The Tech Academy
The Tech Academy is a flexible full-time, 15-week software development bootcamp offered online, on-site in Portland, Oregon, and in Seattle, Washington. This immersive experience focused on creating well-rounded software developers, also gives students the option to take the course at their own pace.
Recent The Tech Academy News
- Alumni Spotlight: Temple Naylor of The Tech Academy
- Am I the Right Candidate for a Coding Bootcamp?
- Instructor Spotlight: Adam Smith of The Tech Academy
Recent The Tech Academy Reviews: Rating 4.87
Software Developer Bootcamp
- Financing available with Skills Fund.
- Minimum Skill Level
- No prior experience required.
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- No prep work required
Software Developer Bootcamp
- Financing available with Climb Credit.
- Minimum Skill Level
- No prior experience required.
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- No prep work required
Software Developer Bootcamp
- Financing option available with Climb Credit.
- Minimum Skill Level
- No prior experience required.
- Placement Test
- Prep Work
- No prep work required
The Tech Academy Reviews
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I had taken a 200-level Introduction to Database Systems course from an accredited online school not too long ago. The course was 8-weeks-long and covered some design-related material without getting into too much scripting. Prior to taking the Tech Academy’s database/SQL course, I figured that I probably knew enough that this would be fairly redundant. In all honesty, the Tech Academy’s version actually covered more material in a shorter amount of time. I especially enjoyed the Joes2pros.com material, which forced you to visualize the data as objects and able to be manipulated as such.
As a dB developer, the primary job will involve not ever losing any data and turning it all into useful information. Learning Microsoft’s dB management system is extremely valuable since a good percentage of businesses use Microsoft’s systems to run most of their operation. Learning scripting that works alongside SQL would be the next step to make this into a holistic knowledge base.
Since I actually would eventually like to work as a database designer or manager, learning more SQL scripting and different management systems is going to be key (no pun intended). I am probably going to visit and revisit this information fairly regularly so that I don’t lose it from lack of use. The information that I’ve learned from this course is definitely a good starting point in the career, doing some fairly basic-level work. It will be up to me to learn more and master the skill.
When I talk to developers at work, I often find that they start in the middle of an explanation and assume that everyone knows certain “basics”, which is not true. It was great to pick up several things in this course that I did not know before, and to clarify a few things that I didn't have quite correct in my head, so that I can follow these conversations more easily. I have always worked with the front end of software in the past, as a trainer and project manager. The computer basics course was a great way for me to start my transition to working with the back end of computer programs as a developer.
Although I am staying in the tech world, I am basically changing my career into one of software development, and this program is the first step. I think the transition would be much more difficult without a course like this that starts with some basics. I am very grateful to have gotten this basic information to work from, rather than jumping right into coding and assuming that students know all of these computer basics. It is one of the key factors that led me to enroll in The Tech Academy.
First off I want to thank the Tech Academy for this course. I have never been so excited to learn about a subject and use the data I have learned. The Basic Computer course was tough in that there was a ton of new data that I did not know, but was laid out in a way that built on to the next thing. I was nervous at what appeared to be a daunting task, but as I went along I gained more understanding and confidence that I could do this and would do this. The way the terms are defined, in real words that a normal human can understand, was brilliant and helped my understanding of the subject immensely.
The main thing I got out of this course was the idea that computers seem complicated but are very simple when you understand how they work and what all those terms mean. This in my mind was the perfect step to the beginning of a new skill for me. I am confident that I can use all of this information in the next courses and will NEED it in order to truly be a good programmer. I also have the confidence that when I need to know more that I CAN gain that knowledge and apply it. I know without a doubt, that I can apply the knowledge learned on this course to BE a great programmer and that has me very excited to continue on this journey!
The SQL course was extremely useful. I gained three valuable skills from the course. First, I downloaded and became familiar with the SQL Server Management Studio. This tool is instrumental in the development and deployment of SQL Server applications. Prior to the course I had not used the interface that is the very backbone of all our company applications. I am now able to open our projects in SQL Server and effectively query them, which leads to the second benefit. The course provided the fundamental underpinnings to begin building and querying databases. This includes opening a new solution; building the database tables with proper keys and columns; and performing the most essential queries against the database. Finally, the course provided a valuable introduction to more detailed database development work such as stored procedures, assigning variables and protecting the database from unwanted and potentially devastating intrusions. Equally important, it necessitated outside research to complete a few of the tasks - a basic tenant of software development.
