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 News
- Student Spotlight: Alex Wong of The Tech Academy
- Data Dive: How Much Can You Earn After Coding Bootcamp?
- Alumni Spotlight: Temple Naylor of The Tech Academy
Recent The Tech Academy Reviews: Rating 4.83
Software Developer Bootcamp
- Financing available with Skills Fund.
- Payment Plan
- In-house financing option available.
- Minimum Skill Level
- No prior experience required.
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- No prep work required
Software Developer Bootcamp
- Financing available with Climb Credit.
- Payment Plan
- In-house financing option available.
- Minimum Skill Level
- No prior experience required.
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- No prep work required
Software Developer Bootcamp
- Financing available with Skills Fund.
- Payment Plan
- In-house financing option available.
- Minimum Skill Level
- No prior experience required.
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- No prep work required
Software Developer Bootcamp
- Financing option available with Skills Fund.
- Payment Plan
- In-house financing option available.
- Minimum Skill Level
- No prior experience required.
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- No prep work required
The Tech Academy Reviews
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I moved to Portland four years ago with the intention of moving into the Tech Industry. I have always been interested in Computer Networking and Mobile Technology so I took a job with Sprint Wireless which I did enjoy. After working in the Mobile industry for a couple of years I wanted to move more into the engineering side of things so I started looking into schooling and Networking Certification. That’s when I came across the Tech Academy Website and submitted for more information. Software development had always intrigued me but I thought it was only for computer science majors.
I had a few email communications with the Academy and set an appointment to meet Erik and tour the facility. On the day I came in I was still thinking networking would be my career of choice. When I met Erik his passion for software came across right away and I was impressed. I then toured the facility and got a really good feeling for The Tech Academy’s vision and goals for their students. Having an understanding of where jobs of the future are going and not wanting to spend two more years in college the Tech Academy became a top consideration.
With the decision made to come to the Academy after another good meeting with Erik and passing the prerequisites I began my basic training for software development. Not having previous coding experience made the experience a little daunting at the beginning but with a great course curriculum and great instructors I was able to get myself rolling through the program. I enjoyed coming to the downtown campus daily and found the Instructors and entire staff very helpful and accommodating.
After a few months on the program I was given the opportunity to become an instructor with the Academy which I accepted happily. I know the best way to learn something is to teach it and I really enjoy being around other students so It was great to become part of the Tech Academy team. This is also a great way to give back for the opportunities I am thankful for. Learning to be a software developer is not easy and does take a lot of work but if you stay focused and work hard you will be successful. The Tech Academy genuinely cares and wants to have successful graduates and is a great place to learn coding. I want to thank everyone at the Academy for the passion and guidance that has got me through the program. You are all awesome!
Response From: Danny Condon of The Tech Academy
However, I would like to clarify one thing. You mentioned that we have students sign a waiver that they will never write a negative review. I want to clarify this: we have students take entry testing. One of the purposes of this testing is to locate negative personality types that are hyper-critical and will cause problems on the program. A couple years ago, one of our Registration Directors (Morgan) was using a "loophole" for students that failed entry testing. He created a waiver that protected the school from potentially problematic students and it included in it that these students that failed our entry testing would not attack the school publicly (since it was already clear from their entry testing and our experiences with them that they were highly critical). Very few people ever signed the waiver and our Co-Founder canceled its use over a year ago (I estimate only 10 out of the 300+ people we've signed up ever signed it). None of the reviews on this site are from one of the very few students that signed this waiver.
Response From: Danny Condon of The Tech Academy
Wow, where do I start?
I joined the Tech Academy in June 2015, while still working full-time at my job at a start-up company. That start-up was shortly acquired and I was left with two choices: work with the new ownership or commit full-time with my studies. I chose to commit to the bootcamp and I’m glad I did.
Along the way, I learned a lot of the fundamentals of software development that I will carry with me going forward. I can now say that learning a new language or technology is something I am confident in doing within a short period of time. I’m now ready to start my new career as a full-time web developer for a Fortune 1000 company in a small, fast paced team next Monday.
