The Tech Academy
The Tech Academy is a flexible full-time, 15-week software development bootcamp offered online and on-site in Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington, and Denver, Colorado. This immersive experience focused on creating well-rounded software developers, also gives students the option to take the course at their own pace.
The Tech Academy is in partnership with Concordia University.
Recent The Tech Academy Reviews: Rating 4.83
Recent The Tech Academy News
- Why The Tech Academy Launched a Denver Campus
- Student Spotlight: Alex Wong of The Tech Academy
- Data Dive: How Much Can You Earn After Coding Bootcamp?
In PersonFull Time
- Start Date
- Rolling Start Date
- Class size
- Denver, Seattle, Portland, Online
- Financing available with Skills Fund.
- Minimum Skill Level
- No prior experience required.
- Prep Work
- No prep work required
- Placement Test
In PersonFull Time
- Start Date
- Rolling Start Date
- Class size
- Denver, Seattle, Portland, Online
- Financing available with Skills Fund.
- Minimum Skill Level
- No prior experience required.
- Prep Work
- No prep work required
- Placement Test
In PersonFull Time
- Start Date
- Rolling Start Date
- Class size
- Denver, Seattle, Portland, Online
- Tuition Plans
- In-house financing option available.
- Minimum Skill Level
- No prior experience required.
- Prep Work
- No prep work required
- Placement Test
The Tech Academy Reviews
191 reviews sorted by:
- Only Applicants, Students, and Graduates are permitted to leave reviews on Course Report.
- Post clear, valuable, and honest information that will be useful and informative to future coding bootcampers. Think about what your bootcamp excelled at and what might have been better.
- Be nice to others; don't attack others.
- Use good grammar and check your spelling.
- Don't post reviews on behalf of other students or impersonate any person, or falsely state or otherwise misrepresent your affiliation with a person or entity.
- Don't spam or post fake reviews intended to boost or lower ratings.
- Don't post or link to content that is sexually explicit.
- Don't post or link to content that is abusive or hateful or threatens or harasses others.
- Please do not submit duplicate or multiple reviews. These will be deleted. Email moderators to revise a review or click the link in the email you receive when submitting a review.
- Please note that we reserve the right to review and remove commentary that violates our policies.
Click here to log in or sign up and continue.
My time at the The Tech Academy in Seattle was enjoyable and thorough. It is smaller than their main campus in Portland, and I was amongst the first group of just 4 or 5 students beginning there on their opening, I believe its grown some since then but its a smaller environment so you can get some more personalized attention, especially compared to the bigger bootcamps.
The Tech Academy and it's staff care about your success, and will help you as much as they can in order to succeed in both the curriculum and afterwards. For me I had planned on trying to finish the bootcamp a little quicker to go on a trip before the summer, but things happened and they were kind enough to make an exception, but overall it will be the best benefit to do the content thoroughly and at as fast as pace as possible.
Content wise, overall it is very good, and is updated often, there was some restructure as I did it before they split it into these more specific C#/Python tracts. It could be different now, but I do wish there was more emphasis on Algorithms, especially considering many companies interview based on your knowledge of such things, and problem solving as you go through the interview rounds.
Coding is not easy, finding your first job is especially not easy, but the Tech Academy will give you the right foundation and they do really want you to succeed. Since the campus in Seattle is newer and not as established, they don't have as many connections to local companies as say, their main one in Portland.
The Tech Academy's C# and .NET boot camp was a fantastic experience. The curriculum starts slow with some essential, basic computer terminology and moves into the basics of computing. From there, it starts getting into actual coding, programming languages, etc. It was the perfect pace for someone who never seriously approached programming. It was the schooling that I had ever taken online and I was worried about support and feedback from the professors. The Tech Academy's staff was always quick to respond and used all resources available to help me out whenever I had trouble understanding something or just had a simple question. All in all, I would recommend this bootcamp to anybody.
I completed the C# and .NET Framework boot camp several years ago. The structure is nicely organized and balanced with reading, videos and then doing it yourself. Plenty of practical exercises. All the software installation and computer setup was part of the training too, just as it would be on the job.
Upon completing I received several job offers and have been gainfully employed with a great company since then. I highly recommend it for anyone looking at code camps!
I had a wonderful experience attending The Tech Academy in Portland, Oregon. From the start, I could tell how dedicated all the instructors were to ensuring my success. I liked that the curriculum started off with fundamentals to ensure understanding and clarify some things I rarely thought about. The courses are dense with information but delivered in a way that is easy to understand. The projects are challenging, which makes them very satisfying to complete.
It was great to attend locally so I could learn along with people that shared my passion for learning coding. The camaraderie is great and it is a generally positive atmosphere - especially on brunch days!
The job placement part of the boot camp was the most challenging, but luckily the job placement staff is extremely dedicated and knowledgeable. I recommend attending every round table to get the most out of it.
The most surprising part of attending The Tech Academy was how much I learned after I graduated and started my career as a software developer. I feel like The Tech Academy really set me up to succeed by being able to learn any new technological concept quickly. I recommend doing yourself a favor and changing your life by attending this coding school.
I have done a few online course from siteslike lynda.com, udemy.com and others. So, I can say I have some perspective online courses. The advanges of The Tech Acadamy are the instructors you can talk to and the gradual approch to teaching things that makes it easy to learn new stuff outside of the course. Whiich is curtial as a programmer. I found myself reading things that before was just gobbledygook thanks to the first two courses of this bootcamp. It doesn't over teach things that are pointless or just theory for it's own sake. It actually teaches you what you need to know to understand what you are doing.
Ive always wanted to be a software developer, from when was a kid trying playing with Hexidecmial editors and my friends Commodore 64.
I spent a lot of time researching and looking for a good coding school in Portland, Oregon. What drew me to The Tech Academy was the job placement program they offered, and the extensive amount of software languages you learn. After completing the program, I can honestly say I am a software developer.
I will refer anyone who is intrested in software development to have a serious look at The Tech Academy and see if it is the path you want to take.
The Tech Academy does a great job at staying in communication with the students throughout the process, building a support network and sense of community from day one. The course content is good but the most important thing I learned from the boot-camp is how to learn, meaning I can grow my skills better even without the school.
I chose to attend the Tech Academy after much consideration and careful research of many (MANY) other boot camps and programs. I was not disappointed with my choice! The Tech Academy not only filled in the gaps of my self-taught knowledge, but the course taught me to think and build software like an engineer. On top of the comprehensive, challenging, and well-structured software curriculum I learned an equal amount about the importance of networking and the job hunt. Coming out of the program I felt confident in my new found abilities and excited for the work ahead of me!
In March, I decided to pursue my dream in the tech industry. 37 years old, with a little bit of self-taught programming/IT knowledge, I quit my job and committed full time to The Tech Academy's curriculum. Today, less than 5 months from my start date, I accepted an offer to start my new career.
Was it hard? Yeah. It was challenging. There is a lot to learn, and while the courses move at a good pace and through the material in a way designed to build up your knowledge quickly, you've got to be paying attention and putting in the time and work. You can't just copy code and learn. You have to DO it.
The instructors were very helpful, I never had to wait long for the answer to a question or to get feedback on essays or code reviews. The real gem though is the Live Project. Getting a feel for what development is like in a team setting/job simulation was invaluable and invigorating.
The course isn't easy. Finding jobs isn't easy. But if you're willing and able to take on a challenge with your whole heart and mind, I can tell you that the rewards are there. With the help of The Tech Academy, only you stand in your own way.
After learning about coding, I took some courses online and realized this is what I wanted to do. I began looking for more information about coding courses and schools. During my search I found The Tech Academy and contacted them. I was invited to come look at the school and talk about coding. I decided to join their bootcamp because I wanted to be able complete it online while I was working a full-time job. The Tech Academy provided me with a laptop while I attended the bootcamp. I made a schedule and stuck to it the best that I could. This really helped me stay focused and stay on track with my coding.
Everyone I spoke to at The Tech Academy was nice and helped me when I was stuck. Being a remote student, I would watch the lecture and if I got stuck on a challenge I was able to reach a remote instructor via email or by phone. I felt like this gave me a glimpse into what a remote job would be like because in most cases you will get a piece of a project and work on it yourself but if you can always ask someone for help.
My favorite part of the course was the Live Project. I live in a small town and I was able to get an internship at a local web marketing company. It took some time to coordinate my internship because I had to plan it around my work schedule. Everyone at The Tech Academy worked with me to get my internship scheduled and provide the company instructions on what I needed to get from my internship. The Tech Academy also provides a job placement director who helps you find a job by providing mock interviews, feedback after the interviews, help with your resume, and sending job post emails. This was what helped me choose The Tech Academy, because if you put the effort into learning to code and you want to succeed in coding, they can help you start your career.
The instructors were excellent during my time at the bootcamp, and they were always willing and eager to help with any questions that I had. This made for a great learning experience and learning enviornment during my time there.
For someone who had no prior coding experience, I now have invaluable skills that will be very useful in my career as a developer. You learn how to think like a developer and the experience as a whole was very rewarding.
I would reccomend that if you are able to attend the school in person that you take advantage of that opportunity.
Response From: Danny Condon of The Tech Academy
I attended and just recently graduated from the Tech Academy. I was able to work a full time job AND keep up with the coursework by opting for the part-time local student option. Even with my somewhat limited knowledge of coding, what they proved is all it takes is the drive to learn, to succeed.
The idea of their program is to really get you into the mind of a developer. You will be challenged, you will get slightly frustrated, but ultimately, you will learn. The instructors here are there to help you when stuck, but encourage you to keep trying.
The best part of the course to me was the Live Project, where you simulate being part of a scrum team, and Aja made it fun, challenging and very rewarding.
All in all, I cannot recommend this school enough if you are looking to break into the industry as a developer. What you learn is current, powerful and definitely worth your time.
Response From: Danny Condon of The Tech Academy
I attended the Tech Academy. I now have a job. This is good.
The instructors are excellent. They create a very realxed environment and are always happy to help or just chat when your brain needs a break. Aja is an incredible live project manager. I owe Aaron the world for all his help getting me a job. The coursework improved significantly during my time as a student, especially with the addition of the new C# course.
The school is a very afforable place to learn at your own pace and meet a lot of great friends and contacts.
Also, I saw the new billboard on the building and almost paid to go to the school again. Whoever made it is super good at making billboards.
Response From: Danny Condon of The Tech Academy
I had an excellent experience at The Tech Academy, from enrollment through graduation. The Tech Academy's software development program was exactly what I was looking for - self-paced and a comprehensive curriculum for full stack development.
