about what your goal is, no matter the course you’re taking. Have a conversation with one of our team members at the Iron Yard about what you want to accomplish. It’s really excited that we now have options for people who have different goals than changing their career.
As with all courses at The Iron Yard, you're going to get out of it what you put into it. Our goal is to help people learn real skills, and that requires practice, not just listening to lectures (which is why so many people are frustrated with online tutorials). The key for us is our instructors, though—so students can be confident that there’s a passionate professional committed to helping them every step of the way.
[As of October 13, 2017, The Iron Yard will no longer be operating.] As Director of Instruction at The Iron Yard, Sam Kapila is always thinking about the future of technology when working on curriculum and hiring new instructors. Sam was recently interviewed for the documentary “What Comes Next is the Future” where she talked about open source learning, and what it’s like for a beginner to see how the web is built. We asked Sam about coding bootcamps’ place in the future of tech, how The Iron Yard keeps up, and whether everyone needs to know code.
How has your career in tech and education led you to your role as the Director of Instruction at The Iron Yard?
I never actually planned to be in education. I have a BFA and MFA in design, so I started in advertising and worked for an advertising agency that worked with an NBA team- really fun!
When I went to grad school for my masters in communication design, I started teaching freshman and sophomore classes as a graduate teacher assistant. I’ve stayed in education from that point onwards.
The university asked me to help another instructor update the curriculum for the web design classes. So I built out one of the first university courses that was specifically about Responsive Web Design. And from there I joined The Iron Yard as a UIDesign Instructor before moving into my current role as Director of Instruction.
Now you’re the Director of Instruction at The Iron Yard – what does that entail?
My role has evolved over time. At first, I was helping build our instructor team as we opened new campuses and offered new courses. Now I have a team of directors who help me and our instructors create a lot of the standardized curriculum and city-specific needs as well.
For example, frameworks and technologies at each campus might vary depending on the location and what technologies are in demand in that city. I work on building resources to make their day-to-day a lot easier, coming up with new assignments, keeping up with what's going on in the industry, and training our instructors on it.
And finally, I'm part of the executive team, so I work with different departments across The Iron Yard, whether it's marketing or regulatory or operations.
When you are looking to hire instructors, what backgrounds and other qualities are you specifically looking for?
That's something I think about a lot. My team just did an audit of our objectives for instructors, and what we've learned as we've grown as a team. Most of our instructors are practicing in their field, which means they aren't necessarily coming from a teaching background or a university environment like I did. So we have a very extensive onboarding period that it includes a lot of hands-on training and best practices that we help them learn along the way.
We also have a mentor program. Every instructor has a mentor who is their go-to person on a daily basis on instruction and curriculum. There's a big support structure to help someone new who hasn’t formally taught before. For the most part, even if instructors haven't taught in a classroom, they've done workshops at a conference, or lectures at a meetup, or corporate training. A lot of times that extra community engagement part is a big thing that we look at because there's a lot to draw from that and bring into the classroom. But having real world experience is the most important thing we look for in new instructors.
Another really important quality is an instructor’s ability to empathize with a student who is new to a coding language. The instructor needs to understand that this is a big jump to go into a full-time course and basically change your life path. Can they be patient with students, and help explain things at a very basic level? Can they use analogies or illustrations or flowcharts to help explain things? Empathy is a big part of what we look for in our instructors.
We saw you in the trailer (below) for the documentary "What Comes Next Is the Future" – why did you get involved?
The director of that movie is Matt Griffin, whom I kept running into at different conferences like Converge Southeast and ARTIFACT. He mentioned that he was Kickstarting the movie and of course, I wanted to support my industry friend by participating.
For me, it was important to participate because I think that designers and developers are often told that storytelling should be a part of our process – and we do that a lot for our clients. But because the web moves so quickly, we haven’t had the time to go back and reflect on the story of the past 20+ years of the Web, how quickly things have changed, and how much a young industry has evolved in that time.
Many people who move into this industry may not know that Tim Berners-Lee started the World Wide Web and what conversations about the first website looked like. I think we're always focused on moving forward, but there are things that we can learn from history.
The documentary is called "What Comes Next is The Future." Does it talk about the future of tech or tech education?
My perspective for the documentary was to share the teaching side- what it was like to build a university class, responsive design, and how to teach it. I got to share what it’s like for a beginner to be able to access something like Inspect Element in Chrome and see how something was built. I also got to talk about The Iron Yard’s open source nature and being able to learn from each other. It's very collaborative; even though Open Source doesn't always mean that two developers talk to each other, the fact that their code is out there and viewable is a different type of conversation.
When I watched the movie I was surprised how much it focused on the past. My interpretation of it was that in order to look ahead, we need to look at what's already happened, learn from that, and iterate from that.
How did the documentary approach responsive web design?
Suddenly, we have all these different devices to design for (desktop, mobile, tablet, etc). What we learned very quickly was we had to move past planning for every single device. By changing a few key things, we can code things very efficiently, and in a way that was sort of like elastic transition.
The web was flexible before responsive web design existed. We are the ones who made it static and boxy, and now there has been an elastic effect that stretched it out, then came back to its core. I think that was an underlying theme of the movie; that when new languages and new technology comes out, we go crazy with it, and then we scale back once we create a best practice. An overall theme was that the way that we think about building for the web will continue to evolve past what we think is possible.
It sounds like you were able to dive into the history of the internet in that documentary, but what do you predict will be the biggest future changes in technology?
Over the past two years, the conversation has been about performance. We have a ton of new technology, but that isn’t necessarily accessible to everyone for one reason or another. Someone may not be able to access it because of an incompatible device or bad Internet connection or a slow load.
That conversation is going to continue because we're finally thinking about design in a more global way. For a while, designers and developers were only designing for other designers and developer- not necessarily for users. We’ll continue to get smarter about design tactics or what possibilities exist within programming.
As that conversation about performance continues, how will The Iron Yard keep up with changes?
We schedule weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly conversations throughout the year with our mentors, teams, and directors, to discuss these changes. For example, there's an Apple announcement today, so I know our mobile instructors will be discussing next steps in their Slack channel.
Using mobile development as an example, when Swift first came out as a language, that group got together and said, "Okay, we've been teaching Objective-C, and now suddenly there's a new language. How do we add this to the curriculum?" Instead of waiting to teach it until they had mastered it themselves, they actually brought it into the classroom environment and started really great conversations with students about how we react to Swift as developers. Then the instructors and students learn it together, with the instructors guiding the students, and the students adding another language to their skill set, as well as learning how to learn something new. The students learn about how to exist as a developer and how to get used to those constant changes rather than being perfect at it right away.
What will the role of The Iron Yard and coding bootcamps be in the future of tech?
What's really interesting to me about The Iron Yard is the idea of iteration. We do that on a daily basis using Agile Methodology when building a project. After coming from a very traditional university academic world, it’s amazing to also apply that methodology to education – to try something, iterate, learn from it, test it again, try it again, fix it again.
That’s something that I hope coding bootcamps across the world will never lose. And I think if we all continue to do that, we'll all be able to keep an eye on what's changing in the industry and then incorporate that into our classrooms.
Do you see coding bootcamps competing more with computer science degrees in the future?
I think in some ways that has already happened. Updating curriculum on the university side, especially if you're a state institution that has to go through the state to make significant updates, can take 5-10 years. In the technology industry, that's a long time. At a code school, we can update curriculum differently because we are licensed in a way that allows us to iterate a quickly if we need to introduce a new course.
However, one of the benefits of a computer science degree is getting a theoretical CS foundation and getting the university experience, dorm life, and enrichment. I think there are pros and cons to that experience; and at the same time, the camaraderie that comes with spending all day with your classmates at a bootcamp for 12 weeks can balance that out.
I don't know if one will necessarily replace the other, but anyone applying for a computer science degree should research coding bootcamps to find what makes sense to them, their lifestyle, and their goals.
Do you think in the future everyone will need to code or is that an overstatement?
I definitely agree with the statement that everyone can learn to code. I think anyone who has learned a spoken language, whether English or Spanish or Portuguese, absolutely has the ability to learn how to code. Whether everyone should learn to code is a different answer.
The reason that someone should learn how to code is more about learning problem-solving skills, process skills, how to interact with other people, and building empathy for users. Those are things that apply to any job, whether you work at a restaurant, a coffee shop, or a bike repair shop. I think those are the true skills that come out of programming.
With the increase in coding bootcamps and over 18,000 coding bootcamp grads this year, how will The Iron Yard make sure its grads are still competitive and employable?
We work really hard on our curriculum, so students are not just learning a programming language, but they're getting to see the concept of how all the processes are put together. An Iron Yard graduate could be a project manager who knows how to code and knows how to work with their team, but they prefer the project management side more, and they're familiar with the technical side so they can better communicate with their developers.
Our teaching method goes past the code. We really teach the lifestyle of a developer, what it means to communicate, what it means to build, what it means to problem solve or work on a team. Those are skills that apply to many jobs in tech.
What’s your best advice to students learning to code?
This is a personal lesson that I would want to tell someone who is interested in tech: don’t be afraid of coding! Code has a history of being very objective. If you type a command correctly, you expect an output. Even if you get error messages, that's still part of the learning process. Error messages get a bad name because they're associated with red exclamation points and capital letters. But I think errors are just as important as our successes, and sometimes we learn more from error messages, console log errors, and breaking things, than we do from getting the expected output on the first time.