I don’t think this would be possible had I not joined the Tech Academy and was taught the array of front-end/back-end languages, database structures, and the ability to work on a live project team. These are highly valuable technical skills that I feel have prepared me to be competitive in the marketplace.
There is only one coding boot camp in my city and so, I was very grateful to find a solution to study self-paced online while I was also working full-time when I joined.
Thank you Tech Academy, you were the perfect fit! Otherwise, I don’t think my career transition would have happened the way it did without me inconveniently relocating somewhere temporarily just to make the leap into web development. Although my leap took months, every day I did something to progress forward in my skills, projects, and study. It is true that what you put into your studies is what you get out of it. I also had accountability each week from my job placement coach which was very helpful in keeping me on track. He would always make sure I was preparing myself. Whether that meant mock interviewing me the day of my interviews or applying to jobs, I think the overall accountability and consistency is what brought me confidence that it was just a matter of time for the right opportunity to present itself. And that is exactly what happened!
Thank you Tech Academy staff for the support and education! I look forward to a successful career in web development and I am happy to start seeing the fruits of my labor! This is just the beginning.
Although I haven't yet completed the program, so far I have really understood what I am studying. Sometimes I can forget what I was reading when I intake too much data at once, but there are coding challenges that have let me practice and thus retain what I have learned.
To start things off, I would like to say that the experience here has been phenomenal. The entire staff, the flexible scheduling, course work layout, lessons, and teaching style has been nothing short of great.
I came to this school with zero prior knowledge on sofware development. I came from a dental background. Starting off with computer basics, it was a good course for me to get my feet wet within the computer world. They have laid out the courses in a great way that makes sense and logical for the students to learn.
Moving through the courses in succession is a great sensation. I never would have thought I'd learn this much about software development. Definitely not possible on my own without The Tech Academy. Learning both front-end and back-end development is a great way to make yourself a well-rounded developer.
Funny thing is, I landed a job at a fantastic location before even finishing the entire program. Now I am making a salary for the first time in my life and taking over my household as the main income provider (I'm only 24 years old). I couldn't have been more thankful for enrolling here. It is life changing and great relationships were built.
I made my appointment to interview the staff and experience their learning environment and take their phony "entrance exam" which consists of a IQ & personality test.
They claimed their test results revealed that I would need to sign a wavier because the personality test revealed a red-flag which they said means that I do not "play nice with instructors".....???? I asked why an exception is being made for me and they responded that because I passed their IQ exam with a reasonably high score, that they would, "love to have me as a student". I asked to retake the personality evaluation due to botched initial answersheet during first attempt. When I completed the retake evaluation, they sent me a copy of their wavier. **It had nothing to do with "playing nice" -which was explained to me earlier, that if I should encounter any conflict during my program, that I would follow a structured channel/chain of command to resolve any conflicts that may arise between students, faculty and insturctors" In reality, the waiver was simply a form requesting several disturbing things:
1. I would agree to relinquish all of my legal rights to ask for refunds on tuition or any legal/litigious recourse to protect my investment in the school.
2. That I would not speak negatively of the shool on any social media. (there were more bullet items, but those are the two red-flags for me.)
Why would anybody invest in or take on intellectual debt in a rigged deal where the school has absolutely no responsibiltiy or accountability to your success or even your satisfaction? evidently people do sign and relinquish their legal rights under the guise of some false behavior exam with a supposed "red flag"...... don't be taken advantage of here -I won't do it. Any shool that genuinely cares about your success is not going to ask you to put yourself in such a vulnerable position.
Moving on and you should too! This after narrowly surviving Portland Code School who also tried to rip me off to the tune of $1,000. in tuition as the result of a secretive backdoor business transaction and abrupt school closure with strong resistance to do the right thing and provide refunds. In my case fortunately, PayPal automatically recovered my tuition money for me and Oregon Department of Justice is still investigating the loss of opportunity.
Play nicely with your students and you won't have to worry about lawsuits and headgames.