I was able to begin the program the day after my enrollment and I was able to spend as much time as I needed in each part of the curriculum and I was able to spend less time on the languages that came easier to me. The instructors were always extremely helpful. Whenever I was learning remotely I could call up until 9:00 at night and an instructor would help me with complex solutions to a software program objective ( and sometimes even a computer issue ).
I would highly recommend to anyone seeking a quality education in software development to check out The Tech Academy. I researched several local and even national programs and The Tech Academy really impressed me and they never let me down. I wouldn't change a thing!
Response From: Danny Condon of The Tech Academy
The Tech Academy gained my attention through online searching and reviews. I hope to return my experience so others starting their search can use my experience in their decision.
I have an over-time job, full-time family, and part-time college; so I enrolled in the online boot camp. This allowed me the flex needed in my schedule. I was allocated adequate time to complete each course topic. Topics helped to reinforce lessons learned during parts of my computer science degree. The biggest difference between CS classes and The Tech Academy is the Tech Academy took the learning out of a mundane classroom style environment and put me into a functional job oriented program. It felt like I was learning for an occupation! I was provided plenty of help when I became "stuck" in problems, and yes you will too. The course is challenging.
The Tech Academy topped off the course with a real project. You cant that from a general CS degree. This was a work-related experience that can be used in your search for a job. Going beyond relative learning; Tech Academy provided training interviews and help in job placement. The Tech Academy was one of the main reasons I was able to stand out in the hiring process of the AF Cyber Command. Definitely relative training and experience.
Response From: Danny Condon of The Tech Academy
Well done on standing out in the AF Cyber Command hiring process! And props to you for juggling over-time job, full-time family, part-time college, and The Tech Academy boot camp - wow!
Thanks for the review!
I went into this bootcamp having had some experience with coding in the past and with a grasp of some of the concepts and thought processes requisite for coding. I found that the beginning of the course, taught by Erik Gross, was engaging, easy to follow and interesting (I was... engrossed... if you will). Much of the middle of the course is videos made by someone else at the Tech Academy which were also informative and helpful, but didn't carry quite the same quality.
When the curriculum moves to C# and ASP.NET, you are forwarded to a video series at DevU.com, which you could easily purchase yourself for $80 or so. During the curriculum--learning the different languages--I don't think the value is in the material itself, it is in the support and the environment. When you get stuck or have a question, there is someone to ask about it, be it another student if you are studying locally, or one of the instructors (of which I think there are plenty and they're all nice, smart and approachable). There are a ton of tutorials online to teach you what you want to know, what you're paying for here is support and accountability.
When you finish the curriculum, you go into two weeks of the Live Project. This part, I thought, was really cool. It is essentially an internship in which you are working on a product in a team with a project manager. You will take little chunks of work and do them in a real-world-ish environment. When you get stuck, you need to fix it--either by asking for help from the team or working through it. At no point do you feel left out on a limb, but you will get experience working through things on your own.
Finally, you enter the Job Placement section in which you watch a selection of kind of redundant and common sense videos (though they are probably not common sense for many of the less socially inclined students which is why I think they are included). You will read advice on creating a resume and cover letter. After you do that, you'll receive copy/pasted advice on refining them. You'll get added to a mailing list and you'll receive dozens of emails per day containing job listings, some (but few) of which are relevant. The value in this step that I could find is the mock interviews. The placement Director is great at taking you through what to expect at an interview (in fact there are weekly roundtables throughout your time there in which you can do both softskills interviews and technical interviews: I recommend attending all of them).
In all, I think it's a good experience and worth the money. If I suddenly found myself in the owners' shoes, here's what I would change:
First, the in-house curriculum is rife with little errors. None of which affect the students' understanding of concepts at the end of the day, but they're distracting and they sap the students' confidence in the program.
Second, I would overhaul the job placement program which felt very under-resourced to me. The Job Placement Director clearly knows what he's doing, but I think his plate is too full to offer the kind of hands-on attention that would be a true value. Looking for a job is, for many people, completely demoralizing, and if you had a weekly meeting in which you discussed which specific jobs you're targeting and how you're building your skills, etc, I think it would feel less lonely and less daunting. If the daily emails students received each had a short preamble specifying which of the listed jobs are good jobs to apply for, I think the emails would feel less like a jumble of wires to be untangled and more like a helpful starting point.
Finally, I think the transfer between the curriculum and the live project, and the live project and the job placement section could be smoother. When I finished the curriculum on a Monday, I was told that the live project was on hold for the week and to come back in a week. When I finished the live project, it took me a week and a half or so to get feedback on my resume and get started in earnest with the job placement. This was a little frustrating when I was burning $750 a week or so while jobless. I think the student care dept should be looking ahead at when a student is ready to finish a section and make sure that he or she will be ready to make a smooth transition and have expectations clearly communicated.
All in all, this place is filled with great people and this was a positive experience for me, and I know this place is getting better constantly. If you're thinking of starting a new career in coding, this is a good place to do it.
Response From: Danny Condon of The Tech Academy
1. A few months ago the C# and MVC Courses were both made fully original and are a massive upgrade to the prior content. In fact, at this point our entire curriculum is original Tech Academy Content.
2. The Job Placement Course has now also been made fully original and contains all of the best and most successful actions taken by our graduates to get jobs.
3. The curriculum has been overhauled for typographical errors and has been fully rectified.
4. The transfer between curriculum to live project has been fully rectified. The solution taken correlates to the suggestion you made.
As you mentioned and as you can tell, we are constantly upgrading our curriculum to make it the best experience possible. Thank you for the feedback, and best of luck in your career!
I started the Tech Academy with a certain level of understanding in HTML and CSS. I left fully confident in my abilities, and with a new job as a web developer. The courses are designed to drive you towards being a full stack developer, teaching the proper ways to work in this field. Even if the job you get doesn't use the languages taught, the methods that you learned will apply, and you'll be able to pick up anything that much faster.
Response From: Danny Condon of The Tech Academy
My overall opinion:
If you are a self-motivated individual who is willing to put in the time and effort, this is an excellent program that gives the foundational knowledge and job search support to enter into a software development career.
My detailed opinion:
I chose The Tech Academy because I wanted to switch from a non-technical career path to development. Even though I live in the Portland area, I chose to complete the course online as it allowed me greater flexibility in my schedule. The Tech Academy had a great on-boarding process so I was able to jump right in. The curriculum was comprehensive and I appreciated that it went beyond just learning a coding language. We also learned how a computer functions and runs a program, how web applications are rendered, how code is compiled, and the basics of project management. My only reason for giving the curriculum 4 stars instead of 5 is that it would have been useful to also cover unit testing.
The instructors were excellent and did a great job of answering any questions that I had. They always replyed promptly to e-mails. The job assistance was also very helpful, especially the opportunity to do a mock-interview with the Job Placement Director. Having no experience interviewing for a technical position, the encouragement and feedback I received during the mock-interview was invaluable in building my confidence.
Response From: Danny Condon of The Tech Academy
Response From: Danny Condon of The Tech Academy
I found my experience at The Tech Academy to be challenging yet very fulfilling. I was surprised at my ability to learn the concepts, facts, and nuances, for each language and I believe it's because of The Tech Academy's approach to teaching. As a remote student, I feel the system was a bit more challenging because I didn't have anyone to discuss questions or concepts with and sometimes I had to wait hours to hear back from the remote instructor because of my schedule- that still worked out fine but I think there is a major advantage to being on-site and having other students and/or instructors to communicate with. That being said, I really got the most out of the Live Project. It was suggested that the Live Project really brings it all together and I couldn't agree more. The Tech Academy pushes students to be active in the industry and network, take on projects, etc to prepare students for their new career. They have it down to a science and it's proven over and over again.
Response From: Danny Condon of The Tech Academy
The Tech Academy provides a well-rounded full-stack format for learning software development. After completing the courses, one has a solid foundation of fundamentals and can use this as a basis for learning additional coding languages and programming concepts, as needed, for any future job position. The courses are self-paced in a very positive environment. There is a tremendous amount of support resources available, including instructors, technical support, weekly soft skill and technical round table forums for interview preparation, an outreach specialist, a job placement director, meetups, and guest lectures.
Response From: Danny Condon of The Tech Academy
I choose the to enter a coding boot camp because I wanted to re-invigorate my coding skills. I had learned some coding in school, but when I entered the work force, I didn’t have time to keep up with the latest languages and technologies. I believe that programming languages are the new literacy.
I looked at several coding boot camps and I choose the Tech Academy for four reasons, 1) Self-paced; I could move through material quickly, if I felt I already have a good grasp of the material and I was able to linger and do exploratory study if I felt I needed more depth. 2) There was a central location I could go to and live instructors to help in case I had problems, for me the central location helped keep me on track and focused. 3) rolling enrollment and I could start any time. 4) There was a live project course, so I was able to get a sense of how software development works.
In the end I was happy with my choice, I filled the holes in my knowledge and I have strong basis for continued self learning.
Response From: Danny Condon of The Tech Academy
I started programming profiile pages on Myspace for my friends so I could have lunch money when I was in middle/high school. Years later I found myself teaching myself how to write code again and wanted to do it for a profession. I didn't have the time or energy for a 4 year+ program and thats when I found out about Boot Camps. I found that The Tech Academy had the best all around curriculum that I needed so I registered. The hardest part for me was the C# course but I learned so much from it that helped me with the Live Project. As a graduate I will actually be starting as an Intern under Erik. I can't wait!
Response From: Danny Condon of The Tech Academy
I attended The Tech Academy, first as an online student and, later, as an onsite student in Portland, OR. I did not complete the Job Placement course so I am not officially a graduate even though I have completed all of the actual "learning" at the school.
- The staff are all extremely friendly and personable.
- You can complete the program online or in-person at your discretion.
- The program is self-paced, so you can complete it very quickly if you dedicate yourself to putting in long hours.
- The tuition is lower than most bootcamps. (It was $7,000 when I attended.)
- There are weekly group sessions to practice your soft-skill and technical skill interviewing.
- The curriculum is not very deep. I learned very little in my time there that I had not already learned at Teamtreehouse.com.
- There is no sense of "community". Everyone is studying individually at their own pace so it is difficult to brainstorm/commiserate with other students. I came to realize that I very much missed the cohort style of learning that is present at most bootcamps.