Should I do a coding bootcamp? This is a question we hear all the time, and for good reason. As more coding bootcamps launch (not to mention the rising media coverage), you’re probably wondering, “should I jump on the bandwagon and learn to code?” A recent TechCrunch article implored you not to learn to code unless you’re ready to put in the work to be great, whereas President Obama wants every student to learn computer science in high school. So what types of people are opting for coding bootcamps? And should you be one of them?Continue Reading →
Welcome to the September 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. Of course, we cover our 2016 Outcomes and Demographics Report (we spent a ton of time on this one and hope everyone gets a chance to read it)! Other trends include growth of the industry, increasing diversity in tech through bootcamps, plus news about successful bootcamp alumni, and new schools and campuses. Read below or listen to our latest Coding Bootcamp News Roundup Podcast!Continue Reading →
Fresh out of college with a music and French degree, Angie’s penchant for languages led her to teach English in France. She soon realized that teaching wasn’t for her, so she looked to figure out what her next steps would be. A friend pointed out the similarities of learning code and learning a language, so she decided to give it a shot and enrolled at The Iron Yard in Indianapolis. Read more about Angie’s experience at The Iron Yard coding bootcamp and how she found her new job as a junior developer at RocketBuild.
What was your educational background, and career trajectory before you got to The Iron Yard?
I went to DePauw University and got a degree in music and French; not exactly coding related! I majored in subjects I really loved studying growing up and throughout college. Yet, the most practical route you can take with that background, if you don't want to perform as a musician, is to teach. So I tried teaching and spent a year in France teaching English to see if it was something I wanted to choose as a career. I had studied abroad in France before, so I wanted any opportunity to go back. In that year, I discovered that teaching was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was fine, but I couldn't see myself doing it forever. So while I was in France, I started exploring other options.
How did you decide that you wanted to learn code and attend a coding bootcamp?
A friend suggested I try coding because he knew I had a penchant for languages. I had always done well in French, and I took German for a little bit and it came easily. He suggested coding as a parallel skill saying, "Coding might be good. It's got sort of the same vocab/syntax thing going on that might be something you're interested in. I know you spend all your time on a computer anyway so it could be worth looking into!"
I started doing some tutorials and exercises online to see if it would pique my interest and it definitely did. I did as many tutorials as I could and tried to learn as much as I could on my own. I wanted to see if this was something I wanted to pursue. I wanted to keep learning, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to try and learn all on my own, or if I wanted to do a bootcamp. I also thought about going back to college to get a certificate or degree. When it came down to it, I decided I wanted to do a bootcamp because I'm not a super patient person! I knew self-teaching was going to take too long; the same goes for going back to school. I also thought that would be way more expensive. So that's how I settled on going the bootcamp route.
What stood out about The Iron Yard compared with other coding bootcamps?
I honestly didn't know a ton about the other bootcamps in Indianapolis. I know there's one other primary one, Eleven Fifty Academy, but I had heard their program wasn't as in-depth or as intensive as I wanted. I really wanted an immersive experience. With learning languages, studying in France and living there, I knew throwing myself into a total immersion experience was the best way to learn something. I wanted a full-time challenge and immersion experience, and I think The Iron Yard is unique in Indianapolis in offering that.
What were the main factors you were looking for when deciding that The Iron Yard was the best option?
Location was a big one because when I was researching other bootcamps it seemed like a lot of them were concentrated in New York or San Francisco, and that wasn't realistic for me financially or practically. I liked that The Iron Yard had other locations, and I was fortunate that they started their campus in Indianapolis at the time that I was looking into doing it. The timing worked out well, but location was key.
The price was comparable to other bootcamps in other cities. In my conversations with Emily and Chris, The Iron Yard staff, I could tell they were going to be really supportive, and be there to help in any way they could. The Iron Yard seemed like a really good environment.
You mentioned that The Iron Yard was the most feasible for you financially. Did you end up using any outside financing options?
I financed it personally. I did look into getting outside loans but I ended up not having to go that route. Emily at The Iron Yard was really helpful with information about financing the bootcamp and how other people usually went about it. In terms of cost, it is definitely an investment, but the way I convinced myself on that point was that it's an investment that will pay off sooner rather than later.
Walk us through the application and interview process with The Iron Yard.
I don't know if my experience was standard, but I got in touch with Emily, the Campus Director, first to talk to her about the program. That was kind of my first interview. I met up with her at a coffee shop where she asked me about my background, and why I wanted to learn code. She was very upfront about challenges involved and wanted to make sure I thought about that. She wanted to see if it was a good fit for me, because it’s not a great fit for everybody. The Iron Yard was really straightforward and honest and I appreciated that.
I then submitted an application to The Iron Yard online. It was a pretty short application; nothing compared to my college application. Next, I had a second interview with Chris, the instructor, where we got a little more technical by going over the subject matter he would cover. Since I was applying for the Back-End Engineering course with Ruby on Rails, we went over how that would compare to a Front-End course because I was interested in doing that as well. He wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting into. After the second interview, they came back to me and said I had a spot if I wanted it.
What was the learning experience like in terms of teaching style and curriculum?
It was intense. We had lectures Monday through Thursday all morning for about three hours. We would take a break in the middle because it's a lot of information being thrown at you at once. The Iron Yard was good about letting us take a break, breathe, and then refocus for the second half of the lecture. We had Lab time in the afternoon where we could actually sit down and apply what we learned in the morning, which really helped solidify all those concepts. During that Lab time, we could help each other as classmates, and get help from our instructor, which was great.
He was really good about emphasizing that a lot of it is figuring out stuff ourselves, which sometimes was a little bit frustrating. But that's what coding is, it's problem solving and figuring out solutions. I feel like that helped even though it was frustrating. In my job now, I I'm a lot more capable of figuring out something out if I don't know everything about it.
Were there any major learning challenges that you tackled while at The Iron Yard?
Tell us about a favorite project you built while enrolled at The Iron Yard.
One of our earlier projects, we made a simplified clone of Reddit. It was our first big Rails project, and that was fun. I don't know if it ever really got to the perfect place that I wanted, but once things started to fall together I had a really big sense of accomplishment. It showed me how much I learned in such short amount of time.
Tell us about your new job!
I am a junior developer at a company called RocketBuild-- we collaborate with creative agencies, marketing firms, and software companies to build and launch mobile apps, websites, and connected services. RocketBuild does a bit of everything, so that sounded like an awesome learning opportunity. I definitely wanted that in a job – the ability to continue learning and making improvements, while also being exposed to doing new things.
How did you find your new job?
I met my director of development and one of the other developers at The Iron Yard half way celebration for my cohort. We chatted a little bit and I wanted to know more about the company. I saw the director again at our Demo Day, along with an Iron Yard grad who works there. I talked with him again and reached out after Demo Day to ask if he wanted to meet up and chat. I liked everything I'd heard about RocketBuild. It sounded really interesting and challenging.
I met up with the director of development a week or two after The Iron Yard Demo Day. We had a really good conversation that I believe was my interview, but I didn't really realize at the time. It was good because I didn't really have a chance to get nervous, as it was a really casual conversation. I could tell we got along. We talked about what I was looking for in a job, and a little bit more about what they do. I met the president of the company and he answered some of my questions. Then, I had a second, again pretty casual, lunch meeting with everyone to see if I fit in with the team. Apparently I did because they offered me a job! I was so excited because I really wanted it. I really liked everything they stood for and everything they did.
How long have you been at RocketBuild and how are you liking your experience?
It’s been a little over five months now and I’m feeling really good. It hasn’t always been easy and I’ve definitely had some challenges – that just comes with the range of stuff that we do. There are often things that I don't know, which means I'm always learning new concepts and frameworks. It's been great.
Are you using the skills you learned at The Iron Yard in your current role?
It's funny because we haven't done anything in Rails which is what I learned at The Iron Yard. So that’s a little bit crazy because I haven't really touched it since graduating. But at the same time, I truly appreciate the foundation that The Iron Yard gave me, even though I'm not using the exact same languages and frameworks all the time. Teaching me how to learn definitely carried over because now I have to find the fundamental concepts in other languages and frameworks and carry that over.
What languages and frameworks are you using now?
Tell us about your first few weeks on the job. How have you acclimated to the team?
On my first day, we all went out to lunch together, and they let me pick where; so that was a nice welcome that I appreciated! I was stuck to my director's side for the first week so he could help me set up everything. He acclimated me to their development/agile process on how they manage projects and helped me out with some minor tasks on ongoing projects.
It was a gradual ramp up period in terms of how much I was responsible for. It started out pretty small and as I got more comfortable they would give me bigger things to do. Every week or two it would ramp up a little more, but not insanely. They had a really good understanding of my background and wanted to make sure I was at ease.
What is the Indianapolis tech scene like and how did you find your experience as a woman in the tech industry?
I’ve had a good experience so far. I’ve only been working in the tech community for five months, so I feel like I don't have a fully fleshed out idea of it yet. I have met a lot of people at The Iron Yard events. I’ve also been to a Girl Develop It meetup once or twice.