I'm not done with the training yet, but I must admit that I have learned more (in such a short time) than any class that I have ever taken. This atmosphere is electric and there are so many people to meet and draw from. If you are looking to join a community of developers, this is the right place to start. On that note, let me get back to my studies! ; ) joinUP!...
As a student here at The Tech Academy, I couldn't be more pleased. The academy covers every aspect of teaching with a very high standard. The instructors here go out of their way to make sure I am understanding the content. I never feel like they look down upon my work nor my questions.
The content in the coursework is wonderful and is designed to help students progress as fast or as slow as they need to. In addition to the course program, Tech Academy's job placement strategy is bar none. They provide two full time staff that daily assist with any job placement needs, questions, concerns, follow-ups.
They also have a sister company that has live projects from jobs that need to be done within the greater Portland community. Every student is assigned to at least one live project where they have hands on working experience that no only builds their resume but helps prepare them for any future work.
In summation, I feel that when I leave this program I will be fully prepared to take on work situations that are thrown my way. I wish that my undergraduate and master's degrees were taught in this format. I will have learned and developed more skils in 15 weeks than an entire year of coursework at major universities.
I was looking for .NET boot-camp in Portland and when came to know about Tech Academy, the first thing that impressed me was 100% job placement. I have a computer background, so I only wanted to take the .NET course, but the software developer boot camp was like a package, so I started from the computer basics course. As I moved on to the successive courses, I realized just how important it was to start at the basics and progress forward through each course.
The main thing that was helpful for me was the self paced learning curriculum and that I would be able take the course online. The curriculum was very comprehensive and the drills were challenging particularly the python drills which was helpful in developing my logic. Instructors were helpful and I got immediate response/help from them. The live project and job placement courses are definitely highlights in the boot-camp. In the live project, I had an opportunity to work in a real world website and was able to contribute to the website. The job placement course helped me prepare for the interview. The Tech Academy taught me the skills that are necessary for my career.
I am happy that I gained the knowledge as well as received a job.
I'll take this opportunity to thank Adam, Tony and Danny and all the other staff in Tech Academy for their support and motivation! I am now employed in technology!
Whoever said "You can't teach an old dog new tricks", never went to the Tech Academy. At the ripe age of 53, I have taken thousands of hours of programming, development and design classes. The Tech Academy has managed to design a curriculum that far surpasses any of those hours.
As a Veteran, I'm always on the lookout for organizations that proclaim great and wonderful things for Vets, but deliver less than stellar products and seem more interested in getting the GI Bill money than educating us. The Tech Academy is not one of those schools. I would, and I have recommended them to other Vets I know.
At first I was very skeptical about all "Boot Camp" style courses mainly because of the rigorous pace and wealth of knowledge you're expected to absorb in such a short period of time. After researching the Tech Academy, along with many other schools, I was first and foremost impressed with the choice I was given to either follow a self paced program, a more structured in classroom setting or a combination of both. The combination was perfect.
This "Old dog" was taught more in the 5-6 months of real education than I was in years of instruction, and there is a difference in the two. I was very concerned that the beginning classes were too "Basic" for me. I have my A+, Network+, Security+, several Microsoft certifications and started my programming career in Visual Basic 3.0. My first computer ran DOS and windows 3.0 had just been released. I received my computer science degree in 1985 before it was called that and when the horse and buggy was the preferred way to get around. To say the least, my education was dated and needed a serious facelift.
Starting with the very first course, the most basic level, I was reminded of many terms and definitions I had forgot. I was also taught many I had never heard of before. This is a great foundation that makes the rest of the course fall into a cohesive order.
With each course, I learned something new. With most, I learned everything new. The order in which each subject is taught and presented makes perfect sense and builds on the previous subject. With each new language, I was taught the mechanics, strengths and purpose of the language. Something lacking in most other schools. Other schools never seem to teach you the "why" part, only the "how" part. The Tech Academy teaches both. This way you can make an educated decision as to what language to use for the job, why you're using that language and whether or not you are going to inject several other languages to comprise a single project. Most projects will use multiple languages, but knowing why and which ones to use is the important part.