- As I mentioned above, you cannot "graduate" unless you complete their job placement course which is a somewhat heavy-handed, micro-managed process where you are required to submit a daily report on your job-hunting activities in which I chose not to participate.
- The feedback on your project submissions is mostly limited to "Nice job. You passed." without giving any good constructive notes on what you can improve upon in your code.
- There is NO pair programming at any point.
- There is NO instruction on software testing. This actually hurt me in a recent phone screen interview where I had to admit that I had no exposure to software testing.
In summary, The Tech Academy is a decent option if you are looking for a low priced school, have spent little time engaged in self-study and are comfortable working solo. If I were making the choice again, I would attend a "traditional" cohort-based bootcamp.
It pains me to write such a negative review because the staff at The Tech Academy are genuinely nice people. I simply feel obligated to offer a true accounting of my personal experience at TTA.
Response From: Danny Condon of The Tech Academy
Thanks for your review! I'm sorry you didn't have the greatest experience at The Tech Academy. I think you're totally right in that the traditional lecture-based, non-self-paced school would have been a better option for you, since it sounds like that was more what you were looking for in the first place.
Yes, students do study independently at their own pace. But especially for students who are studying in-person at one of our campuses, there's plenty of opportunity for collaboration and interaction. The weekly soft skills interview roundtable meetings, weekly technical interview roundtables, Wednesday brunches, Friday Tech Talks, and the Live Project at the end of the program all provide opportunities to build camaraderie.
The Job Placement Course has been completely revamped since you did the program. On this course, we've taken all of the most successful actions and advice from our hundreds of graduates who have gotten jobs, and we put it all into the course. You're welcome to take it now for free. We'd still love to help you in any way to get a job.
I'm sorry you feel you didn't get adequate feedback on your drills. I will look into this and get any needed correction done on this.
As mentioned earlier, there is the live project, where student collaborate on a 2-week sprint, working together and developing in an agile environment for a real client. While you're working on the main part of the curriculum, when requested, you are paired up with someone else to work through difficult projects. But paired programming is not the norm throughout the whole program.
You're right that our main curriculum doesn't cover software testing. However, we do have an optional course that you can take that does cover that. Also, the new Job Placement Course covers the Technical Interview in greater depth, which is another reason you might want to jump onto that. :)
We'd still love to do anything possible to help give you a better experience and land a job, so feel free to reach out to me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can see what we can do.
VP for Quality
Earlier this year, I was laid off from my recurrent temp position of 5 years.. sounds ridiculous, I know, and I had had enough. A former co-worker of mine in the IT department suggested that, since I was interested in software but had no technical background whatsoever and didn't know where to start, that I find a coding bootcamp if I was serious about making the switch. After researching my options, I ended up choosing the Tech Academy because they had a remote option for students, as well as a flexible work schedule. Fortunately for me, I knew ahead of time that I was going to be laid off, so I was able to begin the program while working, up to the end of my tenure. I also selected the Tech Academy because the price was very reasonable for the services they offer, especially compared to their competitors.
Since completing the program, I will be starting a new job as a junior developer this week, and I'm so excited. The Tech Academy's guidance along the way made changing careers much easier than it would have been had I tried to accomplish it alone.
Response From: Danny Condon of The Tech Academy
Our latest on The Tech Academy
The Tech Academy is expanding to Denver, and their new campus will be run by Cole Dixon, a former student and instructor who worked in tech for three years before returning to the school that jump-started his career! Cole tells us what the new campus at The Tech Academy is like, how students will interact with instructors and students from campuses in Portland and Seattle, and the companies hiring developers in Denver.
What’s your background before becoming Dean of The Tech Academy Denver?
I attended The Tech Academy as a student in 2015 in Portland, Oregon. I became an instructor there, then eventually became the Academy Director, overseeing the other instructors and handling advanced coding projects. I eventually decided to leave The Tech Academy to get some real-world coding experience.
When I went back to Portland for the holidays, Jack and the crew at Tech Academy told me they were thinking about opening a branch in Denver and wondered if I would be willing to step in. I really liked my job and my career at that time, but when they told me their plans for the future of The Tech Academy, I knew it was a good opportunity to come back as the Dean of the Denver campus.
Why were you excited to work for The Tech Academy? What stood out?
I didn't have any second thoughts about working as an instructor at The Tech Academy. I knew the curriculum and I'd helped flesh out parts of the Databases lesson. I felt comfortable with the staff and the students there, so I felt it was a good place to jumpstart my career.
As a student, I was scared about making the career change so I definitely wanted to make the right choice. I did some due diligence with my research – Portland has quite a few coding bootcamps, but The Tech Academy has worked their way up into the top tier. I liked the immersiveness of The Tech Academy course; they didn't make the assumption that you already knew computers. They let you start from the ground level and build your skill set.
There are already a number of well-known coding bootcamps in Denver, CO. How will The Tech Academy stand out amongst the competition?
One super beneficial aspect of The Tech Academy is the help with job placement. Not many coding bootcamps have a course to help you through job placement, and that helped me make my decision to go to The Tech Academy as a student four years ago. We'll teach you the code and from there, we help you get your foot in the door with companies. There is a course that you take after all of the computer knowledge and coding courses that is specifically tailored to assisting students in finding a job in the tech industry. There are people on our team who are very talented at placing you based on your skills and interests. We have very close ties with recruiters and other groups within the tech industry. We do mock interviews, help you flesh out your resume and Linkedin, and we help get your GitHub up and running so you can show off all your code. We do our best to help students through to the end; which is employment.
What is the new Denver campus like?
The Denver campus officially opened in July 2018. We're located in Wheat Ridge, a small, up-and-coming suburb of Denver on the west side. It doesn't differ too much from the other Tech Academy campuses other than the layout and the structure. We have the entire downstairs of a shared, modern tech office building. The open layout makes the space feel not segregated. We have whiteboard walls – students can write and do debugging processes.
Students can move between different campuses, so The Tech Academy tries to provide the same feel as Portland and Seattle. If a student was going to start in Denver and move to Seattle, they’re not going to lose any of the learning material.
How many students and instructors are there at the Denver campus?
Currently, we can accommodate 15 to 20 students on campus at any one time. I’m the main instructor, so students can expect a 10:1 ratio, if not a few more. All of our instructors teach across all the campuses in our online portal where students submit drills and show us their code.
Since we use the same online portal at every campus, students can also work with instructors who are based out of Seattle or Portland. Students will probably end up working remotely with other students from these campuses too. The Tech Academy has built a very integrated system, where they do have campuses located in different states, but none of them are completely isolated.
How does your teaching style at The Tech Academy compare to your tutoring style?
I hadn't done any formal academic teaching before The Tech Academy, but I had done a lot of Science and English tutoring and mentoring with younger students from middle school on up. In tutoring, I want a student to reach the conclusion with a problem.
At a coding bootcamp, students should expect the teaching style to be a little bit more hands off. I still want students to reach a conclusion, but I know that the same application can be written a million different ways. As an instructor, I sometimes need to step back, let students build the application, then review their code. I focus on distilling what they built down to the most practical use of their code – not making it too clunky or wordy and making sure there are in-line comments and documentation. The Tech Academy teaches a lot of best practices for the industry.
What programming languages do you teach at The Tech Academy? Do you tailor the curriculum for Denver companies?
I'll include some activities or code reviews that other campuses don’t teach. But the curriculum itself is the same across Portland, Seattle, and Denver. We bring you from the front end to the back end, application engineering, and then we show you how to integrate all the languages together. In the Denver area, all the languages we teach are highly sought after – we're not teaching anything for which you would have to move out of this area to find a job.
The Tech Academy is self-paced, but how many hours should prospective students anticipate spending on the bootcamp?
That varies – The Tech Academy offers 15, 20, and 30-week courses, but the most commonly sought after one is the 20-week course. The curriculum is roughly 600hrs (this is based on an average from past to current students). Some students are able to get it done sooner than others, so it varies based on the amount of time and effort put in.
We understand that a lot of people have full-time jobs and lives outside of a coding bootcamp. Pre-planned vacations, moving, selling a house – we're very accommodating. Some students take this on as their full-time job by working for eight hours a day, five days a week. We have other students that do three or four hours at night after their job, and then a couple hours on the weekend. I would plan for about 20 hours a week, that’s totally a substantial amount of time to meet deadlines and retain the knowledge while still living life.
Tell us what you know about the tech scene in Denver. What kind of companies are looking to hire junior software developers?
Denver is a big tech hub and is constantly growing its tech job opportunities – all the way from Northern Fort Collins down to southern Denver, and over to Western Boulder – it's a very broad area. There are several big companies – there's an Oracle office based out of Broomfield just west of Denver, and Google just opened a campus in Boulder, which is not far from Denver. Amazon has been eyeballing Denver for their campuses out here and Slack is opening an office here.
With the jobs in Denver, it really just depends on what a student really wants to do. In my years of being involved with the Tech Academy, as students go through the program, every student always ends up finding that one language, or that one aspect of software engineering, that they fall in love with and really pursue.
How does The Tech Academy adapt to student needs? What if someone isn’t progressing as quickly as you had hoped?
We do see that from time-to-time. The deeper you get into coding, the more complex it can be to understand how objects relate to each other. In those cases, we take the time to sit down and walk students through it. I happen to love debugging and working a problem backwards, and that's a skill that every software developer should have, so we take the time to teach it here. We've also done a couple of lectures where students watch us debug through a problem to see how we can identify the bugs and work backwards.
Describe the ideal student for a coding bootcamp like The Tech Academy. Are there certain students who do really well in the class?
Most of our students thrive, but the ones who do really well in the program, are learning and paying attention essentially from the very first course. They're learning all about their computer – the inner workings, the lingo and all the acronyms. If you've ever been to a tech meetup, sometimes it can sound like everyone is speaking a foreign language. We don't just teach you code and let you run free with it. We're deeply instilling the thought process for you to ask questions like: Why is the code running this way? How is it going to interact when you start to throw all these other pieces into it?
Anybody who really wants to have a deep understanding of the code and why it's working the way it does, does really well at The Tech Academy.
What advice would you give a prospective student who's considering a coding bootcamp like The Tech Academy?
The Tech Academy is definitely the newest in the area, but research all the bootcamps that are around – Denver's got quite a few. Attend a couple of meetups and see what languages or types of jobs you might be interested in. Once you find a school that you like, make the commitment and try to put as much time as you possibly can into it. It's about making a huge commitment and really dedicating yourself to this career change.