Everybody seems really friendly and welcoming. Everybody is usually interested in why I got into this field. As a woman, I’ve never really run into the blatant sexism that I know is out there. For sure, it's still male dominated in this community. When the topic comes up with other people in the tech community, it's all been very supportive and positive about getting more women into tech and supporting them there. While we’re still outnumbered, I think we have a good environment to better position women in tech in Indy. There's a lot of support.
How did The Iron Yard prepare you for the job search?
Honestly, I can't imagine going through the job hunt as smoothly as I did without their help. They were awesome. From day one they were encouraging us to go to meetups, make connections, and network with people. Networking was not always something I was super comfortable with, so getting that extra push truly helped. Even with setting up halfway celebrations and making sure they invited as many people as they could for Demo Day showed their commitment to our job search. It was awesome to be in a room with the people who might hire us.
The Iron Yard was really great about helping us figure out what to put in our portfolios so we could share those with potential employers. They encouraged us to get our portfolios online, and helped us with resumes and cover letters. They also went over interview questions; general ones and also tech- and coding-specific questions that would help us. We did rounds of whiteboard and coding challenges in preparation for interviews. We also participated in mock interviews with a local company in Indy. It was good prep because it's pretty nerve-racking! I had to do a whiteboarding challenge in a real interview and it went well because I'd had that practice. The Iron Yard was amazingly helpful with the job search.
Do you have any advice for people who are going through the job search now?
In terms of advice, I wish I would’ve gone back and revisited the basics of the course for whiteboard challenge and code challenge questions. In a few of my interviews they asked me about things I hadn't really thought about since week one or two of The Iron Yard. I would try to go back and hit the basics just to stay sharp. Putting together the online portfolio was helpful too because that gathered all my projects together so that employers could go back and actually look at what I had done, instead of just asking me questions about it.
Do you have any advice for people thinking about making that career change to attend a coding bootcamp?
At the risk of sounding cliché, my advice would be to go for it. I can't imagine what I would’ve done if I had put off going to coding bootcamp any longer. I was working at Starbucks while I was trying to figure all the stuff out. I would still be there, and that's fine, but that's not what I wanted to do. It’s easy to get stuck somewhere, and before you know it, it could be years later and you missed an opportunity. If you can make it work, then you should definitely take the plunge because it will pay off.
[As of October 13, 2017, The Iron Yard will no longer be operating.] Tom was a developer for nearly 30 years before he discovered coding bootcamps and became an iOS instructor at The Iron Yard. He began teaching at the DC campus and recently moved back to his hometown of Detroit to launch the mobile engineering program at The Iron Yard’s new Detroit campus. Tom tells us how he taught himself iOS, why he thinks bootcamps are essential to meet the industry’s talent demand, and his hands-on approach to teaching.
Can you tell me about your background and experience before you joined The Iron Yard?
I've been coding professionally for almost 30 years, but even before that, I was coding. When I was a kid my dad gave me a computer, and that’s when I first started playing around with coding, learning Basic and other programming languages. I've even been doing mobile development before we even called it mobile, when we used devices such as PDAs, and I've been developing for iOS for about six years now.
In the past, I've worked for a wide variety of companies ranging from a very large hospital system to very small startups and everywhere in between. Most recently, I was running my own business doing app development for various companies around southeast Michigan.
How did you learn to code originally? Did you go to college and do a computer science degree or how did it work 30 years ago?
I’m a mixture – I’m partly self-taught, I’ve had a bit of mentoring, and a bit of formal education. When I got my first computer, I was self-taught. I just learned whatever I wanted to develop at the time. When I started coding in college we didn't call it computer science at the time, we called it Management Information Systems, but it included all of the same classes as what would be considered computer science today. Classes included programming, management related to information technology, and how to manage the technology.
When I decided to learn iOS many years later, I had never done any Mac programming, or any Objective-C programming which is what iOS developers used at the time. I taught myself Objective-C, but, along with that, I got myself a mentor. So when I got stuck, my mentor could effectively push me over my hurdle and make sure I was going in the right direction.
What made you decide to switch from running your own business doing app development to becoming a teacher?
I had already been teaching part-time at one of the local code schools in Detroit, and I enjoyed it a lot. It was one of my favorite things, and I had a moment where I was like, "I wonder if there are places out there where I can do this full time." So I started doing research on code schools and I found The Iron Yard. I love teaching, I love coding, I love seeing people grow and develop and being able to move from almost no code knowledge into getting great junior developer jobs.
What did you think of the coding bootcamp model when you first came across it?
In my opinion, traditional education misses the boat a bit. They do a good job of teaching theory and a lot of important things. There are absolutely developers who need to know the hundreds of ways to write algorithms and how to optimize that for different environments. However, we have a problem in the industry where there just aren't enough people to fill the number of jobs that are open, and, importantly, the industry has a severe lack of diversity.
The current approach of getting students into computer science programs in traditional settings does not encourage the diversity we need in this industry. We need a different way of thinking. I don't expect or encourage people to think that coming out of a code school they’ll be equivalent to a computer science major working on innovating the newest technologies, methods, and approaches. However, not all the jobs in the market require that type of knowledge. There are plenty of jobs where we need people to crank out code and be good developers, not necessarily computer science people thinking about the theory side of things. I think there's room for both –they both fill important roles – and the number of job openings seems to support this too.
How is the Detroit campus going so far?
The Detroit campus is brand new actually. My last iOS cohort which finished two weeks ago was our first cohort in Detroit. So it is a little over three months old as far as students go. We have a .NET class going right now, and the next iOS class starts in a few weeks.
What campus did you start out working at with The Iron Yard and why did you move to Detroit?
With The Iron Yard, I started in DC and worked there for a year. Before that, I was actually living in Detroit. While I was in DC, The Iron Yard announced several new campus locations, including Detroit. I said, "If you open a place in Detroit, that's my home. I'd be excited to go back and help start the campus." And that's what happened.
What do you think prompted The Iron Yard to go ahead and start a campus in Detroit?
Detroit is a really interesting community and we have a really strong tech scene in southeast Michigan. There are a lot of startups, a lot of large companies, with the automakers and their suppliers, and a whole variety of other companies in other industries. The tech scene is growing and has a huge need for more developers. At any given time, there are more than 2,000 jobs open in Detroit for developers.
Plus, there is a large underserved market of people in Detroit for whom a traditional education hasn't worked (or they went through traditional education and are ready for a career change.) So there's a huge opportunity in the city, both on the demand side and the supply side, where there are plenty of jobs and plenty of people looking for opportunities.
It’s also a great city. There's a huge revitalization going on. Even after the year I was in DC, it was easy to notice that the changes in Detroit were pretty phenomenal. So much is going on, so many businesses are moving downtown. It's a thriving, booming market.
Where in Detroit is The Iron Yard campus?
We are right on Campus Martius, which is the literal center of the city. My classroom looks out on a marker in the ground for the center of the city.
Can you tell me a bit more about your teaching experience prior to The Iron Yard?
At one of my early jobs developing at a hospital, I trained doctors, nurses, and other staff on how to use software technology. I've also led many conferences and workshops. I actually teach outside of coding as well. I do workshops on data visualization, organizing and planning data, communication, brainstorming, and many other different classes.
Can you tell me more about your background in iOS?
When Apple announced the iPhone, everybody was excited. That was a kind of a game changer, and energized the tech industry in a way that hadn't been done since '96 with the Internet. At first, I didn't have plans to get into iOS development. I told some friends that I wanted to create a cookbook. Everybody said, "That's a really bad idea. Cookbooks are horrible to create. Mobile is better, and we would rather have mobile." So I'm like, "Well, I'm a programmer, I'll just create my own cookbook for mobile." So I created a cooking app. That was my first app. I taught myself Objective-C and other things to build that cookbook app.
Once I developed that, and it was up on the app store, many people noticed it and said, "You're an app developer. I have an app idea.” So one app lead to another, and now I have about 20 apps that I've developed for myself or other people. I did that for about five years before switching over to The Iron Yard full-time.
At The Iron Yard, are you focusing more on Swift or on Objective-C or both?
We teach both, and that's a very conscious choice. Our iOS instructor team is constantly looking at the technology. It's something we talk about at least monthly – about what the new developments are, what mix of things to teach. I think it would be bad for the students to learn only Swift – even though Swift is a much easier language to use, it is absolutely the future, it’s very powerful and I use it for my own personal development.
But the reality is, out in the market, businesses aren't all using Swift yet. Having personally worked in both the Detroit and DC markets, I know there is a massive amount of Objective-C code still out there. To turn out students who only know Swift is a disservice to both the companies and the students. Pieces are getting moved to Swift, and we need students to be ready for that. They need to be competent in both. For at least another year or two, possibly five, Objective-C is not going away as a competency students need for jobs.
Do you focus slightly more on one or the other or is it equally split?
It’s a mix. Right now, I do the first third of the class in Objective-C, teaching that as the foundation. I would much rather start with Swift because it's an easier language for students to learn. It's more friendly, simpler, and cleaner. But the problem is, if you start with Swift and then take students to Objective-C, they really don't like Objective-C because it's so hard and different. But if they move from Objective-C to Swift, they have a more favorable view of Objective-C. So we start with Objective-C. In the fourth week, students have a good enough grasp of Objective-C to move onto Swift.