I have already put the tools to use in my current career. Until now I have always relied on my colleagues to query our many database applications for even the most basic information - such as how many users are subscribed. Within the first few lessons I was able to access the solutions and run queries against the databases. By the end of the course my in-house developer was almost willing to have me updating rows. Almost. Moving forward, I plan to take over the development and debugging of one of our smaller applications. This course has provided the fundamentals to begin that process.
I found all the information covered in this course very useful in terms of preparing myself for a software developer career in the IT industry. I can use all the information I learned on this course to make informed and smart decisions when designing a program for a computer.
Even after completing the CompTIA A+ certificate program, completing this course has given me a clearer and broader understanding of how the entire computer system works. I have also acquired a better understanding of all the complicated computer terminology and concepts that were difficult for me to understand. I really admire how all the information provided in this course was presented with such clarity and with the use of practical examples.
I’ve learned SQL before (and I use it on a daily basis at work already), but going through this course cleared up so many questions I’ve had about SQL up until now. It was especially helpful in gaining a better mastery of joins, and trying out my hand at stored procedures for the first time. It also taught me how tedious manual inserting a hundred rows of data can be. I’m looking forward to more advanced coding tricks that will make this even easier, and can’t wait to finally connect the dots between how the UI connects to the DB!
The topics covered in this course of Computer Basics (first course in the Software Developer Boot Camp at The Tech Academy) are arguably the most overlooked in IT. The importance of understanding the simplest elements of the computer can not be stressed enough in any technical position. I've learned that even with years of experience in the industry there are still things that I was not properly educated on. In this new trajectory of software development I realize the need to further my knowledge & continue to learn, to never take for granted that something I have a general understand of will be “good enough”.
In a more detailed sense, I learned a new programming language (for me anyway). Learning the syntax was good and it was very beneficial to see how PHP and HTML/CSS interacted with each other. I haven't spent any significant time on my own (prior to TechAcademy) learning how web pages are requested/made/sent, so this was great to see the server-side of things while learning deep fundamentals of programming in general via a specific language. Things like conditional statements, loops, and programmer defined functions will be essential concepts of any programming language, and this course gave me a great foundation in understanding those.
The core concepts of programming learned here in this course transcend the programming language being used. So most of what I have learned, even if I don't do a lot with PHP specifically in the future, is 100% transferable to knowledge that can be applied when thinking about the process of creating code (programming) in general and when utilizing a different programming language. For me the big take away in this course were the little "best practices" advice given throughout the videos. Learning about good shorthand syntax to use, being made aware of poor shorthand syntax to avoid, being shown little thing that help keep code organized and readable while developing, and seeing multiple ways to accomplish certain tasks are all part of this best practice section that I really took to heart.
The program that Erik and Jack have created here at Tech Academy is truly one of a kind and simply brilliant in its execution and distribution of knowledge. Even though I will doubt myself along the way, I know that all the resources needed for success, (and then some), are all available to me. I have been a little shy about asking for help when I hit a wall in my first week, but I feel more confident with the knowledge that even the veterans of the industry still have questions similar to my own. And that there is a strong network of people that will catch me when I fall and guide me with instruction when I am struggling to grasp a concept or start treading water.
I decided to come to the Tech Academy specifically because of the
foundation that it builds. It doesn't seem like anyone else out there is
paying as much attention to building a solid foundation as the Tech Academy
Response From: Danny Condon of The Tech Academy
I actually love attending here. It's the first time I've said that about a school.
Response From: Danny Condon of The Tech Academy
Please come back soon to share what you're doing at one of our Friday Tech Talks!
When I first heard about the Tech Academy’s claim of 100% job placement, I thought that it must be some type of scam. I quickly emailed the school and scheduled a tour to check things out. Once I came through the door, I realized that my fears had been entirely misplaced. It was readily apparent from talking to Erik that this was not about getting him rich quick, but about teaching students the skills that they needed to get a job that fit them.