Anyone is welcome to come by our campus here in Denver and ask me any questions. I'm very open about my time in the software industry and my experience – I’ll tell you all about how I came to find a career I really love.
Do you have any tech industry meetups that you would recommend a complete beginner to attend if they were in Denver and considering coding bootcamps?
The Tech Academy does do meetups from time to time on our various campuses – kind of like an 'open house' to come and see the campus, meet the staff and students, and learn about the program. We also do weekly meetups (on Fridays) where students are encouraged to join us online to hear talks with industry professionals and engage in coding challenges.
As far as specific meetups in Denver/Boulder, I would simply go to meetup.com and look for meetups relating to the coding language you enjoy, an area of the industry you are interested in, or a skill you want to learn/improve. Developers at meetups are some of the sweetest people in the world. They won’t talk down to you or make you feel bad. Even when I was very junior and a complete greenhorn, they were willing to answer my questions. They love to talk about their careers, their code, and helping junior developers. It can be intimidating, but I encourage people to take that step.
What were you up to before The Tech Academy?
Earth sciences have always been a passion of mine, so it was a natural choice to study geology during undergrad at the University of Michigan. I wanted to work in the petroleum geology field so I pursued a master’s degree at the University of Alberta in Petroleum Geology. During my time there, the oil market crashed, so when I graduated, jobs as a petroleum geologist were very hard to come by. I took a geotechnical geology job, but it wasn't exactly what I wanted to do.
I was working in geology for about a year before I decided to pursue other options. I've always been interested in the tech industry: the work culture, the types of projects that you can work on – what you can achieve with a coding background is limitless. I wasn't happy with my job, so I decided to make the switch. I used Codecademy to get a ground-level understanding of some of the coding basics.
Why did you choose to attend a coding bootcamp?
Actually, a friend of mine went to a coding bootcamp a year before I started at The Tech Academy. I asked his advice because his story was similar to mine: he was unhappy with his career as a civil engineer, so he went to a coding bootcamp. Now he's working full-time in the tech industry and he's a lot happier with his career. He went to a bootcamp in San Francisco, but I couldn't afford to live there at the time. I was considering Seattle, Portland, and Chicago, but I ended up choosing a Seattle coding bootcamp because I was able to stay with friends there during the course. Also, the area is beautiful – that helped!
What stood out to you about The Tech Academy?
I ended up choosing The Tech Academy because of the high ratings from student reviews.
What was The Tech Academy application process like for you?
I had to take an IQ test, which is about 100 logic-based multiple choice questions. After that, I had a phone interview where The Tech Academy team tried to gauge my previous experiences and why I wanted to make the switch into tech. The process was reasonable; it wasn't anything that would cause you not to sleep at night.
I was nervous when I first started Tech Academy, but during the interview process, I was pretty comfortable with describing why I wanted a new career path.
Is The Tech Academy self-paced? How do you know when you’ll graduate?
I started on January 8th, and I expect that the whole course will take me about four months. I'm fortunate enough to let The Tech Academy be my sole focus right now. The structure of the course depends on your pace and how much you're able to absorb. You can go faster than your projected model by putting in more hours than required, or you can go at the pace that The Tech Academy suggests, and take your time.
I aim to work on the course from 9am to 5pm. I'm in the classroom for at least eight hours a day and then I'll do some extra work at home on top of that.
Since everyone learns at their own pace, do you learn with a “cohort?” Is it diverse in terms of gender, race and career backgrounds?
There are about seven students that come into the classroom. The majority of students work from home, and there are 25 total students in the Seattle area. In terms of gender, I can only speak for the students that come into the classroom, but there are two women and five men.
Everybody comes from a very different background, which is really interesting to me. One of my classmates was an English major, one studied biology, another person was in hotel management. People here come from many backgrounds.
Who is teaching you at The Tech Academy? Do you learn from pre-recorded videos or are there instructors working with you each day? Since everyone learns at their own pace, are there ever lectures?
We learn from pre-recorded videos, but we have two instructors with us in the classroom who can help answer any questions on projects when needed. The instructors are there with us everyday and are very approachable and knowledgeable in the languages that we are learning. We have weekly whiteboarding sessions that the instructors lead, and it gives us a chance to practice our coding skills in front of the class, which will come in handy during the interviewing process.
Tell us about your favorite project so far at The Tech Academy!
One of my favorite projects was when we had to create a library database. We selected 20 books and authors for the SQL database where we had to create and query account members by their address, and where their library is located. In the database you can search by the types of author or the book title. You can also see which user checked out a book and their contact information, etc.
Tell us about the Seattle campus. Are you close to the Seattle tech scene?
The Tech Academy classroom is in Renton, a 20-minute drive south of downtown Seattle, and a 20-minute drive south of Bellevue, which is where a lot of tech companies are headquartered. Being in this general area is really helpful because it's easy to get to meetups. Seattle has meetups pretty much every day of the week, so you can just pick and choose which ones you want to go to – I plan on doing that.
The classroom itself is really nicely laid out. Everybody has their own individual desk and dual monitors set up. The Tech Academy has computers here in the classroom that you can use, so you don't have to lug your laptop around. The classroom is very comfortable.
Has The Tech Academy started preparing you for the job search yet?
Yeah, definitely. The Tech Academy encourages you to go to as many meetups as you can. They also have a LinkedIn module of the course where they help you with the general information you should put on your profile and what tech companies look for.
There's also a job placement section of The Tech Academy where you work with one of the teachers on interview questions. We also do weekly whiteboarding sessions, so it's been really helpful to get comfortable with the job interview process.
Do you have any tips for a bootcamper who's going through the job search?
I’m just starting with the job search, but my advice is to put yourself out there. You're going to get told “no.” Don't get discouraged by that and just keep applying to as many interesting jobs as you can find. The more you practice, the more you'll get comfortable with technical interviews.
Since you're nearing the end of The Tech Academy, have you thought about what jobs and companies you want to start applying to?
There are so many companies out there and tons of different startups. In terms of my own interests, working in the languages that I’ve been able to practice during the bootcamp like C# or Ruby would be really awesome, but I am eager and plan on learning new languages to improve my skill set.
I will be happy working anywhere that will help me progress my coding skills and grow as a developer. Working for a company that would set me up with a mentor would be a really good place to start as someone who doesn’t have a background in the tech field. Having a mentor to help guide your coding efforts would invaluable.
What's been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to learning how to code?
Every day I'm learning something new, and it's a totally new concept since I’m coming from a different field. It’s a great challenge to retain the information that I learned yesterday, and then also apply that to a new concept that I'm learning today.
You have to always be on top of your game and review things that you did yesterday in order to make sure that it sticks with you. There’s always new information to learn, but that's also part of the reason I really enjoy coding, because there's so much to learn.
What advice do you have for people thinking about going to a bootcamp?
Make sure coding is something that you can see yourself doing in the future as a career. You can see yourself working with a team, constantly learning and challenging yourself. You have to be willing to challenge yourself – that's the biggest aspect of coding.
If you're on the fence, I would do some of the coding resources online, like Codecademy, to get a taste for coding. See if you enjoy that kind of learning process and line of thought. This coding bootcamp has been a really good experience so far and I've really enjoyed my time here, so I would encourage others to do it.
What will your salary be after coding bootcamp? Coding bootcamps are judged almost entirely by their ability to find students high-paying jobs as software developers. Some schools release data about alumni jobs, others offer money-back job guarantees or deferred tuition, but how much are students earning when they graduate and how does their earning potential change as they gain experience? Every year, Course Report surveys real coding bootcamp graduates to better understand who is graduating from coding bootcamps and how successful they are in the workforce. In our second post of this series, we explore the lucrative data about salaries after a coding bootcamp.Continue Reading →
From high school dropout to lead developer for a marketing agency at just 19; Temple Naylor took a huge risk and it paid off. He left school at 16, taught himself to code, then enrolled at The Tech Academy’s online coding bootcamp for a more structured learning environment, and to boost his professional skills. Temple tells us what it was like studying remotely with The Tech Academy, how his instructors went above and beyond for him, and how he landed his Lead Developer role at Coates Kokes!
What is your pre-bootcamp story?
I’m 19 years old. I left high school at 16 because I felt the classes I was taking would not apply to my future career goals in technology. I was already involved in technology on the side – freelancing and helping people out. It’s something I knew I could excel in, so I took a leap of faith, I didn’t apply to any colleges and said I’d make it work. When I first left high school I was doing a lot of photography creation, creating websites through SquareSpace and WordPress, and helping people put their brands online, using things like Instagram marketing.
At what point did you decide learning to code would be a good move in your career?
As soon as I no longer wanted to rely on WordPress and Squarespace to make websites! Also, I have an uncle in the tech industry who runs a successful SaaS company. I went to his house after I left high school, and saw that he had this control panel like an iPad on the wall. He used this to control his entire house – his fridge, his stove, his hot tub, etc. That boosted my enthusiasm for tech, and made me realize that coding is something you can actually use to create things and make your life easier.
Did you try to learn on your own before you thought about a coding bootcamp? What types of resources did you use?
Yes I did. Udemy courses were great, and TeamTreehouse also had some great courses to take if you want to deep dive into a specific technology or niche. I also believe in just building, building, building – that’s how you learn. I took a lot of online courses at first and read a lot of books, but because I wasn’t really building, I wasn’t learning anything. As soon as I realized that you don’t really learn until you fail, I really started moving forward.
What made you think you needed something more than just teaching yourself? Did you consider college?
I wanted a bootcamp to have someone to talk to at the end of the day – someone to plan everything for me, and to say hey, here are the resources you need, run with it. So that’s what I did.
I started out looking into colleges, then realized I couldn’t get into college because I was a high school dropout. Then I discovered coding bootcamps, and saw that they took anyone who had the enthusiasm and passion to move forward. I liked that coding bootcamps were self-progressive in that you don’t have someone holding your hand – if you don’t do the work you’re not going to excel at it, or get anything done. That’s how my whole life has been structured – I’m always helping myself, and pushing myself forward without anyone’s help, so I thought a coding bootcamp was a viable option that would allow me to grow.
Did you research other coding bootcamps? What made you choose The Tech Academy?
I was living in a really small town called Fort Bragg in California. I wanted to do an onsite bootcamp, and I wanted to move to Portland, so I started looking there. I kept coming across The Tech Academy in Portland, and saw they had really good ratings. I decided between that and Coding Dojo, in Seattle.