Once you switch to Swift, are you only teaching and building products only in Swift?
We stay mostly in Swift. We do have final projects where students are allowed to choose Objective-C or Swift. If you're trying to develop an app completely in Swift, inevitably you're going to have to integrate some parts which are still built in Objective-C. Students have to understand how to make them work together inside the same app. You have to understand how the two talk to each other and possibly look at some Objective-C code to make sure it works in your Swift project.
How do you and the other instructors iterate on and update the curriculum?
Apple changes iOS and Swift versions every year. Not only are we getting constant changes to the operating system with new features and new things that we can do with the phone, but we're also getting significant language changes. One new feature this year allows us to integrate our apps with Siri. Certainly, we'll try to incorporate that into the class now so students understand how that works.
We have to continually update our curriculum to make sure we're teaching students the language they're going to be using to code. Those changes have been coming about every three months. Right now, Swift 3 is out, but we still have to be able to support Swift 2. If students get a job at a shop that's been doing Swift for a year, they're going to find Swift 2 code which doesn't match Swift 3 code. So it's too soon to start teaching Swift 3. It's not even a stable language yet and probably won’t be until September. Then the question is at what point do we start teaching Swift 3? Instructors are experimenting with it and playing with it and trying to figure out all the differences. It's a very fine balance in an industry like mobile that's changing so quickly.
How does the curriculum differ in Detroit compared with other campuses?
Each market has the ability to flex and adapt the curriculum with things that are new or interesting or targeted at the specific group of students. Certain markets, say the Florida market, for example, has a strong community of game developers. Michigan doesn't have that. DC doesn't have that. In Michigan and DC, we don't teach the game development pieces. It really is fun but not practical for them to get jobs. Whereas in Florida there is a possibility that they could go work for a game development company as an iOS developer.
All of our campuses talk to our local advisory board companies in the market to see what skills they actually need new hires to have, which technologies and tools they're using and their approach to making sure we're getting the students ready for the market they're going to be working in.
What have you found is your own personal teaching style?
A couple of years ago I thought, "I should probably look at Android." So I got a couple of books and started doing tutorials and things. I was really frustrated. I took a step back and said, "This is not how I learn. This is not how I teach people."
That's when I realized what my core philosophy is as a teacher. I like learning to build on things the students already know, and build on things they want to do. I like to start with the “do” and then come back to the theory. Once you see it in practice you can start to see, "Oh, okay, I get what this thing is doing, now I can reuse this idea in other ways." But you're not ready for theory at the beginning because you don't know how to apply it. For the classes we teach at code schools, I think starting with the practical and working it back into the theoretical is better than starting with the theoretical and then figuring out how to apply it.
How many instructors do you have there at the Detroit campus? What’s your student to teacher ratio?
Currently, we have two instructors, one for iOS and one for .NET. We're going to keep it like that for the rest of the year and then we'll add another one or two instructors next year with new classes. In general, we try to keep our class sizes around 10 to 12 students per instructor. If it gets much bigger than that, then we'll bring in TA's or Assistant Instructors to keep a low student to teacher ratio.
Are you running the classes staggered or are you overlapping them a bit?
For the remainder of this year, they're going to be staggered, one after the other. But next year we'll have .NET, and iOS both starting mid-January together.
It should be quite nice because one of the things that programmers have to do is work with other people who are not in their same language or area of expertise. So by having .NET and iOS running concurrently in Detroit, the .NET students can make a back end, build the server, create the API, and have the iOS students create the front end, the mobile app that consumes that API and presents it to the user. Joint projects will be incredibly valuable in the real world because that is really how you work.
How do you assess student progress and make sure they're progressing at the same pace as the rest of the class?
I see everybody's homework every day and sit with each student one-on-one at least every other day, if not daily. I have a good idea of where they're at and what's going on, so I can see where they're struggling and where I need to refocus a lecture. If I see everybody is struggling with the same stuff, it's worth coming back and spending time on it the next day.
In addition, I will occasionally throw in quizzes. They are not graded quizzes. It's more to let me know that if everybody misses the same question, I probably need to go over that again. I do maybe six quizzes over the 12 weeks. It's not so much a grade as it is a feedback mechanism for me to make sure they're understanding the material at a deeper level.
What sort of students take the iOS bootcamp? Are they mainly complete beginners or were they experienced coders who wanted to learn iOS?
In all my classes, I've had a mix. Most students are coming in with nothing. I've had some computer science majors who took the class on their summer break because their school wasn't offering iOS and they wanted to add it. But in general, the typical student is someone who is looking to change jobs, has an unsatisfying or dead end job, and wants to take up mobile app development. They are typically mid-20s, although I've had mid-30s up to 50s. I even had one retiree once who was just adding it as a fun hobby to do during retirement.
Do you have any resources or meetups you can recommend in Detroit for people who want to find out about what coding or mobile development is like?
The metro Detroit area is pretty rich with Meetups which is great. If you want to get into mobile development both Ann Arbor and Detroit have Mobile Monday groups, CocoaHeads groups, Android groups, and Girl Develop It. All of the groups are well attended. And even other cities, like Grand Rapids, have their own emerging meetup groups. The metro Detroit area is a friendly and welcoming community.
Do you have any meetups or intro-nights at The Iron Yard?
We do. Typically once a week or once every other week, we have “Get to Know The Iron Yard” events where people come hang out, see the campus, and meet everybody. I think even more interesting than just hanging out and talking, is coming to some of our crash courses. We have rotating crash courses on .NET, and mobile app design. You can visit The Iron Yard Meetup page for upcoming dates.
[As of October 13, 2017, The Iron Yard will no longer be operating.] After working with the state of Florida to get licensed as a post-secondary education institution, The Iron Yard is ready to hit the ground running, teaching dozens of future programmers in Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg. We spoke to campus director Toni Aliberti about why licensing is so important for coding bootcamps, the tech scene (and the current shortage of developers) in Tampa Bay, and how involved The Iron Yard alumni are with the local tech community.
When did The Iron Yard Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg campus first open and how successful have your first cohorts been?
The four cohorts that graduated are all doing very well. Many have received promotions, quite a few have been doing freelance work and picking up contract work, and they've also been super active in their communities.
What types of licensing did you have to get in order to operate as a coding bootcamp in Florida?
In Florida you can't run an educational institution unless you're licensed, so it was really important for us to receive this license. As of today, every single campus we operate is licensed. We were lucky to be able to run four cohorts during the Florida process of approval. Once we were on the homestretch of the licensing process, the Florida Department of Education asked us to hold off on enrollment until they finished all approvals. That's why we put classes on hold for a few months.
We first applied for licensing in 2014. In some cities it takes three to six months, but in Florida it was a more lengthy process. It’s not that Florida isn’t open to educational startups, they just wanted to make sure students are getting proper education and are in a safe environment. Licensing is very important to us because now we're recognized by the state as a post-secondary educational institution.
What have the instructors and staff been up to while you couldn’t run full-time bootcamps?
We've stayed super busy. The instructors have been creating content for our crash courses and for different parts of our curriculum. They've also been working on global Iron Yard initiatives.
We’ve all also been very active in the Tampa Bay community. We’ve hosted meetups, worked with our alumni and our advisory board members, and met with employers that are hiring, getting to know them. And we've even been teaching kids classes!
After going through this process, how important do you think it is for all coding bootcamps to be licensed in Florida?
All states license schools like ours for consumer and student protection. The state wants to make sure that The Iron Yard is delivering quality education, we're able to help students find jobs, we offer quality resources, and good connections. We're not falsely marketing what we're doing, we're not flying by the seat of our pants; we have a curriculum, skilled instructors, and our campuses are beautiful, comfortable, and creative spaces. Getting licensed wasn't even a question. We're always going to be licensed.
When will you start running full-time courses again?
Applications are now open for our next cohort starting on July 18th. We're excited to offer both Front-End and Back-End Engineering classes.
Can you tell us a bit about the tech scene in the Tampa Bay/St Petersburg area and what kind of tech companies there are?
The tech scene here is absolutely amazing and extremely welcoming, with a lot of people wanting to help each other and share knowledge.
Tampa Bay has everything from startups to large companies. It’s a great place for small to medium-sized businesses to really flourish. We see lots of different startups trying to get to that next step.
There is a great range of companies on our advisory board including startups, small design companies, midsize enterprises, and agencies. One is called Big Sea Design, a web design company run by Andy Graham, who founded the Girl Develop It Tampa Bay chapter. There is also California-based Malware Bytes, which has a branch here. They are a bit larger, and are really involved in the community and sponsor a lot of events. Also Valpak Coupons, which has a coupons app.
Why is Tampa Bay/St Petersburg a good location for a coding bootcamp?
The number one reason we're teaching here is that there's a huge skills gap for Tampa Bay tech companies. Companies hiring or looking for developers and designers are having a very hard time finding and keeping talent. I’ve seen this first-hand working at a payroll software company and seeing that we couldn’t find developers. I realized at that point that there was a serious shortage, and I hear that from a lot of members in our community.
The Iron Yard gives Tampa Bay the opportunity to learn coding in-person. Of course, you can learn to code online, and we provide free online resources for students when they are interested in experimenting. Or you can learn at traditional universities, but not necessarily at a fast pace. There are no other code schools in Tampa Bay, so we wanted to give people that opportunity.