Progressing through each course I was constantly tutored and mentored by a very knowledgeable and competent instructor staff. This includes the "Student" instructors. I was always impressed by their honesty and ability to say, "I don't know that. Let me do some research and get back to you", instead of trying to fumble their way through pretending to know but only confusing me more. Then they would actually get back to me. In most cases in minutes but always the same day. No time was ever wasted unless it was wasted by me.
Most notable of all the staff is Adam Smith. He is in my opinion, the best instructor at the Academy. He never once gave me an answer, instead, he always pointed me in the direction to where I could find the answer but more importantly, he would follow up to make sure I understood the answer, as did all the instructors no matter which one was helping me. He never made me feel I was imposing on him with questions I probably should have already known the answer to. But most impressive is his ability to help me understand the problem I was having, not the problem I thought I was having. Most other teachers I have encountered are not as gifted in this area of education.
When it comes to having a competitive edge, education is always that edge. Any institution can teach anyone, but not very many can educate. The Tech Academy, starting with the first class to the final class, makes sure you understand what you are learning before having you start the next subject. There is an old saying, "Teach to standard, not to time." The Tech Academy teaches to above standard and ensures you have all the time you need to fully understand.
For me, I chose the Tech Academy to refresh my skills and hopefully learn something new to make me more competitive in the market place. I received much more. I received an education and a hard, wide firm foundation which made it possible for me to start my own small software consulting firm before I finished the school.
My first client called me to ask a simple question, but one that is becoming the most important question for all firms, "Do you know how to upgrade our old software to something more dynamic, can handle hundreds of users at the same time and capable of utilizing the different languages that have to run on both Windows and Linux operating systems?"
Because of the education I received from the Tech Academy, I was able to give an answer that impressed them. I said, "Depending on what language your old program is written in and if you have the source code, would depend on whether or not it would be less expensive for you to rewrite the software or just buy an off the shelf tool that will do what you want and then build customized tools to fill in the gaps." I was hired as their consultant before the conversation ended and subsequently was asked to help write the tools to fill in the gaps. None of this would have ever been made possible without the education I received from the Tech Academy.
Thank you Tech Academy for teaching this old dog a tremendous amount of new tricks.
First off, I would like to recommend every person looking at coding schools take a good look at the Tech Academy. I have been very happy with all my experiences there. I was a process engineer looking to make a career change and move into the software industry and the Tech Academy gave me the skills I needed to do a mid-career pivot at my own pace. But no matter the stage of your career or level of experience, I saw students from all skill levels and backgrounds succeed in the program. Throughout my time with the Tech Academy they have been supportive, helpful and very keen on helping me succeed even when I wasn’t as motivated as I should have been. The instructors and staff never wavered in their support or professionalism. The Tech Academy gave me skills and experience to land job interviews and even when I didn’t get the job, employers were always impressed with the what I learned in a short period of time and with the live projects. I can’t stress enough how helpful having the live project experience is when you are actually interviewing.
In my current position at Shiftwise, I use my sql, c# and xml skills to help customers and account managers get the data they need from our software and databases. The c# helps me read and understand our codebase. The sql helps me build the actual queries needed which can get pretty complicated, some of our previous queries are several hundred lines long. My knowledge of xml helps me format our output so it is easy to read and parse by our end users.
The knowledge and skills I learned at the Tech Academy gave me a great foundation to build off of as I start my new career as a software developer.
Thank you Adam, Danny, Alem, Brett, Cole, Clifford, Kendra, Emily, Jack, Erik and everyone else at the Tech Academy!
I have been working with electronics and PC hardware/software since the early 90's. Refurbishing computers for my High School; Community College electronics courses; phone support for Windows 95, and other techie roles. Up until April 2015 I was at McAfee/Intel Security for over 17 years, working as a black box (mostly manual) QA Engineer.
Having been reorganized out of a job, I surveyed the employment landscape and found most new QA roles to be automation centric or defined more as a hybrid development role (e.g. Agile Tester). Breaking into this paradigm without some coding and scripting experience is worse odds then a Shetland pony in a Gygax dungeon (yes, nerdy D&D reference, but truth none the less).