I eventually chose The Tech Academy because of their 99% job placement rate, and the career training part of the course. I knew I could teach myself to code, but I needed someone to teach me how to be professional in an environment I’d never been in. The Tech Academy really stood out to me because of that.
How did you pay for the tuition? Any creative tips you can share with our readers?
I just worked really hard and saved up money. I came halfway close to affording the whole tuition. I was going to work even more and save up the rest, then my uncle saw how hard I was working, and gave me a loan to go for it. He said I could code some stuff for him in the future in exchange – I’m really thankful to him.
What was the application and interview process like for you?
They made me take an IQ test and a personality test. It was a standard personality test that asked what you would do in certain situations, how certain things affect your mood, and that kind of thing. They also asked me about my future goals, and why I wanted to move forward with a tech career. They were definitely curious, instead of just trying to grab everybody’s money. They wanted to know what I wanted to do with this education and where I wanted to go.
What was the learning experience like?
The great thing is, I got the experience of both worlds – the remote and in-person training. The Tech Academy offers an online training program with students across the world. When I arrived in Portland, some family emergencies came up, and I had to head back to California. I’d already enrolled and my start date was within two weeks, but The Tech Academy was very flexible and the team transitioned me into the online course instead. They called me through Skype, and I could message them to ask questions, or send emails. I ended up doing the whole program remotely. Upon finishing the course, they allowed me to go work with them for a bit so I got to see the campus, meet students, and see how the onsite course works.
What was a typical day and teaching style like?
The Tech Academy goes through the really easy stuff first, like HTML and CSS, then you start learning back end technologies. On a typical day you have to get through a certain number of pages and exercises. Each day starts out with reading a bunch of definitions to get the terminology down for that day’s lesson. Then you watch some course videos and you get a problem to work through. The instructors explain what you need to do, but they are very vague on how to do it, because they want you to figure it out. That teaching style is very beneficial for the real-life coding world, because that’s how it is – your manager is not there holding your hand telling you what to do. At end of day, you check in with your Tech Academy instructor, and they ask what you had trouble with that day, what did you feel you really benefitted from, and what did you learn, etc.
How often did you interact with students in the remote course?
When you work remotely, you mainly work on your own. There is a live project at the end where you work with other students. It’s better to do it in person if you can, but I did it remotely, and it was still very beneficial. We had Slack channels where we could communicate, we had morning meetings, standups, and talked on the phone. I was very much there, even though physically I wasn’t.
How often did you interact with instructors and The Tech Academy staff?
Every day pretty much. When I had a simple question, they would try to answer via email, or if it was something more difficult, I could talk with someone one-on-one. I once had an instructor who called me and we were on the phone for two hours trying to figure something out. Then at the end of the day sometimes they’ll text you or check in to see how your day went. They are definitely there to help you.
Every Friday, The Tech Academy has a live tech talk, where people already successful in the tech industry – sometimes it would be an alum – would visit the Portland campus, and remote students could watch it live. They talk about strategies, what to do, and sometimes The Tech Academy CEO does tech talks about becoming a software developer.
What was your favorite project that you built at The Tech Academy?
I didn’t really build any complete projects during the course because I went through it really fast – I wanted to get through it and get a tech job.
One of the coolest projects I worked on was when The Tech Academy hired me to go on site after I graduated, and we built out a whole new online system for them. That was really fun.
How long did it take you to finish the program? Was that the standard length of time?
It took me 4 months full-time. The standard length of time is 5 to 6 months. They try to wrap everyone up in 6 months, to get out and start applying for jobs. They do have students who finish as early as 3 months, but I’m not sure how that’s possible!
How did The Tech Academy prepare you for job hunting? What advice do you have for other bootcampers going through the job search?
That’s where I found The Tech Academy really excelled. Every Wednesday we had terminology training where they would ask us basic tech questions, and a lot of database questions which get commonly asked in interviews. Also, the Job Placement Director, Aaron Frichtl, would sit down with us every morning and do mock interviews and prep. He would ask in a one-on-one how the job search was going, and how many jobs I’d applied to.
Aaron attends tech meetups pretty much every day and is constantly making new connections. When I graduated he was sending me constant jobs and referrals, and told me what to apply for.
Tell me about your job search once you graduated.
I was living in a really small town, and that really hindered my job search. I found some remote jobs with clients, but couldn't get a full-time job. I was also applying for jobs in other cities, but employers usually wanted me to attend interviews in-person. In the tech world, they say you can attend interviews remotely, but I found that wasn’t really the case for junior roles. They want to see you in person, see your mannerisms, and how you react. I would get leads who would say, “Come into the office,” and I would say, “I’m in another state,” and the whole thing would end.
Eventually, one of The Tech Academy instructors saw how hard I had been working to find a job for 3 to 4 months and how I was having a hard time. He offered me an opportunity to come out to Portland, and work on a website in-house at The Tech Academy. He said, “We know you’re a hard worker, and you can look for a job on the side.” So I moved to Portland, where they taught me a lot more .NET to build the site, and we used React as well. It seemed to be an odd combination using React and .NET but it was really fun. That role provided me with the flexibility to do job hunting and go to interviews when I had to. This was about 3 months before I found my current role.
Congrats on your new job at Coates Kokes! What’s your role and how did you find it?
Coates Kokes a marketing agency and I’m one of the lead developers. I first saw the job on LinkedIn. They were looking for a web developer and I sent a resume in. I think my marketing experience with Instagram caught their interest, as well as my coding skills.
My job hunting involved sending tons of applications. I sent out around 1000 resumes in total. I got decent responses, but many didn’t turn into interviews. I ended up going to six or seven interviews before I got a job. Most of those interviews went pretty well, but it’s a tough world.
When did you start and what does your role involve?
I started on August 1st and I build out a lot of websites for clients. We have a lot of government and cause-oriented clients and one of our main clients is a huge hospital district out here called OHA. We also have Pelican Brewery which is one of the biggest beer companies in Oregon.
The marketing agency is pretty big, and includes PR and advertising. My team is just two designers and a freelance, part-time web developer. I’m the main developer onsite, working with the designers to build their designs into actual functional websites.
Are you using the stack/programming language you learned at bootcamp or a new one? How do you learn a whole new programming language?
I’m using a lot of PHP actually. They hired me for PHP which I didn’t learn at The Tech Academy, so I had to get up to speed on it. We also do a lot of custom WordPress websites.
How did you learn PHP so quickly? How did the company ramp you up and train you?
To be honest, they thought I was more experienced than I was, so they didn’t do much training. They put me straight into it and I had to fight the fires. It has definitely helped with my learning. If I had gone into a more entry level position I would have had a much slower learning process.
You’ve got to work hard, there’s no secret. It’s just lots and lots of hustle, dedication and ambition. Get up early in the morning, do some coding before work, then get to work and do more coding until you finally get up to speed and can start relaxing a little more. I just powered through – you’ve got to be a bulldog. I’m almost there now, but I’m always a hard worker. I love progress in any manifestation so I don’t think I’ll ever really take a break.
How has your previous background been useful in your new job?
It’s been really useful in that I’ve had experience dealing with customers. (I know how to deal with an angry customer, or a happy customer.) That definitely helps when I’m sitting in meetings with clients and it’s my turn to speak – I know how to talk professionally and simplify high-level technology jargon for someone who doesn’t know much about technology.
What’s been the biggest challenge or roadblock in your journey to learn to code?
Definitely the rejection. I sent out about 1000 resumes, and got very few replies. The interviews that I went to before I got hired seemed to go well, but I got emails the next day saying, “You’re a great candidate but we have better candidates.” The hardest part is when you know you’re very good at what you do, but you have a hard time communicating it to someone else.
How do you stay involved with The Tech Academy? Have you kept in touch?
I definitely keep in touch with the instructors, they are great people. One instructor is no longer working there, but he still texts and calls me to make sure I’m doing ok at my job and I’m happy. I work a block away from The Tech Academy campus in downtown Portland, so I go and talk to them, or go out for lunch. It’s a family over there – they don’t take your money and run because they really care about you like one of their own. They go above and beyond for their students.
What’s your advice to someone in a similar position to you, who may not be going to college, but wants to become a web developer?
There’s nothing to it but hard work. If you put your mind to something and power through it like a bulldog, you will accomplish anything in life, no matter what you want to do. That’s the key. There’s no secret formula, you’ve got to work really hard and act like you want it. It’s survival.
What advice do you have for people making a career change through a coding bootcamp?
Definitely teach yourself on the side, don’t just rely on what they teach you. With any resource in life, never rely on what they teach you, but always try to learn more. Try to expand your abilities and broaden your knowledge. Another thing is to find your technology niche. That’s one thing I didn’t do until very late and it hindered my progress. I knew everything, I was a jack of all trades, but couldn’t go deep into something.
Overall, always stick to what you believe and go forward with it. People might tell you that what you’re doing is stupid, that you can’t do it, you’re too young, too old, or you don’t have enough experience. But it doesn’t matter – you can always make it work if you want to make it work!
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 →
In 2014, Adam was working as a business trainer in the restaurant industry, but kept thinking about how much he enjoyed coding as a kid. After going through the software development program at The Tech Academy in Portland, Adam was hired as an instructor. Adam tells us about his path back to coding, the learning structure and curriculum at The Tech Academy, and why he finds teaching so exciting and rewarding.
Tell us about your experience before you became a teacher at The Tech Academy in Portland.
In my prior life, I worked in the restaurant industry. I spent a lot of time on the road training owners and staff on the operations of the business. I came to the Tech Academy looking for a career change. It was fantastic. I think I am the poster child of code schools; with the right attitude and aptitude, I'm living proof that anything is possible in the tech industry. When I finished the courses here at the school, I moved right into a role as an instructor.
How did you hear about coding and decide that it was the industry that you wanted to move into?
When I was a kid, I had an old Texas Instrument. It was one of the first consoles that Texas Instruments brought out. I was really young, and I remember as a kid coding programs all day long and how much it kept my attention. I truly remember how enjoyable that was. I fell back on that when my friend told me about The Tech Academy. I was in a career where I was never home, and wanted to change the pace. The tech industry allows me to have that flexibility.
How did you find out about The Tech Academy?
My friend was with a company that does placement in the tech industry, and she told me about this wonderful new school that opened here in Portland. I did some investigating on my own for what would work for me and my schedule. Here in Portland, we have several excellent bootcamps, but the one thing that stood out for me about The Tech Academy was I could do the courses in my own time. I had a very busy schedule and their philosophy was, “life happens”. If you needed to have a day off from school, you take it. For other schools, this was not the case. If I was not able to make it, I would get behind in my studies.