What is your favorite part about working with The Iron Yard?
What I love most about The Iron Yard and being part of the tech scene is working with such creative, intelligent people. It's very motivating, and after transitioning into tech, I’ve found so many resources and tools that make you more efficient and productive. Tech is freeing in that way.
I get to talk to high school students and college students about traditional and nontraditional jobs in the tech world. The tech world is vast, so of course you can become a programmer, but you could also work in operations, PR, recruiting, office management, or coordination for a tech company and have a really rewarding career.
How do Iron Yard alumni keep in touch after graduating?
Our graduates are some of our biggest supporters. We start every cohort with instructors and students, but we end up as peers. We love keeping in contact with our alumni and hosting alumni events. Alumni are always coming back to campus and telling us what they're doing at their jobs, sharing programming tricks they’ve found, and sharing knowledge and giving back. That's been really rewarding to see.
And I go to the gym with some of the alumni – we talk about different coding things while working out! And I was just a maid of honor for one of our alum’s weddings.
What's the Tampa Bay campus like? Where can students expect to be learning?
Our campus is beautiful. We have our own floor in a building called The Station House Building – think beautiful pine decor with exposed brick. There are two classrooms and a big open space for lab hours, Friday Huddles or game days at Iron Pints.
In addition to classrooms, we have sitting areas, comfortable areas to work, and standing and seated desks. We also have Ping-Pong, darts, and other games to get students off their computers – because it's actually very hard to get away from coding. We try to encourage them to do stretch breaks, a bit of chair yoga, and take walks outside. We're about three blocks from the Tampa Bay, which is amazing.
Most of The Iron Yard campuses are located in urban areas because we like our students to be able to easily grab a bite to eat during lunch, or set up a meeting with a hiring manager nearby.
How is your campus is different or similar to the other The Iron Yard campuses. Do you have your own culture?
What I love about all of The Iron Yard campuses is that they're all so creative and comfortable to work in, and they encourage you to be productive, while being relaxed. Most of our campuses have 24/7 access, so it's like a home away from home.
The campuses are definitely heavily influenced by local culture. We have local art mixed in with indie art from all over the country, all handpicked for us. We definitely incorporate a lot of local flair, for example, we serve local Tampa Cuban coffee.
How many students are in a typical classroom? Do you have rolling admissions or do you have cohorts going at the same time?
Our Back-End Engineering and our Front-End Engineering programs are starting at the same time on July 18th. Then in August, we will also be offering a User Interface Design course. We are looking at starting other programs depending on what students want to learn.
Right now we typically have about 30 people on campus at a time but we could do up to 60. Smaller class sizes mean that we get to know each of our students, and we like to learn a lot about our students.
How many instructors, mentors or TAs, are on campus?
Right now, there are two instructors. And if we have more than 10 students in the class, we'll add a TA. If we have 20, students can expect two TAs.
What sort of jobs did you see those students getting? Are they staying in the Tampa Bay area?
Our Tampa Bay students are in positions as front end developers, UI, UX developers, software engineers, Ruby on Rails developers, and web engineers. Most of our students want to get jobs and stay in Tampa Bay. One outlier was a student who took an apprenticeship in Ohio for six months.
What are your favorite meetups for people who are new to the tech scene and want to get a better understanding of what it’s like at a coding bootcamp?
Girl Develop It is great. It's not just for women, and they do some really great introductory classes. They have workshops at The Iron Yard in St. Petersburg, in Sarasota, and on the Tampa side as well.
A lot of our alumni are also running local meetups. We have two alumni that run Women Who Code, and an advisory board member and alumni who does Girls Develop It. Our instructors, one co-founded, and both are co-organizers of the Tampa Bay Ruby Brigade. We try to be super involved with anything that will benefit our future students, students or alumni, as far as continuous learning, professional development, networking.
Is there anything else you’d like to add about The Iron Yard Tampa Bay?
We're just so excited to be back live in Tampa Bay. The Tampa Bay community has been so supportive of us, by hiring our students, and maintaining the interest level in our classes and our courses and what we're doing. We just can't wait to get going again.
Since the first bootcamp acquisition in June 2014, we’ve seen several coding bootcamps get acquired by a range of companies from for-profit education companies (Capella Education), to co-working companies (WeWork), and other coding bootcamps (Thinkful + Bloc)! With rapid market growth in the bootcamp industry, for-profit education companies are taking note. These acquisitions and consolidations should come as no surprise, and some have been very successful, with schools going on to increase their number of campuses and course offerings. As coding bootcamps become more mature, we are seeing them get snapped up by more well-known companies, for increasingly large sums (e.g. General Assembly for $413 million!) We’ll keep this chronologically-ordered list updated as bootcamps announce future acquisitions.
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[As of October 13, 2017, The Iron Yard will no longer be operating.] The Iron Yard campus has been thriving in Austin for over a year, graduating dozens of students who go on to find exciting jobs at Austin companies. But we had questions about what makes the Texas coding bootcamp’s campus culture special. So we spoke with The Iron Yard Austin campus director Karly Borden about their ideal students, why their team decided to add UI Design to the curriculum, and the tech scene in Austin.
When did The Iron Yard Austin Campus open?
The Austin Campus started in January 2015. We've run several cohorts now – we usually run a spring, a summer and a fall cohort. Right now we're in week 10 of 12 with our spring cohort and it’s going crazy (in a great way)! We have 28 students right now.
What is the tech scene like in Austin? Why is Austin a great city for The Iron Yard?
Austin has a really great tech scene. What stands out to me is that it’s very communal and supportive. There are a ton of meetups and free get togethers where people from the tech community hang out and connect with each other. I've heard in San Francisco and New York that it might be a little more cutthroat, but the community feels very generous in Austin.
There are also lots of Junior Developer positions open here, and I think that’s why all of the other coding schools are in Austin. Big companies and startups are both moving here, and startups are beginning to grow up in Austin, so there's a lot of really great opportunity to train up people who want to step into the industry.
What are Iron Yard students like in Austin? What do they like about The Iron Yard Austin?
Most of our students are career changers. Our age range is 20 to 55 but most of them are in their 20s to 30s. One of the most helpful things to them, in their own words to us, has been the sense of community as they step into the technology scene.
I went to a coding bootcamp panel a few weeks ago which featured students or graduates from each of the eight coding academies here in Austin. There are a lot of options and they're all great options. All the students had raving reviews about their respective bootcamps, but what stood out to me was how The Iron Yard students on the panel always referenced the sense of community. They come to get technical training but they get embedded into a cohort and a community as they're entering the tech industry.
What’s your background and how did you get involved as the Campus Director at Austin?
I have a degree in English, with an emphasis in creative writing. Towards the end of college, I became really interested in gender studies and women's studies. After graduation, I joined a Women's Business Center, where we educated and equipped women to start local businesses. It was a similar format to a bootcamp, where women created their business plans over 12 weeks. I realized I really liked working with people in transition who are reaching for a goal or dream that they want to attain.
When I moved to Austin, I knew I wanted to join an organization that had a goal and mission beyond traditional education and I came across The Iron Yard. The bootcamp style makes training a lot more accessible to a lot more people. I realized it was exactly in line with what I wanted – working with people in transition.
After working to get women into business, are you still focused on getting women into tech at Iron Yard?
Yes. That is a huge goal. Right now, we have an average of 39% women in each cohort here in Austin, but we’d like to get that a lot higher. The Iron Yard offers a diversity scholarship to make training more accessible to underrepresented groups including women.
I’m tasked with informing more women about what the world of programming and development actually entails, and the creativity it involves. Some people think programming is only accessible for a particular type of a person, but that is not true. I've just accepted a few women into our program who are linguistics majors with a background in writing and they see that coding is just learning a new language. It's syntax and grammar.
What is your campus like in Austin? Is it in a co-working space? What neighborhood are we talking?
I love our campus. It's in South Austin which is a really cool area with a great culture. We're in a complex called Penn Field which used to be an airbase. The building is very industrial in terms of aesthetic. We have exposed brick and metal, and this space feels clean and crisp in a way which inspires you to make things. We're also near so many cool restaurants.
The layout is really reflective of how we want students to work. We have tables, classrooms and then communal space where students do their lab time after lectures. It looks like a co-working space, and allows them to work in groups or pairs. On top of teaching space, they have a kitchen space for their comfort, and a lounge space for hanging out.
Students spend so much time here and often pull all-nighters. I think that's a large part of what contributes to that sense of the community or belonging. I walked in the other day, and there was a student who brought in his Vitamix and he was making everybody smoothies!
What tracks are you teaching at The Iron Yard Austin?
We started with a Front End and a Back End course, and then added a UI Design course. We're now offering the whole spectrum of courses. We're one of just a few Iron Yard campuses which offer the UI course, so we always get a handful of students from other cities coming to Austin, either for the three months to take the course, or they move here with hopes for a job thereafter.
Why did you choose to offer those particular tracks in Austin?
Do you run the three tracks concurrently or do you stagger them?
They all start at the same time, and we try to teach parts of them together. We bring a guest speaker in once a week who speaks to all the students. On Fridays we do huddles where all the classes come together and we remind each other that we're human. We cover soft skills, important industry topics, and expose students to the industry. It's really great bringing all the classes together as opposed to isolating them.