Let's take an old-school black box QA, and skill'em up into a QA Automation, or a Junior Developer role, shall we? This wouldn't be the first time that I tried my hand at development. I have taken compressed courses in Visual Basic, and C over the years, but nothing ever stuck because those class environments assumed a prior computer sciencey background that I did not possess.
I needed something structured, from the ground up approach, which avoided using all the abstruse terminology that can be a barrier into the field.
With all my new found spare cycles, I attempted to do some learning on my own. A video course here, or a library run there... I was getting nowhere fast, but it did lead me to the concept of coding boot camps, so I started to dig into that more.
The courses are designed from the beginning with no foreknowledge of computer science, or computers in general. They take the complex words/concepts, and break them down into a level of understanding that you don't even get in the "for dummies" books. Sure, some of the beginning bits were review for me, but even basics helped me build confidence in my understanding, and my resolve to see this through, and I may just have learned a few things better than I had understood them before.
Not everything was easy, boy howdy. There were days that I had wondered what I had gotten myself into. With the effort that I put in on the coursework, the mentoring of the instructors, and the encouragement of The Tech Academy staff, I was able to find that next job. Maybe not exactly in the direction that I was expecting, but that has been the way that my career has worked. Open mind's lead to open doors, is the fortune cookie of my life.
I have no doubt that the Portland Tech Academy is the reason I am starting a new job with Salesforce on Monday. When I started, technology was a large, overwhelming field of information. I felt bombarded with opinions and potential directions to move: Should I learn Java right away? What about Ruby? I’ve heard Python is easy…
An argument I often hear against technology bootcamps is that the information is (mostly) available for free or for a fraction of the cost of a bootcamp. I used to think that I could become a developer on my own, but I realized after a year of studying independently that I was nowhere closer to where I wanted to be than when I started. The Tech Academy provided a linear path forward, complete with projects, objectives, and checkpoints for me to step back and appreciate the progress I had made. In addition to giving me a clear direction, the Tech Academy provided me an opportunity to join a community, and to be held accountable for my studying time every week. I made more progress working with the Tech Academy’s specific curriculum in half a year than I could have in three years of independent study. The Tech Academy is also unique in that they were flexible and willing to work with my schedule, allowing me to make progress toward a new career while also keeping my day job. For me, this was invaluable, and the Tech Academy was the obvious bootcamp of choice in the Portland market.
Finally, while the program the Tech Academy offers is officially termed a ‘software developer bootcamp’, there are also many other careers that you can pursue after completing this program. I will be working as a customer success agent for developers, helping to debug code and recommend programming best practices. There are many companies out there looking for energetic coders to fill jobs outside of the software developer role, from QA to customer service to product management. For myself, I’m thankful that the Tech Academy has helped me land this new opportunity with such a large company, and I hope to continue growing as a software developer for my own side projects.
Here is my long essay about my experience with The Tech Academy:
Tech Academy has changed my life and I want to let people know where I was before I started and what I accomplished with it in such a short time.
To start, I have never been in tech, I had absolutely no experience with programming. The only thing that I had ever done that even had a flavor of it was some advanced Excel work. I had been in sales my entire life. I was great at it but like most sales people I found that I was working really long hours, at times had to travel and be away from my family, and had deal with the weeks where I just didn't sell much and had to experience the painful side of a primarily commissioned based income.
About two years ago when my wife and I found out that we were going to have a second child (already had a 3 year old at that point) I knew I would have to change something career wise so that I could be with my family more and honestly get out of working just for sake of working.
I didn’t know what to do at first so I started driving for Uber and Lyft which provided a lot of work flexibility and I could make decent money with it in San Francisco. After a year of doing it I had the opportunity of talking to thousands of people about their lives and careers and there was one thing that completely stood out to me: it was the programmers that were the happiest people I met and had the most financial security and even above that were able to do the things they wanted to do in their life.
I got really interested in a programming career so I started to ask people what the best way was to get started. Driving in SF actually gave me the opportunity to talk to programmers, recruiters, HR managers, and even several executives and a couple CEOs of major tech companies about how to get started. Literally, every single one of them told me the same thing: the number one place they want to get their programmers from is from a software bootcamp school.