I learned a lot more in the five months that I’ve been at Tech Academy than I expected to. I was sure that there was no way that I would be able to cram in all of the information in the curriculum in such a short time, but I did. The way that the courses are structured, with each building on the content of the previous, keeps everything that you’ve learned active in your brain and easy to recall when the next thing that you’re learning requires you to know it.
The instructors have been very supportive in my education. They’re always there to answer any of my questions and to give me a nudge if I need motivation. The lab-like environment that the school operates in has been very beneficial to me, personally. It has enabled me to do things at my pace, sometimes breakneck speeds and others at a slow but steady crawl.
Lastly, the school has been phenomenal about helping students to find jobs. They conduct weekly interviews with the students to see where they are in their studies and in the job hunt, and always offer to help with anything that the student needs. Also, Danny, the job placement director, has been very proactive about sending out my résumé to companies that he thinks would be a good fit for me. I ended up getting a position with a great company the day before I finished the program.
My experience with Tech Academy has been extraordinary and I would highly recommend the school to anyone who wants to pursue a career in the software development field.
When I joined The Tech Academy a little over 5 months ago I did not know what to expect. I came from having a little knowledge of programming in C#/XAML working on the Windows 8 platform. I have to say that trying to teach myself C#/XAML was fun but I did not have a broad range of knowledge it was more like building a foundation a room at a time with big gaps between rooms. After attending the school I really feel that I have a much higher understating of developing, and my foundation is so much stronger where I feel like I am ready to get a developer job.
Programming is not, read a book and become an expert, it’s a constant learning and following tech. I enjoyed my time at the Academy learning and helping fellow students. Technology moves very fast therefore as a student I encourage each and every one of you to follow tech news like your job depends on it, (It kind of does). If you want to learn one thing and hope that it will never change, being a programmer is not the right career for that.
What makes the Tech Academy great is their focus on two fundamentals of any job in tech:
1) Having an understanding of how computers work on a big picture level andhow that relates to programming and software development.
2) Having the ability to work through problems on your own in order to become a problem solver. That second fundamental essentially sums up the responsibility of an IT professional; getting paid to solve problems.
However, The Tech Academy's commitment to instilling a foundation in the first fundamental is what separates it from other programs.
I graduated with a degree in Philosophy and wanted to pursue a career in Data Science. I knew that I needed to learn how to code, and tried to teach myself. I found myself struggling and realized it was because I didn't have that fundamental understanding of how computers work.
The Tech Academy gave me that fundamental understanding that most software developers learn from a computer science degree. Instead I learned it in a couple of weeks for a fraction of the cost of a 4 yr CS degree.
A great tennis player needs an experienced coach to teach them proper technique, and plenty of practice to master that technique. The same is true about programming. The truth is that no boot camp will make you into a software developer; only you can by practicing how to solve problems on your own. However, The Tech Academy teaches you the fundamentals of how to
I highly recommend this program to get you started in the Tech industry.
I recently got a job as a data analyst for a start-up and know that I would not have got the job had I not enrolled in the Tech Academy. Enroll in the Tech Academy and within a few months you will have separated yourself from other candidates for a job by learning how to code, and most importantly learning how to solve problems.
- Zachery Ober
So how to begin...Frank Lloyd Wright once said 'You can't make an architect. But you can open the doors and windows towards the light as you see it.' Wow, how true. The Tech Academy has opened a new door for me in my life. Working in the restaurant industry for many years had become mundane. To be honest, I had lost much of my drive to really learn and think and that's one of the greatest gifts that The Tech Academy has given back to me.
The Tech Academy has given me the building blocks to learn and the positive environment to grow my confidence in a new field. The progression of the courses from Computer Basics through Mobile Development were seamless, with each course allowing me to grow quickly from a good foundation to completion and what I like to call 'a light bulb moment.'
I can't thank the staff enough for the help and encouragement given to me throughout my time at the Academy.
The Computer Basics course offered understanding into the process of the computer. I thought the history behind computers was informative and learning some basics of binary was super cool.
I think that these basics will help me better understand the machine I am working with as I continue through this course. I was happy to be given so many definitions. They were written simply and were easy to comprehend instead of overwhelming, Like Googling the term 'RAM' without any knowledge on the subject can do. The videos were also a wonderful contribution to the learning process. I hope there are more as I go through the course because watching and listening really helps in understanding some of the more difficult concepts.