Tell us about your experience teaching or training before The Tech Academy.
I taught people how to run the operations side of restaurants. I would teach employees and the owner or franchisees on how to run their business all the way from operations, to the build out, to food purchases. I also consulted with the architects in creating these restaurants throughout the nation.
What is your role at The Tech Academy and what classes or lectures do you teach?
I am the Lead Instructor, and I oversee a team of instructors. I make sure instructors are sitting down to meet with students and that our remote students receive answers and help with any problems that they're dealing with on a daily basis. We encourage each one of our instructors to sit down with our students. I also help with projects and job placement.
What have you found is your personal teaching style at The Tech Academy?
My teaching style is not judgemental; I’m very goal focused. I also like to be humorous. I think my own personal teaching style is as such, because I have walked in the students’ shoes. I've gone through the course, and know the course. I also know that there are some struggles. I like to point students in the right direction and not give them the answers. If they're completely stuck, we like to get together as a team and really help them through the process. Sometimes it’s just about letting students talk about the problem and guiding them to the answer. Every single one of our students is brilliant and very dedicated to this program, it's so exciting.
How does The Tech Academy’s self-paced style work?
Currently, we have the course set up with students that are beginners. The Python, C#, HTML, CSS, and database students sit together in a group, and we have instructors who are focused on them. We then work separately with the students who are moving at different paces. We have several instructors who are available at all times to actually sit down with the students one-on-one and work through any issues they might have.
We use a learning management system where the whole program is online, so students can progress at different paces. And we're able to keep track of where each student is at, how they're doing, and see daily reports so that we know their main struggles. We’re also on the phone with our students daily.
What's the structure of learning used at The Tech Academy?
The learning management system is a neat process because it starts off with computer basics. There's a lot of learning in that first course and a lot of updates for people who are familiar with the system. The structure offers a good pace for learning as it walks you from one course to the next course. We take small steps. For example, we teach WordPress so that students are able to develop their own websites. It’s wonderful because people that are new to this industry have often never built anything. Then we have drills, which are tasks or exercises to reinforce the learning material. They show how the students progress and learn through C# and ASP. There are drills in every course, including real life scenarios with Python and C#. It's pretty exciting.
Do students come into the space everyday? How does scheduling work?
It really depends on each student’s schedule. We're open from 9:30am in the morning until 9pm at night, Monday through Friday. We always have instructors on site. We're even open on the weekends for those that can't make it because life happens, or people have to work. The students have my number if they find any problems; we're always there to help them.
Every morning at 11am we have a standup, and focus on any challenges or any problems that students might have with a particular course. We ask them what they were able to accomplish yesterday, what they're going to accomplish today, and if they have anything that's been preventing them from moving forward.
Do you have a remote only option at The Tech Academy?
Yes. We have students who are in Europe as well and a lot of students throughout the United States. They're able to Skype, or they're able to talk on the phone, pour things out, send in their code, send in their solutions, and they're able to follow the learning management system.
How many instructors or mentors do you have at The Tech Academy?
We have two remote instructors who are available specifically for our remote students. We have four in-house instructors including a live project instructor and then we have two job placement directors – one for the specific goals of remote students and the other for in-house students. Then there is me, the lead instructor.
How many students does The Tech Academy have in a class at any one time?
At any one time it all depends on the day. Here in Portland, it could be anywhere from 20 students to more than that. On average, it's 15 to 20 students in-house, and then throughout the remote student population it’s much more. We currently have over 120 students in our curriculum, with half of them being remote students.
How long do students usually take to get through the whole program and how many hours do they normally put in?
If they're able to put in 40 hours or more a week, they can get through our program in no longer than 15 weeks. That includes a live project that is a two weeks spread. If they're doing part time, it's about 30 weeks. Some people take longer than 30 weeks depending on their schedule. Some have fulltime jobs and a family. We accommodate all of our students, and want to provide an excellent service for everybody; that's our goal as instructors. For me especially, if they need to take longer, that's great.
Can you explain The Live Project students work on at The Tech Academy?
The live project is wonderful. We have a few clients who we develop applications for, so students are working with real clients. I think it's one of the best experiences for students because you’re building real life applications, but you're in an environment that is safe. If you break something it's not devastating, we're able to fix it, and it helps them get the background needed. Once it’s done, our students are able to post that code, a block of code, or something that they worked on in their GitHub accounts. They're able to showcase that, which I think is really wonderful. It's cool to see the passion that they have when their projects go live.
Does The Tech Academy give assessments to track people’s progress?
If a student at The Tech Academy isn't keeping up, how do you help them get back on track?
The curriculum is designed to start you off on a pretty simple pace. Each course gradually brings you to an understanding at each point. If we find someone that has not passed a particular course or is behind in one of those courses, we as Instructors are able to see the daily progression. If the student is remote they're sending in their reports and if they're local we're able to sit down with that individual student, and walk through any misunderstandings. Because of the way the program is set up, we can actually go back to something that the student may have missed or not had a clear understanding of; and work through it with them.
What's the application or interview process like for The Tech Academy?
There's no coding challenge. There are two tests that applicants take. One is an IQ test and the other is a personality test. The process is a little different than when I was applying because we were a smaller school at the time, but I did the IQ test and the personality test.
How does The Tech Academy help students find jobs?
We have two dedicated job placement personnel. One is for remote students and one is for in-house students. They do roundtable meetings where they have coding challenges and whiteboard work. The instructors help them with interview behavior and questions, and we also have a fantastic course for the job interview and job placement. Our main focus is to get students an amazing job which they love in this industry. We take that to heart because there are a lot of people like me who wanted a career change. They wanted to do something different, and might have been stuck in their lives and unhappy. When we can place somebody in a job, it's exciting for everybody.
What sort of jobs and roles are you seeing The Tech Academy graduates get?
A lot of students become junior developers. Most are working with .NET, and C#. If they need to perform front end, back end, or full stack, we're able to help through all that. We've had students placed at New Relic, Platt, Salesforce, Mindtree, Nike, and HP. One of my favorites was a student who was placed in Disney, and his story was amazing. I was brought almost by to tears about how he was an Uber driver before he did our course. It's so incredible to see somebody move from being an Uber driver to working with Disney, HP, or Microchip. Those are the major ones that we've placed. Many graduates have been placed at startups and other small businesses around Portland.
What meetups or events in Portland would you recommend to people who are thinking about doing a bootcamp?
There's Calagator, which lists tech meetups here in Portland. There's one or two events every single day if not more that you can go to. Look at each school in the area, look at the offerings, and see if it's a fit for you. Ask all the questions you can think of, go to meetups, and talk to people. You can find a lot of bootcamp or college students at local meetups. If you're interested in doing this, make time to go out and find something that you might be passionate about.
Does The Tech Academy hold meetups that are open to the public?
We have some on Friday afternoons where we give what we call a Tech Talk. We’ll have local students meeting with a business leader here in the area. We also do open houses so that potential students keep coming to see what we do. We're really settling down on doing meetups at night. Next, I think we're going to start working on a Python meetup open to the public. We're really focused on this industry and letting people know what we do.
Anything else our readers should know about The Tech Academy or making a career change?
If you have a passion like me, you don't have to have a background in computers. If you have the drive to learn new things, if you have curiosity, and an aptitude to understand of logic, go for it. There are so many people out there hiring junior developers. You can find a job, and you can be happy. If you have a passion, I would just do it.
Annandra Grace had an advancing career at an insurance company for 16 years, but was ready for a new challenge. She came across an ad for The Tech Academy while searching for jobs in tech and was immediately intrigued. After a campus visit that convinced both her and her brother, a self-taught programmer, she enrolled in the Portland .NET bootcamp. Now having completed the course at Tech Academy and taken a job at Prosper IT Consulting as a project manager, we sat down with Annandra to talk about that persuasive campus visit, her experience with the self-paced curriculum, and working on live projects for real clients.
Tell us what you were up to before you enrolled at The Tech Academy.
I earned my bachelor’s degree in Marketing and International Business Studies while I was working for a large insurance company as an underwriter. After I earned my degree I was promoted with that same company quite often. I led underwriting teams and customer service teams, ran compliance projects and then most recently, I led several countrywide call center initiatives as an operations manager. I decided to resign from my position after 16 years. It was a big leap of faith but I was completely ready for something entirely new and challenging.
Did you ever take a computer science class during your undergrad?
No, I didn’t. I took an information technology class, which was more of a basic overview.
Had you done any self-teaching with resources like Codecademy or Treehouse?
Nope. My younger brother is a senior developer and he really piqued my interest in the world of programming. He is a self-taught programmer, and I watched his struggle and all the effort he put into it - and his passion is what made him successful. I was a little concerned about whether I’d be able to follow in his footsteps.
How did you find out about The Tech Academy? Did you research other bootcamps?
I was looking online for jobs in the tech field and I noticed an advertisement for Tech Academy. I had no idea that these bootcamps even existed. I really did think I would have to go back to school for a computer science degree or struggle and self-teach. I immediately called the school for an interview.
What did your brother, a self-taught developer, think about you doing a bootcamp??
I brought my brother with me on my visit to Tech Academy because I wanted to be sure he felt I would be getting a good deal. He interviewed Erik and Jack with me and asked them questions. By the time the interview was over, even my brother was excited for me to sign up.
With as much work and time as my brother put into his own self-teaching, he said “I wish I’d gone through a program like this when I first started.” Hearing him say that convinced me more so that this was the place to be.
Did you have a specific career goal in mind when you started at Tech Academy?
No, I didn’t. I wanted to be generous with myself. I had built up a financial cushion before I left my prior company so that I could take the time to figure out what I wanted to do in life.
My only goal really was to learn everything I could about the technology, the programming languages, the industry and to network with others in the industry. I wanted to test myself and find out what I was good at and what I was most passionate about because there are still many different avenues you can take in tech.
What was the application process like for you?
The process started with a tour of the school. We watched a video of Erik discussing the school and the curriculum. Then I had the in-person interview with Erik and Jack. There was a filtering process that consisted of an IQ test as well as a personality test.
The IQ test was just to confirm that you could read, write and comprehend. And the personality test ensured that you could effectively interact with others and that you’re the type of person that can be successful in both the learning environment and on a job.
Tech Academy is self-paced. How long did it take you to get through the whole curriculum? Were you limited to three months?