You said you've got 28 in the cohort right now. Is that split among the different tracks?
Yes. Front End is generally the biggest class and then Ruby on Rails course and Design course are generally about the same size. There are usually between 6 and 10 people.
We're interested in maybe adding another class by the end of the year. Our sweet spot for instructor to student ratio is around 15 and we always bring in a TA for classes over the size of 10.
How many instructors and TAs do you have at the moment?
We have three instructors, one for each class, and then we have an associate instructor who works very closely with our Front End instructor. And then we have one TA for our Back End course.
What kind of hours and schedule do students put in at Iron Yard?
There is a lecture in the morning, then lab time from 12pm to 5pm. During the lab time instructors are there in person to answer any questions and work with students one-on-one. Since the campus is open 24/7 most students stay beyond 5pm, and then instructors hop on Slack to keep in touch. Students usually commit 60 to 80 hours of work each week.
Have you been to many of the other Iron Yard campuses? Can you tell me how your campus is similar or different to the other ones in terms of culture?
We just got back from a company-wide conference at The Iron Yard headquarters in South Carolina, where the original campus is. It was great to see the origin of the bootcamp and how well we've been able to transfer the core culture, with enough room to interpret the local flare. I've been to Houston's campus also and it's set up in the same way. Aesthetically, we have the same chairs and tables, so it looks very similar.
How many students have graduated so far from the Austin campus?
Once our current students graduate, we will have graduated about 90 people in Austin.
What jobs have you seen your Austin graduates getting? Are they staying and working in Austin?
Because Austin is a growing market, a lot of people are willing and able to move to Austin. So it just takes a little longer for students to get jobs here. But our students who are from Austin often want to stay in Austin. All of our students who leave Austin generally get jobs faster than our students who choose to stay in Austin.
Most of our students are entering the field as junior developers or creative designers. And we have a small handful of students who start as interns with the hope or expectation of becoming full time thereafter, which is a really nice way to get their foot in the door at different companies around town.
What companies are they getting jobs at? Are they startups or bigger companies?
You have the whole spectrum here in Austin and our students have landed in various different companies.
We try to help our students work out the company culture fit they prefer, and a lot of that has to do with the size of the company. For instance, a high priority for many graduates is to have strong mentorship. So in that case, we'll prompt them to look at bigger companies who have the bandwidth and the structure to provide mentorship. For students who are more interested in wearing multiple hats, or they have a background in business, then we’ll talk about startups.
How do you help students find jobs?
There's a lot of coaching involved. We help the students understand and articulate what role they want or the position they could have as a junior developer at a company. We want them to find companies that line up with their values, their mission, their skills, and strengths. We do mock interviews with people from the community, both technical and soft skills, and we do cover letter workshops, resume reviews, portfolio reviews – the whole gamut.
What do you think separates The Iron Yard from the other coding bootcamps in Austin? What's unique about it?
In my own research, I've found there are two nuances to the different coding academies here in Austin and across the board. The first is the career support and the second is the lecture to lab ratio. I tell students who are interested in The Iron Yard to ask different code academies how they approach those two things because it's a matter of priorities. Here at The Iron Yard we provide career support as opposed to job placement. It’s a custom-developed career support curriculum tailored to our students, so rather than simply placing graduates into a job, we provide mentorship while they are still in class, after they graduate and as they continue throughout their careers. We have no financial stake in placing our grads.
The majority of our day is lab time. Our lecture-to-lab ratio is lectures from 9am to 12pm each day, then lab time from 12pm to 5pm. So it’s three hours of lecture time where students live code alongside their instructor and classmates, but the majority of the day is that lab time. Iron Yard students are not just regurgitating what they're learning, they're having to solve problems.
Is that something that you've seen other coding bootcamps doing differently?
Yes, it just depends on the structure. If bootcamps are part time, they'll have more lectures and then shorter assignments between the lectures. Some bootcamps have lab time in the beginning and the lecture at the end of the day, so that students are working on their assignment, then they see how to do it at the end of the day. It just depends on the student's learning style, and their priorities in terms of part time or full time.
Are there specific meetups that you would recommend for a complete beginner who wants to know what coding is before they enroll in a coding bootcamp in Austin?
Absolutely. Every month we offer free Crash Course meetups for anybody who wants to know what coding is, what does it demand of me, or how I have to think. We have one Crash Course for each of the three disciplines that we offer. They are all three hours long and we try to mimic or give students a taste of what the first lecture at the bootcamp will look like.
Prospective students can also come along to our Demo Day at the end of the 12-week program where our graduates present their final projects. They can talk to the graduates, pick their brains, and picture what things they could do with the language they learn. It’s also a great way to meet people in the tech community – we generally have about 200 people to 250 people there including community members, advisory board members, hiring partners, friends, and family.
Girl Develop It is a great meetup and they host a lot of inclusive technical sessions. And Refresh Austin is really great at showing the climate of the Austin tech scene.
After working in the nonprofit education sector, Cori Fowler knew how vital STEM and specifically coding could be to young people. Her passion for STEM education inspired her to learn to code at The Iron Yard coding bootcamp in Atlanta, Georgia. Now she is a front end developer at Matrix Resources where she continues to grow and is even working alongside other bootcamp graduates! Cori tells us about how effective the bootcamp learning experience was, how she found her developer job, and how education remains in her future career plans.
What were you up to before you decided to go to The Iron Yard, your education your career path, what was your story?
I have a degree in environmental science from UNC Chapel Hill. But after graduation, I decided I didn’t want a career doing fieldwork and research. Instead I got interested in education and joined AmeriCorps. I went to South Florida then Washington to mentor high school seniors and figure out what was preventing them from succeeding in school.
Most recently I have been living in Oklahoma working for a nonprofit that provides STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) resources to school programs, so that’s how I got into coding. I came across Hour of Code which is really great because it’s free, and all schools can do it as long as they have a computer lab. So I started visiting schools and introducing that. I also got interested in getting more girls into STEM. I was doing Hour of Code myself, and got to the point where I could work on the website for the nonprofit. That’s when realized coding was what I wanted to do. You can create so many things with code, and I wanted to find a way to integrate education into that.
Did you look at college programs in computer science?
I thought about doing a bachelor’s degree in computer science but decided against it because I already have a bachelor’s degree. I did look at a few master’s programs but I didn’t feel comfortable doing that because I didn’t really have that foundation. I looked a five-year program at the University of Oklahoma where you would come out with both undergrad and masters in computer science. I actually applied and was accepted to the first part of that. But I’d been in college long enough so I didn’t really want to go through that again.
What made you want to take a bootcamp?
I read an article on NPR about coding bootcamps so I started researching them and came across The Iron Yard. I ended up at the Atlanta campus because my best friend lives here so I had a place to stay. Originally, I intended to go back to Oklahoma but I liked the tech community here so I decided to stay.
How did you make the decision to do The Iron Yard specifically? I don’t think there are any bootcamps in Oklahoma City.
No, there aren’t and that was part of it. I narrowed it down geographically. I’m originally from Charlotte, NC, but The Iron Yard campus there only opened more recently. I did a lot of Google searches for coding bootcamps and The Iron Yard came up in several articles, that’s why I ended up applying there. I also looked at Tech Talent South, and I know General Assembly is really big here, but the main reason I chose The Iron Yard was because the hours are longer. I wanted something that would offer me more time.
Did you do Codecademy or find other online resources before you started The Iron Yard?
Why did you decide on the front-end engineering course at The Iron Yard?
I actually was torn between the front-end and the back-end class. I chose the front-end class because it’s more visual and as a coder/developer I wanted to create things people can interact with. I read the list of things on their curriculum site and figured that matched with my goals.
Did you have a career goal once you graduated?
Honestly, I had no idea! The short-term plan was to go through this, get my feet wet, and start a career where I can learn and grow. Ultimately, my long-term career goal is to focus on education, especially getting girls engaged in coding and tech. At The Iron Yard they do kids classes, and I taught one of the web design classes for 13 to 18 year olds. Eventually, I’d love to work somewhere like Khan Academy or start something like that. For now, I want to work somewhere with experienced developers around me who could help me grow and become more comfortable as a developer.
Your classmate Jonny mentioned you had 30 people in your class and two instructors. Did you feel like it was a diverse class in terms of gender, race, career backgrounds and life experiences?
Yes, definitely. Age wise, it was very diverse. I would say a lot of the people were in their mid to late 20s like I am, but there are definitely people from all walks of life. About a third of the students in my class were female so I definitely didn’t feel outnumbered. It was fairly racially diverse, and most people had very different career backgrounds.
People who were really interested in design would spend more time focusing on that. That’s one of the sections I’m looking into a lot now because my focus was way more technical during the bootcamp. There were a lot of resources but the classes covered more technical aspects.
How much deeper did The Iron Yard go into front-end development compared to Codecademy?
Did you like the way The Iron Yard taught the class? What was it like?
It’s a little intimidating going in, but after going through I realize that the format of The Iron Yard is such an effective way to teach. I did a Python and MATLAB class as part of my college degree, but it was my least favorite class, because it was big, we sat in this dark room, and the teacher would just type on the screen for an hour. I had no idea what was happening or how it applied to what I was doing in my other classes.