I thought this course was fun and that writing the essays were helpful. It is hard to retain all of the definitions but the essays were an exercise that made that easier.
This course made me enthusiastic where as before I started the Tech Academy I was nervous and felt daunted. I know it will get harder but from the first course layout, I do not feel as overwhelmed as before.
Prior to attending the Tech Academy, I had worked as a Licensed Nurse for 6 years. I've always enjoyed helping people meet their goals, but I've also had a long-standing desire to learn programming more intimately. I've been working with computers for most of my life, but almost entirely as a hobby. I decided on the Tech Academy after I met with Erik and his staff. They were genuine and very interested in helping me meet my goals of entering the I.T. field as a Junior Software Developer.
I can't say enough good things about my experience. From the clean, quiet atmosphere to the welcoming nature of the staff-- The Tech Academy is a place for learning and self-development. The self-paced structure of the curriculum allowed me to take my time on concepts that were difficult. The instructors are extremely polite and helpful, always willing to take the time to help with difficult problems. The staff provided absolutely all the support one could wish for. Beyond the professionalism of the staff, the most important part to me was that they were all genuinely decent, kind, and good-hearted people who care about the success of the students.
The curriculum covers a great deal of cutting-edge industry standard technologies that are being utilized in the industry right now. In fact, before my completion of the program, I was able to work on and help architect a live project for a paying client. This gave invaluable real-life experience that I would not have gained without the help of The Tech Academy.
For myself, the most impactful learning experience at the Tech Academy was not simply the memorization of the nomenclature of a programming language, but instead how to think like a programmer. The curriculum consistently drove-home the need to break down problems into smaller ones in order to understand the big picture. This method of thinking has allowed me to conceptualize the architecture of software on a level that I was not able to prior to my enrollment in this program. I know that I have a lot more to learn, but I feel that the Tech Academy has given me everything I need to go forth and succeed as a Junior Software Developer.
What an amazing blur these last three months have been. My time at the Tech Academy has passed quickly, but definitely not unproductively. The Tech Academy provided an organized, well structured, directed environment in which I could push myself to learn and apply the fundamental concepts of software development. From basic terms and concepts to languages and practices, Tech Academy exposed me to the what it is to be a Software Developer, and better yet, helped me become one. Along the journey I met new friends and made many connections which will prove useful as I continue to grow and work in the development field. I'm glad that I chose to go through the Tech Academy's program and have come out with a strong sense of accomplishment, capability, and confidence. Programming is a vast ocean and there's always so much more to learn; but with the knowledge I've learned from the Tech Academy, I now feel able to sail those waters successfully on my own!
Studying at The Tech Academy was a great experience, and was a big key in reaching my goals of learning a lot about software development, understanding object oriented programming, and landing a job at an awesome software company in Portland. I began the program with a fair amount of computer knowledge, which helped me get through the first few courses pretty quickly. Understanding how to work with databases, code in Python, and especially grasp the concepts of C# programming was no easy task, but the course material and assistance from the instructors and other students helped me break through and comprehend them. There is a vast, vast amount of knowledge to be understood in just a few months of study, and the school's method of starting out with the basics and building on that with each course made it easier. Being in this learning environment 8 hours a day for 5 days a week was certainly helpful -- however, I really liked the flexibility of schedule that the school allows, as some of it can be done off site. When I started, I was still working full time, and studying in the evenings, so I appreciated having this option. I particularly found the coding drills to be the best learning tools in the program. They were challenging and really made me think and learn by jumping in and coding, which is the best way to learn how to code. I thought the Live Project was awesome, and developing a real-world web site project as a team was a great way to learn from other students as well as contribute to a project.
The curriculum was very comprehensive and I liked that it covered complicated concepts like object oriented programming and databases, and wasn't limited to just learning a handful of simpler Web-based languages. I liked that I was challenged frequently, and was often stuck, but help was always available when I couldn't figure something out. I found the C# drills to be particularly challenging, and helped me the most when I went to take the MTA exam. When I first walked into the school, there'sno way I could have passed the exam. Taking the exam and answering the questions correctly made me realize how much I've learned over the pastfew months. Overall, I am happy with my experience at the school and feel that I have a strong foundation of knowledge and skills that will benefit me throughout my career in the software industry.
Our latest on The Tech Academy
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.