I did A LOT of research into different bootcamps. They all seemed great but there were a few things that really made Tech Academy stand out to me:
1.The curriculum seemed well balanced covering both front and back end development. Most of the bootcamps that I researched would only teach either front end or back end (not both) and usually taught only one language.
2.After talking with Tech Academy themselves I saw that the team there worked to provide a certain amount of flexibility to there students so that people who had families and still had to work had options to still get through the school.
3.And probably the most important thing to me was that they were the ONLY tech school that actually provided courses that could take someone from having no experience or education in programming to a well trained programmer in a short amount of time. NONE of the other bootcamps (even if they said they did) could bring on and teach students from scratch. They all required a certain amount of experience and knowledge in the field first.
At the time I found Tech Academy I had some commitments that would occupy most of my time for several months that really could not get out of. But I knew it was the right decision so I did sign up immediately knowing I wouldn’t be able to start until later.
I finally got started about two months ago and I will tell you that these last two months have been a major rocket ride in my life. Right from the start with the Computer Basics Course I was learning more than I thought I could ever know about tech, computers, and programming. I want to make this very clear:
THE COMPUTER BASICS COURSE ALONE MAKES ANY AMOUNT OF MONEY YOU PAY FOR TECH ACADEMY MORE THAN WORTH IT. NO ONE ELSE HAS ANYTHING REMOTELY CLOSE TO THE EDUCATION IN THIS COURSE AND IT WILL GIVE YOU THE FOUNDATION THAT YOU NEED TO ENSURE MAXIMUM SUCCESS IN THE TECH INDUSTRY. I AM CONVINCED THAT ANY FAILURE OR HARDSHIP SOMEONE HAS IN DOING TECH IS SOLELY BECAUSE THEY DO NOT HAVE THE EDUCATION THAT IS IN THIS COURSE.
I was spending every spare moment I had doing Tech Academy. I was doing most of it online and also worked out my schedule so that I could go in person to Tech Academy for 2 weeks to do it even more intensively in that time. The instructors were all amazing and totally willing and able to help me with anything.
It really stuck out to me how focused and caring all of the Tech Academy staff were on ensuring that I had success. Most educational systems I have been in since I was a child were set up to just through a bunch of information about random subjects at me and then when that class or semester was over I was on my own. Not here, the staff all have as their primary goal to have every single one of their students succeed in the industry and that is the product that they are all personally going after.
A good analogy is that the Tech Academy instructors help you in a way as if they were bridge building teachers that would one day have to cross the bridges that their students built in order to make it home. If you had to cross a bridge that one of your students built then you know that you are going to damn well ensure your students are VERY successful bridge builders.
After just 4 weeks into the curriculum I began telling everybody that was going to a tech school and any tech person I met or would run into I would tell them what I was learning. At the time, I wasn’t even sure what exactly I wanted to do or where I wanted to work at but I was hungry for connections in the industry and figured the more connections I had and the more people that knew about me would come in handy.
In the process of doing this I ran into a guy that worked for Disney Studios. As soon as I found out that he worked there my interest peaked. I have always loved the film industry and even started my high school’s first film club. And I am big comic book geek and Disney recently bought Marvel. I thought that that would be a perfect place to work. I also thought that it was pie in the sky that I could work there after coding for just a few weeks. But I said to hell with those considerations it doesn't hurt to give it a shot.
I got the guy to give me his boss’s contact information and through some polite persistence I got the boss to agree to give a phone interview. Then the Tech Academy instructors on a daily basis started to prep me for the interview and what to do in the hiring process. This was awesomely extensive and gave me the confidence I needed to do the interview. After a 30 minute phone interview I was invited to Disney Studios to do an in person interview. Tech Academy prepped me for that one too. I was able to handle all the questions including the technical ones and felt good about the interview.
I am now very excited to say that after just doing about 2 months at Tech Academy I was just hired by Walt Disney Studios as a front end developer for $145,600 a year! This is a literal dream job for me and will have enough income to support my family and work on accomplishing other goals I have.