They’re very flexible. They estimate that 4 months is what it would take if you could dedicate 8 hours a day/40 hours a week. But many of the students are working a job already and everyone has different schedules. Some even get hired before they’re done so it may take a little bit longer.
Since there isn’t a specific start date, do you interact a lot with other students at Tech Academy?
I didn’t interact with other students at first or even through most of the prep work. The course is set up through a series of reading materials, video tutorials and practice drills that you mostly work on by yourself.
During the live projects, however, you get to work with a group of other students.
Who were the students that you worked on that project with? Did you get to choose?
No; it depends on when the students are at a point in their course studies that they’re qualified to work on a live project.
How many other people would you say were in the space at the same time with you?
Since the time I started they’ve expanded tremendously. But when I started it was about 25 and most of them were onsite at the school.
How many women were studying with you when you took the class?
I think 5 including me, which was good. I really was wondering if I would be the only one!
Did you ever consider doing the virtual version of Tech Academy?
I like taking the class in person because of the energy and being around other people that are going through the same thing, even if I’m not talking to or working with them. It’s a whole different feeling of support, which is something I needed.
Were there TAs or an instructor in the classroom with you in case you needed help?
That’s one of the great things about being on-site. There was always an instructor available to give assistance at any point when you’re going through the program. They check in with you each day even if you haven’t reached out to them. They always make sure they know where you are. The instructors are also available and reach out daily to the students working virtual.
I was a little concerned at first that there wouldn’t be live lectures. But I really feel that Erik and Jack put so much thought into the content- I never felt like I was missing something.
In fact now, I feel like I may have missed something if there had been more live lectures. What if I’d missed a day or wasn’t quite at a point where I could comprehend what a lecture was addressing?
Can you take us through the curriculum at Tech Academy?
What was the feedback loop like? Were there things that didn’t work for you about Tech Academy and how were those addressed?
As you’re going the course you submit a daily report which asks about your progress and successes, any gaps, struggles, or your suggested improvements to the program. You get the opportunity to give feedback daily.
We also meet in-person weekly to talk through any issues. The curriculum is continually modified as needed based on feedback.
Were there exams or assessments that you did during the course?
There are assessments throughout each of the courses and if you can’t demonstrate either through the practical drill or by articulating the concepts, then you don’t get to move on just yet. You are not allowed to progress too quickly without demonstrating that you understand. If you were, the program wouldn’t work as well as it does.
How many hours a week would were you spending on Tech Academy?
I had a lot of work and study and intense focus going through the bootcamp but I never had to spend more than 30-40 hours a week.
Can you tell us more about the live project you mentioned? What was the project you worked on?
Everyone works for two weeks on a live project that’s actually commissioned by a client. It’s great because you have something really tangible on your resume other than course drills which you can highlight.
Throughout the process I got to meet with the client in-person and take him through what I did. It was a real world experience that gave me even more confidence that I could succeed at this.
Is that site live now?
I wish! Actually the client is using it privately as part of a bigger initiative.
What was the approach to job prep at Tech Academy?
They are very focused on making sure that every one of their students is a success when they come out and that they find a job. As far as I know they’re still at 100% job placement for other students.
There is a course specifically designed to make sure your resume is updated and that you get interview practice and soft skills training. They also gave us the opportunity to network with others in the industry by bringing in guest speakers so we could ask questions and get to know what’s really expected as junior level developers coming out of a bootcamp; how you can make a good impression and really get your foot in the door.
What is different about the software developer’s resume and a typical resume that we might be used to?
On a developer’s resume, you definitely highlight the technical aspects of what you do, the languages and environments you can work in, and the projects you’ve worked on. I also highlight my soft skills, my leadership abilities, etc.
Did you get a new job after graduating?
Yes. I work for a small software consulting firm called Prosper IT Consulting as a project manager. I also get the opportunity to work on developing the software applications that we’re actually contracted to deliver. I get the best of both worlds.
Did you go through other interviews before you took the job with Prosper?
Yes. I interviewed with two recruiting offices, but meeting people and networking in the industry was what proved most valuable to me in my job search.
There are always meetups going on in Portland where you can network with people, exchange cards and ask questions. The more consistently you go to those meetups, the more connections you make and potential job opportunities you can find.
Do you see Project Management as your long-term career?
I haven’t decided long-term yet, so much still interests me, but I’m really enjoying working at Prosper IT consulting where I can both develop and lead projects and teams.
Was Tech Academy worth the money and the time investment?
Yes, absolutely yes. I honestly think that the return on your money and time investment is tremendous. With all the care that the co-founders put into making this program work, signing up is a no-brainer as far I’m concerned.
Is there a type of person you wouldn’t recommend it to?
I wasn’t sure about the types of backgrounds and skill levels I would encounter from the other students as I came into this- there was such a diversity of skill levels. I can’t think really of anyone that I wouldn’t recommend this school to, except maybe those who don’t have a sincere interest in learning software development.
Erik and Jack are the minds behind Tech Academy Portland (formerly Prosper IT Academy), a software development bootcamp that has grown and evolved over the past year. We talk to them about the importance of professional preparation in finding jobs for their graduates, their impressive placement rate (100%!), and the need for diversity and flexibility in the growing bootcamp market.
Aside from the name change, how has Tech Academy Portland evolved over the last year?
Jack: In terms of the curriculum, we’ve added HTML5 and CSS3, Wordpress, and Python. The main reason we added Python is because it’s really in heavy demand right now and when you have graduates who know the .NET framework and Python, the job placement successes are incredible. We also have a mobile development course.
Erik: One of the things we’re happiest with is that our curriculum is a dynamic object – to be a bit of a programming geek. We’re picky about our students and who we let in the door; as a result, we get really bright, friendly people on the floor and some of the coolest things that we’ve been able to implement in the curriculum have been based on feedback or ideas from the students.
Other things we’ve added to the curriculum have been a strong emphasis on PHP, simply because the LAMP stack is so common. Wordpress developers who can build custom themes and custom plugins and work on the back-end are valuable and that comes out of PHP and MySQL.
We’ve also really fleshed out our live project program in coordination with a few consulting companies. The live projects are almost always with an actual paying client, working for them on a real production application with a deadline. Our students are rising to the occasion and they’re handling complicated MVC analysis projects and really challenging, unusual web projects for some interesting business sectors. That live project is really proving to be the point where students are putting their skills together.
How is job placement going?
We’ve added a job placement course which basically teaches the students how to do a job interview, be well-mannered and the soft skills they need. We can teach somebody how to code but they also need to know how to work in the environment, collaborate, what to expect as a developer in day-to-day life and how to interview.
The thing we’re most proud of is that every graduate has been hired. That’s the biggest deal to us.
The course is self-paced, but how long is it generally taking students to get through the whole curriculum?
Jack: Because it’s self-paced, a lot of our students will come in and do their work here but then work on it more from home. People are getting through in about 15 weeks. It’s a lot to cover but when you clear your life and you go flat-out on it, it works great for people.
We really stress the fundamentals so that when you’re learning these more advanced things, people blast through it a lot faster than if you throw them in their first day.
Do students go through all of the modules of the curriculum that you see on the website or are they picking a specific path that they want to go down?
Jack: We designed the program with a step-by-step approach. The fifth course will refer back to things we taught you in the fourth course. It flows really smoothly from one thing to the next because you don’t want to go from doing something like Wordpress to doing MVC or something – that’s a big jump.
Putting everyone through the whole curriculum has worked best. Even those who have some past experience are finding that when you’re self-taught, you don’t know what you don’t know.
Erik: Our approach is decidedly a “bottom up” approach rather than “top down.” A fair percentage of bootcamps have the philosophical approach to throw the people into a framework, start building immediately, and figure a lot of things out along the way.
There is a certain degree of wisdom to that viewpoint, but I personally have found that this works well when one already has a pretty strong sense of the fundamentals so they can sort out important data and lessons, and they can make those logical connections much more quickly. When you throw people into it who don’t have any technology background, it can be overwhelming sometimes. Our philosophy has been to build the fundamental blocks before we give them a specific language. We teach on a gradient where students are learning simple scripting or markup language, then they start gradually implementing object-oriented programming and web development. But we do it on a step-by-step basis.
You mentioned that you have been picky with your students. What have your students been like over the last year?
Erik: There’s lots of diversity; we’re all over the map. It’s really cool.
Jack: It’s great; we have all sorts of different ethnicities, we have several women attending, we have some older and younger people. I would say that 10% of the people that come in are pretty advanced, decent coders with technology experience but not able to get a job. They’re coming here to round out their skill set and get placed. I would say another 40% or so have dabbled in coding, and about half have no experience; they just know that being a developer is a smart career choice.
Erik: In 2015 we’re adding a couple other really hot technologies to the program. One of the elements we’re really going to stress this year is security. With the whole Sony thing, security is a big issue.
How many students have you graduated to date?
Jack: in 2014 we graduated 20 of our people and they all got placed. The other 40 will be graduating over the next month or two, and some of them have already gotten jobs.
What’s the philosophy behind the rolling start instead of having cohorts of students all working together?
Jack: There’s a couple of reasons. One is that we hate turning people away and we found that when we did three or six-month cohorts, our scheduling didn’t work for certain people. We didn’t want them to lose out on the opportunity.
We’ve had a fair amount of people whose lives wouldn’t have allowed for this program if we didn’t offer open enrollment. Our main philosophy is that we want to make our program available for everybody. Also, we have five people currently doing the program remotely from their homes. We have a full remote setup; our instructors use Skype and screen share.
Since the course is “self-paced,” could someone work on it part-time for 30 or 40 weeks?
Jack: That’s a good question. We’re open from 9 a.m. in the morning here till 10 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. We do have people working 40-hour a week jobs so they can come here on weeknights and work from home on the weekends and those students are doing great.
What does a typical day look like? Is there lecture? Are students working one-on-one with an instructor or going through the curriculum on their own?
Erik: It’s actually a mixture of all three of those approaches. Every single course has its curriculum and a series of steps that need to be completed in order, without jumping around. For example, when students learn HTML and CSS, they learn through a combination of recorded lectures, textbooks, code exercises, pair programming and practical assignments.
What doesn’t happen in our course rooms is live lecture. We don’t do live lecture for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that if you miss one word in the middle of a live lecture, you’re in trouble. You can either keep interrupting the instructor, or you can hope you’re going to figure it out along the way.
We do filmed lectures so students can watch when they need it.
Tell us about a success story!