At The Iron Yard, everyone wanted to be in coding class. They weren’t taking it because it was a requirement. Everyone around you is so driven and enthusiastic – it’s contagious.
The format here is we spend three hours in the morning going over a topic, then we have the afternoon to work together on an assignment and ask our instructors stuff. They’ll scratch the surface of topics in the morning, but you’re really learning with your assignments. It’s a lot more hands on – I definitely like that format a lot better. They do review sessions every other day.
That’s a really cool perspective that you took that class in college and then you also taught in schools.
I think that perspective really helped because in college when I didn’t understand, I was afraid to ask for help. But working with high school students has completely changed my mind. I was like, “Why are they so afraid to ask?” Seeing it from the other side has really helped. Everyone at some point is going to have to learn something and if you don’t ask, you’ll never learn.
What are you up to today? Are you working as a developer now?
Yes, I am. I started my job in January 2016. I’m a front-end developer at a company called Matrix Resources which primarily does IT staffing and consulting, but we also have a small development team where we take on clients and build apps for them.
Historically, we’re a consulting and staffing firm but they decided to change their model and build different things for their clients. They have one really big project right now, and a prototype that I’m working on to pitch to a client. It’s pretty neat and there are four other people on my team from coding bootcamps – one from The Iron Yard, and the others from General Assembly.
Is the team divided into a UX/UI team, a front end team and a back end team?
The front-end and backend teams are mixed together. The other guy from The Iron Yard actually was in the cohort before mine. He did the front-end class but he’s doing back end now for the project. But the UX/UI team is on completely separate projects. Sometimes we work with them, sometimes not.
The two senior developers on our team have been working a fairly long time, and in the interview they said they’re looking for junior developers because they want them to go out and learn all the new stuff then come back and teach them. Then they can focus more on designing how the project’s going to go, and we do the actual coding.
How did you get connected with Matrix?
The guy at Matrix who did the cohort before mine contacted my instructor. He and my supervisor were at Demo Day for our final projects. He asked me some questions, looked at my final project app, and gave me his card. The I contacted him and they set up an interview.
Was the interview technical or was it more culture fit? What were they looking for?
It was both. I had only been on one interview prior to that, which was mostly personality fit. The interview was development-focused at first, then the Agile coach came in and asked about my personality and more environmental things. They asked a lot of questions and I didn’t know the answer to all of them.
What did you do when you didn’t know the answer?
There was one question where I didn’t even understand what he was asking so I asked him to repeat it, because that would buy me a few more seconds to come up with an answer. When the senior developer asked it a different way, it made a lot more sense, so we talked through it.
For another question they asked, I answered, “I’m not exactly sure, but this is how I would approach it.” I think they were trying to get a feel for how I would react if I was stumped by a question.
This company sounds amazing. I love that they hire so many bootcampers.
They obviously respect that model and they must like what they’ve seen from bootcamps so far.
You mentioned earlier that you fell in love with Atlanta. What kinds of meetups or community groups are you a part of that help you stay on top of that?
For now, I’ve done some great tutorials on Egghead.io. The project I’m working on at work is in Angular and my boss wants me to put it in Angular 2 so I started looking at tutorials for that. I also talk to Jonny a lot about what he’s doing at work and we share useful information.
How did The Iron Yard prepare you for your getting your first job?
We had to make a resume and an online portfolio, and they reviewed them and gave us feedback. The last three weeks at The Iron Yard are dedicated to your final project but throughout that, they have different job talks like how to navigate through job descriptions.
They also offer mock interviews. They bring people in from actual tech companies and give you feedback on how your interview went. We also had to make a list of jobs we were interested in and submit our cover letters and any materials we were sending in to make sure they were appropriate.
Did you feel like what you learned at The Iron Yard translated directly to what you are doing today?
So far, I think everything we learned I’ve been able to use. There are things I wish we had gone over more, but that’s from more of a personal interest standpoint. I think one of the best things our instructors covered was how to learn a new technology and figure out how to use it. That’s a great tool because they’re always going to make something I don’t know about.
Right now I’m trying to learn Angular 2 and I feel comfortable enough to go pick that up on my own. So I would say yes, I feel very prepared. You have to have the mindset that you’re not going to know everything coming out of it, and that it’s really a way to teach you how to learn on your own.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking about doing a coding bootcamp or are in the beginning stages of their research?
Be prepared to be overwhelmed. I still struggle how much information there is out there. There are people who’ve been coding for 20 years and there’s stuff even they don’t know because it hasn’t been developed yet. I would say be prepared for that, but be excited about it, not terrified.
This is the advice my instructor told me in my interview about going to coding school: “Don’t compare yourself to other people in your class – everyone learns at a different pace, so realize you’re there to be a developer and every developer looks different.” I look at Jonny and get jealous because he’s so good at designing things, but then I also realize he has a background in art. Just learn to collaborate with people around you and appreciate them instead of comparing yourself. The point is not to be the most competitive person.
Jonny Warren was an artist and custom picture framer before he decided to take the Front-End Engineering course at The Iron Yard in Atlanta in 2015. Now he is combining his artistic and programming skills in his job as a UI developer creating mockups and implementing them into development at Thingtech. Jonny spoke to us about his experience at The Iron Yard, his favorite projects, and his path to finding a job.
What were you up to before you started at The Iron Yard?
Before I started The Iron Yard, I was a custom picture framer. I worked with clients one on one, walking them through our products and providing design knowledge on how to best frame the piece they brought in. Having a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Florida State University, I was also an artist, and I still am an artist. I showed my work in a lot of galleries and events in town.
What made you want to transition into a technical role?
I definitely wanted to continue being creative, so I felt like this career path, while still being a creative outlet, offered a lot more opportunities for innovation and growth.
Tell me about your application process. How did you find out about The Iron Yard?
I had a good friend who had attended The Iron Yard. I remember he was talking about doing it, then he took the Front-End Engineering course in spring 2015. Just hearing his experience with it inspired me to do the same thing. He seemed to really enjoy it and he got a job right away.
Did you look at any other coding bootcamps when you decided you wanted to make a career transition?
Actually, I didn’t really know a lot about these coding bootcamps until my friend had an interest in it. I didn’t really look at anything else prior to researching The Iron Yard. I applied in June 2015 and started the program in September.
Before you decided to invest the time and the money in a full-time bootcamp, did you try to learn on your own?
Right after I applied, I decided to do Codecademy and work through the different courses on there, just to make sure I actually enjoyed it. Prior to that, I did a lot on my own – web design in very basic HTML and CSS. So I had that foundation going for me.
What was the application process like for The Iron Yard?
It wasn’t very difficult. They do an initial interview where they ask what you’re doing currently and what your goals are with going through the program. They want to get an idea of who the candidates are, just to make sure that it’s something the candidate is willing to put the work into. The Iron Yard’s philosophy is if you have the willingness to learn and the motivation, then you can take the course.
Tell us about your class. What were the other students like?
The class was taught by two instructors who took turns teaching the class as a whole, which had about 30 people.
It was very diverse in terms of race, gender and background, which made for great collaborative experiences. Every student had different strengths and weaknesses, and they were willing to help each other when another struggled. As an artist, I was trusted with having a good eye for design. A lot of people had dabbled in some sort of web design or had an interest and wanted a career change, so they saw this as a push to get them onto a different career path.
Can you tell us about what libraries or languages you learned?
What was the learning experience like at The Iron Yard? What did a typical day look like?
Did you do group projects?
We had several group projects ranging from weekend-long to week long. Some projects, including a hackathon and the final project, gave us the opportunity to work with back end and mobile iOS students. So we got that experience of how to communicate with other devs. I would say that was the best thing I got out of it, actually having experience working with the other types of developers.
What was your project for the hackathon?
There were four projects that were randomly assigned to eight groups, so two teams per project. The instructors gave us four or five bullet points of what they wanted, then we pretty much ran with it – they gave us a lot of creative freedom. My group was assigned to build a management app. Our group had two other front end students, two back end students, and a mobile student. The app was designed to track employees within an office space.
The mobile person was tasked with using iBeacons to triangulate the GPS points of an employee’s phone, and the back end and front end software helped manage that data. We created the UI/web application.
Did you get to build a project you wanted to build or that you pitched to the class?
For the final project, everyone had the opportunity to come up with their own ideas. We pitched our ideas, then the instructors narrowed it down to about 12 projects based on who wanted to work on what. Luckily, my idea was one of the 12.
My project was a social media website for artists called abstract. The idea behind it was to create a place for different types of artists to share ideas and get feedback and collaborate with each other.
How long after you graduated did you get your first job?
I graduated in mid-December 2015, and a lot of places weren’t hiring at that time because of the holidays, so it wasn’t until January when I started getting calls back from recruiters. I landed my current position three weeks after I graduated.
What’s the job you’re in right now?
I’m a UI developer for a company called Thingtech. They’re a startup within the Atlanta Tech Village specializing in enterprise asset tracking and management solutions. Because the team is fairly small, I’m filling the shoes of both a front end developer and a UI designer.
One of the first things they had me do when I came in was create mockups for a main feature of their core product, which is a GPS fleet tracking app. I created mockups for their next version they want to roll out, while at the same time working on their current version.