I know this success story is already long, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to do Tech Academy and this education and support. If you want to change your life and if you want to become a major part of what is one of the top industries in the world then commit yourself to getting through your courses and then really apply the education and skills you are getting (like anything, you are only going to get back what you get into action on) And if you are not yet a student of Tech Academy then become one now, it’s that simple.
Thank you to everyone at Tech Academy for your amazing approach at teaching me and your stellar support and care in ensuring my success!
Response From: Danny Condon of The Tech Academy
At the Tech Academy I learned a lot of things. I started the Academy knowing a little about programming but not much. In the beginning of the program we learned about the computer and how it works. Even though I have been working with computers for years I felt like this was a good refresher. It sort of preps your brain for the vast amount of information it’s about to absorb in a short amount of time.
I first ran into trouble with PHP and that is when I first learned how to search for answers and work out problems I ran into. I was seriously stuck on this section and with the help from the Instructors and research I found a solution for the problem I was having. I worked remotely and although at first thought it would be more difficult, I am happy I did.
One of the biggest things I learned and took away from the Tech Academy was learning how to learn a lot of information quickly and being able to apply the information. The job I received was for a program that I never heard of until I applied for the job. I did some tutorials and read a little and felt comfortable going into the interview. I was offered the position but since I was new to the program I still had a lot to learn. I was told by my interviewer that there was a steep learning curve and I would be expected to learn and apply the information quickly. I was not hesitant on ensuring him that I knew without any doubt I could learn the program very quickly.
I kinda laughed because in the back of my mind I felt like I had been preparing myself for a situation like this. The Tech Academy is not easy by any means, it’s tough, tiring and sometimes makes you want to throw your laptop against a wall. With that said however, when you find a solution to the unsolvable problem you are faced with it makes everything you are putting yourself through worth it. After finishing the Tech Academy I have come to realize it has prepared me for real world situations. A lot of times you are given a problem and expected to find a working solution in a timely manner. While going through the program it feels like I retrained my brain to do just that and that helped prepare me for the real world of programming.
The Tech Academy offered me a deep grounding and confirmation of my knowledge in the basics of computers and computer software. From here, after having built my own website, I launched headlong into a series self paced software language modules. Some of these were certainly harder than others, and I learned more from seeing the differences and similarities of languages than I would have from a deeper dive into any one alone.
This broad based approach has given me the ability to pick up new things quickly and on the fly. I became comfortable not only in finding my own answers, but also in knowing when to ask for help, very practical things a new developer needs to know. In a world filled with innumerable languages, prolific numbers of frameworks, and highly differentiated implementations, The Tech Academy taught me the skills necessary to succeed and thrive in this exciting field.
It was around this time I began to hear about programming “boot camps” springing up all around the country. The need for software developers is greater than it has ever been. These shorter duration educational options are perfect for getting a solid understanding of the industry in a reasonable amount of time.
I started doing research on the boot camp options in my area. I contacted tech recruiters to determine which skills are the most useful for this part of the country. It was all of this research that led me to The Tech Academy.
At The Tech Academy the focus is on a much broader range of exposure than other similar schools. I had the opportunity to refresh my knowledge in some areas through the Computer Basics course. I got a more in depth knowledge of SQL through the SQL course. And I got so much hands on experience in all aspects of development that I was certain that I had made the right choice.
I have just accepted my first job as a software developer. This is the most excited I have been about working in quite some time. As I get more adept in this field I will have many more opportunities in my future. I look forward to all of the potential this field holds for us who dared to accept the challenge.
What I now know is that this entire fallacy has wasted a considerable amount of my life as I could have already been putting myself out in the market for potential employers to hire me and I should have been already in the business.
This course has brought back my passion and desire to be a programmer and I am so emotionally relieved right now and excited to stop wasting any more of my life and put myself out there in the business.