We had a guy who just got a job last week- he's a young kid who was working as a bagger at a local grocery store. He had to go through a lot to get through this program; not just intellectually, but he also matured a lot and gained a lot of personal responsibility. The degree of change that happened in this man’s life over the last three or four months is profound.
We make Tech Academy Portland as accessible as we can because ultimately, this industry opens up a really great life for the right type of person.
Have you had many younger students or students who didn’t do an undergrad degree at Tech Academy Portland?
Erik: Oh, yeah, there’s a lot. There’s a 24-year old kid on the floor who will be done pretty soon. His entire tech experience involves playing a ton of video games, and he had no post-secondary education at all.
On the other hand, we taught a guy who got a CS degree, tried to get a job for six to eight months, wasn’t getting hired anywhere. He did our program and got hired two weeks before graduating. We really teach people the skills they’re going to need in the marketplace. Their resumes reflect what employers are looking for and they have real coding experience in these areas.
How are you attracting a diverse applicant pool?
Jack: We had some aspirations to network and market with diversity groups in our area but it hasn’t shown to be needed because of the signups we’ve been getting without marketing. I would say 40% of our students are under the age of 24, and 30-40% of them are over 40 and the rest of them are in the middle.
Erik: We have seven women currently enrolled, and we really want to be a part of the women in tech movement that’s happening right now. We’re looking to get involved with the Chicks Who Code organization in 2015.
What kind of jobs are students being hired into? Are they full-time developers now, freelancing, working for startups or enterprise companies?
Erik: The most common outcome is that they’re getting hired full-time as developers - 40 hours a week at companies in the Portland area. Most of them are companies that have been around for a while. There are a couple of graduates who went to startups. The average annual salary is currently a little over $60,000 – which is higher than we expected. For the Portland market that’s a really good salary.
Jack: I don’t think we’ve had anybody go into freelancing yet. We have a couple of students currently attending who say that they want to freelance when they graduate. But most of them are getting run-of-the-mill 9 to 5 jobs.
Are you both mentoring and instructing, or do you have other instructors?
Jack: Right now Erik and I tend to concentrate on curriculum and business development and we have three instructors. The instructors handle virtually everything; they’re all graduates of our program.
Erik also sits down with each student at least once a month personally to interview them and see how they’re doing.
How do you see the bootcamp industry evolving over the next five years?
Jack: We’ve been involved with a lot of local bootcamps, and we have aspirations to be a national bootcamp. I think over the next five years you’re going to see five major national boot camps that are everywhere. And we hope to be one of the major boot camp names in America and to be a national company this next year.
Are you planning to expand to other cities?
Erik: We want to have classes being delivered in 10-15 of the major cities in America but we’ll be based in Portland. We do want to continue to offer that remote online option. We’re actually going to be running a bootcamp in Seattle starting in April! We’ll learn from that expansion and hopefully we’ll just continue emulating that plan throughout the US.
Erik Gross took his background in classroom and practical instruction for the Navy and combined it with his expertise in .NET and Java. Add the clear shortage of talent in the booming Portland IT market, and Erik knew he had a recipe for success. He started the Prosper IT Academy (now Tech Academy Portland) in 2013.
We talk with Erik about their unique rolling admission model, how they team up with staffing partner CorSource, and what students learn during their ten weeks at Prosper IT.
What were you doing before you started Prosper IT and how did you get into this space?
My technical and education background both come from the Navy. While I was in the Navy, I was a Nuclear Reactor Operator and Electronics Technician, and I was also a classroom instructor teaching computer fundamentals, electronic, nuclear power, physics- everything you need to know to operate a nuclear reactor in a ship. I was also a practical instructor inside the ship, and I found that I loved it. All the way through my professional career, I have always had a mentor role with getting people up to speed on changing technologies.
Fast forward to the last several years, and I’ve been operating in Portland. The IT market in Portland is really vibrant. We’ve got a strong .NET/Java enterprise community, and also a strong startup community. I’ve been part of the enterprise community for a long time, and I realized that there was a distinct shortage in talent. I was pulling in all of these side projects, and it was hard to find junior developers to work on these projects. So a buddy of mine and I started to create our own talent; we developed a curriculum and taught best practices to this group of junior developers. Everybody who went through that prototype program got jobs in IT- it worked out really well.
Then about a year ago, my son came home from school (he’s 15) and said he wanted to do a developer bootcamp. The lightbulbs went off, I did all my research, and realized that my specific advantages were that I was going to teach .NET, because that’s the stack I know. We weren’t going to teach Ruby because I don’t know that stack- what I do know is how to be a well-rounded .NET developer. So I started putting together this course to create a well-rounded developer. We produce developers with the technical skills to be an entry-level developer, but also the soft skills with the ability to communicate well, handle stress, and genuinely network and establish long-term relationships with people.
Why did you choose to teach .NET?
It’s what I know, but also, it’s the area that we need talent. Everyone I pitched the idea to just lost their minds - there is a tremendous demand for .NET talent in this town. It’s mindboggling how many jobs there are relative to the number of developers - we have Intel, Nike, Techtronics, IBM, all of the major healthcare companies - and they’re all .NET stack. In fact, we work with a partner, CorSource, who handles all of the interview prep and resume building for us. They came up with 143 different companies in Portland that employ .NET developers!
What are you looking for in potential students? Do students need to have any programming or IT experience?
We have two different offerings in our school - one is for the experienced developer who has been on the job for 2-4 years and is well-established in the industry, but wants to get up to speed in a newer technology like ASP.NET MVC, test diven development, or unit testing. This is not a bootcamp environment; it’s 1-2 weeks long and is a crash course.
The other is the bootcamp. The only requirement is that you’re very bright and have a good personality. To that end, the applicant testing isn’t about IT knowledge. We do an IQ test, which tells me a lot. Then, we do a personality test which helps weed out people who are unstable or are putting on a front. Because we weed those people out, our classes are really awesome, even though some of the students are smart-alecs! It’s a really great dynamic - they naturally form teams. That’s the kind of product we want in the IT community - a develper who is friendly, can take criticism well, is naturally inquisitive and isn’t insecure.
So students can start the program at any time. Do they form cohorts or is this a one-on-one experience?
For the first third of the program, a lot of learning is one-on-one with the instructor.
First, we assess knowledge of computer science fundamentals with a pretty brutal, two-hour test. We don’t care if they do well or poorly on it, we just want to know how much they know about number systems, algorithms, data structures, basic computer architecture, and fundamentals of programming. Based on those results, we create a custom training program to fill any of those holes. Some people have to learn all five modules and others only have to do one or two.
How many students are in the space at the same time?
6-10 at a time. We have 2 instructors.
Are you getting a lot of interest in the program?
Last week, we got 20 inquiries and 3 applications. We just kicked off a marketing campaign. I want to be able to deliver well - we just added another office so we’re ready for that.
How selective are you with applicants?
We are selective, but we spend a good amount of time interviewing. There are some people who I encourage not to even do our initial testing. But once a student gets through the testing, we’ve had 100% acceptance rate.
What is the makeup of your cohorts? Do you do outreach to women and underrepresented minorities in the community?
We have about 20% women and 20% underrepresented minorities right now, which is fine, but I’d like to get that up. One thing we’re doing is outreach in local education to tutor STEM subjects in middle and high school. I’ve worked in the enterprise IT environment for so long, where often 40% of the workforce are women. I have a phenomenal track record working with women in this industry, but most of the women I’ve worked with have been from India, because they’re really well educated in STEM there. Probably 90% of our applicants are men. We’d like to change that.
Tell us about the soft skills that you’re teaching students and why that’s important.
In-house, towards the end of their technical training, they go through a communications course. This teaches how to ensure that you’re being understood by another person, ensure that they’ve understood you, without getting upset. The communications course handles this well. The main reason I’ve been hired in the past is because I interview well and have gotten along with people - I want my students to have that. Then, our staffing partner CorSource takes over, and they get into the specifics of the interview process and handling difficult questions. They drill the students beforehand, so that they don’t fall down during their first interview.
How does Prosper IT help students get jobs in tech once they’ve completed the program?
They’re building a portfolio with the two or more live projects they do - I get people asking all the time about our students working on their projects. We have specific requirements about what we’ll accept. It must be a full-stack application and it must have a viable back-end component. We’re not just going to build a glorified brochure page for a real estate company, for example. It also must be public-facing, ideally viewable on the internet, or, if it’s an in-house proprietary app, the client has to be willing to let the students keep the code base so that they can show prospective clients their work. That is their resume.
Do you have any examples of projects that your students are working on now?
There’s a junior developer user group that just formed in Portland ,and our school is making the website for it. They’re creating the back end to be able to store historical data, keep minutes of the meetings, store membership data, etc., as well as the front-end of the site.
Another one is a tool called the Parts Writer, for an Oregon aerospace company who needed the ability to take the materials for aircraft and determine which elements of those parts were new and revised versus parts that the company already has. So it aids them in building highly technical parts and repair manuals. These are live projects, not theoretical assignments.
Tell us about your job placement stats and your relationship with CorSource. Does a student get a tuition refund or are there recruiting fees?
We’ve placed 100% of our students, and honestly, we always will. One of the key components of our relationship with CorSource is that they organize talking tours, where CorSource arranges events with their clients – our students get to talk with the CEO and developers at the company- it’s the ultimate foot in the door. CorSource is working with us for free, but they want to place the students because that’s how they get paid. On the other hand, I’m forming relationships directly with employers and for those, I negotiate a hiring fee, and all of that fee goes to the student.
If a potential student isn’t looking for a job, but maybe wants to start their own company or launch their own product, is that supported at Prosper IT?
I’ve never had anyone bring it up. I have a couple guys now who are natural hackers and entrepreneurs, but their goal is to get solid training, work in the industry for a few years, and then launch on their own.
Your website says that you will pay for the MTA (Microsoft Technology Associate) Certificate - have you had success with that?
I haven’t had a single person test for it. I’m perfectly willing to pay the assessment fees, though!
Do you feel pressure to become accredited or work with regulatory agencies in Oregon?
I haven’t specifically gotten word of anything like that in Portland, but we’ve all been talking about it. I’ve talked with my students, and a couple of guys who run other code schools. That said,
I really want to have my finger on the pulse of this - I want to know if anyone is going to either try to suppress this area or try to grab a piece of it, because there is money being made. I don’t mean to seem cynical, but I saw the article about the California regulations, and I know that’s not motivated by concern for the students or protecting them from fraud, because they’re all getting hired at $100,000 per year, so why do they need to be protected? I’ll try to be as far ahead of this as I can.