Did the Front-End Engineering course at The Iron Yard fully prepare you for the job, or did you have to skill-up before you started?
The course definitely prepared me with a solid foundation as a junior developer. During the three weeks before I was hired, I spent time reviewing some of the concepts I’d learned and writing code to keep the momentum going.
Before starting at Thingtech, I had wanted to learn how to use Sketch because I had been using Photoshop to create mockups, so they gave me the opportunity to learn Sketch while creating mockups for them. That was pretty awesome. Because I had a Photoshop background, I was able to jump into Sketch pretty quickly.
As far as working on the code for the app, it’s all Angular-based, which I used for my final project so it was pretty easy transitioning into my current project environment.
How did you get introduced to Thingtech?
A friend of mine who was in the back end course at the same time as me was in the Tech 404 Slack channel, a chat channel for developers, designers, and business people in the Atlanta area. One of the managers from Thingtech put a word out on the channel that they were looking for developers, so my friend passed the information along to me. I shot an email to the manager and met up with him.
What was your interview like for this job?
The interview was very relaxed, and I wasn’t asked a lot of technical questions. From my understanding, the manager wasn’t really looking for people who knew everything; he wanted people who were willing to learn and showed motivation to learn new things.
I showed them my code in GitHub and talked about some of the projects I’d worked on. They told me a little bit about their current projects and I asked questions about the technologies they were using. I mentioned my work during the hackathon which coincidentally related to their fleet tracking app. Having let them know about my design/artist background and my comfortability with Angular, they decided I’d be a good fit for the UI redesign and maintenance of the core product.
The difference between UI and UX can be confusing to a beginner. What’s the difference?
That’s something I’m still understanding myself. From my understanding, the UI designer is concerned with the look of a product, creating detailed mockups and layouts and implementing that into code. It’s a lot more hands on, whereas a UX designer is concerned with the feel of a product and the user experience from a conceptual point of view.
Do you think you need a background in art and design to become a UX, UI, or front end developer? How integral do you think that has been to your career transition?
In UX and UI I would say it is definitely a plus. Before I started the Iron Yard, I was heavily drawn to the UI side of development as I felt it would be a seamless transition from traditional art and design. I knew having a solid front end foundation would give me a better understanding of the UX and UI side and allow me to actually code the designs I create. So I would say my background was very integral to my career transition and goals moving forward.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking about doing a bootcamp or a front end development course?
I recommend taking a few Codecademy courses to see how you like it. I would also say from an attitude point of view, be open to the challenges and processes of learning, as it will not be easy. Self-doubt can limit you and cause you to miss out on opportunities for personal growth.
With this field, you’re going to constantly be learning new things in order to stay relevant. So just having that attitude, a willingness to learn new things and face challenges head on is very important.
The January News Roundup is your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles in the coding bootcamp space. If you're part of the bootcamp world or just want to stay current on coding bootcamps, then check out everything you may have missed in January!
Olivia Vanni from BostInno argues that Computer Science degrees in 2016 don't really make sense (coding bootcamps are one reason).Continue Reading →
Are you planning on attending a coding bootcamp? Deciding between two bootcamps? We’ve scoured the net for alumni blogs from top coding bootcamps including Fullstack Academy, Dev Bootcamp, The Iron Yard, Coding Dojo, MakerSquare and Hack Reactor. From a CS major to an event planner, these bootcamp graduates give you a snapshot of what makes each coding school and experience unique.Continue Reading →
Welcome to the June News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Do you want something considered for the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
[As of October 13, 2017, The Iron Yard will no longer be operating.] Whether you're thinking about applying to an Iron Yard bootcamp or want to learn front-end programming on your own schedule, the Self-Paced Front-End Engineering course from Iron Yard + Thinkful may be your answer. In this Live Q&A, we'll chat with Eric Dodds of Iron Yard and Bhaumik Patel of Thinkful about the new course and how it can give YOU a headstart.Continue Reading →
Welcome to the March News Roundup, your monthly news digest full of the most interesting articles and announcements in the bootcamp space. Want your bootcamp's news to be included in the next News Roundup? Submit announcements of new courses, scholarships, or open jobs at your school!Continue Reading →
Andy Flack is a classic zero-to-sixty student...with a twist. When Andy started at Iron Yard in 2013, he was a retired coffee mule (you read that correctly) with absolutely no technical experience. Within two months of graduation, he had a full-time job as a Front-End Developer at ChartSpan, and he's not looking back. We talk with Andy about how Iron Yard helped him succeed and his transformation into a rockstar developer. [As of October 13, 2017, The Iron Yard will no longer be operating.]
What were you doing before Iron Yard?
I’m from Greenville. I went straight to university after high school, and very quickly found that it wasn’t for me. So I did odd-jobs for a few years until 2013- I worked in every aspect of coffee. From roasting, to being a barista, to carting coffee across borders. I was a coffee mule! I found out about Iron Yard through a family friend and decided to give it a shot.
What was your technical background before applying?
I had never taken CS courses and I never had a ton of interest in it. The most exposure I had to web development was GeoCities.
Did you only apply to Iron Yard?
Yep. I applied to the front-end engineering course.
Do you think about taking the other courses at Iron Yard?
I’ve messed around with Ruby in my free time since I graduated, and I really love it. I would consider going through the Ruby course, but I’m working right now so I don’t know if I have the time to do that again.
What was the application process like for you?
I put in an application, which asked a lot of atypical questions. Only one was about programming- the rest were trying to feel people out for a specific personality type. Mason Stewart, the instructor at the Greenville campus, had a Skype call with me- it was a very enlightening conversation. He invited me to come up to Greenville and check out the space. I ended up visiting twice and had another interview with Mason and Eric Dodds.
Were there any technical questions?
They did ask questions, but there wasn’t a lot of emphasis on the technical side. They got the idea quickly that I didn’t have a technical background.
What was the pre-work like, once you were accepted to Iron Yard?
There was no pre-course work, but I went through a bunch of online tutorials. We had access to Treehouse, so I did those courses over the summer.
How many students were in your cohort?
There were 13 of us. There was one instructor and a TA who had gone through the first class. They had office hours, and Eric Dodds was also there to help out. Even some of the companies in the coworking space were really helpful.
What kind of students were in your cohort? Did you find diversity of the group?
It was very diverse. We had people working in automation, music, marketing, even an illustrator at a church’s nursery department. There were a couple guys who were familiar with basic development, but nobody was a wizard yet.
Did any students find that the program wasn't for them and choose not to finish?
There was a guy who gave up two days in, but I don’t know why. They offered to let him stay in the course until the first payment, but he didn’t come back. There was nobody in the class who was dedicated and felt they had to leave.
Tell us about the curriculum and teaching style.
Our typical day started at 9am and we had a lecture until noon. The lecture is led by Mason Stewart, a super brilliant guy, filling our heads with code and taking as many questions as he could manage. It was very hands-on, and if there was anything we didn’t understand, he had no problem extending class to go in-depth. Lunch was usually part of our education as well, because we would get lunch with companies who worked in the coworking space. The rest of the day was lab, where Mason was available to help us with our homework. Every day, we had at least one homework assignment. Some days we would also have a group assignment. A lot of days, I ended up staying until 8 or 9pm.
We went on field trips to MailChimp in Atlanta, which was really cool. We had Skype calls with people like Tom Dale (creator of Embr). We got to talk to some cool, opinionated innovators. And we got to do freelance work and talk to people who were doing agency work. We had a lot of exposure to everything front-end.
Did you complete a capstone project towards the end of your course?
Yes, we all had two weeks to work on a final project that had to be a functional web app that had to use an API. I rebuilt Instagram’s search function- if you’ve used Instagram, you know they have a “discovery” tab. That search function isn’t really accurate, so I built a user-specific Instagram search.
Describe your experience after Iron Yard. Did you feel fully prepared to interview?
A lot of us did mock interviews with Peter Barth- the CEO of Iron Yard- who asked us some tough questions. We did technical and personal interviews. We also had a job placement agency come in and do interviews. We filmed those and then were able to watch them to see our strengths and weaknesses. They prepared us really well.
Every week after the course ended, Eric Dodds would meet with us individually to discuss job placement. He did a really great job hooking us up with people and getting us in touch with the right people for what we specifically wanted to do. His process was catered to what we wanted to do, which was awesome.
How long did it take for you to get a job?
It took me two months, but within those two months, I had 3 offers from some pretty great companies. I ended up taking one of those in Greenville. I actually ended up taking a job with a company, ChartSpan, that went through the Iron Yard accelerator. I’m working alongside some brilliant marketing guys and one of the most brilliant programmers I’ve ever met. I’m a full-fledged front-end engineer here.
Did you get a partial tuition refund once you got a job?
I didn’t get a refund, although there is a money-back guarantee that if you don’t find a job within 6 months, Iron Yard will give you a full refund.
Is there a community of graduates/alumni? How have you seen that manifest?
What kind of person would you recommend attend Iron Yard? What kind of person won't succeed?
I think anybody can do it as long as they’re dedicated. If you find yourself giving up a lot, then you’ll want to work on that before you learn to code. I hesitate to say this, but I went in to the program for the money, but I’ve found that this is a great community, especially in Greenville.