The information that I have learned from this course is that I am not the only programmer out there that gets stumped in coding and has to resort to researching or studying other’s code for ideas to my own solution. I have learned that it is not only an acceptable to not know “everything” but it is expected for me not to know everything and that by becoming adept at researching to discover new solutions and approaches to resolve dilemmas in my coding, that I am already doing what is expected of me in the workplace.
Thank you so much for taking the great weight off of my shoulders and removing the blindfold from eyes.
Upon my acceptance to Tech Academy and initial introduction to the course material, I knew I had made the correct choice. Each course is beautifully developed on an incrementing scale of difficulty to fully immerse the student in possible real-world scenarios and deeply instill the vocabulary and syntax of each coding language and OOP. With a range of interests from front-end to back-end and database implementation, everything needed to be successful in the industry is covered. Having access to Erik Gross and his wide breadth of knowledge and experience is, in itself, one of the most invaluable assets the Tech Academy offers.
Working through drills and projects that are specifically designed to test your skills and creativity one gains an incredibly in-depth knowledge of each language they are working in. I had the privilege of not only being a student but also being an employee of the Tech Academy.
The team that Erik and Jack have assembled to instruct and mentor students is a cut above. They truly are the heart of the program and have an eagerness and thirst for knowledge that is demonstrated through their teachings. One of the best skills that I received from the Tech Academy came from my time as an instructor. By working closely with students and spending time debugging their code, as opposed to my own, I saw how every individual thinks and approaches problem solving differently and that no piece of code is written the same. This has opened my mind to new ways of thinking and indirect angles to find solutions to coding challenges.
If it were not for the skills gleaned from study and participation in all of the events and lectures Tech Academy offers, I would not have earned the job I have been offered. Participating in Tech Talks, weekly Career Round Table sessions, and meet-ups is essential to understanding the layout of the tech industry and pushing through all of the doors marked pull.
For each student that has taken this program there is a specific language that stands out to them and becomes their favourite above others. For me that was SQL and database design.
The innumerable amount of resources that are granted to each student allowed me to pursue my interests in databases and RDBMS alongside my course studies. Being given the opportunity to work on projects with a team working under the Agile methodologies is one of the key factors in me obtaining the job that I have now.
I would like to extend a most gracious ‘thank you’ to the staff, Adam, Tony, Kendra, Brett, and Michelle, and all of the student body, [both remote and local], for making my time at the Tech Academy full of meaningful interactions, immersive conversations, inventive challenges, and a lot of memories and knowledge that I will carry with me into my new career in Colorado.
It feels like having this basic knowledge of computers and the related lexicon helps build legitimacy to a programmer. Learning the inter-workings of a computer was demystifying. It helped me have a better understanding of programming since there are layers of programs in place to enable us to communicate with the computers who only speak binary. As a matter of fact, my absolutely favorite part of Computer Basics was learning to count, add, and subtract in binary.
I plan to build on the foundation that was established in this course by keeping what I learned in mind when creating programs and to continue learning more in depth on the subjects we covered. In my careers, I have always enjoyed taking a whole-systems approach when planning projects or approaching problem solving. Having gained this information about the computer basics, I feel better equipped to take this into account when encountering situations or learning new material in my new career in the tech world.
As the final step of this Practical exercise, write an essay describing your project and anything you learned during it and turn this in to your Instructor.
I found that i have near godlike powers now! But seriously, i learned that almost anything you can think of can be programmed relatively easily in python. If i would have known that in ~20-30 lines of code i could make something useful, dynamic, and interactive(even if only on a very basic level) then i would have started learning coding long ago, especially python. It took only a couple of imports(beautifulsoup, urllib, and webbrowser) to add functionality.
What are some of the uses you will put Python to as a software developer? Seems like i would use it for more internal stuff to improve workflow for a company or myself, or to make native apps. Although, i have seen some really cool web dev frameworks for python that i can't wait to get into.
What did you gain from taking this course? A ton of knowledge about python and an intro to making native applications. The practice in this course was among the first to really get me thinking about solving problems from a programmers frame of reference. I can tell that, although i am still a beginner and the road ahead looks very long indeed, i am light-years ahead of where i was before i started the python course.
Our latest on The Tech Academy
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.